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Anders Mikkelsen firstname.lastname@example.org 5/21/2009
Introduction What is the State? Gary Wills’ objective The Context of the Constition Wills' Uses of Government Shay’s Rebellion Nullification Calhoun Gun Control and Militia Nock Mencken Socialized Health Care Conclusion
Gary Wills’ book A Necessary Evil talks about the long running theme in American Society of distrust of government and why this is a bad thing. He seeks to void the ‘myth’ that increases in ‘government’ decrease liberty. Instead it is a necessary good, and not something to be limited and hampered. As we shall see he fails to effectively deal with his opponents strong arguments. Nor does he adequately define and deal with what ‘government’ is today, i.e. it is The State. He is an excellent writer and makes some good and important points that most people don’t know and I don’t disagree with. 1. Constitution was about creating a stronger central state. 2. Congress is supposed to be the most powerful branch. 3. There is a big thread in American history of a powerful state for the betterment of society. [This may be an interpolation.] 4. Many people who are for a smaller state are hypocritical and should admit that they just want the state controlled by them or enforcing their policies. Most people probably do know this point of Gary Wills - Socialized health care, ‘social justice,’ socialism, social democracy can not be achieved without the state or government as he calls it. (There is a section later on what socialized health care can achieve, and whether it really meets the stated objective of helping people.)
I believe it a well written statement promoting government and state intervention in society. He thinks we should embrace the state and figure out how to best use it. It is likely that his arguments sway many readers who are unfamiliar with The State and the arguments for and against it. However his work fails to effectively deal with the nature of the state and the arguments about the limits of positive state intervention, as well as those arguments against its very nature. There are two primary points he seems to ignore. Rules and Principles are limits. Some rules exist, e.g. Slavery is wrong. State sovereignty is limited by reality, e.g. 2 + 2 = 4, and the state can’t change that. Therefore government actions must be limited, because attempts to pass those limits will result in disaster. Instead of defining realistic limits, Wills primarily focuses on Americans distrust of government. Wills would presumably be familiar with thoughts and sentiments similar to the following, but they don’t appear to have affected his core argument. “…government “discretion” unencumbered by principled limits run straight against the grain of the liberal doctrine.” (Ralph Raico http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_13_02_1_raico.pdf p. 7.) [Krauthammer] insists that there were four different Bush Doctrines, he actually proves that there is only one: [George W.] Bush is completely above the law -period, whichever way you cut it. first, international law; then, the moral law; then, constitutional law; and last, "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" of Jefferson's Declaration. ( Christopher Manion http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/2008_09_13.html ) As political scientists have documented, one hallmark of tin-pot tyrannies is the belief that political leaders should be liberated from the constraints of law as long as that helps to achieve good results. That's the defining mentality of those who crave benevolent tyrants -- our Leaders have so many Good and Important Things to do for us that they can't be distracted and weighed down by abstract luxuries like upholding the rule of law. That's now clearly the prevailing consensus of our political establishment. (Glen Greenwald – http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/11/13/partisanship/index.html ) Like many people he constantly conflates ‘The State’ with society and rules, law, justice, and government in the sense of just rules governing social interaction. While Wills points out the benefits of society, the primary arguments against the state are that it impedes
social cooperation. Wills ignores these arguments, argument which were in the writings of the very people his book discusses. It could perhaps be argued that these arguments weren’t clearly stated enough for Wills to notice them, and they are much more clearly stated in similar arguments by English and other European Classical Liberals, Radicals, and Liberal Anarchists, but Wills is completely unfamiliar with them so he didn’t understand the implications of the Americans’ writings. The strong arguments against The State point out that The State basically by definition is not society and violates any comprehensible definition of law and justice. It must commit evil which is why it is considered a necessary evil. As George Washington said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” While Wills is familiar with the results of these arguments, seen in the writings he discusses in his book, I believe he ignores the underlying arguments about principles and the nature of the state.
What is the State?
Before continuing it is probably best to examine what The State is. In the popular mind and in rhetoric, speeches, etc. it is often conflated with society and the nation. As effective as this is for legitimizing the state, it doesn’t make it true. As any Political Science class will tell you the state is as Max Weber said – an organization that has a monopoly over the legitimization of the use of force in a given territory. There are several key points about what the state is. 1. It is a corporation. That is to say that it is an abstract body or legal entity whose members derive their power from their position but do not possess it. (With the king and feudalism powers are inherited and inherent in the person, a property if not property.) 2. As a corporation it is separate from society. It is also separate from the military. (In feudalism everyone in power is basically society and the military. Similarly the Greek Polis and the Roman Republic may look like states, but are effectively the assembled people, i.e. society, the free adult males who fight.) 3. It often ostensibly serves and is subordinate to the king, feudal ruler, owners, nation, people, public, party, or other rulers. 4. It claims it is Sovereign, answering to no higher authority, e.g. Emperor, God, The Church, Natural Law or other Law, international opinion, more powerful states, or common decency. 5. Being Sovereign, it claims to decide what use of force is legitimate. This includes deciding the legitimacy of the actions of state officials, the military, and members of society. 6. It claims it alone has the right to tax. 7. It claims it alone can make war. 8. It is a relatively recent and Western concept and not one found in practically all societies at all times. 9. There being other forms of Government in other times, The State is clearly not necessary for government or law.
