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North Carolinians Wary of the National Government

Though not alone in suspicions regarding the new federal agent in Washington, even North Carolina’s Federalists were surprised by Hamilton’s centralizing plans under the new Constitution. What they observed was a steady encroachment of powers assumed by that agent to the detriment of the States who considered themselves sovereign, not the agent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North Carolinians Wary of a National Government

“North Carolina accepted the federal Constitution more or less on faith yet with great confidence that the pending Bill of Rights would protect her and her people from the rash actions of a government that was remote from local control.

Her uncertainty grew out of long years of experience with an even more remote power in London, but the anticipated guarantee of the same rights that were mentioned in the Declaration of Rights in her own State constitution was assuring enough that she was willing at least to give the new government a trial.

Federalism flourished briefly even in North Carolina. Both senators and three of the five congressmen that she sent to the second session of the first national Congress were Federalists. When they took their seats, they discovered that Alexander Hamilton’s program to form a strong national government was being discussed. This was not to their liking nor, they reasoned, would it be to their constituent’s.

Hamilton’s plan to centralize power in the hands of the federal government distressed them, and they were disturbed by the tendency of the Federalist party to support a loose interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution. Such a policy would place more power in the hands of national officials than North Carolinians thought necessary or desirable.

Reaction against Federalism was demonstrated in the State by the refusal of members of the House of Commons in 1790 to take an oath to support the federal Constitution. The legislature also passed a vote of thanks to a State court of equity for refusing to obey a writ of the federal district court ordering the transfer of a case from State to federal jurisdiction.

Since United States senators were elected by the General Assembly, that body also undertook to instruct the senators in their duties as the State’s representatives. The State legislature clearly distrusted and feared the federal government. North Carolinians had a long tradition of resenting and even rejecting orders issued by outsiders, and they regarded the threat of federal directives as potentially just as oppressive as any that had come from England during the colonial period.

Even James Iredell, whose appointment to the Supreme Court by Washington in 1790 was a source of pride to the State, quickly became suspicious of the growing power of the national government.

He pointed out that the course the government appeared to be taking was not one that he had anticipated in 1788 or 1789. Justice Iredell’s dissenting opinion in 1794 in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia took issue with his Federalist colleagues who held that a citizen of one State could sue another State in federal court.

Iredell maintained that each State was still sovereign as to all powers that it had not delegated to the federal government, and he described the federal Constitution as a compact between sovereign States. Iredell’s view was widely hailed throughout the young nation, and it led to the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment depriving federal courts of jurisdiction in cases against a State by a citizen of another State.”

(North Carolina, A History: A Bicentennial History, William S. Powell, W.W. Norton, 1977, pp. 93-94)

 

Return to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson anticpates the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Return to Original Principles

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

After Sharpsburg in mid-1862, and especially Fredericksburg in late December 1862, the tremendous casualties all but stopped volunteering in the North and Lincoln considered conscription – in reality a whip to encourage enlistments. Northern governors feared electoral defeat at the hands of their constituents, which Lincoln solved by allowing paid substitutes, generous enlistment bounties and captured Southern blacks to meet State quotas.

Horatio Seymour, himself elected governor of New York during the tidal wave of Democratic Party victories in the fall of 1862, rightly felt that a majority of Northerners did not support Lincoln in his prosecution of the war. To combat Northern Democrats who questioned his war, Lincoln, his Republican governors and political generals tarred them with treasonous activities and threats of imprisonment.  Northern newspapermen who editorialized against the war found the latter a reality.

In an early October 1864 speech in Philadelphia, Seymour told his audience that the Northern armies crushing the South would imperil their own liberties, stating that “only then would the deluded people of the North see the full extent of Lincoln’s dictatorial administration – the price of the South’s conquest would be a government by bayonets.

