America by Any Other Name Would be as Free


Americans are patriotic people.  Go to a ball game and watch in amazement as a strong, barrel-chested man transforms before your eyes and sheds a tear at the singing of his national anthem.  In a moment his joy turns to rage as he trounces some ungrateful punk that didn't remove his hat.  What exactly does he get so worked up about?  What is it about a flag or a song that can produce such zeal and emotional attachment?  The polls indicate that we think our government servants are nothing but crooks and liars, willing to slit their grandmother's throat for re-election.  So if it's not our government, what is there to love about America?

If Soviets parachuted in and took over the reigns of power à la Red Dawn this country would still have amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties from sea to shining sea.  So what would change about America if the Red, White, and Blue was lowered and the Hammer, Sickle, and Star was raised in its place?  If Mt. Rushmore was demolished and the likeness of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin was sculpted over the rubble would this country stop being the greatest, freest, and we're-number-one-est country in the world?

Blasphemy!  Of course a communist invasion would mean the end of America!  The reds would take away all of the freedoms that make this country a great social democracy and the envy of the world.  Communism would destroy this country just like the USSR collapsed in 1991.

If only a communist invasion would be this obvious
So if the Soviets are a bad example, what about China?  They claim to be a communist country, but they seem to be doing pretty well.  It seems odd to bad-mouth a country when they are buying your debt and loaning the money you need to keep food on the table and the lights running.  So maybe the Soviet Union was just an example of a poorly managed communist country, and the Chinese have figured out how to do it right.  So re-imagine the picture, how would things change if the Chinese took over America as debt collectors during foreclosure and the Lincoln memorial was retrofitted with Chairman Mao Zedong overlooking the reflecting pool?

In other words, what does it mean to live in a communist country versus a western democracy?  And how would either of those forms of government compare to a fascist America?  Would everyone be goose-stepping and donning swastikas, but otherwise we would have business as normal?

Unfortunately, a successful communist or fascist takeover of America would not be so obvious.  We have to look beyond the superficial characteristics of Charlie Chaplin mustaches and Hammer and Sickle flags to get to the root of the ideology that inspires Communism and Fascism.

What could be more important than clearly identifying what made America great, and distinguishing it from what makes fascist and communist countries evil?  If you judge a tree by the fruit it bears, there is no questioning these moral judgments.  Something about America resulted in a unique historical event known as the industrial revolution where an explosion of innovation, technology, and wealth rose the standard of living of the common man to unimaginable heights and created the first middle class.  Compare that to the fruits of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Maoist China and you find starvation, mass-murder, and concentration camps.

Since many countries enjoy just as much if not more natural resources than the United States, we can't attribute external factors like that to why one country becomes 1st world and another languishes in the 3rd world.  It must be the ideology, the principles upon which a government is architected that determine such things.  So let's compare and contrast these conflicting ideas of government and find out if America has remained true to her legacy or if we are witnessing a clandestine coup d'état.

Defining our terms: Government and lack thereof

Before I define the different systems of government, it's important to define government itself.  The great historian, economist, and libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard said, "the State is the organization of robbery writ large." Harry Browne defined government as "an agency of coercion that's accepted as necessary by most people within its area of influence."  My definition is in alignment with these libertarian thinkers as well as President Barrack Obama, who said, "what essentially sets a nation-state apart [is] a monopoly on violence."

Government: an institution with a monopoly on violence within a territorial area.  The violence exercised by government agents generally includes theft, kidnapping, forced labor, and murder.

This definition might sound radical, but even the most ardent statist would have to admit it captures the essential feature of government.  Regardless of the ends of government, the means are always the same, and they require a monopoly on various forms of violence.  The ends could vary from a state run by angels that magically use their power of coercion to force people to be moral, to a night-watchman government that only exercises its power to stop and punish crime but otherwise leaves the people alone in a laissez-faire economy, to a robin-hood government that robs from the rich to give to the poor, or a 21st century example of a totalitarian nightmare government where psychopaths take over the machinery and erect concentration camps to plunder, torture, and murder the citizens trapped there.  Regardless of the extent or the directed aim that the violence is exercised, the fact remains that only a government exercises that violence with impunity.  If a government didn't have a monopoly on violence it would cease to be government and would become a private company offering legal or defense services, indistinguishable from any other voluntary company.

