Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Freedom, the Constitution, and Civil War

This is why I love the internet. I wrote in Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them that individual freedom rests on a tripod. The legs of that tripod are:
The ability to reason, the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to defend one's person and property.
The internet provides the mechanism of a free exchange of ideas unparalleled in history.

On Wednesday, I wrote in Democrat Meltdown about the probable outcome of George Bush being successfully re-elected:
So, here's my prediction: When Bush wins the election with enough margin to prevent cheating on the part of the Dems, there are going to be riots. There will also be domestic terrorism by the moonbats.

The "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" has no place to go? They've been stirred up past the point of no return. They're going to go completely nuts.
Ironbear of Who Tends the Fires wrote a piece yesterday that referenced mine entitled So, is it a Spade, or is it an "Earth Removal Device"? that discusses what he believes is an upcoming civil war. More distant, he believes, than November, but coming nonetheless. Jed, author of read both our pieces and decided that he could add to the discussion, and he certainly did in his piece I Wish I Could Be More Optimistic. Jed opens his piece with a quote from an excellent Joseph Sobran essay I don't think I'd seen before, How Tyranny Came to America.

Please do read all of these interconnected pieces. This is "the free exchange of ideas" at its best, I think - people all over the country able to sit at a keyboard and put up what they think for others to consider and critique.

Jed's essay quotes a critical piece of Sobran's:
The modern American educational system no longer teaches us the political language of our ancestors. In fact our schooling helps widen the gulf of time between our ancestors and ourselves, because much of what we are taught in the name of civics, political science, or American history is really modern liberal propaganda. Sometimes this is deliberate. Worse yet, sometimes it isn’t. Our ancestral voices have come to sound alien to us, and therefore our own moral and political language is impoverished.
To emphasize this, let me quote Connie du Toit from quite a while back (can't find the link, but I saved the quote):
The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, "it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy."

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, "You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent."

I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.

Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.

The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.
I concluded long ago that the teaching of "modern liberal propaganda" met the definition of a conspiracy. The fact that it's no longer deliberate merely shows how successful that conspiracy was.

Sobran believes that we can restore the Constitution:
Can we restore the Constitution and recover our freedom? I have no doubt that we can. Like all great reforms, it will take an intelligent, determined effort by many people. I don’t want to sow false optimism.

But the time is ripe for a constitutional counterrevolution. Discontent with the ruling system, as the 1992 Perot vote showed, is deep and widespread among several classes of people: Christians, conservatives, gun owners, taxpayers, and simple believers in honest government all have their reasons. The rulers lack legitimacy and don’t believe in their own power strongly enough to defend it.

The beauty of it is that the people don’t have to invent a new system of government in order to get rid of this one. They only have to restore the one described in the Constitution — the system our government already professes to be upholding. Taken seriously, the Constitution would pose a serious threat to our form of government.

And for just that reason, the ruling parties will be finished as soon as the American people rediscover and awaken their dormant Constitution.
Jed is, as the title of his essay states, not so optimistic:
I'd like to think it's possible to return to genuine federalism in the United States. But I honestly don't believe there are sufficient numbers of citizens who would support it. Indeed, I fear it's just the opposite. Far too many of us are at least content with, and many support, the sort of activist government which is described by Ironbear thusly:
Neither Democrats/Leftists or Republicans shy away from statism... the arguments there are merely over degree of statism, uses to which statism will be put - and over who'll hold the reins.
With an argument such as that, I find it hard to agree with Ironbear about where he thinks the divide between the left/right (or Democrat/Republican, or Liberal/Conservative) philosophies is taking us, i.e. to irreconcilable conflict.
It's a good point. I've long said that the choice between the Democrats and the Republicans is the choice between castration and a wedgie. They're statists, and statists-lite.

Sobran thinks that when the American people "rediscover and awaken their dormant Constitution" then they'll restore it. Jed thinks that too many people are too heavily invested in the statist status quo for that to happen, or for there to be another civil war. Ironbear thinks that "(t)he heart of the conflict is between those to whom personal liberty is important, and those to whom liberty is not only inconsequential, but to whom personal liberty is a deadly threat."

So who, if anyone, is right?

First, they're entirely separate questions. We can certainly have another civil war and not restore the Constitution. In fact, that would be the least likely outcome anyway. We preserved the Union with the last one, but the Constitution sure as hell wasn't "restored." I, too, disagree with Sobran's optimism. Which Constitution would we restore? The one that the Founders signed that allowed slavery? The one Lincoln violated in order to save the Union? How far back do you go? Jed calls for "genuine federalism," but how do you define that? Federalism was one of the things greatly opposed by a large number of the Founders, and not really implemented until after the Civil War. "States Rights" have largely disappeared in the destruction of the Constitution that Sobran decries.

I've quoted Antonin Scalia more than once in this blog, but this reminds me of this one attributed to him:
To some degree, a constitutional guarantee is like a commercial loan, you can only get it if, at the time, you don't really need it. The most important, enduring, and stable portions of the Constitution represent such a deep social consensus that one suspects if they were entirely eliminated, very little would change. And the converse is also true. A guarantee may appear in the words of the Constitution, but when the society ceases to possess an abiding belief in it, it has no living effect.

Consider the fate of the principle expressed in the Tenth Amendment that the federal government is a government of limited powers. I do not suggest that constitutionalization has no effect in helping the society to preserve allegiance to its fundamental principles. That is the whole purpose of a constitution.

But the allegiance comes first and the preservation afterwards.
How do we achieve a "deep social consensus" again? Did we ever, really, have one? What I and Ironbear and others have been illustrating is that there is a deep and widening schism in the American social consensus that certainly gives the appearance that we are headed for civil war. That schism is nominally what Ironbear described:
Like the first (Civil War), the dividing lines are drawn across views of the ownership of men.... of whether we are owned by ourselves or by The State.
One needn't be a strict Constitutionalist to pick a side in that one.

Let me say, however, that I'm not a wholehearted opponent of some level of statism. I've had long and protracted arguments discussions with anarchists who believe that no government is better than any government, and that a state of no government is achievable (though they admit they don't know how to get there.) I'm comfortable with the fact that government is a necessary evil, best kept small and watched closely. And I understand that it is the nature of government to grow, cancer-like, to subsume the body politic and kill it.

The only answer to that knowledge is education, and here is an excellent place to put a piece once sent to me by Francis Porretto. It's a piece of original fiction written by Francis (and used with his permission) that illustrates the Spoonerist-anarchist belief system from his yet-unpublished novel Which Art In Hope:
As the bell rang, Professor Arne Stromberg bounded in through a side door. The gaunt, gray-haired sociologist dangled a battered old briefcase from his right hand and a large canvas bag from his left. He tossed both at the side of the lectern, switched on the microphone and bathed the class in his relentlessly sunny smile. Armand straightened up and uncapped his pen.

"Good morning. Last Randsday I promised you that we'd have a special demonstration today, something you've heard about many times but have never seen in operation. Did everyone bring ten one-deka bills?"

There was a rustling among the seated students, but no one spoke.

Stromberg nodded. "All right. We'll need a small clear area, and up here by me is as good as any." He pulled an index card from his breast pocket and peered at it. "Will the following students please come join me at the front of the room: Albermayer, Claire; Diederick, Fred; Farquharson, Jules; Ianotti, Ottavio; Morelon, Armand; Pierce, Aurelyn; Reinach, Denise; Thorkild, Lars; Untermeyer, Klaus; and Wolzman, David."

Armand started at the sound of his name. He rose and ambled down the center aisle to join the other students whose names had been called. When all were present, Stromberg picked up his canvas bag and spread it open before them. It was empty.

"Put any weapons you're carrying in here. You'll get them back when the demonstration is over."

A prickle of unease danced along Armand's neck, but he pulled his needlegun from his pocket and flipped it into the bag. Presently the bag bulged with an impressive amount of hardware. Stromberg deposited it by the side of the lectern with a clank.

"Very good. Now, arrange yourselves in a circle about ten feet in diameter and sit on the dais."

Armand formed a rough circle with the other nine, then sat cross-legged on the wooden surface. The expressions on the other faces in the circle were wary. Stromberg slipped through the circle, moved to its center and turned to face the lecture hall. An impressively perfect silence prevailed.

"You are about to see a demonstration of the State. For the purposes of the demonstration, I will play the role of the State. Please don't become alarmed. Above all, remain in your seats."

The professor swept his eyes around the circle. "Take your ten one-deka notes and fan them out before you." A student across the circle from Armand asked, "Why?" Stromberg smiled down at her. "Just do it." They did.

The professor stooped and with practiced rapidity plucked a note from each student's hands. It took about fifteen seconds. When he'd rounded the circle, he returned to its center, divided the notes into two sheaves of five each, and stuck one in his pocket. A student in the circle cried, "Hey!" He started to rise from the floor.

Stromberg turned a stony face toward the objector. "Be quiet." The young man subsided.

As if at random, the professor selected the student next to Armand and handed her the other five bills. The young woman accepted them with an incredulous stare. Stromberg smiled. "Add these to your fan." Armand looked sideways at the girl. If she had been prepared for Stromberg's act, she gave no sign.

Stromberg stood at the center of the circle looking at his watch for a few seconds, then began to pluck bills from the students' hands once again, quickly and wordlessly. As the professor approached, Armand shoved his nine remaining notes into his pants pocket. Stromberg cocked an eyebrow.

