the "Monsters" Coming Home to Roost?
Corruption is as American as Apple Pie!
Open Email to
Former President Jimmy Carter
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";
Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in Karl Marx
and Frederick Engels, Selected
Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), p. 96.
goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."
Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, 4th of July Address,
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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"
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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."
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.
key word, Jimmy, is "Reluctant." Have you got that, "Reluctant!"
Shades of Augustus Caesar!
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
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.
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
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.
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!"
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!
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!
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.
not Reform, What?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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.