A society that has no institution with a monopoly on violence would be in a state of anarchy.  Anarchy is usually thought of as a Mad-Max nightmare world with no rule of law and criminals running wild.  To distinguish this undesirable scenario from a world where law and order is exercised by voluntary companies offering legal, defense, and insurance services Murray Rothbard coined the term anarcho-capitalism.

Anarcho-Capitalism: "Rule by No One"  No institution holds a monopoly on violence, nor the power to conscript, tax, or imprison.  Instead, sovereign men and women would assume full responsibility of protecting their natural rights and property, and would do so by forming voluntary companies offering legal and defense services.  Crime would be insured against just like any natural disaster, and private arbitration companies would focus on restitution rather than punishment.

Defining our terms: Forms of government

I have much in agreement with the above video, but I will offer my own definitions that slightly differ with those given and point out how rights, privileges, and property are viewed and respected under each system of government.

Monarchy / Dictatorship: "Rule by One"  The king, queen, or dictator is the sovereign and controls a monopoly on violence over his subjects.  The monarch owns all the property and has all of the rights within his kingdom.  The people that live within the kingdom are either subjects that willingly live there and are granted privileges, or are serfs that are owned as property and are tied to the land through feudalism or outright slavery.

Oligarchy: "Rule by the Few"  This is essentially the same as a monarchy, but the monopoly on violence is shared and executed through a ruling class of nobles.  The above video argues that a monarchy is always an oligarchy, as the king or queen usually rely on a set of nobles, and the dictator has his group of commissars, such that the monarch or dictator doesn't truly make decisions independently, but is merely the front-man for the ruling group he represents.  Both a monarchy and an oligarchy could take the form of a theocracy if the one or few that rule do so according to a religious doctrine.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard  - H.L. Mencken
Democracy: "Rule by the People" / "Rule by the Majority"  The Anti-Federalists branch of the founding fathers often called democracy "The Tyranny of the Majority".  There are no unalienable rights or limitations to the political power in a democracy as everything is up for vote.  51% can vote to impose any law, steal any property, or murder any member of the 49%.  In Federalist #10 James Madison said,
"A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. "
Republic: I am hesitant to use the definition "Rule by the Law" to describe a republic, because even a democracy will have laws, but a majority vote can change the law.  So how do you describe a government with laws that a majority vote cannot change to distinguish a republic from a democracy?  A republic means "the public thing", and it was from a footnote in Isabel Paterson's book The God of the Machine where I read this implication:
"A Republic signifies an organization dealing with affairs which concern the public, thus implying that there are also private affairs, a sphere of social and personal life, with which government is not and should not be concerned; it sets a limit to the political power."
Thus, Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention proclaiming the new government as a republic and not a democracy.  The constitution was sold to the states with the understanding that the federal government only had the powers expressly delegated to it, with all other powers belonging to the states and the people.  Though even this was not enough to earn ratification, requiring a Bill of Rights specifying some of the natural, unalienable rights of individuals that no constitutional law could violate.  This understanding of the Constitution clearly set boundaries which the government could not cross, making some things off-limit to majority vote, and differentiating it from a democracy.

Therefore, I would propose that a republic as understood above could be simply defined as "Rule by the Individual".  In a republic the individual is sovereign and has natural, unalienable rights.  The sovereign individuals grant privileges to government servants, who have a duty to exercise limited powers authorized by the people, among those powers being a monopoly on violence to punish and seek restitution for crime against persons and property.  The republican government will have a constitution that strictly limits the powers the public servants can carry out, and provides checks and balances to ensure that the people can reign in a public servant that oversteps his authority.  Thus, a republic would strive to achieve the goals advanced in the Declaration of Independence to form a government for the purpose of protecting individual rights and deriving its powers from the consent of the governed.

SocialismThe Socialist Party advocates a society where "working people own and control the means of production and distribution through democratically controlled public agencies" and claims that "socialism and democracy are one and indivisible."  Wikipedia describes socialism as common ownership and cooperative control of the means of production.  Hence, socialism is a form of democracy, "Rule by the People", that makes no attempt at pretending to honor the rights of the individual, but straight-forwardly advocates using government's monopoly on violence to take control over the productive property.

