Thoughts on a Holiday
An alternative take on Memorial Day, focusing on why so many brave men were put in a position to make the ultimate sacrifice, from Jim Bovard via Bill St. Clair:
I stopped by the Visitors Center at Manassas Battlefield Park last month and was struck by a quote capturing Georgia private B. M. Zettler’s reaction to being enmeshed in the battle of Bull Run:
“I felt that I was in the presence of death. My first thought was, ‘This is unfair - someone is to blame for getting us all killed. I didn’t come here to fight this way…’
An excellent sentiment - one that should not be forgotten on Memorial Day. It would have been fairer if the politicians had been in the front lines on both sides at Manassas.
Sheldon Richman, the editor of The Freeman, proposes renaming Memorial Day as Revisionist History Day. General Patton said that an ounce of sweat can save a pint of blood. Similarly, a little reading and thinking this time of year can save a heap of grave digging in the future.
Sacralizing the war dead usually results in exonerating the politicians. Rather than parades, it would be better to celebrate this holiday like the British used to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day - by burning politicians in effigy, or a reasonable facsimile...
I spent my thinking time this Memorial Day wondering if the American military men and women who have died in combat for this country sacrificed themselves for:
- A Congress that routinely violates its enumerated powers under Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution;
- An Executive Branch whose occupants, from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, have also routinely violated the constitutional limitations on Presidential power found in Article II, Section 2;
- A morass of regulatory agencies whose self-promulgated regulations at the Federal level alone runs, as of the 2006 edition, at a mere 69,428 pages (and yes, Virginia, there are also separate regulatory agencies in every state and in many local governments); or
- The creation of an American national surveillance state, whereby information regarding millions of Americans' everyday activities is collected, sorted, and analyzed for a myriad of purposes, each of which is not authorized by either Article I or Article II of the Constitution?
I think not.
Based on the historical record of the past 220 years, I believe that the Constitution has failed utterly in its sole purpose -- to protect individual freedom and political liberty by restraining the powers of the central Federal government. As Judge Andrew Napolitano noted in his recent book The Constitution in Exile and Thomas DiLorenzo reiterated in this article:
"Between 1937 and 1995, not a single federal law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Not one piece of legislation was seen as exceeding the scope of Congress’s commerce power."
Does that sound like an effective check on government's natural tendency to expand ever more voraciously?
To those who believe that today's problems stem from failing to regard the Founders' original document, I would remind them that that the scope of the original document far exceeded the authority of the convention that drafted it. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was convened "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation", not to create a whole new government of the United States. For more info on that point, see generally this record of the proceedings of the Continental Congress.
In other words, the Constitution itself, by the very circumstances of its birth, is an example of how government and the ambitious folks who populate such bodies have an insatiable desire for ever more power.
The original document also had no list of guarantees of individual rights; only when such a list was proposed for addition via amendment was the Founding Generation willing to ratify the Constitution. Even more tellingly, the original document, even when expanded by its first ten amendments, still allowed for chattel slavery and prohibitions on female suffrage. It took twelve more decades to rectify those fundamental errors, by which time other metastases had occurred, both within the Constitution and by legislative action.
To those who assert that we, the American people, have failed, rather than the document itself, I would partly agree, while noting that only an ineptly-drafted agreement would have breach and penalty provisions so flaccid as those found in Article II, section 4.
To give just one example, let's assume that a group of Senators exceeded their powers under Article I. Is it rational that the only remedy for that breach is the election jeopardy that each Senator might face in his or her own state? What if the Article I breach actually benefited the home states of the offending Senators, say by the award of contracts, military bases, or other kickbacks? Doesn't the Constitution and its absence of effective enforcement mechanisms, especially in the wake of the 17th Amendment, actually encourage enumerated-powers violations?
Is such an impotent document truly the device by which the American people were to be protected from tyranny?
Does anyone really believe that any piece of paper can actually thwart the tendency of many humans towards plunder and other forms of evil?