None of these should be seen as controversial or arguments against the state, but accepted statements of fact familiar to anyone with a background in Political Science or Western History. A possible exception is the case of totalitarian states, where one could say that the concept of a society or a nation separate from the state and party is eliminated. Wills of course says he is a supporter of society. There are several logical implications of the above points. 1. The state uses force to achieve it objectives. 2. The state creates at least two classes of people, state officials and everyone else. State officials can take actions like taxation or war that would be considered illegal if undertaken by non-officials. 3. The state is the judge in all disputes involving itself. There is no third party. Gary Wills book needs to deal honestly with the following ideas – I, Gary Wills, think it is proper to use force to achieve my objectives of X, Y, and Z. I, Gary Wills, think it is proper that some people have rights or privileges to conduct actions X, Y, and Z, which would be considered criminal if performed by others. Not all rights are equal. I, Gary Wills, think it is proper that a group of people A may be the sole judge their disputes with others, but group of people B may not. In fact group B will be judged by group A. It is unclear how he can avoid denying the following principles. Non-Aggression. Equal Rights He would also be asserting that when disputes are resolved unilaterally by one of the concerned parties, if that party is the state, then the concerned party’s resolution is never wrong. No does he propose how the state will only engage in limited exceptions to the above principles. Today most people agree that slavery is wrong regardless of whether the state says it is ok. If it is wrong, people should not participate in or support it, including state officials and the state. We therefore believe that the state can not make right what is wrong. This also implies that what applies to citizens applies to the state. Unless Wills is arguing that might makes right and the state can do whatever it can get away with, Wills has to make a principled argument for the state. As quoted earlier “…government “discretion” unencumbered by principled limits run straight against the grain of the liberal doctrine.” (Ralph Raico http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_13_02_1_raico.pdf p. 7.) LEGAL BEDROCK
THE RULE of law can be defined as a system in which the laws are public knowledge, are clear in meaning, and apply equally to everyone. They enshrine and uphold the political and civil liberties that have gained status as universal human rights over the last half-century. . . . Perhaps most important, the government is embedded in a comprehensive legal framework, its officials accept that the law will be applied to their own conduct, and the government seeks to be law-abiding. (Thomas Caruthers writing in Foreign Affairs march/april 1998. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19980301faessay1377/thomas-carothers/the-ruleof-law-revival.html Quoted by Glenn Greenwald. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/10/14/rule_of_law/) The strong argument against The State, says that being a state official does not absolve one of having to follow standards of right and wrong, morality, ethics, law, justice, etc. not to mention common decency. The State’s officials must follow the same rules of justice and right and wrong as everyone else. They can not engage in actions which would be considered wrong in ordinary society. If The State did follow the rules as everyone else, it would cease to be a State, but more like a non-profit, church, institution, or business. Given that Gary Wills presumably believes in peace, equal rights, and justice and civil liberties, he needs to explain how the state is limited from committing unnecessary evil and how it is a necessary evil. Yet this idea of limitation, of being afraid of government, of viewing it as an evil, is precisely what his book objects to.
Gary Wills’ objective
He seeks to void the ‘myth’ that increases in ‘government’ decrease liberty. He quotes the Brandeis saying that the separation of powers exists “not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power.” Wills disagrees with this. He explains that his book is about historical and constitutional arguments. Historical and constitutional arguments will show that the constitution was about a stronger state relative to what came before. He does not show how the state can be justified with reason or law. We saw above some but not all examples of the logical implications believing in the state. I do not believe he adequately deals with them. I did not see any evidence he deals with this Brandeis quote. "In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." - Justice Louis Brandeis (quoted by Paul Craig Roberts.
http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts259.html ) It is of course possible he’s never contemplated the logical implications of his belief system. He claims to be looking at history. So let us also look at history and the Constitution. We can see he has missed some key points and arguments from the history he studied to write his book. One of the biggest issues is that it seems pretty clear in his own introduction that people at the time of the Constitution wanted a very limited state, and the Federalist Papers were designed to assuage those fears. In order to assure passage of the Constitution it had be a document of limited government. He correctly claims that it was definitely a less limited and stronger government than what came before. Unless he thinks that people should have been tricked in to a strong state, the people’s voting for what they thought was limited government should blow whatever else he has to say out of the water.