I view socialism not just as a potential manifestation of democracy, but the inevitable path all democracies will take.  Consider the famous quote attributed to Alexander Tytler and Lord Thomas MacCauley,
"A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government.  It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury."
Thus, the point that the citizens in a democracy make the inevitable discovery of using the majority vote to loot the productive property from the minority is when the government becomes socialist.  This is shown in both theory and history.  Modern socialist governments do not attempt to actually own and control the "means of production" but instead implement redistribution schemes and welfare states.  They do not attempt to "collectively run" the productive property from lack of trying, but because it is impossible to make economic decisions without market prices, as Ludwig von Mises first pointed out.

Communism: While Wikipedia also defines one of communism's aims as "common ownership of the means of production", I use the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto to differentiate socialism from communism.  The ten planks describe the means of achieving the goal of communism, "a stateless and classless society" through the abolition of all private property.  Communism, therefore, does not differ from socialism in principle, but only in the extreme with which it is practiced.  While communism does not praise the democratic process, it would share the key characteristics of a democracy, in that there are no individual rights and no limitation to the political power.

Fascism:  Fascism shares the same key characteristics as 5 of the 6 other forms of government defined above, in that the unalienable rights of the individual are not recognized.  However, while the abolition of individual rights may be an unpleasant side-effect necessary for the "higher goals" advanced by socialism or communism, fascism boldly and unapologetically proclaims that individual rights are nothing compared to the glory of the nation-state.  Lew Rockwell gave a trenchant definition of fascism in his essay The Fascist Threat:
"Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police State as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive State the unlimited master of society."
The term fascism was coined by Benito Mussolini, and he is commonly quoted as saying, "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."  While that exact quote is disputed, the sprit of this definition is confirmed in the work "The Doctrine of Fascism":
"The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation.  In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management."
Fascism is popularly characterized as a "far-right" government in opposition to socialism or communism, who occupy the "far-left" side of the left-right political spectrum.  I maintain that the differences between these systems of government are only superficial and the heart of the divide is predicated on the supposed difference between ownership and control.  While the socialist wants the government to outright own the means of production, the fascist claims to recognize that private property is the necessary condition of production, but the "owner" must answer to the direction given by the state.  A proper understanding of rights and privileges dispels this error, as the owner of property has all the rights and decision making power associated with it, and therefore an "owner" of a factory who must comply with every edict and command of the state is no owner at all.  In that case the state is the true owner, and the supposed private owner is merely a manager for the state.

By understanding that a government that owns the means of production is fundamentally identical to one that controls the means of production, and disregarding the racial characteristic of fascism's most notorious example, we see that fascism shares the same principles of socialism, it's supposed antithesis.

Left-Right paradigm or Individualism vs. Collectivism

The above diagram shows the traditional left-right political spectrum, where the rational and safe place to be is right in the middle between modern liberalism and modern conservatism, or as Tom Woods would say, the political continuum from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney.  Anything more to the right of the Republican Party puts you in league with Nazi's and fascists, and anything more to the left of the Democrat Party allies you with commies and bomb-throwing anarchists.  Ironically, anyone that holds positions outside of this narrow spectrum of thought, for example, a principled natural-rights based libertarian, finds himself accused of being "far-left" when the Red Team is in charge under Bush, but then becomes a member of the "far-right" when the Blue Team regains control under Obama.

Theses terms originate from pre-revolutionary France, where the revolutionaries that wanted to limit the existing government, in those days called liberals, sat to the left of the king in the National Assembly, and the nobility who wished to conserve the status quo sat to the right of the king.  From this trivial designation of where 18th century Frenchmen sat in comparison to their king comes this unhelpful, misleading left-right political spectrum.  Hence, we hear that fascists are the opposite of communists because they are on opposite sides of this political spectrum.  Other confusions that arise from this diagram include the idea that a Democrat controlled government could never implement fascist policies, and a Republican government could never implement socialist or communist policies, as again, they are on the wrong side of the spectrum.

Thankfully, the left-right spectrum is not the only diagram we have to make sense of the different forms of government and how they compare and contrast to each other.  The late David Nolan, one of the founders of the Libertarian Party, created the Nolan Chart to add another dimension to the left-right spectrum.  For this chart, the horizontal or x-axis represents economic freedom, and the vertical or y-axis measures personal freedom.  While there are exceptions to the rule, we generally see the Republican party favors policies more in line with economic freedom such as lower taxes but opposes personal freedoms such as drug legalization and abortion, while the Democrat party generally champions personal freedoms but is in favor of heavy taxation and regulations on business.

