Category Archives: Great Britain

The Constitution IS the Crisis

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A Review of Murray N. Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, Vol. 5The posthumous release of Murray Rothbard’s fifth volume of his early American history series, Conceived in Liberty, is a cause of celebration not only for those interested in the country’s constitutional period, but also for the present day as the nation is faced with acute social, economic, and political crises.  The fifth volume, The New Republic: 1784-1791, stands with Boston T. Party’s 1997 release, Hologram of Liberty, as a grand rebuttal of the cherished notion held by most contemporary scholars, pundits on the Right, and, surprisingly, many libertarians who believe that the US Constitution is some great bulwark in defense of individual liberty and a promoter of economic success.

ConceivedInLiberty4in1 Volumes 1-4

Rothbard’s narrative highlights the crucial years after the American Revolution focusing on the events and personalities that led to the calling for, drafting, and eventual promulgation of the Constitution in 1789.  Not only does he describe the key factors that led to the creation of the American nation-state, but he gives an insightful account of the machinations which took place in Philadelphia and a trenchant analysis of the document itself which has become, in the eyes of most conservatives, on a par with Holy Writ.

What Might Have Been

While Rothbard writes in a lively and engaging manner, the eventual outcome and triumph of the nationalist forces leaves the reader with a certain sadness.  Despite the fears expressed by the Antifederalists that the new government was too powerful and would lead to tyranny, through coercion, threats, lies, bribery, and arm twisting by the politically astute Federalists, the Constitution came into being.  Yet, what if it had been the other way around and the forces against it had prevailed?

It is safe to assume that America would have been a far more prosperous and less war-like place.  The common held notion that the Constitution was needed to keep peace among the contending states is countered by Rothbard, who points out a number of instances where states settled their differences, most notably Maryland and Virginia as they came to an agreement on the navigation of the Chesapeake Bay.  [129-30]

Without a powerful central state to extract resources and manpower, overseas intervention by the country would have been difficult to undertake.  Thus, the US’s disastrous participation in the two world wars would have been avoided.  Furthermore, it would have been extremely unlikely for a Confederation Congress to impose an income tax as the federal government successfully did through a constitutional amendment in 1913.

Nor would the horrific misnamed “Civil War” ever take place with its immense loss of life and the destruction of the once flourishing Southern civilization.  The triumph of the Federal government ended forever “states rights” in the US and, no doubt, inspired centralizing tendencies throughout the world, most notably in Germany which became unified under Prussian domination.

In a failed attempt in 1786 to enact an impost tax under the Confederation, Abraham Yates, a New York lawyer and prominent Antifederalist, spoke of decentralization as the key to liberty as Rothbard aptly summarizes:

Yates also warned that true republicanism can only be preserved in small states, and

keenly pointed out that in the successful Republics of Switzerland and the

Netherlands the local provinces retained full control over their finances.  A taxing

power in Congress would demolish state sovereignty and reduce the states, where

the people could keep watch on their representatives, to mere adjuncts of

congressional power, and liberty would be gone.  [64]

Antifederalists, such as Yates, had a far greater understanding of how liberty and individual rights would be protected than their statist opponents such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.  The Antifederalists looked to Europe as a model, which, for most of its history, was made up of decentralized political configurations.  The Federalists, on the other hand, got much of their inspiration from the Roman Republic and later Empire.  There is little question that an America, with the political attributes of a multi-state Europe, would be far less menacing to both its own inhabitants and to the rest of the world than what it has become under the current Federal Leviathan if the Constitution never passed.

Speculation aside, historical reality meant that America would be fundamentally different than it would have been had the Articles of Confederation survived, as Rothbard points out:

The enactment of the Constitution in 1788 drastically changed the course of

American history from its natural decentralized and libertarian direction to an

omnipresent leviathan that fulfilled all of the Antifederalists’ fears.  [312]

Limited Government Myth

One of the great myths surrounding the American Constitution – which continues within conservative circles to this very day – is that the document limits government power.  After reading Rothbard, such a notion can only be considered a fairy tale!

