Preserving the Union

In a review of Robert Redford’s new movie The Conspirator, about the plot to kill Lincoln, Ann Hornaday makes an interesting point, that one of the major patriotic ideals for which many Americans died in the Civil War–namely, the Union–is nearly always denigrated in movies and has faded from the American consciousness:

As University of Virginia history professor Gary Gallagher gracefully proves in his book “Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten,” about how popular culture has shaped ideas about the Civil War, the preservation of the Union has never been deemed worth valorizing by filmmakers, who have historically been more drawn to Lost Cause romanticism or self-flattering stories that emphasize emancipation of enslaved people or the reconciliation of the white South and white North. (At one point in “The Conspirator,” noting the higher causes they both fought for, Surratt tells Aiken, “We’re the same,” a classic reconciliationist elision of the myriad ways the two sides weren’t the same.)

Considering the depiction of white Union soldiers in such late-20th-century movies as “Glory” and “Dances With Wolves,” Gallagher writes, “recent Civil War films fail almost completely to convey any sense of what the Union Cause meant to millions of northern citizens. More than that, they often cast the U.S. military, a military force that saved the republic and destroyed slavery, in a decidedly negative, post-Vietnam light.”

Replace “post-Vietnam” with “post-Iraq” and you get a pretty good description of how the U.S. military is portrayed in “The Conspirator.” Rather than a principle worth fighting for, or a fragile democracy still vulnerable to dead-enders who would reignite the war, the Union is painted as the nest that hatched the egg of an overweening state and arrogant abuse of power. Hollywood may be where Confederates are buried in their onetime capital, but for moviegoers, it’s still the place where the Union Cause goes to die.

via Robert Redford’s ‘The Conspirator’ and the lost Union cause – The Washington Post.

The review cites the anti-government sentiment of both the left and the right for denigrating the Union cause.  But surely our national union is more than just government and can be embraced by those who believe in a limited government. The Constitution was put together to form “a more perfect union.”  Does anyone today really want us to exist in separate states as separate countries?  Can we recover the love of all of these states and all of these different people coming together into the Union?  Where does the ideal of the Union manifest itself in today’s love of country?  Or is there no longer a place for it?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    From the review: “It’s an engrossing, surprising story that Redford relates …”

    That’s all I ask of a movie, even a historically-based one. Good storytelling. Which is rare these days.

    “Does anyone today really want us to exist in separate states as separate countries?” – Dr. Veith.

    Well, if liberals and conservatives would each end up with their own country, and conservatives would stop trying to turn traditionally progressive states into red states, and the godawful culture war would finally come to an end, then I’m in favor of breaking up. Preserving sanity is preferable to preserving a union. And who knows? Maybe country music would stay down south where it belongs. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    From the review: “It’s an engrossing, surprising story that Redford relates …”

    That’s all I ask of a movie, even a historically-based one. Good storytelling. Which is rare these days.

    “Does anyone today really want us to exist in separate states as separate countries?” – Dr. Veith.

    Well, if liberals and conservatives would each end up with their own country, and conservatives would stop trying to turn traditionally progressive states into red states, and the godawful culture war would finally come to an end, then I’m in favor of breaking up. Preserving sanity is preferable to preserving a union. And who knows? Maybe country music would stay down south where it belongs. :-)

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I think you make a good point, Dr. Veith. Much of the Lincoln skepticism of recent years probably has risen from a conviction that his great passion–preserving the union–was just a private, eccentric obsession. We don’t understand what the American experiment meant in a world where it was still a toss-up whether democracy or despotism was the best way (which is still the case, come to think of it). America is a country based on an idea, not blood or tribe. When Lincoln called it “the last, best hope,” he meant it. Can we teach people to understand this again? I don’t know.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I think you make a good point, Dr. Veith. Much of the Lincoln skepticism of recent years probably has risen from a conviction that his great passion–preserving the union–was just a private, eccentric obsession. We don’t understand what the American experiment meant in a world where it was still a toss-up whether democracy or despotism was the best way (which is still the case, come to think of it). America is a country based on an idea, not blood or tribe. When Lincoln called it “the last, best hope,” he meant it. Can we teach people to understand this again? I don’t know.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’ve not read his book, but historian Thomas DiLorenzo has a book about Lincoln that doesn’t exactly cast him in a positive light. Here’s the link to it: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Lincoln-Abraham-Agenda-Unnecessary/dp/0761526463/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303392693&sr=8-1

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’ve not read his book, but historian Thomas DiLorenzo has a book about Lincoln that doesn’t exactly cast him in a positive light. Here’s the link to it: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Lincoln-Abraham-Agenda-Unnecessary/dp/0761526463/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303392693&sr=8-1

  • Dan Kempin

    Hmmm. Interesting. You have a way, Dr. Veith, of finding stories that touch on recent reflections of mine. The context of this discussion is patriotism (or “government,” depending on your perspective), but the point is that people aren’t making a connection about the importance of union. Very consonant with our individual culture.

    I see that same trend in the church, and in the LCMS in particular. There have always been disagreements and debates that would draw us apart. The real difference in this past generation seems (to me) that people don’t necessarily, or with any particular force, see the importance of standing together. The breaking of fellowship is met with a shrug and the dissolution of the union is achieved by the slow cancer of apathy. Synod’s budget is drying up. We are forced to restructure and to cut. Why? That is the question: “Why should we cut back on our congregational ministry to send money to the district? What is the value of our affiliation and union?”

    Indeed. Perhaps we should review the historical cost of isolation and understand why our forefathers were so grateful for the doctrinal union of a synod. Perhaps the solution to our unrest is not to discover the problems with our union, but to rediscover our unity in mission.

  • Dan Kempin

    Hmmm. Interesting. You have a way, Dr. Veith, of finding stories that touch on recent reflections of mine. The context of this discussion is patriotism (or “government,” depending on your perspective), but the point is that people aren’t making a connection about the importance of union. Very consonant with our individual culture.

    I see that same trend in the church, and in the LCMS in particular. There have always been disagreements and debates that would draw us apart. The real difference in this past generation seems (to me) that people don’t necessarily, or with any particular force, see the importance of standing together. The breaking of fellowship is met with a shrug and the dissolution of the union is achieved by the slow cancer of apathy. Synod’s budget is drying up. We are forced to restructure and to cut. Why? That is the question: “Why should we cut back on our congregational ministry to send money to the district? What is the value of our affiliation and union?”

    Indeed. Perhaps we should review the historical cost of isolation and understand why our forefathers were so grateful for the doctrinal union of a synod. Perhaps the solution to our unrest is not to discover the problems with our union, but to rediscover our unity in mission.

  • Bruce Gee

    I think there is probably a connection between the dissolution of the family unit and the attitude we have toward union of any kind. Once a child sees a divorce played out in the most intimate of settings, then it is likely that divorce is seen as the paradigm, and unity something foreign. I may be stretching it a bit, but there must be some socially primal driver for this anti-union angst we all feel, me included (although I am not a product of a divorce personally).
    I have always been a bit in awe of my ex-military friends and the reverence with which they salute and regard the flag. Not having had any skin in the game of preserving the union, it has always been a lot more abstract for me.

  • Bruce Gee

    I think there is probably a connection between the dissolution of the family unit and the attitude we have toward union of any kind. Once a child sees a divorce played out in the most intimate of settings, then it is likely that divorce is seen as the paradigm, and unity something foreign. I may be stretching it a bit, but there must be some socially primal driver for this anti-union angst we all feel, me included (although I am not a product of a divorce personally).
    I have always been a bit in awe of my ex-military friends and the reverence with which they salute and regard the flag. Not having had any skin in the game of preserving the union, it has always been a lot more abstract for me.

  • Porcell

    Had Lincoln not fought the Civil War, the nation would probably have split up into the South, the Midwest, the West, and New England and possibly even the Middle States. There are always compelling regional interests. Thank heaven Lincoln had the determination and courage to fight the war. He had a strong view of his Constitutional obligation to preserve the Union. He is regarded by most historians to have been our greatest president.

    This fellow DiLorenzo is an ideological libertarian historian who couldn’t possibly comprehend the virtue of a United States. While we need to rein in the excessive power of Washington, it is still good that we have a strong national government.

    In the fairly recent past we saved Europe twice from tyranny, as well as Asia from a brutal Japan. In our own time we have liberated Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. In a largely Cold War we saved the world from tyrannical Communism. We, also, after WWII built the strongest and most productive economy in world history.

    I for one am proud and happy to be a citzen of the United States, one of the great nations in world history.

  • Porcell

    Had Lincoln not fought the Civil War, the nation would probably have split up into the South, the Midwest, the West, and New England and possibly even the Middle States. There are always compelling regional interests. Thank heaven Lincoln had the determination and courage to fight the war. He had a strong view of his Constitutional obligation to preserve the Union. He is regarded by most historians to have been our greatest president.

    This fellow DiLorenzo is an ideological libertarian historian who couldn’t possibly comprehend the virtue of a United States. While we need to rein in the excessive power of Washington, it is still good that we have a strong national government.

    In the fairly recent past we saved Europe twice from tyranny, as well as Asia from a brutal Japan. In our own time we have liberated Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. In a largely Cold War we saved the world from tyrannical Communism. We, also, after WWII built the strongest and most productive economy in world history.

    I for one am proud and happy to be a citzen of the United States, one of the great nations in world history.

  • DonS

    As was discussed recently on another thread, the point of this post is well taken. Most Americans now view the Civil War as a fight to abolish slavery, but Lincoln and most of the rest of the Union government had nothing of the sort in mind at the outset of the war. It was all about the preservation of the union, and preventing the southern states from seceding. It was not until the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, after the Union’s loss at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in American history, and threats to the South that the proclamation was forthcoming, that the focus moved to the issue of slavery, more or less as a political gambit to attempt to turn the tide of a war the Union was losing and force southern states back into the Union to avoid losing the right to own slaves.

    Of course, when I was younger, growing up north of the Mason-Dixon line, preservation of the Union seemed like a worthy achievement. Now, I’m not so sure. We may be in a very much better situation if states still had the leverage to threaten to secede when the federal government fails to respect its Constitutional limitations. Giving up that leverage has cost us all a very great deal.

  • DonS

    As was discussed recently on another thread, the point of this post is well taken. Most Americans now view the Civil War as a fight to abolish slavery, but Lincoln and most of the rest of the Union government had nothing of the sort in mind at the outset of the war. It was all about the preservation of the union, and preventing the southern states from seceding. It was not until the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, after the Union’s loss at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in American history, and threats to the South that the proclamation was forthcoming, that the focus moved to the issue of slavery, more or less as a political gambit to attempt to turn the tide of a war the Union was losing and force southern states back into the Union to avoid losing the right to own slaves.

    Of course, when I was younger, growing up north of the Mason-Dixon line, preservation of the Union seemed like a worthy achievement. Now, I’m not so sure. We may be in a very much better situation if states still had the leverage to threaten to secede when the federal government fails to respect its Constitutional limitations. Giving up that leverage has cost us all a very great deal.

  • Dan Kempin

    Hey, Don, I thought Antietam was a Union victory!

  • Dan Kempin

    Hey, Don, I thought Antietam was a Union victory!

  • katy

    Mr. Walker said “America is a country based on an idea, not blood or tribe. When Lincoln called it “the last, best hope,” he meant it.”

    I think there are two issues here: love of and loyalty to place (whether it’s family, country, state or town), and dedication to an ideal.

    The first is patriotism, and it does concern me that my generation and my parents’ generation have made it a virtue to despise love of country and to reject or be apologetic toward who we are and our “ways” and traditions. I would argue that it’s hard to be truly patriotic toward 3.79 million miles and 308 million people, but I know a lot of people who could argue the other way: that it’s possible and necessary. I certainly relate more to those in California or New York, no matter how different they may be from me, than to a New Zealander or Egyptian.

    The second, the ideal or idea our government was organized around, is more complex: Is Unionism itself the ideal? Why? Democracy or the Republic? All men created equal? All men having equal opportunities, resources, and potential? There seems to be a popular mythos surrounding what the American Dream, or American Way, or Democracy actual means, and it’s very confused and unclear. I would go so far as to say it’s an idol to some people, and our wars to bring “democracy” to the world is a sort of “mission” in the religious sense . Why should I be more dedicated to Democracy than my family’s and my neighbor’s well-being ? Should I get upset if the Federal Government decided we (the Great Lake states) should start piping water to the Southwest?

    Finally it’s a mistake to think those who favor at least considering secession (or considering the legality of secession) to desire 50 completely separate countries. I don’t know anyone who thinks that. Certain states (especially those with strong economies) are suffering and losing money for the sake of the Idea. It’s unfair to pit “blood and tribe” against the Idea, then claim one is unpatriotic for choosing the former.

    Mr. Porcell, do you know any Serbians, Bosnians or Iraqis? The Serbians actually argued their cause by appealing to Lincoln and his preserving the Union, but the U.S. didn’t see the irony, I guess.

  • katy

    Mr. Walker said “America is a country based on an idea, not blood or tribe. When Lincoln called it “the last, best hope,” he meant it.”

    I think there are two issues here: love of and loyalty to place (whether it’s family, country, state or town), and dedication to an ideal.

    The first is patriotism, and it does concern me that my generation and my parents’ generation have made it a virtue to despise love of country and to reject or be apologetic toward who we are and our “ways” and traditions. I would argue that it’s hard to be truly patriotic toward 3.79 million miles and 308 million people, but I know a lot of people who could argue the other way: that it’s possible and necessary. I certainly relate more to those in California or New York, no matter how different they may be from me, than to a New Zealander or Egyptian.

    The second, the ideal or idea our government was organized around, is more complex: Is Unionism itself the ideal? Why? Democracy or the Republic? All men created equal? All men having equal opportunities, resources, and potential? There seems to be a popular mythos surrounding what the American Dream, or American Way, or Democracy actual means, and it’s very confused and unclear. I would go so far as to say it’s an idol to some people, and our wars to bring “democracy” to the world is a sort of “mission” in the religious sense . Why should I be more dedicated to Democracy than my family’s and my neighbor’s well-being ? Should I get upset if the Federal Government decided we (the Great Lake states) should start piping water to the Southwest?

    Finally it’s a mistake to think those who favor at least considering secession (or considering the legality of secession) to desire 50 completely separate countries. I don’t know anyone who thinks that. Certain states (especially those with strong economies) are suffering and losing money for the sake of the Idea. It’s unfair to pit “blood and tribe” against the Idea, then claim one is unpatriotic for choosing the former.

    Mr. Porcell, do you know any Serbians, Bosnians or Iraqis? The Serbians actually argued their cause by appealing to Lincoln and his preserving the Union, but the U.S. didn’t see the irony, I guess.

  • Cincinnatus

    The Union is highly overrated.

  • Cincinnatus

    The Union is highly overrated.

  • DonS

    Dan @ 8: Oops! “loss” was meant to be “losses”. I was speaking of casualties, not outcome. Technically, Antietam is regarded by historians as a Union victory, because, although both armies lost equal numbers of men, the Union had more to lose, and Lee was forced to withdraw and abandon that year’s offensive northward. But, it was rather a hollow “victory”, because of the loss of more than 10,000 men in a single day, and the realization in the North, once and for all, that this was going to be a very long and costly war. Additionally, the Union missed a chance to gain a significant victory by not following up, and allowing Lee to escape, as he had been trapped against the river behind him (typical cautious Union military tactics). Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was conceived, to “up” the ante, try to keep the French and British out of the war, and hopefully convince at least some of the seceded states to return to the Union before the deadline, in order to keep their slaves.

  • DonS

    Dan @ 8: Oops! “loss” was meant to be “losses”. I was speaking of casualties, not outcome. Technically, Antietam is regarded by historians as a Union victory, because, although both armies lost equal numbers of men, the Union had more to lose, and Lee was forced to withdraw and abandon that year’s offensive northward. But, it was rather a hollow “victory”, because of the loss of more than 10,000 men in a single day, and the realization in the North, once and for all, that this was going to be a very long and costly war. Additionally, the Union missed a chance to gain a significant victory by not following up, and allowing Lee to escape, as he had been trapped against the river behind him (typical cautious Union military tactics). Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was conceived, to “up” the ante, try to keep the French and British out of the war, and hopefully convince at least some of the seceded states to return to the Union before the deadline, in order to keep their slaves.

  • Porcell

    Katy, the U.S. has never had such a brutal dictator as the Serbian, Milosevich, nor do we have any region with a majority Muslim population. While Serbia claimed a Lincolnesque saving of their union, the situation hardly warranted it.

  • Porcell

    Katy, the U.S. has never had such a brutal dictator as the Serbian, Milosevich, nor do we have any region with a majority Muslim population. While Serbia claimed a Lincolnesque saving of their union, the situation hardly warranted it.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus: The Union is highly overrated.

    The Constitution of the United States, Preamble : We the people of the United states, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the United Stats of America.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus: The Union is highly overrated.

    The Constitution of the United States, Preamble : We the people of the United states, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the United Stats of America.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, Porcell, I tend to think that the Constitution itself is a highly overrated document, but that statement may be too radically traditional for the readers of this blog.

    As with your appeals to Huntington, a meaningless quotation from the Constitution won’t magically convince me that the Union is a wonderful concept. Wait, you mean the Founders wrote something about the Union in the Constitution? THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

    Except not, because you’ve just made an appeal to authority without the slightest taint of actual argumentation–a logical fallacy, by the way. I’m sure I would be fired for such statements had I the misfortune to be employed by you, but fortunately my occupation doesn’t involve appeasing Porcell.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, Porcell, I tend to think that the Constitution itself is a highly overrated document, but that statement may be too radically traditional for the readers of this blog.

    As with your appeals to Huntington, a meaningless quotation from the Constitution won’t magically convince me that the Union is a wonderful concept. Wait, you mean the Founders wrote something about the Union in the Constitution? THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

    Except not, because you’ve just made an appeal to authority without the slightest taint of actual argumentation–a logical fallacy, by the way. I’m sure I would be fired for such statements had I the misfortune to be employed by you, but fortunately my occupation doesn’t involve appeasing Porcell.

  • Michael

    Porcell, it’s morally wrong to kill people, take their land and subject them to propaganda because they want out of a contract that’s being turned against them.

    On the other hand, it’s commendable to stop people from murdering one’s blood countrymen and burning homes and churches, as happened in Serbia and also happened all over the South during the Civil War.

    The opinion of the Federalists about the irrevocability of joining the Union is not binding. Texas vs. White should not be taken seriously because the US Government is not a neutral party in the interest of secession.

    As commenter Katy mentioned above, the United States promotes secession in every country but the United States, the end results of which are invariably disastrous (loss of property, death, forced religious conversion) for the minorities that do not wish to be separated from their countrymen. Meanwhile, here there is actually an orderly system, older than the United States, the law already existing and requiring nothing but a simple resolution and some budget changes, by which the country might be separated. But it’s not allowed to happen because of some fabrications about the nature of the original agreement.

  • Michael

    Porcell, it’s morally wrong to kill people, take their land and subject them to propaganda because they want out of a contract that’s being turned against them.

    On the other hand, it’s commendable to stop people from murdering one’s blood countrymen and burning homes and churches, as happened in Serbia and also happened all over the South during the Civil War.

    The opinion of the Federalists about the irrevocability of joining the Union is not binding. Texas vs. White should not be taken seriously because the US Government is not a neutral party in the interest of secession.

    As commenter Katy mentioned above, the United States promotes secession in every country but the United States, the end results of which are invariably disastrous (loss of property, death, forced religious conversion) for the minorities that do not wish to be separated from their countrymen. Meanwhile, here there is actually an orderly system, older than the United States, the law already existing and requiring nothing but a simple resolution and some budget changes, by which the country might be separated. But it’s not allowed to happen because of some fabrications about the nature of the original agreement.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at fourteen, in response to your ipse dixit remark that The Union is highly overrated, I responded with the preamble to the Constititution. I should be glad to explain this in detail, though knowing the futility of arguing with you on the subject I shall forgo the pleasure. In the remote case that you wish to know my argument for the Constitution, do have a look at post six on this thread.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at fourteen, in response to your ipse dixit remark that The Union is highly overrated, I responded with the preamble to the Constititution. I should be glad to explain this in detail, though knowing the futility of arguing with you on the subject I shall forgo the pleasure. In the remote case that you wish to know my argument for the Constitution, do have a look at post six on this thread.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ok, Porcell: Do explain how a decontextualized quote from the Preamble is an affirmative and convincing argument for the Union? The Preamble is a rhetorical justification for the Constitution premised upon an unstated presumption of the desirability of union, not an argument for or justification of union itself. In order to accept the validity of the Constitution, I must first have accepted the validity of union of the sort envisioned by the Constitution. The argument cannot proceed in the reverse direction.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ok, Porcell: Do explain how a decontextualized quote from the Preamble is an affirmative and convincing argument for the Union? The Preamble is a rhetorical justification for the Constitution premised upon an unstated presumption of the desirability of union, not an argument for or justification of union itself. In order to accept the validity of the Constitution, I must first have accepted the validity of union of the sort envisioned by the Constitution. The argument cannot proceed in the reverse direction.

  • DonS

    I would distinguish Cincinnatus’ comment @ 14 by saying that I think the Constitution itself is an ingenious document, particularly given the era in which it was constructed, and the various factions which were tugging against one another. Political compromise since that time has never looked so good.

    However, it has not been upheld as originally intended. Explicit restrictions on federal power (i.e. the 10th Amendment) have been ignored or vitiated to the point of pointlessness, while provisions have been read into it that never existed (i.e. an absolute fundamental right to abortion). The 14th Amendment, while well meaning, and understandably considered to be necessary to address the problem of racial discrimination post-war, has been a disaster. Specifically, the incorporation doctrine requires that the Bill of Rights apply to the states. Now, no one wants to see states that do not observe the Bill of Rights for its citizens, but it would have been a far better approach to require states that wished to remain a part of the Union to adopt their own equivalent bill of rights, rather than to impose the Constitution, originally intended to apply only to the federal government in order to protect the states and their citizens from centralized power, on the states. This decision cemented the idea of a supreme federal government and that the states, rather than being separate political entities, were merely subservient political subdivisions to ultimate federal power.

    I think our union would be far stronger today if states had the ability to rein in federal power by holding the option to secede. That is the opinion I have come to as I continue to watch our government drive this great nation into the toilet.

  • DonS

    I would distinguish Cincinnatus’ comment @ 14 by saying that I think the Constitution itself is an ingenious document, particularly given the era in which it was constructed, and the various factions which were tugging against one another. Political compromise since that time has never looked so good.

    However, it has not been upheld as originally intended. Explicit restrictions on federal power (i.e. the 10th Amendment) have been ignored or vitiated to the point of pointlessness, while provisions have been read into it that never existed (i.e. an absolute fundamental right to abortion). The 14th Amendment, while well meaning, and understandably considered to be necessary to address the problem of racial discrimination post-war, has been a disaster. Specifically, the incorporation doctrine requires that the Bill of Rights apply to the states. Now, no one wants to see states that do not observe the Bill of Rights for its citizens, but it would have been a far better approach to require states that wished to remain a part of the Union to adopt their own equivalent bill of rights, rather than to impose the Constitution, originally intended to apply only to the federal government in order to protect the states and their citizens from centralized power, on the states. This decision cemented the idea of a supreme federal government and that the states, rather than being separate political entities, were merely subservient political subdivisions to ultimate federal power.

    I think our union would be far stronger today if states had the ability to rein in federal power by holding the option to secede. That is the opinion I have come to as I continue to watch our government drive this great nation into the toilet.

  • Porcell

    Michael, at fifteen, Pres. Lincoln understood that the Constitution required him to preserve the Union. The Constitution had no provision that allowed for the secession of any state in the Union.

    Being a man of great integrity and courage he saw fit to prosecute the Civil War, a decision that was a major contribution to the greatness of the United States.

  • Porcell

    Michael, at fifteen, Pres. Lincoln understood that the Constitution required him to preserve the Union. The Constitution had no provision that allowed for the secession of any state in the Union.

    Being a man of great integrity and courage he saw fit to prosecute the Civil War, a decision that was a major contribution to the greatness of the United States.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at seventeen, the leaders of our nation after the Revolutionary War, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Hamilton, saw that the weak Articles of Confederation were harming economic development and dividing the country in the face of the strong Europeans powers, England, France, and Spain, who were delighted at the ineffectual disunity of the assorted states, though distressed with the states who reneged on their war debt.

    Had the South succeeded in its illegal secession, America would have been again divided, much to our economic disadvantage and to the delight of the European powers.

    One could go on, though knowing your obsessive displeasure with a strong American Union, I shall desist.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at seventeen, the leaders of our nation after the Revolutionary War, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Hamilton, saw that the weak Articles of Confederation were harming economic development and dividing the country in the face of the strong Europeans powers, England, France, and Spain, who were delighted at the ineffectual disunity of the assorted states, though distressed with the states who reneged on their war debt.

    Had the South succeeded in its illegal secession, America would have been again divided, much to our economic disadvantage and to the delight of the European powers.

    One could go on, though knowing your obsessive displeasure with a strong American Union, I shall desist.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    So, Cinncinatus, tell us more. What’s wrong with the Constitution? What’s wrong with the states forming a union? Would we do better to be 50 different nations? (Without rehearsing or refighting the Civil War, if we were to take action now.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    So, Cinncinatus, tell us more. What’s wrong with the Constitution? What’s wrong with the states forming a union? Would we do better to be 50 different nations? (Without rehearsing or refighting the Civil War, if we were to take action now.)

  • Cincinnatus

    My objections to the Constitution are myriad, and would fill a book (that no one would want to read!), and they involve numerous modes of experience. For example, I think that the constitution was never appropriately authorized: the Constitutional Convention was only authorized to amend the Articles of Confederation. Nonetheless, without the consent of their constituents, the representatives unilaterally and arbitrarily decided to scrap the whole thing (without seeking prior consent!) and forge an entirely new plan of government. This was effectively illegal. They implicated questions of founding and constituent power: no one granted them either authority. But such an argument isn’t terribly convincing to modern ears.

    Nor do I have the inclination at the moment to rehash the arguments of the anti-federalists, with whom I sympathize deeply but whose works are published and are readily accessible to the curious. I do encourage all to read them, though: they are an education in themselves that differs somewhat from the paean to the Founders we usually get–the Founders, of course, signifying a unitary group of like-minded men who all agreed on what was best for the country and gave it to us.

    We should look at practical considerations of immediate relevance. Some of my contemporary objections to the system established by the Constitution resemble the criticisms I would level at the European Union: it has created a strong and (increasingly) supreme administrative apparatus that functions, by necessity and primarily, through unrepresentative and undemocratic bureaucratic channels. It erases regional distinctions. It is not effectively answerable to its constituents. It establishes laws and regulations that are necessarily but unacceptably generic, ignoring local and contingent circumstances and needs. These are, of course, vague and impressionistic critiques, but suffice to say that I think that the individual American citizen would be at once more “free” and have a more legitimate and holistic investment and involvement in common affairs and the common interest if the mechanisms of governance established by the Constitution were abolished or at least, *ahem*, “amended.” This isn’t even to mention the fact that the Constitution is an incredibly vague document, almost to the point of meaninglessness.

    Perhaps we should ask ourselves this: what good does the Constitution and the strong (and apparently unbreakable) union it establishes do for us over against disunion and a return to more localized sites of sovereignty and political life? The 13 original colonies/states originally formed a union for many of the same reasons that postwar-Europe established the “European Coal and Steel” Community: to promote economic cooperation and perhaps even military collaboration, to negotiate those interests (and only those interests!) that were common to all signatories. We know where that has ended up and where it goes. Now we have an immensely strong centralized national government that eclipses nearly all national governments in history (with the exception of the totalitarian states of the 20th century) in its sheer power and authority, governing in an impossibly generic and administrative way a vast expanse of territory. And, to be crude, it sucks at what it’s doing, if one uses the metric of merely keeping national affairs in order.

    Conversely, what would be so bad about returning to a pre- or a-constitutional order? The scenario of 50 separate and sovereign states is, as others have mentioned, implausible and is thus a straw man. More likely are regional conglomerations of states that already share many common interests and concerns: one could imagine the Midwestern/Great Lakes states forming such a group, and those along the Pacific Coast. What would be lost, aside from our status as the unchallenged imperial power in the world–something I’m not terribly interesting in maintaining–were we to “break up” the union peacefully?

  • Cincinnatus

    My objections to the Constitution are myriad, and would fill a book (that no one would want to read!), and they involve numerous modes of experience. For example, I think that the constitution was never appropriately authorized: the Constitutional Convention was only authorized to amend the Articles of Confederation. Nonetheless, without the consent of their constituents, the representatives unilaterally and arbitrarily decided to scrap the whole thing (without seeking prior consent!) and forge an entirely new plan of government. This was effectively illegal. They implicated questions of founding and constituent power: no one granted them either authority. But such an argument isn’t terribly convincing to modern ears.

    Nor do I have the inclination at the moment to rehash the arguments of the anti-federalists, with whom I sympathize deeply but whose works are published and are readily accessible to the curious. I do encourage all to read them, though: they are an education in themselves that differs somewhat from the paean to the Founders we usually get–the Founders, of course, signifying a unitary group of like-minded men who all agreed on what was best for the country and gave it to us.

    We should look at practical considerations of immediate relevance. Some of my contemporary objections to the system established by the Constitution resemble the criticisms I would level at the European Union: it has created a strong and (increasingly) supreme administrative apparatus that functions, by necessity and primarily, through unrepresentative and undemocratic bureaucratic channels. It erases regional distinctions. It is not effectively answerable to its constituents. It establishes laws and regulations that are necessarily but unacceptably generic, ignoring local and contingent circumstances and needs. These are, of course, vague and impressionistic critiques, but suffice to say that I think that the individual American citizen would be at once more “free” and have a more legitimate and holistic investment and involvement in common affairs and the common interest if the mechanisms of governance established by the Constitution were abolished or at least, *ahem*, “amended.” This isn’t even to mention the fact that the Constitution is an incredibly vague document, almost to the point of meaninglessness.

    Perhaps we should ask ourselves this: what good does the Constitution and the strong (and apparently unbreakable) union it establishes do for us over against disunion and a return to more localized sites of sovereignty and political life? The 13 original colonies/states originally formed a union for many of the same reasons that postwar-Europe established the “European Coal and Steel” Community: to promote economic cooperation and perhaps even military collaboration, to negotiate those interests (and only those interests!) that were common to all signatories. We know where that has ended up and where it goes. Now we have an immensely strong centralized national government that eclipses nearly all national governments in history (with the exception of the totalitarian states of the 20th century) in its sheer power and authority, governing in an impossibly generic and administrative way a vast expanse of territory. And, to be crude, it sucks at what it’s doing, if one uses the metric of merely keeping national affairs in order.

    Conversely, what would be so bad about returning to a pre- or a-constitutional order? The scenario of 50 separate and sovereign states is, as others have mentioned, implausible and is thus a straw man. More likely are regional conglomerations of states that already share many common interests and concerns: one could imagine the Midwestern/Great Lakes states forming such a group, and those along the Pacific Coast. What would be lost, aside from our status as the unchallenged imperial power in the world–something I’m not terribly interesting in maintaining–were we to “break up” the union peacefully?

  • Cincinnatus

    Or maybe I should simply aver to the inimitable Alisdair MacIntyre on the subject: Being asked to fight and die for the Union established by the Constitution is like being asked to fight and die for the telephone company.

  • Cincinnatus

    Or maybe I should simply aver to the inimitable Alisdair MacIntyre on the subject: Being asked to fight and die for the Union established by the Constitution is like being asked to fight and die for the telephone company.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at twenty -three, I recently once again visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where 5076 American warriors including General Patton are buried. Most of these men and women nurses died during the Battle of the Bulge. Are you seriously suggesting that these people fought and died foe some telephone company?

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at twenty -three, I recently once again visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where 5076 American warriors including General Patton are buried. Most of these men and women nurses died during the Battle of the Bulge. Are you seriously suggesting that these people fought and died foe some telephone company?

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t know, Porcell. Did they die for Germany’s enslaved populace? The Jews? Germany wasn’t of immediate threat to American soil, so national defense is a tenuous case to make. Did they die to protect an abstract concept, which is what the Union is effectually? In any case, most of them were drafted; they were just doing what they were told, so I suppose they were dying for what they were ordered to die for–the United States government. I know my grandfather and his brothers, two of whom participated in the Battle of the Bulge, were not happy to have been drafted and have not spoken highly of the war in general since. Or maybe, just maybe some of those men died, whether validly or not, to protect their homes, families, friends, and way of life. They didn’t die to protect an abstract concept like “union”; they died for the only things for which men, except in times of ideological fervor (which is pathological), are ever willing to die: the things that matter to them, the only things that can and should matter to them.

    But I don’t claim to know the motives of 5076 dead men.

    I do know that making emotional appeals like that, Porcell, is an immense distraction from the argument at hand.

  • Cincinnatus

    I don’t know, Porcell. Did they die for Germany’s enslaved populace? The Jews? Germany wasn’t of immediate threat to American soil, so national defense is a tenuous case to make. Did they die to protect an abstract concept, which is what the Union is effectually? In any case, most of them were drafted; they were just doing what they were told, so I suppose they were dying for what they were ordered to die for–the United States government. I know my grandfather and his brothers, two of whom participated in the Battle of the Bulge, were not happy to have been drafted and have not spoken highly of the war in general since. Or maybe, just maybe some of those men died, whether validly or not, to protect their homes, families, friends, and way of life. They didn’t die to protect an abstract concept like “union”; they died for the only things for which men, except in times of ideological fervor (which is pathological), are ever willing to die: the things that matter to them, the only things that can and should matter to them.

    But I don’t claim to know the motives of 5076 dead men.

    I do know that making emotional appeals like that, Porcell, is an immense distraction from the argument at hand.

  • Cincinnatus

    Though I do know why General Patton fought: because he was a narcissistic, jingoistic head-case who believed himself to be the reincarnation of Hannibal and that his destiny was to obtain glory via military conquest. So I suppose I have you on that one.

  • Cincinnatus

    Though I do know why General Patton fought: because he was a narcissistic, jingoistic head-case who believed himself to be the reincarnation of Hannibal and that his destiny was to obtain glory via military conquest. So I suppose I have you on that one.

  • SKPeterson

    As to the merits of the Constitution it is manifestly clear that almost every objection raised by the Anti-Federalists (of whom perhaps Patrick Henry would be the most famous) about the potential for abuse of the states by the federal government under the Constitution has been realized in spades. Much of the great train of abuses started with St. Lincoln, who in the name of preserving the Union, eviscerated the last liberal principles in the Constitution that had been sold to the people as “guaranteed” by the Federalists prior to ratification. If you want to know why we have a government that is incapable of restraint, cannot refrain from meddling in affairs at home and abroad, and is cognizant only of its own “importance,” look no further than 1863 to 1869 and the denouement of the war and rise of Reconstruction radicalism. Antietam may have been a costly victory for the Union, but it was the death knell for the Constitution. It’s now largely a dead letter, subject only to political manipulation or safely ignored when it’s inconvenient.

  • SKPeterson

    As to the merits of the Constitution it is manifestly clear that almost every objection raised by the Anti-Federalists (of whom perhaps Patrick Henry would be the most famous) about the potential for abuse of the states by the federal government under the Constitution has been realized in spades. Much of the great train of abuses started with St. Lincoln, who in the name of preserving the Union, eviscerated the last liberal principles in the Constitution that had been sold to the people as “guaranteed” by the Federalists prior to ratification. If you want to know why we have a government that is incapable of restraint, cannot refrain from meddling in affairs at home and abroad, and is cognizant only of its own “importance,” look no further than 1863 to 1869 and the denouement of the war and rise of Reconstruction radicalism. Antietam may have been a costly victory for the Union, but it was the death knell for the Constitution. It’s now largely a dead letter, subject only to political manipulation or safely ignored when it’s inconvenient.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, the men who died during WWII, including most who were drafted, without being intellectual about it, understood that their nation was involved in a serious war against the tyranny of the Fascists. This is a fact, hardly not an emotional appeal. American men and women don’t put their loves on the line for light reasons.

    General Patton, and Generals Grant and Sherman during the Civil War, for all their faults as fallen men,were very able leaders and patriotic to the core. Your cynical view that they might as well have died for the telephone company is rather scurrilous.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, the men who died during WWII, including most who were drafted, without being intellectual about it, understood that their nation was involved in a serious war against the tyranny of the Fascists. This is a fact, hardly not an emotional appeal. American men and women don’t put their loves on the line for light reasons.

    General Patton, and Generals Grant and Sherman during the Civil War, for all their faults as fallen men,were very able leaders and patriotic to the core. Your cynical view that they might as well have died for the telephone company is rather scurrilous.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thanks, Cincinnatus, for fleshing out your critique of the Constitution and of the Union. This calls for a mental experiment, to imagine what some of these possible regional countries would be like.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thanks, Cincinnatus, for fleshing out your critique of the Constitution and of the Union. This calls for a mental experiment, to imagine what some of these possible regional countries would be like.

  • Stephen

    I was a pascifist once, until I imagined someone breaking into my own home and attacking my wife or tanks rolling down my own street. Patriotism is an abstraction until it is connected to a threat that threatens you or someone you care about. Otherwise, it is pathological. That’s why they came up with Yellow Cake Uranium! :)

    I’m clearly not the historian that Cinncinatus is. I work in archives and museums developing exhibits and I am currently working on a small piece regarding the Civil War. It’s not the first one I’ve done from this era. I’ve read documents and original source material. It seems to me what was at issue was what kind of civilization we were building. There was no doubt that we were building one. The direction it would go was, and continues to be, heavily debated. The country was still expanding geographically, which was a different dynamic, and there was a clash of interests to say the least.

    I will likely oversimplify as I think Cinncinatus believes I have already done elsewhere, but what I hear him also saying is essentially that smaller is likely better. Were we to have maintained a more provincial attitude (if that is the way to say it) and let settlers be more self-determined in governance it would be more wise or less problematic. Or at least we would have had less problems with each other. But I’m probably not getting it quite right and assuming a great deal. It seems the thesis goes at least that the states and/or citizens of those states were somehow forced to participate in the agreement to union under false pretenses. And then there is the further idea that the states, should they have the legal right to secede, could apply force to the federal government to do its duty and fulfill its roll (DonS).

    I’m confused though because it doesn’t seem like that was ever much of an option or something anyone actually considered, at least not for very long. Was there ever an instance when secession was suggested other than in the 1860s? It seems like the movement has always been towards union in the first place, that the momentum of our civilization was headed this way, and that secession was and remains completely contrary to that. I still have not heard the actual contractual language that would support the assertion that secession was always assumed to be an option by “many.” Why would this be or why must it be so?

    And for the record, it was never my assertion that the North fought to “free the slaves.” Rather, I meant to say that it was the bottom line that drove seccession for the south and what they sought to protect it because it fed their entire way of life. As I read in one letter written by a Unionist living in Texas who owned slaves but who also was concerned about the election of Lincoln “Doesn’t Mr. Lincoln know that what he is doing will be bad for the negro?” But slavery was unsustainable, and morally questionable at the very least. The north, for its part, was out to maintain and direct the direction of the growth of American civilization. And that growth and expansion seems to have been the an accepted fact – that it was happening and would continue to happen and that eventually those benefits would acrue for the US. Once areas were settled, they sought statehood. That was the way things progressed. The exception is Texas.

    However, I know that Texas begged to be in the Union and it took a while. The US feared a war with Mexico so it balked until 1846. Texas entered under a treaty. That treaty, I assume, was then broken by the convention to join the Confederacy. Reading Texas’ reasons for secession are interesting. We are one of the only states that does not put slavery front and center under Causes of Secession (not that that proves anything). I have not yet been able to locate the treaty, thought the actual document is likely right down the street from where I work and I might even know the archivist.

