Category Archives: Bill of Rights

The Constitution Myth

One reason for the failure of the modern conservative and libertarian movements to scale back, in even a miniscule way, the now gargantuan US welfare/warfare state has been the misinterpretation of the US Constitution.  Many conservatives have a slavish devotion to the document, placing it on a par with the Ten Commandments and New Testament.

A typical misunderstanding of the Constitution’s history and content appeared in this recent op-ed:



The Constitution was intended to limit 1) the power


of government over the citizenry 2) the power of each branch of


government and 3) the power of political/financial elites over the


government and the citizenry, as the Founders recognized the intrinsic risks


of an all-powerful state, an all-powerful state dominated by one branch of


government and the risks of a financial elite corrupting the state to serve


the interests above those of the citizenry.*

The author, like so many “Constitution enthusiasts” has also been hostile to the Medieval era, denigrating its institutions and social constructs – feudalism, aristocracy, crusading – when, in fact, the Middle Ages, in many respects, were far freer with less government than the present epoch. **

When the founding fathers decided to meet in Philadelphia in 1787, they did so at first to “amend” the Articles of Confederation which had guided the young country through some perilous times.  While the Articles had some defects (some libertarians even contend that they were too statist***), the delegates, at first, did not want it scrapped, however, it was the “leading lights” of the convention which connived to completely do away with it.

By superior political maneuvering, the pro-Constitution forces were able to ramrod their plan through despite being in the minority.  Not only were the majority of the delegates initially against scrapping the Articles, but most Americans were opposed to the creation of a new central government. 

Despite this, the Constitution was ruthlessly pushed through and, as its opponents feared, America would be saddled with a highly centralized national government, the loss of considerable state sovereignty, and the eventual erosion of individual liberties even with the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

A brief examination of the document reveals that its implicit and explicit language grants wide latitude for the expansion of state power.  In its Preamble, the ambiguous clause to “promote the general welfare” can and has led to all sorts of destructive social engineering schemes.  More ominously, for anyone that is under the illusion that America is governed by a “federal” system, they should reread Article VI which in part says

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United his Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land. [emphasis added]

An all-powerful central state went against much of Western history after the fall of the Roman Empire and the idea was always feared by philosophers.  Basic political theory and practical experience showed that a multitude of sovereign states were preferable not only for the protection of personal liberty, but for economic growth.  Numerous states and jurisdictions were a far greater check on government than the much celebrated “separation of powers” concept of constitutional government.

Under the Articles of Confederation, each individual state was autonomous while the national government had to rely on the states for most of its support.  Unfortunately, it will never be known what would have happened if the country remained as a confederacy of states, it is likely however, that there would have been less bloodshed, greater economic growth, and more personal freedom under a decentralized regime.

It is curious, therefore, why so many on the Right continue to revere the Constitution as some great bulwark against state power.  Much of it probably stems from ignorance or personal bias against the political conditions which existed prior to the late 18th century. 

Much of European history was under the sway of monarchial and aristocratic rule and the integral presence of the Catholic Church in society with a diffusion of power among kings, princes, dukes and Churchmen.  While far from perfect, the social order which existed under Christendom may not have been as materially or technologically advanced as contemporary times, but in regard to morality, justice, and individual freedom, there is no comparison.  The Christian age saw nothing of the social depravity, war making with its mass murder, the trampling of individual rights, and the existence of totalitarian government as witnessed in the supposedly “enlightened” modern age.

Decentralized Europe of 1300

Until it is realized that the Constitution is an impediment to rolling back the American Leviathan, there will be little progress in the fight for individual liberty and economic progress.

   

*Charles Hugh Smith, “Let’s Face It: The U.S. Constitution Has Failed.”  Zero Hedge.  20 February 2019. 

**One example, Charles Hugh Smith, “America’s ‘Neo-Feudal’ System is ‘Both False & Precarious.”  Zero Hedge 19 December 2018.

***David Gordon, ed., Strictly Confidential: The Private Volker Fund Memos of Murray N. Rothbard, Auburn, AL.: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2015, pp. 96-98.

Antonius Aquinas@antoniusaquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

[emphasis added]

The Gold Standard: Protector of Individual Liberty and Economic Prosperity

goldstandard vs.    the-bill-of-rights

 

 

The idea of a constitution and/or written legislation to secure individual rights so beloved by conservatives and among many libertarians has proven to be a myth. The US Constitution and all those that have been written and ratified in its wake throughout the world have done little to protect individual liberties or keep a check on State largesse.  Instead, in the American case, the Constitution created a powerful central government which eliminated much of the sovereignty and independence that the individual states possessed under the Articles of Confederation.

While the US Constitution contains a “Bill of Rights,” the interpreter of those rights and protections thereof is the very entity which has enumerated them.  It is only natural that decisions on whether, or if such rights have been violated will be in favor of the state.  Moreover, nearly every amendment which has come in the wake of the Bill of Rights, has augmented federal power at the expense of the individual states and that of property owners.

