Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

State Unchanged   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

 

Image result for image of randolph bourneAn analysis of the State would take us back to the beginnings of society, to the complex of religious and personal and herd-impulses which has found expression in so many forms. What we are interested in is the American State as it behaves and as Americans behave towards it in this twentieth century, and to understand that we have to go no further back than the early English monarchy of which our American republic is the direct descendant. How straight and true is that line of descent almost nobody realizes. Those persons who believe in the sharpest distinction between democracy and monarchy can scarcely appreciate how a political institution may go through so many transformations and yet remain the same. Yet a swift glance must show us that in all the evolution of the English monarchy, with all its broadenings and its revolutions, and even with its jump across the sea into a colony which became an independent nation and then a powerful State, the same State functions and attitudes have been preserved essentially unchanged. The changes have been changes of form and not of inner spirit, and the boasted extension of democracy has been not a process by which the State was essentially altered to meet the shifting of classes, the extension of knowledge, the needs of social organization, but a mere elastic expansion by which the old spirit of the State easily absorbed the new and adjusted itself successfully to its exigencies. Never once has it been seriously shaken. Only once or twice has it been seriously challenged, and each time it has speedily recovered its equilibrium and proceeded with all its attitudes and faiths reinforced by the disturbance.

The modern democratic state, in this light, is therefore no bright and rational creation of a new day, the political form under which great peoples are to live healthfully and freely in a modern world, but the last decrepit scion of an ancient and hoary stock, which has become so exhausted that it scarcely recognizes its own ancestor, does, in fact, repudiate him while it clings tenaciously to the archaic and irrelevant spirit that made that ancestor powerful, and resists the new bottles for the new wine that its health as a modern society so desperately needs. So sweeping a conclusion might have been doubted concerning the American State had it not been for the war, which has provided a long and beautiful series of examples of the tenacity of the State ideal and its hold on the significant classes of the American nation. War is the health of the State and it is during war that one best understands the nature of that institution. If the American democracy during wartime has acted with an almost incredible trueness to form, if it has resurrected with an almost joyful fury the somnolent State, we can only conclude that the tradition from the past has been unbroken, and that the American republic is the direct descendant of the English State.

And what was the nature of this early English State? It was first of all a medieval absolute monarchy, arising out of the feudal chaos, which had represented the first effort at order after the turbulent assimilation of the invading barbarians by the Christianizing Roman civilization. The feudal lord evolved out of the invading warrior who had seized or been granted land and held it, souls and usufruct thereof, as a fief to some higher lord whom he aided in war. His own serfs and vassals were exchanging faithful service for the protection which the warrior with his organized band could give them. Where an invading chieftain retained his power over his lesser lieutenants a petty kingdom would arise, as in England, and a restless and ambitious king might extend his power over his neighbors and consolidate the petty kingdoms only to fall before the armed power of an invader like William the Conqueror, who would bring the whole realm under his heel. The modern State begins when a prince secures almost undisputed sway over fairly homogeneous territory and people and strives to fortify his power and maintain the order that will conduce to the safety and influence of his heirs. The State in its inception is pure and undiluted monarchy; it is armed power, culminating in a single head, bent on one primary object, the reducing to subjection, to unconditional and unqualified loyalty of all the people of a certain territory. This is the primary striving of the State, and it is a striving that the State never loses, through all its myriad transformations.

When the subjugation was once acquired, the modern State had begun. In the King, the subjects found their protection and their sense of unity. From his side, he was a redoubtable, ambitious, and stiff-necked warrior, getting the supreme mastery which he craved. But from theirs, he was a symbol of the herd, the visible emblem of that security which they needed and for which they drew gregariously together. Serfs and villains, whose safety under their petty lords had been rudely shattered in the constant conflicts for supremacy, now drew a new breath under the supremacy that wiped out this local anarchy. King and people agreed in the thirst for order, and order became the first healing function of the State. But in the maintenance of order, the King needed officers of justice; the old crude group-rules for dispensing justice had to be codified, a system of formal law worked out. The King needed ministers, who would carry out his will, extensions of his own power, as a machine extends the power of a man’s hand. So the State grew as a gradual differentiation of the King’s absolute power, founded on the devotion of his subjects and his control of a military band, swift and sure to smite. Gratitude for protection and fear of the strong arm sufficed to produce the loyalty of the country to the State.


