Archive for the ‘#history’ Tag

A Third Choice in a Binary System   Leave a comment

Link to Medium Article

We’re at a pivotal point in society.


The Situation

In some ways, I think I know what my parents’ generation (born 1910–1924) felt when their kids (Early Baby Boomers) didn’t see communism as an existential threat to the United States. The differences are:

  1. communism wasn’t knocking on the door of the White House, and
  2. my brother’s half of our generation were (rightfully) protesting dying in a war against an ideology most of them didn’t embrace anyway.

My brother’s generation were not communists. Like many young people of every generation, they didn’t understand much about economics and they tended to let their “feels” make their decisions for them, but most of them liked the perks of capitalism and most of them had at least an inkling that they didn’t want to live in a Soviet-Marxist society. Exceptions existed, of course — hence, Bernie Sanders.

The situation today is very different from 1972.

History

In the 1972 election, George McGovern’s platform advocated:

  1. withdrawal from the Vietnam War in exchange for the return of American prisoners of war
  2. amnesty for draft evaders who had left the country
  3. an anti-war platform (although he didn’t rule out military action if the Vietnamese refused to release American POWs)
  4. an across-the-board 37% reduction in defense spending over three years
  5. a “demogrant” program to replace the personal income tax exemption with a $1,000 tax credit as a minimum-income floor for every citizen in America to replace the welfare bureaucracy
  6. support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

As a libertarian, I don’t object to the first four points, I think the 6th is totally unnecessary, and there’s a now-former presidential candidate advocating for something similar to the 5th point. McGovern was an antiwar candidate who wanted to get rid of the welfare system by creating a universal basic income scheme that would have failed and by now, Andrew Yang would have nothing to talk about. I know it would have failed because I live in Alaska where it is currently failing and that’s even with it being supported by something more real than the federal income tax base (the mineral wealth of Alaska). That’s another topic I’ll discuss some other time.

2020

Now let’s look at what the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination is promising.

Bernie Sanders was the frontrunner in the Democratic 2020 primary polls until Super Tuesday when the Democratic leadership marshaled its forces to assure he won’t be the nominee. I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs as a third-party candidate, which will assure the Democrats lose in November. In the meantime, expect violence outside the Democratic convention and an attempt to put him on the ballot regardless of the primary polls. That he got so close to the nomination should concern us all.

Sanders promises a massive redistribution of income in this country through wealth transfers from the “wealthy” to the “poor”. Sanders advocates for:

  1. Medicare for all, a government single-payer system and demands lower prescription drug prices (pegged to the median drug price of Canada, the UK, France, Germany and Japan.
  2. Cancellation of all medical debt (an estimated $81 billion in past-due medical debt).
  3. guaranteed “free” post-secondary education.
  4. raising the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour
  5. doubling union membership
  6. enacting a federal jobs guarantee with the aim of a full-employment economy.
  7. giving workers ownership stakes in the companies they work for and equal say on company boards (all publicly-traded companies would be required to have at least 20% employee ownership)
  8. a federal tax on “extreme wealth” (an annual tax on the total gross wealth of from 1–8% with the purpose of eliminating billionaires entirely).
  9. a progressive estate tax
  10. a progressive corporate tax rate increases
  11. a Wall Street tax
  12. Wall Street reform
  13. create a Bureau of Corporate Governance in the Department of Commerce that would force corporations into a federal charter system that would require them to consider the interest of all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
  14. ban large-scale stock buybacks
  15. free child care and pre-K for all
  16. he’s signed onto a version of the Green New Deal, promising to reach 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050.

Wholesale Economic Takeovers Are Usually Bad for Individualism

Bernie Sanders’ platform amounts to a Wholesale takeover of the American economy at almost every level. It all adds up to a whole lot of taxes and taxes have a way of rolling down from the “wealthy” to the middle class and even the working poor. That was the lesson we all should have learned from the federal income tax, which started in 1917 at 1% on income of $0–20,000 up to 7% on income of $500,000 and up. By World War 2, taxes peaked at 94% on income over $200,000 (about $2.5 million in today’s dollars). Those making $0-2,000 paid a tax rate of 23%. Today, those in the $0-$9,700 bracket pay 10% (but are usually eligible for all of that back in a refund), while top ratepayers making $510,301 or more pay 37%.

Moreover, what Sanders is promising is the suppression of investment and deep mining of investment income in the US. Naturally, investors are terrified of a Bernie Sanders president and ordinary people should be also.

His proposals all represent major hits to the earnings of almost every large company in the United States. Don’t think that matters to you? Do you enjoy low consumer good prices? Would you like to go back to the days of paying $1000 for an I-Phone? Do you have a retirement account that is invested in the stock market? Are you enjoying good growth there currently? That goes away under a Sanders presidency because investors will be forced to hide their income or off-shore it and those of us who are small-potatoes will pay the price when the big-players exit the market.

Sanders Appeal

So why is Sanders doing so well in the Democratic primaries?

Because unlike the Greatest Generation, who didn’t understand the temporary view of their children on the Vietnam War, we raised Gen Y and Millennials as economic illiterates and spoiled rotten brats. How did we do that?

We raised them to believe that college was 100% necessary and then we made college unaffordable with a raft of government programs designed as tuition supports that produce unintended (and completely predictable) consequences. The cost of college tuition has risen by six times more than the rate of inflation since the 1980s, strangling millions of young Americans with college loans that seem impossible to repay. (“Seem” because a lot of people have figured out that continuing to live as though you’re in college after you’re employed pays those loans down quickly).

We raised our kids to believe they were special and worth listening to from birth. I know. I love my kids too, but I also taught them college should be a debt-free enterprise and that they would learn wisdom as they grew older (a fact that at 27 and 21, they both admit to, the 27-year-old more than the 21-year-old). Meanwhile, the establishment in both political parties ignored young voters, who were raised to believe they were the most important people on the planet. To be told they need to cough up the Social Security payments of their (to their eyes) wealthy grandparents flew in the face of their belief in their own superiority. To also have the ACA’s mandates fall most heavily on them right when they needed an income to pay down their loans was frankly unfair. Since they don’t know how economics works and the Obama administration didn’t either, they ended up feeling put upon, which warmed them up for socialism’s empty promises.

