CXXXVIII – The Death of the American State

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

This
is the way the world will end;
Not
with a bang, but a whimper.
~
T.S. Eliot

The
impending death of the Bush empire has
been the subject of some recent thoughtful
articles. Such a prognosis seems well-founded,
but greatly understates the broader
implications of our current situation.
It is the American political system,
itself, that appears to be in a terminal
state. Intelligent minds need to focus
on the question: if this government
collapses, what will be the nature of
the social systems that replace it?
Will the state, itself, survive and,
if so, will it be in the same constitutional
form as the present system?

Had
the American state initially become
a monarchy — as many thought and hoped
it might – Americans might have
become as conditioned to accept the
autocratic power of a ruler as they
have to believe in the illusion of a
democratically-controlled state. George
W. Bush might then have been accepted,
in the popular mind, as the continuation
of the u201Cfine traditionu201D going back to
England's George III, or even Henry
VIII.

But
America embarked on a different rationale
for governmental power, derived from
the liberal sentiments of individual
liberty, as expressed in the Declaration
of Independence. Political authority
was no longer to be justified in terms
of the u201Cdivine rightsu201D of rulers, but
only as an expression of a mythical
u201Csocial contractu201D supposedly entered
into by millions of free persons. Thus
was a written constitution crafted as
the expression of this alleged u201Ccontractu201D
between the state and its citizenry.
Governmental power was to be limited,
and the protection of individual liberty
paramount, as the stated purpose of
this constitutional republic.

Such
intentions were never taken seriously
by most men and women with ambitions
over their neighbors, as was evident
from the start and continues today.
State power has been in the ascendancy,
and individual liberty in decline, for
many decades. It is erroneous for anyone
to blame George W. Bush for this collapse
of the constitutional model: he only
represents the most recent and dramatic
extension of long-unquestioned statist
premises. Those who were shocked when
Bush declared the Constitution u201Can old
scrap of paper,u201D are unaware that he
was echoing the sentiments of the Assistant
Secretary of War, John McCloy, who defended
the World War II power of President
Roosevelt to imprison Japanese-Americans.
u201CThe Constitution is just a scrap of
paper to me,u201D McCloy declared. Unfortunately,
there was no Internet around in the
1940s to make the public aware of the
attitudes of their rulers!

If
one were to judge the success of the
American constitutional state in limiting
state power by the same standards we
would apply to a medical procedure,
or the success of a business enterprise,
we would readily admit to its total
failure. The American state has evolved
into a thriving contradiction of the
announced expectations of a constitutional
republic. Washington, D.C., has been
a combination slave-market, fencing
operation for stolen property, and street-corner
gang long before the current gang of
racketeers took over.

The
politically-ambitious want the rest
of us to never wake up, but to cling
to the remnants of a hazy dream that
monopolistic power can somehow be restrained.
You will soon hear them chanting their
mantra of the need for political u201Cchangeu201D
in America. The Democrats will replace
the Republicans and the dream restored.
What childish nonsense, particularly
when decades of such supposed u201Cchangeu201D
has brought about no more reform than
what was implicit in Frank Chodorov's
characterization of those u201Cwho want
to clean up the whorehouse, but keep
the business intact.u201D Political u201Cchange,u201D
within the confines of the existing
system, has never amounted to anything
more than bringing in a relief pitcher
from the bullpen in an effort to save
the game for the home team.