Bourne was clearly no fan of the modern State as created by Edward the Confessor. He saw the monarchy as pure force that people were grateful to be subjugated by because it meant a modicum of safety compared to the feudal era. It’s tough to rule a large area by yourself, so the King establised an administration under devoted subjects and his military might. The people were loyal mainly for the protection.  Lela

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Making the Bolshevik Revolution Possible   1 comment

My friend Mila sent this to me because she’s an American citizen who was born in Russia and she’s concerned about where the United States is headed right now.
https://www.rbth.com/history/326865-guns-rifles-russia-revolution
Konstantin Yeremeychik/TASS
Packing heat in the country is no easy task. You need to pass a strict background check and only then can you own a hunting rifle or pneumatic gun. Things were different when the tsars ruled over the land though: Every man and his dog owned a weapon.

The famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin enjoyed a rather odd pastime: After waking up he would lie in bed and shoot a pistol at the wall.

 

In Tsarist Russia, people loved guns. Officers, merchants, students, respectable dames, and young ladies all had a favorite handgun, sometimes more than one. However, by the end of the 1917 Revolution the authorities had restricted the right to carry firearms.

Shooting indoors no more

Before the Revolution, guns were in abundant supply in major Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Newspapers advertised Brownings, Nagants, Mausers, and other models of handgun which were as popular as they were affordable: A brand new Mauser would set you back 45 or so rubles, so there were also plenty of cheaper secondhand guns floating around; to put this into perspective, a janitor’s average monthly salary in Moscow was 40 rubles.

Newspapers advertised Brownings, Nagants, Mausers, and other models of handgun which were as popular as they were affordable.

But even then Russians were not completely free of governmental intervention when it came to firing hot lead. The existing restrictions, however, did not regulate the ownership of guns; they regulated their use instead.

Random and frequent indoor shootings were a serious worry in 17th century Moscow, where almost all buildings were made of wood – a spark from a gunshot could start a fire very easily. In fact, such blazes were so common that a 1684 tsarist order prohibited pulling the trigger indoors.

Naturally, judging from Pushkin’s example everyone seemed to ignore the new rule until much later.

A new wave of restrictions came in 1845, when a comprehensive set of gun laws restricted owners even further. The legislation prohibited shooting outdoors in crowded places unless clearly necessary.

Although Russians were now stripped of their right to shoot for fun, nobody threatened to take their guns away – but this all changed with the Revolution.

Total disarmament

The Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the free circulation of guns among the general public. The leaders of the uprising knew only too well what the masses were capable of, especially if armed up to the teeth, and moved to monopolize gun ownership.

In 1918 the Bolsheviks initiated a large scale confiscation of civilian firearms, outlawing their possession and threatening up to 10 years in prison for concealing a gun.

The only exception was made for hunters who were allowed to possess smoothbore weapons. Gun licenses, however, were strictly regulated and only issued by the NKVD, the police organization known for its role in Joseph Stalin’s political purges.

It was only a matter of time before Russia became an almost totally gun-free nation. Some people believed Russians would regain their right to own guns after the collapse of the Soviet Union but despite firearms becoming available on the black market during the 90s, the new government did not risk liberalizing the gun market.

Today, Russians can only legally buy smoothbore guns for hunting and sports, as well as pneumatic firearms for self-defense. Applying for a gun license also involves a pretty rigorous background check.

In a nutshell, Russians can buy some guns even today but luckily most have abandoned their ancestor’s favorite pastime of shooting indoors.

Posted March 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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A President of Principle (Draft)   Leave a comment

I don’t have many politicians that I look on as heroes. Wally Hickel from Alaska comes close. I respected Sarah Palin’s refusal to allow the Alaska Legislature to increase the budget in an era of high oil revenues. I am amazed Ron Paul managed to remain as untainted as he did for as long as he served. And ….

Calvin Coolidge, bw head and shoulders photo portrait seated, 1919.jpgYeah, that’s about it. Lincoln got knocked off his pedestal when I began to respect the Constitution. George Washington too. Learning more about these men convinced me that all politicians are corrupted and

In fact, the only US President I truly admire in history is Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president. When he voted a congressional salary increase, he told Congress:

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

That’s Coolidge as a man. Not only was he deeply concerned with tax reduction and the federal budget, he was also highly dedicated to serving of both his neighbor and nation. Coolidge had a special understanding of public service and never swayed from his foundational beliefs. These qualities made him the beloved man that he was. Although soft-spoken, Coolidge showed immense amounts of courage in serving his nation and staying true to his fundamental convictions.

An important way in which Calvin Coolidge showed this courage was in his approach to public service. Prior to his term as Commander-in-Chief, the government had grown unchecked for years under the Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson administrations. Wealth redistribution, government regulation, and the strength of unions were on the rise during this era of progressivism. Soon after stepping into the Oval Office, Coolidge promptly went on a budget- and tax-cutting spree to abolish what he referred to as “Despotic Exactions.”

