From William Marina
"Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce";
Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), p. 96.
"America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."
John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, 4th of July Address, 1821
Dear President Carter,
I am writing to you about the recent accusations of possible election fraud in Tuesday's presidential election here in Florida, especially in Palm Beach County where the main campus of my University is located. With all the talk about an investigation, over what were poorly designed ballots to say the least, and with perhaps the closest election in history hinging on our State, who knows how long all of this may take? The Miami Herald reports that a veritable "mob" from both parties, what Mark Twain used to call "the lawyer tribe," will be descending from the North into our State. Frankly, Sir, I prefer you!
My reasons for doing so are several. You are one of the few Americans, perhaps the only one, whose integrity is respected internationally. I know from history books that there used to be other such Americans as, for example, Senator William Borah of Idaho, who championed the Chinese Revolution in the 1920s as well as those in Latin America, and whose speeches were carried on radio around the Hemisphere. While many American politicians continue to talk about him as an "Isolationist" I know you are aware that most of the world understands that he was basically opposed to Interventionism and Empire. You have also opposed such Interventionism and have sought only to help others through building houses for the less fortunate both here and abroad.
Secondly, you are a man of integrity, who while he may have admitted to a bit of lusting, never sought to carry such thoughts into action. Certainly the behavior of what one would expect of a true Southern Gentleman.
Most importantly, you have gone into such places of institutionalized corruption and electoral fraud as Haiti and have monitored the elections there in an effort to curb these practices. You even had the good sense to realize that America might be suffering from a kind of malaise about politics! Who better can understand corruption and fraud than you? I invite you to come to Florida to investigate this whole problem in the larger context of American life.
As a history teacher I have myself read a bit on such practices in Florida and the nation. There seem to be at least two schools of thought on all of this. One is that this rising tide of soft money and other such corruption in something new in American life.
I call this the "Aberrationist" school of American politics. You may recall that as late as the 1950s a number of historians still talked of our venture into Empire, as in the Philippines in 1898, as an Aberration, but after so many Interventions such as Kosovo recently, about which you had doubts, there is such a pattern that the use of that term has become almost laughable. From the standpoint of historical honesty, it at least has the touch of cold realism that several American history textbooks now openly discuss the existence of Empire, and acknowledge that it appears to be with us for the foreseeable future into the 21st century. Some legacy to offer our youth!
I take the view that while corruption has been with us for a long time; indeed, it appears endemic to American politics and as American as apple pie, but I confess that today the sheer size of the pie appears to be growing by leaps and bounds.
Have you ever thought about the notion that there is an integral relationship between the growth of Empire and the massive explosion of political corruption and electoral fraud today? I understand you are quite a reader, so I suppose you are familiar with the journalist H.J. Haskell's, The New Deal in Old Rome: How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal with Modern Problems, written over 60 years ago, and which demonstrates the growth of the welfare state and military imperialism as Rome moved from Republic to Empire. Corruption was rampant, but I find it fascinating that many of welfare agencies and corporations of the New Deal in the 1930s, which several historians have shown was much influenced by Mussolini's corporate Fascist experiments in Italy, didn't even have the imagination to much change their names from their ancient Roman antecedents.
Along with Haskell, you are probably also aware of my old high school chum, Jack Douglas, a sociologist, whose The Myth of the Welfare State, written only 11 years ago, discusses the relationship between welfare, corruption, Imperialism and Empire in a number of civilizations including our own.
What do you think of the view that this kind of corruption and fraud is part and parcel of the whole American essentially two-party system and has been so for the better part of two centuries now? Over 25 years ago Walter Karp took that position in Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America. He argued that the conservative leadership in the two parties, since at least the last century, would get together whenever there was a true insurgent movement in either of them, and if that failed, advocate war. Any economist would identify this as predictable oligopolistic behavior. In Florida a perfect example of this surfaced in 1966 when a quarrel among Democrats resulted in the conservatives helping to elect the Republican Claude Kirk.
Are you familiar with a short essay by former Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, published in the Summer of 1981, in of all places, the conservative journal, Policy Review, entitled, "Is America the World's Colony?" You perhaps remember that before your own presidency and that of Ronald Reagan, opposing the growing centralized bureaucracy that is at the heart of Empire, McCarthy was the hero of American liberals for opposing the War in Vietnam before Bobby Kennedy and a number of other such politicians had the guts to do so. I certainly can recall no other election before or since where the academics at my University and elsewhere were so activist in behalf of a "peace" candidate.