The Context of the Constitution
We have to understand the context within which the constitution was written and the American Revolution conducted. As Voltaire said, the State is a mechanism to move wealth from one set of pockets to another – i.e. from society to the king and state officials. 18th and 19th century liberal theorists viewed the old order of Throne and Altar as exploitative. [The introduction to Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, explains quite well the old order. His essay Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty also explains the move from the conservative Old Order during the American revolution, as well as the continual attempts to use the conservative Old Order means to achieve liberal ends. http://mises.org/story/910 ] As I wrote in my article – “Democracy – the Form of Government Almost Never Tried!” http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/mikkelsen2.html Back in the 18th century, people understood that the state was an organization for the aggrandizement of the rulers, usually the king and his ministers, and certainly not for the benefit of the people. The rulers of course agreed. It was usually clearly ridiculous to say that war was for the people, or that the state should help the people (say by feeding, educating, employing or nursing them). If anything the subjects should help the state. Therefore the people wished to support it as little as possible, and had no illusions that any good would come of the state. When the American and French revolutions came along, people were faced with a choice. Either dismantle the old state system, or take it over. In practically all revolutions the winning choice was to take it over, and a new set of people became the ruling class. Even in America that choice won. In France a plank of the revolution was the right of the middle class to compete for cushy government employment. This new ruling class faced a problem. If the old state system created to serve the ruling class was unjust because it served the ruling class at the
expense of the people, how to justify the new ruling class using the old state system? Wouldn't people assume it was still serving a new set of people at the expense of the rest of the people? The answer was to tell the people that all these evils were for their own good, this was a new state that would serve the people instead of the king or upper class. The doctrine that the people ruled, and that whatever the people ruled was just, served as the perfect way to legitimate any of the state’s actions and in fact contributed greatly to its power. It was also essential to ensure that direct ruling by the people be minimized as much as possible. As Rothbard point out in Conceived in Liberty, in the USA, and other countries, it was argued that the central state or assembly represented all the people as a whole, while the smaller local states and governments were only part of the people and were not therefore truly popular government and the farthest from monarchy. Around the world regional government was suppressed in favor of the post-revolutionary central state's democracy. Movements to abolish monarchy and the old order led to re-establishment of an even more powerful central state that had the full support of the people. As said in the great movie Il Leopardo, for everything to remain the same everything must change. Il Leopardo shows how the ruling class is in danger of losing power. At the end of the story it is re-entrenched, though it loses quite a bit of its charm in the process. In Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, a history of the Colonies through the Revolution, he tells story of the Crown’s attempt to impose state power and the colonist’s resistance. The colonists and Crown were pretty clear on the Crown’s main objectives: Regulate trade and commerce for the benefit of English merchants, not the colonists. Impose state supported religion. Tax the colonists to pay for the enforcement of the laws of England, the most important laws being that colonists will pay taxes and obey commercial regulations. The importance of taxes was itself a circular argument. As the colonists had themselves been following common law, the primary law in need of enforcement was collection of more taxes to pay for the state machinery of tax collection including salaries of state officials. When Andros’ took over rule of New England in the 1680s his own salary exceeded that of the previous Massachusetts’ state budget. Andros enforcement of commercial regulations also crippled the economy – making it harder for New England to pay for increased spending. It is little wonder so many colonists saw increases in state power as harmful. As Wills understands, there were founding fathers who wanted a powerful state like the Crown they had just overthrown. As Rothbard says – To reimpose in the new United States a system of mercantilism and big government similar to that in Great Britain, against which the colonists had rebelled. The object was to have a strong central government, particularly a strong president or king as chief executive, built up by high taxes and heavy public debt.
The strong government was to impose high tariffs to subsidize domestic manufacturers, develop a big navy to open up and subsidize foreign markets for American exports, and launch a massive system of internal public works. In short, the United States was to have a British system without Great Britain. (p. 192) http://mises.org/mysteryofbanking/mysteryofbanking.pdf This is the context of the constitution – the ruling class wants to establish itself. In America the constitutional convention did wish to establish a more powerful state. They saw many good uses of government. However people were fearful that the state would continue to be exploitative, so they sought to limit its power to harm society. The Federalist Papers contained arguments explaining the limitations of state power. The states and the people agreed to a limited government, limited by the constitution.
