Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Timeline Part One

NOTE: I am writing this largely from memory, with only a few glances at online sources to confirm that I have dates right for some events, so it obviously is far from comprehensive. As I have a specific focus, there is a lot that will be omitted intentionally, as irrelevant to my case, and likely even more that will be omitted unintentionally, as covering the complexities of the government and economy of a massive nation over a span of nearly two and a half century is more than any one man can hold in his memory. So, if I overlooked something that seems significant, or if one or more of my mileposts is moved a few years out of place, please let me know, but be forgiving, this is a huge topic, and keeping in mind just the facts, much less the many possible interpretations of them is quite daunting. Finally, I would like to apologize in advance for any errors in reporting dates, places or actors.  I have tried to confirm what I recall as much as possible, but I have not checked every fact, so it quite possible a faulty memory has introduced an error or two.

In my essay "A Passing Thought"1 I concluded by suggesting that it would make an interesting essay to go through the life of the Unites States, from their foundation to the present, tracking the various points at which the struggle between liberty and intrusive government were fought and lost, at least from the point of view of those promoting liberty. I never did write the essay, but in  "Modern Marius and Sulla" , I did something somewhat similar, looking at two events in the 20th century and discussing how they led to the no-holds-barred, vehement, brutal political struggles we have been seeing since the Clinton impeachment, or maybe since the Nixon hearings. Likewise, in later essays, such as "Rethinking the Scopes Trial" (which in some ways revisited arguments from "The Political Spectrum"),  "Mistaken Perceptions of the Industrial Age"  and "Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution" -- or even "The Inflation Engine"/"Stupid Quote of the Day (January 7, 2012)" and "Medical Regulations"/"Medical Regulation II", though they were obvious interested in but a single aspect -- I discussed the many mistaken beliefs held about the 19th century, as well as the way those beliefs were used in the struggle for more government power.

However, much as I wrote about the topic, I never did do it justice. I never went back and wrote anything akin to the overview I had suggested. And such an overview would have been so very useful. Time after time in my writing, I found myself going back and describing the same eras, the same processes by which liberty was eliminated and big government created. If only I had such as essay, it would have been so easy to publish a link and refer to my own work.

And so, at long last, I am doing just that, taking a look from 1775 to the present, perhaps with a short visit to earlier colonial times -- if only to examine land banks, wild cat banks and similar fiascoes --watching as we go for every sign along the way of efforts to wrench power form the states and individuals and transfer it to the central government.

The difficulty with picking such an early starting point is that it actually somewhat undermines the question I originally set forth in my earlier essays, which was -- though only asked implicitly -- when we turned the corner and went from being a limited federal state as defined in the Constitution, and became the central, nearly unlimited government we are today2. However, if we start our analysis before there was a Constitution, or even before the colonies became free states, that question becomes quite meaningless, and so we need to redefine our purpose.  Thus, let us redefine our purpose to be the examination of the various stages of the conflict between the proponents of limited, decentralized government and those of a central, more powerful state, as well as the parallel struggle between recognition of individual rights and government coercion.

However, even having redefined our terms, there remains one other caveat. Early in our analysis, we are examining a period when the concepts in which we are interested are being seriously used as the basis of government for the very first time. That being the case there may be some who seem to be arguing for a larger state or fewer rights, when in fact they are actually champions of liberty, they simply are not willing to go as far as some others. And thus we need to keep in mind that not everyone who deviates from whatever may be our ideal is necessarily trying to move us away from it, some may simply not quite have reached the same conclusions we have, though sharing the same basic values3.

Which actually brings us to the beginning, at least as far as our nation is concerned, the period stretching from the Declaration of Independence, through the Articles of Confederation to the convention which established the Constitution. It is easy, in looking at the various positions adopted during this time to see in those who wanted to establish an American monarchy, or wished to create a centralized government a "reactionary" force, but as we mentioned already, though a few may have had a desire to restrain the revolutionary impulses of others, many were simply unwilling to go as far as others in their break with past practices.

What is interesting in looking at this periodis, through a combination of intent and accident, the first system of government was less centralized than what came after, though this had both good and bad aspects. While allowing for greater autonomy of the states, and thus restricting the power of the central government, it also allowed the states themselves much more leeway in dealing with both citizens and other states, as well as failing to provide all the functions expected from a central government. Thus, while still quite suspicious of central government (as can be seen by the wording of the resolutions adopting the new Constitution, as well as the objections of the few states which delayed ratification), it was recognized that there needed to be some increase in central authority, as well as some method for regulating certain interactions between the states, as well as citizens of different states.

Thus, in a way, I suppose one who truly feared centralize government could possibly argue that the Constitution itself represented the first step in our loss of freedom, as it represented the first step in centralizing power, as well as reducing the power and autonomy of states and citizens. But, is that a fair assessment?

In "The State of Nature and Man's Rights", I discussed how the theoretical "state of nature", much mentioned in social contract theories was something of a fiction, and that "rights" did not truly exist in a pre-government situation, that rights were meaningful only in a social environment including both a society formed of multiple individuals, and one where there existed some form of government to give meaning to the term "rights". In a similar way, I would argue that, while the Constitution represented a small increase in centralization, that the prior government was so weak as to be effectively broken, and thus useless as a government. Looked at this way, the move toward an increase in centralization did not represent a loss of freedom, but a necessary precondition of protecting individual liberty.

Still, even in this early phase, I suppose it is useful to speak of various strains of thought. There were the optimistic, Lockean thinkers, who basically asserted the beneficial effects of increased liberty, and their opposite number, the more Hobbesian thinkers, who, pessimistic about man's nature, worried that excessive freedom would result in dangerous anarchy. However, not all disputes were so clear cut. For example, in terms of centralization, there were those who argued for centralized government from a fear that state, or regional, interests would lead to interminable conflict, and thus a more powerful central government would remedy such problems, while others, equally worried about regional strife, argued the opposite, claiming a strong central government would be tempting for a given state or region to monopolize and use to enslave the rest. Thus, even seemingly simple arguments often conceal beliefs that are closer to one another than we think.

As this discussion of the early stages of the nation is proving of little benefit, though I believe much of what was discussed here will prove of value later in or discussion, let us look instead at the nation after 1789, once there was a Constitution from which to deviate, creating the groundwork upon which our present state is built, much as it may deviate from the initial concept.

I always found it interesting that those most responsible for the form of the Constitution, at least who were responsible for the shape of much of its "big picture" were not terribly well represented in the first three presidential elections. Granted, they held cabinet posts, and vice presidential seat, but in terms of both the presidency, and leading roles in the legislature and judiciary, it was a largely Federalist government for the first 12 years. In outlook, if not always explicitly in terms of party.

This Federalist slant tends to be viewed by some libertarians, and others of a kindred outlook, in rather anachronistic terms, viewing actions such as Adam's sedition laws as attacks on liberty. However, as before, this is an entirely incorrect view. The many supposedly authoritarian acts of Adams were, from a contemporary perspective, familiar with British and other European nations, not so much an attempt to roll back freedom, as an expression of a more moderate position. It was not that they were removing freedoms that had been traditionally observed. Instead, they were enacting laws seen as fairly ordinary in many lands at the time. That is, they were simply not going so far in pushing liberty as others.

In fact, we can see something similar in Jefferson himself. Though often put forth as a champion of liberty and an optimist in terms of his view of man , Jefferson was also prone to many views that modern minds would reject. For example, his concerns that those who did not hold land might be easily swayed by radical and destructive rhetoric, suggesting some sort of property requirement for voting. Such beliefs, though now seen as reactionary, were at the time seen as acceptable beliefs among those who were otherwise champions of liberty4.

However, though they might have been, in both their minds and the eyes of contemporaries, simply more moderate proponents of freedom, it was the struggle between the Democrats/Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists which gave us the first series of struggles between differing views of the Constitution, its role and the scope of its powers. Not only the first such struggle, but one of the longer examples, lasting as it did -- in one form or another -- well beyond the death of the Federalist party, stretching all the way until the final death of the Second Bank of the US in 1832. However, it is not noteworthy only because it was the first such struggle, or because it lasted for nearly 50 years -- the struggles over the eventual form banking would take lasted even longer5 -- but because, in this single case6, the struggle ended with the victory of the forces of smaller, more distributed government and greater state and individual liberty.

Obviously, banking laws were hardly the only point of contention. There was everything from the role of the Supreme Court to the control the legislature could exercise over the states to the scope of the commerce clause to the question of what functions the central government could exercise. However, the banking laws provide a convenient shorthand for most of these early struggles, providing an easy means of tracking the back and forth between the supporters of more and less centralized government, until the issue of slavery became a more prominent issues, and came to dominate political debate.

The First Bank of the United States, though the pet project of Hamilton, and largely conceived during Washington's administration -- which was much more Federalist than Democratic -- was not chartered until the Adams administration, a charter which was allowed to expire during the Madison presidency. As should be obvious from the presidents involved, the First Bank was a Federalist idea, a central bank which would handle all tax receipts, provide credit to the government and, eventually, serve as the American version of the central banks that were beginning to be created in Europe.  Thanks to strong opposition, even among many from the Federalist stronghold of the northeast, the bank never developed into a strong centralized institution. On the other hand, it is quite significant because of an often overlooked first in which it was involved. The bank was the first institution justified by the general welfare clause. Not only that, but the Hamiltonian justification of the bank, saying that the beneficial ends justified the action provided it was not specifically prohibited -- the supposed "implied powers" in the Constitution -- was adopted in McCulloch v Maryland to approve the Second Bank's charter as constitutional, creating the very first chink in the armor of the Constitution7.

Then again, though the pre-Jacksonian era laid the groundwork, in a very remote and general way, for future expansions of government8, it was still one of the most free eras as well. Granted, "civil liberties" types would find some of the restrictions on speech, such as what constituted slander and libel, or what could be considered seditious, quite troubling, as well as the leeway given local law enforcement in dealing with minor disturbances, drunkenness and vagrancy, but by and large, the era was one characterized by generally hands-off government. That Madison could openly argue against subsidizing government roads or aid for famine victims and still have enough public support to win reelection tells you quite a bit about public perception. To most people, the local government was there to solve problems, the state was entrusted with handling the larger problems, and the federal government was there to keep the state's from harming one another, and to keep foreigners in check. It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. There were some state laws, actually many, which hardly fit with a libertarian philosophy, but one could always move if he found them too oppressive, as there were as many versions of government as there were states. And with many decisions being even more local, there were actually more choices than states. Federalism didn't guarantee freedom, but federalism combined with a people generally favorable to local government made it easy to find relatively free places to reside. There may have been some generally mercantilist states, especially in the northeast, doing all they could short of violating the Constitution to enact protectionist measures, but there were also largely laissez-faire states as well, and others simply too lightly populated or newly formed to have much in the way of vested interests, at least yet. So freedom was not perfect, but the nation generally was more free than not9.

For the most part, this era represented the initial victory of the Jeffersonians, followed by a short period more favorable toward Federalist/neo-Whig positions, which then ended in the Jacksonian era, with which we shall next concern ourselves. The first few elections were, though parties were still poorly defined and not fully developed, essentially victories for the Federalists, though in the case of Washington, more a vote of gratitude for the individual than a triumph for either party. Following general dissatisfaction with Adams, the nation saw a mostly unbroken chain of Jeffersonian presidents, as Jefferson was followed by Madison and Monroe.  Not that all three followed a strictly libertarian or minimalist position. For example, for all his talk of minimal government, Jefferson was a proponent of public education, a system filled with the potential for mischief and worse10. But by and large, the three Jeffersonian presidents were proponents of less government11.

By the end of this period, there was effectively only one party, the Democratic Republicans. However, that did not mean there was no difference of opinion, and the regional differences led to a strongly contested election decided in congress which put the second Adams in the White House. Though officially a Democratic Republican, Adams had a policy much closer to the old Federalist agenda, including subsidies, protectionist actions, use of land taxes to discourage expansion and encourage investment, and the rest of what could be called the nation's first attempt at a "pro-growth" policy. In some ways it is an exaggeration, as the preceding presidents had, in some small ways, each violated their commitment to limited government and endorsed some form of subsidy for one or more areas they found important, but Adams was noteworthy in the breadth of his policy. While far from anything of our time, or even the second half of the 19th century, he definitely favored more government involvement than his predecessors.

It is tempting to see Jackson's election as a backlash against this deviation from Jeffersonian ideas, and many historians do so, especially as they make such a strong distinction between Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy. I disagree. Given the weak support for Adams, and the fact that the election was decided in Congress, I would argue that Jackson and Van Buren were actually the last of the Jeffersonian line. Though the modern historians tend to characterize Jackson as some sort of hick or buffoon -- an ante bellum George W, if you will -- and Jacksonian democracy as the victory of the ante bellum trailer park and Jerry Springer set, in truth Jackson and his political allies had very definite, and well developed, ideas both economic12 and political. I will grant his shows of populist sentiment may seem undignified to those used to more elitist politics, but, on the other hand, as a means to convey the message that the voter -- every voter -- was the ruler of the US, it very clearly made the point13.

Whatever his true place in the political trends of the time, Jackson was very clearly in the same camp as the Jeffersonians, championing small, limited government, as well as the sovereignty of states14. It is, as a result, very tempting to mark the end of the Jackson administration, or perhaps VanBuren, as the turning point in our history, as it was followed by a period of legal wrangling between regional interests, as well as political philosophies, which eventually brought about the Civil War. On the other hand, there were clearly events before Jackson, such as the chartering of the two Banks of the United States, that established the groundwork for such changes. And, though the era between Jackson and the Civil War was clearly one of change, it is arguable whether or not the events of that era made our eventual turn to larger, more powerful and centralized government inevitable15.

The post-Jackson ante bellum period was somewhat chaotic, as is clearly shown by the many quirky elections, be it multiple candidates from the same party, third party candidates or remarkably close outcomes16.  A number of issues split the nation, and not just in ways we recall from high school history. For example, few recall that, during the debate over admitting Texas to the Union, Massachusetts threatened to secede, years before the Confederate States made good on a similar threat. Nor were the many, and ever changing compromises on admitting states as slave or free as clear cut as history suggests. For a time, each compromise held things in check, but inevitably some new situations, such as admitting California, would lead to one side or the other seeking a revision of the agreement. Which, inevitably, led to a lack of confidence in any such agreements, heightening regional strife, as each party came to see complete political control as the one sure way of securing their interests.

Nor were the interests entirely limited to slavery. The northeast, being the center of manufacture, had a lively protectionist element, which kept the Whig party alive for some time. On the other hand, in both the northeast and mid-Atlantic, a strong commercial culture created opposition to much protectionist policy, but favored "easy money" policies, though in the days before any large scale national banking laws, these were mostly state policies17. Oddly, the Whigs somehow managed, for a time, to appeal to both, despite the conflicting interests.

The Democrats, on the other hand, were prominent in the South and the western states, at least initially, but they too suffered from some similar issues. For example, being the party of state's rights, they were also the party most obviously opposing any sort of abolition, and fighting for the admission of states as either "slave" states or at least with laws recognizing slaves as property. But there were also Democrats outside of the slave states, mostly in the agricultural areas of the west, who opposed the Whigs largely on the ground of tariffs, though many also endorsed the other elements of the platform as well. And, as in many eras, farmers were often convinced that "easy money" would help them by lightening the burden of debt under which farmers perennially operate18, which resulted in an eventual defection of some of the agricultural vote from the Democrats. Though, it was more of a boon to the newly formed Republican Party than the outgoing Whigs.

There were other issues that arose, some going away quickly, others having influence for several elections. Besides all the issues surrounding slavery, and questions of tariffs, there was debate over how to handle the western territories, the war with Mexico, the admission of Texas, dispute over paper money and a national bank, the scope of public works, the admission of immigrants and so on. As usual, even some fringe issues got attention, such as the ever recurring fear of Catholics, or the short lived Anti-Masonic Party. For the most part, early in the era, the division was mostly clear, with Democrats favoring smaller government, gold money, low tariffs for revenue only, and the expansion of slavery and the Whigs favoring the opposite. In time, the lines became less clear, with the Free Soil Party, for example, embracing essentially a Democrat platform, but with a call for the prohibition of slavery in the territories19.

But this is not intended to be an essay on the breakdown of the "Second Party System" as it is usually called, but rather a look back at the way our policies and laws changed, so rather than continue delineating the party positions20, let us look at what happened in politics in the 1840s and 1850s.

The period is one of rather bizarre contradictions, to say the least. For example, court cases repeatedly ruled that slaves, being property, had to be recognized as such by the laws of every state. And yet, at the same time, political decisions were frequently reached preventing slave holding in various territories and newly established states. Similarly, in the earliest efforts to extend the meanings of the commerce and general welfare clauses, the federal government's control over trade and tariffs, until then largely seen as means of removing trade barriers between states and raising revenues, respectively, began to be used in order to advance the interests of various branches of industry, to favor specific commercial interests, to build up specific industries seen as significant, to encourage or discourage settlement in various regions and so on. It was far from the degree of intervention that would follow, and nothing compared to the influence exercised today, but there definitely was a mercantilist strain in the policies of the Whigs and later the Republicans. And finally, there was an effort, unsuccessful in this era, to not just revive the defunct Bank of the United States, but to go farther and issue not just large treasury notes, but small circulating notes, in an effort to effectively deprecate the currency. It was not the first such effort at establish a cheap money policy21, but it was the first real national -- rather than local or regional --attempt since the Constitution had been ratified.

There was obviously much more than these simple conflicts. There were Democrats who favored slavery, those who opposed. There were those who favored unlimited expansion of slavery into the territories, those who supported the old Missouri compromise, those who endorsed the "squatter" solution, and those who favored the similar but distinct compromise established in 1850. Then there were the proponents of protectionism, the advocates of free trade, and every position between. Thanks to such positions falling along largely regional lines, the period saw a definite fragmenting of the larger Democrat party into a number of often allied, but sometimes hostile local factions, with the western Democrats pursuing different interests from southern Democrats, and what Democrats remained in the northeast pursuing still different interests. At the same time, the dissolution of the Whigs gave birth to a number of small, but vocal, independent parties, many of which managed to attract substantial, if still rather small, constituencies for one or two elections, then faded into obscurity.