In that piece, he warned how our Imperial involvement was making us into a colony with investment coming in with the soft dollar, and technology flowing out so that the economy was increasingly controlled from without and a lack of control of the monetary system. The prosperity of the last decade ought not to lull us against these long term issues he raised. He saw our Interventionism as weakening us, and raised the question of the long term effects of immigration and refugees, all of which seem forgotten by today's liberals, including, citing Margaret Mead as he did, the dangers of bilingualism on cultural unity. Again, one sees similarities with ancient Rome.
One of the relationships which has fascinated me is the exchange of ideas between cultures. Today, many multiculturalists talk about various cultures as if they were totally discreet entities, when the truth is there has for centuries been a considerable borrowing back and forth. That ought to be celebrated, but it is very different from forced relationships in an Imperial context. It has gotten to the point that every shred of Southern cultural is called racism by the Imperial preachers of diversity.
Thus, we sent thousands of young progressives out to educate the Filipinos and administer the Islands after 1900. There was a kind of arrogance in all of that, what another Southern, Senator J. William Fulbright called The Arrogance of Power, and these Americans returned to push big government and public administration not from an experience of equals but of a master-subject relationship in which a certain corruption was the accepted norm. As the veteran William Howard Taft, having served in the Islands, explained to a young administrator Henry Stimson on the way out there, one must learn to think as a "Pro-Consul." Now, of course, America has such bases and Pro-Consuls all around the planet.
One scholar, Chalmers Johnson, a self-described early "spear carrier for Empire" has recently written a book about this entitled Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire."Blowback" is a Central Intelligence Agency term to describe the inevitable retaliation by others against the actions of the American Empire. If you want to understand why the destroyer Cole was attacked, costing the lives of a number of young Americans, read this book!
But the Filipinos, and others since, also learned from us even early on, especially from the subjugated and occupied South of the 1860s and 70s. Thus, the Katipunan Society, then leading the revolt against Spain identified with the anti-colonialism of the Ku Klux Klan, and not just in terms of the initial "K."
As we have come to accept the notion of Empire and Super-Power Imperialism with all of the corruption and abuse of law which that entails as we enter the 21st century, it is interesting to observe how we, especially the academics and intellectuals, who were also as Caesar's beck and call, have come to justify this state of affairs.
The key word, Jimmy, is "Reluctant." Have you got that, "Reluctant!" Shades of Augustus Caesar!
In other words, we didn't want to get into this Aberration, but we had no real volition, and so we just had to "Reluctantly" come back for more. It was Jacob Gould Schurman, the President of Cornell University and Head of the First Philippine Commission, who in 1900 first referred to Americans as "Reluctant Imperialists," and by Gosh, we've been "Reluctant" with a vengeance ever since.
The link between this foreign social welfarism and the corruption that accompanies it in this "uplifting" "Imperialism has now begun to be applied to the Welfare State at home. Thus, an unsolicited copy of the 4th edition of Bruce S. Jansson's The Reluctant Welfare State; American Social Welfare Policies – Past, Present, and Future (2001) was recently sent to me for possible class adoption as a textbook. Starting with the European background and through 14 chapters to the present, everything about the massive growth of the American Welfare State is explained, again and again, as – you guessed it – "Reluctant.!" One begins to wonder if there was ever an American leader who made a planned and conscious decision about Imperialism, Empire and the growth of the Welfare State. Well, apparently not, "nobody here but us Reluctants!" And, of course, we all know how reluctant Bill Clinton was in his relationships with a number of women. But then, it's that character thing, Stupid.
You know, Jimmy, despite all of the media hoopla about this close election, a number of Americans do share your feelings about a sense of malaise, and are increasingly turned off by the corruption and fraud that characterizes our politics. None of it surprises them. Marx was right!
For the first few times in this "Reluctant" dance one of the partners, the people, saw what was happening and thought it a "tragedy," but in this repeated "whoring" after Empire, most Americans have come to see it as Farce, and want little more to do with it.
As a Southerner you share a unique heritage; your ancestors were abused and occupied by a conquering force. George Orwell perhaps understood Southerners better than we have ourselves. Like him, we have been both Imperialists and Imperialized. Or, as Bill Clinton might put it, "I feel your pain!"
Ralph Nader shares this view about the corruption of the two Parties, but his is simply a different kind of corruption. I cannot forget how in the 1970s his Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS) terrorized the campuses of Florida's State University System with a negative check off system which required a student to give PIRG a cut of his/her registration fees whether they wished to or not. It was to the great credit of the then President of my University, Glen Creech, that he stood up to what was Fascism pure and simple, and abolished that system. I don't really think Nader has changed much from those days!
And so, at every level of our society, the "Monsters" which have been the focus of this "Reluctant " Interventionism which is the essence of Empire, both domestically and in foreign affairs, have has come home to roost. We stand on the verge of global Empire, but as John Quincy Adams foresaw, we are no longer masters of our own souls. I note recently that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has now gone International in quest of Monsters to destroy!
