Rethinking the Third Amendment

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Reading LewRockwell.com this past weekend, it occurs to me, as it did to millions of others, that it all boils down to three related problems: 1) U.S. government spending won’t stop and is promising national bankruptcy and sustaining global war; 2) U.S. government growth is the nemesis of American individual and economic liberty, and may even have it in a death grip, and; 3) Government propaganda at home and abroad facilitates and obfuscates problems one and two.

Glenn Greenwald explains the Cass Sunstein/Katie Halsey mentality of "what is to be done." Bad and evil masculine lies of state are to be avoided and condemned, but good, well-intentioned feminine lies of state should receive every investment. The New York Times differentiates Obama-lie from Bush-lie. Yet as Greenwald respectfully points out, they’re exactly the same.

Those who appreciate the tattered Constitution worry a bit. For years, we have seen Salon’s crisp pages examine and expose the ongoing war on the First Amendment, while the liberty-lovin’ side of the tracks rails at the loss of the Second. Sunstein rises and converges as antihero of both the 1st and the 2nd amendments, but there are many others preaching from the same Unholy Writ of State.

The constitution has suffered resculpting in the hands those who prefer the State over all. In addition to Amendments 1 and 2, and all that Yoo, one may find no end of debate about the fundamental roles, intent and destiny of amendments 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 in an age where the United States incarcerates and harasses more of it own citizens than any other country. And in response to concerns over 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 — we find renewed interest in Amendments 9 and 10 — which seek to preserve the concept of power to the 99.9% of the people not ensconced in our distant capital.

After reading Pat Buchanan’s latest, it seems that the amalgamated problem — as pointed out by Greenwald and the Gruber Affair, is simply a question of payroll. Which brings us to the third Amendment.

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

One imagines this proclamation to be more emotional and symbolic than practical. I mean, who among us is really a soldier, in the employ of government interests, dedicated to promoting that government, and maintaining its system of robbing Peter to pay us, er, Paul?

Buchanan points out that recipients of government entitlements — Medicare, Social Security, MEDICAID and government pension-holders — all lobby effectively to live and grow at everyone else’s expense.

The "robber barons" of old now go by names like "Too Big To Fail," and still make a killing through their ability to influence government policy. Smedley Butler’s racket and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nascent military-industrial-congressional complex have grown far beyond what Generals Butler and Eisenhower imagined. There is lots of redistributed money involved in the care and feeding of empire, domestic security and intelligence machines, the associated prison industry, and financial industries that benefit from global trading and money laundering nurtured by the very enforcement policies they influence. How many of us not now receiving entitlements are instead on this payroll?


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Big pharma, big science and big education also has its jackboots firmly planted on both sides of the federal trough. Not to be outdone, the monster Five Year Plan for Agriculture, circa 2008, would delight any old communist and shows how much Big Ag loves the state. How many of us, not on entitlements or part of the extended enforcement industry, work in a government-funded science, education, drug or agricultural sector?

Surely we the people don’t know anyone, and certainly aren’t related to anyone, who gets a nice slice of this sweet and flaky redistribution pie?

Buchanan mentions interest on the debt as a fifth major aspect of the looming federal bankruptcy, and expects interest payments to be the first to be let go. Inflationary money printing, as Celente and others predict, may be followed by continued economic decline and collapse, even a new war or two to justify international default, before or after the fact. It will look like a perfect plan until the aftershocks commence.

Amidst all the rumbling, Americans may rediscover the 3rd Amendment. Perhaps we will look closely at who and what we are quartering in our own homes. Will we discover, 300 million times over, that the enemy was us?

Like King George’s soldiers, many of us depend on a government paycheck or pension. Many of us depend on government management and funding of health care, at least we think we do until we actually get sick. Beyond government check accepters, many more of us are employed in full or in part by one of the subsidized industries mentioned above. We don’t think about quartering soldiers — but in many ways, the amendment most insidiously and rapaciously violated in plain sight is the third. We used to resent it when we were forced to shelter and feed the king’s men, but today, we resemble that remark!

Eugene Jarecki’s "Move Your Money" campaign provides a modern-day sense of what the founders must have been thinking when they wrote the Third Amendment. Slamming our pocketbooks shut in the face of the king’s bankers is the right concept. What if we closed the door on all of the kings’ soldiers? The better question may be, what we will do when the door is slammed for us, by the impending demise of the redistributional state. Would we still obey the dictates of our employer, as Paul Krugman claims Gruber would have, even if we were not paid?

If Pat Buchanan and half the world is right, our parasitical and violent state — and its unsustainable empire — will collapse. What will be left? Many predict — or are watching in horror — Flynn’s vision of American Fascism coming true.

Our great experiment in constitutional republicanism could end with nothing to show for it. There is another possibility — one I believe in. When, under the weight of its democracy-driven excesses, the federal state collapses — what remains will be the lovely understated promise of the Third Amendment — our own homes, newly humble to be sure, but free of false and forced obligations to distant capitals.

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.

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