17 April 2009

Liberty and the "Super-power"

[P]retenses that they have "Saved the Country," and "Preserved our Glorious Union," are frauds like all the rest of their pretenses. By them they mean simply that they have subjugated...an unwilling people. This they call "Saving the Country"; as if...any people kept in subjection by the sword (as it is intended that all of us shall be hereafter)...could be said to have any country. This, too, they call "Preserving our Glorious Union"; as if there could be said to be any Union, glorious or inglorious, that was not voluntary. Or as if there could be said to be any union between masters and slaves; between those who conquer, and those who are subjugated. All these cries of having...[established] "a government of consent"... are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats...when uttered as justifications... for now compelling...anybody to support a government that he does not want. ~ Lysander Spooner, "No Treason", No. 6, XIX. (Emphases mine.)


As anyone who listens knows, Rush Limbaugh is quite at ease with the U.S. being a super-power. Consequently he was unhappy with what he called Obama's "World Apology Tour", and with this op-ed piece published in several central and south american papers, because he's helping the rest of the world in take us down a notch, which they desire to do because they object to our being the world's lone super-power. I make no secret of being no great fan of the current occupant of the Oval Office. And I made no secret that I wouldn't be a fan of his opponent's administration. So, in general, I share Limbaugh's antipathy for the present adminstration. But there is an element of Limbaugh's thinking, on the subject of super-powers, that concerns me.

Conservatives' inability (especially -- no surprise -- neo-conservatives) to see the relation between our super-power status and the loss of freedoms they (rightly!) complain of has bothered me for some time; but it has really come to a point in the last several years. I was never a big fan of our "superpower" status, specifically, being one of only two super-powers. I liked NATO because I thought it could be an alliance of super-powers, an alliance of free nations against the communist barbarians; but that was short-lived. What can I say? When you are young and hopeful, you tend to act young and hopeful. I hadn't realized, until I was part of NATO, how comfortable Europeans are with socialism. And once you're comfortable with socialism, buying communism isn't much of a stretch.

But never mind European style, democratic, socialism.

The simple fact is this: a super-power, no matter how benevolent, no matter how "democratic", simply cannot be ruled with a republican form of government, though it will maintain the facade of republicanism -- for a while, anyway. And you cannot believe in the consent of the governed without having the view of states' rights which I have and, as a consequence, you cannot be a fan of your nation's super-power status. Indeed, a confederacy (which is what we confederates believe the Constitution created, consistent with the notion of the consent of the governed) could never have become a super-power. How can that possibly have happened with constituent members (whose taxes will fund the super-power) free to leave the so-called union with impunity?

Put simply, it could not have happened. A super-power, member-states of which can freely leave, is a super-power which is always on the brink of extinction. That is why Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father of "Crony Capitalism", and his ideological descendants (proponents of the American System), who sincerely desired a mercantilist empire of their own, don't like confederacies. They would be so proud of what this country has become, even including the recent bailouts.

Conservatives like to believe they favor states' rights, just shy of talking secession. And when I converse with them and they discover my heresy, they give the nod to states' rights and invoke "federalism" but quickly point out that the United States would never have become the power we are today had the war for southern independence been successful. Being a super-power is, apparently, an unqualified good, such a good, in fact, as to require a limitation on the right of a state to give its consent to the central government. Anything which would upset that status is an unqualified evil. (Or, they point out, that the United States would be two countries, instead of one, as if unification is, again, an unqualified good. Well, it is for a mercantilist, anyway. Not so hot for freedom lovers, though.) So, for the sake of being a super-power, the rights of states must be limited.

One of my first responses is, "What United States? There are no united states. The word united connotes freedom: the states are freely united. But they are not freely united, not anymore. They are dominated. A little freer, perhaps, but they are united in the same sense as the members of the former Union of Soviet Swallowed Republics were united. They aren't united; they are unified, sort of like a team of horses. A team of horses, hitched to the same wagon, are not united; they are unified. They do not pull together; they are harnessed and then driven together. They are driven by a master, a central, controlling master, who drives the team in pursuit of his own goals, his own vision. The master may graciously, from time to time, inquire of the team as to their own preferences, goals, visions, whatever; but, in the end, if theirs do not cohere with his own, then his own shall prevail. The vision of the master makes the liberties of the horses a relatively minor consideration. The horses must all go in the same direction; some curtailment of freedom is to expected -- for the great good of the whole team. (As if the horses, who didn't ask to be on any team in the first place, should care about the needs of the team, which are not really the needs of the team but the desire and vision of the wagon-master.)

If the rights of states must be limited for the sake of being a super-power, it stands to reason that individual rights must also be limited, again, for the good of the whole. Your neighbors may believe that your use of your property must be limited so as not to adversely affect your property values. It just goes on and on.

I know: it sounds like confederate sour grapes. But if you're still with me, consider this. The language employed to discuss our super-power status is instructive. Consider the phrases "a super-power" or "the lone super-power", and note the singulars. How does a fifty state union become a or the super-power? They don't, but a fifty member dominion can do so. These are not united states: they are unified states. And there is a difference.

And so long as Rush Limbaugh and his fellow travelers are enamored of the super-power, the simple fact of the matter is that the encroachments upon freedom will continue. They may be halted occasionally, or slowed down, but only temporarily. The reason is quite simple: secession, even if only a last resort, was the only true check upon unlimited federal power. As Woodrow Wilson once wrote, the outcome of the War for Southern Independence established the principle that the federal government is the judge of the limitations of its power. Thank you, Yanks.

Lord Acton understood the relation between state rights and totalitarianism, as he wrote to General Lee (4 November 1866):

Without presuming to decide the purely legal question...I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.


General Lee definitely understood it, as he responded to Lord Acton (15 December 1866):

I yet believe that the maintenanceof the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it. I need not refer one so well acquainted as you are with American history, to the State papers of Washington and Jefferson, the representatives of the federal and democratic parties, denouncing consolidation and centralization of power, as tending to the subversion of State Governments, and to despotism.


There is no such thing as a super-power with a republican form of government, at least not for long. When the Romans acquired super-power status (albeit by means somewhat different from our own) they lost their republic. To be truly consistent with their profession, freedom lovers should stop being so devoted to the Unified States as a, or the, super-power, in preference of a union, a real union of free and united states.

The long and short of it is this. You can't have a free country and be a super-power, any more than you can have a free country and be a socialist power. My problem with His Beatitude is not that he's harming our super-power status. My problem is that he's not really big on freedom.

I was so glad to hear my Governor not shy away from the possibility of secession, when asked about it by a reporter at the "Tea Party" in Austin, Texas. That Perry -- not too shabby...for an Aggie.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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