Sunday, June 14, 2009

Progressivism's pointless future

Watching Peter Robinson's Uncommon Knowledge at NRO, done in cooperation with the Hoover Institution, with Charles Kesler, Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, on the topic of the Grand Liberal Project (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) is an exciting and yet troubling as it points out some of the problematical parts of Liberalism as it moved off of its older, individual oriented scope of the Enlightenment to mid-19th century, and went on to embrace a form of populism and group based identity based on the concept of 'progress'.  What 'progress' was conceived of was to morph government away from its known structure of limited powers granted by society, to one of making the government the focus of changing society and responding to society as it changed.  That meant, however, shifting away from understood norms of the role of government as protector via stewardship of the Nation, thus allowing each individual to achieve as they will, to one of promoting social 'good' via such activism.  This would start with Theodore Roosevelt's administration which was one that aimed at Progressive goals via Anti-Trust laws and agreeing to attend the Shanghai Convention on Opium: both areas where the federal government had little or no rightful say in the proceedings of the American people.  Additionally the Constitution was ratified by popular support to undo the restraints of the federal government both in terms of power and scope of influence: the Amendments to allow for the direct election of Senators negated the power of State government to be a countervailing influence against the federal government, and the Amendment to allow for varied income taxes based on income to be collected directly by the federal government gave it power to reach into the lives of ordinary Americans to take funds directly from the source, instead of relying upon the States for that.

Missing that is a quibble with the series of interviews, and the foundation set by Progressives under Theodore Roosevelt set the stage for Woodrow Wilson who profoundly believed that the Constitution was a 'living document' and that such things as the Declaration of Independence addressed only those things at the point of time it was written and was harshly constrained by them.  He had advocated for a move to a Parliamentary system of government while younger so as to more quickly alter the social landscape by government to 'improve' the lot of Americans.  I will be picking up some themes that I have examined previously in my writings, particularly from The 10 years that changed the path of America and Wilsonianism and the start of Transnationalism.  What watching the series brought up was a somewhat deeper interpretation of what Progressivism is from its roots and the starkness of where it winds up, today, is given in the contrast between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as the former address attacks by the latter in his autobiography.  This passage is the one that brings the change that Woodrow Wilson brought to Progressivism, and I think it is key and I will leave the highlighting from a previous post of mine:

After reading Mr. Wilson's book, I am still entirely in the dark as to what he means by the "New Freedom." Mr. Wilson is an accomplished and scholarly man, a master of rhetoric, and the sentences in the book are well-phrased statements, usually inculcating a morality which is sound although vague and ill defined. There are certain proposals (already long set forth and practiced by me and by others who have recently formed the Progressive party) made by Mr. Wilson with which I cordially agree. There are, however, certain things he has said, even as regards matters of abstract morality, with which I emphatically disagree. For example, in arguing for proper business publicity, as to which I cordially agree with Mr. Wilson, he commits himself to the following statement:

"You know there is temptation in loneliness and secrecy. Haven't you experienced it? I have. We are never so proper in our conduct as when everybody can look and see exactly what we are doing. If you are off in some distant part of the world and suppose that nobody who lives within a mile of your home is anywhere around, there are times when you adjourn your ordinary standards. You say to yourself, 'Well, I'll have a fling this time; nobody will know anything about it.' If you were on the Desert of Sahara, you would feel that you might permit yourself—well, say, some slight latitude of conduct; but if you saw one of your immediate neighbors coming the other way on a camel, you would behave yourself until he got out of sight. The most dangerous thing in the world is to get off where nobody knows you. I advise you to stay around among the neighbors, and then you may keep out of jail. That is the only way some of us can keep out of jail."

I emphatically disagree with what seems to be the morality inculcated in this statement, which is that a man is expected to do and is to be pardoned for doing all kinds of immoral things if he does them alone and does not expect to be found out. Surely it is not necessary, in insisting upon proper publicity, to preach a morality of so basely material a character.

There is much more that Mr. Wilson says as to which I do not understand him clearly, and where I condemn what I do understand. In economic matters the course he advocates as part of the "New Freedom" simply means the old, old "freedom" of leaving the individual strong man at liberty, unchecked by common action, to prey on the weak and the helpless. The "New Freedom" in the abstract seems to be the freedom of the big to devour the little. In the concrete I may add that Mr. Wilson's misrepresentations of what I have said seem to indicate that he regards the new freedom as freedom from all obligation to obey the Ninth Commandment.

