The Great Struggle: Republic Or Empire?
by Steven Yates
I smell fear. Teddy Chappaquid – I mean Teddy Kennedy, of course – didn’t like John Ashcroft at all. Not long after the hearings were under way, it was revealed that Ashcroft had once made some highly politically incorrect remarks about the threat of "tyrannical central government," and also expressed sympathy toward issues of state sovereignty and even Southern heritage. He has spent his career opposing the centralization Kennedy and his ilk have been building up. Ashcroft got confirmed – by a vote of 58-42 in the U.S. Senate. But Kennedy’s leftist buddies have put the Bushies on notice: you have your token "right winger"; don’t try this again!
Kennedy, who has never worked outside of government in his life, illustrates as well as any one person how the dominant philosophy of government in America’s centers of power has reversed since the country’s founding. I’ve no doubt that the Framers would be horrified by the kind of career politician Kennedy exemplifies. And they would have been right. Career politicians spend their lives (and millions of taxpayer dollars) betraying this country’s founding document, which was intended as a permanent and absolute (not a "living, evolving") limitation on central power. So again, I smell fear in the liberals’ attacks on Ashcroft. They tried – unsuccessfully – to get him because they fear he will not enforce laws that are unconstitutional and should never have been passed in the first place. He has said otherwise. He has promised to uphold the laws of the land regardless of his beliefs. It is too bad that he doesn’t go further in the direction of freedom the liberals fear. But then again, if he did, he would have had no chance at all.
The Ashcroft hearings offer just one more roadmap toward the Great Struggle currently underway – the struggle to define this country. Newly minted President Bush Jr., whether he knows it or not (and I’m not sure he does) is caught right in the middle. Here is the question of our historical moment: Do we want to live in a federation of sovereign states where the locus of control is, indeed, local, and in which law-abiding adult citizens have sovereignty their lives, personal resources, businesses and communities? Or do we want to live in a centralized, bureaucratized empire, where what isn’t micromanaged by the central government is controlled by government-favored international megaconglomerates, all paid for through ever-higher rates of taxation?
When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, it was a declaration that the original 13 colonies were seceding from an empire, that of the British. The Framers, when they wrote the U.S. Constitution, attempted to give us a federation of sovereign states: as Benjamin Franklin put it, "a republic, if you can keep it." The authors of the Bill of Rights then purposefully gave us the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to keep the power of the central government in check.
A Republic. A federation of sovereign states.
But with apologies to George Lucas, Empire keeps striking back. Thomas Jefferson spent the rest of his life issuing warnings about how centralized government tends to increase its power. He issued warnings about the need for a vigilant public.
It is possible to show (as Charles Adams does in his brilliant tract When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession) that the war 140 years ago boils down to a contest between Republic and Empire. I am aware, of course, that it is now politically correct to say that that war was fought over slavery – because, after all, when Lincoln’s minions defeated Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee, Empire won its first major battle on U.S. soil. Secession was not merely rejected as a viable means of checking its growth, but the numerous discussions of the topic and even threats to carry it out that arose between 1787 and 1860 were literally purged from the history books. Not noticed was how the issue had been decided not legally or Constitutionally but by brute force.
Empire has been growing ever since. The next quantum leap occurred with the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, the acceptance of the 16th Amendment into our Constitution on the basis of a very dubious ratification scheme, and the adoption of the progressive income tax system. Previously, Empire had been effectively blocked from flexing its muscle too much on American shores, because it lacked the resources. Very shortly, that would change. Not coincidentally, the era of U.S. involvement in foreign wars began right after. Empire, after all, cannot stay out of wars. It is its nature to try to mind the rest of the world’s business.
Fresh quantum leaps in Empire-building occurred during the Roosevelt era, with the rise of the welfare-warfare state during the Great Depression. This period occurred mainly because of the efforts to centralize and micromanage the economy during the 1920s that the Federal Reserve made possible. We can read all about it in Murray Rothbard’s two magnificent tracts America’s Great Depression and The Case Against the Fed. Empire claimed to have the solutions to problems it had created, and a desperate, uninformed public believed. Welfare happened, and warfare grew.