Rotating the Nolan Chart 45 degrees and re-plotting the familiar logos from the left-right spectrum yields the following diagram.  Here we find modern liberalism and modern conservatism in their familiar places on the left and right, but without the confusions that arise from forcing other forms of government on that one-dimensional line.  While there are good reasons to question if monarchy would be relatively better than democracy in protecting individual rights (see Democracy: The God that Failed), the other major forms of government fall orderly and logically. We see that both Communism and Fascism are at the bottom of the diamond, as both deny economic and personal liberty, while libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism are at the top for championing natural rights, which include personal and economic liberty.

To paint broad strokes on this diagram, we can characterize the top triangle as forms of individualism, with the bottom half compromising governments based on collectivism.  Individualism is a philosophy that stresses the primacy and moral worth of the individual, and a government based on this philosophy would have as its only purpose the protection of individual rights and property.  A libertarian government that promotes "Maximum Freedom, Minimum Government" or a republic as defined above would resemble a night-watchman that uses its monopoly on violence to tax the citizens to provide police and courts to protect them from all forms of assault, theft, and fraud, but otherwise leaves the people with a free-market economy.  Anarcho-capitalism is the epitome of individualism, as not even defense and legal services can justify taxation under this form of non-government.  The anarcho-capitalist philosophy acknowledge the natural rights of the individual, and leaves it to them to form private and completely voluntary legal and defense companies as they see fit, and would not allow for anyone to be forced into this system against their will, even if "it's for their own good".

Collectivism is a philosophy that stresses the group over the individual, where the total is more than the sum of its parts.  Collectivists can focus on the majority, the community, the society, or the nation as the focus of government power, and its common slogan is "the greatest good for the greatest number."   Once that proposition is accepted, it is up to the government officials to decide just what that means, and exercise their monopoly on violence to achieve their ends accordingly.

In a democracy the majority vote is the mechanism to determine the greater good, and all individual rights are at the mercy of the 51%.  Under socialism or communism the society or community is the greater good, and all individual rights must give way, whether it is the farmer forced into collectivization or the bourgeois factory owner forced into contracts and regulations.  The fascist government is the epitome of collectivism, as the nation is exalted as the highest possible good.  The fascist Nation State is an "ethical reality which exists and lives", and the expanding empire is "an essential manifestation of vitality".

Whatever excuse the collectivist uses, the end result is the denial of individual rights, and while the tactics of the individualist my differ, his primary goal is the protection of individual rights.  I find this dichotomy to be far more honest and effective in differentiating different forms of government then the traditional left-right paradigm.

America: from Freedom to Fascism and everything in between

Now that we have defined government and its various forms, and categorized these government systems as they are either based on the philosophies of individualism or collectivism, we are ready to document America's journey through her various experiments in government.  Along the way we will want to remember the questions introduced at the introduction of this blog: What made America great, What form of government did the "founding fathers" leave us, and What form of government do we have today?

America's foundation in Communism

As I first learned in Thomas DiLorenzo's book How Capitalism Saved America, the first American settlers originally adopted communal ownership of land and property.  If there was ever an opportunity to confirm or refute the communist experiment, this was it.  Following the doctrine "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", all that the colonists produced was to go into a common pool to be used to support the colony.  What was the result?

For the first Americans settling Jamestown in the Virginia Tidewater region in May 1607, DiLorenzo reports,
"they found incredibly fertile soil and a cornucopia of seafood, wild game such as deer and turkey, and fruits of all kinds.  Nevertheless, within six months, all but 38 of the original 104 Jamestown settlers were dead, most having succumbed to famine. … Two years later, the Virginia Company sent 500 more "recruits" to settle in Virginia, and within six months a staggering 440 were dead by starvation and disease."
In 1611 the British government sent Sir Thomas Dale to serve as high marshal of the Virginia colony, where he identified the cause of the problems as the system of communal ownership.  He scrapped the old system and instituted new reforms where each man in the colony was given 3 acres of private property and only had to contribute 1 month per year to the colony treasury.  DiLorenzo writes,
"Private property was thus put into place, and the colony immediately began to prosper.  There was no more free riding, for each individual himself bore the full consequences of any reductions in output.  At the same time, the individual had an incentive to increase his effort because he directly benefited from his own labor."
In 1620 the Mayflower expedition arrived in Cape Cod and made the same tragic mistake, where common property ownership left half of the original colonists dead within a few months.  The chief Mayflower investor, Thomas Weston, arrived to examine "the ruin and dissolution of his colony" and arrived at the same conclusion as Sir Thomas Dale.  After instituting private property he happily reported, "This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious… The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn."