But, after all, my views or the principles of the Progressive party are of much less importance now than the purposes of Mr. Wilson. These are wrapped in impenetrable mystery. His speeches and writings serve but to make them more obscure. If these attempts to refute his misrepresentation of my attitude towards the trusts should result in making his own clear, then this discussion will have borne fruits of substantial value to the country. If Mr. Wilson has any plan of his own for dealing with the trusts, it is to suppress all great industrial organizations—presumably on the principle proclaimed by his Secretary of State four years ago, that every corporation which produced more than a certain percentage of a given commodity—I think the amount specified was twenty-five per cent—no matter how valuable its service, should be suppressed. The simple fact is that such a plan is futile. In operation it would do far more damage than it could remedy. The Progressive plan would give the people full control of, and in masterful fashion prevent all wrongdoing by, the trusts, while utilizing for the public welfare every industrial energy and ability that operates to swell abundance, while obeying strictly the moral law and the law of the land. Mr. Wilson's plan would ultimately benefit the trusts and would permanently damage nobody but the people. For example, one of the steel corporations which has been guilty of the worst practices towards its employees is the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Bryan's plan would, if successful, merely mean permitting four such companies, absolutely uncontrolled, to monopolize every big industry in the country. To talk of such an accomplishment as being "The New Freedom" is enough to make the term one of contemptuous derision.

This difference strikes at the heart of what Progressivism is and Theodore Roosevelt can be seen as the 'transitional figure' who still believed that the individual has a duty to be civilized at all times, while Woodrow Wilson sees that man is unable to rule himself while alone and only conforms to law when there is society.  Wilson's reaction to the concept of loneliness is one that is telling as it points to his view that he would NOT be a civilized person without society to rule him and that society, in its turn, requires government to keep him in line.  To anyone of the older order of Liberal views, that of the Rights of Man as an Individual, this is a horrific concept as it puts the civilizing capability in the hands of society and government, not the individual and family.  It is also contrary to all knowledge as civilization could not form or be maintained without pre-existing society and government by that Progressive view, and yet that is what has happened time and again.  Mankind does not come together to grant rights to each other, but to have government protect society from the excesses of those that will not abide by civil law.  Social pressure only happens when the individual acknowledges worth in other individuals and recognizes that respect is reciprocated at all times and that one cannot be a savage at some times and be civilized at others as the savagery is deadly, lethal to yourself, if you make but one mistake in when to use civilization as a mask for your inherent adherence to barbarism.  Indeed society and all individuals are to protect to themselves against barbarians who will not put themselves under civil law and seek remedy outside such law as a law unto themselves.

Yet it is that belief that propriety only exists amongst our fellow man and is directed and forced by government that comes to bear as an underlying theme of Progressivism, although not to uphold standards but to 'progress' standards as discussed in the series of interviews.  Beyond that, however, is a mindset that goes with this idea of control of the individual by society and government that is a long-running one in Western culture on the nature of man dating at least as far back as Divine Right Monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church anointing some as 'protectors of the Faith' fit to rule while those that are the subjects of such a ruler are to follow him in his religion.  This would again appear in the French Revolution and its activities to wipe out the old regime and go so far as to rename the seasons, the months, the days and then attempt to enforce a new morality upon society from government. Those are what the United States was founded to go against, and to ensure that human liberty has the greatest play in society so as to uplift all persons, while government is harshly restricted and circumscribed in what it can do as it is the protector of society by the investment of negative liberties in it. The traditional view from that is that man must seek to a better life and lead a better life through understanding of himself in his relationship to God and his fellow man.  By coming to terms with his long term place in life, that he is mortal and imperfect, in seeking greater union with God and his fellow man, the individual becomes 'more perfect' as Jefferson and Franklin put it and that  man does not become perfect save in death and in union with God, but can strive to be closer to God by helping his fellow man via the formation of society and a government by that society to protect society.  This is inward driven and builds society and produces government to restrict the abuses of man against his fellow man.  These abuses are ones that threaten life, liberty, property, and society as a whole, and are grievous enough to require pulling those who commit such acts out of society for the protection of all members of society.

When Woodrow Wilson gives voice to the inherent vice of man, that without society he is unrestrained, then the object of government is to ensure that man cannot be out of the sight of society or government.  Ever.  By putting such restrictions on man for his own benefit, the ability to do wrong is restrained more and more, and from that man is made better.  To do that the poor must be uplifted at the cost of all society, but not through charity, which is built on the understanding that it is our duty and good works to uplift our fellow man, but through government as a punishment to society for not immediately uplifting our fellow man.  That comes at a cost, however, which is not only the taxation required for the inefficient bureaucracy to attempt this endeavor, but it is in the loss of choice that is liberty that goes with this.  Instead of being allowed to use your liberty to do as you wish, which INCLUDES contributing to charity, you are required to contribute to government which takes on a charitable role and the individual then does not have to think nor worry about the plight of the poor.  That is an anti-cohesive force to society when it is built upon the premise of freedom and liberty where the main responsibility to ensure that the individuals of society are cared for are the concern of individuals and their voluntary social organs, and that government merely protects society from abuses so that society can achieve far deeper and meaningful work than JUST the activity that achieves certain ends.  For it is in the giving and acting out of charity that man is brought closer to God and all of society is made better by helping his fellow man: when government does it, it is by rote formula and not via active and deep concern by individuals.  And it must be noted that charities, save those that are corrupt or criminal endeavors or fronts for same, operate far more efficiently than any level of government ever can or will because individuals are willing to make a sacrifice DIRECTLY from their own time and life to ensure that the charity is well run at low cost and overhead at a personal cost to themselves as their liberty allows them to put that effort into such work voluntarily.  In attempting to make 'volunteerism' mandatory, the Liberal agenda strikes at the very heart of liberty and charity, and the role of the individual to uplift society as it is the social responsibility of individuals to help each other not because it is mandated but because it  is GOOD.