To David's evisceration last week of a law prof's foolish idea about a new constitutional convention, I posted the following comment:
To quote Ms. Rand, "Check your premises."
To wit, we have a statist/Marxist constitutional law professor in the White House. He is violating the enumerated powers of the President listed in Article II, section 2 of the Constitution by his and his subordinates' actions in the Chrysler secured debt cramdown and other aspects of the so-called "economic stimulus program."
The constitutional law professor in the White House is committing these unconstitutional acts with the aid and comfort of both houses of the Congress, who are:
a) also violating the enumerated powers of the Congress pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the Constitution by their ongoing passage of numerous unconstitutional laws, as well as
b) failing to commence impeachment proceedings, pursuant to Article II, section 4, against the President for violations of the Article II, section 2 limitations on his power.
You now have center-right law professors such as Barnett and Glenn Reynolds [see, e.g., this entry and this entry] supporting a de facto rewrite of the Constitution via a constitutional convention, which, as Stewart points out above, will quickly turn into a rout, in whole and in part, of all freedom-oriented points of view.
Don't think so? Then you should read Matthew Bracken's account of a (fictional, for now) con-con held in America's near future:
Excerpt from 3rd Bracken Novel - "Foreign Enemies":
"... Tell me something Doug. You’re obviously a smart guy. I’ve been out of the country for seven years. What the hell happened to America? I always thought Americans would fight to keep their freedom. What happened? How could Americans just roll over and give up? What happened? How could we give up our rights without a fight?”
“Well, we didn’t just ‘give up’ our rights. It wasn’t like that. Not at all. It’s more like they were stolen in broad daylight, at the constitutional convention..."
Before you go and read the rest of the excerpt, consider these facts:
1) Statist/Marxist con-law professor in White House and his co-conspirators in Congress running amok in violation of the Constitution [thesis];
2) Center-right con-law professors calling for a con-con ostensibly to restrict the powers of the President and the Congress [antithesis]; and
3) Article V procedures that allow any subject matter -- or even a completely new Constitution -- to be considered and adopted at a con-con [synthesis]...
One thing is for sure: Barnett's proposal -- and the mental gymnastics of constitutional law professors in general -- are not going to be the mechanisms whereby individual freedom is restored in North America.
That job is going to be, shall we say, less cerebral and much more action-oriented.
"Action-oriented", in this context, means that when the rule of law fails (and it has), the rule of men begins (and it has). The "rule of men" is a civilized term for armed conflict, whereby each side kills, injures, steals from, and starves the other side until one side submits. The submitting side is usually enslaved and/or slaughtered immediately thereafter.
The sides in this conflict are clear: those who would control every aspect of Americans' behavior, and those who refuse to be controlled.
The central issue is individual freedom. Nothing more and nothing less.
To the extent that certain documents from our country's history help in that struggle for individual freedom, then use them in whatever manner possible.
But I will not conflate the goal of individual freedom with heedless allegiance to some flawed document which has failed, definitively, in its stated objective.
When I fight, I will be fighting for the same reasons as those Americans who are honored each year on Memorial Day:
To help my friends, and to stop the bastards who would take my freedom -- whichever uniform they happen to be wearing.
PS: Lest anyone think my recent postings on anarchy and related issues mean that I have flipped over into the la-la land where "peaceful behavior begets more peaceful behavior", let me clarify. The only thing that begets peaceful behavior in most humans is the prospect of an immediate and life-threatening beating for contrary behavior.
Ergo, the only power that I would entrust to the post-conflict Federal government is the development and sustainment of absolute military superiority on land, sea, sky, and space. Domestically, I'll trust that a thoroughly armed-and-trained citizenry, augmented with a minimal number of limited-jurisdiction, locally-controlled peace officers, would be sufficient to deliver the requisite amount of violence unto any miscreants, including any public servants who have slipped their leash.