    You could almost see the Republicans of that time as the Progressives and the southern agrarian Democrats as the Tea Party libertarians and somewhat nostalgic, misty-eyed Republicans of today. Me, I think it was because of the railroad and other technological progress that was happening, the forces of a new world order crushing an old world (based on slave labor that was cruel and unsustainable and needed to change). So I somewhat agree with the “northern agression” idea. With a few exceptions, practically the whole country was the creation of northern agression if you think about it and reach far enough back in time. In Texas, as I said elsewhere, the merchants and bankers were Yankees and they also brought “culture,” school systems, and such like to the south and demanded technological improvements. The same thing happened in the 30s – rolling over dirt floor shacks with concrete.

    The over-weening state? Perhaps. We get the government that suits us I think, the one that mirrors who we are. I think it is the force of our technology as much as anything. People came here in ships looking for land to grow their own garden. Then they built massive cities, populated them until they burst, invented communication and faster travel so they could go even further out, hoping to build more gardens. I get the feeling we are forever strung out in a tension between wanting that sense of mastery that civilization brings us, and the peace of living close to the earth, free to roam. Neither option is a perfect one because both are distorted by our sin. I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice back then. I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

  • Stephen

    I was a pascifist once, until I imagined someone breaking into my own home and attacking my wife or tanks rolling down my own street. Patriotism is an abstraction until it is connected to a threat that threatens you or someone you care about. Otherwise, it is pathological. That’s why they came up with Yellow Cake Uranium! :)

    I’m clearly not the historian that Cinncinatus is. I work in archives and museums developing exhibits and I am currently working on a small piece regarding the Civil War. It’s not the first one I’ve done from this era. I’ve read documents and original source material. It seems to me what was at issue was what kind of civilization we were building. There was no doubt that we were building one. The direction it would go was, and continues to be, heavily debated. The country was still expanding geographically, which was a different dynamic, and there was a clash of interests to say the least.

    I will likely oversimplify as I think Cinncinatus believes I have already done elsewhere, but what I hear him also saying is essentially that smaller is likely better. Were we to have maintained a more provincial attitude (if that is the way to say it) and let settlers be more self-determined in governance it would be more wise or less problematic. Or at least we would have had less problems with each other. But I’m probably not getting it quite right and assuming a great deal. It seems the thesis goes at least that the states and/or citizens of those states were somehow forced to participate in the agreement to union under false pretenses. And then there is the further idea that the states, should they have the legal right to secede, could apply force to the federal government to do its duty and fulfill its roll (DonS).

    I’m confused though because it doesn’t seem like that was ever much of an option or something anyone actually considered, at least not for very long. Was there ever an instance when secession was suggested other than in the 1860s? It seems like the movement has always been towards union in the first place, that the momentum of our civilization was headed this way, and that secession was and remains completely contrary to that. I still have not heard the actual contractual language that would support the assertion that secession was always assumed to be an option by “many.” Why would this be or why must it be so?

    And for the record, it was never my assertion that the North fought to “free the slaves.” Rather, I meant to say that it was the bottom line that drove seccession for the south and what they sought to protect it because it fed their entire way of life. As I read in one letter written by a Unionist living in Texas who owned slaves but who also was concerned about the election of Lincoln “Doesn’t Mr. Lincoln know that what he is doing will be bad for the negro?” But slavery was unsustainable, and morally questionable at the very least. The north, for its part, was out to maintain and direct the direction of the growth of American civilization. And that growth and expansion seems to have been the an accepted fact – that it was happening and would continue to happen and that eventually those benefits would acrue for the US. Once areas were settled, they sought statehood. That was the way things progressed. The exception is Texas.

    However, I know that Texas begged to be in the Union and it took a while. The US feared a war with Mexico so it balked until 1846. Texas entered under a treaty. That treaty, I assume, was then broken by the convention to join the Confederacy. Reading Texas’ reasons for secession are interesting. We are one of the only states that does not put slavery front and center under Causes of Secession (not that that proves anything). I have not yet been able to locate the treaty, thought the actual document is likely right down the street from where I work and I might even know the archivist.

    You could almost see the Republicans of that time as the Progressives and the southern agrarian Democrats as the Tea Party libertarians and somewhat nostalgic, misty-eyed Republicans of today. Me, I think it was because of the railroad and other technological progress that was happening, the forces of a new world order crushing an old world (based on slave labor that was cruel and unsustainable and needed to change). So I somewhat agree with the “northern agression” idea. With a few exceptions, practically the whole country was the creation of northern agression if you think about it and reach far enough back in time. In Texas, as I said elsewhere, the merchants and bankers were Yankees and they also brought “culture,” school systems, and such like to the south and demanded technological improvements. The same thing happened in the 30s – rolling over dirt floor shacks with concrete.

    The over-weening state? Perhaps. We get the government that suits us I think, the one that mirrors who we are. I think it is the force of our technology as much as anything. People came here in ships looking for land to grow their own garden. Then they built massive cities, populated them until they burst, invented communication and faster travel so they could go even further out, hoping to build more gardens. I get the feeling we are forever strung out in a tension between wanting that sense of mastery that civilization brings us, and the peace of living close to the earth, free to roam. Neither option is a perfect one because both are distorted by our sin. I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice back then. I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’m in a job that requires an oath of office to the US Constitution.

    That said I do favor another constitutional convention (as provided by the US Constitution) as it’s clear the current model isn’t working for our continental union.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’m in a job that requires an oath of office to the US Constitution.

    That said I do favor another constitutional convention (as provided by the US Constitution) as it’s clear the current model isn’t working for our continental union.

  • The Jungle Cat

    Someone might have already addressed this issue; I haven’t taken time to read ALL of the comments, but I think that it is definitely incumbent upon conservatives to oppose secession. I have never heard secessionists make their case based on anything other than the belly-aches that the federal government has caused them. If the nation had been allowed to break into autonomous states–probably not fifty, but probably not just two either–America would have become fertile soil for dictatorships and political violence. While the dissolution of federations like Gran Colombia are not the sole reason why South America has been susceptible to tyrants like Hugo Chavez, it is at least related. If secessionists think that they can fare better on their own, they need to explain how they would prevent outcomes that have evolved from secession or disunion elsewhere.

  • The Jungle Cat

    Someone might have already addressed this issue; I haven’t taken time to read ALL of the comments, but I think that it is definitely incumbent upon conservatives to oppose secession. I have never heard secessionists make their case based on anything other than the belly-aches that the federal government has caused them. If the nation had been allowed to break into autonomous states–probably not fifty, but probably not just two either–America would have become fertile soil for dictatorships and political violence. While the dissolution of federations like Gran Colombia are not the sole reason why South America has been susceptible to tyrants like Hugo Chavez, it is at least related. If secessionists think that they can fare better on their own, they need to explain how they would prevent outcomes that have evolved from secession or disunion elsewhere.

  • Cincinnatus

    The Jungle Cat:

    No, no one has addressed that concern–primarily because it seems to me to be a completely unsubstantiated and arbitrary argument. “Smaller North American states would be ‘fertile soil’ for dictatorships and political violence,” you claim. But why? You fail to provide a single reason, much less a compelling reason, for why this would be the case. In fact, your claims militate against past “conventional wisdom” in political theory: that only smaller polities are safe for liberty and republican or democratic forms of government. So based upon what authority or logic do you simply assert that smaller states breed dictatorship? Just because you don’t like smaller states? Just because you are a fan of Union?

    Meanwhile, South American nation-states are and have been susceptible to despotism and political violence for reasons entirely unrelated to their size. Brazil has had its fair share of dictatorships, and it’s one of the largest nations in the world.

  • Cincinnatus

    The Jungle Cat:

    No, no one has addressed that concern–primarily because it seems to me to be a completely unsubstantiated and arbitrary argument. “Smaller North American states would be ‘fertile soil’ for dictatorships and political violence,” you claim. But why? You fail to provide a single reason, much less a compelling reason, for why this would be the case. In fact, your claims militate against past “conventional wisdom” in political theory: that only smaller polities are safe for liberty and republican or democratic forms of government. So based upon what authority or logic do you simply assert that smaller states breed dictatorship? Just because you don’t like smaller states? Just because you are a fan of Union?

    Meanwhile, South American nation-states are and have been susceptible to despotism and political violence for reasons entirely unrelated to their size. Brazil has had its fair share of dictatorships, and it’s one of the largest nations in the world.

  • DonS

    The Jungle Cat @ 32: There is a difference between opposing secession and opposing the right to secession. The problem we have in the U.S. today, and a main reason why the limits imposed on our federal government under the Constitution are completely ignored, is because the Constitution has been interpreted as ceding supreme authority of federal law over state law, while also preventing states from voting with their feet. What leverage do states retain to enforce the Constitution, which supposedly protects them, against federal usurpation? Theoretically, they have redress through the federal courts, but they have abdicated their responsibility, perhaps because of the inherent conflict of interest in being a branch of the federal government.

    At this point, I would not support the actual act of secession (though, as a resident of conservative Orange County, I would love to see its secession from public employee-owned and operated California). But, the option of secession would be a powerful bullet for the states to use as leverage against the out-of-control federal monstrosity we endure today and that is bringing our children to ruin.

  • DonS

    The Jungle Cat @ 32: There is a difference between opposing secession and opposing the right to secession. The problem we have in the U.S. today, and a main reason why the limits imposed on our federal government under the Constitution are completely ignored, is because the Constitution has been interpreted as ceding supreme authority of federal law over state law, while also preventing states from voting with their feet. What leverage do states retain to enforce the Constitution, which supposedly protects them, against federal usurpation? Theoretically, they have redress through the federal courts, but they have abdicated their responsibility, perhaps because of the inherent conflict of interest in being a branch of the federal government.

    At this point, I would not support the actual act of secession (though, as a resident of conservative Orange County, I would love to see its secession from public employee-owned and operated California). But, the option of secession would be a powerful bullet for the states to use as leverage against the out-of-control federal monstrosity we endure today and that is bringing our children to ruin.

  • SKPeterson

    Secession as prelude to dictatorship. I’m not buying it. Dictatorship seems to grow in any variety of fertile soil.

    Drawing on an earlier thread, Nigeria has not been peaceful or immune to dictatorships since it has prevented the secession of Biafra, the union of Yemen has not displaced dictatorship there, the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia may be problematic – an example of a one-party state seceding from another one-party state – and we have the unfolding spectacle of what will happen in South Sudan, where the direction of the new government is TBD, but the Sudanese is definitely an authoritarian one. Another, perhaps closer, European example: with the union of Germany in the 19th century, one can easily draw a line between the unified state, Bismarckian subversion of democracy, the rise of the imperial state, and the chaotic transition to Nazi dictatorship. Would the Nazi’s have been as successful in pillaging Europe if they had to deal with Saxony, Prussia, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, Bavaria or Wurtemburg as separate sovereign entities? I sincerely doubt it.

  • SKPeterson

    Secession as prelude to dictatorship. I’m not buying it. Dictatorship seems to grow in any variety of fertile soil.

    Drawing on an earlier thread, Nigeria has not been peaceful or immune to dictatorships since it has prevented the secession of Biafra, the union of Yemen has not displaced dictatorship there, the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia may be problematic – an example of a one-party state seceding from another one-party state – and we have the unfolding spectacle of what will happen in South Sudan, where the direction of the new government is TBD, but the Sudanese is definitely an authoritarian one. Another, perhaps closer, European example: with the union of Germany in the 19th century, one can easily draw a line between the unified state, Bismarckian subversion of democracy, the rise of the imperial state, and the chaotic transition to Nazi dictatorship. Would the Nazi’s have been as successful in pillaging Europe if they had to deal with Saxony, Prussia, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, Bavaria or Wurtemburg as separate sovereign entities? I sincerely doubt it.

  • SKPeterson

    And there likely wouldn’t have been a World War I if Germany wasn’t unified as well. Millions dead as a consequence of the drive for union.

  • SKPeterson

    And there likely wouldn’t have been a World War I if Germany wasn’t unified as well. Millions dead as a consequence of the drive for union.

  • Cincinnatus

    SKPeterson: The example of Germany is an excellent one that I hadn’t thought of. Germany was supposed to be a perfect union, sharing a language and similar cultural heritage, having transcended its Protestant/Catholic divide to some extent. Another fine example is that of the United Kingdom: increasingly, the British government is understandably giving up the entire notion of four nations in one state, after centuries upon centuries of bloodshed and oppression on those two islands.

    One fact that is overlooked in much contemporary democratic theory, which self-righteously occupies itself in extolling the virtues of multiculturalism and pluralism, exploring the various permutations and combinations of that hallowed ideal, is that any political unit, if it hopes to avoid either despotism or useless generality, must be characterized by a substantial degree of homogeneity in certain metrics that are actually important to the human experience–whether that be ethnically, religiously, or merely in a shared conception of what constitutes the common good. This fact is shuffled under the rug for obvious reasons, as the last major case for homogeneity was made by the self-same Germany you cite above a couple of decades later. Nonetheless, it is true.

    The idea of an absolutely plural nation is a chimera. Thus, we might ask ourselves whether the various regions, etc., of the United States any longer possess the requisite homogeneity (whatever that might mean) to sustain unity. There is good reason to think that it didn’t even exist at the beginning. Have things improved or deteriorated more since then? One thing we do know is that it has taken an overpowering federal government to coerce the sort of unity to maintain the sort of unanimity necessary for the preservation of at least one vision of Union.

  • Cincinnatus

    SKPeterson: The example of Germany is an excellent one that I hadn’t thought of. Germany was supposed to be a perfect union, sharing a language and similar cultural heritage, having transcended its Protestant/Catholic divide to some extent. Another fine example is that of the United Kingdom: increasingly, the British government is understandably giving up the entire notion of four nations in one state, after centuries upon centuries of bloodshed and oppression on those two islands.