Wills’ Uses of Government
Wills does attempt to explain why government or The State is useful. He makes the important and true argument that social cooperation is good and that this involves exchange, markets, property etc. So why does this involve the state? He claims it is a myth that the state is the enemy of social cooperation. He says the state is needed to enforce contracts. A third party must apply sanctions (but who applies sanctions against the state and prevents them from violating contracts?) Unfortunately this misses several key points. 1. There are many examples of private / non-state law that cut off cheaters and criminals (users of force and fraud) from society / the market. Law Merchant is a well known example. (See http://mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_2.pdf and http://mises.org/story/2542, both cover law that doesn’t involve state coercion.) Admiralty law and common law were like most good things developed ‘privately’ by the concerned parties and then taken over by the state. (See the section The Law and the Courts http://mises.org/rothbard/newliberty11.asp ) 2. Wills argument is that we need a watchman state that defends against force and fraud. Yet pretty much everyone he cites as anti-government was perfectly happy with a watchman state that simply enforces people’s rights. They saw it as a necessary evil. 3. Who will watch the watchmen? The state applies sanctions, but in cases involving the state, the state is the third party enforcing the rules and applying sanctions. 4. The state presumes the violation of rights, contract etc. It can forcibly take your property, void contracts, etc. If you resist its commands it can forcibly take your person. 5. Mutually beneficial exchange is the best deal that both parties can come up with at the time. State intervention means that at least one party will be negatively affected, since by definition this is the best deal they could come up with. Obviously it may not objectively be the best deal, but in so far as both parties agree to the exchange it is objectively and subjectively better than one where at least one party does not wish to participate.
Given they way the state can impede social co-operation, he should be expected to explain the state’s limits. He also correctly mentions that the good of society also involves the interaction of individuals through speech, art, writing etc. Again, why does this involve the state? Given the long history of state suppression of philosophers, artists, this seems a bit silly. Mencken’s writing is full of defenses of free thinkers attacked by the state. If the state is prevented from persecuting people, engaging in inquisitions, censoring, etc it is by definition limited. He points out the rules are good. Again, why does this involve the state? What rules limit the state? The strong argument against the state, or merely an argument in favor of limits, is precisely that rules are good. Rules are limits. As Madison stated in the Federalist Papers It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be ... so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. (Quoted by James Bovard - http://www.lewrockwell.com/bovard/bovard59.html) The state impedes social co-operation through taxation, and intervention at home and abroad. The state can be seen as an extension of war with an admixture of other means, plundering and conquering its territory. Some of the most important arguments against the state want to limit it so it does not impede social co-operation. It is the state’s own lack of rules, and rules are naturally limiting, which cause the social chaos. People see in republics and constitutions a solid foundation of what is right and wrong; some things cannot be decided or changed. There is a common and I would say true evil in both democracy and so-called democracy – that right and wrong can change. (I agree our conceptions or our understanding of right and wrong can change, but right is right just as 2 + 2 = 4 even if it is hard for people in any particular society to understand that truth.) Railing against democracy does not get to the root of the problem, which is the incoherent or evil rules that people are expected to follow. The state system is inherently contradictory, as what is wrong for ordinary citizens is right for state officials. As Mises' works show, what made the countries of Europe such a mess was not the ethnic composition of their society or the forms of government, but to what degree that state was allowed to interfere with society. The more interference, the worse the results. A king, democracy, dictator, lord, republic, bureaucracy, colonial or communist regime that does not interfere in society is usually a quite pleasant place to live, one that does interfere is invariably unpleasant. As Hoppe points out, in our so-called democratic regimes not only do the rulers have every incentive to interfere in society while they still have power, but the people are more likely to permit them! When more people realize that majority rule does not legitimize everything and
that they do not in fact rule, we will be farther along the road to a world without rulers. “Democracy – the Form of Government Almost Never Tried!” http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/mikkelsen2.html I think his real complaint is that without the state we won’t get social democracy, socialized health care, social justice. He doesn’t argue this directly, but he does complain repeatedly about the lack of social justice if we limit the state. He wants a Santa Claus State, where all the nice people get lots of good things. "The State is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." -Frederic Bastiat As much as the constitution was about increasing state power, Tugwell, one of the architects of the New Deal, was well aware that the New Deal was against the constitutional concept of limits. The Constitution was a negative document, meant mostly to protect citizens from their government.... Above all, men were to be free to do as they liked, and since the government was likely to intervene and because prosperity was to be found in the free management of their affairs, a constitution was needed to prevent such intervention.... The laws would maintain order, but would not touch the individual who behaved reasonably. To the extent that these new social virtues developed [in the New Deal], they were tortured interpretations of a document intended to prevent them. The government did accept responsibility for individuals’ well-being, and it did interfere to make secure. But it really had to be admitted that it was done irregularly and according to doctrines the framers would have rejected. Organization for these purposes was very inefficient because they were not acknowledged intentions. Much of the lagging and reluctance was owed to constantly reiterated intention that what was being done was in pursuit of the aims embodied in the Constitution of 1787, when obviously it was done in contravention of them. quoted by http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0508d.asp from Tugwell’s “Rewriting the Constitution,” published in the March 1968 issue of The Center Magazine: In the following sections we’ll examine some of the historical incidents and personages Wills discusses.