The Theocratic rule of the British colonies

Fast forward 30-40 years, and we find that some of the British colonies instituted a theocratic government just as oppressive as those the colonists originally fled from.  As I learned in Murray Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty Vol I, one of the most oppressive colonies was the Puritan rule in Massachusetts Bay.  The first compulsory education law in America was implemented here in 1642, with the purpose of indoctrinating the younger generation in Puritan orthodoxy.  The school master was supported by the town government, and a 1654 law made it illegal to employ any teachers that "manifested themselves unsound in the faith or scandalous in their lives."

Under Puritan rule any worldly pleasures on the Sabbath were a crime against both church and state.  In the 1650's the general court passed a law prohibiting the crimes of "playing, uncivil walking, and drinking and traveling from town to town" on Sunday.  If one could not pay the fine for this grave offense, the criminal was whipped by the constable at the maximum rate of five lashes per ten-shilling fine.

Other Sunday crimes included kissing one's wife in public, failing to attend a Puritan church, or upon following the compulsory church attendance law, falling asleep in church!  There were also many laws passed against women such as outlawing apparel like short sleeve dresses that exposed the naked arm, or even just clothing that was too nice and indicated the "pride of raiment."

Unfortunately, the oligarchic and theocratic governments of these colonies could be so oppressive that many colonists pleaded to the King to enforce their rights as Englishmen and protect them from Puritan rule.  The memory resulted in many supporting the King and joining the Tories in the upcoming American revolution.

Anarcho-Capitalism kick-starts the revolution

Moving on to Volumes III and IV of Rothbard's treatise Conceived in Liberty, we arrive on September 5, 1774 at the meeting of the first Continental Congress.  The official call for the first Congress was made the previous June by the Massachusetts Assembly, which was one of the revolutionary parallel institutions of quasi-government that answered Sam Adam's call to, "let associations and combinations be everywhere set up to consult and recover our just rights."  The various committees from the colonies wanted to unite in their opposition against the 'Intolerable Acts' through boycotts and other actions against Great Britain.  Foreshadowing America's future intellectual battles between her radicals and conservatives, the first Congress contained two factions; one wanted to address grievances within the confines of the British Constitution and their rights as Englishmen, and another sought a hard-core natural rights approach to deny the authority of Parliament.

The battles at Lexington and Concord fought by volunteer militia who elected their own officers.
While the Continental Congress did make compromises to satisfy the conservative branch, it should be noted how revolutionary the Congress was as a whole.  Here we have citizens acting not through their authorities in Parliament, but spontaneously creating their own organizations of local authority and making demands and issuing orders in defiance of their official government.  At this point, however, the Continental Congress could not be thought of as a government, because everything it did was voluntary and lacked a government's characteristic monopoly on violence.  The call to boycott and its local enforcement was done completely voluntarily, the second provincial congress of Massachusetts refused to levy taxes, but instead recommended a payment to the revolutionary institutions, and when the Committee of Safety made the call to raise an army it did so completely through volunteers and voluntary contributions, with the minutemen having the power of freely electing their own officers.

Rothbard quotes John Adams as witnessing this radical development and seeing " a great Province governed not by police and penalty but by, as it were, two hundred and sixty volunteer consciences."

It was these anarchistic institutions, lacking the coercive powers of taxing or conscripting militia, that nonetheless fought the British at Lexington and Concord and won great victories with volunteer militia that eventually defeated the greatest army in the world.

The Constitution gives a Republic, if you can keep it

After 10 years of operating under the Articles of Confederation the Hamiltonians had enough, the central government was far too weak.  The federal government could only request money from the states, it had no powers to tax the people directly, and that obstacle put a halt to any ambitious designs for an American empire.  Under the guise of amending the Articles of Confederation to enhance its taxing power the delegates instead launched a campaign to scrap the Articles and set up a completely new government.  Hamilton and his cronies openly supported a nationalist government where the president would be like a King, holding term for life along with a permanent senate, appointing governors with the power to override state legislature, and generally having powers suitable for a Monarch.