The
entire concept of constitutionalism
has failed in its fundamental purpose:
to restrain state power in order to
prevent tyranny from arising. Had more
of us been paying attention, we would
have understood that this failure was
implicit in a system in which government
(a) enjoys a monopoly on the use of
force, and (b) has the authority to
interpret the scope of its constitutional
powers. This fact did not escape the
notice of Lord Macaulay who, on the
eve of the American Civil War, observed
that u201Cyour Constitution is all sail
and no anchor.u201D A similar insight has
been offered more recently by Anthony
de Jasay, who noted that u201Ccollective
choice is never independent of what
significant numbers of individuals wish
it to be.u201D

The
collapse of the foundations of the American
political system has been compounded
by the internal failures of Constitutional
safeguards: the legislative branch,
the judiciary, and the bulk of the American
public, went into a simultaneous, collective
collapse in the face of George Bush's
grasp for what he has repeatedly expressed
as his desire for a u201Cdictatorship…
just so long as I'm the dictator.u201D The
bulk of the major media — long thought
of as an aggressive watchdog
of the state — has become, through incestuous
inbreeding, little more than a whining,
obedient lapdog.

Of
course, there will be those who, weighing
more heavily the rantings of Faux
News babblers over the lessons of
history, will be unable to digest the
idea that the American state might ever
go into an entropic collapse. Like relatives
gathered at the bedside of a terminally-ill
Uncle Willie, they will prefer to comfort
themselves with platitudes that he u201Cwill
be up and around in no time.u201D But any
system that relies on violence, lies,
distrust, and force of arms to hold
itself together, has little future.

There
is a remote chance of the American political
system being able to right itself, albeit
temporarily, and return to some semblance
of integrity long since lost in years
of deception, violence, and deceit inherent
in the state. No political system will
ever be able to overcome its internal
contradictions. But in the short run
— which is the only place politicians
prefer to play their games — the American
state could regain a modicum of credibility
among the American people and the rest
of the world. If Congress were to impeach
President Bush and any other members
of his administration responsible for
conducting the Iraq war and, upon their
removal from office, have such individuals
— along with all advisors — arrested
and turned over to an international
tribunal for prosecution as war criminals,
the modern state might retain a sliver
of a chance to overcome its present
plight. An analogy to Newton's u201Cthird
law of motionu201D might suggest that only
an exaggerated response to an exaggerated
transgression of propriety by the Bush
administration could restore –
at least in the minds of the myopic
— a limited confidence in the system.

Bear
in mind that I do not advocate such
an approach: I am eager to see the state
collapse of its own dead weight, and
prefer no heroic efforts at resuscitation.
I believe it is time for humanity to
abandon the idea that the institutionalized
violence that is the state confers anything
of value to mankind. Neither am I anxious
to confer super-state powers upon international
political bodies. But the course I mention
does have a very slim chance of success.

On
the other hand, I have no illusions
that anyone within the political establishment
will ever suggest such a bold proposal.
With but a few exceptions, members of
Congress are too complicit in the actions
which they would be forced to condemn.
Nor would members of the political establishment
— whose special interests are advanced
through the violence, bloodshed, and
despoliation by state forces — ever
permit any fundamental challenge to
its privileges. Apart from a handful
of courageous souls — such as Ron Paul
or Russ Feingold — there are few members
of this body with sufficient integrity
to propose a course of action simply
on the grounds of moral rightness.

And,
so, the upcoming elections will provide
us with what prior elections offered:
new-and-improved candidates with new-and-improved
messages. But, like the selling of detergents
or corn flakes, the new product will
consist of nothing more than a repackaging
of the old, replete with new commercials.
What remains of the voting public will
be urged — by media parrots and others
— to participate in the collective hallucination
of voting. Those who refuse to join
in this electoral debauchery will be
condemned for u201Callowing terrorism to
succeed,u201D or for disrespecting u201Cthe
sacrifices of the young men and women
who died on the battlefieldu201D to protect
the u201Cfreedomu201D of Americans to participate
in the meaningless ritual of voting.

Two
years from now, the media will be feeding
us a steady diet of the message that
choosing between John McCain and Hillary
Clinton will be a watershed event in
American history; that the outcome of
the 2008 elections will u201Crestore confidenceu201D
in the system, . . . this time for sure!
The question is whether, by that time,
the outcome will really matter.

Next
Chapter
                               Table
of Contents

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare