Saturday, February 16, 2008

Federalist No. 8

There’s a saying in American politics that short term planning is reacting to today’s headline, long term planning is anticipating tomorrow’s headline. Since our "leaders" have become so shortsighted, when I read the words of our nations founders I often marvel at their foresight.

Today I was rereading The Federalist Papers and was struck by how well a certain passage in Federalist No. 8 fit our current situation in America. It went: “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free. […]

“They would, at the same time, be necessitated to strengthen the executive arm of government, in doing which their constitutions would acquire a progressive direction toward monarchy. It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.”

In this instance, Alexander Hamilton was discussing standing armies and what would happen if the American states were to become separate political entities, constantly warring with each other like the nations of continental Europe. But his words seem apropos to our current war on terror, and while we might not fear standing armies much any more, modern times have shown that police and “security” forces (as heavily armed as the militaries of old) can become the jackbooted couriers of tyranny.

Look at how our nation has responded to the many “external dangers” that it has faced in the last century. Faced with the Fascists and Imperial Japanese we saw internment camps and nationalized industry. Faced with Soviet hegemony we saw McCarthyism’s witch hunts and CIA human rights violations. Faced with “evil” drug cartels we see no-knock warrants and random vehicle searches. Faced with Islamic terror, we now see roving wiretaps, email eavesdropping, federal snooping when buying a house or a car, and attempts at suspending habeas corpus and the right to a jury trial for U.S. citizens deemed "combatants."

The reality that war has always and will always erode civil liberties makes the warmongering of John McCain and his ilk all the more frightening. If we shall be in a perpetual state of war into the foreseeable future, then we can expect that our children will pay for it with their freedom if not their blood.

“[T]he continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort […] to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” Did Hamilton have a crystal ball?


Bawb said...

The Federalist Papers #2008

Oceania was at war with Eurasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.

War is Peace.

Freedom is Slavery.

Ignorance is Strength.

mike volpe said...

That is a relatively one sided view of the situation. The reason that war erodes civil liberties is that during war nothing is more important than winning. There are a lot more examples than the ones you gave. Wilson started the creel commission that spied on war opponents. FDR set up an office of censorship, and Lincoln even suspended habeas corpus.

I am always struck by critics like you. To you it is not good enough for Presidents to win wars. They must also cross a civil liberties threshold that is meant for peace time not war time. Of course, you haven't sat in their chairs but you have enough hubris to criticize.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul is the only candidate who knows that we are in Iraq for only because of Israel. He is telling it like it is when he blames us for terrorism, it is simply backlash our, unspeakable, Zionist evil.

When Jefferson was confronted with Jihadists attacking American interests and enslaving American citizens he said "the Constitution of the United States does not protect it's citizens once they have stepped outside our borders, fuck em, who can afford to travel but those greedy rich anyway." and then ordered the Navy and Marines to stand down if slaves were being taken outside our borders, thank Science. I mean, we wouldn't want to stand up for our own, once they cross that magical boundry.

You should consider calling it dipshit and dumbass's blog.

Ben said...

Am I Dipshit or Dumbass?

mike, I appreciate your comments. I disagree, but I appreciate your comments.

You said: "They [presidents]must also cross a civil liberties threshold that is meant for peace time not war time" in order to appease libertarians like myself.

Firstly, I don't think that liberty is the government's to hand you during peace and take back during war. We are born with certain inalienable rights, the gift of God and our forebears. These liberties can be stomped on by brute force, but they are ours none the less.

Secondly, if liberty is something only "meant for peace," when will that be? Since our politicians now have ongoing wars on terror, drugs and poverty, each with no clear-cut goals for victory, when will they end so that the government can hand us our liberties back? If the government can suck up our liberty and convert it to power during times of war, what is their incentive to ever find peace, which will strip them of that power? I think the incentive for the government would be to keep us in "a state of continual danger" as Hamilton put it.

Bawb said...

I think you're Dumbass, Ben. I reckon Dipshit has a real nice ring to it. Plus, as we all know, I'm the dumb ol' hick from the head a the crick. 'Fact,I can feel them hillibilly ways jes' a-takin' me over again.

I knows that us peasants, why we jes' ain't got no right a'tall to be a-critisizin' our masters in Washington Town. Why, if folks was 'llowed to voice their 'pinions, we'd end up with some nasty ol' Representative Republic or somethin'. No sir. Jes' like the Liberals, why them Neo-Cons oughtta be able to jes' rip out any ol' part o'that pesky ol' Bill o' Rights what don't suit 'em at the moment. 'Specially that danged ol'First Amednment. It ain't like the Foundin' Fathers actually meant what they done wrote in them ol' documents no how. 'Sides, you ain't even sat in the Big Chair like they done during the Volpe Administration.

Now you jes' shut yer yap, boy, and get on the cattle car. Fergit yourself and them rights o' yourn; why you jes' gotta "take one for the team" if'n we're gonna win. Winnin'is EVERTHIN', boy. An' as a pissant ol' taxpyer and citizen, you just ought not have no say a'tall in the matter.

Why, the way you carry on you'd think that this here's a free Republic or somethin'. Hell, boy you was a soljer once't your own darn self. You oughtta know that jes' 'cause you're in a dog fight where can't nobody even DEFINE vcitory, let alone how to achieve it, is no reason a'tall not to keep right on a-fightin' 'er anyhows. Them dag-nabbed raghead jihadists now, why they hates us 'cuz of all our freedoms, so's we'll just take away all them freedoms. Haw-haw. Now that'll really outfox them camel jockies won't it! Occupyin' that moral high ground jes' don't count fer nuthin' a'tall in this here day and age.

Meanwhile, we gotta leave that there Mexico border open wider'n a cow's ass, so's we'll have us a nice mess o' enemies handy right here at home when we're ready to fight 'nother war. But at the moment, why it's better that we go runnin' two counties over to shoot at the neighbor's coyote and jes' ignore all them 25 million foxes in our own henhouse. 'Course, when we gotta fight Azlatan in our own Southwest someday, that same gubbmint that 'llowed the problem to happen in the first place, why they'll need yer blind support again, so you'll jes' have to shut up and trust 'em when they sez they need to take some more o' your freedoms away to "win" that one.

'Course, they's some people what don't agree with me on all that, but they's all no-count liberal wussies anyways. Like that George Orwell feller and that subversive 1984 book. Or how 'bout that dumb-ass know-nothing 28-year Marine veteran H. John Poole an' all his dipshit books? Why they's even one smart alecky ol' boy (prolly a Commie) name o' Bill Lind jes' a writin' such subversive stuff for our very own Marine Crops, right here on Al Gore's invention, the Internet. I even done posted one o' them there links to it. I shorely hope don't nobody read that tripe and get some new idears in their heads or nuthin' like that.