We raised them to believe America is a horrible place and in crisis. For the last 12 years, the Democratic establishment has insisted that the Republicans were plotting to bring down the “free world”. The “tea party” (a loosely-affiliated grassroots movement of mostly middle-class people) was demagogued as white supremacists in league with the KKK. Every little phrase or action from people concerned about the increasing size and cost of government became a dog-whistle for “racism”. For the last three years, the Democrats have insisted Trump supports white supremacy and is controlled by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Clearly, the world is ending and moderate Democratic candidates just won’t do in such a crisis.

To Be Fair

Meanwhile, the Republican establishment during the Obama administration told their partisans that the growing national debt was going to eat the economy (which it will, eventually), but then stopped talking about it when Trump became president and continued spending at Obama-era rates.

That hypocrisy did not go unnoticed by younger voters. There appears to be a step toward the libertarian section among young people of a more fiscally-conservative bent. They’re not buying Bernie’s socialist claims, but they’re also not buying Republican claims any longer. (I predict a major reshuffling of both major parties either in 2024, but that’s another post as well.)

Comparing Two Ideologies

It currently looks like Sanders will not be the Democratic frontrunner going into the convention, but the Bernie faction is either going to demand a Biden running mate with a Marxist bent or they’ll vote third-party. Will the Democrats give them what they want?

Biden shows clear signs of dementia and he’s a year younger than Bernie (who recently had a heart attack), so don’t expect him to be the actual nominee. Or if he is the nominee, he’ll have a running mate who is younger and healthier. The Democratic Party establishment doesn’t want to kill the goose that lays golden eggs and installing an out-Marxist in the White House wouldn’t really feed the goose. They want someone who sounds just socialist enough to prevent Bernie supporters from voting for Trump or the Libertarian candidate, but they want someone they can control.

I’m kind of sad that Bernie won’t be in the race in November, but I was looking forward to the comparison between two economic systems with widespread political fallout.

Socialism

Socialism to the extent Bernie Sanders proposes is not possible without restrictions on democratic liberties.

Socialist planning cannot coexist with individual rights. Under socialism, culture must produce “some form of commitment to the idea of a morally conscious collectivity, antagonistic to a bourgeois culture which encourages the primary importance of the individual”, which naturally asserts the rights of individuals to speak their minds freely and act as they wish within reasonable grounds.

Economic centralization requires authoritarian control over the lives of every individual in the country.

Medical care centralization will require rationing and care dictates throughout the country (these have already increased under the ACA).

Education “reform” means more centralization and the elimination of diversity of ideas because a central office will have to make decisions for everyone on a one-size-fits-all basis.

And it all adds up to about $42.5 trillion over 10 years (or $4.25 trillion a year).

Current federal estimates for tax revenue are $44 trillion over the same period with a deficit of roughly $12.4 trillion. THAT’S ON TOP OF ALL THE SPENDING WE’RE ALREADY DOING. We’d go from the government being about 18–22% of GDP to between 40–50% of GDP. Include state and local governments, and the total government spend works out to around 60% of GDP.

Even with massive cuts to defense, you’d still come out with a $34 trillion shortfall over 10 years. You’d need to seize 100% of all corporate profits, plus 100% of all income above $90,000 (per individual) or impose a VAT tax around 87% on all consumer transactions to cover all that spending.

History also shows that the vast power necessary to establish and maintain socialism naturally attracts unscrupulous people who prioritize their own interests over those of society. Moreover, socialism typically destroys the production incentives of ordinary people. They used to joke in the USSR and Eastern-bloc countries — “They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work.”

Oh, I know. That wasn’t REAL socialism. The communism regimes of the past were dictatorships. If they’d been “democratic socialism”, the leaders would have made the system work for the benefit of the people because the voters would have “thrown the bastards out” at the next election.

I call shenanigans on that. How many socialist societies have to be tried before we accept that what they became was REAL socialism? It’s highly unlikely these mythical “democratic” communist-socialist states would remain democratic for long. Democracy requires effective opposition parties that are able to put out their messages and mobilize voters. That requires extensive resources. In an economic system in which nearly all valuable resources are controlled by the state, the incumbent government easily stranges opposition by denying them access to those resources. Under socialism, the opposition can’t function if they’re not allowed to spread their message. It may not start out that way for President Bernie Sanders, but it will end that way for the American people if we elect him because Sanders advocates for a wholesale takeover of the journalism as well as medical care, education, and the economy.

Mercantilism

I’m not a Trump supporter so I’m not uncomfortable pointing out that Trump is NOT a capitalist. He may be a capitalist in his business dealings, but as president, he has conducted himself as a mercantilist. This makes sense if you recognize the US hasn’t been a free-market economy since the 1860s and has become an increasingly mixed-economy since World War 2. We are already socialism-lite and most of the economic issues we have currently can be traced to the mercantilist/socialist/fascist features of our economy. Capitalism can only succeed in the US if it cozies up to the government in a crony-capitalism system, no better explained than by the Wall Street bailouts of 2008 and 2009. Economically, we have far more in common with Scandinavian big-welfare countries than we do more free-market Hong Kong or Estonia.

Mercentilism isn’t often thought of these days. We tend to think of it as something from the 17th century, but the concept of mercantilism is “the economic theory that trade generates wealth and is stimulated by the accumulation of profitable balances, which a government should encourage by means of protectionism.” That’s Trump. That’s crony capitalism. That’s not capitalism.

We’ve Reached a Pivot

So the real argument we will face this election cycle is —

  1. Do we want to remain in this quasi-free-market or
  2. Do we want to go fully socialist and become the American European Union just as the European Union is waking up to the damage it is doing to the European economy and the natural rights of individuals?
  3. Do we throw caution to the wind and elect a third-party candidate who takes us toward a more capitalist and individual-liberty-based system.

