The Cure For What Ails America, Part II
In Part 1 last week, I argued that the federal government is constantly and unashamedly acting unconstitutionally and is only reinforced and never challenged by the media and education establishment. And I said that legislative and legal challenges by the states were a timid hope and were no substitute for the simple principled exercise of resistance; refusal to comply. That would amount to only the slightest measure of the courage that America’s founders made clear and exercised in asserting their liberty in America’s founding generation. And it would rid us of most of the great impediments to social prosperity and the silly arguments that consume so much of our time and energy, which I will discuss some of. But, if the solution is so simple, why does no one even consider it, let alone assert it?
Now as Paul Ryan has said in presenting his modest skin-of-the-teeth plan to steer out of the fiscal trouble that America finds itself in, if we don’t pursue a path like this very soon, then much more painful and severe measures will be forced upon us by reality. In the same way, if states do not quickly reassert the political sovereignty that they were designed to have, their increased entanglement with federal function will only make it more likely that assertions of liberty will eventuate in violent sanction. The knee-jerk and uninformed response to this suggestion is that state sovereignty was the racist refuge of The South that was settled in The Civil War. But, the cause of emancipation precisely was a constitutional cause, correcting a glaring practical contradiction at America’s founding. But why is such an assertion so unthinkable? I must confess that without access to those involved in central power, I can only speculate on what the reason or reasons might be. But the simplest speculations would involve the inertia of habitual thinking and the relative lack of pain to provoke something perceived as “drastic.”
Set aside for now that on basic American principles it is not drastic at all. But in the terms of what are presumed in popular culture to be American principles, it is drastic indeed. But if you are like me, what is presumed in popular culture has no weight in face of the truth. But few people will think like I do when they are reasonably fed, clothed and housed. That’s not typically when people will rally against consensus, however it has been promulgated. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how the good conservative Attorney General of Virginia had expressed an incorrect summation of state Nullification of federal law (Nullification Update: Legal Schmegal). I also said over a month ago that conservative radio host, author and lawyer Mark Levin had quite honestly misconstrued The Constitution with standard legal thinking: The Levin-Woods Battle And The Foolish Conservative-Libertarian War - The Losses of "Winning". But these are unsurprising in anyone who had been to an American law school and learned the contemporary academic legal consensus. It also occurs to me that anyone with a platform from which to exert cultural influence, is probably particularly too comfortable to ponder rocking the boat.
But surely there are many like me who are sick to death of carrying on what I consider these interminable silly arguments. Wouldn’t it be nice for the two sides of many of these to just go their separate ways and pursue what they believe in without the impediment of wrestling with such assertive opposition? If you believe in the justice and the social auspiciousness of liberty, aren’t you tired of arguing with people who think that government must control the exercise of liberty? Aren’t you tired of the federal government taking and leveraging private property? Aren’t you tired of concessions to threats that are beyond reasonable moral and security concerns? Aren’t you tired of federal dictation of local social standards for things like education, religious expression marriage, and the respect of life? And if you’re certain that all of these things are necessary, aren’t you tired of the hindrance of people like us who don’t? Why do we carry this on? I was thinking about the futility of this perpetual argument, and I thought of the old Bob Newhart skit about a psychologist who counsels a phobic patient by just yelling at her to “Stop it!” Like a phobic neurotic, these liberals aren’t going to just stop it, and only get more aggravated at the suggestion. Of course, one reason that they want to carry it on is that even if they don’t like our opposition, they do need our money.
I also said in Part 1, that states should pay taxes to the federal government, probably based on gross domestic product. States can collect them however they like. Sales taxes are good, that tax consumption rather than production. However, when I worked out of Boston, I lived in New Hampshire, where there was neither a state income or sales tax, but only property taxes. Neighboring Massachusetts didn’t much like its citizens traveling across the border to avoid the sales tax. If all taxes were state taxes, there could be great competition for seductively low sales taxes. I fully realize that the major problem would be unwinding the federal entitlements of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for current or near-term beneficiaries who have paid into the programs and are owed promises. But those must be restructured relatively soon anyway, whether before or after they are completely bankrupt. It would be a detailed job, but I think the best way would be to gradually remand responsibility to the states to administer provider compensation. States could collect the benefits from the federal government, or simply write them off the taxes they pay. And states could allocate payment to medical providers as they best saw fit. But with the states collecting and paying the taxes, they will have the whip hand in appropriating funding. Rather than being threatened with a federal withholding of funding, states can withhold taxes if commitments like entitlements for those vested in the system are not honored.
And there can be no federally-administered bailouts, of states or private organizations. On Monday, when asked about the economy in China, financial advisor Jim Rodgers told Andrew Napolitano that China still exercises central control, but the productive elements of their economy are not communist operations… “California is more communist than China, today.” Let California live (and die) with the system it creates. And speaking of control, the most manageable and productive government is nearest the people. Even relatively conservative Texas has its dictatorial liberals swarming around Austin. As most of you will know, there has been a long struggle over control of the State Board of Education with liberals wanting to define the terms and elements of public education around the state. Even in a state as large as Texas, I think it’s good for the state to equalize their funding, but at the school district level is where spending and content should be determined. And that again is a matter of local assertion in the face of a more distant authority.
I also argued a long time ago that I don’t think a law very similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 would be best for Texas, but that Arizona has a right to the laws they choose. States should choose their own laws and be case-studies for each other. If this suggestion is thought to be an outlandish suggestion, A) I would like to know what better ideas are out there to deal with our problems; I don’t hear those either. And B) again, if we don’t agree and embark on some dramatic course very soon, more difficult options are going to be forced upon us by circumstance. If Americans are still too comfortable to act, they won’t be for too long. And their options will be more limited, the longer they wait. Given the absence of courage in Washington D.C., it seems almost certain to me that we will face something outside of our control, like some or even all of discipline from creditors, a downgrade of currency and/or bond rating, or punishing inflation. And I’m the crazy one…
Given that people can’t even bring themselves to consider it, I don’t expect that anything like this is going to happen. I could only pray that someone would light a fire. And I’m not making extreme suggestions merely out of jealousy for my personal satisfaction. I think it is past time for the ideal of republican liberty to be raised and revered again. I think it’s a divine ideal, recognizing that liberty brings out the best and the worst in people and society, which is why God gave men free will in the first place. As bad as men behave, the potential for good is worth it. And what Adam Smith called “the invisible hand,” is the natural incentive and sanction that God built into the system to provide the most good for society in a free market. Statist interventions corrupt and restrict the system. But polls suggest that most Americans believe in strict regulation of business and ever-increasing taxation for “the wealthy.” Maybe Bill O’Reilly has the most popular cable program because he is a product of the same media and education atmosphere and reflects those same beliefs.