However, the people did not want a strong national government like the one they had just defeated.  "Nationalism", or a government with a strong executive, was very different from the "federalism" the people enjoyed where an alliance of sovereign, independent states were joined under the Articles of Confederation.  When the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention returned with the proposed constitution, they brought them a document setting up a national government, but they made things optimally confusing by calling themselves federalists, and any that opposed them anti-federalists.

The Constitution: a Trojan horse for big government
The Anti-Federalists wrote against adopting the constitution, warning of the vague language and potential for trouble contained in the general welfare clause, the necessary and proper clause, and the interstate commerce clause.  The federalists responded that their fears were unfounded, the necessary and proper clause only applied to the seventeen explicitly delegated powers listed in Article 1, Section 8.  Unmoved by these explanations, the states demanded an explicit bill of rights documenting some of the individual, natural rights that this new government could never violate, as well as the most important amendments from the Jeffersonian perspective, the ninth and tenth, which proclaimed that there are many other rights not enumerated that are still retained by the people, and that all powers not delegated to the national government and not prohibited from the States belong to the States and the people.

This strict, literal interpretation of the Constitution promoted by the Federalists and understood by the delegates that ratified it did not last long.  After the Constitution was ratified Hamilton conveniently came upon a new understanding of the document.  Though he argued in the Federalist Papers that the only powers belonging to the national government were the seventeen explicitly delegated powers in Article 1, Section 8, as Secretary of Treasury under George Washington he argued that the Constitution in fact gave the national government powers both explicit and implicit, and thus he argued for the constitutionality of a central bank.

Benjamin Franklin's words "A republic… if you can keep it" now contain a cryptic meaning.  If the constitution could not retain its literal interpretation within years of its ratification from Hamilton's dishonest and lawyerly tricks, then the passage of time and the corruption of the English language would surely mean the end of federalism.

Lincoln, "The Great Dictator"

One of the most iconoclastic and paradigm-changing books I've read is Thomas DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln.  The radical information in this book can be split between deconstructing two great myths, the means and the ends for which Lincoln waged the Civil War.  DiLorenzo sums up the means employed by Lincoln here:
"Even though the majority of Americans, North and South, believed in a right of secession as of 1861, upon taking office Lincoln implemented a series of unconstitutional acts, including launching an invasion of the South without consulting Congress, as required by the Constitution; declaring martial law; blockading the Southern ports; suspending the writ of habeas corpus for the duration of his administration; imprisoning without trial thousands of Northern citizens; arresting and imprisoning newspaper publishers who were critical of him; censoring all telegraph communication; nationalizing the railroads; creating several new states without the consent of the citizens of those states; ordering Federal troops to interfere with elections in the North by intimidating Democratic voters; deporting a member of Congress, Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, for criticizing the administration's income tax proposal at a Democratic Party rally; confiscating private property, confiscating firearms in violation of the Second Amendment; and effectively gutting the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, among other things."
These charges are indisputable, and mainstream historians will argue that the ends of abolishing slavery justified the extraordinary measures taken by Lincoln, thus calling him "The Great Dictator".  The problem with this view is addressed in the other categorical half of DiLorenzo's book, which shows that the civil war was not waged over the issue of slavery, but was instead fought over economic questions like tariffs on manufactured goods that benefited the North at the expense of the South.  Some of the most convincing evidence presented were the many quotes by Lincoln where he endorsed such racist ideas as sending the slaves back to Africa and making the new western-most states for whites only, quotes of him saying that he would free all the slaves or free none of the slaves as long as the union was preserved, and the historical fact that the emancipation proclamation specifically applied only to those states which were "in rebellion", exempting union controlled slave holding states such as Maryland, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Thus it was Lincoln who forever changed our country's grammatical identity.  Before the War of Southern Independence, one would say "the United States are…" to describe the group of sovereign, independent States that make up "The United States of America."  After the War of Northern Aggression we say "the United States is…" to describe the Union, that thing which is greater than the sum of its parts, this strange form of contract with which one can join but can never leave.