As I said at the beginning, we are at a pivot point for our society. We’re either going left toward socialism, which requires authoritarian central planning and probable eventual totalitarianism or we’re holding steady with a mercantilist mixed-economy that’s not working for most people and will eventually lead us to Door #1 anyway. But the pivot point gives us an opportunity to consider a third option — if we’re willing to think outside the two-party box that has defined us forever.

Vote third party in 2020 because doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results hasn’t worked so far.


Lela Markham is an Alaska-based novelist and blogger interested in a variety of topics, mostly from a libertarian perspective.

Posted March 13, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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The America That Was—The Bad and the Good | Richard M. Ebeling   Leave a comment

America still continues as a hope and a reality of the possibility and potential for liberty and prosperity for tens of millions who came to the United States from many other parts of the world. The spirit of individualism was to shoulder those responsibilities yourself as a free and responsible person in voluntary collaboration with your fellows in society.

Source: The America That Was—The Bad and the Good | Richard M. Ebeling

Posted July 19, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Making Sense of Robert E. Lee by Roy Blount, Jr.   Leave a comment

From Smithsonian Magazine by Roy Blount, Jr.

Few figures in American history are more divisive, contradictory or elusive than Robert E. Lee, the reluctant, tragic leader of the Confederate Army, who died in his beloved Virginia at age 63 in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War. In a new biography, Robert E. Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., treats Lee as a man of competing impulses, a “paragon of manliness” and “one of the greatest military commanders in history,” who was nonetheless “not good at telling men what to do.”

via Making Sense of Robert E. Lee

Blount, a noted humorist, journalist, playwright and raconteur, is the author or coauthor of 15 previous books and the editor of Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor. A resident of New York City and western Massachusetts, he traces his interest in Lee to his boyhood in Georgia. Though Blount was never a Civil War buff, he says “every Southerner has to make his peace with that War. I plunged back into it for this book, and am relieved to have emerged alive.”

“Also,” he says, “Lee reminds me in some ways of my father.”

At the heart of Lee’s story is one of the monumental choices in American history: revered for his honor, Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy, on the side of slavery. “The decision was honorable by his standards of honor—which, whatever we may think of them, were neither self-serving nor complicated,” Blount says. Lee “thought it was a bad idea for Virginia to secede, and God knows he was right, but secession had been more or less democratically decided upon.” Lee’s family held slaves, and he himself was at best ambiguous on the subject, leading some of his defenders over the years to discount slavery’s significance in assessments of his character. Blount argues that the issue does matter: “To me it’s slavery, much more than secession as such, that casts a shadow over Lee’s honorableness.”

In the excerpt that follows, the general masses his troops for a battle over three humid July days in a Pennsylvania town. Its name would thereafter resound with courage, casualties and miscalculation: Gettysburg.

In his dashing (if sometimes depressive) antebellum prime, he may have been the most beautiful person in America, a sort of precursor cross between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. He was in his element gossiping with belles about their beaux at balls. In theaters of grinding, hellish human carnage he kept a pet hen for company. He had tiny feet that he loved his children to tickle None of these things seems to fit, for if ever there was a grave American icon, it is Robert Edward Lee—hero of the Confederacy in the Civil War and a symbol of nobility to some, of slavery to others.

After Lee’s death in 1870, Frederick Douglass, the former fugitive slave who had become the nation’s most prominent African-American, wrote, “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” Two years later one of Lee’s ex-generals, Jubal A. Early, apotheosized his late commander as follows: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.”

In 1907, on the 100th anniversary of Lee’s birth, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed mainstream American sentiment, praising Lee’s “extraordinary skill as a General, his dauntless courage and high leadership,” adding, “He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure; and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.”

We may think we know Lee because we have a mental image: gray. Not only the uniform, the mythic horse, the hair and beard, but the resignation with which he accepted dreary burdens that offered “neither pleasure nor advantage”: in particular, the Confederacy, a cause of which he took a dim view until he went to war for it. He did not see right and wrong in tones of gray, and yet his moralizing could generate a fog, as in a letter from the front to his invalid wife: “You must endeavour to enjoy the pleasure of doing good. That is all that makes life valuable.” All right. But then he adds: “When I measure my own by that standard I am filled with confusion and despair.”

His own hand probably never drew human blood nor fired a shot in anger, and his only Civil War wound was a faint scratch on the cheek from a sharpshooter’s bullet, but many thousands of men died quite horribly in battles where he was the dominant spirit, and most of the casualties were on the other side. If we take as a given Lee’s granitic conviction that everything is God’s will, however, he was born to lose.

As battlefield generals go, he could be extremely fiery, and could go out of his way to be kind. But in even the most sympathetic versions of his life story he comes across as a bit of a stick—certainly compared with his scruffy nemesis, Ulysses S. Grant; his zany, ferocious “right arm,” Stonewall Jackson; and the dashing “eyes” of his army, J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart. For these men, the Civil War was just the ticket. Lee, however, has come down in history as too fine for the bloodbath of 1861-65. To efface the squalor and horror of the war, we have the image of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, and we have the image of Robert E. Lee’s gracious surrender. Still, for many contemporary Americans, Lee is at best the moral equivalent of Hitler’s brilliant field marshal Erwin Rommel (who, however, turned against Hitler, as Lee never did against Jefferson Davis, who, to be sure, was no Hitler).

On his father’s side, Lee’s family was among Virginia’s and therefore the nation’s most distinguished. Henry, the scion who was to become known in the Revolutionary War as Light-Horse Harry, was born in 1756. He graduated from Princeton at 19 and joined the Continental Army at 20 as a captain of dragoons, and he rose in rank and independence to command Lee’s light cavalry and then Lee’s legion of cavalry and infantry. Without the medicines, elixirs, and food Harry Lee’s raiders captured from the enemy, George Washington’s army would not likely have survived the harrowing winter encampment of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. Washington became his patron and close friend. With the war nearly over, however, Harry decided he was underappreciated, so he impulsively resigned from the army. In 1785, he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in 1791 he was elected governor of Virginia. In 1794 Washington put him in command of the troops that bloodlessly put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. In 1799 he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he famously eulogized Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Meanwhile, though, Harry’s fast and loose speculation in hundreds of thousands of the new nation’s acres went sour, and in 1808 he was reduced to chicanery. He and his second wife, Ann Hill Carter Lee, and their children departed the Lee ancestral home, where Robert was born, for a smaller rented house in Alexandria. Under the conditions of bankruptcy that obtained in those days, Harry was still liable for his debts. He jumped a personal appearance bail—to the dismay of his brother, Edmund, who had posted a sizable bond—and wangled passage, with pitying help from President James Monroe, to the West Indies. In 1818, after five years away, Harry headed home to die, but got only as far as Cumberland Island, Georgia, where he was buried. Robert was 11.