History has shown the steady erosion of individual rights and the creation of “new rights” and entitlements (education, health care, employment, etc.) which have occurred under constitutional rule.  Instead of limitation on government power, constitutions have given cover for the vast expansion of taxation, regulation, debt, and money creation.

While taxation has always been a facet of constitutional governments, it has been the advent of central banking and with it the elimination of the gold standard which has provided the means for the state to become such an omnipresent force in everyday life.  Irredeemable fiat paper money issued by central banks has also led to the entrenchment of political parties which has allowed these elites to create and subsidize dependency groups which, in turn, repeatedly vote to keep the political class in office.

Without the ability to create money and credit, the many bureaucracies, regulations, and laws could neither be created or enforced.  This would mean that the vast and powerful security and surveillance agencies could not exist or would be far less intrusive than they currently are.  With commodity money, debt creation would have to be repaid in gold, not monetized as it is currently done through the issuance of paper currency.

Just as important, it would have been next to impossible for the two world wars to have been fought and carried to their unimaginable destructive ends.  None of the populations involved would have put up with the level of taxation necessary to wage such costly undertakings.  Few of the wars which followed (most of which have been instigated by the US) could have taken place without central banking.  Nor could the level of “defense” spending – currently at a whopping $717 billion for fiscal year 2018 – be financed if the US was on a commodity standard.*

Under a gold standard, governments would have to rely on taxation alone.  Since citizens directly feel the effects of taxation, there is a “natural level” that it can be raised.  Punitive tax rates usually lead to a backlash and potential social insurrection which strike fear in the hearts of political elites.

Recent projections by the Congressional Budget Office again demonstrate that constitutional government provides little restraint on spending.

If present trends continue, the federal government will spend more on its interest serving its debt than it spends on the military, Medicare, or children’s programs.  It is also expected that next year’s interest on the debt will be some $390 billion, up an astonishing 50 percent from 2017.** And, for the entire fiscal year of 2018, the gross national debt surged by $1.271 trillion, to a mind-boggling $21.52 trillion.***

At one time, economists used to speak of the pernicious effects that “crowding out” had on an economy.  Since the onset of the “bubble era,” talk about deficits has almost dropped out of financial discussions.  Yet, the reality remains the same: public spending and borrowing divert scarce resources away from private capital markets to unproductive wasteful government projects and endeavors.

For those who seek a reduction in State power, defense of individual rights, and economic prosperity, the re-establishment of a monetary order based on the precious metals is the most efficacious path to take.  Such a social system would not require elaborate legislation or fancy proclamations of man’s inalienable rights, but simply a return to honest money – gold!

*Amanda Macias, “Trump Gives $717 Billion Defense Bill a Green Light. Here’s What the Pentagon is Poised to Get.”  CNBC.com 14 August 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/13/trump-signs-717-billion-defense-bill.html

**Nelson D. Schwartz, “As Debt Rises, the Government Will Soon Spend More on Interest Than on the Military.”  The New York Times. 25 September 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/25/business/economy/us-government-debt-interest.html

***Tyler Durden, “US Gross National Debt Soars $1.27 Trillion in Fiscal 2018, Hits $21.5 Trillion.” Zero Hedge.  2 October 2018.   https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-10-02/us-gross-national-debt-soars-127-trillion-fiscal-2018-hits-215-trillion

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

A Constitutional Anniversary to Forget

constitutionstupid

While not a jubilee year, last week marked the 230th anniversary of the US Constitution.  Naturally, most of its devotees enthusiastically praised the document which by now is seen on a par with Holy Writ itself.  An editorial from Investor’s Business Daily provides an example of such hagiography:

The Constitution’s beauty is that it not only delineates our rights

as Americans, but expressly limits and defines government’s ability

to interfere in our private lives.   This equipoise between citizens’

duties, responsibilities and rights makes it the defining document

or our nation’s glorious freedom.

 

But America is wonderful largely because of the Constitution and

those who framed it . . . .

 

What we have is too precious to squander . . . .*

Most of the piece laments about the widespread ignorance of its sacred contents among the denizens in which it rules over and encourages the unlearned “to bone up a bit on your constitutional heritage . . . .”  The editorial fails, as do most others on the Right, to understand that it is not a lack of knowledge of the Constitution’s contents among the populace which lies at the heart of America’s social, economic, and political problems, but the very document itself.

One of the main reasons why the Constitution continues to be so widely venerated is due to the deliberate distortion of history that its “founders” promoted and that generations of its sycophants have continued to perpetuate to this very day.  The official narrative runs that the Constitution was enacted because of widespread popular support for a change to the supposed inadequacies and deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation.

This is a myth.  Instead, the Constitution was a coup deliberately schemed by the leading political and mercantile classes to set up a powerful central government where ultimate authority rested in the national state.  The use of the term “federal” to describe what was created in Philadelphia in those fateful days was a ruse much like the banksters and politicos used “Federal Reserve” to describe the central bank created in 1913.  It was neither “federal” – a decentralized monetary order – nor a “reserve” of gold, but a monetary institution which could create money out of thin air and eventually eliminate the gold standard.