Although scoffed at by many, this decrease in taxation and government spending saved the average American over $200 per year (about $1,500 today – sound familiar?). Coolidge wanted to help the poor, and he saw that this was the only way to enact true, long-term change toward raising the American standard of living. He and his Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, referred to this policy as “Scientific Taxation.” Coolidge once said:

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”

This informed approach was his creative service to the least of these, the poor in our society.

It took an immense amount of courage on Coolidge’s part to abandon previous methods and take a new approach to public service. This new approach was both utilitarian and grounded in a strong respect for people’s basic human rights. Though unorthodox, his principled fiscal stewardship caused many poor Americans to succeed in achieving a better life. With the national debt being cut almost in half, the 17.5 percent increase in the nation’s wealth, and illiteracy being cut in half as well, his presidential term was a success by any standard.

Inaction can benefit a nation more than action, as demonstrated by his numerous vetoed bills.

Although seemingly reserved, Coolidge was a man of strong principles. He called his fellow citizens to return to the proven principles of the American political tradition and encouraged them to examine their own beliefs in light of these principles. He believed strongly in the limits of social engineering, the nature of wealth, individual responsibility, and society’s dependence on moral and religious values. His ability to stand by these fundamental convictions in the face of adversity is rare among men.

In her book entitled Coolidge, Amity Shlaes refers to President Coolidge as our “Great Refrainer.” She suggests that inaction can benefit a nation more than action, as demonstrated by his numerous vetoed bills. “This was the boy with his finger in the dike, stopping a great progressive tide,” she accurately states. Throughout his life, Calvin Coolidge rejected what Bastiat called “legal plunder” and worked toward the creation not only of wealth but of beauty.

Calvin Coolidge’s messages regarding public service and his fundamental convictions have held true for almost a century. These firm principles were the groundwork for his ability to enact change for the better in America through public service. The way he thought determined the way he lived; his form followed his function. Calvin Coolidge lived by the principles that defined him. His belief system never aged. Even in the culturally diverse, globalized world we live in where people are desperate for new answers, ideas, and solutions, the simple social and moral code by which he lived remains as relevant as ever.

Posted February 20, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Constitutional Ignorance   Leave a comment

Found on Lew Rockwell

by Walter E. Williams

Image result for image of walter e williams on blackmailHillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, “What Happened?” Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics. Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.

To back up their claim, they point out that the Electoral College gives, for example, Wyoming citizens disproportionate weight in a presidential election. Put another way, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 600,000, has one member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate, which gives the citizens of Wyoming three electoral votes, or one electoral vote per 200,000 people. California, our most populous state, has more than 39 million people and 55 electoral votes, or approximately one vote per 715,000 people. Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.

Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I’d say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy. But the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or any other of our founding documents.

How about a few quotations expressed by the Founders about democracy? In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wanted to prevent rule by majority faction, saying, “Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” John Adams warned in a letter, “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.” Edmund Randolph said, “That in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.” Then-Chief Justice John Marshall observed, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”

The Founders expressed contempt for the tyranny of majority rule, and throughout our Constitution, they placed impediments to that tyranny. Two houses of Congress pose one obstacle to majority rule. That is, 51 senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The president can veto the wishes of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto. To change the Constitution requires not a majority but a two-thirds vote of both houses, and if an amendment is approved, it requires ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. Finally, the Electoral College is yet another measure that thwarts majority rule. It makes sure that the highly populated states — today, mainly 12 on the East and West coasts, cannot run roughshod over the rest of the nation. That forces a presidential candidate to take into consideration the wishes of the other 38 states.

Those Americans obsessed with rule by popular majorities might want to get rid of the U.S. Senate, where states, regardless of population, have two senators. Should we change representation in the House of Representatives to a system of proportional representation and eliminate the guarantee that each state gets at least one representative? Currently, seven states with populations of 1 million or fewer have one representative, thus giving them disproportionate influence in Congress. While we’re at it, should we make all congressional acts be majority rule? When we’re finished with establishing majority rule in Congress, should we then move to change our court system, which requires unanimity in jury decisions, to a simple majority rule?

My question is: Is it ignorance of or contempt for our Constitution that fuels the movement to abolish the Electoral College?

Dangers of Government Control   Leave a comment

We are a nation of 325 million people. We have a bit of control over the behavior of our 535 elected representatives in Congress, the president and the vice president. But there are seven unelected people who have life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives — the seven governors of the Federal Reserve Board.