However, none of that really tells much about the state of the law. But that is precisely the problem, there was no real single state of the law. As the back and forth over slavery in the territories and newly admitted states -- as it was fought out between 1820 and 1860 -- shows, the law was in a state of flux, even more so than usual, with large bipartisan compromises that would normally have endured for quite some time, or only been gradually modified, instead facing complete overturn a decade or two after they were reached. Similarly, thanks to the conflicting positions concerning slavery, the multiple inconsistencies within the laws relating to it, the nation was shaken periodically be what amounted to virtual reversals of the law.Add to this the many other regional issues, which only served to reinforce the animosities which grew up around slavery, and it becomes even less stable. Finally, what should have been a source of stability, the total Democrat domination of the political landscape as the Whigs fell apart, became instead a source of greater instability. Because the Democrats were themselves divided by regional interests, the party saw its platform go through a number of subtly, but significant, shifts, resulting in rather peculiar changes in position, as well as opening up opportunities for much smaller parties to exploit internecine strife to exercise an influence far greater than their numbers would normally allow.

If I must characterize the era, I suppose there are two trends which deserve notice, at least in terms of limited government and individual freedom. First, there was the growth of support for protectionism, government subsidies, easy money policies, national bank laws and other interventionist -- mostly mercantilist -- positions, which would enjoy a brief heyday during and following the Civil War, but then largely vanish until the turn of the century, at least in terms of national policy. Second, there was the unfortunate fact that most of the prominent legal cases establishing a strong foundation for absolute property rights were also either cases which related to slavery, or were used to justify slavery. Just as in later years the association of slavery with states' rights had an unfortunate effect on political debate down to the present22, similarly the slavery connection effectively invalidated a number of decisions which otherwise would have been quite useful in defending private property against many assaults it would face in years to come.

There has been much discussion in libertarian -- and some conservative -- circles about the unfortunate impact the Civil War had on government. Starting from destroying the sovereignty of the states by essentially making secession a crime, passing through Lincoln's use of the military to subjugate and effectively occupy states, touching upon the many changes which began the process of ending federalism and substituting a monolithic central state, and finishing with Lincoln's many other policies, such as suspension of habeas corpus, among others, the list is long and well known. Unfortunately, it is also a topic which is difficult to debate unemotionally, as unfortunately, despite being in the right on the issues of state sovereignty, among others, and being the subject of what -- even at the time -- was seen by many as illegal actions by Lincoln and his government, the Confederate States and their sympathizers were also fighting to perpetuate the enslavement of human beings, and thus many will -- admittedly wrongly -- see a criticism of Lincoln's policies as a covert justification of slavery. Again, as I have said in other essays, the fact that Lincoln was, in one very significant respect, fighting on the side of the angels, largely absolves him of his other sins in the eyes of many23.

Still, I have not shied away from writing that might be misunderstood or offend, so let us look at what took place immediately before and during the war, and what effect it had on the nation's future. I won't go into great detail, as this topic has been discussed in such detail elsewhere, but it does need to be mentioned, if only to point out which events were truly significant, and which -- though troubling at the time -- reached no farther than the war's end, despite modern claims to the contrary.

For example, though troubling at the time, and certainly contrary to the letter and intent of the Constitution, Lincoln's violation of habeas corpus, occupation of states, use of arbitrary arrest powers and many other abuses of his authority were, by and large, "one off" events. They were recognized at the time as acts technically exceeding his authority, and future presidents never hoped to rely upon them as a precedent. For all the harm they did, in and of themselves they provided little of a hook on which future leaders could hang future extensions of power.

On the other hand, they were significant in a different respect. While no one was likely to use Lincoln's actions to justify eliminating habeas corpus for good, the fact that in a crisis Lincoln felt justified in exceeding his authority was taken as a precedent, and in more than one way.

Most obviously, the precedent was established that, in times of crisis, during emergencies, the Constitution may need to be treated as a mere suggestion, that presidential power -- or congressional for that matter -- might be extended beyond its legal limits for "the common good". I grant it is a principle that has been little used -- except perhaps in war time -- but it is still a precedent that exists, and has, from time to time, been mentioned explicitly by those in power. It is a small enough matter when compared to many issues we shall see in coming decades, limited as it is to crises, but we must also recall that in many cases, powers that were granted in crises were -- unlike many of Lincoln's -- not relinquished when the crisis ended24.

What was far more damaging, though far less recognized, is the fact that this policy, the acceptance that crisis could justify abandoning principles, was the first real appearance of pragmatism as an explicit policy, or at least justification, in American politics, at least openly presented as such without excuse. For the most part, earlier politics had been couched in terms of principles. Having been founded on abstractions such as the rights of man, our early government was dominated by a relatively intellectual approach to politics. That is not to say that there were not those who voted out of self interest, nor is it to say that the masses were all engaged in elevated debate about political science. What I mean is that the issues, when debated, were largely debated in terms of larger philosophies. Those who established the platforms tried to do so by referring to more general principles25. Of course, as with all political realities, they were forced at times to compromise with their opposite number, and in some cases even their explicit platforms were not entirely consistent with their more abstract principles, but by and large, the environment favored debate carried out in terms of general principles, rather than our modern, pragmatic environment, where we accept deception as commonplace, and almost entirely in terms of self-interest and political advantage26.

Unfortunately, the defense of Lincoln's actions, that the serious threat to the union required him to take extraordinary measures, effectively amounted to stating "principles are great, until they get in your way, when you abandon them". And much as this philosophy may seem unobjectionable to many moderns, as an explicit statement of political principle, it was quite unusual at the time. Of course, Lincoln did also offer high minded explanations for why he needed to exceed his authority, the horrors of slavery, the threat to the nation, to its experiment in freedom and self government and so on. But even so, it stood in stark contrast to, for example, Madison's refusal to undertake popular measures, even those with strong emotional appeal, if they exceeded his constitutional authority. In short, Lincoln's actions amounted to an inversion of the past precedent. Where prior politics had placed obedience to the the Constitution ahead of emotional appeal or the desirability of the goal, Lincoln argued that emotional appeal and other factors could justify ignoring the principles of constitutional rule.

It was not a policy explicitly accepted after Lincoln. In fact, for some time it seemed that future presidents made a point of following the example of Madison rather than Lincoln, but it was still there, a precedent which future presidents could cite. And, eventually, they did. Not for many years, but eventually that argument for pragmatic rule took root, and over time we developed the oh so very pragmatic environment we see around us today.

On the other hand, there were some actions which did have long lasting and significant consequences. For example, the principle that states could not secede, as well as the government's right to intrude into many aspects of state government, forcibly if necessary, did provide one of the first steps in the effective elimination of federalism27 and the birth of the centralized, monolithic, near omnipotent states.

However, for the most part what Lincoln established was not larger government, in itself, but rather an environment, the legal precedents and intellectual justifications, that would later grow into a centralized government. Lincoln's government may have enacted many changes, but many of them vanished at war's end, or if not, by the time Reconstruction ended, and so did not themselves create the larger, more powerful state to come.

But, as with all such statements, there was an exception. And that is in the area of money.

However, this essay has grown quite long, and I somehow doubt anyone will bother to wade through if I let it grow much longer. And so, for now, let me end this essay in the middle of the war, and we can come back later this week to examine what happened to banking, money and government debt during Lincoln's time in office, and follow that by looking at the Reconstruction, the -- inappropriately named -- Gilded Age, the fateful year of 1890 and the subsequent shift of the parties, the last old time Democrat Grover Cleveland, the Reform era, the first Roosevelt, the early red --and black [anarchist] -- scares, the Great War, the Federal Reserve and income tax, the 20's and the depression, the second Roosevelt including the Second World War, Ike, the largely irrelevant Kennedy administration, the Great Society, closing the gold window, Carter and Reagan and the rest of the changes leading up to today. It will doubtless be almost as long as this segment, if not longer, but I hope it will prove interesting.

Until I mange to get it completed, I hope my readers find this essay interesting.


1. The same topic was mentioned again more recently in "Noble Goals", and something of a mini-timeline of one particular issue (antitrust laws) and the related legal developments, was undertaken in "The Problem of Antitrust". Parts of those essays will of necessity be incorporated into this one.

2. For the record, I never came up with a definitive answer. At first I proposed an indefinite period, covering the early to mid teens, say 1913 to 1917, during which many powers were stripped from the states, immigration was restricted, banking was centralized and a federal income tax was born. I later argued that all of those changes were actually consequences of earlier changes, and picked 1890 as the best candidate, though in the very same essay I later argued that perhaps that was too late and the Civil War was the turning point. As we will see in this essay, there are good arguments for each period, as well as a number of others.

3. A good example would be the criticism directed toward many Federalists, especially by libertarians and others who idolize Jefferson, simply because they were not in agreement with Jeffersonian ideals. This completely overlooks how radical their positions still were in comparison to mainstream European thought of the time. If the Federalists would have had a stronger, more central government, it was still to be a government formed by free men, voting for their peers. That is a far cry from the nearly reactionary portrait some libertarian critics paint. (Also examine the discussion of President Adams in the essay proper, as it reveals a similar anachronistic and Jefferson-centric mistake.)