These two venues, the now Traditional view of man as an individual and that of Progressive government to guide society, come into steep, harsh and direct contact over the course of the 20th century and what is eroded is the backing of individuality and liberty as government takes on vast projects to 'help' the poor and 'help' the sick and elderly, and then sees the cost of doing those things rise beyond any previously known rates as government can never be flexible enough to account for the diversity of the members of society it is attempting to help.  Social Security would have a set age of retirement and then ignore all demographic trends that, save for the Spanish Influenza epidemic, showed a continual increase in average life expectancy.  While living to 62 would have been problematical in 1936, by 1996 it had become an expected norm with nearly an additional decade of life expected beyond that of their 1936 forebearers.  Yet the fixed concern of government was not changed as too many began to experience benefits of this 'good' that was provided at the expense of the rest of society because individuals were drawing far more than they ever contributed to Social Security.  That imbalance moved the system to an insolvency that was predicted, in the 1980's to be around 2050, then in the 1990's to be near 2030, and now, in 2009, has moved down to 2020 or even lower.  Not only has time marched towards the insolvency point, but the life expectancy and Baby Boomer cohort are now bringing the day when the special taxes for Social Security cannot even meet current payout closer on an almost 1:1 basis:  for every decade we go forward insolvency drops closer by a decade which doubles the overall rate of approach, thus making the turnover point to be 2014 -16 at best.

What was once a minor perk for those not expected to get it for very long has now become a real and visceral threat to bankrupt the Nation, and it is done with the outlook that if the burden of caring for yourself is lifted by government then you will be uplifted and made better.  Even if that were the case, the cost is to bankrupt the government and make it insolvent within the very near future which would then place a horrific burden upon everyone to give the very few a reward.  If any in the Baby Boom Generation had asked individuals from Gen-X or Gen-Y if they expect Social Security to survive to THEIR retirement, the brutal answer has been, for decades: no.  The Boomers, the generation that had the greatest economic boom ever bequeathed to any generation, felt privileged and has acted like it was privileged to special treatment and deference by its very presence (a form of divine right, that of placement to privilege) and has abdicated its responsibility as a generation to following generations by NOT reforming Social Security when it was Boomers that were in power in the government.  That is due to the Baby Boomers getting the most BENEFIT from that 'good' and knowing that it will not live to see the effects of putting following generations into poverty and handing insolvent government over to those generations.  That long trail of 'Progress', of stewardship of the Nation and caretaking of it by government and turning it into an activist concern, has come to the end point in the economic realm of where self-benefit drives expenditures and those getting the benefits are unwilling to do a damned thing to reform government because that would move the set 'good' point further ahead and require them to work longer.

Of dissolving Social Security and giving the funds back  either entirely or at a fixed rate annual return, nothing is ever said because the self-centered concept of Wilson has now moved to center stage:  government will reform you as directed by those in charge and if that is the lash of CAUSING poverty to generations so ONE generation can get some goodies, then so be it.  Progressivism reaches that end point in economics due to the lack of civil understanding of the role of government and why the cost of a 'good thing' from government is unacceptably high in liberty and then pure economics.  This extends to medical care, too, as the changes to subsidize this 'good' by government and then step in to 'help' the poor pay for it have driven costs up over time as ANY subsidy always DOES as it encourages inefficient use of subsidized goods and services.  That is trying to create an economy to run in ways that are not practical, wise, 'good' or even sane to achieve limited 'good' to the very few that were previously looked after by charity run by individuals, churches and other social venues that knit society together from the poorest level upwards.

That is one outcome of 'progress' when man is seen as being the object of government, not government the subject of man.

Even more telling, however, are the social ends of Progressivism and Liberalism over time, and these are, if anything, even more insidious and far worse than the economic ends, and will also incur a cost there as any of these 'New Freedoms' must be paid for by government, as they are artifacts of government provided to individuals at the cost of personal liberty and freedom.  In Part 3 Charles Kesler has a telling view on the 'New Freedom' and its course into the 1960's and then out of it:

"Instead of the virtues which went with the old style of freedom, the new kind of freedom is really liberation.  Its liberation from virtue, from the kind of character you needed to be free in the older understanding."

