The Great Struggle: Republic Or Empire?

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by
Steven Yates

Kennedy,
who has never worked outside of government in his life, illustrates
as well as any one person how the dominant philosophy of government
in America's centers of power has reversed since the country's founding.
I've no doubt that the Framers would be horrified by the kind of
career politician Kennedy exemplifies. And they would have been
right. Career politicians spend their lives (and millions of taxpayer
dollars) betraying this country's founding document, which was intended
as a permanent and absolute (not a "living, evolving")
limitation on central power. So again, I smell fear in the liberals'
attacks on Ashcroft. They tried – unsuccessfully – to get him because
they fear he will not enforce laws that are unconstitutional and
should never have been passed in the first place. He has said otherwise.
He has promised to uphold the laws of the land regardless of his
beliefs. It is too bad that he doesn't go further in the direction
of freedom the liberals fear. But then again, if he did, he would
have had no chance at all.

The
Ashcroft hearings offer just one more roadmap toward the Great Struggle
currently underway – the struggle to define this country. Newly minted
President Bush Jr., whether he knows it or not (and I'm not sure
he does) is caught right in the middle. Here is the question of
our historical moment: Do we want to live in a federation of sovereign
states where the locus of control is, indeed, local, and in which
law-abiding adult citizens have sovereignty their lives, personal
resources, businesses and communities? Or do we want to live in
a centralized, bureaucratized empire, where what isn't micromanaged
by the central government is controlled by government-favored international
megaconglomerates, all paid for through ever-higher rates of taxation?

When
Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, it was
a declaration that the original 13 colonies were seceding from an
empire, that of the British. The Framers, when they wrote the U.S.
Constitution, attempted to give us a federation of sovereign
states: as Benjamin Franklin put it, "a republic,
if you can keep it." The authors of the Bill of Rights then
purposefully gave us the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to keep the
power of the central government in check.

A
Republic. A federation of sovereign states.

But
with apologies to George Lucas, Empire keeps striking back. Thomas
Jefferson spent the rest of his life issuing warnings about how
centralized government tends to increase its power. He issued warnings
about the need for a vigilant public.

It
is possible to show (as Charles Adams does in his brilliant tract
When
in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession
)
that the war 140 years ago boils down to a contest between Republic
and Empire. I am aware, of course, that it is now politically correct
to say that that war was fought over slavery – because, after
all, when Lincoln's minions defeated Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert
E. Lee, Empire won its first major battle on U.S. soil. Secession
was not merely rejected as a viable means of checking its growth,
but the numerous discussions of the topic and even threats to carry
it out that arose between 1787 and 1860 were literally purged from
the history books. Not noticed was how the issue had been decided
not legally or Constitutionally but by brute force.

Empire
has been growing ever since. The next quantum leap occurred with
the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, the acceptance of the
16th Amendment into our Constitution on the basis of
a very dubious ratification scheme, and the adoption of the progressive
income tax system. Previously, Empire had been effectively blocked
from flexing its muscle too much on American shores, because it
lacked the resources. Very shortly, that would change. Not coincidentally,
the era of U.S. involvement in foreign wars began right after. Empire,
after all, cannot stay out of wars. It is its nature to try to mind
the rest of the world's business.

Fresh
quantum leaps in Empire-building occurred during the Roosevelt era,
with the rise of the welfare-warfare state during the Great Depression.
This period occurred mainly because of the efforts to centralize
and micromanage the economy during the 1920s that the Federal Reserve
made possible. We can read all about it in Murray Rothbard's two
magnificent tracts America's
Great Depression
and The
Case Against the Fed
. Empire claimed to have the solutions
to problems it had created, and a desperate, uninformed public believed.
Welfare happened, and warfare grew.

The
most recent quantum leap was with the so-called civil rights movement
of the 1960s. It became possible for Empire to dictate hiring practices
to obtain politically acceptable ratios of blacks to whites, women
to men, according to the rapidly rising Gramscian ideology of victimology.
No one pointed to the exact clause in the Constitution that empowered
the federal government to dictate hiring practices. The closest
anyone could come was that unspecific clause about "promot[ing]
the general welfare" which hardly meant build a welfare state.