Robert appears to have been too fine for his childhood, for his education, for his profession, for his marriage, and for the Confederacy. Not according to him. According to him, he was not fine enough. For all his audacity on the battlefield, he accepted rather passively one raw deal after another, bending over backward for everyone from Jefferson Davis to James McNeill Whistler’s mother. (When he was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, Lee acquiesced to Mrs. Whistler’s request on behalf of her cadet son, who was eventually dismissed in 1854.)

By what can we know of him? The works of a general are battles, campaigns and usually memoirs. The engagements of the Civil War shape up more as bloody muddles than as commanders’ chess games. For a long time during the war, “Old Bobbie Lee,” as he was referred to worshipfully by his troops and nervously by the foe, had the greatly superior Union forces spooked, but a century and a third of analysis and counteranalysis has resulted in no core consensus as to the genius or the folly of his generalship. And he wrote no memoir. He wrote personal letters—a discordant mix of flirtation, joshing, lyrical touches, and stern religious adjuration—and he wrote official dispatches that are so impersonal and (generally) unselfserving as to seem above the fray.

During the postbellum century, when Americans North and South decided to embrace R. E. Lee as a national as well as a Southern hero, he was generally described as antislavery. This assumption rests not on any public position he took but on a passage in an 1856 letter to his wife. The passage begins: “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.” But he goes on: “I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

The only way to get inside Lee, perhaps, is by edging fractally around the record of his life to find spots where he comes through; by holding up next to him some of the fully realized characters—Grant, Jackson, Stuart, Light-Horse Harry Lee, John Brown—with whom he interacted; and by subjecting to contemporary skepticism certain concepts—honor, “gradual emancipation,” divine will—upon which he unreflectively founded his identity.

He wasn’t always gray. Until war aged him dramatically, his sharp dark brown eyes were complemented by black hair (“ebon and abundant,” as his doting biographer Douglas Southall Freeman puts it, “with a wave that a woman might have envied”), a robust black mustache, a strong full mouth and chin unobscured by any beard, and dark mercurial brows. He was not one to hide his looks under a bushel. His heart, on the other hand . . . “The heart, he kept locked away,” as Stephen Vincent Benét proclaimed in “John Brown’s Body,” “from all the picklocks of biographers.” Accounts by people who knew him give the impression that no one knew his whole heart, even before it was broken by the war. Perhaps it broke many years before the war. “You know she is like her papa, always wanting something,” he wrote about one of his daughters. The great Southern diarist of his day, Mary Chesnut, tells us that when a lady teased him about his ambitions, he “remonstrated—said his tastes were of the simplest. He only wanted a Virginia farm—no end of cream and fresh butter—and fried chicken. Not one fried chicken or two—but unlimited fried chicken.” Just before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, one of his nephews found him in the field, “very grave and tired,” carrying around a fried chicken leg wrapped in a piece of bread, which a Virginia countrywoman had pressed upon him but for which he couldn’t muster any hunger.

One thing that clearly drove him was devotion to his home state. “If Virginia stands by the old Union,” Lee told a friend, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

The North took secession as an act of aggression, to be countered accordingly. When Lincoln called on the loyal states for troops to invade the South, Southerners could see the issue as defense not of slavery but of homeland. A Virginia convention that had voted 2 to 1 against secession, now voted 2 to 1 in favor.

When Lee read the news that Virginia had joined the Confederacy, he said to his wife, “Well, Mary, the question is settled,” and resigned the U.S. Army commission he had held for 32 years.

The days of July 1-3, 1863, still stand among the most horrific and formative in American history. Lincoln had given up on Joe Hooker, put Maj. Gen. George G. Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac, and sent him to stop Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Since Jeb Stuart’s scouting operation had been uncharacteristically out of touch, Lee wasn’t sure where Meade’s army was. Lee had actually advanced farther north than the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when he learned that Meade was south of him, threatening his supply lines. So Lee swung back in that direction. On June 30 a Confederate brigade, pursuing the report that there were shoes to be had in Gettysburg, ran into Federal cavalry west of town, and withdrew. On July 1 a larger Confederate force returned, engaged Meade’s advance force, and pushed it back through the town—to the fishhook-shaped heights comprising Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Round Top. It was almost a rout, until Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, to whom Lee as West Point superintendent had been kind when Howard was an unpopular cadet, and Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock rallied the Federals and held the high ground. Excellent ground to defend from. That evening Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who commanded the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, urged Lee not to attack, but to swing around to the south, get between Meade and Washington, and find a strategically even better defensive position, against which the Federals might feel obliged to mount one of those frontal assaults that virtually always lost in this war. Still not having heard from Stuart, Lee felt he might have numerical superiority for once. “No,” he said, “the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.”

The next morning, Lee set in motion a two-part offensive: Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell’s corps was to pin down the enemy’s right flank, on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, while Longstreet’s, with a couple of extra divisions, would hit the left flank—believed to be exposed—on Cemetery Ridge. To get there Longstreet would have to make a long march under cover. Longstreet mounted a sulky objection, but Lee was adamant. And wrong.

Lee didn’t know that in the night Meade had managed by forced marches to concentrate nearly his entire army at Lee’s front, and had deployed it skillfully—his left flank was now extended to Little Round Top, nearly three-quarters of a mile south of where Lee thought it was. The disgruntled Longstreet, never one to rush into anything, and confused to find the left flank farther left than expected, didn’t begin his assault until 3:30 that afternoon. It nearly prevailed anyway, but at last was beaten gorily back. Although the two-pronged offensive was ill-coordinated, and the Federal artillery had knocked out the Confederate guns to the north before Ewell attacked, Ewell’s infantry came tantalizingly close to taking Cemetery Hill, but a counterattack forced them to retreat.