This is part of his explaining that government's 'New Freedom' is that which it GIVES you (which he had done in a previous part of the series): freedom from poverty, freedom from want.  In the discussion Peter Robinson calls this "the freedom of the kindergarten", a freedom from responsibilities.  This has been an ongoing part of the Liberal view post-Wilson, that people will find 'new ways to be free' that can only be provided for BY government.  This has a direct and corrosive effect upon society, in that man, freed of responsibilities and given good things, has no need to become virtuous.  Indeed, as 'progress' requires less accountability for actions taken, to 'free' you of responsibility, not being virtuous is rewarded and social intercourse becomes degraded as civility is put to the wayside as there is no punishment for being uncivil to other citizens that do not want to take this course.  In fact government is used to try and quell discourse by those basing stances on morals, not liberty, but those morals get defined as group behavior which is 'empowered' by Liberalism as the new way to account for the sub-units of society: the individual only matters to the extent to which he belongs to certain groups.  Thus by taking a stance against giving a 'freedom' to a group, you get branded as racist, sexist, and other anti-social terms which become ways to intimidate individuals so that they will shut up and accept the new social order of government that determines morality.  That is repression of speech that is defined as 'good' to achieve a social outcome and attempts to express the equality of man as the basis for a just society are then castigated as 'whining' by those who don't get 'freedoms' and the benefits of them but are still expected to pay for them for others who DO.

An object lesson of how this works out are the misnamed 'Human Rights Courts' in Canada, that punish people for merely speaking their mind and try to go so far as to not only censor current and future public speech, but to prohibit PRIVATE speech as well.  What is seen as irritating or degrading to one group is then used to punish an individual and put proscriptions on him for what he has said and thought.  This, too, is freedom from responsibility via directly contacting and discussing items with individuals and is an attempt to use government fiat to suppress thought via suppression of speech.  That manifests in the US via Political Correctness and the overly litigious society that has grown up due to the growing lack of virtue in individuals in society.  In attempting to restrict speech via politics, ideas and lives are degraded via an externally enforced set of ideas that are supposed to 'free' the individual of certain ways of thinking.  This starts in the education system which, as de Tocqueville, Dewey and others examined, would be utilized as the government focal point to wrest control of children from the family via a form of 'soft despotism' (from de Tocqueville).  That is how society shifts from being a great good that is built by individuals to a tool used to coerce individuals to conformity with whatever the freedom du jour is.

Beyond that instating laws to 'empower' classes of people via preferences of race, ethnicity and sex, so as to 'carve out' parts of the marketplace for those efforts, is promoted as a social 'good' to make up for past 'wrongs' which are often three, four or more generations into the distant past.  Previous abuses that were ended by previous generations left the slow righting of wrongs and knitting together of society up to individuals and their institutions to do, and depended on government to restrict abuses of overt racism and other forms of discrimination against citizens in the public venue.  This has 'progressed' to the private venue, via litigation against non-public groups and clubs to 'open up' to outsiders as defined by a voluntary and private organization.  Beyond that Equal Employment Opportunity laws become ways to 'game the system' so as to get those defined as 'minorities' by race, ethnicity or gender, special advances due to their proportion in society, not due to the merits of the individual to actually do their job.  Further costs to provide 'access' to workplaces then start on the path to empower large corporations, which can distribute the cost of such regulations over vast sales, and make the barrier to entry to becoming a large business high as a small business must not only get the cash to create those modes of access, but then must pass that along to a limited production base which impacts their end-unit cost far greater than a big business as the big business has economies of scale to help it.  Big business will also seek subsidies, restrictions on trade and other forms of anti-competitive practice to ensure their position in the marketplace, and by lobbying government for these benefits these corporations become seen as an arm OF government to enact 'good' things.

The fact that these practices of non-merit advancement to jobs so that they are not done to the highest standard and stifling of small business to regulation so as to protect big business are both supported by government seeking to make 'new freedoms' for individuals and large companies at the expense of less efficiency in the workplace, degrading of production standards through the advancement of those not winning by merit alone, and by ensuring that no matter how bad the business practices of corporations are they soon become 'too big to fail' as they are a necessary arm of government control... these things you dare not speak of because they are seen as 'racist', 'sexist' and against small and minority owned businesses, when just the opposite is true: healthy competition and evaluation of skills done at the workplace and marketplace without preference is a great boon to all citizens in driving down production costs, raising wages to keep skilled workers, and building self-esteem through real accomplishment in helping one's fellow man at the workplace and the marketplace to get high quality goods at a lower price.  This has worked so well that to be poor in America now has a tell-tale sign that has never, ever happened in any other society in history: obesity.  That, alone, should be a clue as to the nature of the power of marketplaces to achieve the end of hunger and starvation to the poor.  Instead it is held up as yet another venue for government regulation and control.