In
fact, freedom of association is one of those commonsense "rights
retained by the people." What else can it be? If nothing in
the Constitution empowers the federal government to tell people
how to associate, then it follows that Constitutionally, this must
be left up to them. A freedom to associate, however, implies a freedom
not to associate – a freedom exercised every day when whites congregate
mainly with whites and blacks mainly with blacks, at least when
they are not at work. In a free society, some businesses would be
all (or primarily) white, and dealing mainly with a white customer
base; others would be all (or primarily) black, and have a black
customer base; still others would be all (or primarily) Hispanic,
with an Hispanic customer base; still others would be fully integrated
in all ways if that is their owners' and customers' agreed-upon
choice. This would be accepted as the norm. In a free society, neither
central government nor activist busy-bodies feel compelled to mind
everyone else's business.

Empire
has continued to grow since the civil rights era, and it has chosen
its targets well. The political correctness movement targets free
speech and freedom of thought – in response to the mounting criticisms
of affirmative action that came of age during the 1980s. Well-organized
activists have attempted to gut the Second Amendment with such measures
as the Brady Bill, fully supported by a Clinton Regime which didn't
mind bombing the daylights out of little countries overseas (usually
to distract the country from however much trouble Billy Boy was
in here at home). So-called scholars in the universities have analyzed
the basic phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear
arms shall not be infringed" out of existence. It is clear
from history that if the purveyors of Empire can disarm the citizenry
of a country, they can do with that citizenry as they please. One
of the first things Adolf Hitler did when he came to power was to
enact the strictest gun control laws then in existence. A disarmed
citizenry is a powerless citizenry, and every would-be tyrant knows
it.

Today,
in the politically correct American Empire, the Ninth and Tenth
Amendments are forgotten, except by a few "extremists"
who insist that the central government obey its founding document.
Patriot, which was a good thing to be when I was a kid, has
become a dirty word, synonymous with "antigovernment hate."
In the halls of power in the Empire's capitol, the Constitution
is remembered in name only. Today, of all those in Congress, only
Ron Paul (R-TX) will ask outright of any piece of legislation, "Where
does the U.S. Constitution authorize the federal government to do
this?" He usually doesn't get an answer.

But
the fundamental question hasn't gone away: Republic or Empire? Sovereign
states or conquered, subordinate serfdoms? Empire has grown by leaps
and bounds, and is going more and more international – as I
have argued
elsewhere and provided extensive details and links
. (And it
is getting more and more expensive. If you think your taxes are
too high now, just wait until the New World Order institutes a world
tax to support its international criminal court and international
welfare programs.)

The
fact that we heard not a word about such fundamentals last year
during Election Campaign 2000 speaks volumes about where we stand,
when the two divisions of the Washington Party are supposed to be
so different ideologically. Those who raised such issues as fundamental
limitations on the federal government were either ignored or dismissed
out of hand. At present, the Empire-builders are on top, and they
know it. They would have preferred Gore over Bush Jr., I am sure.
Bush Jr. is basically well intentioned and will drag his feet —
his choice of people like Linda Chavez and John Ashcroft shows that.
With Gore, we wouldn't have stood a chance. But the fact that Bush
Jr. was the Republican nominee alone indicated his acceptability
to Empire's power brokers. This rightly bothered those who questioned
my very
reluctant endorsement of Bush Jr.
The reception of the only
three genuine conservatives George W. Bush Jr. has nominated for
his cabinet shows this. Chavez was driven off in the latest campaign
of personal destruction. Ashcroft and Gale Norton hung on by the
skin of their teeth. Leftist litmus tests are very much in force.
They attack anybody they do not believe will further their agenda
for the country. I am encouraged, however, that they do not always
win. They are not all-powerful, and this is significant.

The
issues must be discussed, one way or another. What kind of society
do we want, a Republic or an Empire? And what, if anything, can
we do about it?