The supposed “defects” of the Articles of Confederation were adroitly used by the wily nationalists as a cover to hide their real motives.  Simply put – the Articles had to be scrapped and a new national government, far more powerful than what had existed under the Articles, had to be created as Rothbard asserts: “The nationalists who went into the convention agreed on certain broad objectives, crucial for a new government, all designed to remodel the United States into a country with the British political structure.”  [145]

In passing the Constitution, the nationalist forces gained almost all they had set out to accomplish – a powerful central state and with it a strong chief executive office, and the destruction of the states as sovereign entities.  The supposed “checks and balances,” so much beloved by Constitution enthusiasts, has proven worthless in checking the central state’s largesse.  Checks and balances exist within the central government and is not offset by any prevailing power, be it the states or citizenry.

There was no reform of the system as it stood, but a new state was erected on the decentralized foundation of the Confederation.  Why the idea of the founding fathers as some limited government proponents is a mystery.

The Chief Executive

As it developed, the Presidency has become the most powerful and, thus, the most dangerous office in the world.  While its occupants certainly took advantage of situations and created crises themselves over the years, the Presidency, especially in foreign policy, is largely immune from any real oversight either from the legislature or judiciary.  This was not by happenstance.  From the start, the nationalists envisioned a powerful executive branch, and though the most extreme among the group were eventually thwarted in their desire to recreate a British-style monarchy in America, the final draft of the Constitution granted considerable power to the presidential office.

As they did throughout the Constitutional proceedings, the nationalists cleverly altered the concept of what an executive office in a republic should be, by subtle changes in the wording of the document as Rothbard incisively explains:

[T]he nationalists proceeded to alter . . .  and exult the executive in a highly

important textual change.  Whenever the draft had stated that the president ‘may

recommend’ measures to the Congress, the convention changed ‘may’ to ‘shall,’

which provided a ready conduit to the president for wielding effective law-making

powers, while the legislature was essentially reduced to a ratification agency of laws

proposed by the president.  [190-91]

As if this was not bad enough the office was given the ability to create departments within its own domain.

In another fateful change, the president was given the power to create a

bureaucracy within the executive by filling all offices not otherwise provided for in

the Constitution, in addition to those later created by laws.  [191]

The totalitarian federal agencies that plague the daily lives of Americans were not some later innovation by the Progressive movement or New Dealers, but had been provided for within the document itself.  The efforts of those opposed to the various social welfare schemes of the past, which have been put into effect through the various Cabinet departments, have been in vain since the power was given to the Presidency and has been taken advantage of by nearly all of its occupants.

Rothbard’s analysis of the chief executive office is especially pertinent since the nation is once again in the midst of another seemingly endless presidential election cycle.  The reason that the office has attracted so many of the worst sort (which is being kind) is because of its power.  If elected, the ability to control, regulate, impoverish, and kill not only one’s fellow citizen, but peoples across the globe is an immense attraction for sociopaths!

A Coup d’état and Counter Revolution

Rothbard makes the compelling case that the Constitution was a counter revolution, which was a betrayal of the ideology that brought about the Revolution:

The Americans were struggling not primarily for independence but for political-

economic liberty against the mercantilism of the British Empire.  The struggle was

waged against taxes, prohibitions, and regulations – a whole failure of repression

that the Americans, upheld by an ideology of liberty, had fought and torn

asunder. . . .   [T]he American Revolution was in essence not so much against Britain

as against British Big Government – and specially against an all-powerful central

government and a supreme executive.  [307]

He continues:

[T]he American Revolution was liberal, democratic, and quasi-anarchistic; for

decentralization, free markets, and individual liberty; for natural rights of

life, liberty, and property; against monarchy, mercantilism, and especially

against strong central government.  [307-08]

There was, however, always a “conservative” element within the revolutionary leadership that admired Great Britain and wanted to replicate it in America.  It was only when there was no alternative to British political and economic oppression that they joined with their more liberal-libertarian brethren and decided for independence.

Conservatives did not go away after independence, but would continue to push for an expansion of government under the Articles and finally, after most of their designs were consistently thwarted, did they scheme to impose a powerful central state upon the unsuspecting country.

Yet, they would not have triumphed had a number of key liberal-libertarians of the revolutionary generation moved to the Right during the decade following independence.  Rothbard shows why he is the master in power-elite historical analysis in his discussion of this tragic shift, which would spell the death knell to any future politically decentralized America:

[O]ne of the . . .  reasons for the defeat of the Antifederalists, though they

commanded a majority of the public, was the decimation that had taken place in

radical and liberal leadership during the 1780s.  A whole galaxy of ex-radicals, ex-

decentralists, and ex-libertarians, found in their old age that they could comfortably

live in the new Establishment.  The list of such defections is impressive, including

John Adams, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Paine, Alexander

McDougall, Isaac Sears, and Christopher Gadsden.  [308-09]

As the country’s elite became more statist and as political (Shays Rebellion) and  economic (a depression) factors played into their hands, conservatives seized the opportunity to erect on America a powerful national government:

It was a bloodless coup d’état against an unresisting Confederation Congress. . . .