On the third morning, July 3, Lee’s plan was roughly the same, but Meade seized the initiative by pushing forward on his right and seizing Culp’s Hill, which the Confederates held. So Lee was forced to improvise. He decided to strike straight ahead, at Meade’s heavily fortified midsection. Confederate artillery would soften it up, and Longstreet would direct a frontal assault across a mile of open ground against the center of Missionary Ridge. Again Longstreet objected; again Lee wouldn’t listen. The Confederate artillery exhausted all its shells ineffectively, so was unable to support the assault—which has gone down in history as Pickett’s charge because Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division absorbed the worst of the horrible bloodbath it turned into.

Lee’s idolaters strained after the war to shift the blame, but the consensus today is that Lee managed the battle badly. Each supposed major blunder of his subordinates—Ewell’s failure to take the high ground of Cemetery Hill on July 1, Stuart’s getting out of touch and leaving Lee unapprised of what force he was facing, and the lateness of Longstreet’s attack on the second day—either wasn’t a blunder at all (if Longstreet had attacked earlier he would have encountered an even stronger Union position) or was caused by a lack of forcefulness and specificity in Lee’s orders.

Before Gettysburg, Lee had seemed not only to read the minds of Union generals but almost to expect his subordinates to read his. He was not in fact good at telling men what to do. That no doubt suited the Confederate fighting man, who didn’t take kindly to being told what to do—but Lee’s only weakness as a commander, his otherwise reverent nephew Fitzhugh Lee would write, was his “reluctance to oppose the wishes of others, or to order them to do anything that would be disagreeable and to which they would not consent.” With men as well as with women, his authority derived from his sightliness, politeness, and unimpeachability. His usually cheerful detachment patently covered solemn depths, depths faintly lit by glints of previous and potential rejection of self and others. It all seemed Olympian, in a Christian cavalier sort of way. Officers’ hearts went out to him across the latitude he granted them to be willingly, creatively honorable. Longstreet speaks of responding to Lee at another critical moment by “receiving his anxious expressions really as appeals for reinforcement of his unexpressed wish.” When people obey you because they think you enable them to follow their own instincts, you need a keen instinct yourself for when they’re getting out of touch, as Stuart did, and when they are balking for good reason, as Longstreet did. As a father Lee was fond but fretful, as a husband devoted but distant. As an attacking general he was inspiring but not necessarily cogent.

At Gettysburg he was jittery, snappish. He was 56 and bone weary. He may have had dysentery, though a scholar’s widely publicized assertion to that effect rests on tenuous evidence. He did have rheumatism and heart trouble. He kept fretfully wondering why Stuart was out of touch, worrying that something bad had happened to him. He had given Stuart broad discretion as usual, and Stuart had overextended himself. Stuart wasn’t frolicking. He had done his best to act on Lee’s written instructions: “You will . . . be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the [Potomac] east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.” But he had not, in fact, been able to judge: he met several hindrances in the form of Union troops, a swollen river that he and his men managed only heroically to cross, and 150 Federal wagons that he captured before he crossed the river. And he had not sent word of what he was up to.

When on the afternoon of the second day Stuart did show up at Gettysburg, after pushing himself nearly to exhaustion, Lee’s only greeting to him is said to have been, “Well, General Stuart, you are here at last.” A coolly devastating cut: Lee’s way of chewing out someone who he felt had let him down. In the months after Gettysburg, as Lee stewed over his defeat, he repeatedly criticized the laxness of Stuart’s command, deeply hurting a man who prided himself on the sort of dashing freelance effectiveness by which Lee’s father, Maj. Gen. Light-Horse Harry, had defined himself. A bond of implicit trust had been broken. Loving-son figure had failed loving-father figure and vice versa.

In the past Lee had also granted Ewell and Longstreet wide discretion, and it had paid off. Maybe his magic in Virginia didn’t travel. “The whole affair was disjointed,” Taylor the aide said of Gettysburg. “There was an utter absence of accord in the movements of the several commands.”

Why did Lee stake everything, finally, on an ill-considered thrust straight up the middle? Lee’s critics have never come up with a logical explanation. Evidently he just got his blood up, as the expression goes. When the usually repressed Lee felt an overpowering need for emotional release, and had an army at his disposal and another one in front of him, he couldn’t hold back. And why should Lee expect his imprudence to be any less unsettling to Meade than it had been to the other Union commanders?

The spot against which he hurled Pickett was right in front of Meade’s headquarters. (Once, Dwight Eisenhower, who admired Lee’s generalship, took Field Marshal Montgomery to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. They looked at the site of Pickett’s charge and were baffled. Eisenhower said, “The man [Lee] must have got so mad that he wanted to hit that guy [Meade] with a brick.”)

Pickett’s troops advanced with precision, closed up the gaps that withering fire tore into their smartly dressed ranks, and at close quarters fought tooth and nail. Acouple of hundred Confederates did break the Union line, but only briefly. Someone counted 15 bodies on a patch of ground less than five feet wide and three feet long. It has been estimated that 10,500 Johnny Rebs made the charge and 5,675—roughly 54 percent—fell dead or wounded. As a Captain Spessard charged, he saw his son shot dead. He laid him out gently on the ground, kissed him, and got back to advancing.

As the minority who hadn’t been cut to ribbons streamed back to the Confederate lines, Lee rode in splendid calm among them, apologizing. “It’s all my fault,” he assured stunned privates and corporals. He took the time to admonish, mildly, an officer who was beating his horse: “Don’t whip him, captain; it does no good. I had a foolish horse, once, and kind treatment is the best.” Then he resumed his apologies: “I am very sorry—the task was too great for you—but we mustn’t despond.” Shelby Foote has called this Lee’s finest moment. But generals don’t want apologies from those beneath them, and that goes both ways. After midnight, he told a cavalry officer, “I never saw troops behave more magnificently than Pickett’s division of Virginians. . . . ” Then he fell silent, and it was then that he exclaimed, as the officer later wrote it down, “Too bad! Too bad! OH! TOO BAD!”