4. An even more obvious failing would be the acceptance of slavery among those who promoted individual liberty. Even more so given that some had considered -- and rejected -- adopting an abolitionist position during and after the Revolution. Then again, accepting slavery was almost required, as any attempt to eliminate slavery by law would have resulted in, at best, a division between two groups of states, at worst a complete collapse of the newborn union.  However, those who even considered abolition were a minority. For most, despite a dedication to liberating their fellows, there was nothing inconsistent in allowing slavery. It may seem difficult to understand viewed through modern eyes, but for a considerable number the two positions were not incompatible. (I do not offer this as a justification or endorsement, simply a reminder that perspectives change over time, and what seems ludicrous to one age may make sense to another, as surely some things we think absolutely ordinary will seem laughable to generations to come.)

5. I suppose it depends on how you group the various issues. But if we look at the struggle to centralize banks, while monetizing debt, it is quite easy to argue it ran from the Civil War until, at the very least 1917. You could even argue it did not end until true fiat currency was established in 1973. So it is possible to argue that it was over a century long, though obviously that struggle overlaps with many other contemporary issues relating to the power of government.

6. Well, if we consider the entire career of the Civil War era greenbacks, I suppose there were two cases where that was the outcome. However, viewed in context of the larger bank question, as well as the many innovations of Salmon P Chase, I don'k know if greenback retirement seen in isolation is important enough to call a victory. Even adding the death of the first federal income tax, it still seems that the general trend was strongly toward powerful central government.

7. if anyone ever doubts my claim that legal principles will always be taken to the logical extremes they imply(cf "Slippery Slopes", "Pyrrhic Victories""Damn the Torpedoes!", "You Lose When You Think You Win""The Danger Inherent in Banning "Bad Ideas"", "In Defense of Discrimination", "The Single Greatest Weakness",  "No Dividing Line" ,  "The Lunacy of "Common Sense"", ""Seems About Right", Another Lesson in Common Sense and Its Futility", "A Look at Common Sense", "Res Ipsa Loquitur", "The Shortcomings of Pragmatism", "Pragmatism Revisited", "Pragmatism Revistied, Again", "The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data", "Rules of Grammar and Pragmatism", "The Problem of the Small Picture", "Keyhole Thinking", "Impractical Pragmatists", "In Defense of Zero Tolerance, or, An Examination of Law, Common Sense and Consistency", "No Dividing Line", "The Consequences of Bad Laws", "Questions of Law and Questions of Fact", "In A Nutshell", "Harming Society",  "In Loco Parentis""Hard Cases Make Bad Law" and  "Inescapable Logic") this is the single best proof. The First Bank itself was relatively innocuous, perhaps it was unnecessary and may have introduced some small amount of additional corruption, favoritism and other issues, but in general it did little harm. It would be difficult to argue that, in and of itself, the First Bank would result in the collapse of the United States, or even result in significant harm to a substantial number of citizens. However, thanks to the justification offered, we got the Supreme Court decision in McCulloch, which was used for the next two centuries to justify every imaginable expansion of government power. So, before telling me I am "too extreme" in insisting on a rigid obedience to government minimalism, recall how this one, minor, acceptable, pragmatic deviation became the foundation of all we see about us today.

8. It is a bit off topic, but interesting to note (akin to what I wrote in "A Little Bit of Irony") that two presidents of this era, both darlings of the libertarians of today (Jefferson and Madison), fought military actions overseas against nations which had not invaded us, posed no threat of invasion, and in one case (the Barbary Pirates) represented reprisals for actions of private individuals only informally supported by the state. In the other, the actions were not a military threat, but only an "inconvenience", that is stopping and searching our ships without permission. (War of 1812) By the arguments offered during most recent wars, and by the Paul crowd in general, these two wars were wholly unjustified, and both Jefferson and Madison must have been war-mongering imperialists for carrying them out.

9. It says something about how decentralized power was in this era that I continually feel the need to qualify any generalization. The federal government truly did fill a very limited role, with the states handling many functions we now think of as purely federal. Yet, even the states were concerned more with "big picture" issues than they are today. Many issues now handled at least partly on a state level were handled by counties, townships, incorporated cities and the like. Given the number of states, it is impossible to offer a general rule, as you can tell from all the qualifiers I felt the need to include, but if I can make two somewhat imprecise generalizations, they would be that power was far more decentralized than today, and even then many matters in which the government now intrudes were at the time entirely private, at least in some states or localities, and partly private in others. (Eg. Medicine, banking, roads, schools, fired departments, relief for the poor, and much more besides.)

10. Those who view "public education" in the abstract tend to have warm and fuzzy -- but also terribly vague -- feelings towards it. However, they forget that public education has also been used around the world as a primary means of control, through indoctrination, recruiting of informers and so on. Even when it is not used for so blatant an evil, it is often in the forefront of social engineering programs, many intended to undermine parental choices in child rearing. Even at its best, it tends to produce results far inferior to private education at a much higher cost (at least when we consider the true cost per student). A handful of successful model schools do not redeem a system which, in the past as well as the present, has done worse than the free market. (See  "Reforming Education", "You Don't Drown in a Glass of Water - Vouchers Revisited", "Why Vouchers are not the Answer" and "Never Ascribe To Evil, A Discussion of Education"  -- One final note: Many of those "public schools", the one room school houses of small towns and the frontier, are held up as examples of public education working. However, they are arguably not truly public schools. They were often funded by general contribution,true, but were not managed by the government. Thus, they were an example of private collective action for a charitable end, that is a free market venture, not the government run schools that "public education" assumes. For that matter, some of the public school schemes Jefferson suggested are more akin to private ventures than government ones. See also "Volunteer Fireman, Barn Raisings and Government",  ""...Then Who Would Do it?" ", "Collective Action and Government", "Bar Fights, Riots and Drug Markets - The Limits of Law", "The Written Law","Government Versus Culture - A Forgotten Distinction" and "Why Must The Government Do It? Part I" .)

11. Some would argue that Monroe was in some ways a break with the Jeffersonian tradition, as he had backing of the ex-Federalists in 1808 and during his presidency tended to appoint across party lines. However, in governing, he by and large continued the traditions of Jefferson and Madison, especially in domestic affairs.

12. His economic policies are often blamed for the panic of 1837 and the subsequent depression, without any thought given to the problems caused by earlier ore centralized bank policies. It is interesting that Reagan's efforts to fix Carter's (and Nixon's) inflationary excesses brought about the recession for which Bush was blamed as well. It seems those who remedy the flaws of centralized banks are destined to be blamed for the deflationary consequences. Of course, that doing nothing would eventually have led to a worse crash is never mentioned, as disasters averted cannot be seen. (See  "Inflation and Uncertainty", "Bad Economics Part 7", "Bad Economics Part 8", "What Is Money? ", "What Is A Dollar?", "The Gold Question, Not "Why?" But "When?"" and "Bad Economics Part 19".)

13. It is interesting to note that Jackson was the first "plebeian" president. The first several presidents (through Monroe) had all been prominent in the group which initiated the Revolution, all of whom had been prominent in colonial politics as well, mostly as wealthy planters or merchants. The second Adams was not part of the same set, but came from the same prominent family. Jackson was the son of immigrants and was raised in a much less affluent environment. It may be that the characterization of him as excessively populist, as crass and his followers as rude slobs was the result of snobbery on the part of the politicians and press, used to seeing a different sort of individual in office. On the other hand, it is also possible his background did give him a different set of behaviors which may have appeared crass or unrefined. Whatever the cause, his policies were not the result of some sort of thoughtless populism, he definitely had a well established set of economic and political beliefs.

14. The most common objection raised against Jackson (except perhaps his support of slave holding) is his handling of Indian tribes and his support of removal. However, the question itself is not as easily handled as some critics imagine. The original policy toward many tribes, that of treating with them as sovereign nations, was unworkable as soon as states developed enough that tribes were no longer neighbors on the frontiers of civilization, but were instead autonomous nations occupying the same land with populous, established towns and cities. A nation without territorial integrity is a political nightmare, as is attempting to enforce law and order in a land occupied by two groups of individuals comprising two nations. Thus, a change of policy was inevitable. The way it was handled can be criticized, but it is also quite likely even worse would have happened in the future had nothing been done. This is not meant to excuse Jackson, simply to point out the policy itself made some form of conflict almost unavoidable.

15. To be honest, picking one point as a "turning point" may be a fool's errand. It is quite possible that no single point in time made our change of direction inevitable, or even that such a course was ever inevitable. As I discovered in writing  "A Passing Thought" , sometimes what seems an obvious choice, such as my nomination of 1890 as the year when things turned the corner toward big, powerful government, on reflection seems much less certain. Still, even if I never establish a definite moment, it is useful to at least review these past changes to understand what happened to bring us to our present condition.

16. Though only mentioning one election of this era, my essay "Four Elections" makes interesting reading in this context.

17. The Whigs in general favored the concept of a national bank and easy credit/paper money, but made little headway in that regard. Thus, the only real hope for easy money policies was on a state level, at least until the Civil War and the birth of the "State Banking System", which did not create a national bank, but established a means of pyramiding debt on a small reserve, and later on government debt, which allowed rather considerable -- and mostly centralized -- inflation. A system which would basically establish the pattern later followed by the Federal Reserve System.