The drive was managed by a corps of brilliant members and representatives

of the financial and landed oligarchy.  These wealthy merchants and large

landowners were joined by the urban artisans of the large cities in their

drive to create a strong overriding central government – a supreme government

with its own absolute power to tax, regulate commerce, and raise armies.  [306]

Conclusion

The Mises Institute and the editor of the book, Patrick Neumann, must be given immense credit for bringing this important piece of scholarship into print.  Once read, any notion of the “founding fathers” as disinterested statesmen who sublimated their own interests and that of their constituents to that of their country will be disavowed.  Moreover, The New Republic:1784-1791 is the most important in the series since the grave crises that the nation now faces can be traced to those fateful days in Philadelphia when a powerful central state was created.

Volume Five shows that the problems of America’s past and the ones it now faces are due to the Constitution.  The remedy to the present societal ills is not electing the “right” congressman, or president, but to “devolve” politically into a multitude of states and jurisdictions.  For the future of liberty and economic well-being, this is where efforts should be placed and Murray Rothbard’s final volume of Conceived in Liberty is essential reading if that long, arduous, but much necessary task is to be undertaken.

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

posted 02-10-’20

 

 

 

 

 

Is Political Decentralization the Only Hope for Western Civilization?

US Secssion Map II

A couple of recent articles have once more made the case, at least implicitly, for political decentralization as the only viable path which will begin to solve the seemingly insurmountable political, economic, and social crises which the Western world now faces.

In the last few months, over 3,000 millionaires have fled the hopelessly corrupt and bankrupt state of Illinois.  When asked, 47% of Illinoisans would like to leave the state which, over the last decade, has seen over a half million of its residents flee.  Naturally, this exodus has exacerbated the Land of Lincoln’s financial straits to catastrophic levels.*

A report published by the American Legislative Exchange Council predicted that the tax flight which is occurring in Illinois will similarly take place in the coming years in high-tax blue states such as California and New York.  The 2017 Trump tax reform will accelerate this process since under the new legislation the amount of state income tax that can be deducted on federal tax returns has been capped at $10,000 per family.  The authors of the report wrote: “. . .  high [income] earners in places with hefty income taxes – not just California and New York, but also Minnesota and New Jersey – will bear more of the true cost of their state government.”**

The not too subtle consequences of the new tax code will mean an even greater exodus of taxpayers out of blue states which will shrink state revenues even further and create job losses across the board.

While those who want to escape the crushing burden of individual state taxation and regulation, if they have the means and desire to do so, can move to more favorable climes, no such option exists (except the drastic step of expatriation) to escape federal tyranny.  Yet, the same benefits which occur from a multiple of individual states and jurisdictions would be present if the various nation states which dominate the globe were broken up into smaller political units.

While the authors of the cited articles see the advantage that multiple states have where one can “vote with his feet,” the same logic can be applied to central governments across the planet who are, on the whole, more tyrannical than local jurisdictions.  More political bodies would not only provide sanctuary for the oppressed, but it would tend to keep a check on tyranny among existing states.

Political decentralization is a far greater deterrent to government largesse than constitutions, elections, or finding the “right person” to “fix things.”  The events of the last few weeks in the realm of US foreign policy once again demonstrate that trusting candidates to fulfill campaign promises is naive, to say the least.

To get to this goal, all and every secession movement, even of a Leftist bent, should be supported, whether they are nations that want to “exit” from larger political units, such as Great Britain from the EU, or within nation states themselves such as California in the US.  All should be encouraged.

Of course, the case for decentralization has to be made on ideological grounds.  The Left, most likely, will not be a natural ally for secession, nor are conservatives, most of whom are under the spell of “nationalism” and “restoring the Republic.”  Yet, the Right offers the best opportunity to build a secession movement and needs to be convinced that the preservation of the nation state will only lead to the complete triumph of liberalism.

Secession would also necessitate the breakup of the nation-state’s monopoly of money and banking.  Numerous political divisions would be more likely to adopt a single monetary unit – gold – which would guarantee financial stability rather than the debt ridden paper-money system now in place.

Next to the outbreak of World War III, immigration is the greatest threat to what remains of Western Civilization.  Smaller political units would be far better to control their borders than reliance on a central authority which can be easily manipulated from outside agents.

The solution to the myriad of social and economic problems that confront Western societies will not come about from a “reform” of the nation state, but through its dissolution.  Only through a world made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of Lichtensteins, Hong Kongs, Monacos, confederacies, free cities, etc., will these crises be hoped to be resolved.

*Tyler Durden, “This $5 Trillion Time Bomb Will Devastate Americans.” Zero Hedge.  9 August 2017.  https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-09/5-trillion-time-bomb-will-devastate-americans

**Robert Frank.  “800,000 People Are About to Flee New York and California Because of Taxes, Say Economists.”  CNBC.com. 26 April 2018.    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/26/800000-people-are-about-to-flee-new-york-california-because-of-taxes.html?__source=sharebar|twitter&par=sharebar

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

Only Economic Collapse Will Bring Down the American Empire

trump syria

The Bomber-in-Chief announces air attacks on Syria

Despite the vehement pleas and letter-writing campaigns by a significant portion of his political base including notable media personalities such as Tucker Carlson against military action in Syria, President Trump committed what looks like political suicide by ordering air strikes on Friday evening.  The bombing, thankfully, appeared to have been thwarted by Syrian air defenses, nor, as of this date, has the insane American, British and French action led to a wider conflagration.

As of yet, no doubt due to Divine Intervention, WWIII has not erupted and although the ramifications of the attack will reverberate for weeks to come, what is clear is that President Trump is now firmly in the clutches of the neocons, Israel, and the American Deep State, all of who are the direct beneficiaries of the wanton attack on the Assad regime.

A good portion of Trump’s base is rightfully enraged by the action, which will dash any hope of it coming to his aid if future impeachment proceedings are commenced over the Mueller investigation.  Many of Trump’s supporters have been seething ever since he signed off on the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package in March and his continued failure to start construction on a border wall.

Talk about shooting one’s self in the foot!

Whether President Trump survives until 2020 or is replaced in the interim by neocon Mike Pence, American foreign policy will, in all likelihood, continue its bellicose ways.  Ever since WWI, which the current Bomber-in-Chief mentioned in his address announcing the air strikes, America has been an interventionist, destructive, and murderous empire.

The reason for this is that the nation’s ideology had changed where it had once  trumpeted the ideas of non-intervention and peace (except, of course, for the people of the South during their heroic attempt at independence) to those that glorified empire and war, largely based on the British model which, ironically, was the system that America seceded from in 1776.  By the time of WWI (actually the disgraceful Spanish-American War), the ideals of non-intervention, peace, free trade, and hard money had been gradually replaced by those of empire, central banking, war, and debt.

Until there is a change in ideology, it is unlikely that the US will refrain from its interventionist foreign policy.  And, typically, social change comes after men’s minds have been convinced of a different paradigm which, of course, does not happen overnight.

Like the British Empire before it, the only way the US will stop its murderous ways will be from economic collapse or a severe financial panic which threatens or ends the US dollar’s status as the world reserve currency.

Candidate Trump may have been the last hope of an American Firster who had the wherewithal to attain the Presidency.  Although not an ideologue, Trump spoke of getting along with Russia, disengaging from the Middle East, and backing out of, or making NATO members pay for their own “defense.”  These qualities faded once elected and the ominous talk about scuttling the Iranian arms deal and spending more on the military were pushed ahead.

After WWII, Britain had simply exhausted itself with its insane participation in the world wars and could no longer maintain its empire.  Britain’s ideology did not change, but reality stepped in: it simply did not have the capacity (wealth) to fund a world-wide empire. It had squandered its resources and men on the battlefields of Europe.

  Winston Churchill destroyer of the British Empire

The US is headed in the same direction, which is what both Russia and China are counting on.  Its crushing debt burden, costly wars, and out-of-control spending are sapping its productive capacity, which the military industrial complex taps to sustain itself.