In examining the excesses of the 1960's Liberalism, the 'third wave' as per Kesler, the discussion in part 3 goes to how the movement in the area of the sexual revolution and its impact could possibly have grown out of the Progressivist agenda given the character of Woodrow Wilson, FDR and others, including JFK.  This from the discussion:

Kesler: "Well I would say this, you're right, the character of a Woodrow Wilson or FDR is better than their principles. And what happens is their..."

Robinson: "Remind me to keep you on my side..."

Kesler: "...their... insistence on these higher standards, these more traditional kinds of standards, corrodes over time against the idea there is progress... we assume there is progress.  The Progressive assumption is that the future will be better than the present, even as the present is better than the past.  So who are we, in the end, to say that human liberation will not take different, unusual forms?  Sexual liberation, the drug revolution, whatever, of the 1960's, perhaps this is a kind of... the kind of experiments that the growth of human personality requires.  And that's, really how the 60's, I think, comes about."

The discussion moves on to how the Kennedy family sees this change in microcosm, that Joseph Kennedy,JFK and RFK would be appalled as devout Catholics at the stance of Teddy Kennedy on abortion on demand and other social issues and the involvement of government in them at the federal level.  We are reminded that JFK did not start the 'Great Society', that was the work of LBJ who attempted to pin it to JFK after his assassination and to ram the legislation through Congress based on that.  None of those plans were ones in the works or signed off by JFK before his assassination.  While the Kennedy family has had its own share of marital infidelities, those were within marriage and within the understood bounds of it as a social institution, and Teddy Kennedy broken boundaries of religious morality and has paid no price either from his family or from society as a whole.

The conversation continues a bit further on after looking at how Joseph of John Kennedy would have been appalled at the youngest of the clan, Teddy Kennedy, becoming a champion of abortion on demand, and how this happens in barely a generation.  Again Mr. Kesler:

"And that example raises the question that I was skirting earlier which is the old rights and the new rights just don't peacefully coexist.  The new rights come at a huge cost in terms of the old rights because some of these old rights, like the right to under the aegis of the new rights looks less and less absolute or less and less permanent and compelling."

Mr. Kesler's view is, I believe, key in understanding the nature of Progressivism and the Liberal agenda, and it is disturbing in the extreme.

There are no boundaries in being liberated from responsibilities.

To 'liberate' individuals from responsibility, the troubling source of the problems of individuals must then fall upon society for all things and government must right all of those things with its intervention, no matter what the cost in money, effort or lives.  What started out in the academia as a movement to re-orient towards these 'new freedoms' moves into government and into the creation of law and the practice of law as those self-same lawyers become more drawn from the Boomer Generation which has this view given to them by the academic and social 'reformers'.  From that, the already Progressive stance taken by a number of Supreme Court appointees after Woodrow Wilson is then bolstered at the lower courts as Boomers move upwards due to age.  The effects of this self-centered, self-liberated generation with no responsibilities that it is willing to place upon anyone and ever ready to blame upon society has led to the lessening of criminal sanctions for what was once considered odious, and indeed destructive behavior.  Murder is sought to be excused by poverty or 'poor upbringing' and that no one from government took a 'pro-active' stance to step in and do something.  Thus society is to blame for the ills of the individual. 

Something truly heinous against the most defenseless members of society, children, had steep and harsh punishments against it by law, so that child abuse was a major crime.  Even the normal criminal population understood that this was out of bounds for behavior and those already incarcerated would often visit brutal justice upon convicted child abusers.  Now, with lenient judges and juries who give non-jail sentences to child abusers due to the abusers 'lack of control', 'poverty', 'poor upbringing', or any other excuse... or NO excuse...the only way justice CAN be visited upon these criminals is to get sentenced to any time in a major penitentiary for even a short span.  The criminal element in this twisted vision of 'justice' then becomes a bastion and reservoir of social understanding which STILL upholds the safety of children even against the most vicious of gangs that operate today, while our society 'liberates' the attackers and abusers of children who are the most precious members of society as they are NOT adults and is then unwilling to visit any prison time upon them.  And yet the things brought up are excuses for the inexcusable, and even criminals know that.

When criminals understand the worth of children better than the civilian population as a whole, there is a wide-scale problem in society.