It was a similar political maneuver 230 years ago as a new American national state was established and touted as a decentralized form of government where power was evenly divided between state and national levels and between the different branches of the government itself  – “separation of powers.”  In actuality, however, the “federal system” was the elevation of central power at the expense of local authority which had previously existed.  Section VI of the Constitution says it all:

The Constitution and the laws of the United States  . . .

shall be the supreme law of the land; and the

judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the

Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Elementary political science has shown and plain common sense knows that any person or institution given “supreme authority” will misuse and abuse such power.  Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is an undeniable dictum of human nature.  A truly decentralized system of governance would not contain a plank as “supreme law of the land” as part of its foundation.  Instead, real federalism would be dispersed, as it existed in the past in such political arrangements as confederacies, leagues, and, certainly, under the much maligned feudal social order.

Even the Constitution’s celebrated Bill of Rights is flawed and has proven to be ineffective in protecting basic human freedoms.  It is the federal government which enumerates and interprets what freedom individuals should possess.  Thus, the meaning and extent of individual liberties will be in the hands of federal jurists and courts who will invariably rule on cases in favor of the state.  The ensnaring of individual rights within the central government’s authority did away with the venerable common law which was a far greater defender of liberty than federal courts.

Just as important, the enactment of the Constitution, which brought all the individual states under it suzerainty, did away with one of the most significant checks on state power – “voting with one’s feet.”  When there are multiple governing authorities, if one jurisdiction becomes too oppressive, its subjects can move to freer domains.  This still happens on a local level as high tax and regulatory states such as California and New York have lost demographically to freer places like Nevada and Texas.  Yet, from the Federal Leviathan there is no escape, except expatriation.

Unless and until Americans and all the other peoples of the Western world who live under constitutional rule recognize that it is the type of government which is the cause of most of the political turmoil, social unrest, and economic malaise  which they face, there is no hope of turning things around.

*”Sturdy Constitution, ” Investor’s Business Daily, Week of September 18, 2017, A20.

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

On the 225th Anniversary of the United States’ Bill of Rights

the-bill-of-rights

This December, 2016, marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution which would become known as the “Bill of Rights.”  To secure passage of the Constitution, the framers of the document (the Federalists) had to agree that it would contain explicit language on individual rights.

Ever since its ratification, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in which it is a part, has been hailed as one of the seminal achievements in the annals of human history while the political arrangements prior to it (primarily monarchy and aristocratic rule) have been sneered at and belittled by the Constitution’s hagiographers.   Moreover, the American Constitution has provided a model for the emergence of the nation state which came into its own after the French Revolution and the tragic breakup of Christendom.

History, however, if looked at outside the Anglo-American perspective has shown that far from a protector of individual liberty, the Bill of Rights has been mostly useless in defense of basic freedoms while the Constitution, that it is a part of, has been a vehicle for the expansion of state power to an unfathomable degree.

Despite the supposed guarantees of individual liberty within the Bill of Rights and the supposed limited nature of the Constitution itself, there has never been a more intrusive state in world history both domestically and in its myriad of interventions across the globe than the Leviathan that rests on the shores of the Potomac River.  And, the rise of American totalitarianism did not begin with the revelations of Edward Snowden and the other courageous whistle blowers of the recent past, but started soon after the new “federal” state came into existence with the passage of the Alien & Sedition Acts.  Each year since has witnessed the growth of state power at the expense of individual rights where now domestic spying and surveillance are part of the nation’s social fabric.

The primary reason why the Bill of Rights has been unable to secure basic liberties is because the federal government and its courts are the ultimate interpreters of the Constitution and its amendments as explicitly stated in Article VI, section 2, subtitled, Supreme Law of the Land:

This Constitution and the laws of the United

States which shall be made in pursuance thereof,

and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under

the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme

law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be

bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of

any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Since the central government is the final arbitrator of the document, any ruling or decision on particular laws or regulations which would impinge on individual rights will, for the most part, be favorable to the government itself.  And, due to man’s fallen nature, any such power will be abused.

The ratification of the Constitution in 1789 made in essence the individual states mere appendages of the central government.  While the Constitution’s sycophants boast of its “checks and balances,” a far superior bulwark against political repression is that of people “voting with their feet.”  Under the Articles of Confederation, when the national government was not the supreme law of the land, if a certain state became too tyrannical, at least in theory, and had the much neglected Articles remained in place, those persecuted could simply move to a more friendlier jurisdiction.

This would also hold true in the realm of taxation and regulatory policy.  Those political authorities who became too confiscatory in their taxing or enacted burdensome regulations could also see population outflows.  Similar activity goes on all the time currently as people flee high tax municipalities and states like California and New York to lower tax regions such as Florida and Texas.

For voting with one’s feet to be most successful, there needs to be a multitude of states and political jurisdictions.  In the current political climate, this would mean the breakup of the nation state.  Secession and political decentralization should thus be the goals of those who prize individual liberty and prosperity, not the celebration of constitutionalism and the supposed guarantees of personal freedoms under ideas such as the Bill of Rights.

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com/