Behind Independence

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.

Share

Comments

  1. Boston Blackie says:

    WOW, the people you meet in coffee shops while you should be studying for the bar exam!!
    One of the reasons I am addicted to this site is because the contributors make you think outside the box and challenge you to follow up and find more info on references made here.
    Welcome, John, I checked out your bio but nothing yet since Jeff is up to his eyeballs with study materials these days. I will have to look into the anti federalist papers, the more you know the more you know. I look forward to many more articles from you.
    Hey Jeff, where I come from it is spelled Somerville! Stop making excuses for lifting your head up from the books. Get back to studying :)

  2. L I B E R T Y says:

    Standing ovation, amen!, and that is why my infatuation with the star spangled banner has been put on hold for a while.

  3. John Feeny says:

    Gimme a cigarette. I’m in love.

  4. David G says:

    John, Great points and well stated. Jeff, I ‘m thinking this piece should run every July 3rd.

    To all the contributors keep up the great work.

  5. Dee says:

    Now if we could only get this administration to read this. Wonderful article.

  6. nana3 says:

    John…welcome to America’s Right and thank you for giving me another reason to celebrate the young people in our country who ‘get it’. It was NO accident that your path crossed with Jeff. The stars are aligning and patriots’ love and understanding of our heritage are reverberating across our nation. You are so right that we must celebrate our values and ideas and they are worth fighting for today. YOU are our future and destiny awaits as you become a voice in the restoration of our great country. I share Mr. Feeny’s thought..when can you run for office?

  7. whats_up says:

    John,

    Nice piece but pretty vague in some areas. For example what do you mean by “true capatilism”. Do you mean no govt regulations, no interventions? Isnt this the argument that we go through every four years. How much govt intrustion into our lives will we allow. What is interesting is to look at the platforms of the parties from the past. For example some nuggets from the 1960 Republican platform:

    Republican action has given to millions of American working men and women new or expanded protection and benefits, such as Increased federal minimum wage;

    Extended coverage of unemployment insurance and the payment of additional temporary benefits provided in 1958-59;

    Upward revision in amount and extended coverage of the minimum wage to several million more workers

    Strengthening the unemployment insurance system and extension of its benefits

    Interesting to see how much has changed.

  8. Gail B. says:

    I second everyone’s comments but will consider adding one more:

    John Morlan for President!

    What a thinker! What an educated man! How proud our Founders must be of him!

  9. Michelle Zhang says:

    Welcome and amazing piece. I just might find myself quoting from this very often from now on.

  10. Hooked on Phonies says:

    10:55, they don’t even read their own legislation…. good luck with that.

  11. Kahleeka says:

    I will also look for the anti-federalist papers, it sounds vaguely familiar.

  12. John Morlan says:

    I wanted to take a minute and respond to the person who posts under whats_up. Your points are definitely valid and I wanted to take a moment to address them. The article is vague in some areas because there just isn’t enough time in an article to explain everything in detail. I am thinking of writing a book though. The point of the article is to get people to think and follow up with their own research and study.

    I used the term “True Capitalism” to differentiate it from our current system which many people believe to be capitalism. It would take way too long to explain in detail here so I will cover this in a later article about Economics (my favorite subject). So look for the article!

  13. Anonymous says:

    “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.”

    Once again, France ruins a good thing.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

    -Thomas Jefferson

  15. whats_up says:

    John,

    Thanks for the response and I look forward to the article and a good debate.

  16. Dee says:

    Hooked on Phonics, I keep “HOPING” they will start reading. Sometimes my eternal optimism gets the best of me.

  17. dad & mom says:

    It has been a long time coming, but I believe John has found his voice and what a voice!! But of course we are prejudice as well as thankful!!

  18. John Morlan says:

    I just wanted to thank everyone for the kind words. I am out of town for a week but when I return I hope to have another article for Jeff to edit. I also should have that Bio which I have been promising him!

  19. m00pa says:

    Thank-you John Morlan,

    My inner spirit is singing and dancing, with the knowledge that there are others in this great land that truly understands the idea of liberty.

    To John’s Dad & Mom, thank you for bringing upon this nation a child of such vision!

    BRAVO!

  20. Steve Rogers says:

    “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.”

    Actually, Madison also heavily contributed to the Federalist Papers (with John Jay adding a few cents!). Madison was also a big mover to scrap the old Articles and adopt a new constitution with a stronger central government. Then, Madison led the fight for adoption in Virginia (read the accounts of how he and Patrick Henry were on opposite sides of the issue). Later, he and Jefferson led the party to limit central government controls; Adams and Hamilton favored a stronger financial and defense structure (among others).

    Bottom line — every two years “We the People” have an opportunity to turn out the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate; every four years we can change presidents. The fact that we don’t (and then complain about our elected officials) can be interpreted in many ways, but none of them (elected officials) is forced upon us.

  21. William A. Rose says:

    Tha was quite good. Well written. Welcome to AR, John.

  22. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Steve,

    In his draft to me, John mentioned that about Madison. Time and time again, however, before and after his break from Hamilton and the Federalists, Madison proved that he erred on the side of a LIMITED federal government. His contemporaneous writings and letters show just that. His comments on the General Welfare Clause in particular are very, very telling as to what, exactly, he felt that the proper role of the government should be.

    Bottom line, though — please don’t impute any misunderstanding about Madison or any inconsistencies with your understanding to John. To the extent that I focused on Madison’s alignment with Jefferson rather than his flirtation with Hamiltonian thought, it’s my fault as editor (and a strung-out, sleepless one at that).

    Jeff

  23. Steve Rogers says:

    Jeff –

    Thanks for your reply. The point I was trying to make is that from the beginning there was always debate (often heated) about what this American experiment is all about. Maybe we still haven’t figured it out. But articles like John’s (well reasoned, written and presented) offer an opportunity for serious and deliberate discussion, rather than yelling and name calling and such.

    On a side note, of all the genius things the founders gave us was institutionalizing debate. In previous governments, disagreements were solved by rushing to arms and duking it out. As dysfunctional as our legislative process appears at times, it is a lot better than violence (our own civil war notwithstanding).

  24. A losing battle says:

    4:16 said “As dysfunctional as our legislative process appears at times, it is a lot better than violence”

    what do we do when the legislative process is hijacked, and the electorate is stacked thru things such as amnesty and corruption?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Here the link to John Morlan’s article ”Behind Independence” that was mentioned in the podcast. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*