The Federal Reserve Board controls our money supply. Its governors are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and serve 14-year staggered terms. They have the power to cripple an economy, as they did during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Their inept monetary policy threw the economy into the Great Depression, during which real output in the United States fell nearly 30 percent and the unemployment rate soared as high as nearly 25 percent. The most often stated cause of the Great Depression is the October 1929 stock market crash. Little is further from the truth. The Great Depression was caused by a massive government failure led by the Federal Reserve’s rapid 25 percent contraction of the money supply.

The next government failure was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased U.S. tariffs by more than 50 percent. Those failures were compounded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Leftists love to praise New Deal interventionist legislation. But FDR’s very own treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, saw the folly of the New Deal, writing: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. … We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … and an enormous debt to boot!”

The bottom line is that the Federal Reserve Board, the Smoot-Hawley tariffs and Roosevelt’s New Deal policies turned what would have been a two, three- or four-year sharp downturn into a 16-year affair.

Here’s my question never asked about the Federal Reserve Act of 1913: How much sense does it make for us to give seven unelected people life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives?

While you’re pondering that question, consider another: Should we give the government, through the Federal Communications Commission, control over the internet?

During the Clinton administration, along with the help of a Republican-dominated Congress, the visionary 1996 Telecommunications Act declared it “the policy of the United States” that internet service providers and websites be “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” The act sought “to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”

In 2015, the Obama White House pressured the FCC to create the Open Internet Order, which has been branded by its advocates as net neutrality. This move overthrew the spirit of the Telecommunications Act. It represents creeping FCC jurisdiction, as its traditional areas of regulation — such as broadcast media and telecommunications — have been transformed by the internet, or at least diminished in importance.

Fortunately, it’s being challenged by the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, who has announced he will repeal the FCC’s heavy-handed 2015 internet regulations. The United States has been the world leader in the development of internet technology precisely because it has been relatively unfettered by federal and state regulation. The best thing that the U.S. Congress can do for internet entrepreneurs and internet consumers is to send the FCC out to pasture as it did with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated the airline industry, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated the trucking industry. When we got rid of those regulatory agencies, we saw a greater number of competitors, and consumers paid lower prices. Giving the FCC the same medicine would allow our high-tech industry to maintain its world leadership position.

Source: Dangers of Government Control

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

Copyright © 2017 Creators.com

A Fork in the Road   1 comment

I always considered George Washington to be a principled individual until I read a letter between him and Alexander Hamilton basically plotting the overthrow of the American Confederacy in 1783. It’s what inspired “A Bridge at Adelphia”, an alternative history short story that was published in Echoes of Liberty: Clarion Call 2, an anthology project of the Agorist Writers Workshop.

Image result for image of george washingtonGeorge Washington took office as president in 1789 possessing a reputation of inestimable value. People viewed him as the hero of the American Revolution who, disdaining power, had like the Roman general Cincinnatus returned home to his farm. When he allowed himself, with great reluctance, to be nominated as chief executive, his prestige was unparalleled. Indeed, his reputation was worldwide. When he died,

Napoleon Bonaparte decreed that the standards and flags of the French army be dressed in mourning crepe. The flags of the British Channel Fleet were lowered to half-mast to honor the fallen hero. Talleyrand, the French minister of foreign affairs, … [called] for a statue of Washington to be erected in Paris.1

People of his time were impressed that the indispensable hero of the Revolutionary War did not establish a personal dictatorship upon winning the war. This had to be a good sign for liberty, right?

I now see Washington as a mixed bag. He certainly was a useful figure for showing the world that America could establish a democratic republic and not fall into chaos or depotism, but Washington, though not a principal author of the Constitution, supported calling a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation … in violation of the Articles. Then, at the convention itself, he strongly backed Madison’s plans for centralized control.

On assuming power, Washington soon faced a division of opinion in his cabinet. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was not satisfied with the centralization already achieved by the Constitution. He called for a national bank and a government- directed program of industrial development. Thomas Jefferson raised a decisive objection to Hamilton’s proposal because it exceeded the bounds of power granted the central government by the new Constitution. Hamilton wasn’t fazed by this objection and produced an analysis that granted the central government broad power to do whatever Hamilton thought best. Washington, who had been present during the constitutional convention and surely knew what the Framers had wanted, weighed in on the side of the centralizers, drawing opposition from those who had also been there.

Washinton’s Farewell Address partially redeemed him from a classical-liberal standpoint. He cautioned against America’s involvement in European power politics, with which the United States had no concern. His warning against permanent alliances guided much of American foreign policy in the 19th century; and, in the 20th century, opponents of the bellicose policies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt appealed to it. Washington’s prestige for once had beneficial results.

