I should have been studying. In fact, I WAS studying. I had the books open at Atlanta Bread Company here in Summerville about two weeks ago when a young man and an older couple sat down at the next booth over. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation because, well, that young man might have been talking quicker than I’ve ever heard a southerner talk before. And nearly everything he was saying was spot on. Not that I was looking for an excuse to procrastinate or anything, but I just HAD to interject myself. And I did.
The young man’s name was John Morlan. Now, while I consider myself to be a libertarian, his brand of laissez-faire governance on some issues made me look like a Progressive by comparison. Thankfully, those instances were few and far between. But when he and I did disagree, he articulated his hands-off position well, so well in fact that I actually found myself in quite an uncomfortable spot for me — defending government intervention, albeit limited in scope. Needless to say, I thought his perspective would be great for this Web site, and I am delighted that he could join our growing little endeavor. So stand back, hold on, and enjoy. This is a pretty good introduction, but if he argues in writing half as well as he argues in person, I guarantee he’ll knock your socks off in the future. — Jeff
It has been a week now since we all had time to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations, and I thought it might be a good idea to sit down and have a little chat. Most of you have by now sobered up and may wish to hear reason. What did you celebrate this Independence Day? Did you celebrate patriotism embodied in the red, white and blue, the flag, our military might, or the national anthem? Of course, but these are symbols and clichés. What, pray tell, were we celebrating?
Our ancestors bought our freedom with their blood. We have squandered it. They gave us a political system based on thousands of years of philosophy connected with the idea that man is free by nature and the only proper role of government is to act as protector of a man’s right to be free, that only a government which retaliates with force to protect a citizen against force is just, and that once a government goes beyond acting as policeman (protector of man’s rights) and initiates force against man, then that government is no different than a criminal. It is a criminal that initiates force against others. This form of government is a threat to man’s very existence.
In the beginning, we were a union of states which restricted the national government to a few necessary functions. Don’t think “Constitution.” Not yet. Instead, think “Articles of Confederation.”
What were the Articles of Confederation? It was the first document that bound the sovereign states together. It was our original form of government. Many of our founding fathers warned about the usurpation of powers by a powerful central government, but we chose not to listen to them but instead to the nationalists, or what most of us know as the federalists. There was a split between the founding fathers: there were men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, classic liberals radically opposed to the idea of a powerful centralized federal government, and then there were men supported a much stronger federal government, men like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, the latter of whom wrote most of the Federalist Papers.
Many of you have been exposed to or quoted the Federalist Papers. Have any of you ever heard of the Anti-Federalist Papers? These were a collection of writings that tried to persuade the people at the time of the dangers of a powerful central government under the proposed Constitution, even one that would supposedly come with restrictions. Although the Declaration of Independence was primarily a Jeffersonian document, the Constitution was not. Thomas Jefferson was in France at the time of the writing of the Constitution and only influenced the Constitution in minor ways through a series of letters. And looking at the America we know now, I think there can be no doubt that many of the objectors to a strong national government are now sadly vindicated.
Why did this happen? We have all heard about the supposed checks and balances created by the three branches of Government. What we have failed to recognize is that as one branch grows in power the others simply grow to “check” it. So now we have a Congress, a president, and a judiciary with powers that far exceed their contract (the Constitution) with the people. This is supposedly acceptable because they balance each other! Who is buying this? The reason we have gotten to the place we are is because we as a people stopped acting as a check on the government. We were the greatest check against the usurpation of power not a piece of paper that men have decided to ignore.
If you take a broad view of American history, our civilization was very suspicious of centralized power and doggedly opposed most government intervention. This seemed to be the general mood of the country up until the early 1900’s. Around World War I, that sentiment seemed to change, perhaps not drastically but enough. Around the same time, of course, there was the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, which created the third central bank of the United States, the first two central banks being effectively dissolved. Then the nation saw the election of Herbert Hoover, a man who supported many interventionist policies before he became president and many more during and after his presidency.
Amazingly enough, FDR actually defeated Hoover by attacking his deficit spending and his interventionist policies. Then, as we all know, FDR did far worse, and at the time even seemed to have the support of the people. One can only suppose that this was due to the extraordinarily difficult circumstances at the time, the Great Depression being in full swing. Now, with some distance and sobriety, many understand that it was the government intervention into the economy that caused and lengthened the depression. [See "Lessons From 1934," here at America's Right, for example. -- Jeff]
If what I am writing sounds new and radical, try reading classical or Austrian economic literature. Both schools of thought demonstrate greatly in their works that the Federal Reserve was squarely to blame. To briefly describe the arguments, classical economists (like Milton Friedman, for example) blame the Fed for contracting the money supply by one-third over three years, thereby exacerbating the depression–Friedman often referred to it as the “Great Contraction”–while the Austrians look at the Fed’s actions during the “roaring 20′s” and blame the Fed for rapidly expanding the money supply in the first place. Either technical viewpoint blames the Federal Reserve for mismanaging the economy but, regardless of any unanimity, many of you growing up like I did had never heard these arguments. When I was in school I was told that the Great Depression was a failure of Capitalism. Chances are, you were told the same thing, too. And, following the Great Depression, it seems from about that time forward that government has only grown in size and power.
Just like many of you, I was raised to honor the United States, the flag and the National Anthem, or simply was just expected to aspire to some foggy notion of “patriotism.” I say we should be beholden not to men or to symbols but to the ideas which they embodied. These ideas were justice, individual liberty, political freedom (through limited democracy), and true capitalism. We should celebrate the values and ideas of this great country and not the clichés and symbols. The day when we realize that freedom, independence, and liberty (our god given rights) are really worth fighting for is the day we can really celebrate Independence.