Every time another unconstitutional law is passed or a civil liberty is violated, our representatives hold out Lincoln as the "ends justify the means" example of the one who was willing to do the "hard things" when the country needed it.  But we now see this comparison as false on two fronts.  It was unconstitutional for the Congress of 1798 to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts, as it was for Lincoln to arrest northern citizens and newspaper publishers, as it was to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II, as is the detention without trial of suspects at Guantanamo Bay.  These acts were always unconstitutional, but it was Lincoln that "proved" he was right by launching a war that killed half a million Americans, paving the way for future transgressions against the American people.  If a military dictatorship ever firmly establishes itself here, Lincoln will be its charter member and guiding spirit.

Fighting the Great War to make the world "Safe for Democracy"

Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 because "he kept us out of war", and he turned his campaign platform on its head in 1917 when he proclaimed American entrance into World War I to make the world "safe for democracy."  In the introduction to his book Democracy: The God that Failed, Hans-Herman Hoppe draws a distinct line between previous wars that were primarily territorial disputes fought by professional armies for limited goals and this new form of grand ideological war with the supposed goal of making the world safe for democracy.  Hoppe states:
"When in March 1917 the US-allied Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a new democratic-republican government was established in Russia under Kerensky, Wilson was elated.  With the Czar gone, the war had finally become a purely ideological conflict: of good against evil.
As an increasingly ideologically motivated conflict, the war quickly degenerated into a total war …. The time-honored distinction between combatants and noncombatants and military and civilian life fell by the wayside.  For this reason, World War I resulted in many more civilian casualties - victims of starvation and disease - than of soldiers killed on the battlefields.  Moreover, due to the ideological character of the war, at its end no compromise peace but only total surrender, humiliation, and punishment was possible."
This marks the last time that America gave any pretension to maintaining a Republic.  From then on the American psyche was married to the idea of protecting democracies, both abroad and at home.  Tyranny of the majority?  Mob-rule?  Two wolves and a sheep arguing on what's for dinner?  The American people will have none of it.  From this point on we'll wage any war, bomb any civilian city, and invade any country to protect or impose our supposed democracy.

Meanwhile Wilson introduces Communism at home

Many odious laws were passed during Wilson's terms that fundamentally altered the architecture of our government and even shaped the American culture.  The seventeenth amendment annihilated states rights by making the Senate no longer ambassadors of the states who could be recalled by their state legislatures for bad behavior, but now another directly elected legislature, different from the Congress only in their number and term length.  However, the biggest changes he oversaw did not even come with an amendment to the Constitution.  In 1914 he maneuvered three major pieces of legislation through Congress.  Complementing the sixteenth amendment allegedly ratified the previous year, the first piece of legislation was a lower tariff, the Underwood Act, which had a graduated Federal income tax attached to it.  He also saw the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, undoing the hard work of bank-fighting president's Jefferson and Jackson.  Finally, he put through antitrust legislation to establish the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit "unfair business practices" through its authority in the constitution's interstate commerce clause.

If one understands communism through the lens of the ten planks of the communist manifesto, it appears that Wilson was hell bent on re-establishing the form of government that the first American pilgrims rightly abandoned 200 years earlier.  With the first plank describing the goal of communism, the abolition of private property, planks two through ten describe the methods and requisites of how to get there.

The second plank is a heavy progressive or graduated income tax, which had been unsuccessfully passed as law in previous administrations and ruled as unconstitutional.  The third plank is the abolition of all rights of inheritance, which corresponded to the Federal & State estate tax passed in 1916.  The fifth plank is the centralization of credit in the hands of the state by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly, achieved by the Federal Reserve.  1916 also saw the establishment of the department of labor, the federal highway act, and laws outlawing child labor, corresponding to the sixth, eighth, and tenth planks.

Of all these changes, the impact caused by the federal income tax cannot be overstated.  It snuck through under the guise of a measly 1% that applied only to the richest of the rich.  Now it generally takes a third of all the fruits of ones labor, offering a reverse incentive that the harder one works and the more one gains, the more the state will take as its share.  The magnitude of this change through the loss of capital that was never accumulated and the loss of jobs that were never created because the profits would have been stolen by the government cannot be measured.

Will we ever see the Hammer, Sickle and Star fly over the White House?  What does it matter beyond a ceremonial acknowledgement if the ideas that flag represents have infested and grown throughout the nation's infrastructure for the last 100 years?

FDR offers a New Deal in Fascism

Wolfgang Schivelbusch wrote a book called Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939.  In this work he looks at the similarities between these three regimes, from their initial mutual praise for each other, to the shared elements in their "new deals" in their architecture style, enforcement methods, and public works projects.