This problem goes beyond just abortion, just child abuse, and is an endemic view of attempting to liberate individuals from all social and societal norms and expectations, and thusly kills the concept of virtue as that has a set of standards and norms that allow individuals to identify what virtue actually IS.  Once the punishment for going beyond social norms is removed, there is no compelling way to demonstrate virtue as there become no societal boundaries to transgress.  If this was an actual boon to society, letting those committing horrific acts go free to commit MORE OF THEM when they are GUILTY of them, then we would now have the most virtuous and upstanding society the planet has ever seen.  Yet that is not the case, and the culture has become destructive towards those that disagree with the power elite in politics and the media: attempt to uphold a social value that is one that is now a point of being 'liberation' and those professing to the norms are now seen as the villains.  In attempting to express the virtue of preserving life, of protecting children and of espousing thrift, one finds himself on a road to ready castigation for being anti-feminist, not willing to understand criminals and being unpatriotic to not want to pay MORE in taxes to fund feminism and the pains caused by killers walking free as they are the fault of society, not to be held accountable, as individuals, for their actions as they have been liberated from that responsibility by government.

As 'progress' from standards is defined as something 'good', that progress away from what we were to become a newer and 'more enlightened' society is inherently good, the older terminology (which is highly abused as Orwell pointed it out it would be) of despotism and tyranny return to new life.  This concept of binding society together by government, so that all the 'twigs' can be bound into a strong haft for an axe, say, is not new.  Progressivism deeply influenced the early Fascist movement in Europe, as Jonah Goldberg examines in exquisite detail in his work Liberal Fascism, thus the same ideological roots that would influence Fascism would also come to influence the Liberal establishment of the 20th century in the US.  Even more chillingly is that the abuses of government that could grow out of the problems of the federal system had been widely discussed during the ratification process in 1787-89, and many of the artifacts of the national government overstepping its bounds are clearly seen as problems that the new Constitution had within it.

I've looked at a number of these works over the past (most recently here, here, here, here, here) and the warnings of Congress becoming unrepresentative, the imposition of taxes on nearly everything along with regulation, how a President with a corrupt Senate or House can wield extraordinary powers and that the Supreme Court had venues far beyond judgment in law, only, were all cited as problems because they had been seen in previous republics and democracies.  Further the 'Anti-Federalists' would often cite successful republics (like that of the Swiss) and ask why is there not more 'federalism' in the Constitution.  Indeed these writers were not against federalism as a concept, they went further than the 'Federalists' in how to apply it so as to make the mechanisms such that National government, State government and the people all played roles at the State and National level to keep power grabs from any one segment in check.  While Hamilton's riposte that no design of government can ever stop this from happening as it is based upon people, the rejoinder that a weak system invited this to happen was never responded to by ANY of the 'Federalists' who, instead, relied upon the good will of the people and that such abuses would be 'obvious' to at least one citizen who would speak up and warn his fellow citizens.

And be labeled as a 'crank' or 'racist' or 'sexist' or simply a 'bigot'.

That is the problem with the Hamiltonian view of a robust government presence in the economy: it invites a slow twisting of the system to become one of concentrated power at the highest level and for enforcing that view upon society and individuals by law.  Hamiltonians who declaim themselves to be 'moderate' are the ones who signed up to the venture of big government as it fits neatly with the Hamiltonian view of a robust presence of government in the economy.  Jeffersonians have found their merely legal venues to have been co-opted, over the years, by socially progressive groups so that the ACLU no longer will step in for protecting those who are discriminated against by government and will not step in to protect speech they don't like.  Wilsonians are the CAUSE of this problem as the Progressive movement took sway of the Liberal portion of society and deeply infested BOTH political parties so that by the end of the 20th century it was nearly impossible to find anyone, from either party, who could understand that 'limited government' did not mean slowing the growth of government, but that government was overgrown, officious, promulgating regulations on all aspects of life, handing out 'good things' that were bankrupting the government and the Nation, promulgating bias and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc., and was not limited by any scope of anyone's imagination outside of the two parties.

Jacksonians joined the NRA on the basic principle that the fight for your rights is vested in you, and that you must be able to actually fight when push comes to shove.

While the 'ratchet Republicans' those who just want to 'manage' larger government 'better' have no idea of how to say 'rollback of federal power', it is only Jacksonians who can point to the largest roll-back of federal power not due to war in Bank Veto Message of 10 JUL 1832.  Removing power and the halls of it from the federal government can be done, but requires that those venues actually come up for votes and that a President VETO such bills clearly and succinctly to say why such institutions not only have no place in the federal government, but that their power corrupts government that then becomes beholden to them.  This causes a seizure in the 'moderate Hamiltonians' as they do not want a roll-back of government power at the National level.  To Progressivists this is a direct threat against the Liberal agenda as they require the subversion of government to the will of an elite polity to craft the society they want.  Jeffersonian civil means have failed to stop the abuses of government and are now lap dogs to those abuses by being unwilling to stand for their basic premises of supporting equal rights to all citizens.