    One fact that is overlooked in much contemporary democratic theory, which self-righteously occupies itself in extolling the virtues of multiculturalism and pluralism, exploring the various permutations and combinations of that hallowed ideal, is that any political unit, if it hopes to avoid either despotism or useless generality, must be characterized by a substantial degree of homogeneity in certain metrics that are actually important to the human experience–whether that be ethnically, religiously, or merely in a shared conception of what constitutes the common good. This fact is shuffled under the rug for obvious reasons, as the last major case for homogeneity was made by the self-same Germany you cite above a couple of decades later. Nonetheless, it is true.

    The idea of an absolutely plural nation is a chimera. Thus, we might ask ourselves whether the various regions, etc., of the United States any longer possess the requisite homogeneity (whatever that might mean) to sustain unity. There is good reason to think that it didn’t even exist at the beginning. Have things improved or deteriorated more since then? One thing we do know is that it has taken an overpowering federal government to coerce the sort of unity to maintain the sort of unanimity necessary for the preservation of at least one vision of Union.

  • Cincinnatus

    oops…repeated myself oddly in the last sentence. Should read “to coerce the sort of unanimity necessary for the preservation of at least one vision of Union.”

  • Cincinnatus

    oops…repeated myself oddly in the last sentence. Should read “to coerce the sort of unanimity necessary for the preservation of at least one vision of Union.”

  • Porcell

    Actually, Lincoln and other advocates of the American nation have no problem with a robust federalism. The Constitution allows for federalism, though mainly through the federal courts the federal government has overreached its constitutional power.

    Secession is another matter. There is nothing in the constitution that allows. Lincoln quite properly fought a decisive war to settle the issu.

  • Porcell

    Actually, Lincoln and other advocates of the American nation have no problem with a robust federalism. The Constitution allows for federalism, though mainly through the federal courts the federal government has overreached its constitutional power.

    Secession is another matter. There is nothing in the constitution that allows. Lincoln quite properly fought a decisive war to settle the issu.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, there’s nothing in a the Constitution that “allows” for secession because the Constitution is an enumeration of powers to the federal government. It is emphatically not a statement of what the state governments can and cannot do (though the 14th amendment has obviously enabled the protection of constitutional rights vis-a-vis the state governments, and there are some provisions–guarantees of a republican form of government, for instance–that dictate the form of state policy for those states who actually agree to the Constitution). In other words, the Constitution doesn’t say whether a state can secede because that’s not what the Constitution is about. It also doesn’t say that my state government can, say, institute a public educational system or a state police system–but my state has both, and no one would seriously challenge the validity of either because they emerge from the vast and purposely ill-defined well of “police powers” that the state’s still possess.

    Truth be told–your personal Unionist prejudices notwithstanding–there is no definitive, authoritative, constitutional word on whether states can secede or not (Texas v. White isn’t terribly well-regarded) except the ersatz “word” that came in the form of a “decisive” show of military force in the Civil War–which isn’t the typical manner in which the United States solves or should solve its serious constitutional issues, by the way. I’m not saying that the Civil War was necessarily illegitimate or even that the Union itself is illegitimate, but you can’t claim that secession is “illegal” simply because the Union an army invaded the last state that tried to do it. That’s not a legal claim, it’s a “natural right of the stronger” claim–which, as Plato pointed out, is a repugnant argument.

    And as I mentioned, your appeal to the Constitution’s words on the subject–or rather, lack thereof–is hogwash.

    Speaking of things that the Constitution “allows” for, tell me where the federal government gets the authority for an FBI, a standing air force, a Department of Health and Human Services, a social security program, Medicare, and pretty much everything else the federal government does today? Shall we fight a “decisive war” about it?

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, there’s nothing in a the Constitution that “allows” for secession because the Constitution is an enumeration of powers to the federal government. It is emphatically not a statement of what the state governments can and cannot do (though the 14th amendment has obviously enabled the protection of constitutional rights vis-a-vis the state governments, and there are some provisions–guarantees of a republican form of government, for instance–that dictate the form of state policy for those states who actually agree to the Constitution). In other words, the Constitution doesn’t say whether a state can secede because that’s not what the Constitution is about. It also doesn’t say that my state government can, say, institute a public educational system or a state police system–but my state has both, and no one would seriously challenge the validity of either because they emerge from the vast and purposely ill-defined well of “police powers” that the state’s still possess.

    Truth be told–your personal Unionist prejudices notwithstanding–there is no definitive, authoritative, constitutional word on whether states can secede or not (Texas v. White isn’t terribly well-regarded) except the ersatz “word” that came in the form of a “decisive” show of military force in the Civil War–which isn’t the typical manner in which the United States solves or should solve its serious constitutional issues, by the way. I’m not saying that the Civil War was necessarily illegitimate or even that the Union itself is illegitimate, but you can’t claim that secession is “illegal” simply because the Union an army invaded the last state that tried to do it. That’s not a legal claim, it’s a “natural right of the stronger” claim–which, as Plato pointed out, is a repugnant argument.

    And as I mentioned, your appeal to the Constitution’s words on the subject–or rather, lack thereof–is hogwash.

    Speaking of things that the Constitution “allows” for, tell me where the federal government gets the authority for an FBI, a standing air force, a Department of Health and Human Services, a social security program, Medicare, and pretty much everything else the federal government does today? Shall we fight a “decisive war” about it?

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address stated a carefully analyzed justification for opposing any state’s succession as the following excerpts prove:

    I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever – it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

    Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it – break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

    Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was “to form a more perfect union.”

    But if destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

    Of course, the South disagreed with these propositions and the issue was settled by the Civil War, which technically it started at Fort Sumpter.

    Had Lincoln not had the determination, courage, and wisdom to fully fight the Civil War America would not be the great nation that it is. Even many southerners have sensibly come to that view.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address stated a carefully analyzed justification for opposing any state’s succession as the following excerpts prove:

    I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever – it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

    Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it – break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

    Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was “to form a more perfect union.”

    But if destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

    Of course, the South disagreed with these propositions and the issue was settled by the Civil War, which technically it started at Fort Sumpter.

    Had Lincoln not had the determination, courage, and wisdom to fully fight the Civil War America would not be the great nation that it is. Even many southerners have sensibly come to that view.

  • SKPeterson

    Porcell,

    What you have provided is Lincoln’s rationale for the permanence of the Union. A permanence that apparently exceeds that of the Constitution from which is supposedly derives. yet, his was not the only voice in the matter – others held opposite views, such as Calhoun for one. The primary issue is that Mr. Lincoln did not rely upon the force of argument, but upon the force of arms. He also made use of a “stacked” court to implement many of his reforms. You seem to deplore such over reach by the courts today, thank Mr. Lincoln for setting the stage and clearing the way for FDR and those who came after.

  • SKPeterson

    Porcell,

    What you have provided is Lincoln’s rationale for the permanence of the Union. A permanence that apparently exceeds that of the Constitution from which is supposedly derives. yet, his was not the only voice in the matter – others held opposite views, such as Calhoun for one. The primary issue is that Mr. Lincoln did not rely upon the force of argument, but upon the force of arms. He also made use of a “stacked” court to implement many of his reforms. You seem to deplore such over reach by the courts today, thank Mr. Lincoln for setting the stage and clearing the way for FDR and those who came after.

  • Porcell

    SK. I pointed out that the South disagreed with Lincoln’s legal analysis against secession. Calhoun and later Jefferson Davis, of course, would be examples of this.

    I’m not familiar with how Lincoln “stacked” the court in favor of his view and would be grateful for your explanation of this.

    Lincoln correctly viewed the issue of secession as vital to the interests of the Union; consequently and properly he went to war over the issue. That’s what presidents do sometimes, following Von Clausewitz’s axiom that war is necessarily an extension of politics.

  • Porcell

    SK. I pointed out that the South disagreed with Lincoln’s legal analysis against secession. Calhoun and later Jefferson Davis, of course, would be examples of this.

    I’m not familiar with how Lincoln “stacked” the court in favor of his view and would be grateful for your explanation of this.

    Lincoln correctly viewed the issue of secession as vital to the interests of the Union; consequently and properly he went to war over the issue. That’s what presidents do sometimes, following Von Clausewitz’s axiom that war is necessarily an extension of politics.

  • kerner

    Those of you who speak highly of secession are romanticizing it. Frankly, in winning the Civil War, the federal government did the secessionist states the biggest favor of all time. The secessionists were using their “right to secede” as a means to preserve a deeply flawed system on this continent.

    If the secessionist states had been allowed to secede, they would probably not have remained unified. Their slave based economies and social systems would have dragged them down. Had they successfully seceded, their history would have paralleled the histories of other oppression based societies. Today, the most fortunate of them would resemble South Africa. The least fortunate would resemble Haiti.

    Maybe some of you think that the existence of several countries resembling South Africa and Haiti on mainland North America would be a situation preferable to the one we actually have, but I don’t.

    There is another possibility that you are overlooking as well. Europe was, and is, a continent divided into numerous diverse nations that historically have been competitive with, and often openly hostile to, each other. Is it really necessary to remind some of you how that situation worked out for Europe in the 20th Century?

    Do you really think that, on a North American Continent subdivided into numerous independent nations, that all of those nations would have rejected Fascism or Communism? Those that did adopt one or the other “ism” would certainly have fought each other, or tried to conquer their neighbors, or both. Preserving the union has been a major reason that we have been spared intra-continental war (and all the misery that would entail) for the last 150 years.

    While I agree that the growth of the power of the government can (at least partly) be traced back to the Union victory, the benefits of preserving the union cannot be overlooked.

    Besides, today we are in a great struggle to correct the mistakes of the past. The growth of government is being challenged all over the country. Not least in my own “progressive” state of Wisconsin.

  • kerner

    Those of you who speak highly of secession are romanticizing it. Frankly, in winning the Civil War, the federal government did the secessionist states the biggest favor of all time. The secessionists were using their “right to secede” as a means to preserve a deeply flawed system on this continent.

    If the secessionist states had been allowed to secede, they would probably not have remained unified. Their slave based economies and social systems would have dragged them down. Had they successfully seceded, their history would have paralleled the histories of other oppression based societies. Today, the most fortunate of them would resemble South Africa. The least fortunate would resemble Haiti.

    Maybe some of you think that the existence of several countries resembling South Africa and Haiti on mainland North America would be a situation preferable to the one we actually have, but I don’t.

    There is another possibility that you are overlooking as well. Europe was, and is, a continent divided into numerous diverse nations that historically have been competitive with, and often openly hostile to, each other. Is it really necessary to remind some of you how that situation worked out for Europe in the 20th Century?

    Do you really think that, on a North American Continent subdivided into numerous independent nations, that all of those nations would have rejected Fascism or Communism? Those that did adopt one or the other “ism” would certainly have fought each other, or tried to conquer their neighbors, or both. Preserving the union has been a major reason that we have been spared intra-continental war (and all the misery that would entail) for the last 150 years.

    While I agree that the growth of the power of the government can (at least partly) be traced back to the Union victory, the benefits of preserving the union cannot be overlooked.

    Besides, today we are in a great struggle to correct the mistakes of the past. The growth of government is being challenged all over the country. Not least in my own “progressive” state of Wisconsin.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, I’m sympathetic to your point, but none of us is “romanticizing” secession. I don’t think that, prima facie it is a wonderful thing, and if permitted, would engender flowers and rainbows across the land. In fact, none of us has speculated as to the actual results of secession. It would, no doubt, come at the cost of much (rhetorical) strife and bitter feelings; it might come with a decline in the standard of living. It would certainly represent a decline in American global power, militarily and otherwise. As a localist and an advocate of subsidiarity, I merely argue that, in principle, secession is justifiable and perhaps even theoretically preferable to Union.

    That said, the rest of your comment is a gigantic unfalsifiable counterfactual. For example, you (almost hysterically) assert that “[t]oday, the most fortunate of them [the Southern states] would resemble South Africa. The least fortunate would resemble Haiti.” Oh yeah? And, as I asked Jungle Cat, upon what grounds are you basing these audacious claims? No doubt the South would have remained poorer and perhaps more racially divided than the north for a time (though there is compelling evidence that a) the industrial economy of the North is overrated and b) the de facto apartheid that arose in the South after the Civil War was a function of radical Republican overreach and Reconstruction rather than an inevitable result of the Southern social structure). But Haiti? Really? Haiti and South Africa are/have been the basketcases that they are due to cultural inadequacies, not simply because their economic structures are insufficient. The South, recall, was primarily a freeholding land of small farmers (as a study I was just reading provides empirical evidence for). It upheld the virtues of limited government and sophisticated constitutional theories. Culturally speaking, it also exalted personal virtue, moderation, and statesmanship, among other things. Recall that the South was the home of Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Mason, and many others who were integral in the fashioning and implementation of the Union in the first place. Would all that “social capital” (to borrow a term bandied about on this blog) simply have disappeared had Lincoln not forced a perpetual union upon the states by military force? I doubt it.

    South Africa–not even to mention the absurd parallel to Haiti–was composed of selfish English colonists with literally no attachment to the land, the nation (of South Africa), or the common good in general; Boers who had abandoned the land and themselves to poverty and social anarchy; and a majority of disenfranchised and brutalized native Africans who had had their lands essentially stolen from them. No tradition of rights and liberties, no custom of agrarian stability, no sense of virtue and propriety. The social capital South Africa possessed upon which to found a stable nation was essentially nugatory.

    I’m really not certain how you leap from “secession may be a bad idea” to “secession would make Georgia like Haiti.”