We
who prefer to live in a Republic do have some aces in the hole —
even if we are presently outorganized and outfunded. First, for
Christians, is the realization that this is, in the last analysis,
God's universe. The world does not belong to the Empire builders.
Not really. Empire-building, in this view of the world, signifies
the sinfulness inherent in human nature. A small minority of the
human race is drawn to power. The rest are at a disadvantage because
not only have they little interest in power as an end in itself,
they don't really comprehend this motive. But if we are on God's
side we are on the right side, and He will see us through this in
His own way, and in His own time. This He promises, even if we are
in for a rough ride in the meantime. And it is very possible that
we are in for a rough ride. Even if we are approaching the End Times,
as I hypothesized in an
earlier article
, there is no guarantee that we will be supernaturally
taken off this world in a rapture-like event. Interpreting Scripture
is not mechanical and straightforward. Christians who believe in
a forthcoming Rapture may
well be wrong
. If Christianity is true, however, then the End
Times are coming — with or without a Rapture. The New World Order
will be built. It is useful to remember that God does not ask Christians
to defeat the New World Order. What He asks for, and rewards, is
faithfulness to Him, even in the face of death. Read Hebrews 11.

However,
if we leave Christianity aside, we have a second ace in the hole.
For those educated in Austrian school economics: this is a universe
in which political centralization and micromanagement of an economy
by the powerful simply doesn't work. The most the latter can do
is employ a variety of machinations and quick-fixes to stave off
the inevitable as long as possible. The Federal Reserve, for example,
can flood the economy with credit and create a "bubble"
of pseudo-prosperity. But eventually, the piper must be paid. The
fundamental principles: human beings must take action to produce
their means of their survival; and wealth cannot be pulled
out of thin air. (These are actually the same principle, worded
two different ways.) The entire human science of economics follows
as a matter of deduction. Read Ludwig Von Mises' great treatise
Human
Action
.

Now
how does this make Empire impossible over the long run? Mises gave
the answer, and his student Friedrich A. Hayek expanded the answer
still more: human society is too complex. Simple as that. Millions
of human beings taking the actions they believe will benefit them – buying,
selling, hiring, etc. – this equals the economy. The latter
is not the sort of entity that can be overseen from some central
point. It is an inherently decentralized system, and no human being – indeed,
no committee of human beings – can see all of it at once, or anticipate
how it is going to develop and change. Even our most inventive science
fiction writers have failed at this. Arthur C. Clarke dreamed up
HAL for his classic 2001 but never thought of Microsoft.
Could anyone have predicted what the World Wide Web was going to
do in the 1990s? Economic systems are not like organisms that can
regulate their components from a brain and central nervous system.
We are talking about a much higher level of complexity here – the
complexity that results when self-directed human beings with brains
and central nervous systems begin to interact, compete and cooperate.

Empire,
then, tries to do the impossible. It imposes taxes, myriad regulations,
etc., on acting persons, all to service endeavors those persons
might or might not have supported voluntarily. It thereby leaves
us with a disincentive to produce. It interferes with the productive
process, directing it in ways it would not go on its own. It supports
projects that would otherwise die on their own (and in some cases,
good riddance). Or it builds up endeavors that would develop rarely
if at all in a system of genuine free enterprise for all – such as
international megaconglomerates, products of corporate welfare.

Empire,
then, is in the long run, futile, and we can know this. Left to
its own devices, it will lower the overall standard of living when
it begins to run out of quick-fixes and people to sponge off of.
A worldwide Empire – call it the New World Order or whatever you want – is
a good recipe for worldwide poverty.

So
what can we do? Among other things, continue promoting getting this
country back to its founding document, the Constitution. This includes
reminding the Bushies what all those red states in the infamous
map really meant. We put them in charge for four years, and supported
men like John Ashcroft who have shown from past words and deeds
that many of their ideas are the right ones. But we should hold
their feet to the fire. If Bush Jr. sells us out, his will be a
one-term presidency just like his old man's was.

And
if President Hillary is the only alternative, the time will have
come to talk seriously about repeating Thomas Jefferson's brave
act of 1776, and telling the Washington Empire bye-bye.

February
3, 2001

Steven
Yates
has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is the author of
Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
(ICS Press,
1994). He is presently compiling selected essays into a single volume
tentatively entitled View From the Gallery and a work on a second
book, The Paradox of Liberty. He also writes for the Edgefield
Journal
, and is available for lectures. He lives in Columbia,
South Carolina.

Steven
Yates Archives

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