So was Washington’s influence was “good” or “bad” for liberty. By whose standard are we judging? I’m viewing it from a classical-liberal perspective in which the growth of government is viewed as an unmitigated disaster and expansionist foreign policy is resolutely opposed. I support “states’ rights” against increases in federal authority, and increasingly, oppose wars, except in cases of exercising self-determination or repelling direct invasion. 3 On the other hand, the goal of classical liberalism is to promote individual liberty, so while I support states rights, I don’t believe states have authority to abuse the individuals that live within them.

Can you name a time in American history … or just about any other country’s history … when engagement in war resulted in more freedom for individuals while the war was being conducted? Of course not, aggressive war shackles us with devastation and restriction of liberty in order to combat speculative dangers.6

The Articles of Confederation established a much less centralized system than the Constitution. Yet because ratification by all the states was required for the Articles to come into effect, most of the American Revolution was fought with no written structure of authority over the states at all. As Murray Rothbard notes,

The Articles were not exactly received with huzzahs; rather, they were greeted quietly and dutifully, as a needed part of the war effort against Britain. One of the keenest critiques of the Articles, as might be expected, came from Thomas Burke, who warned that, under cover of the war emergency, eager power-seekers were trying to impose a central government upon the states. … [t]he Articles of Confederation were not to be ratified and go into effect until 1781, when the Revolutionary War would be all but over.7

So much for the supposed necessity for a strong central government to combat other nations.

Washington held a decidedly different view. In 1783, he wrote to Alexander Hamilton: “It is clearly my opinion, unless Congress have powers competent to all general purposes, that the distresses we have encountered, the expense we have incurred, and the blood we have spilt, will avail nothing.”8

Among the “distresses” of which Washington spoke, one may speculate that personal considerations loomed large. Throughout his adult life, Washington avidly sought land. “His family had first speculated in Ohio Valley land decades ago [before the 1780s], and Washington owned nearly sixty thousand acres.”9

A project that aroused his interest offered a chance to appreciate greatly the value of his land. “If a canal could be pushed over the mountains to link up with the Allegheny river system, then all the future produce of the Ohio Valley could flow through Virginia land, (not coincidentally, past Mount Vernon).”10

A crucial obstacle confronted Washington’s hopes for a Potomac Canal. Under the Articles of Confederation, a state had the right to levy fees on the use of waterways that passed through its boundaries. If the states bordering the Potomac were to do so, the proposed canal might generate no profit for him. Yeah, Washington may have been motivated toward a central government by business concerns.  As Richard Brookhiser notes, “[h]e was drawn to the plan by important private and public interests, and the political steps he took to fulfill it led directly to the Constitutional Convention, if not a canal.”11 Interstate taxation would be eliminated by a strong central government.

I don’t think Washington was only motivated by personal economic interests, but you cannot neglect his personal interests in explaining his policies.

Regardless of Washington’s motives, the fact that someone of his reputation advocated a Constitutional Convention eased the doubts of those who feared centralization. Some Americans figured that if Washington was involved, the proposed convention could not be aimed at the destruction of liberty. Washington was Cincinnatus, who spurned dictatorship when it was within his grasp. Clearly, the Convention could not have bad intentions if Washington had agreed to serve as a delegate to it. Richard Brookhiser puts the essential point well:

Much of the political class was happy with the current arrangements. … Supporters of change would have to make the case that a new government would not threaten liberty. … Washington’s presence would help immeasurably to make that case. He had already held more power than any man in America, and after eight and half years, he had surrendered it. He was the most conspicuous example of moderation and disinterestedness that the nation could supply.12

At the convention, Washington’s primary aim was not to enact a particular plan of government. The need rather was to act immediately, so that centralization could be secured as fast as possible.

During the constitutional debates, Washington insisted that the Articles of Confederation be overhauled quickly. “Otherwise,” he wrote, “like a house on fire, whilst the most regular mode of extinguishing it is contended for, the building is reduced to ashes.” What was needed, Washington thought, was any solid national government.13

Washington was quite willing to push his argument to extremes. So essential did he deem centralization that he contemplated a monarchy for America, should the Constitutional Convention fail. He was not himself a monarchist—far from it. But a letter of March 31, 1787, to James Madison shows that conceivable circumstances might change him into one.

In his definitive study of James Madison’s political thought, Lance Banning summarized Washington’s thoughts in this vital letter:

No one could deny the indispensability of a complete reform of the existing system, which he hoped the Constitutional Convention would attempt. But only if complete reform were tried, and the resulting system still proved inefficient, would a belief in the necessity of greater change begin to spread “among all classes of the people. Then, and not till then is my [Washington’s] opinion, can it [monarchy] be attempted without involving all the evils of civil discord.”14

Which was exactly what most people were worried about when considering a constitutional convention. Were their fears calmed by Washington’s endorsement? Would they have been reignited had they known of this letter? I think it was fortunate for Washington’s reputation that the convention did not fail and the fact that Washington contemplated monarchy remained hidden.