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, I’m sympathetic to your point, but none of us is “romanticizing” secession. I don’t think that, prima facie it is a wonderful thing, and if permitted, would engender flowers and rainbows across the land. In fact, none of us has speculated as to the actual results of secession. It would, no doubt, come at the cost of much (rhetorical) strife and bitter feelings; it might come with a decline in the standard of living. It would certainly represent a decline in American global power, militarily and otherwise. As a localist and an advocate of subsidiarity, I merely argue that, in principle, secession is justifiable and perhaps even theoretically preferable to Union.

    That said, the rest of your comment is a gigantic unfalsifiable counterfactual. For example, you (almost hysterically) assert that “[t]oday, the most fortunate of them [the Southern states] would resemble South Africa. The least fortunate would resemble Haiti.” Oh yeah? And, as I asked Jungle Cat, upon what grounds are you basing these audacious claims? No doubt the South would have remained poorer and perhaps more racially divided than the north for a time (though there is compelling evidence that a) the industrial economy of the North is overrated and b) the de facto apartheid that arose in the South after the Civil War was a function of radical Republican overreach and Reconstruction rather than an inevitable result of the Southern social structure). But Haiti? Really? Haiti and South Africa are/have been the basketcases that they are due to cultural inadequacies, not simply because their economic structures are insufficient. The South, recall, was primarily a freeholding land of small farmers (as a study I was just reading provides empirical evidence for). It upheld the virtues of limited government and sophisticated constitutional theories. Culturally speaking, it also exalted personal virtue, moderation, and statesmanship, among other things. Recall that the South was the home of Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Mason, and many others who were integral in the fashioning and implementation of the Union in the first place. Would all that “social capital” (to borrow a term bandied about on this blog) simply have disappeared had Lincoln not forced a perpetual union upon the states by military force? I doubt it.

    South Africa–not even to mention the absurd parallel to Haiti–was composed of selfish English colonists with literally no attachment to the land, the nation (of South Africa), or the common good in general; Boers who had abandoned the land and themselves to poverty and social anarchy; and a majority of disenfranchised and brutalized native Africans who had had their lands essentially stolen from them. No tradition of rights and liberties, no custom of agrarian stability, no sense of virtue and propriety. The social capital South Africa possessed upon which to found a stable nation was essentially nugatory.

    I’m really not certain how you leap from “secession may be a bad idea” to “secession would make Georgia like Haiti.”

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    The common denominator is the willingness to create a society based on the elevation of a priviledged class at the expense of a permanently enslaved or subjugated class.

    The Boers and ethnic British of of South Africa had plenty of “social capital”. But like Americans in slave states, they simply chose to confine their social capital to their own class while subjugating another. When European colonists first arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, the land was thinly populated. Slaves had to be imported from Madagascar and Asia. The increase in the native African population was largely due to the development of and economic system (based on agriculture and diamond mining) that exploited the cheap labor of the native Africans, who were strictly kept in their place and given no opportunity to advance.

    Cheap slave (or subjugated) labor is addictive. The temptation for the priviledged class to live like royalty (with a staff of servants) even in what would be middle class positions in any other western society is very great. The South African economy did not merely exploit the indiginous population that was there when the Europeans arrived. It in fact encouraged the growth of the subjugated African class to provide the cheap labor necessary to maintain the oppulent life-styles of the Europeans. Eventually, the result was a South Africa that was, and is, 79% Black African (the formerly subjugated class). In such a situation, revolts, and eventually successful revolts, by the subjugated class are inevitable.

    Compare the foregoing to the economic systems of the Antebellum South. The southern ecomony was becoming more and more based on the cotton plantation. In the most extreme case, South Carolina had a population that was 57% enslaved Africans by 1860. This was less true in states like Tennessee, and your own Virginia, in which geographical features like mountains made the plantation based economy less dominant. You will note, however, that Virginia itself was divided over secession into two states, and almost one third of civil war veterans from Tennessee fought for the Union Note also that the slave states whose economies were least based on the plantation system did not secede at all.

    From the situation in South Carolina (that of a subjugated ,i.,b.majority</i/b>) one only needs to look at the fates of other countries whose economies were based on the labor of subjugated majorities, like the most dysfunctional Carribean Island nations, to support my thesis that nations who base their economy on the labor of a subjugated majority are doomed to the fate of South Africa or Haiti.

    But also compare the current situations of Nations based on colonization by Europeans that did not rely on subjugated or slave labor, such as Australia, New Zeeland, and Canada.

    From such comparisons, I have concluded that the North American slave states were on a path that would have inevitably led to their eventual distruction, much like South Africa or Rhodesia or even Haiti. Whereas taking the path of Federalism (without slavery) has led to our present position of freedom and prospreity and, yes, power.

    You are probably right when you say that the excesses of the reconstruction contributed to the 90 years of Jim Crow that followed, and this has no doubt hurt our country in ways that could have been avoided, but it is nothing compared to the fate that has overtaken nations that have adopted an economy based on the labor of a permanently subjugated class.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    The common denominator is the willingness to create a society based on the elevation of a priviledged class at the expense of a permanently enslaved or subjugated class.

    The Boers and ethnic British of of South Africa had plenty of “social capital”. But like Americans in slave states, they simply chose to confine their social capital to their own class while subjugating another. When European colonists first arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, the land was thinly populated. Slaves had to be imported from Madagascar and Asia. The increase in the native African population was largely due to the development of and economic system (based on agriculture and diamond mining) that exploited the cheap labor of the native Africans, who were strictly kept in their place and given no opportunity to advance.

    Cheap slave (or subjugated) labor is addictive. The temptation for the priviledged class to live like royalty (with a staff of servants) even in what would be middle class positions in any other western society is very great. The South African economy did not merely exploit the indiginous population that was there when the Europeans arrived. It in fact encouraged the growth of the subjugated African class to provide the cheap labor necessary to maintain the oppulent life-styles of the Europeans. Eventually, the result was a South Africa that was, and is, 79% Black African (the formerly subjugated class). In such a situation, revolts, and eventually successful revolts, by the subjugated class are inevitable.

    Compare the foregoing to the economic systems of the Antebellum South. The southern ecomony was becoming more and more based on the cotton plantation. In the most extreme case, South Carolina had a population that was 57% enslaved Africans by 1860. This was less true in states like Tennessee, and your own Virginia, in which geographical features like mountains made the plantation based economy less dominant. You will note, however, that Virginia itself was divided over secession into two states, and almost one third of civil war veterans from Tennessee fought for the Union Note also that the slave states whose economies were least based on the plantation system did not secede at all.

    From the situation in South Carolina (that of a subjugated ,i.,b.majority</i/b>) one only needs to look at the fates of other countries whose economies were based on the labor of subjugated majorities, like the most dysfunctional Carribean Island nations, to support my thesis that nations who base their economy on the labor of a subjugated majority are doomed to the fate of South Africa or Haiti.

    But also compare the current situations of Nations based on colonization by Europeans that did not rely on subjugated or slave labor, such as Australia, New Zeeland, and Canada.

    From such comparisons, I have concluded that the North American slave states were on a path that would have inevitably led to their eventual distruction, much like South Africa or Rhodesia or even Haiti. Whereas taking the path of Federalism (without slavery) has led to our present position of freedom and prospreity and, yes, power.

    You are probably right when you say that the excesses of the reconstruction contributed to the 90 years of Jim Crow that followed, and this has no doubt hurt our country in ways that could have been avoided, but it is nothing compared to the fate that has overtaken nations that have adopted an economy based on the labor of a permanently subjugated class.

  • DonS

    Kerner @ 44, 46: Your comments remind me of the well known saying in the legal world that “bad facts make bad law”. Your point, essentially, is that slavery is bad, therefore acknowledging the right of states to secede is bad. At least my comments disconnected the two. Slavery IS bad, but that doesn’t mean that acknowledging the right of sovereign states to withdraw from the union is also bad.

    I think Cincinnatus is making the same point. You don’t abrogate someone’s constitutional rights simply because you don’t like their actions. The Skokie and <Westboro Baptist decisions were correct, no matter how horrendous the protected political speech.

  • DonS

    Kerner @ 44, 46: Your comments remind me of the well known saying in the legal world that “bad facts make bad law”. Your point, essentially, is that slavery is bad, therefore acknowledging the right of states to secede is bad. At least my comments disconnected the two. Slavery IS bad, but that doesn’t mean that acknowledging the right of sovereign states to withdraw from the union is also bad.

    I think Cincinnatus is making the same point. You don’t abrogate someone’s constitutional rights simply because you don’t like their actions. The Skokie and <Westboro Baptist decisions were correct, no matter how horrendous the protected political speech.

  • Louis

    Facts: In South Africa, the importation of slaves eneded in 1822, and all slaves were formally freed in December 1833. Strictly speaking though, in 1833 there was no South Africa, only the Cape Colony, and no Boer Republics.

    I might wish to add to Cincinnatus, that, high crime levels and all that considered, that Sa has been far more successfull at growing their economy AND keeping a balanced budget…. :)

  • Louis

    Facts: In South Africa, the importation of slaves eneded in 1822, and all slaves were formally freed in December 1833. Strictly speaking though, in 1833 there was no South Africa, only the Cape Colony, and no Boer Republics.

    I might wish to add to Cincinnatus, that, high crime levels and all that considered, that Sa has been far more successfull at growing their economy AND keeping a balanced budget…. :)

  • kerner

    Louis:

    Whether the Black South Africans were chattel slaves is not the point. They were a subjugated class. They were restricted by law from moving out of their subjugated status. They were a different ethnic group than the ruling class. And they out numbered the ruling class 4 to 1. This is an absolute recipe for dissaster, and at least some of the American southern states were well on their way to that situation in 1860.

    History shows that such a situation cannot be maintained. The Tutsi domination of the majority Hutus in Rwanda ended much worse. It took the Irish centuries to throw off British domination, but they finally did it. But the scars of that much less egregious oppression continue.

    But like you, I reject the proposition that white South Africans had less “Social Capital” than do Australians or New Zeelanders or Canadians, or Americans. South Africa, and Rhodesia, simply succumbed to a temptation to try to maintain an unsustainable system for selfish reasons. Rhodesia has completely ceased to exist and has been replaced by Zimbabwe, and it is hard to say what South Africa’s future is. Cincinnatus may be correct when he suggests that a comparison of Georgia to Haiti is kind of a stretch, but I don’t think it is that much of one.

    All I am saying is that this particular error leads to destruction. The form it took in North America would have destroyed those states that adopted it, had they been allowed to continue down that road.

    Creating a separate, ethnicly distinct, subjugated majority class has negative effects beyond the loss of human rights for the individuals involved. It also creates among the subjugated a society with no tradition of education or economic development, or any real culture beyond hatred of everything the ruling class represents. We in the USA suffer from the fallout of our limited participation in such a system. Our self inflicted wounds are still not healed.

    I still believe that the only reason we have survived those wounds and have recovered from them as much as we have is that we did not let some of our component states split off from the whole and establish on this continent a group of nations that today would resemble the present South Africa, Zimbabwe, or Haiti.

  • kerner

    Louis:

    Whether the Black South Africans were chattel slaves is not the point. They were a subjugated class. They were restricted by law from moving out of their subjugated status. They were a different ethnic group than the ruling class. And they out numbered the ruling class 4 to 1. This is an absolute recipe for dissaster, and at least some of the American southern states were well on their way to that situation in 1860.

    History shows that such a situation cannot be maintained. The Tutsi domination of the majority Hutus in Rwanda ended much worse. It took the Irish centuries to throw off British domination, but they finally did it. But the scars of that much less egregious oppression continue.

    But like you, I reject the proposition that white South Africans had less “Social Capital” than do Australians or New Zeelanders or Canadians, or Americans. South Africa, and Rhodesia, simply succumbed to a temptation to try to maintain an unsustainable system for selfish reasons. Rhodesia has completely ceased to exist and has been replaced by Zimbabwe, and it is hard to say what South Africa’s future is. Cincinnatus may be correct when he suggests that a comparison of Georgia to Haiti is kind of a stretch, but I don’t think it is that much of one.

    All I am saying is that this particular error leads to destruction. The form it took in North America would have destroyed those states that adopted it, had they been allowed to continue down that road.

    Creating a separate, ethnicly distinct, subjugated majority class has negative effects beyond the loss of human rights for the individuals involved. It also creates among the subjugated a society with no tradition of education or economic development, or any real culture beyond hatred of everything the ruling class represents. We in the USA suffer from the fallout of our limited participation in such a system. Our self inflicted wounds are still not healed.

    I still believe that the only reason we have survived those wounds and have recovered from them as much as we have is that we did not let some of our component states split off from the whole and establish on this continent a group of nations that today would resemble the present South Africa, Zimbabwe, or Haiti.

  • Cincinnatus

    Anyone who thinks South Africa had “just as much” social capital as other British colonies, notably the United States, needs to read Hannah Arendt’s account of African colonialism in On the Origins of Totalitarianism. Or, really, just do a comparison between those who settled and framed South Africa and those who did the same for the United States, particularly in Massachusetts.

    Meanwhile, this is entirely beside the point. This discussion isn’t about justifying specifically the antebellum secession of slaveholding Southern states–which may or may not have been a good and justifiable idea (kerner, in response to your large counterfactual, I can just as easily and convincingly present my own in which the results are positive). This is a discussion about the merits of secessionism in general. Instead of wondering what would happen had the slave states successfully seceded–an exercise that in this case pollutes the discussion with the unnecessary detritus of slavery on other unrelated questions–we should be asking what would happen if California, for example, seceded today. Could they? Is it a viable consideration?