18. The belief easy money favors borrowers is a common one, but also a mistaken one. In the case of current debt, yes it allows one to repay it in dollars of a lower worth, and so has an immediate benefit. And for a brief time it also lowers interest rates as money is dumped on the market. But in the longer term, not only does it do untold economic damage, harming all and sundry, and not only does it consume any savings one might have, it also ends up raising interest rates faster than inflation, making borrowing more not less costly. (See "Inflation and Uncertainty", "Bad Economics Part 7", "Bad Economics Part 8", "What Is Money? ", "What Is A Dollar?", "The Gold Question, Not "Why?" But "When?"" and "Bad Economics Part 19" . For those who dismiss these concerns by using Keynes' foolish quip about "the long run", I also suggest "Stupid Quote of the Day (January 6, 2012)")

19. A few went even farther and called for total abolition. Actually, the Free Soil Party was noteworthy for one other aspect. Unlike the later Republican Party, not only did they seek to end slavery, but also fought against some laws which discriminated against free blacks in the North, a position which no major party embraced until almost a century later.

20. In this case, party identity did not play a significant role in change. Though the eventual rupture of the Democrats gave power to the Republicans, who grew out of the remnants of the Whigs,a long with some anti-slavery Democrats, the parties themselves did not drive the change, at least not as happened between, say, 1890 and 1910, when the metamorphosis of the Democrats played a major role in changing our political ideas. (See  "The Political Spectrum"  and  "A Passing Thought".)

21. Though the government had issues paper money under the Articles of Confederation, largely during the war, this was not intended as an inflationary measure, despite the fact that that was what it eventually became. No, the efforts at cheap money date mostly from the colonial era, when various states flirted with inflationary "land banks", where the difficulty of redeeming notes for land, or even accumulating notes for redemption, allowed massive inflation, which many states encouraged exporting to neighbors for their own benefit. Similarly, during the colonial era, and even afterward, "wild cat" banks, with or without the sanction of local governments, established themselves in remote locations, printing tremendous quantities of notes, and then relied upon their geographical isolation to prevent redemption sufficient to bankrupt them. (And fell back on state legislators for protection when such schemes failed.) However, as I said, the Whig/Republican attempt to impose national banking rules, and favor the printing of government sponsored circulating bank notes -- which would eventually yield some fruit during the Civil War -- was the first real attempt to enact similar policies nationally.

22. For a brief discussion of this unfortunate association, see "Noble Goals".

23. Nor did it hurt that Lincoln also suffered what many consider a martyr's death. In many ways, Lincoln has become something of a secular saint, the man who saved the union, ended slavery and was then struck down for doing so. It is a very effective myth, but like all myths, it obscures many of the uncomfortable realities. See "Noble Goals" and "A Passing Thought".

24. Recall that many of he policies against which Thatcher fought had been created as part of emergency policies establishing "war socialism" during the Second World War. Likewise, recall the relatively recent brouhaha in conservative circles over the discovery that we continued to pay a tax on phone calls that had first been created as a wire tax to fund the Spanish-American War. (Not entirely accurate, but pretty close. It had been repealed between the Spanish-American War and World War I, but excepting that detail, the description is fairly accurate. Remember the Maine!) Clearly emergency powers can be quite long lived.

25. This relates indirectly to a personal story. In my undergraduate work, I had studied history, with a special focus on the development of the English legal system from the end of the Roman colonial period through 1689. In my studies, I spent a fair amount of time reading abstract legal writers, such as Blackstone, who wrote about law in terms of the larger principles, and the general themes the law tried to follow. When I graduated, I attended law school, and was quite shocked to find modern law largely "pragmatic", with little interest in general principles, and quite willing to accept contradictory, even absurd, precedents, as that was what courts used to make decisions. It is one of the reasons I did not go beyond my first year. In a bit of irony, the one group I found that did speak of general principles, and tried to establish an abstract theory, was the group trying ardently to create a tremendously expanded right to sue for liability. (See "The Virute of Novelty and the Value of Tradition", "Consumer Protection", "Skewed Perspective , or, How Big Government Becomes Inevitable", "Still More on Liability Law", "Liability Law and Cost-Benefit Analysis", "Victim as Judge" and "The "Right To Sue" As Our Only Right" ) However, that was less because of any opposition to the general pragmatic approach, and more because they initially lacked precedents for the goal they desired, and so had to fall back on theory.

26. For a look at what I believe to be problematic with modern politics see  "Deadly Cynicism", "Self-Serving Cynicism and Our Cultural Immaturity""The Presumption of Dishonesty""Bar Fights, Riots and Drug Markets - The Limits of Law", "Patronage" and "Flashback - Thomas Sowell Imitates Me Again!". To see a more general discussion of my objections to pragmatism and "common sense" in the law and politics, I suggest reviewing  "The Lunacy of "Common Sense"", ""Seems About Right", Another Lesson in Common Sense and Its Futility", "A Look at Common Sense", "Res Ipsa Loquitur", "The Shortcomings of Pragmatism", "Pragmatism Revisited", "Pragmatism Revistied, Again", "The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data", "Rules of Grammar and Pragmatism", "The Problem of the Small Picture", "Keyhole Thinking", "Impractical Pragmatists", "In Defense of Zero Tolerance, or, An Examination of Law, Common Sense and Consistency", "No Dividing Line", "The Consequences of Bad Laws", "Questions of Law and Questions of Fact" ,"Beware Populist Deception", "How Conservatives Defeat Themselves", "The Single Greatest Weakness",  "What We Deserve", "Who Is To Blame?", "Don't Blame the Politicians", "You Lose When You Think You Win" and "Tyranny Without Tyrants"

27. Though many point to LIncoln's actions, and the Civil War in general as the beginning of the end for true federalism -- and to a point I do agree -- it is interesting to note that the true final nail in the coffin came not from the stick, but the carrot. That is, after all the early attacks, Lincoln's changes, the direct election of senators, the creation a federal income tax, the birth of the FBI and so on (see "Minimal Reforms"), the last blow was struck when the federal government began funding a considerable part of state expenditures. Thanks to the ability to grant or deny funding, the federal government gained much more control than it ever had through more coercive measures. (See also "The Glory of Eisenhower?" .)



I had originally intended this to a be a single essay, but once I saw the size, I decided it would be better to split it in half to make it a bit more readable. Once I have completed the second part, for the convenience of future readers, I will ad a link here, and perhaps at the end of the essay itself as well..


  1. Jesus Christ but you're an insufferable windbag!

  2. And you are just insufferable.

    Well, opinions are just like Moshes, everyone has one... I think that's how it goes.

  3. By the way, if I am a hateful, evil, devil-zionist, insufferable windbag, what does it say of you that you seem to have a crush on me, following me from blog to blog, just screaming for my attention? However pathetic you think I am, doesn't that make you even more so?

  4. In the unlikely event that anyone unacquainted w/Andrew actually reads his long-winded BS, be advised that he was a Bush supporter, a McCain supporter, and a Romney supporter...THAT is how deep and unbending his commitment to the constitution and liberty is!

  5. Oh, hey, Andy...if "we are the state/govt" how do you argue against taxation?

    Going by your 'logic', taxes are simply "us paying ourselves"!


  6. I have a feeling Unknown is one of the Idiot Twins, either Moshe or the other one whose name kept changing, the claims of "Wins" was a constant theme of those two.

    By the way, I challenge either of these "Moshes" (my new term for a-hole, as both are ugly, smelly, uptight, full of feces and best not mentioned in polite company) to find my endorsement of Romney, McCain or Bush. And a hint here, to say they are better than the alternative is not an endorsement.

    Then again, they have that childish "all or nothing" idiocy, so if you don't waste a vote on Ron Paul and give the election to Obama, you are not a true patriot. apparently cutting off your nose to spite your face was one of the clauses of the Constitution... Must have missed it.

  7. As for the paying taxes thing, here, wrap your brain around this... I own stock in the local electric company, thus I am, in part, the electric company, yet I still must pay my electric bill! Wow, what a concept!

    And thus, we can be the government and yet pay the government. though not sure why I am defending this, as I don't see where I aid we are the government. It is true, otherwise,w hat is the government? But I never made a real point of it, so not sure what this one is crowing about before his claim of "Winning"...

    1. "We are the govt/state"...you said that. You didn't say we "owned shares" in govt., since that's patently untrue. Pretty stupid comparison, but what would I expect from a Right-wing Commie?

      So, since "we are the govt.", I guess 100% taxes would be fine, since its simply "us transferring money to ourselves".

  8. OK. Trying to figure out what unknown is saying, is he saying if "we are the government' then I have to support nay taxes? Or that taxes make "we are the government" nonsensical? Is is he just a dangerously maladjusted individual?

    Well, to answer:

    1. Even if we are the government, taxes can be more or less effective at raising revenues, can have more or less dangerous side effects, and the uses to which the money is put and be justified or unjustified. Simply because the government is a representative of the people does not mean we cannot debate its actions. What sort of absurd straw man argument is that?

