MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘States’ Rights’

Suddenly states’ rights are back on the table | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. on April 16, 2020

Trump has done more for states’ rights than any other President in modern history. Not because he is trying to. Because he is universally hated by the left. And the lefties were the ones lagging behind on understanding why state governments are an important check on federal power.

The feds have long held money over the states as bribes to do their bidding where the control was not strictly legal. For instance, highway funds in exchange for each state raising the drinking age to 21.

How come the only people not allowed power is you and me?

https://www.thedailybell.com/all-articles/news-analysis/suddenly-states-rights-are-back-on-the-table/

By Joe Jarvis

It must be confusing to be a “progressive” these days.

They criticize Trump’s lack of dictatorial control over the country to stop the CoronaVirus. He left the lockdowns to the state governments.

But then Trump suggests that the Feds will make the call on when to reopen the economy (AKA give people their rights back).

Trump said, “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total… The President of the United States calls the shots.”

And just like that, the Tenth Amendment was reborn.

Suddenly, the radical left loves the Constitution! Specifically the part of the Bill of Rights that says:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Trump has done more for states’ rights than any other President in modern history. Not because he is trying to. Because he is universally hated by the left. And the lefties were the ones lagging behind on understanding why state governments are an important check on federal power.

But Trump has strengthened the argument for state power on the right as well. I mean we’re looking at a $4 trillion deficit in the Federal budget this year alone! It took Obama four years to rack up that kind of debt.

Ignoring the Trump fanatics, grounded people understand that this massive spending comes with a real price tag. It means the dollar, and the federal government will lose its power as the currency is devalued.

The feds have long held money over the states as bribes to do their bidding where the control was not strictly legal. For instance, highway funds in exchange for each state raising the drinking age to 21.

When that leverage is gone, and when the Feds can only pay their enforcers with worthless paper, it is logical to think the states will pick up the pieces, reject federal authority, and go their own ways.

This whole situation was brewing under the surface before. But the CoronaVirus is the trigger that could shift it into overdrive. And now, states look like they aren’t going to wait for a dollar collapse to make their moves.

For instance, the tiniest state, Rhode Island, has gone full Gestapo and is searching for New Yorkers who entered the state without quarantining. My parents live in Massachusetts, and my dad planned to sail his new boat down to Rhode Island to park it there. But that won’t be happening during this pandemic. Rhode Island is closed to outsiders.

Other states, like California, Oregon, and Washington are forming coalitions to decide when to reopen the economies, and how to further deal with CoronaVirus in the region. Like the United States was meant to be, these states are participating in these pacts voluntarily. That means they could also withdraw from them. Another check on centralized control.

Some east coast states will also be creating their own coalition.

And here is an important aspect of regional government to consider. This is not a new phenomena, or something that hasn’t been seen since the 1781 Articles of Confederation.

I recently read a book called American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard. (Amazon affiliate link)

It shows that there was never a “United” USA. The fault lines of politics have always fallen along eleven main regions.

For example, “Yankeedom” is dominated by Massachusetts, but extends to most of New England. It has its roots in Puritanism, their style of centralized government, and their value of education. Immigrants from Yankeedom left their mark on The Left Coast, a natural political ally of New England.

Contrast that with The Deep South, born of aristocracy, who believed in a deeply hierarchical structure of society. Or Appalachia, who value individual freedom, and have shifted their alliances with other regions based on who will get the feds off their back.

Woodard argues:

The nations have been struggling with one another for advantage and influence since they were founded. And from 1790, the biggest prize has been control over federal government institutions; Congress, the White House, Courts, and the Military.

As the central government has grown in size, scope, and power, so have the nations’ efforts to capture and reshape it, and the rest of the continent in their image.

Since 1877 the driving force between American politics hasn’t primarily been a class struggle, or tension between agrarian and commercial interests, or even between competing partisan ideologies, although each has played a role.

Ultimately, the determinative political struggle has been a clash between shifting coalitions of ethno-regional nations, one invariable headed by the Deep South, the other by Yankeedom.

These fault lines aren’t going away. But they don’t have to become violent either.

In fact, if the American nations were to go their separate ways, life would be much improved for many.

Not just during a pandemic, when people have very different ideas about the scope of government power.

But also during the looming economic crisis, when currencies, local supply chains, and regional commerce will have to be reinvented.

And no one would have to waste time worrying about who occupied the White House.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Rothbard: The Constitution Was a Coup d’État | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on February 14, 2020

When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object….But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire….Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism.

https://mises.org/wire/rothbard-constitution-was-coup-d%C3%A9tat

[Conceived in Liberty: The New Republic, 1784–1791. By Murray N. Rothbard. Edited by Patrick Newman. Mises Institute, 2019. 332 pages.]