  • Cincinnatus

    Anyone who thinks South Africa had “just as much” social capital as other British colonies, notably the United States, needs to read Hannah Arendt’s account of African colonialism in On the Origins of Totalitarianism. Or, really, just do a comparison between those who settled and framed South Africa and those who did the same for the United States, particularly in Massachusetts.

    Meanwhile, this is entirely beside the point. This discussion isn’t about justifying specifically the antebellum secession of slaveholding Southern states–which may or may not have been a good and justifiable idea (kerner, in response to your large counterfactual, I can just as easily and convincingly present my own in which the results are positive). This is a discussion about the merits of secessionism in general. Instead of wondering what would happen had the slave states successfully seceded–an exercise that in this case pollutes the discussion with the unnecessary detritus of slavery on other unrelated questions–we should be asking what would happen if California, for example, seceded today. Could they? Is it a viable consideration?

  • Porcell

    Kerner’s basic point that nations that rely on a subjugated population for labor become economically weak and politically dangerous is right. Had the South seceded from the Union, at best they would end up a third-rate nation like South Africa and possibly a fourth fourth-rate nation like Haiti. Also, as Kerner points out, a politically divided American continent would be subject to the usual narrowness and divisions well known from European history.

    Under our present federalist constitution, we ideally synthesize the benefits of a strong central government with those of individual states. Right now it is clear that some states, especially Indiana and New Jersey are dealing effectively with fiscal problems and providing good examples to the profligate federal government of fiscal sanity. Subsidiarity doesn’t require hard political boundary lines.

    Shelby Foote, the southern historian writes as follows on this the subject of the Union:

    Some highly intelligent men — the agrarians, for instance — still regret enormously that the South didn’t succeed in secession. The poet Allen Tate described the Civil War as an attempt by the North to put the South into Arrow collars. Some of that has happened. But I don’t know that it wouldn’t have happened to the Confederacy, too. What’s more, the Confederacy probably would have exploded into pieces: [Georgia Governor] Joe Brown and some of those other governors were fixing to fly apart again.
    Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, believed that the erring sisters would return to the fold. He especially had an idea that a war with Mexico would reunite the North and South. But Lincoln made the thing-Lincoln is a true genius. It is absolutely incredible that he was able to define the war in a way to hold the Union together, being careful not to alienate the border state people while he’s placating the New Englanders. He said at some point, ‘I hope God is on our side, but I must have Kentucky’.”
    Q: Was it for the best that Lincoln won in 1860?
    A: Yes. I think that it’s best that the country didn’t split in two; I do believe that firmly. And Lincoln was the one who kept it from splitting in two. I’m not saying that some other man couldn’t have done it, too, because the occasion does make the man. Lincoln was made great by the war.

  • Porcell

    Kerner’s basic point that nations that rely on a subjugated population for labor become economically weak and politically dangerous is right. Had the South seceded from the Union, at best they would end up a third-rate nation like South Africa and possibly a fourth fourth-rate nation like Haiti. Also, as Kerner points out, a politically divided American continent would be subject to the usual narrowness and divisions well known from European history.

    Under our present federalist constitution, we ideally synthesize the benefits of a strong central government with those of individual states. Right now it is clear that some states, especially Indiana and New Jersey are dealing effectively with fiscal problems and providing good examples to the profligate federal government of fiscal sanity. Subsidiarity doesn’t require hard political boundary lines.

    Shelby Foote, the southern historian writes as follows on this the subject of the Union:

    Some highly intelligent men — the agrarians, for instance — still regret enormously that the South didn’t succeed in secession. The poet Allen Tate described the Civil War as an attempt by the North to put the South into Arrow collars. Some of that has happened. But I don’t know that it wouldn’t have happened to the Confederacy, too. What’s more, the Confederacy probably would have exploded into pieces: [Georgia Governor] Joe Brown and some of those other governors were fixing to fly apart again.
    Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, believed that the erring sisters would return to the fold. He especially had an idea that a war with Mexico would reunite the North and South. But Lincoln made the thing-Lincoln is a true genius. It is absolutely incredible that he was able to define the war in a way to hold the Union together, being careful not to alienate the border state people while he’s placating the New Englanders. He said at some point, ‘I hope God is on our side, but I must have Kentucky’.”
    Q: Was it for the best that Lincoln won in 1860?
    A: Yes. I think that it’s best that the country didn’t split in two; I do believe that firmly. And Lincoln was the one who kept it from splitting in two. I’m not saying that some other man couldn’t have done it, too, because the occasion does make the man. Lincoln was made great by the war.

  • Louis

    O, I agree with you Kerner. Absolutely. Having a “subjugated” class is wrong – morally wrong, politcally wrong, economically wrong. Now strictly speaking, you had a subjugated class in (parts of) the American South till recently, and the after effects are still in full swing. Except the ratio was different, as you say, hence the different outcome.

    SA’s future? Who knows? It depends on if the ANC can keep the radical elemnts from grabbing power, and on the sustainability of economic growth. Failure in the latter will produce the former, and vice versa. It will also require the politcal will to deal wih high crime rates, and all its causes. Time will tell.

    Interestingly, I think Namibia has been doing a bit better than SA when it comes to some of these issues – and they have been a full democracy for only 4 years longer than SA.

    But that’s beside the point. I like your commentary on the undesireability of a very divided continent. I haven’t thought of it in that way before.

  • Louis

    O, I agree with you Kerner. Absolutely. Having a “subjugated” class is wrong – morally wrong, politcally wrong, economically wrong. Now strictly speaking, you had a subjugated class in (parts of) the American South till recently, and the after effects are still in full swing. Except the ratio was different, as you say, hence the different outcome.

    SA’s future? Who knows? It depends on if the ANC can keep the radical elemnts from grabbing power, and on the sustainability of economic growth. Failure in the latter will produce the former, and vice versa. It will also require the politcal will to deal wih high crime rates, and all its causes. Time will tell.

    Interestingly, I think Namibia has been doing a bit better than SA when it comes to some of these issues – and they have been a full democracy for only 4 years longer than SA.

    But that’s beside the point. I like your commentary on the undesireability of a very divided continent. I haven’t thought of it in that way before.

  • Stephen

    Ahem, just to be clear, we still have a subjugated class in the south. I see them on certain corners every day jumping into the back of pickup trucks to work for white business owners. They’re curiously all brown skinned. Some call the “Wetbacks” and they work cheap. They swarm all over your roof when you have it replaced. They live about 15 to a 3 bedroom apartment, fill emergency rooms, a drive without licenses or insurance. They’re good for the economy, I guess. Or are they?

  • Stephen

    Ahem, just to be clear, we still have a subjugated class in the south. I see them on certain corners every day jumping into the back of pickup trucks to work for white business owners. They’re curiously all brown skinned. Some call the “Wetbacks” and they work cheap. They swarm all over your roof when you have it replaced. They live about 15 to a 3 bedroom apartment, fill emergency rooms, a drive without licenses or insurance. They’re good for the economy, I guess. Or are they?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Stephen, I would say that the net effects of subjugation lasts long after it officially ends.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Stephen, I would say that the net effects of subjugation lasts long after it officially ends.

  • kerner

    Don S:

    You’re right, I guess. But it’s difficult for me to separate the theoretical “right to secede” from the concrete issue of “secede to do what?”. But even if you can separate the two, I would still argue that sticking together as a nation moderates our impulses and has kept us going generally in a good direction, whereas splintering over any number of issues would cause more problems than it would solve.

    Cincinnatus:

    Colonies like South Africa were not the same as say, the Belgian Congo. They were settled by people who put down roots and intended to stay. These had a chance to become great nations and some of them have done so. As a citizen of one such former colony, I hate to see a similar nation fall. I really hope SA survives in some fashion rather than disappearing entirely as Rhodesia did.

    Stephen:

    Oh absolutely! A subjugated class for certain. They must have been dragged here in chains and we never noticed it. I’ll bet you call your state legislators every day demanding that the laws preventing these “wetbacks” from getting drivers’ licenses and resident tuition at state colleges be repealed. Because if they had access to education, jobs and transportation, they wouldn’t be “subjugated” any longer.

  • kerner

    Don S:

    You’re right, I guess. But it’s difficult for me to separate the theoretical “right to secede” from the concrete issue of “secede to do what?”. But even if you can separate the two, I would still argue that sticking together as a nation moderates our impulses and has kept us going generally in a good direction, whereas splintering over any number of issues would cause more problems than it would solve.

    Cincinnatus:

    Colonies like South Africa were not the same as say, the Belgian Congo. They were settled by people who put down roots and intended to stay. These had a chance to become great nations and some of them have done so. As a citizen of one such former colony, I hate to see a similar nation fall. I really hope SA survives in some fashion rather than disappearing entirely as Rhodesia did.

    Stephen:

    Oh absolutely! A subjugated class for certain. They must have been dragged here in chains and we never noticed it. I’ll bet you call your state legislators every day demanding that the laws preventing these “wetbacks” from getting drivers’ licenses and resident tuition at state colleges be repealed. Because if they had access to education, jobs and transportation, they wouldn’t be “subjugated” any longer.

  • Stephen

    I’m saying it stinks all around. I don’t like that they are here illegally actually. AND I don’t like that they work so cheap and screw up and screw with systems that are in place and paid for by taxpayers, LIKE the public schools that I WILL NOT send my child to but which my wife taught in for ten years hopelessly trying to help and which I continue to tutor these poor kids in reading. And my property taxes go up. And yes, I do write, but it isn’t black and white. I’m pissed off that they waste money teaching kids in Spanish which helps them not one wit. But on the other side, Mexico sucks, and I don’t pretend to have an answer. I do believe they are refugees from a pretty much failed state and economy, and I don’t blame them for coming here out of desparation. And when they do get here, they are both taken advantage of and they take advantage of the situation. It is royally screwed up. There is an economic incentive at the macro level to keep things just the way they are from what I can see. Looks like the old south is still in business.

  • Stephen

    I’m saying it stinks all around. I don’t like that they are here illegally actually. AND I don’t like that they work so cheap and screw up and screw with systems that are in place and paid for by taxpayers, LIKE the public schools that I WILL NOT send my child to but which my wife taught in for ten years hopelessly trying to help and which I continue to tutor these poor kids in reading. And my property taxes go up. And yes, I do write, but it isn’t black and white. I’m pissed off that they waste money teaching kids in Spanish which helps them not one wit. But on the other side, Mexico sucks, and I don’t pretend to have an answer. I do believe they are refugees from a pretty much failed state and economy, and I don’t blame them for coming here out of desparation. And when they do get here, they are both taken advantage of and they take advantage of the situation. It is royally screwed up. There is an economic incentive at the macro level to keep things just the way they are from what I can see. Looks like the old south is still in business.

  • Stephen

    And I think the south would likely have ended up more like Brazil. Culturally lively, but a shithole full of crime.

  • Stephen

    And I think the south would likely have ended up more like Brazil. Culturally lively, but a shithole full of crime.

  • Stephen

    Kerner -

    Let me clarify (if I can, because it is muddy). Louis makes the point. I mean that I don’t like that illegal immigrants are here illegally and used for their labors illegally. I think the “net effect” will be pathologies that will drive Mexican American dissertations 20 years from now to figure out how it got so messed up. It also jacks up all kinds of social and economic things that might otherwise work for the benefit of us all, like the school system, the insurance system, the health care system, etc. If there were some way that they could be treated as the refugees that they are and given a way to work as such, so that they could be paid fairly and had access to services on the same terms as others so that they do not otherwise overburden things, that seems more like a means toward a solution.

    I don’t know that much about the terms of immigration, but after having investigated my own ancestory, it doesn’t seem like it was so hard for my German ancestors to get a foot in the door. They pretty much walked right in. Why do Mexicans have to swim or cross a desert and risk their lives? And by the same token, my ancestors didn’t expect a dang thing when they got here, and neither should anyone else, except the liberties this country promises. I think the entitlement mentality is one of the pathologies of the resentment built up over time. I disagree with it and I’ve even had to listen to it. It’s garbage, and it certainly isn’t helping their children any. And for what it is worth, it is losing ground among the young I think. A lot of them want jobs and money and they think their parents bitterness is crap. They don’t want to live in a ghetto, either in real life or in the their mind. But they are also loyal to their families.

    And here’s a statistic for you. There are more Mexican Americans per capita bya long shot in the military than any other ethnic group. So I see all that and I have to give them credit. But I also see the wasteland of the public schools, the disaster of the La Raza politics that keeps their kids thinking they are Mexicans when Mexico betrayed them and speaking Spanish is a waste of time academically.

    I’m trying to wade through all that, sometimes in the work I do with community organizations, volunteering, etc. And I also see flag-waving, don’t tread on me, white southerners who run their businesses off these people. And rich white liberals patronize those businesses. They all know it is illegal, the city government knows its illegal, and everyone looks the other way. Even the white liberals call it “compassionate” to give them work. And then the politicians on both sides complain about how much they cost the systems that taxpayers pay for.

    Anyway, it is complex and screwed up. I see people working hard AND being exploited at the same time. Recently in my city of Austin some Mexican workers fell from a scaffolding on a work site and died. It was revealed that the working conditions were unsafe and this had been going on for a while, but of course, these workers would not say anything because they were illegals. This is happening a few blocks from the state capitol building. It’s a fart in the wind. You think their kids and grandkids won’t care about that stuff and that it won’t create some problems down the road for all of us. That is a tip of the iceberg of people’s lives down here. We had PRISON down here where we kept entire families with children that were rounded up by immigration – a prison with children in it in the USA!!! Like I said, the old south is still in business.