Pickett’s charge wasn’t the half of it. Altogether at Gettysburg as many as 28,000 Confederates were killed, wounded, captured, or missing: more than a third of Lee’s whole army. Perhaps it was because Meade and his troops were so stunned by their own losses—about 23,000—that they failed to pursue Lee on his withdrawal south, trap him against the flooded Potomac, and wipe his army out. Lincoln and the Northern press were furious that this didn’t happen.

For months Lee had been traveling with a pet hen. Meant for the stewpot, she had won his heart by entering his tent first thing every morning and laying his breakfast egg under his Spartan cot. As the Army of Northern Virginia was breaking camp in all deliberate speed for the withdrawal, Lee’s staff ran around anxiously crying, “Where is the hen?” Lee himself found her nestled in her accustomed spot on the wagon that transported his personal matériel. Life goes on.

After Gettysburg, Lee never mounted another murderous head-on assault. He went on the defensive. Grant took over command of the eastern front and 118,700 men. He set out to grind Lee’s 64,000 down. Lee had his men well dug in. Grant resolved to turn his flank, force him into a weaker position, and crush him.

On April 9, 1865, Lee finally had to admit that he was trapped. At the beginning of Lee’s long, combative retreat by stages from Grant’s overpowering numbers, he had 64,000 men. By the end they had inflicted 63,000 Union casualties but had been reduced themselves to fewer than 10,000.

To be sure, there were those in Lee’s army who proposed continuing the struggle as guerrillas or by reorganizing under the governors of the various Confederate states. Lee cut off any such talk. He was a professional soldier. He had seen more than enough of governors who would be commanders, and he had no respect for ragtag guerrilladom. He told Col. Edward Porter Alexander, his artillery commander, . . . the men would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many wide sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”

“And, as for myself, you young fellows might go to bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be, to go to Gen. Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences.” That is what he did on April 9, 1865, at a farmhouse in the village of Appomattox Court House, wearing a fulldress uniform and carrying a borrowed ceremonial sword which he did not surrender.

Thomas Morris Chester, the only black correspondent for a major daily newspaper (the Philadelphia Press) during the war, had nothing but scorn for the Confederacy, and referred to Lee as a “notorious rebel.” But when Chester witnessed Lee’s arrival in shattered, burned-out Richmond after the surrender, his dispatch sounded a more sympathetic note. After Lee “alighted from his horse, he immediately uncovered his head, thinly covered with silver hairs, as he had done in acknowledgment of the veneration of the people along the streets,” Chester wrote. “There was a general rush of the small crowd to shake hands with him. During these manifestations not a word was spoken, and when the ceremony was through, the General bowed and ascended his steps. The silence was then broken by a few voices calling for a speech, to which he paid no attention. The General then passed into his house, and the crowd dispersed.”

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Posted August 19, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Who Is a Libertarian? | Dean Russell   1 comment

5c5a0-caThis article goes back to the early era of the libertarian movement. It was also right around this time that the conservative movement found a voice with National Review. Apparently, there was more going on in 1955 than we learned in high school. Lela

Those of us who favor individual freedom with personal responsibility have been unable to agree upon a generally acceptable name for ourselves and our philosophy of liberty. This would be relatively unimportant except for the fact that the opposition will call us by some name, even though we might not desire to be identified by any name at all. Since this is so, we might better select a name with some logic instead of permitting the opposition to saddle us with an epithet.

Source: Who Is a Libertarian? | Dean Russell

Some of us call ourselves “individualists,” but others point out that the opposition often uses that word to describe a heartless person who doesn’t care about the problems and aspirations of other people.

Some of us call ourselves “conservatives,” but that term describes many persons who base their approval of an institution more on its age than on its inherent worth.

Many of us call ourselves “liberals.” And it is true that the word “liberal” once described persons who respected the individual and feared the use of mass compulsions. But the leftists have now corrupted that once-proud term to identify themselves and their program of more government ownership of property and more controls over persons. As a result, those of us who believe in freedom must explain that when we call ourselves liberals, we mean liberals in the uncorrupted classical sense. At best, this is awkward and subject to misunderstanding.

Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian.”

Webster’s New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as “One who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action.”

In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence—legal or illegal—to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking, a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today.

A libertarian believes that the government should protect all persons equally against external and internal aggression, but should otherwise generally leave people alone to work out their own problems and aspirations.

While a libertarian expects the government to render equal protection to all persons against outright fraud and misrepresentation, he doesn’t expect the government to protect anyone from the consequences of his own free choices. A libertarian holds that persons who make wise choices are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their wisdom, and that persons who make unwise choices have no right to demand that the government reimburse them for their folly.

A libertarian expects his government to establish, support, and enforce the decisions of impartial courts of justice—courts which do not recognize or refer to a person’s race, religion, or economic status. If justice is to be rendered, the decisions of these courts must be as binding upon government officials and their actions as upon other persons and their actions.

A libertarian respects the right of every person to use and enjoy his honestly acquired property—to trade it, to sell it, or even to give it away—for he knows that human liberty cannot long endure when that fundamental right is rejected or even seriously impaired.

A libertarian believes that the daily needs of the people can best be satisfied through the voluntary processes of a free and competitive market. And he holds the strong belief that free persons, using their own honestly acquired money, are in the best possible position to understand and aid their fellow men who are in need of help.

A libertarian favors a strictly limited form of government with many checks and balances—and divisions of authority—to foil the abuses of the fearful power of government. And generally speaking, he is one who sees less, rather than more, need to govern the actions of others.

A libertarian has much faith in himself and other free persons to find maximum happiness and prosperity in a society wherein no person has the authority to force any other peaceful person to conform to his viewpoints or desires in any manner. His way of life is based on respect for himself and for all others.

A libertarian doesn’t advocate violent rebellion against prevailing governments—except as a last resort before the concentration camps. But when a libertarian sees harm rather than good in certain acts of government, he is obligated to try his best to explain to others who advocate those measures why such compulsory means cannot bring the ends which even they desire.