"Where are your dekas?"

"Safe in my pocket." Armand smiled formally.

"Well, bring them out."

"I prefer not to."

A grin spread slowly across Arne Stromberg's face and became a wide, vicious smile. "Ah, but you will." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a Bronson coagulator and leveled it at Armand's head. A gasp raced across the hall. Armand's breath went short. He'd never before faced the business end of a weapon in another man's hand.

"You see, Mr. Morelon, I am the State." Stromberg's smile did not waver. "I can do as I please to you. If you refuse my demands, I can take your life, and no one can call me to account. That's what it means to be the State. And that's what it means to be a subject of the State. Now produce your bills."

Armand's blood rose. He started to clamber to his feet. Before he could do so, Stromberg's foot lashed out and struck him on the breastbone. He toppled backward, roared in anger and made to rise again, but stopped. The professor's thumb was visibly caressing the coagulator's firing stud.

"You don't have the idea yet, Mr. Morelon. Your family is the oldest and most honored on Hope. You're used to gentle treatment, maybe even a little deference. But I am the State, and I concede nothing to you. You have no rights I am bound to respect. Your preferences are unimportant to me. You are only fodder for my plans. Produce your money or be prepared to die."

The room buzzed with surprise and anger. Armand glared up in outrage. The gun did not swerve from his face. Abruptly Stromberg's thumb bore down on the stud. The coagulator's tracer beam struck Armand full in the eyes.

Every student in the hall screamed, Armand loudest of all. The brilliance of the beam dazzled him. He heaved himself backward, one arm thrown across his eyes. From around him came a thunder of feet as his classmates stormed toward the dais, toward Arne Stromberg.

"Wait!" Armand shouted. "I'm all right!"

The thunder died. Armand lowered his arm from his face and opened his eyes. His vision was a sea of colored blurs. It took several seconds to clear and reveal the surrounding tableau. His classmates were clustered around him, staring at him in shock. A group of four held Stromberg by the arms. A wild panic was evident in their expressions. Apparently unfazed by the tumult he'd caused, the professor was shaking his head and clucking in disapproval. "I told you to stay in your seats. Mr. Morelon." Stromberg pulled himself free of restraint, then squatted before Armand. "You have the makings of a revolutionary martyr. Or did you guess that my gun was disabled?"

"I don't know. Maybe. No decent person would do such a thing, right?"

The professor nodded slowly. "That's the problem I face year after year. No decent person would use force to get something he wanted from someone else. Force is for the defense of life and property, never anything else. You all drank that in with your mothers' milk, and it's been reinforced by two decades of life in a decent society." He retrieved the dud gun from where it had fallen and returned it to his pocket. "Please, ladies and gentlemen, return to your seats. Yes, you in the circle as well. Oh, get your weapons from the bag first."

When the class had settled into its seats again, Stromberg went to the lectern and leaned against it. Droplets of sweat glistened on his forehead. The demonstration had taken as much from the sociologist as from anyone else, Armand included. "This is a hard job," Stromberg grimaced. "None of you knows of the State, except for Sacrifice Day stories. After twelve hundred years of perfect freedom, none of you can even entertain the notion that someone could claim the power of life and death over you, and not be held answerable for his actions. And so I have to make it real for you with a little play like the one you just saw. But even that isn't enough, as witness Mr. Morelon's inability to believe that I would really kill him for his defiance."

A murmur stirred the room.

Stromberg chuckled. "And of course I didn't. What would have happened to me if I had? Would you others have permitted me to shelter under the privilege I had claimed, the State's privilege of 'sovereign immunity'?" He shook his head. "Not for a minute. If I had really hurt that young man, you would have torn me limb from limb, and you would have been right to do so. That's what a decent society does with those that claim the privilege of coercing others. We eliminate them."

The professor's face grew tight. "And that's why the Spooner Federation abandoned the Earth."

Armand's thoughts churned. He raised his hand.

Stromberg acknowledged him. "Yes, Mr. Morelon?"

"Sir...I know Earth had States, and I know they hated our ancestors, but weren't there any decent people left?"

The professor looked at him in silence for a long time. "This is truly a hard job, Mr. Morelon. The answer to your question is: No, there weren't. Not after the Spoonerites left. I know you don't want to believe it. But the people of Earth had all accepted force and terror as legitimate means to an end. They had accepted the State, and the State had swallowed them whole. There were no free men anywhere. There were only rulers and subjects. As a result, there was no peace and no security anywhere. Have you ever read about war, Mr. Morelon?" Stromberg looked around the room. "Have any of you?"

There was no answer.

