The Florida Fiasco and the Legitimacy Crisis of the Imperial State

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It
was nice to have known America.
It might have been better not to have.

~
Mark Twain, a great American anti-Imperialist

Mao
Tse Tung got it half right! Some power does, indeed, come out of
the barrel of a gun. But real power – in the long run – must be legitimatized
into authority; some reason for citizens in a commonwealth to cooperate
without having the barrel of a gun constantly shoved down their
throats. Although, that is certainly one way to silence someone's
vocal chords.

The
ancient Chinese mandarins understood the importance of Legitimacy
to the whole idea of the State. Thus, when the Ch'in Emperor, Shih
Huang-ti, died in 210 BC after only 11 years in control of the new
Empire, the story is told how his body was tied into a chariot and
paraded around as if he were still alive. When the body began to
stink – as does Empire itself – his loyal minions placed
a cartload of fish behind his chariot and blamed the horrible smell
on those decaying bodies. If the Great Man isn't dead, how could
there be any problems in the Empire? Long Live Caesar!

A
recent conference at Auburn University, October 6-7, 2000, sponsored
by the Mises Institute, focused
around Martin van Creveld's interesting volume, The Rise and Decline
of the State (1999). The Legitimacy question hovered around the
edges of the discussions, and I was as guilty as anyone, perhaps
more so, for not bringing it into greater clarity.

I
certainly agree with Creveld that there are some cracks appearing
today in the facade of the State. But, I disagreed fundamentally
with his view that the idea of the State in the West, the effort
to create a corporate identity that separated the ruler and the
rest of us, was any different from other state systems or empires
of the past, into which he had rather rigidly categorized historical
evolution. It is simply that in each civilization, as one might
expect, the precise nature of this effort at separation took a uniquely
different form.

In
the West, for example, as late as the 17th century, writers
such as Robert Filmer were still using the idea of the mandate of
heaven to suggest that subjects must obey those rulers whom God
had placed over them. The next century, Enlightenment intellectuals
such as Voltaire and Jefferson were captivated by many Chinese ideas
brought back to Europe by the Jesuits. One of these, dating back
to Mencius, some two millennia earlier, was that the Mandate of
Heaven was not absolute. A ruler, through bad behavior and a lack
of virtue, could lose it! Thus, a justification for revolution.

As
I wrote about this for the conference, the day before I left for
Auburn, I went to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for a breakfast
meeting scheduled several days earlier. The place was literally
crawling with police and Secret Service men. President Bill Clinton
had flown in the day before for a Democratic Party fund raiser.
Many will recall that day the Heavens opened, dumping almost 15
inches of rain over Dade County. In the face of that, Clinton's
plane was unable to take-off, and he decided to stay over for a
round of golf at the hotel, one of his favorites.

How
far we have come in the evolution of the American Empire is suggested
by the fact that no one, certainly not the Republicans, had the
temerity to suggest what any good Confucian mandarin would have
instinctively understood. There might be a causal relationship between
the rains and the long-term behaviors of this President, who arrived
at that place in time just as they commenced! He had lost "the
Mandate of Heaven!"

No,
our welfare mentality mind suggested just the opposite; that having
experienced the devastation brought on by the rains, the President
would more quickly declare the place a disaster area, qualifying
for government aid, which, of course, he did. So, we have come 180
degrees since the founding century of the Republic. Such disasters
are not to be equated with misrule, but rather are seen as an opportunity
for government to dispense largesse.

I
mention these differing cultural worldviews because we live in a
society where such multiculturalism and diversity are themselves
literally praised to the heavens. On the other hand, clearly no
one takes these other worldviews very seriously these days. What
we have is multiculturalism without any real content; just enough
to perhaps acculturate new immigrants into voting participation
in the Empire.

At
this point, the reader is probably asking what "Florida Fiasco?"
or was Marina simply alluding to Bill Clinton's golf game. Yes,
we will get to Florida, but in doing so, two points are worth observing.

The
first point is that Empire, even though there are significant flash
points, both in domestic and foreign policies, comes as on cat's
paws, creeping slowly and silently, but inexorably forward. The
second is that cracks in the Legitimacy of the Empire often begin
as seemingly small incidents, hardly worthy of toppling such an
edifice. What it really demonstrates, of course, is that Empires
tend to have feet of clay.

In
writing and speaking about Empire for the greater part of my professional
life, I have frequently been asked two basic questions. What, exactly,
is Empire? and, When did the American Empire begin?