The libertarian’s goal is friendship and peace with his neighbors at home and abroad.


It is not the difference in taste between individuals that Libertarians object to, but the forcing of one’s tastes upon another.

Charles T. Sprading


The idea of governing by force another man, who I believe to be my equal in the sight of God, is repugnant to me. I do not want to do it. I do not want any one to govern me by any kind of force. I am a reasoning being, and I only need to be shown what is best for me, when I will take that course or do that thing simply because it is best, and so will you. I do not believe that a soul was ever forced toward anything except toward ruin.

Samuel Milton Jones


Liberty for the few is not liberty. Liberty for me and slavery for you means slavery for both.

Samuel Milton Jones


The institutions of civil liberty leave each man to run his career in life in his own way, only guaranteeing to him that whatever he does in the way of industry, economy, prudence, sound judgment, etc., shall redound to his welfare and shall not be diverted to someone else’s benefit. Of course it is a necessary corollary that each man shall also bear the penalty of his own vices and his own mistakes.

We are told what fine things would happen if every one of us would go and do something for the welfare of somebody else; but why not contemplate also the immense gain which would ensue if everybody would do something for himself?

Wherever collective standards, codes, ideals, and motives take the place of individual responsibility, we know from ample experience that the spontaneity and independent responsibility which are essential to moral vigor are sure to be lost.

William Graham Sumner

Posted August 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Liberty

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Progressivism’s Parade of Horrors | Bill Frezza   Leave a comment

From eugenics to climate change, there is grave danger in making law based on so-called settled science.

On the flight out to the recent FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, I read a horrifying book, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era by Thomas C. Leonard. It’s a bold attempt to restore our national memory, to explain how we strayed from our nation’s classical liberal founding heritage and embarked on building today’s welfare/warfare/regulatory state. Central to the story is the misuse of science. And it carries an important warning for us today.

Leonard meticulously researches and documents the march of the Eugenics movement, from its roots in the German Historical School of political economy during the Bismarck era to its near-universal embrace by American Progressive intellectuals at the end of the 19th century, to its re-importation into Germany, which culminated in the Nazi holocaust.

Found on FEE Source: Progressivism’s Parade of Horrors | Bill Frezza

Progressivism’s Parade of Horrors | Bill Frezza   Leave a comment

From eugenics to climate change, there is grave danger in making law based on so-called settled science

Source: Progressivism’s Parade of Horrors | Bill Frezza

Posted August 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Should a V.P. be One Person’s Choice? | Lawrence W. Reed   Leave a comment

In politics, you can’t always count on the better person getting the job. The truly better ones usually don’t run in the first place. So when the superior man or woman actually gets the nod, whether by fate or choice, it’s noteworthy.

Source: Should a V.P. be One Person’s Choice? | Lawrence W. Reed

Fall of the Republic   1 comment

For nearly five centuries, Res Publica Romana—the Roman Republic—bestowed upon the world a previously unseen degree of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. When the republic expired, the world would not see those wondrous achievements again on a comparable scale for a thousand years.

In print and from the podium, I have addressed the calamitous economic policies that ate away the vitals of Roman society. I’ve emphasized that no people who lost their character kept their liberties. But what about the republic as a form of governance—the structure of representation, the Senate and popularly elected assemblies, laws for the limitation of power and protection of property, and the Roman Constitution itself? Did those ancient institutions abruptly disappear or were they eroded through “salami tactics,” one slice at a time?

Found on FEE https://fee.org/articles/the-fall-of-the-republic/

It behooves us to know the reasons the republic died. Philosopher George Santayana’s general dictum famously tells us why we should know them: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But there is a more specific and immediate urgency to learning the facts of Roman misfortune: In eerie and haunting ways, Americans at this very moment are living through a repetition of Rome’s republican decay.

No single person, domestic law or foreign intervention ended the Republic in a single stroke. Indeed, the Romans never formally abolished the republic. Historians differ as to when the actual practice of republicanism ended. Was it when the Senate declared Julius Caesar dictator for life in 44 B.C.? Was it in 27 B.C., when Octavian assumed the audacious title of “Caesar Augustus”? In any event, the Senate lived on until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in A.D. 476, though after Augustus it never amounted to much more than an imperial rubber stamp.

Boiling the Frog

The Roman Republic died a death of a thousand cuts. Or, to borrow from another, well-known parable: The heat below the pot in which the proverbial frog was boiled started out as a mere flicker of a flame, then rose gradually until it was too late for the frog to escape. Indeed, for a brief time, he enjoyed a nice warm bath.

Like the American Republic, the Roman one was born in violent revolt against monarchy. “That’s enough of arbitrary and capricious one-man rule!” Romans seemed to declare in unison in 509 B.C. Rejecting kings is a supremely rare thing in human history. The Romans dispersed political power by authorizing two coequal consuls, limited to one-year terms and each with a veto over the acts of the other. They created a Senate in which former magistrates and members of patrician families with long civil or military service would sit. They set up popularly elected assemblies that gained increasing authority and influence over the centuries.

Due process and habeas corpus saw their first widespread practice in the Roman Republic. Freedoms of speech, assembly, and commerce were pillars of the system. All of this was embodied in the Roman Constitution, which—like that of the British in our day—was unwritten but deeply rooted in custom, precedent, and consensus for half a millennium.

Roman freedom and republican governance, to be sure, were undercut by limitations on the franchise and on the always detestable institution of slavery. The Roman Republic was certainly not perfect, but still it represented a remarkable advance for humanity, as could be said of the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.

Writers from the first centuries B.C. and A.D. offered useful insights to the decline. Polybius predicted that politicians would pander to the masses, leading to the mob rule of an unrestrained democracy. The constitution, he surmised, could not survive when that happened. Sallust bemoaned the erosion of morals and character and the rise of personal power lust. Livy, Plutarch, and Cato expressed similar sentiments. To the moment of his assassination, Cicerodefended the Republic against the assaults of the early dictators because he knew they would transform Rome into a tyrannical despotism.

