Monday, July 29, 2019

A nation of Charlie Browns

I read today about a proposal for a constitutional amendment that if enforced to the letter would prohibit government from interfering in trade.   Just like that we will have fixed a problem.  On paper.

How effective is the Constitution?  Can a president start a war on his own?  No, see Article 1, Section 8: only Congress can declare war.  Recent presidents have ignored section 8 with impunity.

Can people be forced to use government paper money as a medium of exchange?  Of course not.  The Constitution says only gold and silver coin are acceptable tender for payment.  But wait—another section gives Congress the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.  Couldn’t the production of paper money or its digital equivalent be considered a logical extension of coining money?  And how about the Federal Reserve?  The president appoints the Board members, but it’s up to the Senate to confirm them.  In this sense the FED could be considered an extension of Congress, serving to regulate the value of money.  

Can government conscript young men to fight in its wars?  Read it—Article XIII forbids involuntary servitude.  But let’s lawyer that phrase too.  One of the “near-great” US presidents, Woodrow Wilson, declared that drafting men into the military was “in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass.”  There you have it.  Conscription isn’t involuntary servitude; it’s a selection from among eager volunteers, what is officially called selective service.  The fact that enlistments were anemic before the draft is irrelevant.  No sophistry here, just clarification.   

And by the way, Wilson wasn’t drafting men into a war, he was sending them on a crusade.  “The war to end war,” remember?  As it turned out Wilson’s crusade didn’t bring about good will among men but a mustachioed little man with a grudge.   

And what of the Constitution itself?  Is it like a secular Bible?  How many times have you seen a preacher tear up a Bible for some higher purpose?  Lincoln, who most historians regard as the epitome of a great president, shredded the Constitution as he waged a four-year invasion of the South to keep it in the Union at gunpoint.  He called it “saving” the Union.  Northern critics were silenced by threat of imprisonment.  We’re told his higher purpose was to end slavery, which to Lincoln meant sending them out of the country, permanently.  An even higher purpose was the goal of fixing a punitive tariff on Southerners so his northern cronies could enjoy protection from more efficient foreign manufacturers.  

“War is the Health of the State” wrote Randolph Bourne in 1918.  Lincoln applied “health care” to the state in spades.  He ripped its law-abiding mask off and exposed it for what it really is. 

Only one organization has a legal monopoly on the use of violence over a given territory.  That is a state’s defining characteristic — Google doesn’t have it, Twitter doesn’t have it, Facebook doesn’t have it.  States can never be criminal, by decree.  Opponents of the state become criminals, by decree.  When heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali refused induction into the armed forces, he was the criminal, not the state attempting to enslave him to kill poor people in Vietnam.

None of the Big Tech companies has an army to make you buy their products or services, nor can they forcibly employ you.  They rely on your judgment.  They hunger and compete madly for your “votes,” meaning your purchases. We can put any one of them out of business by voting elsewhere or abstaining altogether. 

Yes, the big guys get cozy with the state.  If they want to avoid a shakedown they have to.  And in their short-sightedness most see it as smart business.  Still, they have to cater to our fickle ways with things we’re willing to pay for.  That’s how markets work.

That’s not how politics works.  Do your votes bring about changes?  How’s the swamp-draining going?  Are the troops on their way home?  Did you personally vote for the PATRIOT Act?  Were you at least consulted?  Did you vote for the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943?  What? — you weren’t around in 1943 and know nothing about it?  Doesn’t matter, the state regards it as binding.  It was passed as a temporary “war measure” by a government hell-bent on more wars, even if they weren’t always hot.  It’s commonly called tax withholding, forcing employers to deduct a certain amount from each employee’s paycheck every pay period and send it to the Treasury.  That way when April 15 arrives you don’t have to cough up a large lump-sum check, which might stir rumblings in your normally obedient persona.  Leviathan makes it easy to feed it.

Government as it stands is mostly a racket for privileged minorities and empire-building.  It has no future.  As I argued in my previous article, those who want to end coercion can let themselves be heard on Election Day by “voting” online to end the state.

George Ford Smith is the author of eight books, including The Flight of the Barbarous RelicEyes of Fire: Thomas Paine and the American Revolution, and The Fall of Tyranny, the Rise of Liberty.  He is also a filmmaker whose latest work is a five-minute documentary about the Christmas Truce of 1914, A Christmas to Remember.

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