Any centralized form of government, Washington held, was desirable so long as it could be quickly established. This doesn’t mean Washington was indifferent to the type of centralized government established. He soon fell in with the radical nationalism of Madison’s Virginia Plan.

To Madison, Washington’s presence at the convention was essential: It was “an invitation to the most select characters from every part of the Confederacy.”15 Madison reported that Washington arrived at the Philadelphia convention “amidst the acclamations of the people, as more sober marks of the affection and veneration which continue to be felt for his character.”16

Washington’s presence and the presence of “lesser figures of impeccable republican credentials allowed the convention to rebut the charge of being an aristocratic conspiracy while conferring on it the opportunity to behave like one.”17

Strong words, but the details of Madison’s plans bear out the interpretation. Madison and other extreme nationalists sought to entirely eviscerate the power of the states to thwart the will of the nation.

Under the Virginia Plan, which Madison submitted to Washington before the convention opened, Congress could veto any law enacted by a state legislature that it deemed unconstitutional.

It called, as Washington’s summary of Madison’s draft put it, for a “due supremacy of the national authority,” including “local authorities [only] whenever they can be subordinately useful.” … Madison had originally called for an even more sweeping national power over state laws, a “negative in all cases whatever.”18

In fairness to Washington, he did not vote in favor of Madison’s radical proposal of an unlimited congressional veto. But neither did he oppose the plan. Madison noted that

Gen. W. was “not consulted.” How could he not have been consulted? He never missed a session. Most probably, Gen. W. had been consulted privately, and the result of the consultation was that, since Madison had the voters anyway, Washington chose not to take a public stand on an inflamed issue.19

It seems quite clear that opposition by Washington would have at once ended so far-reaching a plan, but it was not forthcoming. Surely then he cannot have been very strongly against it. Had he been, he need only have spoken a word. But why speculate on Washington’s private opinion of Madison’s proposal? Its importance for our purposes is this: Many of those who feared that the convention would strike a fatal blow at states’ rights were reassured by Washington’s presence. But, unknown to them, he was at least a fellow traveler of radical centralism. His image as a Cincinnatus averse to power led many into error. It did not follow from Washington’s personal reluctance to hold office that he was not an opponent of states’ rights, as this concept was understood in the 1780s.

Fortunately, for those opposed to centralism, no version of the congressional veto survived into the Constitution’s final draft. But the Constitution, even without it, was far more centralizing than the Articles; and Washington’s image once again proved useful when the Constitution came up for ratification. Skeptics were reassured by Washington’s image that he would not support a regime that opposed liberty. Thus, in Virginia, opposition to the Constitution was in part disarmed by Washington’s prestige. “Few, if any of Virginia’s revolutionary leaders questioned Madison’s republican credentials. All, no doubt, were comforted by their awareness that George Washington would head the federal government if it were put into effect.”20

Again, I don’t believe Washington’s image sufficed to quell all opposition to the new document. Quite the contrary, in the very passage just cited, Lance Banning maintained that Madison’s skill at argument was needed to win over the recalcitrant. Confidence in Washington was not enough because in 1788, “quite unlike today, few believed that the executive would set the federal government’s directions.”21 Nevertheless, the importance of the “Washington-image factor” cannot be ignored.

The Constitution did not in all respects settle the nature of the American system. What sort of government would result from it? Would its provisions be interpreted loosely, to enable the central government to seize as much power from the states as possible? Two conflicting approaches to government split Washington’s cabinet, one favored by Alexander Hamilton and the other by Thomas Jefferson.

These divergent views have been ably summarized by Forrest McDonald.

In Federalist Essay number 70, Hamilton had said that “energy in the executive is a leading ingredient in the definition of good government.” … In essays 71 and 73, he made his position clearer: “It is one thing,” he said, for the executive “to be subordinate to the laws, and another to be dependent on the legislative body.” In other words, the executive authority must operate independently and with a wide range of discretion in its field, the Constitution and laws providing only broad guidelines and rules.22

Jefferson and his followers saw matters entirely otherwise.

In Jefferson’s view, and that of most Republicans, such discretionary authority was inherently dangerous and smacked of monarchy. … A society would grow better … by stripping social and governmental institutions to the bare minimum so that the natural aristocracy might rise to the top.23

The differences between Hamilton and Jefferson were not confined to abstract argument, but quietly became manifest in practical affairs. Although Hamilton considered himself a student of economics, his views embodied the discredited doctrines of mercantilism.