"It was the greatest of the obscenities of the States." Stromberg's voice dropped near to a whisper. "Now and again, for any reasons or none, they would hurl their populations at one another. Millions of men would clash in combat, striking and being struck, killing and being killed in numbers beyond imagination. Why? So that one State could enforce its will upon another.

"During a war, the economy of a warring State would be channeled to warlike priorities. No longer did the skills of producers determine what would be made and who would make it. No longer did the desires of consumers determine how much of it would be purchased and at what price. The State ruled all. The engines of production became merely another weapon in its hands, to be wielded against its enemy as it saw fit. To disobey the State in peacetime would cost you your liberty or your property. To deviate from the State's decrees in wartime was called treason, and would cost you your life."

The old lecturer straightened, looking for a moment very like Armand's grandfather. His eyes became piercing beacons of anger.

"And I am charged with teaching you about this. I, who have no more direct knowledge of it than you. Every year I spend hundreds of hours reading histories of old Earth. I steep myself in them until I can smell the greed of the States on the air and feel the chill sweat of their subjects' fear on my own skin. But why? We've left the State behind forever, haven't we? Would any of you care to guess why I put myself through that torture year after year, and why I've put you through this briefer one today?"

A student raised a tentative hand. "Because it's necessary, sir?"

Stromberg shook his head slowly. "Necessary to whom, Mr. Untermeyer? Necessary by whose judgment?" He grinned ruefully. "Necessity is the creed of tyrants. A great man named William Pitt said that. He proved it by going on to become a great tyrant. A man of Hope determines his own necessities. He doesn't have them determined for him by others."

Klaus Untermeyer stood, and the class turned toward him. "But if it isn't necessary, what other reason could there be?"

Stromberg pursed his lips and looked down at his lectern. "I noticed that you carry a needlegun, Mr. Untermeyer. May I ask why?"

The student shrugged. "I've always carried one."

"Are you good with it?"

The young man's eyes narrowed. "Fair."

"Have you ever used it to defend yourself?"

"Uh, no."

"But I'd wager a year's salary that you never leave your room without it. Why?"

Untermeyer shrugged. "My parents taught me to keep it with me. You never know what might turn up."

The sociologist nodded. "Indeed you don't. Not now, and not in the future. If there's a soul among you who doesn't go armed whenever he's beyond the walls of his home, he's a benighted fool. Because you don't know what might turn up. And after twelve hundred years of peace and freedom, neither do we of Hope."

Stromberg brought forth his disabled coagulator. "I removed the leads to the maser at my breakfast table, and I've felt naked ever since. If you'll allow me, I'm going to reconnect them now." He pulled a small screwdriver from his pocket, opened the weapon's case, and swiftly reconnected the severed leads. "You can never know what might turn up, ladies and gentlemen. The justifications for creating and submitting to a State have piled up thickly over the eight millennia of recorded human history. Each has been cleverer and more complex than the last. We of Hope have not succumbed...yet. And if we keep green our memories of what the State really was, how it operated, and what it meant to be unfree, perhaps we never will."

Armand raised his hand again. "Sir?"

"Yes, Mr. Morelon?"

"During the demonstration? Why did you give Claire five of the dekas you, uh, stole?"

Stromberg smirked. "Thank you for asking, Mr. Morelon. That's how States create loyalists."

The bell rang.
Short of colonies off-planet, establishing an idealistically homogeneous society like the one Francis envisions is unlikely in the extreme, and even then unlikely to endure. The Puritans came across the ocean to escape the corruption they saw around them, but the corruption followed and eventually swallowed them. I, personally don't see any way to escape some level of coercive statism, but I think it can and should be minimized.

The only way to do that, however, is through education, and that's what Fran's piece illustrates - the power of education. I've another illuminating excerpt in this blog, one from Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, if you're interested. It's the lecture on History and Moral Philosophy that I think everyone should read, on much the same lines as the one above.

As Connie du Toit and Joseph Sobran (among many others) have noted, "modern liberal propaganda" - full-blown statism - has become the curriculum of our public school systems. You won't see anyone teaching around the philosophy of individual freedom and responsibility. The State was made responsible for education, and in the manner that the State always does, it has seen fit to encourage the growth of Statism.

If individual freedom rests on the tripod of the ability to reason, the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to protect ones person and property, then the State must break one or more of those legs in order to maintain its grip on power. Otherwise the result will be civil war when the State becomes too oppressive, and the people will no longer bear it.

This does not, however, mean that the result of a civil war will be better than its cause. The Founders had a strong, largely homogeneous philosophy on which to base their new nation. I don't believe the same can be said for their modern descendants.

The education of ourselves and our children is our most critical mission. Learn that which we need to know to be free. Teach it to others. Possess the ability to defend yourself, your family, and your property.

Or may your chains rest lightly upon you and your descendants.

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