There is one venue in the modern era that has been wildly successful, and that is the erosion of support for 'gun control', which is the way the Liberals wish to disarm ordinary citizens so they cannot protect their liberty.  This from Gallup Poll of 08 APR 2009:

gallup graph gun control

Pew Research also examined this phenomena on 30 APR 2009, and saw the steady, long-term decline in support for gun control and restrictions on gun ownership from 1993 onwards, and also examined how the position of the public on abortion has been changing in the recent past.

These are positions based on stands that are easy to explain and have a visceral impact on individuals when they are explained on those basic terms and that we are responsible for our own actions in them.  The idea that the 'old rights', those that are protected from government intervention, and the 'new rights', which are artifacts of government, can take over all aspects of life hits stumbling blocks with these topics.  Even when a Liberal Supreme Court with the help of a Liberal Congress and President cannot individually or cumulatively over time sway these subjects that slowly shift back to ones of our own responsibility for ourselves, children and society, the starkness of the Liberal agenda becomes clear by the words and obtuse linkages done by Liberals to link forcing you to do 'good things' with the overall idea that this is a 'good idea'.

That is a firewall being erected by a segment of society to protect all of society and those in the Liberal arena hate that as these people are successful in waging a countervailing influence to Progressive ideas that any change is 'progress' and therefore 'good'.  And while those on the Liberal side wield a multi-culti leveling tool questioning why it is right to put valuations on how some societies act towards their members, say how repressive Muslim societies repress women or kill gays and lesbians, one does come to wonder how those who affiliate with those things that are NOT talked about could have lost all human empathy with their fellow men and women in such conditions.  The lie of Progressive Liberalism is that it is in any way 'liberal' or 'progressive' and that those castigating the use of any measuring tool for other societies are, themselves, wielding a measuring tool to those they castigate and are unwilling to see that the tool, itself, that of multi-culturalism, is an outgrowth of their society and, because of that, biased by the ideology of the wielder.  ALL tools are biased by the wielder be it a hammer, saw, fork, knife, bicycle, or handgun, they all GAIN PURPOSE that is biased by being used to some end.  Disdaining 'traditional' views is putting its own set of measuring tools in place, but ones that are not made to ensure the safety of individuals or society, but are crafted to the end of making government powerful and subjugating society to government.  Those wielding that tool dare not speak of the repression other governments perform as they wish the exact, same power for themselves over their fellow citizens.  As Teddy Roosevelt pointed out so succinctly decades ago, that is the old order of 'freedom':  freedom of the strong over the weak, government over society, the powerful over the poor, and no check upon these things by civil action.

There is no end to the power that Liberals seek to remake society under their benevolent form of tyranny.  No tyranny stays benevolent, especially once it finds that it can examine 'new freedom' to repress others under the guise of this being 'good'.  And just as Wilson, FDR, and JFK would be horrified by the excesses of modern Liberalism, the bounds that are now pushed are those of basic and fundamental human liberty to have ANY freedom FROM government.  While Liberals love to say that conservatives are aghast that someone, somewhere, might be having fun, those watching Liberals see that they are aghast that someone, somewhere, might be outside of their absolute control and seeking to make a life for themselves free of government control.  That is why Big Brother is Everywhere.  You are to be enslaved by the State.

That is why Liberals who once disdained the power of the NSA to intercept overseas phone calls because it just might be one that would reveal information between two citizens, now yawn when an Administration they like wields that self-same power.  There is no stance that Liberals will not turn on, no moral they will uphold before they destroy it, and no sanctuary they will ever provide to allow you to live a free life.  Those in the Liberal elite, in the media and politics, cannot stand that ordinary citizens would ever speak out against government spending and taxation at Tea Parties.  They do not understand what Tea Parties actually are... the reassertion of civil venues of control to go after government at all levels.  The Liberal agenda only wants 'legitimate' organized protest, not real protest designed from the ground up.

Just as the excesses of culture in Rome led to people flocking to Christianity because it upheld virtues of chastity, kindness and your need to lead a good life outside of the mandates of government, we now see the exact, same cracks staring to appear in the Liberal Progressive edifice.  And as the weight and officiousness of government increases, the weaknesses along the cracks will be destabilizing.  Reorienting to Christianity came too late and was too large a leap for Roman culture in the West.  As Americans we have to worry that while our society just might recover, the collapse of this government edifice must come with the same view that Americans held at the time of the Founding:

The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is capable of reflexion. Without law, without government, without any other mode of power than what is founded on, and granted by courtesy. Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentiment, which, is nevertheless subject to change, and which, every secret enemy is endeavouring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name; and, what is strangely astonishing, perfect Independance contending for dependance. The instance is without a precedent; the case never existed before; and who can tell what may be the event? The property of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things. The mind of the multitude is left at random, and seeing no fixed object before them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is criminal; there is no such thing as treason; wherefore, every one thinks himself at liberty to act as he pleases. The Tories dared not have assembled offensively, had they known that their lives, by that act, were forfeited to the laws of the state. A line of distinction should be drawn, between, English soldiers taken in battle, and inhabitants of America taken in arms. The first are prisoners, but the latter traitors. The one forfeits his liberty, the other his head.