One of the duties of the federal government, according to the Hamilton philosophy, is the active promotion of a dynamic industrial capitalist economy … by establishment of sound public finance, public investment in infrastructure, and promotion of new industrial sectors unlikely to be profitable in their early stages.

As Hamilton wrote in The Report on Manufactures:

Capital is wayward and timid in leading itself to new undertakings, and the state ought to excite the confidence of capitalists, who are ever cautious and sagacious, by aiding them to overcome the obstacles that lie in the way of all experiments.24

Where the State would acquire the requisite understanding to direct the economy, Hamilton neglected to inform his readers; and Jefferson and his followers were reluctant to take the matter on faith. In particular, the Jeffersonians rejected Hamilton’s plan, as part of reforming public finance, to establish a national bank.

In this opposition they had a seemingly irrefutable argument. Hamilton’s plan for a bank clearly violated the Constitution. Nowhere does that document give Congress the power to charter a national bank. So small a matter did not deter Hamilton from avid pursuit of his scheme.

In response to a request by Washington, Hamilton delivered a “Defense of the Constitutionality of the Bank” to him on February 23, 1791.

The well-known part of the defense spelled out the “loose constructionist” doctrine of the Constitution. The Constitution, said Hamilton, defined only in general terms the broad purposes for which the federal government was created. … If Congress determined to achieve an end authorized by the Constitution, it was empowered by the final clause in Article I, Section 8 [the “necessary and proper” clause] … to use any means that were not prohibited by the Constitution.25

Hamilton’s argument had much further reach than just the bank, though that was no small thing. If Hamilton’s views were accepted, little of limited government could remain. Given the vaguest aims, for example, the promotion of “the general welfare,” the government had the power, Hamilton alleged, to do whatever it thought was needed to attain them.

Faced with so blatant a challenge to constitutional rule, what did Washington do? He accepted Hamilton’s opinion, refusing Madison’s advance to veto the bank bill. Hamilton’s “defense convinced Washington, and on February 25 [1791], he signed the bank bill into law.”26

Once again Washington lent his prestige and authority to the cause of a strong central state. From a classical-liberal perspective, his course of action was a disastrous blunder.

But the record is not all black. Looking at it from a certain angle, Washington seemed an opponent of the libertarian tradition the country was founded on. He used his fame to secure unwarranted credence for a convention that aimed to strengthen the central government. At that convention, he gave the most extreme centralizers at least tacit support. He then accepted an argument that freed the government from all constitutional restraint. Nevertheless, from the classical-liberal perspective, Washington almost redeemed himself.

In his Farewell Address, Washington set forward principles of foreign policy that, if followed, would virtually immunize America from involvement in foreign wars. (The Address was not delivered as a speech. It was a circular published in The American Daily Advertiser, September 19, 1796.)27

In the Address, Washington sharply separated European affairs from those of the United States.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificialities, in … the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships, or enmities.28

It can’t be argued that Washington thought that European politics shouldn’t concern Americans at all. He recognized that European aggression could affect America and that we might need to actively prevent domination.

Washington rejected this contention in advance.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain in one People, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance. . . . Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground.29

Here Washington adopts the much maligned Fortress America stance so derided by critics of isolation. Given the manifest perils of war, Washington suggested a classical-liberal system could take advantage of a favorable geographic position to steer clear of foreign entanglements. Washington’s argument on this subject and, for once, his immense prestige aided the cause of liberty.30

Opponents of American entry into the world wars frequently appealed to the Address. If they were ultimately unsuccessful, at least the fame of the Address and its author helped slow the race toward war and statism. Unfortunately, his assent to the Constitutional system and the modifications in policy requested by Hamilton has slowly, but surely resulted in the vexing situation we have today.

I contemplate these things while I consider expanding upon that alternative history short story. Lai has more things to say about an era of history we seem not to be truly aware of.

 

Posted January 16, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in History

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When Did the Tea Party Really Start?   Leave a comment

December 16, 2017 is the tenth anniversary of the modern Tea Party.

Naw, that can’t be true! According to the mainstream narrative the Tea Party began on February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli, live on CNBC from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), declared a rebellion against “socialism”. It was one month into the Obama administration.

Image result for image of tea party december 16 2007Take a pause. Think about this. Rick Santelli on establishment NBC lit the spark of an anti-establishment rebellion. Yeah, I always found that hard to believe too. Obama was merely proposing bailouts for mortgage holders and it was just four months after most conservatives were either silent or defending George W. Bush’s $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street.

