Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Were Americans ever fit for stateless government?

Jacob Hornberger recently posted an article discussing his reasons why he considers the advent of the US national security state to be the worst thing the government has ever done.  Bad as they are, the income tax, the federal reserve act, and government schooling don’t come close.  His reason: The US national security state has “the power to kill Americans (and others) without risk of any criminal or civil liability. . . . All that US officials have to do is relate the killing to ‘national security’ and that’s the end of the matter.”

He’s correct.  According to a Department of Justice white paper, any “informed, high government official,” not necessarily the president, can kill anyone, without any due process.  As Glenn Greenwald wrote in 2013, during the Obama administration, 
The president's underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president - at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as "Terror Tuesday" - then chooses from "baseball cards" and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.
According to the New York Times the government asserts that the “Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process [is] satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.” 

Do you suppose that’s a little-known footnote in the Constitution?  Possibly it’s an outgrowth of the unratified Living Constitution, possessing “properties of an animate being in the sense that it changes.”  Somehow it always changes in favor of the state.

As a restraining power on government, the Constitution began to buckle as soon as Alexander Hamilton took office as Treasury Secretary under Washington.   Lincoln outlawed it during the “Civil War,” and Wilson, FDR, and Truman put the finishing touches on it during their administrations.  Bush and Obama have expanded government power under cover of 9/11, the “new Pearl Harbor” longed for by globalists.  As John Pilger wrote in December, 2002:
One of George W Bush’s “thinkers” is Richard Perle. I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about “total war”, I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America’s “war on terror”. “No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”
But our children have been singing about the likes of Perle for many years.  Perhaps he’s not listening.

The American public, outraged over 9/11, has since turned indifferent to the never-ending slaughter and mayhem in the Middle East.  They don’t care what the troops do “over there.”  To care and speak openly about it runs risks, as we’ve seen with certain whistleblowers.  Chelsea Manning served seven years in a military prison and admitted recently that “things have gotten worse” since she released classified documents.  

If her intention was to tap the brakes on government criminality it didn’t work.  Manning is widely regarded as a pariah, if not a traitor.  Even to innocently question the legality of government actions is to invite Nancy Pelosi's response when asked if ObamaCare squared with the law of the land: “Are you serious? Are you serious?” 

How did the government get so bad?

When an institution assumes a legal monopoly on violence, it can only go one way — and it’s not good.  Government as it exists is the original Bad Seed — a smiling psychopath.  And its citizens are trained from childhood to revere this psychopath.

Most libertarians correctly see the Fed as the enemy of peace and prosperity.  They see the income tax as a combination of legal plunder and government violations of privacy.  They know how government schools indoctrinate the public, with the mainstream media re-enforcing the indoctrination in their everyday lives.  Libertarians are well aware they hold a minority viewpoint, in spite of mountains of material produced in support of their position.

But few of them would do without government — the state — altogether.  Somehow, there must be a way to make it work.   

In a letter to Henry Lee dated October 31, 1786, George Washington, upset over what he had been told about the protest movement known as Shays’s Rebellion, concluded “that mankind when left to themselves are unfit for their own Government.”

Without taking Washington’s statement too literally — if mankind is unfit, who’s left to govern? — there is ample American history to believe otherwise.

Daniel Shays and the Regulators

As historian Leonard Richards makes clear in his Pulitzer-Prize-deserving Shay’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle, people when left to themselves find ways to get along.  As Richards tells us, backcountry Massachusetts “formed town governments that were essentially their own masters. Indeed, ignoring orders from Boston was commonplace.”

As he explains,
In small towns, nearly everyone was in debt to someone who lived nearby. Often, these debts were circular. That is, one farmer owed two days of labor to his neighbor, who in turn owed three cords of wood to the minister, who in turn owed the wife of the first farmer for her services as a midwife. Eventually, all these debts were expected to be settled, but not by insistent dunning of the midwife’s husband or taking the neighbor to court. The whole local economy relied on a chain of trust, and creditors were expected to go to great lengths to settle neighborly problems out of court.
The elitist government that sat in Boston had turned to plundering these people, and they rebelled against it.  Farmers were expected to pay debts and taxes in hard money when no hard money was available.  They issued polite grievances to the state that were ignored year after year.  Finally, to get a response, they took to shutting down the courts.

It wasn’t debt that triggered Shays’s Rebellion, Richards argues, but the new state government and “its attempt to enrich the few at the expense of the many.”

The most glaring instance of this abuse was the decision of Massachusetts to consolidate its war notes at face value. Even when issued, the notes traded at about one-fourth par and later declined to about one-fortieth face value.

Many soldiers were paid in these notes and out of desperation sold them at about one-tenth their value. Boston speculators swooped up eighty percent of the notes, and forty percent of them were owned by just 35 men. Every one of those 35 men had either served in the state house during the 1780s or had a close relative who did. 

Legislators praised the speculators as “worthy patriots” who had come to the state’s aid in its time of need. But these men did not buy the notes directly from the government; they bought them from farmers and soldiers at greatly depreciated prices, who were now being taxed to redeem them at full value. The speculators, most of whom had stayed home during the war, would now benefit at the expense of veterans. 

As Richards observes, “Taxes levied by the state were now much more oppressive – indeed, many times more oppressive – than those that had been levied by the British on the eve of the American Revolution.”

George Washington, retired at Mt. Vernon, was given a different story.  Former aide David Humphreys living in Connecticut told him there was “a licentious spirit prevailing among the people: a levelling principle; a desire of change; & a wish to annihilate all debts public & private.”

The western protestors never referred to themselves as dissent debtors, rebels, insurgents, or Shaysites.  “Those were words pinned on them by their enemies. They saw themselves instead as ‘Regulators’ and made that explicit to all recruits.” As Regulators, they stood for the “Suppressing of tyrannical government in the Massachusetts State.”*

Shutting down the courts in Massachusetts had been a form of protest at least since 1774.  That summer in the western town of Great Barrington, 1,500 men shut down the Berkshire County Court in response to British oppression.  Patriot leaders applauded it. 

Why didn’t the rebellion succeed?  One reason: The clergy denounced the Regulation as the work of the devil, keeping thousands from joining with Shays.  But these same pastors also censured the state for its injustices.  They didn’t want to lose the support of their communities.

The rebellion, as we know, became a propaganda tool for stronger government.  


As Shays illustrates, there was a time when significant numbers of peaceful people who, when oppressed by state coercion, voluntarily came together and fought it.  In their everyday lives they had been getting along well without government dictates.  They showed us — but unfortunately not General Washington — they could provide for their defense when necessary, albeit in a losing effort, making them superbly fit for their own government.  

* For a detailed discussion of the Carolina Regulators, in whose name the Massachusetts protest was organized, see Murray Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Volume III.  

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