Ultimately, the collapse of the political order of republican Rome has its origins in three developments that took root in the second century B.C., then blossomed by the end of the first. One was foreign adventure. The second was the welfare state. The third was a sacrifice of constitutional norms and the rule of law to the demands of the other two.

Foreign Adventure

In his excellent 2008 book, Empires of Trust, historian Thomas F. Madden argues that much of the expansionism of the Roman Republic was defensive in nature—that is, the Romans gradually accumulated an empire without any real design to have one. But there is no doubt that after the wars with Carthage (ending in the middle of the second century B.C), the burdens of policing vast territory from one end of the Mediterranean to the other were costly.

Wars also gave excuses to political leaders to spy and conspire, to suspend constitutional provisions in the name of national emergencies. As power concentrated in the hands of military figures, men in service increasingly placed loyalty to their generals ahead of loyalty to the general welfare. Taxes were raised even as the booty (and slaves) from overseas conquests poured in. If Rome had stayed home, its military-industrial complex might have been better tamed.

As both the power and the purse of the central government grew, a long series of civil conflicts arose. Factions fought against each other to gain control over the state machinery. Officeholders chipped away at the restraints on power. More and more, they ignored or secured exemptions from term limits. They issued decrees, tantamount to today’s “executive orders” from the president or new regulations from the bureaucracy, without consideration by representative assemblies. War, as Randolph Bourne would note centuries later, is indeed “the health of the State.”

Foreign conflicts produced another ill effect at home. Many peasants saw their lands ravaged while they were off at war for long periods. And if they still possessed them upon return, they found they had to compete with the cheap labor of the slaves captured in war and put to work by wealthy landowners with political connections.

If Romans by the first century B.C. still cared about the institution of limited, representative government, increasing numbers of them could simply be bribed into compliance using subsidies.

The Welfare State

To fix the economic injustices that war and other interventions created, reformers in the second century B.C. proposed redistribution of land by law. The Gracchus brothers rose to power on just such promises, and though their efforts ended in their assassinations, the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul caught hold. In 59 B.C., a man named Clodius ran for the important office of tribune on a platform of free wheat for the masses, and won. He was among the first in a long line of demagogues bearing gifts from the public treasury.

At this point, “Kershner’s First Law” (named for the late economist Howard E. Kershner) kicked in: “When a self-governing people confer upon their government the power to take from some and give to others, the process will not stop until the last bone of the last taxpayer is picked bare.” Eventually the central government bailed out profligate cities and provinces, spent huge sums to keep the people entertained, and even issued zero-interest credit to thousands of private businesses in a misguided effort to “stimulate” a sputtering economy.

Historian H. J. Haskell describes how quickly the largesse corrupted republican values: “Less than a century after the Republic had faded into the autocracy of the Empire, the people had lost all taste for democratic (read: ‘representative’) institutions. On the death of an emperor, the Senate debated the question of restoring the Republic. But the commons preferred the rule of an extravagant despot who would continue the dole and furnish them free shows. The mob outside clamored for ‘one ruler’ of the world.”

Warfare plus welfare equals massive revenue needs. Taxes went up but with an interesting twist: The Roman government turned to the private sector to perform much of its tax collecting, legalizing almost any tactic to get the money and giving a large cut to those who got it. The ruthlessness of government was combined with the efficiency of the private sector to produce a crushing and inescapable burden. Even so, by the middle of the first century A.D., deficits and debt led the government to commence a systematic, long-term depreciation of its currency. The silver and gold content of Roman coins eventually evaporated.

Long after the republic expired and the empire was entering its twilight, public welfare was enshrined as a right, not a mere privilege or temporary assist. People were even frozen by law in their professions so that no one could escape the government’s taxes or wage and price controls by changing occupations.

Constitutional Erosion

For several hundred years, the unwritten Roman Constitution boasted features we would recognize today: checks and balances, the separation of powers, guarantee of due process, vetoes, term limits, filibusters, habeus corpus, quorum requirements, impeachments, regular elections. They were buttressed by the traits of strong character (virtus) that were widely taught in Roman homes: gravitas (dignity), continentia (self-discipline), industria(diligence), benevolentia (goodwill), pietas (loyalty and a sense of duty), and simplicitas (candor). Romans knew well that the rules of their constitution were there for good reason and until they were bribed with public money to cast them aside, they frowned on anyone who sought to violate them.

Lesser offices such as magistrate, praetor, censor, aedile, quaestor, and tribune were eventually abandoned in favor of the very one-man rule the republic was founded to replace. Popular assemblies became irrelevant. The Senate evolved into a worthless advisory body of corrupt cronies who cared more for their privileges than for their purpose. By the time the Romans lost it all to foreign barbarians in A.D. 476, the constitution that had once enshrined their liberties was a distant dead letter.

Does any of this story ring familiar? You’d have to be asleep if it doesn’t.

Our own Constitution, barely two centuries old, is in shambles. When Iraq was writing a new one a few years ago, the late night comedian Jay Leno quipped, “Why don’t we just give them ours? We’re not using it.” It was a remark more tragic than funny.

The “commerce clause” of our Constitution has been twisted and bent until it now justifies almost any intervention from the central government. A Supreme Court chief justice performed the most amazing intellectual gymnastics to sanctify a health care monstrosity as constitutional. Our President rewrites the law as he pleases. He makes “recess appointments” when the Senate is not in recess. He issues executive orders by the hundreds. He presides over agencies that spy on millions of Americans and target political enemies for retribution. But I don’t mean to single out Barack Obama. He’s simply extending a legacy that goes back many years now.

What raises the ire of Americans enough to bring them out into the streets is not an arbitrary breach of constitutional norms but simply the hint that some benefit might be cut back. Tells you something about our priorities these days, doesn’t it?

The catalog of constitutional erosions is fat and getting fatter. My limited intention here is to shake a few people awake and get them to start thinking. I urge the reader to take another look at the Constitution and compile a list of instances of our leaders’ careless and shameless abdication of its prescriptions. Decide for yourself if history is truly repeating itself.

We know the path the Romans took, so we have no excuse for not learning from their experience. Do we really want to keep heading in the same direction?

Not me.

 

Posted July 15, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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