I
have found it difficult to improve upon John Adams' definition given
in 1775, that a Republic is characterized by a rule of law, that
of an Empire by despotism. This does not mean that there are no
laws in the latter, but rather so many, and so confused and often
contradictory, that the rulers choose those which they feel the
need to emphasize at any given point in time. Above all, Empire
is centralization of power, both at home and in continued interventions
abroad, all of which are needed to maintain "stability."

For
my part, I am one of those who believe that Empire did not begin
in 1861, or 1898, or 1918, or 1941, or 1965, to list a number of
wars that greatly extended the scope of our Empire, but rather that
it was inherent in the kind of republic we chose to develop in and
after 1776.

The
economist Jonathan Hughes suggested that the fundamental flaw of
the American Revolution was its failure to base property rights
on allodial claims, rather than vesting ownership in fee simple
with the State, in which the latter simply replaced the king. Thus,
the long-range game was given away at the outset, because individuals
didn't really own property, they rented it, more or less exclusively
but with some ultimate limitations, from the State, through taxes.

Thus,
the early basis for today's neo-feudalism, referred to by the euphemism,
"Growth Management." Jefferson, who thought he had eliminated
feudalism from America, must be rolling over in his grave. Here
again, Florida is a leader. At my University we have a Chair in
Growth Management. In a State that prides itself on "Government
in the Sunshine," the Chair has been funded anonymously. Apparently,
neither the Board of Regents nor the faculty union is bothered by
the possibility that the Chair might be funded by a source or sources
with a vested interest in the politics of Growth Management. If
there is no basis for suspicions of that sort, why should the source
remain anonymous? The more one functions in a university environment,
the more evident it becomes that ethics are taught, rather than
practiced there.

It
is important to understand that like all revolutions, the American
Revolution was a broad coalition of groups across a wide spectrum,
united ultimately only in the decision to separate from Great Britain.

Nabobs
such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, hardly allodialists,
dreamed of speculation in vast western lands as the seat of the
British Empire moved westward. Their spiritual inheritors, Winston
Churchill, partly an American, and later Margaret Thatcher, spoke
always of the "English-speaking peoples," in their own
efforts to revive this long-lost unity.

Early
efforts at Empire can be seen in the leaders’ unwillingness to talk
peace in 1778, unless it included Canada and Florida, and in 1781,
LaFayette's attempt on Washington's orders, to mount another assault
on Canada at a time when it was clear that people wanted no part
of a protestant confederation. This was turned back only because
the militia from the Green Mountains in Vermont, refused to fight
for anything less than "double pay, double rations, and plunder,"
demonstrating thereby, a profound understanding of the imperial
impulse of their centralized, military leadership.

Ah,
well, with the Civil War and all of the interventions of the 20th
century, Empire has come a long way, Baby! Nowhere was this more
clearly illustrated than in a Marine Corps enlistment poster of
the Vietnam era, which proclaimed that "the Pax Romana was
one of the world's great periods of peace and stability." Tell
that to the Christian martyrs, or the Jews who died at Masada.

The
unstated conclusion, of course, was that the Pax Americana could
be an equally great period. Not all American boys have bought that
malarkey, and we should not be surprised that many around the planet,
so long the focuses of our interventionist efforts, have begun to
fight back, often with weapons originally given to them by our "peace
keepers."

This
Spring I'll be teaching 3 courses through the Internet; "Freedom
and the Evolution of Civilizations;" an "Introduction
to American Studies," which focus on three episodes in American
history, the Revolution, the Civil War and the enormous increase
in government in the 20th century; and "The History
of Florida." Many years ago, a student who had had several
courses with me told another student that I basically taught the
same course, whatever the title, to which I replied, "yes,
they are all about Empire." All of which brings us to the "Fiasco
in Florida."

Many
years ago, the political scientist V.O. Key observed that "Florida
is Different." Well, yes and no! Just this year we have had
the Elian Gonzalez Episode, which demonstrated the "blowback"
from Florida's role in the Cold War, and the extent to which federal
forces could once again invade the State in Miami, the "Cankercaust,"
in which the bureaucratic minions from Tallahassee could attack
people's property all over South Florida cutting down citrus trees
right and left, and now, what Mark Twain called "the lawyer
tribe' bringing every kind of Carpetbagger here in the name of restoring
"law and order" to the ballot process. Florida, has become
the microcosm of Empire, a Banana Republic, indeed!