We owe Patrick Newman a great debt for his enterprise and editorial skill in bringing to publication the fifth volume, hitherto thought lost, of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty. The details of his rescue of the lost manuscript are indeed dramatic, but rather than recount them here, I should like to concentrate on a theme central to the new book.

It is well known that Rothbard took the American Revolution to be mainly libertarian in its inspiration. The libertarian impulses of the Revolution were betrayed by a centralizing coup d’état. As Rothbard puts it:

Basically, urban merchants and artisans, as well as many slaveholding planters, united in support of a strong nation-state that would use the power of coercion to grant them privileges and subsidies. The subsidies would come at the expense of the average subsistence yeoman farmer who might be expected to oppose such a new nationalism. But against them, to support a new constitution, were the commercial farmers aided by the southern plantation-farmers who also wanted power and regulation for their own benefit. Given the urban support, the split among the farmers, and the support from wealthy educated elites, it is not surprising that the nationalist forces were able to execute their truly amazing political coup d’état which illegally liquidated the Articles of Confederation and replaced it with the Constitution. In short, they were able to destroy the original individualist and decentralized program of the American Revolution. (p. 128)

The theme I should like to concentrate on is this: what happens to the way we understand the Constitution if Rothbard is right that it was a centralizing document? The Anti-Federalists, with whom Rothbard agreed, denounced it for that reason. For example, in Virginia Patrick Henry, one of Rothbard’s heroes, said:

When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object….But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire….Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? (p. 262)

With all this as background, we can now consider the theme I’d like to stress. If the Anti-Federalists were right. We cannot say that the Constitution as originally written gave us a limited government that later regimes have ruthlessly and recklessly expanded. In taking this approach, Rothbard set himself firmly against the dominant trend in American conservative thought. He remarks:

The Constitution was unquestionably a high-nationalist document, creating what Madison once referred to as a “high mounted government.” Not only were the essential lines of the nationalistic Virginia Plan Report carried out in the Constitution, but the later changes made were preponderantly in a nationalist direction….While it is true that the general congressional veto over state laws and the vague broad grant of powers in the original Virginia Plan were whittled down to a list of enumerated powers, enough loopholes existed in the enumerated list: the national supremacy clause; the dominance of the federal judiciary; the virtually unlimited power to tax, raise armies and navies, make war, and regulate commerce; the necessary and proper clause; and the powerful general welfare loophole; all allowed the virtually absolute supremacy of the central government. While libertarian restraints were placed on state powers, no bill of rights existed to check the federal government. (p.211)

We can argue that later regimes extended national power beyond what the Constitution contemplated, but if Rothbard is right, the Constitution as written provides ample scope for tyranny.

One of the leading arguments of Constitutional conservatives is that since Congress is granted the power to declare war, military engagements by later presidents that bypass Congress are unconstitutional. (In several reviews, I have argued this way myself.) Rothbard does not agree. He says:

Congress’ proposed broad military powers occasioned much debate. The nationalists tried to narrow Congress’ power to make war into a more concentrated, and therefore a more controllable, form: Pinckney to the Senate only, Butler to the president himself. While these were defeated, Madison cunningly moved to alter congressional power: ‘make war’ became ‘declare war,’ which left a broad, dangerous power for the president, who was grandiosely designated in the draft as the ‘commander in chief’ of the U.S. army and navy, and of all the state militias. For now, the president might make war even if only Congress could formally declare it.” (p. 185)

Rothbard finds similar slippery language in the Tenth Amendment, imagined by some defenders of limited government to be a principal means to thwart efforts by the federal government to centralize power:

This amendment did in truth transform the Constitution from one of supreme national power to a partially mixed polity where the liberal anti-nationalists had a constitutional argument with at least a fighting chance of acceptance. However, Madison had cunningly left out the word “expressly” before the word “delegated,” so the nationalist judges were able to claim that because the word “expressly” was not there, the “delegated” can vaguely accrue through judges’ elastic interpretation of the Constitution….The Tenth Amendment has been intensely reduced, by conventional judiciary construction, to a meaningless tautology. (pp. 302–3)

(Note that Rothbard does not disagree with the nationalist judges’ interpretation.) Rothbard does see some hope of restraining the central government in the “forgotten” Ninth Amendment, but this was not to be invoked in a serious way by the Supreme Court until the 1960s.