Wills uses Shays rebellion as his first example of the evils of anti-government thinking. In American history this incident was interpreted as some sort of communist uprising, as
opposed to a revolt against real oppressions. It provoked George Washington to come out of retirement and to support a central government. It was portrayed at the time as a revolt by people who didn’t want to pay their debts. In fact it was people who didn’t want to pay a high tax burden. The book Shays' Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0812236696/lewrockwell/ supports that view, and it is discussed here by Gary North. http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north247.html At the end of the revolution Massachusetts, unlike the other states, decided to pay its war debts in full and in silver (hard currency.) This resulted in imposing a poll tax (a per person tax regardless of ability to pay) and high property taxes. As it turned out much of the debt was owned not by veterans, but merchants who’d bought it on the cheap. John Hancock had not imposed high taxes, but troubled by gout he didn’t want to be Governor in 1785 and the man selected supported enforcing tax collection. This led to the rebellion, which was portrayed as dangerous enough to require a stronger central government. “Baron von Steuben, who had served under Washington, identified the problem in an article signed "Belisarius." Massachusetts had 92,000 militiamen on its rolls. Why did the state need military support from Congress? He provided the correct answer: the government was not representative of the opinions of the people.” http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north247.html The revolt was in fact put down by an army paid for, not by the legislature, but by wealthy citizens. Shay’s rebellion was portrayed in letters to other Americans as a revolt by people who didn’t believe in debt repayment, hard money, and property. Knox wrote to Washington that. The machine works inversely to the public good in all its parts; not only is State against State, and all against the federal head, but the States within themselves possess the name only without having the essential concomitant of government, the power of preserving the peace, the protection of the liberty and property of the citizens…. On the very first impression of faction and licentiousness, the fine theoretic government of Massachusetts has given way, and its laws [are] trampled underfoot. Men at a distance, who have admired our systems of government unfounded in nature, are apt to accuse the rulers, and say that taxes have been assessed too high and collected too rigidly. This is a deception equal to any that has been hitherto entertained. That taxes may be the ostensible cause is true, but that they are the true cause is as far remote from truth as light is from darkness. The people who are the insurgents have never paid any or buy very little taxes.
But they see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own property compared with the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former…. The creed is, that the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all; and he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equality and justice, and ought to be swept from the face of the earth. In a word, they are determined to annihilate all debts public and private, and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by means of unfunded paper money, which shall be a tender in all cases whatever. The numbers of these people may amount, in Massachusetts, to one-fifth part of several populous counties; and to them may be added the people of similar sentiments from the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, so as to constitute a body of twelve or fifteen thousand desperate and unprincipled men. They are chiefly of the young and active part of the community, more easily collected than kept together afterward. But they will probably commit overt acts of treason, which will compel them to embody for their own safety. Once embodied, they will be constrained to submit to discipline for the same reason… http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north247.html These is no evidence that the accusations that the rebellion was a form of communist revolt are true. The leaders were in fact the solid citizens of western Massachusetts. What had in fact happened is that people paid with worthless paper had sold it, and now the people were expected to pay off the previously worthless paper with hard money collected via taxes. Having proceeded to this length, for which they are now ripe, we shall have a formidable rebellion against reason, the principle of all government, and against the very name of liberty. This dreadful situation, for which our government have made no adequate provision, has alarmed every man of principle and property in New England. They start as from a dream, and ask what can have been the cause of our delusion? What is to give us security against the violence of lawless men? Our government must be braced, changed, or altered to secure our lives and property. We imagined that the mildness of our government and the wishes of the people were so correspondent that we were not as other nations, requiring brutal force to support the laws… But we find that we are men, – actual men, possessing all the turbulent passions belonging to that animal, and that we must have a government proper and adequate for him…. The people of Massachusetts, for instance, are far more advanced in this doctrine, and the men of property and the men of station and principle there are determined to endeavor to establish and protect them in their lawful pursuits; and, what will be efficient in all cases of internal commotions or foreign invasions,
they mean that liberty shall form the basis, – liberty resulting from an equal and firm administration of law. They wish for a general government of unity, as they see that the local legislatures must naturally and necessarily tend to the general government. We have arrived at that point of time in which we are forced to see our own humiliation, as a nation, and that a progression in this line cannot be productive of happiness, private or public. Something is wanting, and something must be done, or we shall be involved in all the horror of failure, and civil war without a prospect of its termination. Every friend to the liberty of his country is bound to reflect, and step forward to the dreadful consequences which shall result from a government of events. Unless this is done, we shall be liable to be ruled by an arbitrary and capricious armed tyranny, whose word and will must be law… http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north247.html Knox’s successful letter to Washington to gain support for a more powerful central government was couched in terms of liberty, property, limited government and preventing tyranny by unlimited government fanatics.
