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Sunday, December 7, 2014

E Pluribus Unum - We are stronger together

I can't resist arguing with trolls. Been doing it since the 90's when I didn't know what a troll was yet and had a friend who was a rational seeming Libertarian. Over time he revealed his underlying ideology as completely useless and distorted. At first I thought he knew what he was talking about and rarely challenged him, but eventually I realized that he and that entire ideology was full of snit. Those ideas put him in charge of a reform movement and then sabotaged that reform movement. I've since seen the same thing happen to the Occupy movement. I blame libertarianism for sabotaging reform efforts since the 70's. It's not that libertarians are bad people, but their ideology is an astroturfed ideology made up of astroturfed straw designed to subvert real change for the 99%. Other folks, thankfully can provide the details, but the point is that I have found that whenever I argue with doctrinaire libertarians I'm arguing with trolls. The core of libertarianism is extreme selfishness and individualism.

What they did do was to turn me back to rereading source materials. Been reading up on Locke, Paine, the Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers. There are a lot of them and one can't read them thoroughly unless one does it over a period of time. I've come to be in love with most of the founders. Scoundrels, curmudgeons, romantics, sometimes corrupt. If I romanticize them it's not as paragons of perfection but as human beings.

We are stronger together.

Robin Hood and Liberty

There was a tradition of piracy that informed our country from before the first colonies were officially planted. And our democracy owes as much to pirates and Indigenous, Robin Hood and Blackbeard, as it does to the Athenians and Romans. Robin Hood legends aren't contemporaneous with the legends around the Magna Charta for no reason. In real life authorities steal, and law abiding citizens get painted into outlaw corners. The Yeomen with their bowmen won their liberties with their bows and arrows. Robin Hood embodies that fact. The core of democracy isn't the militia, it's the General Assembly that the institution of militia enables. Towns and yeomen couldn't demand rights just because it was the right thing. They could demand rights because aristocrats have their roots as military commanders and can't force people to fight for them without their consent all the time. It isn't the power of the militia to shoot at aristocrats or cut off their heads that protected common rights for citizens -- thought that helped. It was the fact that aristocrats depended on raising troops from among the common people -- and they had to make deals. When the Aristocrats forced King John to sign the Magna Carta they were making a deal of exchange with him, and they had to make deals with their commoners to have the force to enforce that deal.

Unity and Liberty -- Sectional Conflict

There has to be a balance between central government and local government or their is conflict. And it's a two way thing. Hamilton explains why we want a "union" rather than divided neighborhoods and tiny warring states in his early writings in the Federalist Papers. In Federalist 6, Publius (Hamilton) notes the purpose of a unified Federation is to prevent war between States, quoting Abbe de Mably:

"An intelligent writer expresses himself on this subject to this effect: 'NEIGHBORING NATIONS (says he) are naturally enemies of each other unless their common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and their constitution prevents the differences that neighborhood occasions, extinguishing that secret jealousy which disposes all states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbors.' This passage, at the same time, points out the EVIL and suggests the REMEDY." []

I suggest people actually read Hamilton in 6 through 15 as he explains the value of a Union to our liberties. We see how fractuous our country can be, without a Federal Union that factionalism would have been expressed in even more violent and bloody wars than we saw in the Civil War. More likely also we'd have central governments that live on conquest, funding their armies with loot drawn from the citizenry. We are trending towards something like that now, but that just argues for reforms. Hamilton's argument for Union was that Union provides a check on local jealousies and rivalries. Without a Union things would be far worse and ordinary citizens would have fewer liberties.