    2. I already showed why the second argument is nonsense.

    3. As far as being a maladjusted individual, here is a thought: If you find someone annoying, their arguments foolish and disagree with them entirely, yet repeatedly find yourself visiting their website, that says to me you have a problem. Just like Moshe's crush on me.

    There, think I answered everything.

    1. Again, you said "WE ARE THE STATE/GOVT".

      Words have meaning, and I can only assume you MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.

      Typical Collectivist clap-trap.

  9. As bad as Obama is--he is, after all, more-or-less a continuation of Conservative Bush II--he'n not buried nearly as deep in Israel's pocket as McCain and Romney are.

    He's, most likely, the lesser evil. Conservatives McCain/Romney would've had us into WWIII on Israel's behalf if they'd've been elected.

    1. Ah yes, that "World War III" that your kind and the LaRouchers said Bush would start. And liberals (and many Ron Paul supporters) though Reagan would start in the 1980's... Well, keep predicting it, I am sure eventually you will be right.

      By the way, why is it better to be "in the pocket" of the Arab states (as is, for example, much of Foggy Bottom) than of Israel, as you claim so many are? Unless you buy into the USS Liberty nonsense (and I am sure you do), the amount of violence from Arab (and other Islamic, to include Iran) nations far exceeds anything from Israel. So why do Arab states get a pass from the left and pseudo-libertarian left like yourself. (I know, you will disagree with the designation, but explain how your ranting nonsense differs from the Occupy Wall Street crowd one iota... And mentioning the constitution doesn't count. I mean real practical beliefs. You're both conspiracy nuts, you hate Israel, you fear corporations, you think the world is driven by shadow forces, what --other than the specifics of your paranoid delusions --makes you two any different?)

    2. Adults know that choosing the lesser evil is the grown-up thing to do.

      That's why I voted Obama.

  10. So, what exactly is the government in a representative state then? Some cabal placed above us by our evil masters?

    I am sorry, but not following you at all. (Have that problem with most people who type in capitals at least 50% of the time, though.) Why does it follow that if the government represent us (which is my argument, I don't recall ever saying we literally are the government, but I will go back and try to find what you keep putting in quote...) but if the government represents us, why does it follow 100% taxation is ok? Your logic is not only impossible to follow, but simply wrong.

    That is akin to saying we can eat our own hands since we are simply transferring them back to us without looking at the other effects. taxes are not simply transfers of wealth, so what you say makes absolutely no sense, even granting you are reading my quote correctly (which I somehow doubt, as clearly the government is not made up of 100% of the people, and thus your reading is either dense to the point of idiocy, or taken well out of context, but I have to go back and find those words in which you place so much significance...)

    1. You said it.

      Even allowing you to weasel out of it, and going by "govt. represents us" (collectivist clap-trap, btw), then that means that you're saying both of us WANT Obamacare and high taxation.

      Well, I say "speak for yourself".

  11. OK. I searched and searched an the only place I can even find the short phrase "we are the" is in your comments and my replies. So where did I say "we are the government"? I said the government is people, as much as any organization, that it has no independent existence, but that is common sense. Corporations, governments, all are legal fictions made up of individuals, a fact many forget when they develop conspiracy theories and the like, attributing to "the state" powers and attributes more appropriate to individuals. Is that what you are misreading? Well then you completely missed my point I am afraid. Not exactly surprising.

  12. And we all know that one of the primary tenets of (neo)conservatism is:

    Serve and obey Israel.

    A candidate who doesn't fawn over Israel will NEVER get (neo)conservative support.

    You can rationalize this any way you want, but we both know this is true.

  13. Hypothetical 2-candidate runoff for GOP POTUS nomination:

    Candidate A and B have identical positions on everything, except for Israel.

    Candidate A says, "I have as much respect and affection for Israel as anyone, but we're broke and can no longer afford to send them--or anyone other foreigners--billions in aid which we don't have. We can no longer borrow money, which our grandchildren will be on the hook for re-paying, in order to spend billions on int'l aid today. If we, as Republicans, can't make relatively small cuts in American tax-dollars being sent overseas to foreigners, how can we expect the public to lend credibility to our promises to tackle the trillions that need to be cut in domestic spending?"

    Candidate B replies, "My opponent is clearly in the pocket of Islamic radicals and has forgotten 911. We must continue, nay, INCREASE, aid to our special friend and ally Israel!"

    We BOTH know that Candidate B would win (neo)conservative support and the nomination--hands down--based on this ONE policy difference, don't we?

  14. Looks like Mandy's got no answer for you AL...same old Israel-firster NeoCon, POS we ran off of TH!

    Anarcho and moshe ride again!!!

    1. Don't know who Al is, but you're right: (neo)conservatives never do respond when people out them as Israel-firsters.

  15. An oldie but a goodie, Anarcho!

    David Duke smashes Zionist, AIPAC-shill Wolf Blitzer:


  16. Gee I hope there’s not going to be a test!

    Good work putting together such a post from memory, Andrews (although forgive me for saying it is scary long). With regards to the Constitution, you said, “…the move toward an increase in centralization did not represent a loss of freedom, but a necessary precondition of protecting individual liberty.”

    I agree with that 100%. Those who blame the Constitution or the “Founders” for the current state of affairs must pretend that human nature doesn’t exist in order to make their case. If freedom is the ability to exercise the basic rights of life, and to know that the same freedom will exist for your children, then the Constitution was the closest thing on this planet to ensuring freedom. If it doesn’t work it’s because people won’t allow it to.

    Having seen the propensity of humans to “manage” history the same way the Whitehouse ‘manages” information, I tend to be somewhat skeptical of its value as a learning tool, and extremely optimistic about its value as an instrument of evil. Still, it’s interesting to see the timeline laid out so I’ll check back for part II.

    1. Centralized political power = Freedom

      Orwell would be proud!

      One could say the same exact things about the Soviet Constitution...if only "we" had followed it properly and if only "we" had elected the right people!


    2. Anyone who has a real clue about "human nature" understands clearly why centralized political power guarantees a steady decline in freedom.

      Sadly, (neo)conservatives--just like (neo)liberals--can't understand this.

      What's REALLY funny is that the same (neo)conservatives who whine about the loss of freedom (predicted by the constitutions opponents BEFORE it was ratified) and blather on about what mighty 'constitutionalists' they are elect folks like Reagan, Bush, McCain, and Romney...LMFAO!

    3. Hmmm. Given Orwell’s infamous disdain of totalitarianism, I’m glad to know he would be proud of me.

      Anyone who has a real clue about "human nature" understands clearly why anarchy guarantees a steady decline in freedom. Without some rule of law, the “right” to life and all other rights are simply at the discretion of the strongest.

      What's REALLY funny is the pseudo-libertarians who laugh at others even as they are sinking in the very same quicksand. Talk about a hollow victory.

    4. At this point, (neo)cons and (neo)libs are about as out-of-touch as Soviet citizens were in the late 1980's. Politically speaking, there is very little difference between (neo)cons/Republican voters and (neo)libs/Democrat voters.

      This CW person says:

      Centralized Political Power = Freedom

      Absence of Political Power = Slavery

      Right out of Orwell's "1984" novel...

      That this communistic mindset prevails on the alleged SMALL-GOVT side of mainstream politics reveals just how far gone America has become.

      When Mitt Romney becomes the national face of the mainstream 'small-govt' movement, you know the end MUST be near!

  17. CW,

    Good to hear from you, and yes, I realized it was running a bit long. Will try to get the second half (hopefully a little shorter, though no promises) this week.

    Feeling a bit better, so should be doing some writing tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully some of it will be the conclusion of this post.

  18. One wonders how (neo)cons can outdo their stupidity/cluelessness from 2012 (Mitt "Obamacare" Romney)...maybe you can convince Al Gore to run as a Republican?

    Maybe Olympia Snowe?

    Maybe you can give McCain (how STUPID are Arizona (neo)cons, btw?) another crack at it?

  19. I see you have the standard trademark addiction to strawman arguments that’s typical for anarchist wannabes trying to pass themselves off as libertarians. Let’s clarify what that means right up front. It means you have a weak case and you know it. You’re a punk who talks tough and then wears brass knuckles to the fight because he knows he can’t cut it on his own.

    The insinuation that the Constitution is somehow an endorsement of an all-powerful central government is just laughable. The Constitution sought to limit the powers of the federal government. I presume that’s why Ron Paul is such a staunch defender of it. Did you vote for Ron Paul? Don’t waste my time telling me that the Constitution created the central gov’t; that without the Constitution the central gov’t wouldn’t exist. Tell it to all the countries that have ever found themselves living under a central gov’t without a Constitution.

    You know absolutely nothing about me. You’re a Lew Rockwell groupie who’s all fired up and thinks he’s smarter than everyone else, trying to find someone to test your newfound knowledge on like a little boy testing out his judo lessons for the first time.

    >>”…maybe you can convince Al Gore to run as a Republican?”

    Is that the best you can do? I think Lew would be disappointed in you.

    1. The Soviet Constitution looked good on paper to its supporters too and there are STILL a heck of a lot of people who ADMIT to being socialists/communists, despite the failed experiments in the USSR and Eastern Europe--and the failing experiments in the USA and Western Europe.