  • Stephen

    Kerner -

    Let me clarify (if I can, because it is muddy). Louis makes the point. I mean that I don’t like that illegal immigrants are here illegally and used for their labors illegally. I think the “net effect” will be pathologies that will drive Mexican American dissertations 20 years from now to figure out how it got so messed up. It also jacks up all kinds of social and economic things that might otherwise work for the benefit of us all, like the school system, the insurance system, the health care system, etc. If there were some way that they could be treated as the refugees that they are and given a way to work as such, so that they could be paid fairly and had access to services on the same terms as others so that they do not otherwise overburden things, that seems more like a means toward a solution.

    I don’t know that much about the terms of immigration, but after having investigated my own ancestory, it doesn’t seem like it was so hard for my German ancestors to get a foot in the door. They pretty much walked right in. Why do Mexicans have to swim or cross a desert and risk their lives? And by the same token, my ancestors didn’t expect a dang thing when they got here, and neither should anyone else, except the liberties this country promises. I think the entitlement mentality is one of the pathologies of the resentment built up over time. I disagree with it and I’ve even had to listen to it. It’s garbage, and it certainly isn’t helping their children any. And for what it is worth, it is losing ground among the young I think. A lot of them want jobs and money and they think their parents bitterness is crap. They don’t want to live in a ghetto, either in real life or in the their mind. But they are also loyal to their families.

    And here’s a statistic for you. There are more Mexican Americans per capita bya long shot in the military than any other ethnic group. So I see all that and I have to give them credit. But I also see the wasteland of the public schools, the disaster of the La Raza politics that keeps their kids thinking they are Mexicans when Mexico betrayed them and speaking Spanish is a waste of time academically.

    I’m trying to wade through all that, sometimes in the work I do with community organizations, volunteering, etc. And I also see flag-waving, don’t tread on me, white southerners who run their businesses off these people. And rich white liberals patronize those businesses. They all know it is illegal, the city government knows its illegal, and everyone looks the other way. Even the white liberals call it “compassionate” to give them work. And then the politicians on both sides complain about how much they cost the systems that taxpayers pay for.

    Anyway, it is complex and screwed up. I see people working hard AND being exploited at the same time. Recently in my city of Austin some Mexican workers fell from a scaffolding on a work site and died. It was revealed that the working conditions were unsafe and this had been going on for a while, but of course, these workers would not say anything because they were illegals. This is happening a few blocks from the state capitol building. It’s a fart in the wind. You think their kids and grandkids won’t care about that stuff and that it won’t create some problems down the road for all of us. That is a tip of the iceberg of people’s lives down here. We had PRISON down here where we kept entire families with children that were rounded up by immigration – a prison with children in it in the USA!!! Like I said, the old south is still in business.

  • kerner

    Stephen:

    I agree with most of what you have said. The issues are complicated and the solutions may be complicated also.

    It is interesting to me that there were no limits on immigration from countries in the western hemisphere until the mid 1960′s, when the current Immigration law (in its basic form) was written by Teddy Kennedy. Prior to that, there were no restrictions on immigrants working, either. The immigration laws restricting the employment of immigrants were originally enacted to please labor unions who felt the immigrants were “unfairly” competing with American workers. Since I believe in a free (and legal) market for most things, including unskilled labor, I think our present immigration laws are wrong, and certainly not “conservative” in any free market economics sense of that term.

    But just try suggesting that the immigration laws need comprehensive reform in conservative circles. :O Actually, I am not alone, but the louder faction sees these people as a cultural threat and a security risk, and worst of all, potential democrats. So those of us who stand on free market principles are frequently shouted down.

    You astutely point out that these people, and society as a whole, are being harmed by “La Raza” politics, and the politics of getting free government benefits as the means of getting ahead. But I have believed for a long time that the answer to that problem is not to fight a losing battle to keep them from honest work. It is to assimilate them and make it easier for them to get ahead by doing that honest work. They will then be more likely to appreciate the principles on which this country was built.

    What makes a class of people “subjugated” in my mind is trapping them in their status of poverty. Even illegals aren’t trapped like the slaves were. Many of them find ways to get ahead despite being illegal, and their children born in this country are citizens. But I agree with you that it shouldn’t be as hard for them as it is.

    And I believe that trapping them in poverty is what makes leftists out of them. When you believe that the system is only there to exploit you, it makes you want to destroy the system. And the left is right there reinforcing that belief and selling collectivism as the solution.

    And you might be right about Brazil.

  • kerner

    Stephen:

    I agree with most of what you have said. The issues are complicated and the solutions may be complicated also.

    It is interesting to me that there were no limits on immigration from countries in the western hemisphere until the mid 1960′s, when the current Immigration law (in its basic form) was written by Teddy Kennedy. Prior to that, there were no restrictions on immigrants working, either. The immigration laws restricting the employment of immigrants were originally enacted to please labor unions who felt the immigrants were “unfairly” competing with American workers. Since I believe in a free (and legal) market for most things, including unskilled labor, I think our present immigration laws are wrong, and certainly not “conservative” in any free market economics sense of that term.

    But just try suggesting that the immigration laws need comprehensive reform in conservative circles. :O Actually, I am not alone, but the louder faction sees these people as a cultural threat and a security risk, and worst of all, potential democrats. So those of us who stand on free market principles are frequently shouted down.

    You astutely point out that these people, and society as a whole, are being harmed by “La Raza” politics, and the politics of getting free government benefits as the means of getting ahead. But I have believed for a long time that the answer to that problem is not to fight a losing battle to keep them from honest work. It is to assimilate them and make it easier for them to get ahead by doing that honest work. They will then be more likely to appreciate the principles on which this country was built.

    What makes a class of people “subjugated” in my mind is trapping them in their status of poverty. Even illegals aren’t trapped like the slaves were. Many of them find ways to get ahead despite being illegal, and their children born in this country are citizens. But I agree with you that it shouldn’t be as hard for them as it is.

    And I believe that trapping them in poverty is what makes leftists out of them. When you believe that the system is only there to exploit you, it makes you want to destroy the system. And the left is right there reinforcing that belief and selling collectivism as the solution.

    And you might be right about Brazil.

  • Stephen

    Kerner -

    Okay, I especially liked your last two paragraphs. Perhaps subjugated is not quite the right word. I do think they are being exploited and that they, in turn, feel the need to exploit, though they think of it on other terms – everything from survival to justice. Real justice would be something like what I described, where they worked under equal conditions as everyone else and thus accessed the same resources in the same way as everyone else, and therefore had to abide by the same laws. I guess I sound like a conservative. But all the conservatives can come up with is to ask the feds for border security and money to build a wall. This does nothing for the millions of illegals already here screwing everything up. What I see is a stalemate, and any kind of middle postition is left out in the rain.

    Honestly, I don’t have a great deal of trust in politicians these days. They seem to have absolutely no ability to make compromises for the actual good of their constiuents it seems to me. Compromise isn’t popular, won’t further your political options I suppose, so it just won’t happen, and this reality is sinking the ship of state. In this sense, perhaps we do not have union and perhaps we are moving towards a new “civil war” out of this ridiculous cultural one.

    I believe in a regulated free market such as we have. If the government had been doing its job in both the Clinton and Bush administrations we could have avoided the mess of 08 it seems to me. (I may give Alan Greenspan a tongue lashing on the Ayn Rand thread if I have the energy). Maybe both those knotheads will go down in history as our very worst presidents – one right after the other. So when you say you are for free markets, I think that means different things to different people. I worked freelance for few years and got my ass taxed so badly I had to quit doing it. But I don’t see anything concrete that governement does to encourage small businesses to start up and get them real tax relief. Health care is a huge road block for anyone financially wanting to develop an idea or a skill into a business. If they have any kind of health concern they are likely chained to a corporate or government job. That would be a way to boost the economy I think, if only through some kind of regulatory function, like the one coming regarding pre-existing conditions.

    All of that as some sort of segue to say that the people risking their lives to come here are from a country where a monopolist is the richest man in the world. One of these days we’ll have some nasty chemical spill not far from my home on I35 because of all the NAFTA traffic we can’t control that plows through our city polluting our air and smuggling in drugs and illegal aliens and who knows what else. Won’t that be nice? I’ve worked for large and small companies and now I work in municipal government. It’s all corrupted. It’s only as good as the people and the leadership, and we have really half-assed leaders for the most part everywhere you go. How do we regulate that so that exploitation is minimized, access is equitable, and innovation and independence isn’t squashed with taxation?

    I think we will see a generation of Mexican Americans in the future who are a new kind of conservative more devoted to the US, something like the Vietnamese and the Cuban exiles already have been pretty much immediately. They are here because of real political opression and war, whereas the Mexicans have come because of economics, something like the Irish did with the potato famine it seems to me. The same fears are there as they were with the Irish – they are a bunch of Catholics, drinking, crude brawling, country bumpkins and they will dumb everything down. They had to take the hard labor and that plus the attitude made them into politcal progressives because they suffered social repression. The Vietnamese and Cubans that came here were generally already upper/business class people who knew how to run businesses and didn’t need a lot of help to get going.

    Anyway, I am something of an independent on and island of liberals and in a sea far right conservatives that are all like hot cups of coffee filled to the brim with their politics. You can’t move any of them a centimeter or they’ll splash over the sides and burn your hand.

    Crap Kerner! All I can do is think about this suff and when I do it drives me nuts. It’s like metaphysics – I start to think it is just an evil thing out to mess me up so I lose my faith. Or screw it, I wasn’t meant for politics, economics or law. I’m an artist and a theologian. As an artist I make exhibits, paint pictures, craft films, play a little music. As a theologian I write. In all those cases I tell stories and ask questions. I don’t have a lot of answers. Not everything is up for grabs though. I do know that much.

    Oh yeah . . . what is the whole of the law? :)

  • Stephen

    Kerner -

    Okay, I especially liked your last two paragraphs. Perhaps subjugated is not quite the right word. I do think they are being exploited and that they, in turn, feel the need to exploit, though they think of it on other terms – everything from survival to justice. Real justice would be something like what I described, where they worked under equal conditions as everyone else and thus accessed the same resources in the same way as everyone else, and therefore had to abide by the same laws. I guess I sound like a conservative. But all the conservatives can come up with is to ask the feds for border security and money to build a wall. This does nothing for the millions of illegals already here screwing everything up. What I see is a stalemate, and any kind of middle postition is left out in the rain.

    Honestly, I don’t have a great deal of trust in politicians these days. They seem to have absolutely no ability to make compromises for the actual good of their constiuents it seems to me. Compromise isn’t popular, won’t further your political options I suppose, so it just won’t happen, and this reality is sinking the ship of state. In this sense, perhaps we do not have union and perhaps we are moving towards a new “civil war” out of this ridiculous cultural one.

    I believe in a regulated free market such as we have. If the government had been doing its job in both the Clinton and Bush administrations we could have avoided the mess of 08 it seems to me. (I may give Alan Greenspan a tongue lashing on the Ayn Rand thread if I have the energy). Maybe both those knotheads will go down in history as our very worst presidents – one right after the other. So when you say you are for free markets, I think that means different things to different people. I worked freelance for few years and got my ass taxed so badly I had to quit doing it. But I don’t see anything concrete that governement does to encourage small businesses to start up and get them real tax relief. Health care is a huge road block for anyone financially wanting to develop an idea or a skill into a business. If they have any kind of health concern they are likely chained to a corporate or government job. That would be a way to boost the economy I think, if only through some kind of regulatory function, like the one coming regarding pre-existing conditions.

    All of that as some sort of segue to say that the people risking their lives to come here are from a country where a monopolist is the richest man in the world. One of these days we’ll have some nasty chemical spill not far from my home on I35 because of all the NAFTA traffic we can’t control that plows through our city polluting our air and smuggling in drugs and illegal aliens and who knows what else. Won’t that be nice? I’ve worked for large and small companies and now I work in municipal government. It’s all corrupted. It’s only as good as the people and the leadership, and we have really half-assed leaders for the most part everywhere you go. How do we regulate that so that exploitation is minimized, access is equitable, and innovation and independence isn’t squashed with taxation?

    I think we will see a generation of Mexican Americans in the future who are a new kind of conservative more devoted to the US, something like the Vietnamese and the Cuban exiles already have been pretty much immediately. They are here because of real political opression and war, whereas the Mexicans have come because of economics, something like the Irish did with the potato famine it seems to me. The same fears are there as they were with the Irish – they are a bunch of Catholics, drinking, crude brawling, country bumpkins and they will dumb everything down. They had to take the hard labor and that plus the attitude made them into politcal progressives because they suffered social repression. The Vietnamese and Cubans that came here were generally already upper/business class people who knew how to run businesses and didn’t need a lot of help to get going.

    Anyway, I am something of an independent on and island of liberals and in a sea far right conservatives that are all like hot cups of coffee filled to the brim with their politics. You can’t move any of them a centimeter or they’ll splash over the sides and burn your hand.

    Crap Kerner! All I can do is think about this suff and when I do it drives me nuts. It’s like metaphysics – I start to think it is just an evil thing out to mess me up so I lose my faith. Or screw it, I wasn’t meant for politics, economics or law. I’m an artist and a theologian. As an artist I make exhibits, paint pictures, craft films, play a little music. As a theologian I write. In all those cases I tell stories and ask questions. I don’t have a lot of answers. Not everything is up for grabs though. I do know that much.

    Oh yeah . . . what is the whole of the law? :)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X