Notwithstanding our wisdom, there is a visible feebleness in some of our proceedings which gives encouragement to dissensions. The Continental Belt is too loosely buckled. And if something is not done in time, it will be too late to do any thing, and we shall fall into a state, in which, neither RECONCILIATION nor INDEPENDANCE will be practicable. The king and his worthless adherents are got at their old game of dividing the Continent, and there are not wanting among us, Printers, who will be busy in spreading specious falsehoods. The artful and hypocritical letter which appeared a few months ago in two of the New York papers, and likewise in two others, is an evidence that there are men who want either judgment or honesty.

It is easy getting into holes and corners and talking of reconciliation: But do such men seriously consider, how difficult the task is, and how dangerous it may prove, should the Continent divide thereon. Do they take within their view, all the various orders of men whose situation and circumstances, as well as their own, are to be considered therein. Do they put themselves in the place of the sufferer whose ALL is ALREADY gone, and of the soldier, who hath quitted ALL for the defence of his country. If their ill judged moderation be suited to their own private situations only, regardless of others, the event will convince them, that "they are reckoning without their Host."

Put us, says some, on the footing we were on in sixty-three: To which I answer, the request is not now in the power of Britain to comply with, neither will she propose it; but if it were, and even should be granted, I ask, as a reasonable question, By what means is such a corrupt and faithless court to be kept to its engagements? Another parliament, nay, even the present, may hereafter repeal the obligation, on the pretense, of its being violently obtained, or unwisely granted; and in that case, Where is our redress?—No going to law with nations; cannon are the barristers of Crowns; and the sword, not of justice, but of war, decides the suit. To be on the footing of sixty-three, it is not sufficient, that the laws only be put on the same state, but, that our circumstances, likewise, be put on the same state; Our burnt and destroyed towns repaired or built up, our private losses made good, our public debts (contracted for defence) discharged; otherwise, we shall be millions worse than we were at that enviable period. Such a request, had it been complied with a year ago, would have won the heart and soul of the Continent—but now it is too late, "The Rubicon is passed."

Besides, the taking up arms, merely to enforce the repeal of a pecuniary law, seems as unwarrantable by the divine law, and as repugnant to human feelings, as the taking up arms to enforce obedience thereto. The object, on either side, doth not justify the means; for the lives of men are too valuable to be cast away on such trifles. It is the violence which is done and threatened to our persons; the destruction of our property by an armed force; the invasion of our country by fire and sword, which conscientiously qualifies the use of arms: And the instant, in which such a mode of defence became necessary, all subjection to Britain ought to have ceased; and the independancy of America, should have been considered, as dating its aera from, and published by, THE FIRST MUSKET THAT WAS FIRED AGAINST HER. This line is a line of consistency; neither drawn by caprice, nor extended by ambition; but produced by a chain of events, of which the colonies were not the authors.

-Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776.

Rollback is possible.

And being moderate will only get you enslaved and killed.


d.eris said...

Interesting piece. I'm curious to know how you read the clause from the preamble to the Constitution which states that it is intended to "promote the General welfare."

A Jacksonian said...

d. eris - I have looked at the Preamble and it has a clear construction to it.

Just as the Body of the Constitution has construction of Goals/Objectives, Just Means and then limited Rights to carry them out, the entire Constitution has similar construction in its outlay. Thus, following how it is ordered, the Preamble is NOT part of government. Indeed the government is not ordained until the end of the Preamble, thus government has no recourse to it.

Those that speak clearly to invoke the Constitution are: We the People. We the People thus take on certain Goals or Objectives, through which the federal government is a Just Means to carry them out and given limited Rights from society and all of its individuals to do this. Whenever the Constitution later refers back to the Preamble (as in Art I) it is in acknowledgement that the ENTIRE Goal is reserved for the People (via later Articles and in Amend. IX and X). Government may not carry out more than that which is the welfare of the Nation as a whole: all individuals and society reserve all other Goals and Objectives to itself and are not given to government. It is We the People who hold all Liberty and Rights and give very limited grant to government to do work for We the People in our name. Thus the welfare as a whole is a limited Goal of government so that the greater good of Welfare of individuals is reserved to those best able to handle it: We the People.

That is the social construct as it is laid out via the methodology as I see it. The Constitution is a highly orderly document in how it is designed and laid out, and the Preamble is one of the most revolutionary concepts as it does not presuppose government but most be an active invoking of it: the document is not titled "The Constitution".

It starts simply with "We the People..." as only all of the People can bring government about. No government exists until that statement is finished.