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Posts Tagged ‘the State’

How the State Seized Control of Marriage | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 5, 2022

Because marriages can have such far-reaching effects even for those not directly involved, government officials as well as family members of the betrothed have long sought ways to exercise power over who gets married to whom. The desire to exercise this sort of control can be seen in the negative reaction to changes in the Catholic Church confirmed by Pope Alexander III. In the late twelfth century, Pope Alexander clarified that marriages did not require the approval of government officials—or even church officials—to be valid and legally binding. Rather, a valid marriage required only the consent of both the husband and wife. No other parties possessed a veto.

In the year 2021, there’s not really anything remarkable about this in the minds of most people. To most modern thinking, marriage is just yet another thing that is to be regulated and modified according to the whims of a civil government’s lawmakers and judges.

https://mises.org/wire/how-state-seized-control-marriage

Ryan McMaken

Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to pass new same-sex marriage legislation in coming days. The legislation is expected to codify what is already de facto law in the US under the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obgerfell v. Hodges. The legislation further solidities federal law stating that states are required to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in other US member states. The legislation also ensures that same-sex spouses will continue to be eligible for federal benefits through programs like Medicare and Social Security. The legislation does not mandate that each state government establish its own provisions for same-sex unions, however.

In the year 2021, there’s not really anything remarkable about this in the minds of most people. To most modern thinking, marriage is just yet another thing that is to be regulated and modified according to the whims of a civil government’s lawmakers and judges. Even among those who think there ought not be any federal role in marriage legislation, very few dispute that the governments of the member states themselves—or foreign national governments, for that matter—can rightfully exercise immense legislative authority over the regulation of marriage. The only disagreement is often over how government officials ought to regulate marriage, and to what ends.

“Historically, the Government Was Very Uninvolved in Marriage.”

The only dissenters to this consensus appear to be some libertarians like Ron Paul. For example, in 2012, Paul told a rally audience “I’d like to see all governments out of the marriage question. I don’t think it’s a state decision. I think it’s a religious function.” These comments followed earlier comments from Paul contending that “Biblically and historically, the government was very uninvolved in marriage.”

Paul is right in saying that marriage historically had (often) been a matter for religious authorities instead of agents of the civil governments. Yet, given the rise of the modern sovereign state, which is currently the ultimate legal authority on virtually all matters, it has become difficult to even imagine the particulars of the historical reality to which Paul refers.

Nonetheless, state regulation of marriage—and the ensuing secularization of marriage that followed—is a historical development that was part of the larger trend toward the expansion and consolidation of state power that began in the late Middle Ages. It was during this period that states gradually came to exercise monopolistic authority over all of society’s institutions including the towns, the nobility, and even the monarchies themselves. Also brought under the state’s power were the churches and state control of marriage was an important component of this. State control of marriage, that we now consider to be so normal, was simply one aspect of the state building that set the stage for our modern era of nearly untrammeled state power.

Privatized Marriage in the Middle Ages

Because marriages can have such far-reaching effects even for those not directly involved, government officials as well as family members of the betrothed have long sought ways to exercise power over who gets married to whom. The desire to exercise this sort of control can be seen in the negative reaction to changes in the Catholic Church confirmed by Pope Alexander III. In the late twelfth century, Pope Alexander clarified that marriages did not require the approval of government officials—or even church officials—to be valid and legally binding. Rather, a valid marriage required only the consent of both the husband and wife. No other parties possessed a veto.

This necessarily reduced the power of both parents and local government officials in regulating marriage. For example, even in a case in which certain parents were insisting that their son marry a preselected woman of the parents’ liking, the son could do an end run around the parents by simply marrying someone else without their permission. For those who felt outside pressure to be especially overwhelming, a couple seeking marriage could pursue a “clandestine marriage” potentially conducted entirely without the parents’ knowledge and without outside sanctioning or church solemnization at all. These secret unions might incur a temporary ecclesiastical sanction, but this did not invalidate the marriage, and there was nothing the parents or government officials could do to invalidate the union. (Notably, the consent model also limited the church’s ability to veto proposed unions or otherwise directly control the formation of marriages.)

This “consent model” of marriage was not exactly acclaimed by Christendom’s parents and government officials. After all, Alexander’s efforts to make marriage requirements more uniform and accessible interfered with officials and family organizations that had long exercised considerable control over marriage at the local level. Customs varied considerably from place to place, but now the pope was telling everyone that couples could marry without the consent of others so long as they conformed to a short list of prohibitions designed to avoid incest, polygamy, and other conditions believed to be prohibited by divine law. According to Andrew Finch, in Pope Alexander’s view:

Marriages of love were to be promoted at the expense of those of economic convenience or feudal necessity and the church was made to stand as guardian for individual freedom in this area. This was, however, a vision very much at odds with existing notions of parental and feudal authority.1 

What resulted was an essentially private system in which marriages could be contracted among individuals with a presumption of validity. Outside adjudication only became necessary when there were disputes over whether or not a marriage was valid or if one of the parties was accused of somehow violating the agreement. This arbitration was done through private, international ecclesiastical courts staffed by church personnel and through which a plaintiff or defendant could appeal to a transnational Pope. This system of law was outside the control of the civil governments courts which were staffed by a temporal king’s appointees and allies.

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Randolph Bourne

Posted by M. C. on November 1, 2022

War is the Health of the State

(1918)

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the State

Posted by M. C. on October 18, 2022

“It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society.”
–Murray Rothbard

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An Ancient Warning: Criminal Trespass Is the State’s Essential Feature

Posted by M. C. on October 5, 2022

https://mises.org/wire/ancient-warning-criminal-trespass-states-essential-feature

Jeffery Degner

Whether one takes the Hebrew as literal history or as archetypal fable, there’s no escaping the warnings given to those who reject the private law society. Those warnings are that there is one vile and destructive alternative to the peaceful resolution of conflict by market actors. That vile alternative is what we call the state.

In the eighth chapter of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to the scene of a nationwide rejection of private law in exchange for a form of rule that the people of Israel had observed in all the pagan nations that surrounded them. In their defense, their prophet, Samuel, had selected leading judges in a direct affront to the methods that Yahweh—Israel’s god—had clearly prescribed. The selection process had to emerge from the sphere of exchange, where honest dealers who had the competence and character to win over their fellow citizens through their personal uprightness would be exalted in unanimity. These people would then serve as arbiters in what Hans-Hermann Hoppe has described as private courts.

Instead of utilizing this market-centered selection mechanism, Samuel took the expedient path and simply lifted his own sons to the role. In doing so, they would move throughout the land of Israel from town to town, deciding difficult cases. These cases included every offense from the improper building of walls on a neighbor’s property all the way up to capital offenses. Rather than conducting themselves with impartiality, Samuel’s sons were incompetent and greedy for bribes, and they were not held in check by their fellow countrymen. Rather than demanding that the prophet denounce these crooks and replace them through the righteous process that Yahweh had prescribed, the people also erred by looking to power and not righteous actions in the market for the solution to judgment.

The rejection of this method wasn’t a rejection of Samuel or his sons. Rather, it was a personal rejection of Yahweh himself as sovereign ruler and arbiter of justice and righteousness. The people petulantly complained to the prophet and to the Lord to give them the state. And they were given it … good and hard.

Even so, they were warned about the nature of the state before it was inaugurated through the reign of the tall and handsome yet moronic and worthless donkey retriever named Saul. However, Yahweh didn’t speak of the personal flaws of the kings themselves. Rather, he warned his people that by rejecting Him and his market-generated path toward justice, they were wishing for a monstrous institution that was—and is—established in criminal trespass.

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How Monarchs Became Servants of the State

Posted by M. C. on September 13, 2022

  • e21

Ryan McMaken

Hayes Brown at MSNBC writes this week, for example, on how Elizabeth held together a declining institution, but “It is entirely probable that [new King Charles III] and his likely successor, Prince William, will oversee the unraveling of the monarchy itself.”

We shall see.

But in one respect Brown is undeniably right when he says: “the wheels of the state will continue turning without her.” Of course they will. In the modern world, none of the monarchs of Europe are critical institutions within the regimes over which they ostensibly “reign.”

https://mises.org/wire/how-monarchs-became-servants-state

European monarchs come and go, but the American media—no doubt largely due to the fact the British speak and write in English—follows the British monarchy more closely than others. American pundits didn’t have much to say when King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated in 2014 in the wake of an embezzlement scandal. But it’s only been a few hours since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the speculation about the future of the British monarchy is already plentiful. Hayes Brown at MSNBC writes this week, for example, on how Elizabeth held together a declining institution, but “It is entirely probable that [new King Charles III] and his likely successor, Prince William, will oversee the unraveling of the monarchy itself.”

We shall see.

But in one respect Brown is undeniably right when he says: “the wheels of the state will continue turning without her.” Of course they will. In the modern world, none of the monarchs of Europe are critical institutions within the regimes over which they ostensibly “reign.”

Indeed, the mere fact that we refer to “the state” as something distinct from a monarch at all illustrates a crucial fact about the relationship between monarchs and the state in the modern world: states have surpassed and replaced the monarchs as the true source of legal and military power within their respective territories. Moderns states have subsequently expanded this power far beyond what even the most ambitious monarchs of centuries past dreamed about. There is an irony here, however. In Europe, it was the monarchs themselves who built up law courts and military institutions into the immense states that we know today. In the process, though, the monarchs lost control of these increasingly unwieldy and bureaucratic institutions. Eventually, the monarchs grew to become appendages of the state, rather than the other way around, as the monarchs had originally intended. This all occurred even before the advent of democratic states. By the nineteenth century, the old model of private dynastic rule had been overturned by the machinery of states, both democratic and not.

Monarchy before the State

Certainly, the monarchies of today should not be confused with the monarchies that existed before the state rose to prominence in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

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TGIF: Jefferson on Not Trusting the State

Posted by M. C. on August 27, 2022

free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy & not confidence which prescribes limited Constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power

by Sheldon Richman 

Libertarian Institute

thomas jefferson

Regardless of written constitutions and the laws on the books, individual liberty is always at risk. And as liberty goes, so goes our capacity to live well, to achieve the good life as rational, virtuous social beings.

The danger comes from left and right, both of which aspire to have a body of elders impose narrow cultural and moral norms on everyone, overriding our right to think for ourselves. (Progressives and National Conservatives have a lot in common in that regard, even if they differ on what is to be imposed.)

This point about the fragility of liberty was well understood by the Irish politician, judge, and orator John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), who said: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

As often happens, variations of this insight have been attributed to other people, most famously Thomas Jefferson, who is widely and apparently erroneously thought to have said more pithily: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Curran has missed out on the credit he deserves.

At any rate, we have a problem. Although liberty is never safe from political ambition or even good intentions, most people are understandably absorbed in raising their families, earning their livelihoods, and just plain living. Thinking about liberty, much less exercising vigilance, has a low priority — if it is on their agendas at all. I’m not finding fault; it’s just a fact.

Hence the need for a degree of specialization. Libertarians to one extent or another specialize in keeping watch over liberty and drawing the public’s attention to dangers from governments and nongovernment sources. These aren’t entirely two separate categories because if an influential segment of the public comes to believe that liberty must be curtailed, such sentiment could find its way into the halls of power. For example, if enough people decide that offensive words or obscene images are equivalent to violent acts, politicians may take up that cause and prohibit so-called hate speech and the like. This has happened in Great Britain, where citizens can be visited by the police, fined, and compelled to take a sensitivity course for posting something on social media that allegedly made someone feel anxious. So far, thanks to the tradition of free speech and press recognized in the First Amendment, that does not happen in the United States. But we mustn’t rest on our laurels. A violation could be just around any corner, and we can’t be sure from which direction it will come.

Although Jefferson did not say, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” we know he believed it. We know this because of his 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, which he wrote anonymously for the state legislature in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts of that year. The Acts were passed by the Federalist party-controlled Congress under Federalist President John Adams. (Jefferson, who was not a Federalist, was the vice president at the time.) As one description of the Acts puts it:

The Resolutions by Jefferson and Madison were provoked by the Alien and Sedition Acts adopted by a Federalist-dominated Congress during the Quasi-War with France; those Acts gave the president the authority to deport any alien whom he thought a threat and made it illegal to criticize the president or the Congress. Dozens of people were prosecuted under the Sedition Act, with prosecutions targeted at newspaper editors who favored the new Democratic-Republican party – Jefferson’s party. Seeing such political prosecutions of free speech as a fundamental threat to the republic, Jefferson referred to this period as a “reign of witches.”

Federalist support for the Acts was also fueled by Jeffersonian sympathy for the French Revolution. The government’s fears about French influence in the United States had reached a fevered pitch.

In his Kentucky Resolutions — a second, shorter resolution written by an unknown person passed in 1799 — Jefferson invoked the principle that the Constitution delegated only certain limited powers to the national government and therefore the states individually could check that government whenever it broke through the limits. Hence, the document declared the Alien and Sedition Acts  “void and of no force” and requested their repeal. (Jefferson’s draft called for nullification, but that language did not make the final document. It did make the second version, however.)

In making his case, Jefferson wrote something that more people need to understand,

See the rest here

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Philosophical Musings of this Writer in this Time of Traumatic Sophistry – garydbarnett.com

Posted by M. C. on January 27, 2022

With collectivism, the individual necessarily becomes irrelevant, and can only feel whole when a part of the herd. Considering the tyrannical agendas of the State, this collective phenomenon is much desired, as the political becomes reality; therefore, steering all policy without any regard or consideration for the individual. This of course leads to chaos and total moral decay.

https://www.garydbarnett.com/philosophical-musings-of-this-writer-in-this-time-of-traumatic-sophistry/

By: Gary D. Barnett

“A philosopher operates with deductions. A sophist operates with paradoxes. A “public intellectual” operates with buzzwords.”
 

Jakub Bozydar Wisniewski, Mises Institute

~ Man is the ultimate threat to man, and the true danger to the future. Nature guarantees this concept, and disassociation through collective destruction of the individual allows for an end to individual purpose. The answer to altering this reality then, seems uncomplicated, as in order for humanity to live and prosper, to love and understand beauty, to strive for a peaceful and fulfilling existence, and to be free, depends on each to know himself, and to demand his life and unique and singular presence as his own.

~ Embrace inner thought, embrace truth, and then embrace the fact that no external rules can change the psyche of the individual man.

~ Suicide is thought to be a way to escape a life that has little meaning. Given that man can only perceive as certain and prove that life leads to death, he has a choice to make. That choice is to fully accept life and all it brings, or commit physical or philosophic suicide. If all life is predicated on an unknown afterlife, it becomes an untenable effort to just survive instead of living fully, in hopes of finding some future finality of nirvana. With acceptance of self, and an effort to find the true spirit inside, life becomes much more than just constant suffering and disappointment, and turns into a joyous experience that conceivably could last forever.

~ The larger the crowd, the less important the individual, which can only lead to the extinction of love and beauty, and the infinite nature of the individual intellect. Uniformity as normal brings a feeling of insignificance for the individual, stifles thought, and brings darkness instead of light. An awakening can only truly occur and exist when balance between the conscious and subconscious is apparent, and an escape from perception takes place, leaving reality more exposed, and the unknown more sought.

~ With collectivism, the individual necessarily becomes irrelevant, and can only feel whole when a part of the herd. Considering the tyrannical agendas of the State, this collective phenomenon is much desired, as the political becomes reality; therefore, steering all policy without any regard or consideration for the individual. This of course leads to chaos and total moral decay.

~ Once a societal mass is formed, all valid intellectual function disappears in favor of a total loss of consciousness, leading to despair, lack of self-awareness, and confidence, which in turn leads to domination by default. Because of this dynamic, all who seek the group become the group, and in the process are completely susceptible to oppression. The building of this tower of sameness breeds weakness and uncertainty, and a desire to seek the safety of a monopolized control which could be referred to as the comfort of mediocrity.

~ Sometimes the obvious is so apparent as to become nearly invisible. A great false threat is created and then used to confuse and frighten the masses, causing the herd to flee, just as is the case of all flight animals in the wild. But the human animal has the ability, whether exercised or not, to think and reason, so why is this gift tossed aside during times of strife; times when it is most needed? Maybe it is due to a lack of understanding of self, and a dependence on others, especially on those dishonestly claiming to be ‘leaders.’ When each takes his own way instead of relying on false prophets, the tables are turned in favor of a more enlightened and valuable outcome, and a return to right.

~ “Man’s inhumanity to man” has caused mass pain, suffering, and death, and for what reason no one knows. It is at once incomprehensible and at the same time expected, and this should not be so. Contradiction at this level is beyond confusing, but then man has always been the epitome of imperfection; a conundrum to be sure considering what are said to be the inherent and basic beliefs held by much of the human species. A species supposedly seeking harmony while consumed by conflict cannot survive, and as Robert Burns so skillfully described:

“Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And Man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”

~ What is the answer; I do not know? Why is man so terribly bent on his own destruction; I do not know? Why does man’s inhumanity to man forever subsist; I do not know? I do know that for inner peace and tranquility to exist, and therefore for humanity to peacefully exist together, that one must act alone, meaning all should act alone as individuals in favor of harmony, love, and non-aggression. This means that the ‘State’ should end, and the individual should reign.

“TO the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist

much, obey little,

Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,

Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever after-ward

resumes its liberty.“

Walt Whitman — “Leaves of Grass”

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Doug Casey Reveals 3 Ways You Can Opt-Out of the Rising Insanity

Posted by M. C. on September 30, 2021

There are basically two types of people in the world—people that like to manipulate the physical universe and create things and people who like to manipulate other people and control them. The people who go into government, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, are the latter. They’re dangerous.

https://internationalman.com/articles/doug-casey-reveals-3-ways-you-can-opt-out-of-the-rising-insanity/

by Doug Casey

International Man: Ever since the outbreak of the Covid hysteria, government control over everyday life has reached unprecedented levels. Petty bureaucrats now exercise control over who can open their businesses, whether you can go to a restaurant, and even whether children can go to school.

Where is this all going?

Doug Casey: There are basically two types of people in the world—people that like to manipulate the physical universe and create things and people who like to manipulate other people and control them. The people who go into government, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, are the latter. They’re dangerous.

The problem is that the average citizen in every country around the world has come to think that the government is the most important entity in society. It’s not; it’s a coercive fiction, a parasite that produces nothing. The wrong kinds of people are being given even more control.

Once people with a certain psychological mindset—that second type of person I just mentioned—take control, things inevitably get worse.

In Washington, DC, as well as in many state and local governments, we now have genuine Bolsheviks and Jacobins in control. That’s not to say that they’re necessarily believers in those philosophies, but they’re exactly the same psychological types. In other words, they’re exactly the kind of people who once destroyed France and Russia, reincarnated in today’s America.

Once these types get control of the machinery of the State, they won’t give it up. Power—the ability to coerce and control others—is central to their very beings. They’ll try to cement themselves in place now that they feel they can get away with it.

They’ll use their power aggressively, installing counterproductive and destructive policies. The worse things get, the more the public will look to the government to save them. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

The chances of getting a genuine lunatic as the president are very high. I’m very pessimistic because trends in motion tend to stay in motion—and this trend is accelerating rapidly.

International Man: As a result of this trend, more parents than ever have opted for homeschooling.

What’s your take on this?

Doug Casey: It’s cause for optimism.

See the rest here

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Watch “Separate Healthcare and the State” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2021

FFF president Jacob Hornberger gives an update on the current status of the country’s healthcare system. COVID-19 has made a centrally planned system even worse. The only solution is get the state completely out of the healthcare business.

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How America Abandoned Decentralization and Embraced the State | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2021

Bassani sees in the states’ rights tradition the primary focus of resistance in the American context to the Leviathan state. “Whatever else might be said about the states’ rights tradition, one thing is certain: Over the course of the modern era it has shown itself to be the most potent intellectual restraint on the growth of Leviathan. . .

https://mises.org/wire/how-america-abandoned-decentralization-and-embraced-state

David Gordon

Chaining Down Leviathan: The American Dream of Self-Government 1776—1865. By Luigi Marco Bassani. Abbeville Institute Press, 2021. Vii + 356 pages.

Marco Bassani is a historian of European political thought and it is from the perspective of his discipline that he looks at the American political system that came to an end in 1865. As he sees matters, the United States from its inception as an independent country resisted the dominant trend of nineteenth-century Europe, the rise of the all-powerful state. Before the Civil War, the United States, as its plural name suggests, was federal and not central in form, and sovereignty resided ultimately in the people of the several states, taken separately, rather than in a unified entity. Bassani’s book is rich and complex, and, rather than attempt of a summary of its many valuable ideas, I’ll discuss only a few of them.

The state, he tells, us is a modern invention. “In fact, the state is modern. Indeed, the term ‘modernity’ itself makes very little sense politically except in relation to the state. . .The state is European in the sense that it originated and developed in Europe (thought it then became highly exportable). It is modern because it began its history during a period which more or less coincides with the modern age. And it is an ‘invention,’ not a discovery.” (pp. 12-13)

This puts him at odds with Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Jay Nock, and Bassani is explicit about this disagreement, but I do not think admirers of these authors need be too disturbed by this. Bassani does not deny that predatory bands that permanently settled in a territory extracted resources through the “political means” from the subject population. What he argues is new is the state taken in the Weberian sense, an entity that claims to be the sole source of legitimate authority. “In short, the first item on the agenda of the modern state was the centralization of power. At the dawn of the modern era the state began its long journey when absolute monarchs created a single decision-making center of command, which gradually imposed itself on all other decision makers. The centers that constituted the ‘medieval cosmos’ were obliterated. The state asserted itself as the sole, overriding and exclusive focus: In due time no other political power remained.”(p.24)

America took another path, though centralizers, most notably Alexander Hamilton, would have been happy to follow the European pattern. But though the Constitution increased the power of the central government over the weak arrangements provided for in the Articles of Confederation, it did not enact the plans of the centralizers. Moreover, the Constitution was ratified only after a bitter struggle. Bassani stresses the continuing influence of Antifederalist opposition to the Constitution on the Jeffersonian party, the principal opposition to the Federalist centralizers whose greatest figure was Hamilton. “The Antifederalists absolutely did not disappear from the American political scene; rather they simply became less visible for a few years. . .The divergent views of society—essentially, whether it directs itself or must be directed by the paternal iron fist of a national government—were at the heart of the divisions over power between the newly emerged Jeffersonian party and the Federalists in power. And these in turn were but the further development and the ideological crystallization of the political issues raised during the ratification debate. “(p.119)

Bassani devotes a great deal of attention to Jefferson and Calhoun as leaders of the opposition to the centralizers. Calhoun, in particular, he regards as the greatest American political theorist since the Constitutional debates, an opinion also shared by John Stuart Mill. “John Stuart Mill’s judgment reserved for the Disquisition [by Calhoun] is much better known. Calhoun, he wrote, ‘has displayed sharper powers as a speculative political thinker superior to any who has appeared in American politics since the authors of the “Federalist”’”. (p.233, note 111) But I will leave it to readers to investigate what he says about them, in order to concentrate on something else.

This is the role of Abraham Lincoln as a proponent of the European central state. “Lincoln’s deep political convictions emerged with great clarity and marked the decline of all the conceptions that had presided over the development of the Republic to that point. Lincoln stated that he held the Constitution to be an ‘organic law,’ thus introducing a European idea that had little precedent in America. . .Within the space of a few phrases we encounter all the constitutive elements of the theory of the modern state, expressed by a man who had probably never heard of Machiavelli, Bodin, or Hobbes, but who nevertheless was following in their footsteps.” (p.278)

Lincoln regarded the American national union as a matter of world historical importance. ”As proof of Lincoln’s concept of the Union and its goals, there is no more important document than his message to Congress of December 1, 1862. His impassioned description of the United States as a living being, as our ’national homestead,’ is the premise on which the President erected his argument for union. ‘In all its adaptations and aptitudes it demands Union and abhors separation. In fact, it would ere long force reunion, however much of blood and treasure the separation might have cost.’ In short, the Union, being an article of faith and exempt from rational cost-benefit analysis, has no price.” (pp.284-285)

Bassani sees in the states’ rights tradition the primary focus of resistance in the American context to the Leviathan state. “Whatever else might be said about the states’ rights tradition, one thing is certain: Over the course of the modern era it has shown itself to be the most potent intellectual restraint on the growth of Leviathan. . .The Constitution is not enough: The modern state, because it is self-regulating and judge of the extent of its own power, inevitably creates an absolute monopoly. In contrast, in an authentic federal system the government is subject to controls by other governmental powers. The institutional history of America, at least in the time frame we discussed, can be clearly seen as a large laboratory in which Calhoun’s refrain is clearly corroborated: Power can be checked only by power.” (p.311, emphasis in original)

Marco Bassani has written an outstanding book, based on a thorough knowledge of political theory and American history. I noted only a few mistakes. It is not true that “the formidable indictment in the Declaration of Independence targets only George III.” (p.66) The shift in the Declaration from the clauses that begin “He has” to those that begin “For” mark a movement from indictment of the king to an indictment of parliament. The 10th Amendment does not use the phrase “expressly delegated.” I would have preferred also a greater emphasis on the importance of individual rights. But all students of political theory and American history will learn a great deal from Bassani’s impressive work. Author:

Contact David Gordon

David Gordon is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and editor of the Mises Review.

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