Thursday, December 25, 2008

The season of all seasons

During this day of Christmas, a traditional holiday although celebrated in many ways over the centuries, I find myself looking at these other seasons that we have heard about from our past. Our Revolution was rife with them, with the best known being the Season of our Discontent and the other of the Sunshine Soldier and Summer Patriot. Those two dovetailed with discontent leading to such summer easiness which would be followed by a fall of those that came in summer leaving and replaced by a final winter grimness and resolution that caused these seasons to be cited at the time. America, once she worked through the pain of the Revolution found herself without one-quarter of her population that she had at the start. Those who had no stomach for Revolution, for this new way of government, left for other Crown Colonies or back to Britain and they were the larger part of that loss at 15%. The Patriots who founded this land lost an astonishing 10% of the total population, dead, and many more that had been imprisoned for years their views on their fellow man forever changed by that experience. Little did we expect that the actual act of becoming a Nation and having a Peace Treaty was but a lull and gentle warming that would be followed by the last of the dark winter that followed. That winter was one of dreams crumbling, people imprisoned for the general debt levied upon them, and a worse discontent growing and rising, yet again, under the banner of 'No Taxation Without Representation'.

America had failed to keep 15% of her population, lost another 10% dead and now the remaining 75% were facing a failure of the young Nation. The Baltimore Convention of 1786 called for a new way of government to be formulated in 1787 and the acute dreams of liberty and freedom embodied in the Articles of Confederation had demonstrated that our Nation could not be run by such a system of government. The brink of failure was a near thing for this Nation and we do not appreciate how closely this entire endeavor would come to sudden, chaotic end. The drafting of a new Constitution to have a Federal system to replace the Confederal one, shifted negative energies into productive channels and the wide-ranging debate between 1787-1789 was the largest public debate on how people should govern themselves ever witnessed in human history. It was gripping as those founders that were in Philadelphia were giving tacit admission that their grandest view of liberty and freedom could not work for the common man. When the greatest State-based system for independence met up with the hard problem of economic debt incurred by the Nation, the system failed and miserably. Many of those drafters in Philadelphia were very grim, as they had helped put this disaster in place and felt a deep and abiding responsibility to rectify it so that their dreams of liberty and freedom could survive.

Those two years of debate then did the necessary job of starting to hash out the problems in this NEW system of government an the Bill of Rights was added, in the English form, so that there would be some basic statements of outlook on government that would get encoded into the system so that Federal government did not overstep its bounds. Amendments IX and X were revolutionary in that they inverted prior forms of Constitution in which government granted rights to the people and changed that so that the people granted rights to government and only those clearly and unequivocally stated in the Constitution and its Amendments. The problem of government is not that it is evil, but that it is a necessary evil as mankind does not live in a state of harmony and requires the works of man to survive to lead a good life and yet not be dictated to by government. From society comes government and from common government comes State and from shared State we get Nation to interact with all other Nations.

The idea behind the Nation State is the exact, same one embodied in the concept of Federalism: local control is best.

Distributed control for the greatest leeway amongst societies is best.

Diverse people have demonstrated that common government without that government turning oppressive is impossible.

That was a prime problem with the US Constitution, as it was already a diverse and geographically large Nation for its means of commerce and communication in 1787. The greatest stumbling block was not that of how to distribute power, but how to keep government in check and to stop it from repressing liberty and freedom. No set of checks and balances will work if the people are lulled into singing along with the Siren as the Ship of State heads towards the rocky shoreline and demise of common effort by things that 'seem good' but, when put into the hands of that necessary evil called government, turns into a lash upon the individual and the destruction of liberty and freedom by government to its own ends. Thus the lesson learned from the Confederation, that oppressive debt of a Nation must be shared, was inverted by those that had an idea that the National government could, indeed, bring prosperity. That strange inversion was one that had a clear problem: it caused a Revolution as prosperity for the Mother Country did not mean prosperity for her Citizens abroad. The start of the Anti-Colonial era did not begin between WWI and WWII, but in1776. Unfortunately the message took awhile to get out and the lumbering beast of Colonial Empire continued forward even with a piece of lead having gone through its brain. Make no mistake about it: National government had demonstrated a marked lack and inability to ensure prosperity for all under its domain.

Many point to the era of Colonial Empire and are wistful for it. They will tout all the 'good' brought to people in far domains by dominion over them, that civilization spread via that influence. This is even *true*. The cost of having unequal opportunity via those regimes is disparity in outcome, so that even the richest of far-flung potentates under such a regime are *still* second class citizens with limited rights and freedoms. America does not need to look abroad for such lessons, as that period under the Confederation demonstrated a similar social stratification between the rich and ruling in the cities and the poor and indebted in the countryside. Having the keys to government and levying taxes was a boon to those in power, and those that were poor soon found themselves in prison if they had any property at all. Those who followed the path of Alexander Hamilton to robust government intrusion into the economy then made their own, foolish mistake to emphasize this point of the rich and privileged making the working man suffer in the formulation of the National Bank.

The cozy and corrupt relationship that the National Banks had with the Federal government led to corruption and favoritism by *law* for the bank and against the people. Mind you, this is after centuries of Mercantilism and Feudalism having demonstrated that the cozy relationship between the Crown and those favored by it make for a disharmony between government and the people. The magic boon of liberty and freedom was and is not enough to counter the ability to turn a necessary evil into an absolute one for personal gain. Yet there was wisdom in the grant by Congress to the National Banks that required them to be re-approved on a regular basis, because it was understood that no created vehicle of government that skirted the edge of the allowed could not go unchecked and lose popular consent and have no easy means to remove it when it went from necessary to absolute evil.

This, too, had been brought up during the Years of Ratification, and yet that discussion was also forgotten by many then and completely by now in public discourse.

Yet, there was President Jackson who abided by the Constitution and the wisdom behind it. I have written about his view of what the Presidency is and how government serves the people, and not up on a platter, either. In one of the lengthiest veto messages ever produced, President Jackson went through how government, the economy, the Nation's ability to defend itself, its responsibility on foreign trade and how accountability is best distributed in a fashion that makes the ideas present by later economic thinkers to be in accord with him, although he is never cited as one of the great proponents of those ideas. He is more than willing to abide by the Constitutional powers given to government, the laws as they have been decided by the Supreme Court and not only his duties but respect for the duties of the other branches of government for any law creating any Bank concern that cares the imprimatur of the United States government. He made sure Congress knew of the problems that needed to be addressed a year in advance so that it could remedy the problems of corruption, banks gaining money via exchange while citizens lost money via exchange, and the pernicious problem of having so much working capital under foreign control. He would be more than willing to run any bank that met those criteria.

Congress could not do that and the Bank was Vetoed, and it even withstood a new Administration after Jackson's that had been *for* the Bank.

A lesson of government interference via positive control over the economy had been recognized.

Government could not assure prosperity, and yet the Nation, with its ups and downs, would prosper, grow and become an industrial powerhouse by the end of the 19th century. That was done by giving a fair and even playing field in economic realms to the people and favoring none. The season that followed, after the harsh winter and cold snap in late spring called The Civil War, then led to a marshy, wet time of prosperity, where land was opened, rail lines put down and cities grew to support that industry. By all accounts that population, even without those pushing for sobriety, was swearing off of hard liquor and heading towards beer, by the gallons per individual per year. Patent medicines and the wide-spread application of various new medications did lead to many being addicted, too, but the last balm of government as steward in the food and drug purity acts had started that in decline as informed citizens will not ingest such things in such vast quantities. If we have a 'drug problem' today, just picture the situation in the 1880's where there were more addicts, more and harder liquor and a Nation filled with trying to build itself up and laying down the infrastructure that would power it into the next century. Somehow they achieved that with what, today, we would consider ruinous levels of addiction and inebriation. The effort to control those things by government was seen as 'Modern' and 'Progressive', and yet were the same restrictive and anti-liberty ideas that this Nation had established itself to prevent.

An ill-guided effort to enforce morals from government gave us super-powered organized crime that built itself from the ill-gotten gains of prohibited liquor. The government, itself, would find those in power who pushed for the old 'restrictions' on government to be relaxed as this was, after all, the 'Modern Era'. Surely, we could do with some economic guidance of government in the economy, right? Prohibition was repealed, when it became evident that no one respected morals dictated by government. Unfortunately the Federal Reserve, the modern incarnation of the National Bank concept, would not and was actually joined by more intrusion by government in the economy. Still that economic powerhouse laid down by our inebriated and addicted ancestors ploughed through the drags on it put in place by government and powered through the Great Depression until the staggering load placed upon the economy by government caused it to falter and the Recession of 1937-38 was the result. All the lovely ornaments on the fast moving vehicle caused it to stall out just when it was gaining speed. The only cure for government intrusion was *more* intrusion to fight a world war: America was 'saved' from her ill-thought out 'Modern' and 'Progressive' ideas by having a huge section of the productive workforce fighting overseas, and every last man and woman left working in the factories and industry. That made things 'better' so that the return to normalcy after the war, and the pent up spending between 1942 to 1945 was unleashed in a huge groundswell that masked the things government had done in the 1930's.