      Bad ideas die hard...and among staunch and out-of-touch supporter, the bad ideas NEVER die.

    2. No, I don't know much about you, but I know 60+ MILLION people like you who voted for Mitt Romney!

      Mitt Romney...is that the best that (neo)cons can come up with?

    3. As you admitted before you proceeded to blather on further, you don’t know much about me. Ignorance might elicit caution in some, but not you.

      The last pseudo libertarian that I debated spent a lot of time trashing the Constitution, and when I asked him for his alternative to it he came up with…HIS own constitution! LOL. I guess a constitution was ok as long he got to be the one in charge of writing it.

      So what’s your plan? No government? There’s no such thing (although I’m willing to concede on that if you can show me a country that exists, peacefully, without government). State governments? Government at the state level is still centralized government. So let’s hear your plan. I promise that if it’s a good plan, I’ll be nice about it.

    4. I'm not so much trashing the CN. as simply pointing out that it failed to accomplish what it proponents claimed it would.

      Believe me, I WISH that today's mainstream political ideological battles were taking place between the almost-unimaginably libertarian (by today's standards) Federalists and Anti-Federalists instead of the communistic Liberals and Conservatives!

      It takes advanced knowledge of free-market economics, human-nature, and philosophy to INTELLIGENTLY discuss "anarchy" (which simply means a society w/an absence of rulers--i.e., a society w/o legalized class distinctions). No offense, but I don't think you're up to it.

    5. As far as your "pseudo-libertarian" BS...sorry, but I don't think you know enough about it to judge...

      As w/(neo)cons, there are factions w/i the libertarian camp too. The two major ones are political VS non-political libertarians (i.e., anarchists).

      Anarchy is the more sound/moral/logical philosophy.

      Political libertarians are divided into two main camps: "radicals" (like Ron Paul) and "mainstreamers" (which seems to be the way the Libertarian Party is, sadly, going).

      "Mainstreamers", basically, are tired of losing and want to sell-out in order to garner (neo)con support--they're headed towards being nothing more than (neo)con-lite 'pragmatists'. Apparently, they haven't learned from the last 32 years of the 'conservative' movement--electoral success + compromised principles = ideological suicide.

      What you won't see are the rest of us libertarians sell-out w/them--like you 'conservatives' did w/the GOP. Now, you're nothing more than an automatic voting bloc used like a whore by AIPAC, the military-industrial complex, and the GOP to advance their big-govt agendas.

  20. @ CW

    Why do you bring up Ron Paul when you (neo)cons totally rejected his interpretation of the constitution and view of govt? In fact, your views on govt./const. are more in line w/Obama's than RP's.

    Ron Paul's candidacies for POTUS in 2008 &12 clearly revealed to everyone what libertarians have known for decades and decades: (neo)conservatives & the GOP are in no way, shape, or form interested in CUTTING govt. and advancing liberty.

    RE: "strawman argument"

    Dude, how about this for a strawman: "You're against centralized govt. and the constitution because you want freedom to decline."

    1. There you go again. First you admit that you don’t me, then you presume to tell me that I’m more in line with Obama than Ron Paul. I guess that’s a natural thing to do when someone is desperate to have the argument they want to have and justify an undeserved sense of superiority.

      Conservatives did not “totally reject” Paul’s interpretation of the Constitution, least of all me, so that’s another strawman argument, but it would be much harder for you to argue about the real areas of disagreement so you’re taking the easy (and phony) road. The Republican Party consists of everything from rightwing conservatives to flat out liberals, so to frame your argument as though we’re all the same is just more self-serving weakness on your part. Obama-lover Bill Maher calls himself a libertarian. Can I lump you in with him?

      >>” Dude, how about this for a strawman: "You're against centralized govt. and the constitution because you want freedom to decline."

      Um, ok. I don’t recall saying that so is there some reason you’re asking for my opinion on it?

    2. One wonders how (neo)conservatives arrived at the conclusion that Mitt Romney is superior--from a const./limited-gov. perspective--than RP?

    3. What makes you think they did?

    4. Ahhh...the fact that they favored Romney (and Gingrich and Santorum) over Paul?

    5. That’s predictably simplistic, particularly after you seem to concede that not all republicans are conservatives. Some conservatives had disagreements with Ron Paul over his stance on national security. Others doubted his ability to win, which is understandable given the modest number of votes he ultimately got, even in his home state. I’m not going to waste time on a lengthy discussion when we both know that there were other factors in play here, so don’t play dumb.

  21. @ CW

    My good man, your post about the GOP being made up of varying factions was a good one.

    And, what is it that binds all of these supposedly 'diverse' factions together?

    I'd suggest 2 main things:

    1. Israel
    2. The warfare/nat'l security state

    Certainly, limited-govt. is far down the list of priorities for the (neo)con movement/GOP overall...

    1. Sorry, it’s door #3 – the goal of not seeing the country go to the far left.

    2. Sorry, but that's not what I see.

      I see varying Establishmentarian (neo)con factions who stand united under #'s 1 & 2.

      If you peoples' idea of "not seeing the country go to the far left" is voting for the likes of Reagan, Bushes, McCain, and Romney then you're either deaf/dumb/blind or you're liars.

    3. Your question had to do with the various factions within the republican party, not “varying Establishmentarian (neo)cons,” which you now base your challenge to my answer on. Always moving the bases, that’s another trademark ploy of the Lew Rockwell libertarian.

      The republican voters that you asked me about aren’t sitting around talking about Israel, and national security isn’t at the top of their list either although it’s a concern that any reasonable person would consider (i.e. not the Left). The most recent poll I could find was from 2011 and it shows the top four issues for REPUBLICANS were unemployment, the economy, the budget deficit and government.


      As for this: “If you peoples' idea of "not seeing the country go to the far left" is voting for the likes of Reagan, Bushes, McCain, and Romney then you're either deaf/dumb/blind or you're liars…”

      Once again you dishonestly say “you peoples” as if we're all of one mind when YOU KNOW that isn’t true. It may come as a shock to you to learn there are a lot of liberal republicans who steer the party to “moderate” candidates, and we can’t necessarily control who throws their hat into the ring. I’m assuming many libertarians might have preferred a younger candidate who could sell his message a bit better than Ron Paul, but since he was the one running you threw your support to him.

    4. We both know that a candidate who doesn't adhere to #'s 1 & 2 will never get (neo)con support.

      Hmmm...if Republicans are SO concerned about the things they claim to be...why do they support the Reagans, Bushes, McCains, and Romneys of the world?

    5. And if you're so concerned about centralized gov't, why do you support a self-proclaimed constitutional conservative?

  22. @ CW

    You brought up another good point w/Bill Maher. We know people by their actions, not their words. And, Maher has mad it very clear that he is nothing more than your garden-variety, Establishmentarian, (neo)lib/Democrat.

    People can call themselves whatever they want. I'm not sure why Maher ever called himself a "libertarian". Maybe he thought it'd make him seem edgier and more independent--in order to appeal to his target audience. Maybe he was confused. There are people who like libertarianism's civil-liberty aspects and refer to themselves as "civil libertarians" while being pro-big govt. in most other ways...I've seen the term "libertarian socialist" used too.

    Bottom line is that Maher (whose views probably line-up w/Romney's more often than not) would NEVER be supported, politically, by libertarians. However, I could see (neo)cons supporting him, since the supported someone very much like him (Romney).

    And we come full circle...people referring to themselves as "conservatives" supporting big-govt types like Reagan, Bush, McCain, etc...

    So, what should I judge (neo)cons on--their words ("I'm a limited-govt. constitutionalist.") or their actions (vote Reagan, McCain, etc.)?

  23. >>”People can call themselves whatever they want.”

    No kidding.

    >>” So, what should I judge (neo)cons on--their words ("I'm a limited-govt. constitutionalist.") or their actions (vote Reagan, McCain, etc.)?”

    Well, let’s see. You tell me that my positive endorsement of the Constitution makes me a proponent of “centralized government,” suggesting that this means I support authoritarianism. But I’m assuming, based upon your remarks, that you voted for Ron Paul, who is a self-described defender of the Constitution. Furthermore, Paul appears to have had your endorsement for POTUS, the key figure in our “centralized” government. So should I judge you by your actions or by your words?

    1. I already dealt w/Paul and (neo)cons rejection of him and his views on govt.

      So, what should I judge (neo)cons on?

      Their label or the politicians they support?

    2. But you DIDN'T deal with the contradiction of your support of Paul and your disdain for the Constitution. You are the pot that is calling the kettle black, and you think that by merely repeating your criticisms you can evade any judgment against you. You probably get away with that in other venues but you won't get away with it here.

    3. Sure I did.

      EVERY politician, at least implicitly--per their oath of office--is a "constitutionalist". However, that term means wildly different things to different people, according to their ideology, wants, fears, etc.

      Ron Paul is first and foremost a proponent of more freedom and less gov.--and his entire career/record is a testament to this. He attempted to advance this agenda via the constitution and central gov., but obviously, these are not vehicles that are conducive to this. To suggest that Ron Paul's "constitutionalism" is on a par w/Obama's or Romney's or Reagan's is just you attempting to rationalize your support of people like McCain/Romney.

      As I said, there are apolitical and political libertarians (of varying stripes). To suggest that political libertarians supporting Ron Paul is identical to YOU supporting Reagan/Bush/McCain/Romney is absurd.

      Now, if libertarians supported candidates like Reagan/Bush/McCain/Romney...well, THEN you'd have a point.

      However, the FACT is that the VAST majority of 'conservatives' rejected Ron Paul's "constitutionalism" in favor of McCain's and Romney's...

    4. Yeah, CrazyWoman...those supporting Romney and those supporting Ron Paul are exactly the same!

      Because their positions are identical!

      Oh, wait...my bad...that was Romney and Obama!


      moshe and AL win again!!!

    5. @Unknown

      Nice try.

      You claimed that the Constitution equates to centralized, authoritarian-style gov’t. Now you’re trying to move the base again to claim that the real problem is how people interpret it. (So you’re okay with the Constitution after all?) Ironically by trying to weasel out from the comments that sparked this debate you inadvertently stumbled upon some truth.

      Contrary to your claims about him, Ron Paul is an unapologetic, firm believer in the Constitution. If you doubt that you can go to campaignforliberty.org and get your “Ron Paul Pocket Constitution" (“This handy and attractive 44 page, pocket-size reproduction of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights also features the Declaration of Independence and an introduction by Congressman Paul. A perfect item to promote Ron Paul and to educate voters on the case for freedom and the need to restore America to our founding principles.”)

      As for the claim you made (which I just now read) that the Constitution didn’t do what the authors claimed it would, that’s another falsehood. Per Ron Paul himself, “The Founders warned that a free society depends on a virtuous and moral people. The current crisis reflects that their concerns were justified.” The Founders made no promises and the record of their apprehensions is clear.

  24. @ CW

    You are a perfect example of why libertarians need to promote the truth about 'conservatism' by continuing to tear down the Reagan Myth.

    You weasels refuse to take responsibility for your support of Romney, McCain, Bushes, and big-spending GOP congresses, but Reagan...ahhhh...he is the crowning achievement of 'conservatism' and you folks don't hesitate to sing his praises and point to him as an example of a "real conservative"!

    So, all we need to do is agree w/you and then point out Reagan's RECORD as:

    1. A New Deal Democrat well into adulthood
    2. His very spotty record as California governor
    3. And especially, the absolute DISASTER of his Presidency (record-breaking deficits/adding more debt than all prior admins COMBINED, a near doubling of the federal budget, Iran-Contra, assisting the forerunner of Al Qaeda w/American tax-dollars, Amnesty, the Drug War, Lebanon Marine barracks fiasco, increasing the DOE's size, creating a new cabinet dept., increased regulations and taxes, etc., etc., etc.).

    With the internet, it is now EASY to expose the FACT that Reagan was (and remains) the 'conservative' version of Obama (right down to being a whiz at reading a teleprompter!)!

    By exposing this TRUTH, we expose the FACT that 'conservatives' are simply Right-wing Liberals!

    Even MORE important than outing 'conservatives' is to reveal the lie that (neo)liberals push in repeating the (neo)con falsehood that Reagan "cut govt", so that they can blame out present situation on "deregulation and tax cuts for the rich".

    LIttle by little the truth is having an impact too...but we libertarians must continue to try and undo the damage that (neo)cons have done to the notion of limited-govt...

    1. Yes, I completely understand the obsession Lew Rockwell libertarians have with debunking the myth of Reagan. He’s an icon to conservatives, so if you can tear down the myth, you can undermine conservatism. I totally get that strategy.

      Criticism of Reagan is fair enough. As with so many national figures, the true record has been distorted by various groups on both sides willing to advance their own causes at the expense of the interests of the nation. Unfortunately the problem you have is the same problem liberals have – you’re dishonest. You allow your motives (advancement of the libertarian cause) to undermine the “truth,” and the “truth” you “expose” is selective.

    2. Already addressed this.

      If Reagan = Conservatism, then Conservatism = Big Govt.

    3. Sorry, but there is no "dishonesty" in pointing out Reagan's RECORD and comparing what he CAMPAIGNED on in 1979/80 to what he did IN OFFICE from Jan. 1981-Jan. 1989.

      And, the FACT is that--by any/all measurements--gov. was VASTLY larger at the end of his term than at the beginning.

      The FACT is that Carter helped institute more meaningful deregulation than Reagan:

      Rethinking Carter

      "...Reagan received the endorsement from the Teamster's Union in exchange for his promise that he would delay deregulation of trucking. While the ICC was ultimately dismantled during the Reagan years, it is safe to say that the one who sealed its doom was Jimmy Carter."

  25. Cw-

    Wow, stop reading my comments for a couple days and come back to quite a flood of posts. Well, keep it up, you sound like I did back on TH. Recently I have completely given up on any sort of conversation and spend my time trying to annoy and embarrass, as it seems to be the only thing they grasp. But if you want to try the reasonable argument thing, go ahead, lord knows I tried it for long enough.

    Work has been a bit busy so not writing as much as I would like, though I have written my way up to 1890 in the sequel to this post, so maybe post it by Friday. Hopefully by the weekend I will have enough free time to do more than skim all of these posts.

    Until then, enjoy your debate.

  26. Thanks, Andrews. Feel free to jump in any time.

    I'm looking forward to the next post.

  27. @ CW

    I understand that--at this point--you and your fellow (neo)cons have far too much emotional capital invested in the Reagan Myth to ever admit the truth. Just like (neo)libs and Obama...

    I understand why you don't want to take responsibility for your actions (Bush/McCain/Romney/Big-govt. GOP congresses)...

    I understand why you want to drag libertarians (your ideological opponents and superiors) down to your level...

    Fine. However, I'd appreciate you telling me how 'conservatives' and the GOP are gonna cut a TRILLION off of the federal budget and many TRILLIONS off of the nat'l debt when you won't even CONSIDER cutting a few BILLION in foreign-aid (including Israel)...when the idea of cutting a CENT off of 'defense' spending is a non-starter...and when Medicare and Social Security are also off-limits?

  28. (Neo)con radio host Steve Dice throws in towel, admits ‘'The Libertarians Were Right'’ (10 years too late to do any good):


    It's nice to see a 'conservative' admit the obvious for a change!

  29. @ CW

    BTW, it takes an advanced grasp of free-market economics, human-nature, and philosophy to INTELLIGENTLY discuss "anarchy" (society w/o rulers and a hierarchal political caste-system).

    No offense, but someone who considers himself a "limited-gov constitutionalist" while simultaneously supporting Reagan/Bush/McCain/Romney/GOP just isn't up to the task.

    Heck, forget about advancing society to a state of "anarchy" at some point in the distant future (when humanity has evolved to libertarianism)...how about we address (or at least ADMIT) the unsustainable and failing policies of mainstream (neo)-conservatism/liberalism that exists NOW...?



    1. Gee, no offense taken. I will meekly bow to your superior knowledge of the subject just as soon as you reveal to me this magical place where a peaceful society exists without government. BTW, the first three synonyms Word offers for anarchy are “disorder, chaos and lawlessness.” Apparently word knows something that you don’t in spite of your “advanced knowledge.” Maybe Word watches the news.

    2. Again, very few can INTELLIGENTLY discuss it, so don't feel too bad about your inability...the typical Right and/or Left -wing Communist in America can only say, "If gov. doesn't provide X (healthcare, roads, charity, etc.) then no one will and society will fall apart." I won't waste my time discussing it w/a communist ignoramus like yourself.

      The word "Anarchy" comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία, anarchia, from ἀν an, "not, without" + ἀρχός arkhos, "ruler", meaning "absence of a leader", "without rulers").

      Like I said, FORGET about anarchy...I'd be happy if (neo)cons could work up just a LITTLE opposition to record-breaking deficits, the income-tax (1 of the 10 major planks of the Communist Manifesto), the emerging police/surveillance state, and the sovietized economy...

  30. Hahahahaha!

    Anarcho, that's gotta be you!

    A masterful destruction of McCain-loving CW--an Arizona Republican who is and isn't against illegal immigration all at the same time!

    Hey, CW, what up?!

    Still dreaming about moshe's Kosher Pickle?

    1. Thanks for the props...I've been known to destroy a (neo)con or two in my time...but I'm not "Al"...

  31. @Unknown

    In case you’re confused Moshe thinks you’re his old pal “Anarcho” because your arguments and his are identical, right down to the punctuation. It’s really uncanny. Do they have talking points training at Lew Rockwell?

    1. At first I thought Unknown was just another Rockwell fueled Paulbot, but then Moshe started saying it was Anarcho (or one of the other six dozen names he/she/it used), and convinced me the Idiot Twins were together again. However, it appears Moshe is mistaken about yet one more fact. Still, you're right, it is an uncanny resemblance.

  32. @ Unknown

    My boy AL would never leave me hanging, so I guess you're someone else.

    FYI: Andrew (aka GhostSquirrelNuts) is an Israeli national...

  33. Why do 'conservatives' continue clinging to the Reagan Myth?

    Why do they refuse to acknowledge the obvious truth that the constitution FAILED to limit govt?

    Why do they pretend that voting for McCain and Romney is gonna do any good whatsoever?