One of the bases of nullification can be seen in Jefferson’s quote – As Jefferson wrote on November 10, 1798: "Resolved, that the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that Government certain definite powers, reserving each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self Government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force . . ." http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo148.html One of the other bases was the American Revolution itself which established the right of secession and nullification of imposed laws. The American Colonies were founded by seceding from the British Empire and nullifying its laws. Wills feels that Jefferson was being overly paranoid about the Alien and Sedition acts and shouldn’t have supported nullification followed by secession. He says Jefferson was concerned that Hamilton supported monarchy. He fails to mention that Hamilton did support monarchy. Hamilton wanted an executive for life with special powers. Monarchy also meant not just a king, who might have limited powers. The word monarchy means one ruler as opposed to rule by the people or an oligarchy. Any kind of centralized executive or state bureaucracy unanswerable to the people or the ruling class was monarchy and considered tyrannical. This was exactly the kind of executive Hamilton wanted.
It should be noted as well that the fights over slavery and the tariff were causes of the civil war. The federal government was used to support slavery and force non-slave states to respect slavery. Without this support, it would have been easier for slaves to escape. Similarly the tariff was used to support northern and corporate welfare interests, and it depended on Federal enforcement. Lincoln in 1861 was more than happy to see the constitution amended to make slavery permanent, so long as the tariff taxes continued to be collected. Nullification worked to counteract the two big issues that tore the US apart – slavery and the tariff. Fearful of one side taking control and imposing itself everywhere, the country split.
There doesn’t appear to be any passages addressing Calhoun’s important point that The State creates two classes of citizen’s – the tax payer and the tax eater. The tax payers are forced to support the tax eaters. The tariff raised most its revenue from the South. This revenue was then used for national projects, many obviously of questionable real benefit to anyone except those lobbying for them. Few, comparatively, as they are, the agents and employees of the government constitute that portion of the community who are the exclusive recipients of the proceeds of the taxes. Whatever amount is taken from the community, in the form of taxes, if not lost, goes to them in the shape of expenditures or disbursements. The two — disbursement and taxation — constitute the fiscal action of the government. They are correlatives. What the one takes from the community, under the name of taxes, is transferred to the portion of the community who are the recipients, under that of disbursements. But, as the recipients constitute only a portion of the community, it follows, taking the two parts of the fiscal process together, that its action must be unequal between the payers of the taxes and the recipients of their proceeds. Nor can it be otherwise, unless what is collected from each individual in the shape of taxes, shall be returned to him, in that of disbursements; which would make the process nugatory and absurd. Taxation may, indeed, be made equal, regarded separately from disbursement. Even this is no easy task; but the two united cannot possibly be made equal. Such being the case, it must necessarily follow, that some one portion of the community must pay in taxes more than it receives back in disbursements; while another receives in disbursements more than it pays in taxes. It is, then, manifest, taking the whole process together, that taxes must be, in effect, bounties to that portion of the community which receives more in disbursements than it pays in taxes; while, to the other which pays in taxes more than it receives in disbursements, they are taxes in reality — burthens, instead of bounties. This consequence is unavoidable. It results from the nature of the process, be the taxes ever so equally laid, and the disbursements ever so fairly made, in reference to the public service.