I always thought it didn’t really seem right and over the years I’ve run into people who will insist they were tea partiers before Obama was president. Are they just delusional or was there reality behind their tales? What really happened ten years ago and how was the Tea Party transformed from a libertarian grassroots movement to today’s controlled-almost-to-death establishment version? And are there lessons to be learned from this?

The ground-zero event in the formation of the Tea Party occurred when supporters of Ron Paul’s first presidential campaign registered the Web address TeaParty07.com on October 24, 2007/

tp1.png

Twelve days later, on November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, Paul supporters held the first “money bomb” fundraiser, which (for Internet fundraising) raked in a record $4.3 million. Days after this came the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Paul supporters in Boston re-enacted the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor and a newcomer to politics, ophthalmologist Rand Paul, spoke at Faneuil Hall. A second money bomb held on this commemoration of the Tea Party raised over $6 million, shattering the previous record set eleven days before.

At root, this schism of the American right was a rebellion against the Bush Republican party’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drunken-sailor federal spending (e.g., a $500 billion unfunded expansion of Medicare for a new prescription drug program), and a burgeoning post-9/11 federal spy and police state (e.g., the Patriot Act of 2001).

By February 2009, the GOP lay in complete tatters. In addition to its endless wars and domestic spending spree, it had added a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street after the financial crisis of 2008. (Never mind a series of smaller outrages such as a ban on incandescent light bulbs and the TSA, which should have been a private effort, if at all, from the beginning).

On top of all that, instead of nominating Ron Paul in 2008, the GOP had nominated conservative “war hero” John McCain and Alaska governor Sarah Palin. A war-weary public completely rejected the ticket in favor of a younger, articulate Barack Obama who promised (falsely) peace and a revived economy.

The Santelli rant sparked the conservative and GOP establishments to transform a marketing vehicle that would serve to not only distract the public from their recent colossal policy failures, but also serve as a gold mine of self-enrichment: t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, Taxed Enough Already (TEA) yard signs, fluff books from the conservative pundit class, Glenn Beck rallies promoted by the Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh iced tea, and children’s books.

As Sarah Palin replaced Ron Paul as the face of the movement, a surreal change in advocacy followed. The anti-interventionist Tea Party, once outraged about the endless occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, was now wanting the U.S. to attack and invade Iran. Rally chants of “End the Fed” eventually disappeared.

By 2014, the faux Tea Party’s fifth anniversary, it was clear that the mainstream media were firmly devoted to advancing the new establishment narrative, as 2014 headlines such as “Tea Party Marks Fifth Anniversary” make clear.

Still, glaring inconsistencies remained. The grassroots Paulist Tea Party began on December 16, 2007, the 234thanniversary of the original Sons of Liberty protest of 1773. The conservative and GOP forgery of February 19, 2009 was not connected to anything but the advancement of the corporatist interests of the mainstream GOP. Even its supposed founder, Rick Santelli, was quickly pushed offstage while the Fox News Channel, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and others took center stage.

And, here in Alaska, where Paul had strong support, people like me were often confused by stands of the Tea Party when we knew so many “tea partiers” who didn’t agree.

While the Ron-Paul Revolution, from the spread of homeschools to Austrian economics, continues on in educating people around the world, the Tea Party is all but completely dead. In the age of Donald Trump, its lessons are more vivid than ever.

The two-party U.S. duopoly, which insulates itself from competition and outsiders through regulatory barriers such as ballot-access laws, front-loaded primaries, and super delegates, presents obstacles even to billionaires who wish to challenge it.

Trump was an outsider who promised a less interventionist foreign policy, full repeal of Obamacare, and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The two-party cartel not only sunk these promises that Trump supporters wanted, but installed a special prosecutor to investigate wild allegations of Russian hacking to help elect Trump. Make America Great Again has yielded to bizarre rabbit holes such as bombing Syria and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On the opposite side of the aisle, the Democratic Party’s sinking of Bernie Sanders holds the same lessons. Had progressives pursued decentralization instead of Obama’s empty promises and the mirage of a Sanders presidency, California, Vermont, and Oregon could be much better prepared to separate from the rest of the U.S. and pursue their preferred policies from collectivist health care to sanctuary cities unhindered by the Trump administration.

Decentralization and autonomy is what the U.S., going back to the Articles of Confederation, was originally about. Those paths, instead of trying to wrest control of leviathan, would be far more effective in getting all sides much of what they want. As Brexit has shown, postponing the process only makes it more difficult to implement later on.

Posted January 9, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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