This past Wednesday, few commemorated the 231st anniversary of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, the first Constitution of the United States.
This is unfortunate, because some of the fundamental principles for which Americans have bled for well over 230 years are set down in the Articles.
|John Hanson of Maryland, first President of the United States of America under the Articles of Confederation|
"There were four main problems with the Articles of Confederation.
First, it gave the new country no authority to establish an army.
Second, it had no power to make treaties with foreign governments.
Third, they were unable to print money.
Finally, they could not raise and collect taxes."
-- Park Ranger at Independence Hall in Philadelphia explaining to visitors why the Articles of Confederation were scrapped
Actually, if 9 of 13 (i.e. Two-thirds majority) States voted yea, the United States could declare war, coin money (not print paper), and make treaties with foreign governments. The States could not individually or in groups do any of these things by themselves, either, for that matter. At its founding, the United States had no designs on conquest, manifest destiny, making the world safe for democracy, striking out at enemies before they could strike first (so called Bush doctrine), or "nation build" elsewhere in the world. The priority was commerce, mutual defense, and preservation of the liberty of all citizens.
Here are some of the elements of the document relevant to our current political situation:
Limited power to the new government of the United States:
Article II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
Why join together to be "United"?
Article III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
What does a citizen derive from the Union?
Article IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce,
Congress' specifically delegated powers:
"The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States — fixing the standards of weights and measures throughout the United States — regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated — establishing or regulating post offices from one State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office — appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers — appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States — making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations."
Executive Branch's weak specifically delegated powers:
"The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated 'A Committee of the States', and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction — to appoint one of their members to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses — to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half-year to the respective States an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted — to build and equip a navy — to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State..."
We see by examination of this document how far we have diverged from the republic of the United States.
We have Empire--using military force to protect and expand corporate interests abroad. Using military force to change governments in sovereign nations and essentially force people of far flung cultures to accept our "way of life".
We have a non representative Congress that fronts for and legitimizes crony Capitalism.
We have political and oligarchical elites that are above the law applied to mundane citizens (a de facto Aristocracy without official titles).
We have forced confiscation of private property in the form of a personal income tax, planned inflation, and eminent domain.
We have Socialism--a system of legalized plunder--where confiscated private property is given to individuals who have in no way earned a right to this wealth. This system is a well documented disincentivization of working towards one's own betterment through personal effort and innovation. It is what we fought against during the Cold War.
We have an all powerful Executive (Patriot Act and NDAA of 2012) that flouts the checks and balances with barely any opposition from the Legislative or Judicial Branches. The Founders' generation fought the Revolution against a tyranny of lesser but similar power.
We have forced violations of person by Federal "Law enforcement" personnel (ironically and apparently in ignorance) sword to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Examples of random traffic stops by VIPR teams on highways, train stations, and of course, the TSA.
We have warrantless searches and SWAT teams bursting into homes, destroying life and property with minimal relative impunity.
When the economic hardships are bad enough, and the oppression of the people is bad enough, the direction of the country will change. It is way too early to tell if the change will be minor backsliding, or a major upheaval.
My hope is that at least a portion of this country, most likely parts of the Old South and Western States, will reestablish principles of liberty and small government that helped make this country the envy and desire of people all over the world, with the kind of true (non-Crony) laissez faire Capitalist market that leads to increasing prosperity for the greatest majority.
I believe that the best government is the one where the people can "access," and when necessary, "lay hands on" their representatives in government. There should be, by law, no such thing as a professional politician. The smaller the government, the less incentive/temptation there is for potential unpatriotic and oligarchical elements to attempt to corrupt that government.
Such was the type of "weak" government that existed at the time of the Articles of Confederation. I do not long for those times, or that particular construct of government. I think we should learn from the mistakes of the past, as the Founders learned from their knowledge of Classical and Medieval civilizations' successes and failures--and tried to create the original Republic with the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The language of any future constitution or Amendment to the current Constitution must be crystal clear. There was far too much room for variable interpretation for a motivated political class to distort original meaning.
The type of Revolution that I hope and work for, is one that must come from below, from the people (Read TH Breen's American Insurgents, American Patriots, about how the people led the political class and forced the war against England, and the secession of the American colonies from the British Empire).
If the people, yearning for real liberty again, lead the way, the political elite and their oligarchical cronies will become irrelevant--it has happened before, and G-d willing, will happen again.
If you fight for these ideas, you fight for these still yet Revolutionary principles: Your life is yours to live; your liberty is a gift from the Creator, and your property is your own. You cannot expect others to fight for you. Never think you fight for your government, the current political leader, the flag, or the "country".
You fight for yourself.