The most recent quantum leap was with the so-called civil rights movement of the 1960s. It became possible for Empire to dictate hiring practices to obtain politically acceptable ratios of blacks to whites, women to men, according to the rapidly rising Gramscian ideology of victimology. No one pointed to the exact clause in the Constitution that empowered the federal government to dictate hiring practices. The closest anyone could come was that unspecific clause about "promot[ing] the general welfare" which hardly meant build a welfare state.
In fact, freedom of association is one of those commonsense "rights retained by the people." What else can it be? If nothing in the Constitution empowers the federal government to tell people how to associate, then it follows that Constitutionally, this must be left up to them. A freedom to associate, however, implies a freedom not to associate – a freedom exercised every day when whites congregate mainly with whites and blacks mainly with blacks, at least when they are not at work. In a free society, some businesses would be all (or primarily) white, and dealing mainly with a white customer base; others would be all (or primarily) black, and have a black customer base; still others would be all (or primarily) Hispanic, with an Hispanic customer base; still others would be fully integrated in all ways if that is their owners’ and customers’ agreed-upon choice. This would be accepted as the norm. In a free society, neither central government nor activist busy-bodies feel compelled to mind everyone else’s business.
Empire has continued to grow since the civil rights era, and it has chosen its targets well. The political correctness movement targets free speech and freedom of thought – in response to the mounting criticisms of affirmative action that came of age during the 1980s. Well-organized activists have attempted to gut the Second Amendment with such measures as the Brady Bill, fully supported by a Clinton Regime which didn’t mind bombing the daylights out of little countries overseas (usually to distract the country from however much trouble Billy Boy was in here at home). So-called scholars in the universities have analyzed the basic phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" out of existence. It is clear from history that if the purveyors of Empire can disarm the citizenry of a country, they can do with that citizenry as they please. One of the first things Adolf Hitler did when he came to power was to enact the strictest gun control laws then in existence. A disarmed citizenry is a powerless citizenry, and every would-be tyrant knows it.
Today, in the politically correct American Empire, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are forgotten, except by a few "extremists" who insist that the central government obey its founding document. Patriot, which was a good thing to be when I was a kid, has become a dirty word, synonymous with "antigovernment hate." In the halls of power in the Empire’s capitol, the Constitution is remembered in name only. Today, of all those in Congress, only Ron Paul (R-TX) will ask outright of any piece of legislation, "Where does the U.S. Constitution authorize the federal government to do this?" He usually doesn’t get an answer.
But the fundamental question hasn’t gone away: Republic or Empire? Sovereign states or conquered, subordinate serfdoms? Empire has grown by leaps and bounds, and is going more and more international – as I have argued elsewhere and provided extensive details and links. (And it is getting more and more expensive. If you think your taxes are too high now, just wait until the New World Order institutes a world tax to support its international criminal court and international welfare programs.)
The fact that we heard not a word about such fundamentals last year during Election Campaign 2000 speaks volumes about where we stand, when the two divisions of the Washington Party are supposed to be so different ideologically. Those who raised such issues as fundamental limitations on the federal government were either ignored or dismissed out of hand. At present, the Empire-builders are on top, and they know it. They would have preferred Gore over Bush Jr., I am sure. Bush Jr. is basically well intentioned and will drag his feet – his choice of people like Linda Chavez and John Ashcroft shows that. With Gore, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. But the fact that Bush Jr. was the Republican nominee alone indicated his acceptability to Empire’s power brokers. This rightly bothered those who questioned my very reluctant endorsement of Bush Jr. The reception of the only three genuine conservatives George W. Bush Jr. has nominated for his cabinet shows this. Chavez was driven off in the latest campaign of personal destruction. Ashcroft and Gale Norton hung on by the skin of their teeth. Leftist litmus tests are very much in force. They attack anybody they do not believe will further their agenda for the country. I am encouraged, however, that they do not always win. They are not all-powerful, and this is significant.