Defenders of the Constitution as a bulwark of limited government often invoke the wisdom to be found in the Federalist Papers, but Rothbard views them as deceptive propaganda:

The essays contained in The Federalist were designed not for the ages—not as an explanation of nationalist views—but as a propaganda document to allay the fears and lull the suspicions of the Antifederal forces. Consequently, these field marshals of the Federalist campaign were concerned to make the Constitution look like a mixed concoction of checks-and balances and popular representation, when they really desired, and believed that they had, a political system of overriding national power. What is remarkable is the fact that historians and conservative political theorists have seized upon and canonized these campaign pieces as fountains of quasi-divine political wisdom, as hallowed texts to be revered, even as somehow a vital part of American constitutional law. (pp. 269–70)

James Madison’s argument that a large national republic would better cope with the dangers of factionalism than a small one is often invoked for its profundity, but Rothbard is not impressed:

Madison claimed that the greater diversity of interests over a large area will make it more difficult for a majority of the interests to combine and oppress a minority. It is difficult to see, however, why such a combination should be difficult….But the main fallacy in Madison’s argument is that it is part and parcel of the antidemocratic Federalist doctrine that the danger of despotic government comes, not from the government, but from among the ranks (i.e., the majority) of the public. The fallacy of this by now should be evident. Even if a majority approves an act of tyranny, it almost never initiates or elaborates or executes such action; rather they are almost always passive tools in the hands of the oligarchy of rulers and their allied favorites of the state apparatus. (pp. 270–71)

Rothbard concludes with this verdict on the Constitution:

Overall, it should be evident that the Constitution was a counterrevolutionary reaction to the libertarianism and decentralization embodied in the American Revolution. The Antifederalists, supporting states’ rights and critical of a strong national government, were decisively beaten by the Federalists, who wanted such a polity under the guise of democracy in order to enhance their own interests and institute a British-style mercantilism over the country. Most historians have taken the side of the Federalists because they support a strong national government that has the power to tax and regulate, call forth armies and invade other countries, and cripple the power of the states. The enactment of the Constitution in 1788 drastically changed the course of American history from its natural decentralized and libertarian direction to an omnipresent leviathan that fulfilled all of the Antifederalists’ fears. (p. 312)

There is evidence that Rothbard wrote the manuscript of this book before 1967 (see p. 312, editor’s note 7). But I do not think that he later changed his mind about the Constitution. Those who wish to challenge his brilliant analysis have a difficult task ahead of them.

Be seeing you

Murray Rothbard’s Practical Politics | The American Conservative

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Constitution IS the Crisis | Antonius Aquinas

Posted by M. C. on February 12, 2020

Once read, any notion of the “founding fathers” as disinterested statesmen who sublimated their own interests and that of their constituents to that of their country will be disavowed.  Moreover, The New Republic:1784-1791 is the most important in the series since the grave crises that the nation now faces can be traced to those fateful days in Philadelphia when a powerful central state was created.

I vouch for the first 4 volumes. The best history you never learned in school.

https://antoniusaquinas.com/2020/02/10/the-constitution-is-the-crisis/

410jXD-zO+L
A Review of Murray N. Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty, Vol. 5The posthumous release of Murray Rothbard’s fifth volume of his early American history series, Conceived in Liberty, is a cause of celebration not only for those interested in the country’s constitutional period, but also for the present day as the nation is faced with acute social, economic, and political crises.  The fifth volume, The New Republic: 1784-1791, stands with Boston T. Party’s 1997 release, Hologram of Liberty, as a grand rebuttal of the cherished notion held by most contemporary scholars, pundits on the Right, and, surprisingly, many libertarians who believe that the US Constitution is some great bulwark in defense of individual liberty and a promoter of economic success.ConceivedInLiberty4in1 Volumes 1-4

Rothbard’s narrative highlights the crucial years after the American Revolution focusing on the events and personalities that led to the calling for, drafting, and eventual promulgation of the Constitution in 1789.  Not only does he describe the key factors that led to the creation of the American nation-state, but he gives an insightful account of the machinations which took place in Philadelphia and a trenchant analysis of the document itself which has become, in the eyes of most conservatives, on a par with Holy Writ.

What Might Have Been

While Rothbard writes in a lively and engaging manner, the eventual outcome and triumph of the nationalist forces leaves the reader with a certain sadness.  Despite the fears expressed by the Antifederalists that the new government was too powerful and would lead to tyranny, through coercion, threats, lies, bribery, and arm twisting by the politically astute Federalists, the Constitution came into being.  Yet, what if it had been the other way around and the forces against it had prevailed?

It is safe to assume that America would have been a far more prosperous and less war-like place.  The common held notion that the Constitution was needed to keep peace among the contending states is countered by Rothbard, who points out a number of instances where states settled their differences, most notably Maryland and Virginia as they came to an agreement on the navigation of the Chesapeake Bay.  [129-30]

Without a powerful central state to extract resources and manpower, overseas intervention by the country would have been difficult to undertake.  Thus, the US’s disastrous participation in the two world wars would have been avoided.  Furthermore, it would have been extremely unlikely for a Confederation Congress to impose an income tax as the federal government successfully did through a constitutional amendment in 1913.