Unity and Liberty -- Local Tyranny

Hamilton argued that we needed a strong Federation to move the focus of government back to legislation for the benefit of the individuals of the commonwealth. Even in his time individual states tended to legislate for the benefit of the legistlators and the principle people of their state. Results such as the Whiskey Rebellion or Shay's rebellion come from legislation that disregards or even oppresses the majority of the citizens for the "private, separate advantage" of the few. And coercive states suffer that risk:

"The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or GOVERNMENTS, in their CORPORATE or COLLECTIVE CAPACITIES, and as contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of which they consist." [Fed 15]

We see this even with the "new" constitution he proposed. States treating some of their people like garbage and legislating for the benefit of local business barons rather than for the benefit of their commonwealth. But his remedy was in the power of a Supreme Court to uphold legislated rights and liberties and limit the power of states to fight one another or to oppress their own people. His entire argument about the history of intrastate conflict was to impress on the people the value of Union over disunion and civil war. We have either the choice of:

"COERCION of the magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms."[Federalist 15]"

We have seen the value of the "coercion of the magistracy" in remedies to segregation in the South and other misbehavior by state power against ordinary citizens. Our current civil rights laws reflect Hamilton's vision of replacing the risk of war and internal conflict with just courts. We can improve on this, but the benefits fo the principle involved are obvious. Hamilton reiterates this point over and over again. And in Federalist 22 he says:

"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority."[Federalist 22]

And it's pretty obvious that he saw the Federal Government as a collaborative Unity where the Federal Government would check the states and the people would check the Federal Government and oversee officers at all levels of government.

Unity and Liberty -- Militia

Hamilton worried more about the ineffectiveness of the militia than it's effectiveness. Armed citizens are helpless individually against a corrupt and centralized Professional Army. We fought the British and might have lost the war but for an organized and centralized Militia. Militia supplemented with professional training and reserve capabilities is the equal of professional armies in defending the country but alone it is inadequate even for that task. It can be inadequate for invading foreign nations -- but that is something anathema to the vision of our founders and of most of us. And Hamilton warned in Federalist 26 that prohibitions on Standing Armies are insufficient.

"The Bill of Rights of that State declares that standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up in time of peace. Pennsylvania, nevertheless, in a time of profound peace, from the existence of partial disorders in one or two of her counties, has resolved to raise a body of troops; and in all probability will keep them up as long as there is any appearance of danger to the public peace."[Fed 25]

Which is why we have a National Guard that requires the State Governor to get permission of the President to use it. The Story of Pa pre-Constitution is also why these "foreign entanglements" we have now are toxic. Eternal warfare is even worse than keeping a standing army in time of peace. And historically we've seen time and time again how folks who are very stentorian (loud) about the constitution when it is convenient, treat it like toilet paper when they are afraid of, say, minorities. Police used in SWAT formation against demonstrators are essentially a standing army being used to repress dissent.

"The conduct of Massachusetts affords a lesson on the same subject, though on different ground. That State (without waiting for the sanction of Congress, as the articles of the Confederation require) was compelled to raise troops to quell a domestic insurrection, and still keeps a corps in pay to prevent a revival of the spirit of revolt. The particular constitution of Massachusetts opposed no obstacle to the measure; but the instance is still of use to instruct us that cases are likely to occur under our government, as well as under those of other nations, which will sometimes render a military force in time of peace essential to the security of the society, and that it is therefore improper in this respect to control the legislative discretion." [Fed 25]

Hamilton as an elitist saw a revolt by ordinary farmers and workmen as alarming. But there are times when revolts should alarm anyone such as when insurrectionists start engaging in lynchings and "ethnic cleansing" such as happens in the South. At such times a non-representative militia is as likely to be an agent of repression as an agent of liberty.

"It also teaches us, in its application to the United States, how little the rights of a feeble government are likely to be respected, even by its own constituents. And it teaches us, in addition to the rest, how unequal parchment provisions are to a struggle with public necessity..." [Fed 25]

The revolts mentioned were popular insurrections and the people involved should have been able to elect leaders and overthrow the government with elections, but many of them didn't have the right to vote. In the end, even with military forces they won the right to vote and the government made at least some concessions to them. The reason that happened is that they were needed in order to make any kind of military possible. The people are a check on both Federal Government and State Government -- to the extent that they can assemble generally and develop some unity.

The value of Militia is their connection to democracy. The original militia muster, was also the time when ordinary people could assemble and petition for their needs. Local Democracy has always been associated with the need to defend the state and pay it's bills. We are stronger together and divided we are weak. United we guarantee our liberties at the same time we provide for the general welfare. Divided we fight, die, are oppressed and destroy the tools of our happiness.

Further reading; Please read the Federalist Papers!

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