In
the 1960s when the courts demanded that the legislature, dominated
by the rural "Pork Chop Gang," reapportion along the lines
of one man, one vote, it was held, without much argument, that Florida
had the worst representation of any of the American states. Along
with that, the ballot access expert, Richard Winger, throughout
the 1970s and into the 1990s, rated Florida was the state with the
worst ballot access.

Fear
of socialism in the 1920s led to Florida early on attempting to
make it difficult for any but the dominant two parties to get on
the ballot. In a
recent piece on LewRockwell.com
, I recommended Walter Karp's
brilliant, Indispensable
Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America
(1973, 1993)
as the best study of what has happened. I repeat that here, with
the additional observation that you will probably never find it
used in a college course on American political parties. It cuts
too close to reality for most academics!

In
the 1960s, of course, the great fear of the two-party oligopoly
in Florida was not socialism, but the populism of George Wallace.
Winger rated Alabama as having the best ballot access in the nation,
while its next-door neighbor, Florida, had the worst.

You
cannot understand the present mess in Florida balloting procedures
and mechanics without recognizing that part of restricting ballot
access was to argue that too many parties might complicate things.
The thing to do, of course, was to make ballot access, what with
signing petitions and cards, such a time-consuming and expensive
process, as to defeat most small party efforts.

This
meant in practice, that it was almost impossible to create a "grass
roots" party within the State. It also meant that any parties
must come from outside, from a larger regional or national base,
such as Wallace, later Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader in
presidential elections.

Keeping
an arcane voting organization, clearly a part of the traditional
American "spoils system" politics, was always a part of
the great game. Even as computers and other devices came into more
general use, and in spite of the Alabama example, it was often suggested
that anything more than the two-party participation might just overwhelm
the system in Florida. Now, of course, we have a situation where
even the two "oligops" can't seem to get it right at the
ballot box.

So,
with the revelations of the problems of counting and recounting
ballots, and with "chads" all over the floor, now it will
all be decided by the courts as well. Which proves that John C.
Calhoun was right that in such an imperial system the ultimate tyranny
would lie with the courts. When it is revealed that the Emperor
has neither clothes nor virtue, throw a huge, black judicial robe
over the whole mess! And pray brother, while preying on the populace.

Both
parties gave the judicial game away when early in the election,
they proclaimed that the real reason to vote for either the elephant
or the jackass was that the new leader would be making a number
of court appointments, especially on the Supreme Court. Might as
well let the courts decide the election itself as well. With the
almost total politicization of the courts, is there any reason to
doubt the phrase. "government by judiciary," in everything
from affirmative action to abortion?

As
a few bags of tea were the opening wedge to challenging the Legitimacy
of the British Empire, so the whole ballot fiasco is revealing the
extent of the corruption and rottenness of the system, right down
to the judiciary. What is really being revealed is a massive Crisis
in Legitimacy. For decades now a growing part of the population
has ceased to vote. To fill this void, we now have conscripted dead
people, aliens and even felons. Some "will of the people!"

A
few pundits in the media are suggesting that the rest of the nation
through the Congress, toss the corrupt and inept State of Florida
out of the sacred Union. Now, while that would not be a legal way
to do it within the American system, that is an idea with which
I can in some way relate.

For
years, I have pointed out to my students that in the Transcontinental
Treaty though which Florida was acquired and later, it was provided
that Florida might be split into two states. What was envisioned
in those days was an east and west Florida, all of which was silenced
by the controversy over slavery, and the notion of adding another
state to the South.

But,
why not put that into effect today? Why should we in South Florida
send our taxes north to L.A. (lower Alabama)/Tallahassee to build
a centralized governmental center to rule over us almost 700 miles
from the "Conch Republic" in Key West?

Let's
have a plebiscite along the I-4 corridor to let folks decide whether
they wish to be part of North Florida or South Florida. Once that
is decided, the two states can ask the Congress to fulfill what
was clearly the vision of our 19th century forefathers.
The next question to ask, might be, "if we no longer have to
send our taxes so far north to Tallahassee, why send them even farther
north to Washington, D.C.?

Whatever
happened to the American Revolution, anyway? With any luck, we may
just rediscover it!

November
21, 2000

William
Marina teaches History through the Internet at Florida Atlantic
University, and is an Adjunct Scholar at the Mises Institute. He
was recently selected as the Teacher of the Year for FAU's Broward
campuses. Among other books, he is the co-author of the 3rd
edition of A History of Florida (1999), and can be reached
at http://www.wmarina.com/.

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