One Southerner, Alexander H. Stephens, the former vice president of the Confederacy saw all of this rather clearly in the aftermath of that first act of Empire, the Civil War, and wrote very cogently in the 1870s about the dangers of Centralization and Empire You are a worthy successor to that tradition.
If not Reform, What?
As we in Florida confront these monumental issues of Empire and corruption, the fundamental issue ironically has come down to the micro level as has so often been the case in history; to some several thousand votes regarding a badly constructed ballot form. All of the politicos and media pundits will now blather on for months, perhaps years, about reform. Never matter that the System has grown more monstrous and more corrupt in the last century of progressive reform.
Empire is a slow cumulative process of corruption. From the first critics in the Roman Republic around 202 B.C. to fall of the Eastern Empire as described Edward Gibbon, was a staggering 1655 years, and reformer after reformer failed in attempts to shape up the System.
That does not mean that some "instruments of expansion" as Carroll Quigley, Bill Clinton's mentor at Georgetown called them, have not several times reversed the process in the West. Many hold that the new technologies will do that, and I hope they are right. But, if so, that will be outside of this corrupt, statist political process.
Some of my Southern friends talk of secession as an answer, and I wish them well in that endeavor. For my part, I would prefer what J.Q Adams called "expanding the sphere," but that is probably properly the subject of a further future email.
In an essay in Reason magazine entitled "Surviving in the Interstices," (June, 1975) I many years ago explored one solution to the problem of Empire for those of us who live perhaps eight creative decades or so, and find that waiting around for the reform equivalent of the Thousand Year Reich, not very appealing. In every System, there are sub-systems, and there are fault lines – Interstices – however infinitesimal, between these. The Christians learned to survive in such a situation, so that by 150 AD they were feeding 1,500 of the destitute at a time when the government was incompetent to collect the garbage. With that kind of success the pagan, civic humanist leaders, no longer into persecution, later sought their help to "restore the Republic." The appeal of simple reform, replacing a corrupt Caesar with one with noble character, explains the tremendous appeal to Americans of a film like "The Gladiator." The Church, of course, was ultimately co-opted into the Empire.
In China, Taoism, Buddhism and secret societies, of course, were all interstitial efforts to deal with the pervasiveness of Empire. One of the things I admire about you, Jimmy, is the way in which without going on too much about the malaise that few Americans want to talk about, you have devoted yourself to such interstitial efforts as helping the less fortunate with housing.
There is, however, one other activity which I highly recommend to those kind of activists who want to confront the Monster, and who find interstitial solutions psychologically unsatisfying, although there is nothing to stop one from being involved in both approaches. I refer to the seldom used, but powerful solution, of "suing the government."
A few days ago we had a brilliant, dedicated speaker on our Campus, Charles Lewis, the director of the Center for Public Integrity. As he recounted all of the Systemic corruption, one could sense even he was becoming a bit dispirited by the relatively miniscule efforts at reform. He even quoted the public policy writer Robert Kaplan about – Heaven forbid! – the growing Anarchy in the Global System.
As I had a chance to discuss with him later, the present situation is as far from Anarchy – the absence of government and especially Statism (building one's value system and worldview around the idea of the State) as one could possibly imagine. Today, the State has become pervasive!
We suffer, not from an absence of Law, but from the Positive Law, Legalism that has always characterized Empires such as China and Rome; where our increasingly Caesarian leaders select from among thousands of laws, those which at any given point in time suit their needs and fancy. Anarchy? Not hardly!
I asked him if he was aware of Yale University Law Professor Peter Schuck's book, Suing Government? Lewis replied that he was not. I have mentioned that approach in the new edition of A History of Florida, and I highly recommend Schuck's book to you, especially should you come down to explore the situation here. Government ought to be held liable for its behavior and decisions which affect the rights of others, just as are individuals and corporations. I would go on further about that approach here, but that is arguably the basis for another email, and I have, I fear, gone on too long in this one.
I do hope, as a fellow Southerner, that you will come on down because I believe more than any other American today, you have shown the integrity to honestly explore various sides of an issue.
With Warm Regards,
William Marina is professor of History at the Fort Lauderdale/Davie campus of Florida Atlantic University, and an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is a "virtual professor" teaching through the Internet and will be teaching such a course on "Freedom and the Evolution of Civilizations" in the Templeton Foundation International Freedom Project at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala next Spring. He can be reached at: http://www.wmarina.com/. Among several books, he is the co-author of the 3rd ed. of A History of Florida (1999), long considered the standard history of the State, He can assure any reader of this piece that a discussion of the "canker wars" will find its way into the 4th edition.