The issues must be discussed, one way or another. What kind of society do we want, a Republic or an Empire? And what, if anything, can we do about it?
We who prefer to live in a Republic do have some aces in the hole – even if we are presently outorganized and outfunded. First, for Christians, is the realization that this is, in the last analysis, God’s universe. The world does not belong to the Empire builders. Not really. Empire-building, in this view of the world, signifies the sinfulness inherent in human nature. A small minority of the human race is drawn to power. The rest are at a disadvantage because not only have they little interest in power as an end in itself, they don’t really comprehend this motive. But if we are on God’s side we are on the right side, and He will see us through this in His own way, and in His own time. This He promises, even if we are in for a rough ride in the meantime. And it is very possible that we are in for a rough ride. Even if we are approaching the End Times, as I hypothesized in an earlier article, there is no guarantee that we will be supernaturally taken off this world in a rapture-like event. Interpreting Scripture is not mechanical and straightforward. Christians who believe in a forthcoming Rapture may well be wrong. If Christianity is true, however, then the End Times are coming – with or without a Rapture. The New World Order will be built. It is useful to remember that God does not ask Christians to defeat the New World Order. What He asks for, and rewards, is faithfulness to Him, even in the face of death. Read Hebrews 11.
However, if we leave Christianity aside, we have a second ace in the hole. For those educated in Austrian school economics: this is a universe in which political centralization and micromanagement of an economy by the powerful simply doesn’t work. The most the latter can do is employ a variety of machinations and quick-fixes to stave off the inevitable as long as possible. The Federal Reserve, for example, can flood the economy with credit and create a "bubble" of pseudo-prosperity. But eventually, the piper must be paid. The fundamental principles: human beings must take action to produce their means of their survival; andwealth cannot be pulled out of thin air. (These are actually the same principle, worded two different ways.) The entire human science of economics follows as a matter of deduction. Read Ludwig Von Mises’ great treatise Human Action.
Now how does this make Empire impossible over the long run? Mises gave the answer, and his student Friedrich A. Hayek expanded the answer still more: human society is too complex. Simple as that. Millions of human beings taking the actions they believe will benefit them – buying, selling, hiring, etc. – this equals theeconomy. The latter is not the sort of entity that can be overseen from some central point. It is an inherently decentralized system, and no human being – indeed, no committee of human beings – can see all of it at once, or anticipate how it is going to develop and change. Even our most inventive science fiction writers have failed at this. Arthur C. Clarke dreamed up HAL for his classic 2001 but never thought of Microsoft. Could anyone have predicted what the World Wide Web was going to do in the 1990s? Economic systems are not like organisms that can regulate their components from a brain and central nervous system. We are talking about a much higher level of complexity here – the complexity that results when self-directed human beings with brains and central nervous systems begin to interact, compete and cooperate.
Empire, then, tries to do the impossible. It imposes taxes, myriad regulations, etc., on acting persons, all to service endeavors those persons might or might not have supported voluntarily. It thereby leaves us with a disincentive to produce. It interferes with the productive process, directing it in ways it would not go on its own. It supports projects that would otherwise die on their own (and in some cases, good riddance). Or it builds up endeavors that would develop rarely if at all in a system of genuine free enterprise for all – such as international megaconglomerates, products of corporate welfare.
Empire, then, is in the long run, futile, and we can know this. Left to its own devices, it will lower the overall standard of living when it begins to run out of quick-fixes and people to sponge off of. A worldwide Empire – call it the New World Order or whatever you want – is a good recipe for worldwide poverty.
So what can we do? Among other things, continue promoting getting this country back to its founding document, the Constitution. This includes reminding the Bushies what all those red states in the infamous map really meant. We put them in charge for four years, and supported men like John Ashcroft who have shown from past words and deeds that many of their ideas are the right ones. But we should hold their feet to the fire. If Bush Jr. sells us out, his will be a one-term presidency just like his old man’s was.
And if President Hillary is the only alternative, the time will have come to talk seriously about repeating Thomas Jefferson’s brave act of 1776, and telling the Washington Empire bye-bye.
February 3, 2001