The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-consumers. John C. Calhoun - A Disquisition on Government http://www.constitution.org/jcc/disq_gov.htm Given that he saw the clearly exploitative nature of the tariffs and taxes it is not surprising that Calhoun supported the right of South Carolina to nullify them. "Protection against what? Against violence, oppression, or fraud? If so, Government is bound to afford it. . . . It is the object for which Government is instituted." But Calhoun saw through the protectionist charade. "No; it [the protectionist tariff bill] is against neither violence, oppression, nor fraud. . . . Against what, then, is protection asked? It is against low prices" (TEC, p. 196). The proponents of tariff protection would never advocate having the government write checks to manufacturing interests. "No; that would be rather too open, oppressive, and indefensible." Instead, they disguise the special-interest subsidy as "protection," which is nothing but "tribute, levy, exaction, monopoly, plunder . . ." (TEC, p. 197). "[I]ncreased demand and prices consequent on the exclusion of the article from abroad, would tempt numerous adventurers to rush into the business, often without experience or capital; and the increased production, in consequence, thrown into the market, would greatly accelerate the period of renewed distress . . . and demand for additional protection." (TEC, p. 202) "Every protective tariff that Congress has ever laid, has disappointed the hopes of its advocates; and has been followed, at short intervals, by a demand for higher duties" (TEC, p. 202). Applying Madison's theme from Federalist #10, where he warns of the political destructiveness of the "violence of faction," Calhoun posed the rhetorical question: "Can anything be imagined more destructive of patriotism, and more productive of faction, selfishness, and violence, or more hostile to all economy and accountability in the administration of the fiscal department of Government" than protectionist tariffs? "that active, vigilant, and well-trained corps, which lives on Government, or expects to live on it; which prospers most when the revenue is the greatest, the treasury the fullest, and the expenditures the most profuse" and which will
faithfully support "whatever system shall extract most from the pockets of the rest of the community, to be emptied into theirs" http://mises.org/article.aspx?Id=996
Gun Control and Militia
It is ironic that Wills relies on the infamous plagiarist Emory University Professor Michael A. Bellesiles. This was torn apart by a variety of historians and the Professor resigned. See Stromberg’s Bellesiles vs. History http://mises.org/article.aspx?control=518. Logically it isn’t clear how the revolutionary war was won in the first place given the supposedly ineffectual nature of the militia and the lack of weapons. The war was started by the militia fighting, at Lexington and Concord, the British force sent to seize the colonists’ arms. He also seems to ignore the loss of an entire British force of 10,000 during the Saratoga campaign. The root of the loss was the constant harassment of the expedition and the gathering of volunteers and militia to surround and defeat the isolated British. Throughout the war the British found themselves unable to impose themselves at any one point without the permanent stationing of troops. What was so striking was the ineffectual nature of the regular British army to impose its rule in the face of broad opposition. As Stromberg says – The militia had proved "inept" and "incapable" of doing whatever it was they were supposed to do – an interesting political question left hanging in the wind, as it has no immediate bearing on the evils of guns and the fecklessness of the American colonists. A clue: the militia was no good for conquering Canada, from 1758 to the War of 1812. Lucky Canadians. That militias were not ideal for empire-building might be in their favor. Bellesiles vs. History - http://mises.org/article.aspx?control=518.
I don’t believe he confronts Nock’s main argument - The state rests on coercion. It is the political means of gaining wealth through force. It takes from voluntary production and trade, the fruits of society and cooperation. It produces nothing. While Nock didn’t believe the state is necessary, it was in fact a parasite, given that it is consuming resources it must be kept in some sort of bounds regardless of one’s views of its necessity to society.
He quite rightly recognizes that Mencken in addition to having a gift with words that made him very funny and probably the best American stylist of all time, was in fact completely serious in his attacks. Mencken lived through WWI and the red scares and saw what happened when the state was not limited. Today Wills lives in an America where Americans and Foreigners alike are imprisoned without trial or even particularly good reasons, so he may more appreciate Mencken’s concerns. Mencken also supported the rights of free thinkers and morons alike to their opinions as long as they did not force them upon others. H. L. Mencken said in 1940 politicians “will all promise every man, woman and child in the country whatever he, she or it wants. They’ll all be roving the land looking for chances to make the rich poor, to remedy the irremediable, to succor the unsuccorable, to unscramble the unscrambleable, to dephlogisticate the undephlogisticable,” because they understand that “votes are collared under democracy, not by talking sense but by talking nonsense.” Given the incentives in place, it is no surprise he believed the more limits on the state better.
Socialized Health Care
The scholars in the Austrian school, especially Von Mises, Rothbard, and Hayek have consistently shown that socialist policies can not meet their stated objectives to make people wealthier and able to obtain more good and services. Since state intervention in society can not meet its stated objectives, the state can either admit failure and abandon its policies or blame society and intervene further in an attempt to ‘fix’ the problem. This intervention too will not meet its stated objectives, but the whole process will increase state power if the people believe the state is doing something about the problem. Eventually of course the state will admit failure, as happened when the Soviet Union began to collapse, communist China changed its economic policies, or the US left Vietnam. Many of the problems the state tries to fix are the result of some earlier state intervention, the other problems are usually inherent in the nature of things and along the lines of not being able to have our cake and eat it too. The following is an attempt to list the logical implications of socialized health care. The state will provide health care to everyone who needs it. The State will take resources from society and allocate them to provide health care to everyone. The following examples allow that people may still be allowed to purchase health care. The resources available are limited to a maximum 100% of society’s wealth. These resources will then be allocated back to society. The state must figure out how to allocate the limited resources to create the greatest quantity of health care. It is therefore constrained by economic law.
