The Myth of the 'Old Republic'

As I have become more and more radicalized, my mind has opened more and more. It's been extremely rewarding, at least intellectually. Far from closing my mind to those who disagree with me on fundamental issues, I have instead become more open to the thoughts of those who I once thought were enemies of true morality and civilization. The reason for this is that, the more I discover that what I've been taught is a bunch of lies, the easier it is to investigate with an open mind the ideas that the Establishment scorns.

I know more about, understand, and appreciate, Objectivism, Roman Catholicism, and the conservative Reformed faith, since I became a libertarian. I also appreciate points of view from Pat Buchanan to Gore Vidal to Noam Chomsky – all of whom I once wrote off as racists and/or communists. Why did I write them off? Because I was told to do so. I don't mean "ordered" or "coerced" into doing so, but that respectable conservatism would condemn Buchanan and scorn Vidal and Chomsky.

Conservatism is alluring. In theory, it is very good: it exalts tradition and religion at the expense of the State's attempt to perfect human nature and impose a utopia. The historical record is clear that the ideology of the mind leads to more death and destruction than does the prejudice of the heart (flawed and sinful it may be). From that perspective, it is understandable why conservatives embraced much of what Rush Limbaugh said and National Review published up to September 11, 2001. Bush was, indeed, the "lesser evil" of Gore, embracing tax cuts and smaller government. That day is past. The clear lesson of 9-11, to get rid of the World Empire, was lost on both conservatives and liberals alike. 9-11 vindicated libertarianism, which is the essence of all that is good of both conservatism and liberalism. Libertarianism in its essence is to leave other people and other countries alone, a message that the Establishment not only resists, but doesn't even understand.

That's what's so strange about the American political process: it is thoroughly unable to recognize common sense for what it is.

In the wake of this death of common sense, are we to ask for a revival, a resurrection? Is the USA we want it to be, a future possibility?

Every regime will justify itself by the "happiness" of the people. A Negro slave in antebellum America may have been able to live a happy, contented life. I have no doubt that this was often the case. But asking those individuals if they would rather be free, who wouldn't say yes? Likewise, many people today are able to live a happy, contented life despite income and FICA taxes, regulations, laws, and federal spying on their private affairs. But if these happy, contented people were asked if they'd rather be taxed less and regulated less, who among them wouldn't say, "of course!"?

And this is my problem with those of both the Old Right and the Old Left, who yearn for and mythologize the Old Republic. Not only is the Old Republic gone, it, realistically, never really existed in the first place. It is, more or less, an idea of Constitutional restraint. Maybe, at one time, it worked better than it does now. But since its inception, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights have been slipping more and more from our grasp. There isn't any point in our history, not pre-2000, pre-1932, not pre-1913, not pre-1898, not pre-1860, or even before that, in which the USA ever had an ideal, federated Union.

In other words, to "restore" the "Old Republic" is a pipe dream, a political impossibility that is itself undesirable. For there never was a time in which the regime was not taking more power for itself at the expense of our liberties. So the Old Republic, or the Constitution, itself becomes a religious document – several Articles of Faith. As in, "If properly followed, the Constitution will be our national salvation."

But that requires that the words on paper are perfectly followed. But perfectibility is impossible in humanity. Those who ask for a nation with a great Constitution literally followed are as unrealistic as the socialists and utopian liberals they despise.

September 14, 2004

James Leroy Wilson Archives