Not only did the Nazi's praise "Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies", but FDR returned the compliment in a letter to ambassador William Dodd, saying that, "the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people.  These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan "The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual.""

There was also mutual praise between FDR's New Deal and Mussolini's Fascist Italy.  Mussolini wrote an approving review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward, saying that Roosevelt's calls to battle are "reminiscent of the ways and means by which Fascism awakened the Italian people", further, "reminiscent of Fascism is the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices, having recognized that the welfare of the economy is identical with the welfare of the people."  Mussolini also reviewed FDR's secretary of Agriculture's book New Frontiers, saying "Where is America headed?  This book leaves no doubt that it is on the road to corporatism, the economic system of the current century."

The mutual kudos between these regimes highlight the reality that all three embodied the definition of fascism as defined above.  Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act is the most obvious, as it required American businessmen to form cartels that would set prices for its members.  While they were supposed to be voluntary, the "Blue Eagle" campaign and its government instigated boycotts ensured compliance.  From the NRA to Social Security, the theme of the new deal was to take control away from the "free-market, i.e., anarchistic economy" to the centrally controlled, cartelized, "corporativistic" economy, and this radical shift established our current system of the modern welfare state and the regulated economy.

Schivelbusch stresses that he does not think these comparisons warrant calling FDR's programs fascist, as they never resulted in the loss of civil liberties and the atrocities associated with other fascist regimes.  But he confuses the action with the reaction.  Just as inflation has been re-defined as rising prices instead of the classical definition of an increase in the money supply, with rising prices being the inevitable consequence, Schivelbusch doesn't see fascism until you find concentration camps.  Instead, he should recognize fascism as the political-economic system described above, and the loss of civil liberties, wars, and civilian deaths as the inevitable consequence that goes to the extent of the implementation of fascist policies.  The reason wars and concentration camps tend to arrive after fascist economic policies is the same reason that there can be no advanced socialist economy: without market prices no rational economic decisions can be made.  The market price of a good is the voluntarily arrived place where the forces of supply and demand meet, and any attempt to set the price above or below that market price with the use of force will result in surpluses or shortages.  The fascist government, implementing economic controls and causing surpluses of goods the people do not want and shortages of their most basic necessities, must create a scapegoat to prevent the citizens from recognizing the cause of their problems and reacting accordingly.  Thus, the fascist government will initiate wars with foreign countries, or declare war on a convenient minority of it's own citizens to blame them for the economic conditions that their fascist policies caused.

The incremental march to scientific dictatorship

In the height of the 2008 economic depression, a woman is arrested in a sting operation for operating a taxi without a license.  In 2011 federal SWAT teams nationwide crack down on criminals and terrorist sympathizers engage in the activity of… selling and consuming raw milk.  Meanwhile, the war on neighborhood lemonade stands continues heroically onward.

When we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which  we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.  -Thomas Paine
How did we get here?  The red team under Bush passes laws like the Patriot Act and the blue team yells Fascist!  The big-government baton changes hands as Obama takes charge of the blue team and implements sweeping changes that make the Tea Partiers cry Socialist!  They're both right.  One team pushes on your economic liberties and calls you a racist if you resist, the other team pushes back on your personal liberties and threatens you with boogeymen and hobgoblins under your bed.

As long as the American worldview only goes back 4 to 8 years, we'll never diagnose the source of our problems.  Just as the disease must be correctly diagnosed before the correct medicine can be prescribed, we must recognize the source of our national prosperity as the mechanisms of our government aligned with the principle of individualism, and root out the disease of collectivism whether it's manifestations come from the latest administration, from a presidency a century ago, or from defects or dishonest interpretations of the constitution itself.


"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, meaning that the names of things do not matter, only what they are.  In this spirit I ask, what is America?  If it is more than geographic boundaries, more than sentimental attachment to a song or a symbol, then what is it?  America is what it is because of its legacy of a revolution based on natural rights and a individualist philosophy.  Whether the constitution was an honest mistake or a hologram of liberty, it still contains components of the individualist revolution found through a strict interpretation of that document with an emphasis on the ninth and tenth amendments.  If we accept a government that completely disregards the constitution, the last ties we have to individualism, and endorse a collectivist government with flavors of socialism, communism, and fascism, then do we still live in America?
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