While not a jubilee year, last week marked the 230th anniversary of the US Constitution. Naturally, most of its devotees enthusiastically praised the document which by now is seen on a par with Holy Writ itself.
The constitutional convention in Philadelphia, anno 1787. Things have gone downhill ever since. Many – though not all – of those taking part in the convention were members of the moneyed elite, the land speculators who had instigated the war of independence when King George foolishly tried to keep them from expanding their speculative activities to the West with his ill-conceived edict of 1763. Having won the war, they were no longer constrained by the edict, but they couldn’t leave well enough alone… sitting on their laurels apparently just wasn’t their style. The constitution was the next logical step – a successful attempt to install a centralized Merchant State after the British model, only sans King George. As Albert Jay Nock points out in Our Enemy, the State: “The great majority of them, possibly as many as four-fifths, were public creditors; one-third were land-speculators; some were moneylenders; one-fifth were industrialists, traders, shippers; and many of them were lawyers.” Not exactly the first thing they tell pupils in public schools about, we would guess. Nock also reminds us, ibid: “Wherever economic exploitation has been for any reason either impracticable or unprofitable, the State has never come into existence; government has existed, but the State, never”. [PT]
An editorial from Investor’s Business Daily provides an example of such hagiography:
The Constitution’s beauty is that it not only delineates our rights as Americans, but expressly limits and defines government’s ability to interfere in our private lives. This equipoise between citizens’ duties, responsibilities and rights makes it the defining document or our nation’s glorious freedom.But America is wonderful largely because of the Constitution and those who framed it… What we have is too precious to squander…*
Most of the piece laments the widespread ignorance of its sacred contents among the denizens which it rules over and admonishes the unlearned “to bone up a bit on your constitutional heritage…”.
The editorial fails, as do most others on the Right, to understand that it is not a lack of knowledge of the Constitution’s contents among the populace which lies at the heart of America’s social, economic, and political problems, but the very document itself.
A Coup d’État
One of the main reasons why the Constitution continues to be so widely venerated is the deliberate distortion of history that its “founders” promoted and that generations of its sycophants have continued to perpetuate to this very day.
The official narrative runs that the Constitution was enacted because of widespread popular support for a change to the supposed inadequacies and deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation.
10 years earlier, in 187, the Articles of Confederation were signed. When Hamilton called for a constitutional convention, it was done on the understanding that the articles would be amended here and there, which wasn’t considered a big deal. Instead they ended in the waste basket, with a new constitution drawn up de novo – and that was it for state sovereignty. The centralization of the political means was the goal, and who can look at the US today and not admit it has become glaringly obvious? [PT]
This is a myth. Instead, the Constitution was a coup, a deliberate scheme by the leading political and mercantile classes to set up a powerful central government where ultimate authority rested in the national state.
The use of the term “federal” to describe what was created in Philadelphia in those fateful days was a ruse much like the banksters and politicos used “Federal Reserve” to describe the central bank created in 1913.
It was neither “federal” – a decentralized monetary order – nor a “reserve” of gold, but a monetary institution which could create money out of thin air and eventually eliminate the gold standard.
It was a similar political maneuver 230 years ago as a new American national state was established and touted as a decentralized form of government where power was evenly divided between state and national levels and between the different branches of the government itself – “separation of powers.”
In actuality, however, the “federal system” was the elevation of central power at the expense of local authority which had previously existed. Section VI of the Constitution says it all:
The Constitution and the laws of the United States… shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
Elementary political science has shown and plain common sense knows that any person or institution given “supreme authority” will misuse and abuse such power. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is an undeniable dictum of human nature.
A truly decentralized system of governance would not contain a plank as “supreme law of the land” as part of its foundation. Instead, real federalism would be dispersed, as it existed in the past in such political arrangements as confederacies, leagues, and, certainly, under the much maligned feudal social order.
In his seminal and bracing work “The State” (available for free download here, pdf), German historian and sociologist Franz Oppenheimer coined the terms “the economic means and the political means” to describe the ways in which wealth is essentially obtained – namely either by one’s own efforts, combined with voluntary exchange, i.e., by economic means or by theft, the “legalized” form of which is perpetrated by the State, i.e., by political means. As Oppenheimer remarks: “What, then, is the State as a sociological concept? The State, completely in its genesis, essentially and almost completely during the first stages of its existence, is a social institution, forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished, and securing itself against revolt from within and attacks from abroad. Teleologically, this dominion had no other purpose than the economic exploitation of the vanquished by the victors.” [PT]
No Escape from Leviathan
Even the Constitution’s celebrated Bill of Rights is flawed and has proven to be ineffective in protecting basic human freedoms. It is the federal government which enumerates and interprets what freedom individuals should possess.
Thus, the meaning and extent of individual liberties will be in the hands of federal jurists and courts who will invariably rule on cases in favor of the state. The ensnaring of individual rights within the central government’s authority did away with the venerable common law which was a far greater defender of liberty than federal courts.
Just as important, the enactment of the Constitution, which brought all the individual states under it suzerainty, did away with one of the most significant checks on state power – “voting with one’s feet.”
When there are multiple governing authorities, if one jurisdiction becomes too oppressive, its subjects can move to freer domains. This still happens on a local level as high tax and regulatory states such as California and New York have lost demographically to freer places like Nevada and Texas. Yet, from the Federal Leviathan there is no escape, except expatriation.
Thomas Hobbes, whom we have to thank for using the term “Leviathan” to describe the State. In his famous book he inter alia established “social contract theory”, a today a widely used propaganda tool in the defense of statism (we would note that no-one has ever signed such a contract). Hobbes asserted that anarchy (a stateless society) would be characterized by a “war of all against all”, i.e., total chaos. Although this assertion remains utterly bereft of evidence to this day, a stateless society is nevertheless widely considered “impractical”, “unworkable”, etc., so we will just have to live with the allegedly “lesser evil” of the State (just as people in large European cities are nowadays supposed to just “live with” the occasional terror attack by Islamist fundamentalists and continue on as though this were perfectly normal. What can you do, it’s all just part of life…). Not surprisingly, those obtaining their income by political means are in complete agreement with this Hobbesian insight… [PT]
Unless and until Americans and all the other peoples of the Western world who live under constitutional rule recognize that it is the type of government which is the cause of most of the political turmoil, social unrest, and economic malaise which they face, there is no hope of turning things around.
* “Sturdy Constitution” – Investor’s Business Daily, Week of September 18, 2017, A20.
Reprinted with permission from Acting Man.