The lending policies of the Federal Reserve at the start of the economic decline contributed, in no small part, to the sudden collapse in the private sector. Government did, indeed, have positive control, but to negative impact. Government then foisted more positive control, in name of the common good, and nearly killed the recovery. Then government saved itself by removing the productive working class, paying them wages overseas that could not be spent in the economy all too easily, and then put the less skilled and abled to work to support the war effort. Those may have been necessary things to do, after the Nation was attacked, but that does not allow us to forget that these things had impact upon the Nation's economy and industry. The Cold War that followed saw a Nation transformed, economically, but put in place via education and lobbying interests, the idea that government positive control in the economy is in any way 'good'. All of the problems with positive control being 'good' were clearly, and definitively demonstrated by the USSR and China: they had absolute positive control over their economies and they ruined those and their people. Russia has always had that problem, with the Czars mandating industry and other lovely things, while China has had centralized rule for centuries since the founding of China by the Chin Dynasty. Russia was a poor, third world country, as we would call it today, with ability to exploit millions and achieve a little. China had the lesson of 'expediency' down pat, and the first thing Mao did to end the drug trade was to execute all of those in it... and their families, just to get the point home.

Thus when the United States, with its control in the economy from government, faced down Nations that had absolute control over their economies, we were no longer in a position to offer the clear and decisive choice between economic systems. It was somewhat controlled private capitalism, with positive control by the State or State capitalism with absolute control by the State. The idea of somewhat controlled capitalism that had some necessary social overhead, but no positive governmental control was not on the table. Worse, still, was piling on 'good things' for this positive control to accomplish in the way of health care, extensive laws on how government wanted things run and an increasing bureaucracy that was soon putting in place restrictions that those in the 19th century would not only call ill-guided, but repressive. Two-thirds of all regulations in the US were put down since 1972, and that is a growing problem as everything gains 'positive oversight' to the point of having no effect save to make laws that no one knows about and yet everyone is liable to know. Actually reading the federal regulations is a lengthy task and would take up a bookshelf six feet long of hard bound books with very small type... that was before it was put on CD.

It is amended monthly.

You are to keep up with that.

That is the effect of positive control of government in the economy: it restricts freedom, liberty and makes everyone liable to break multiple laws they can't even find nor know about before-hand unless they have some specialty in that area of endeavor. And those folks are still liable for the rest of it, to. Now we have come to the point where government seeks to 'bail out' failing parts of the economy. Thus the bucket brigade is set up and no one bothers to address the holes that point to missing parts of the economy in the hull of the State. Instead they want to support the rust at the edges of the hole...

Who would not love free money? Banks want it. So do car companies. Unions, can't leave their spendthrift ways behind, now, can we? School systems! Ski resorts, yes those poor folks facing an economic downturn with few customers... so sad, no? Public employee unions facing lack of pension funds! The State of California, it is too big to fail now, isn't? So is Michigan, and it has the auto companies, not that there is any relation between the huge taxes locally in Michigan and failing car companies, nosiree bob! Home builders, yes those poor folks pushing poor regulation to skew good economic accounting, then must NEED a bail out. Home mortgage companies, especially those that backed lobbyists to get the asinine regulations in place, well they have shown such wisdom in ruining a good sector of the economy lets give *them* a second chance to finish the job, right?

And, by damn, a lump of coal is vilified so everyone must get presents.

Pretty soon we will need that coal to heat our power plants to keep us alive.

Government will be so nice to hand out money to those who should have known better that you, my fellow citizen, will be impoverished into equality to help the cronies of those in power.

Because they are represented in Upon the Hill.

You are not.

That power will be felt in taxation which the 'Progressives' also wanted for National government to hand out unequally.

What was that about the founding?

'No Taxation Without Representation'?

That caused a Revolution.

10% dead.

15% fled.

Our bed is being made.

Soon we will find 'Modern' is as repressive as 'Ancient', just spiffed up a bit.

Perhaps we can remember that everything 'positive' is not good when handed to necessary evil.

Before we must lie in our bed, again and fight.

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