People will be given benefits they’re either unwilling or unable to pay for. (Otherwise there would be no additional benefits and therefore no point.) It they’re unwilling to pay, they must not value the benefits as much as those they will pay for. If they’re unable to pay someone else must. The people taxed will have less money to pay for the benefits they value. If people are unable to pay (being poor or overly taxed) someone else must pay, who will then have less money to pay for the benefits they value. People will consume those benefits offered for free. This increases the demand for health care without increasing the resources available. It also shifts people and resources who are providing health care to paying customers who are patients, to providing health care to the new paying customer the state. This can drive up the price of health care that people pay for, as the paying customers must now bid against the state for health care. This makes it more expensive for everyone to buy the services they desire. This may make the state contemplate making private purchase of health care illegal, thereby decreasing demand for and cost of health care services it purchases. The state will have to allocate resources to meet demand for health services. However people, who don’t have to pay, can demand more health services than there are resources to provide. People will be seen as a drain on state resources. By contrast a paying customer increases the resources of a health care organization. The state will have to create a standard of some sort to allocate limited resources to meet demand. At a certain point people won’t get everything that they want, there will not be enough resources available. This will leave many people still dissatisfied, and with less resources to purchase the services they want. (Assuming they’re allowed to purchase health care at all.) One method of limiting demand is lines. People will not be able to get care when they want it. They’ll have to wait. Obviously health care is not a right if you have to wait for it or depend on someone else to provide it. The old standard to allocate resources was that people could buy health care or get it as charity. What standard will the state use? It wishes to give people health care they can’t or won’t buy. By definition all people requesting health care are a drain on state resources. Which drains are more worthy than others? If the state only gives the least expensive care, how does this help the people who can’t afford the level of care they want? If it gives expensive care, it takes resources away from other people who don’t require expensive treatment. It should be clear that in this case health care can not be a right, as you don’t get the care that you want when you want it. Instead you get the care the state allocates to you. If you have to wait it isn’t a right. http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=85fbdcb6-7bb4-4ea1-8eaf0fe457e6dcf2
(On Canadian medical system wait times which are measured in weeks.) In addition you may not have the right to purchase health care at all. So now if you could have afforded health care, you’re worse off as you have to wait and you can’t purchase care. Logically therefore socialized medicine can help shift resources to health care. But it can not increase the quantity of health care people are able to pay for. Nor can it nonarbitrarily decrease the demand for the free health care it provides. It therefore has no standard by which to allocate and ration health care. It is therefore unable to improve up charity and purchase as ways of allocating health care. If Wills goals are to lessen the amount of health care the well off can purchase he may well succeed. However he may also make it harder for everyone to purchase the health care they want. Many resources will be diverted away from health care for charity cases and paying customers to health care provided free by the state. However much of the states health care will be services no one was willing or able to pay for in the first place. They are therefore comparatively wasteful. Instead of people getting what they were willing and able to pay for, people get services that they didn’t value enough to pay for, or that were too expensive to provide to everyone. The state has no way to allocate resources that does a better job, therefore if Wills objective is to help people he will fail.
Books like Gary Wills’ are important because they help provide ideological cover for The State. Wills book was written at the end of the Clinton administration, and the 1990s were full of right wing anti-government rhetoric. Michael Potemra, deputy managing editor of National Review explained in 2000 why it was important to not blame the government for the deaths of women and children Waco: We’re about to have a national election to transfer power to a new administration.... To be effective in doing the work of government, that new administration will need to count on a public sense of its legitimacy. It’s important, therefore, that we not encourage the fantasies of those who want to believe the worst about our American institutions. (Quoted by http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/dreadgop.html) If American’s are taught to not distrust government they won’t question why The State is: Spying on Americans, bribing and bombing other countries, bailing out businesses, in wars, arresting people with out trial, deporting people, torturing, running concentration camps, prosecuting people for victimless crimes, raising taxes, running up massive debts, imprisoning so many people, spending so much, ramming evolution or faith based state charity down people’s throats, fighting a war on drugs, providing sub-standard infrastructure, forcing children to attend schools that don’t educate, and why there is a nearly endless list of things the State either subsidizes or bans.
Instead they’ll not ask questions because we have to trust that the government is doing the right thing; even when it is clearly doing something Americans think is wrong. Gary Wills is correct that many Americans want a strong state that will impose the policies they want. Gary Wills is the same way. Gary Wills should realize that not he is not likely to get the kind of policies he wants but rather the policies he doesn’t. If he does get the policies he wants, then he’ll get the socialist policies he does want ‘good and hard’ and they won’t help people any more than International Socialism helped Russia and China and National Socialism help Germany. It should be little wonder many Americans distrust government and they want it limited – in the 20th century they’ve seen what the unlimited State can do. I miss the serenity of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St. Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things. Joseph Sobran - http://www.sobran.com/reluctant.shtml
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