Nor would the horrific misnamed “Civil War” ever take place with its immense loss of life and the destruction of the once flourishing Southern civilization.  The triumph of the Federal government ended forever “states rights” in the US and, no doubt, inspired centralizing tendencies throughout the world, most notably in Germany which became unified under Prussian domination.

In a failed attempt in 1786 to enact an impost tax under the Confederation, Abraham Yates, a New York lawyer and prominent Antifederalist, spoke of decentralization as the key to liberty as Rothbard aptly summarizes:

Yates also warned that true republicanism can only be preserved in small states, and

keenly pointed out that in the successful Republics of Switzerland and the

Netherlands the local provinces retained full control over their finances.  A taxing

power in Congress would demolish state sovereignty and reduce the states, where

the people could keep watch on their representatives, to mere adjuncts of

congressional power, and liberty would be gone.  [64]

Antifederalists, such as Yates, had a far greater understanding of how liberty and individual rights would be protected than their statist opponents such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.  The Antifederalists looked to Europe as a model, which, for most of its history, was made up of decentralized political configurations.  The Federalists, on the other hand, got much of their inspiration from the Roman Republic and later Empire.  There is little question that an America, with the political attributes of a multi-state Europe, would be far less menacing to both its own inhabitants and to the rest of the world than what it has become under the current Federal Leviathan if the Constitution never passed.

Speculation aside, historical reality meant that America would be fundamentally different than it would have been had the Articles of Confederation survived, as Rothbard points out:

The enactment of the Constitution in 1788 drastically changed the course of

American history from its natural decentralized and libertarian direction to an

omnipresent leviathan that fulfilled all of the Antifederalists’ fears.  [312]

Limited Government Myth

One of the great myths surrounding the American Constitution – which continues within conservative circles to this very day – is that the document limits government power.  After reading Rothbard, such a notion can only be considered a fairy tale!

The supposed “defects” of the Articles of Confederation were adroitly used by the wily nationalists as a cover to hide their real motives.  Simply put – the Articles had to be scrapped and a new national government, far more powerful than what had existed under the Articles, had to be created as Rothbard asserts: “The nationalists who went into the convention agreed on certain broad objectives, crucial for a new government, all designed to remodel the United States into a country with the British political structure.”  [145]

In passing the Constitution, the nationalist forces gained almost all they had set out to accomplish – a powerful central state and with it a strong chief executive office, and the destruction of the states as sovereign entities.  The supposed “checks and balances,” so much beloved by Constitution enthusiasts, has proven worthless in checking the central state’s largesse.  Checks and balances exist within the central government and is not offset by any prevailing power, be it the states or citizenry.

There was no reform of the system as it stood, but a new state was erected on the decentralized foundation of the Confederation.  Why the idea of the founding fathers as some limited government proponents is a mystery.

The Chief Executive Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Forget “States’ Rights” — States Are Too Big, Too | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 4, 2019

Many of these efforts have little to do with gun control, but there is nothing special about gun rights and its relationship with decentralization. This same strategy can likely be replicated with other issues such as business regulation, taxation, and drug law enforcement…

https://mises.org/wire/forget-states-rights-%E2%80%94-states-are-too-big-too

As Justin Murray wrote last month, Washington was one of the first few states to spark a sheriff’s revolt against gun control. Now, sheriffs in other states have followed suit by refusing to enforce state gun control. At first glance, this appears to be a national nullification movement in the making.

These moves were in response to I-1639, Washington’s voter-approved measure which enacted background checks, raised the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, established a 10-day waiting period for semi-automatic rifle purchases and mandated gun owners follow state guidelines for storage.

Instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to save them or making a futile attempt to lobby the Washington legislature, counties in rural Washington are taking things into their own hands. Additionally, certain activists are floating the idea of creating the new state of “ Liberty ” by splitting the state in two. Other counties in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico, have followed suit with their own pro-gun resolutions.

Is Nullification the Way to Go?

Before President Trump was elected, there was a ton of hype behind his presidency being potentially the most pro-gun ever . Establishment gun lobbies were already talking about the prospect of licensed carry reciprocity at the national level and a potential de-regulation of firearms accessories, like suppressors .

Presently, the Trump administration has been a disappointment on guns so far. Some of the largest gun control measures since the Brady Act — Fix NICS and the Justice Department’s bump stock ban — were passed under a supposedly “pro-gun” president’s watch. Further, Trump’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has topped the Obama administration’s war on private guns. So much for a “pro-gun” presidency.

Especially after the failure to pass a misguided national reciprocity bill, gun owners in anti-gun states are starting to recognize that the neither their state or federal governments are going to save them.

Why There’s Something to Fighting Gun Control Locally

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »