Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is a New American Revolution Morally Justified?

The United States was founded on a revolutionary ideology that displaced the hierarchical pattern of Europe with a more egalitarian one. More importantly, the ideology of the American revolution was liberal, Lockean, and based on the principle that the state derives limited rights from the direct consent of the governed. Locke did not doubt that there is a right to revolution when the state exceeds the bounds that individuals have set. If one individual feels that the state has exceeded its bounds, he is deterred from revolution by the fact that he will fail unless a majority of his compatriots agree with him. Thus, Locke does not argue that we ever give up the right to revolution but that there are practical reasons to avoid pursuing it recklessly. Thus, Jefferson's claim that there needs to be a revolution every twenty years was tempered by his calling his own election to the presidency in 1800 a revolution. By then, Jefferson had acceded to most of the Federalists' principles, so he had reduced the definition of revolution considerably.

The process by which taxes are set in the United States is less democratic and reflective of popular will than it was in colonial America just prior to the Revolutionary War. Before 1730 the colonies were with exceptions independent of British rule, but beginning in the 1730s Parliament passed the Molasses, Hat and Iron Acts and, more seriously, after 1763 imposed several taxes, such as the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act and the Quartering Act which they had the right to do, followed by the Townshend Acts (1767) and the Coercive or Intolerable Acts (1774). The colonists objected to the process by which the taxes were set, and this led to the Revolutionary War.

Today, the process by which taxes are set depends on a government that purports to represent over 300 million Americans (about 128 million or 61% of whom vote for President). In colonial times, there were about three million Americans. In colonial times the ratio of the number of Congressional representatives to population was 3,000 to one. Today it is 500,000 to one. In colonial times, a disaffected American could follow Roger Williams and leave his colony to found a new one. Today, land is held by the federal government or the people. There is nowhere else to go to escape factional tyranny.

The founders did not believe in unrestrained democracy because they feared that it would breach the liberal principles on which the nation was founded. The Progressives, whom historians such as Gabriel Kolko, William Appleman Williams, James Weinstein and Murray Rothbard have argued represented the interests of big business while claiming to represent "democracy", argued against liberal constraints on democracy. Since the Progressive era, there has been increasing tyranny of special interests, specifically the very big business interests whom the Progressives laughably believed they controlled through the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the Federal Trade Commission.

Thus, America today is characterized by much greater tyranny than it was in the colonial era. This is compounded by the rejection of liberalism by America's other-directed elites and their willingness to unrestrainedly abuse state power to extract hard-earned earnings from ordinary Americans in the interests of incompetently conceived and inevitably corrupt government projects.

There is little doubt that Americans can morally bear arms against the current government in Washington. There are practical reasons why they may not. However, it is a consideration that individualists need to begin considering. This is not a government that represents me. I do not believe that the taxes I pay go for any purpose that I can support. The federal government is suppressive and immoral, as is the state government. Things have not yet gotten bad enough that a sufficiently large percentage of the nation will agree (the tipping point is probably 30 or 40 percent), but I think that there is a good chance, given current Federal Reserve and government attitudes and policies, that this can become a reality.


A Jacksonian said...

We have lost the wisdom of learning that the discussion of 1787-89 should never be ended: the 'Anti-Federalists' were not against a federal Republic, indeed some criticized the Constitution on not being federal *enough*. That rich discussion between all sorts of individuals looks very much like the blogging of today. For every Brutus (and some of his points were quite cogent) and deeply moving thinker like John Jay, we get a Luther Martin who could fly off the handle or Alexander Hamilton who was far too dismissive of other's arguments and too trusting in the good nature of man to be constant over time.

We have come to forget that representative democracy is in service to the Republic, not to democracy itself: that the laws we abide by in common are more important than popular will to power. The concentration in power is horrific in the modern day, and there has never been an excuse for it. We now have wide ranging companies with far more employees needing to act than the scanty few we have in Congress and that unrepresentative minority in Congress now, as was warned about, grow closer to each other in common interest and more distant to the people they are to be serving.

The more I read of earlier decisions to distribute banking the wiser it looks. One bank with a hundred billion to gamble or a hundred banks with a billion? You do increase marginal cost per bank, but you have a near rock solid guarantee that *all of them* will not fail simultaneously. Our intervention along the lines of Hamilton is the problem as political government is not set up to be wise fiscally and economically, nor are 'experts' any guarantee of good decision making, as we have seen.

All Americans were to share in the burden of our common government by taxation per person, that the States could figure out how to gather. That was a check and balance on federal over-reach... gone to the wave of 'progressivism'. So too is the check of State governments putting their mark in the US Senate. Yet another vital inter-federal check and balance now gone to 'progressivism'. Is it any wonder we got long standing corrupt politicians who could vote in such huge budgets? They have no check upon them and we do not feel the pain of federal government at the deepest, poorest levels of society. That was supposed to keep the government from taking too much... knowing it would take from the poor.

Gone now.

We have sought expedient and efficient government.

Dictatorships are very efficient.

Representative democracies in service to a Federal Republic? That as made to be inefficient so it would be kept small and allow liberty to grow. It was the opposite of expedient as every penny would have to be argued about... no longer...

We are destined to be a Nation that raisese the banner 'No Taxation Without Representation' yet again.

Mitchell Langbert said...

AJacksonian: Thanks for your always excellent ideas.

cachito said...

"They tell us we are weak, unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when will we be stronger? Will it be next week, or next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed?" ~Patrick Henry~

Unfortunately, by the time we reach your tipping point, we will be disarmed.