The US’ enemies have based their strategies on this.  In reference to the US’ involvement in the Afghanistan quagmire, Osama bin Laden reportedly said:

We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10

years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to

withdraw in defeat . . . So we are continuing this

policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.*

  Osama Bin Laden

The question that remains is when will a collapse occur or at least another crisis like in 2008 take place?  The warning signs abound.  The most pressing is the exploding US deficit which has soared in March to $209 billion. In 2007, the entire deficit for the year was less than $200 billion!

The collapse of the US economy is unavoidable, however, it is not “if” but “when.”  For world peace, it had better be sooner than later.

*Brian Whitaker, “Al-Qaida is Bleeding US to Bankruptcy, Bin Laden Claims.”  The Guardian, 3 November 2004. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/nov/03/usa.alqaida

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

 

The United States of Hubris

hubris of empire

If anyone should have any questions about whether the United States of America is not the most aggressive, warlike, and terroristic nation on the face of the earth, its latest proposed action against the supposed rogue state of North Korea should allay any such doubts.

Last week, the US circulated a draft resolution which it intends to present to the UN Security Council that would give the American Navy and Air Force the power to interdict North Korean ships at sea to determine if they were transporting “weaponry material” or fuel and that US forces would be given “the right” to use “all necessary measures” to “enforce compliance.”*

Not surprisingly, Nikky Haley, the blood-thirsty and incompetent American Ambassador to the UN, has enthusiastically backed the resolution, utterly clueless of its ramifications if passed, the most horrific of which would be the igniting of WWIII.  Trump’s selection of the neocon mouthpiece as UN Ambassador has been a disaster on several fronts: first, it was an early and quite telling sell out of his political base whom he promised an American First foreign policy of less belligerency and intervention.  Second, Haley had no foreign policy experience and has made a fool of herself internationally on more than one occasion with her inane statements.

That the US is even considering such a provocative scheme once again shows the hubris which exists within its vast corridors of power.  Any other country which would suggest such an audacious act would be rightly condemned, ostracized, and labeled as a rogue state.  Yet, it is US lawmakers, policy wonks, and the CIA/NSA-directed American press corps that charge others (mostly those who do not kowtow to US dictates) of “terrorism.”

This year, as of yet, North Korea has not been responsible for a single death of a foreign national.  Nor has the tiny communist state ever used a nuclear weapon against an enemy like the US did with its immoral and hellish destruction of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the conclusion of WWII.

On the other hand, since the start of the Trump Presidency, US-backed forces have been responsible for the deaths of some 3700 civilians in Mosul, Iraq.**  This is not to mention its murderous armed strikes in Yemen and Afghanistan.  Nor is American aggression limited to direct military action, but its arms supply sales to despots and its puppets has escalated tensions and makes conflicts that do break out much more brutal.

Fortunately, for the future of global peace, US hegemony is coming to an end.  The nation is hopelessly broke while its welfare/warfare economy is beyond reform and faltering badly which means that when the inevitable collapse does happen, it will mean the end or a serious pull back of the Empire.  A similar situation took place in Great Britain in 1945 after it took part in another senseless global conflict which liquidated the British Empire once and for all.

Any sober thinking realist would recognize the deteriorating societal and economic conditions at home, yet because of the collective hubris embedded in the political class, American bellicosity continues.

The last hope of changing US overseas affairs in a peaceful direction was Donald Trump who throughout the campaign spoke of an American First foreign policy which garnered widespread support.  Within Trump’s foreign policy statements, however, there were many troubling ones: call for increased defense spending, “wiping out ISIS,” updating the nation’s nuclear arsenal, putting an end to the North Korean “problem.”  The encouraging words about non-intervention and getting along with Russia were quickly scuttled while the militaristic side of Trump’s campaign rhetoric has won the day.

History is replete with examples of hubristic regimes which appeared invincible and everlasting, but quickly fall with severe and quite nasty retribution from their enemies.  While the US goes about the world threatening, bombing, and destabilizing those it does not like, it too, possibly in the not too distant future, will face the deserved wrath of those it has humiliated and terrorized.

*David E. Sanger, “U.S. Seeks U.N. Consent to Interdict North Korean Ships.”  New York Times.  6 September 2017.

**Adam Johnson, “Corporate Media Largely Silent on Trump’s Civilian Death Toll in Iraq.”  Fair.  19 July 2017.  http://fair.org/home/corporate-media-largely-silent-on-trumps-civilian-death-toll-in-iraq/

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com