“These victories will only establish military governments at the South, to be upheld at the expense of Northern lives and treasure. They will bring no real peace if they only introduce a system of wild theories, which will waste as war wastes; theories which will bring us to bankruptcy and ruin. The [Lincoln] administration cannot give us union or peace after victories.”

Calling attention to the fact that Senator Charles Sumner would “reduce the Southern States to the condition of colonies” – whereas the President planned to receive them back into the Union whenever one-tenth of the population should declare itself loyal – Seymour foresaw the stubborn conflict which followed the murder of one President and provoked a brazen plan to remove another.

Pointing to the words and acts of members of Congress like Thaddeus Stevens, he declared that “neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Cabinet” now had “control over National affairs.” They were powerless to induce Congress to undo all it had done; the President’s hands were now manacled.”

If the voters returned the Republicans to power, they would learn two bitter lessons: first, that it “is dangerous for a government to have more power than it can exercise wisely and well,” and second, that they could not “trample upon the rights of the people of another state without trampling on [their] own as well.”

Seymour was the Democratic candidate for president in 1868, opposing Grant.  The latter won a close victory by a majority of 300,000 votes out of 5,700,000 cast; historians credit Republican regimes in the South with disenfranchising whites while delivering the 500,000 freedmen votes which lifted Grant to victory.

(See: Horatio Seymour of New York, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 374-375)

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

Terms of the Conqueror

Duress accomplished passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution; the people of the South who deeply understood that the States controlled their own domestic institutions were forced to submit to overwhelming military power. The Fourteenth Amendment was unconstitutionally-enacted, not ratified, and considered yet another term of the conqueror.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Terms of the Conqueror

“Who drove the South to these extremities? The very men who accuse her of treason. When she accepted the contest, to which she was thus virtually invited in terms of contumelious threat and reproach, she was threatened with being wiped out and annihilated by the superior forces of her antagonist, with whom it was vain and foolish to contend, so unequal were the strength and resources of the two parties. It is true that the South parted in bitterness, but it was in sadness of spirit also. She did not wish it – certainly, Virginia did not desire it – if she could maintain her rights within the Union.

The South at last fell from physical exhaustion – the want of food, clothes, and the munitions of war; she yielded to no superiority of valor or of skill, but to the mere avoirdupois of numbers. Physically, she was unable to stand up under such a weight of human beings, gathered from whenever they could be called by appeals to their passions or bought by promise to supply their necessities.

It is said that after the battle of the Second Cold Harbor, where Grant so foolishly assailed Lee in his lines, and where his dead was piled in thousands after his unsuccessful attack, the northern leaders were ready to have proposed peace , but were prevented by some favorable news from the southwest.

They did not propose peace except upon terms of unconditional submission. When the South was forced to accept those terms to obtain it, the North was not afraid to avow its purposes and carry them out. Slavery was abolished without compensation, and slaves were awarded equal rights with their masters in government.

It was the fear of these results which drove the South into the war. Experience proved that this fear was reasonable. The war was alleged as the excuse for such proceedings; but can any man doubt that the North would have done the same thing if all constitutional restraints upon the power of the majority had been peaceably removed.

It is sought to be excused, I know, by assuming that these things were done with the assent of the South. That these [Thirteen and Fourteenth] constitutional amendments represent the well-considered opinion of any respectable party in the South, there is none so infatuated as to believe. They were accepted as the terms of the conqueror, and so let them be considered by all who desire to know the true history of their origin.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Origin of the Late War, Hon. R.M.T. Hunter, Volume I, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

 

With Lincoln’s revolutionary actions in April 1861 — assuming the power to raise armies, suspect habeas corpus at will and arrest Supreme Court justices who defied him — the presidency changed from one of conciliation and compromise to near dictatorship. He and his liberal Northern power base concentrated all power in Washington, and thus ended the formerly decentralized federation of republics. The office of president became an end in itself with powers remaining impaired today, and never-ending crusades.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

“Since the beginning of this century, American liberalism has made little measurable progress toward two of its most important goals: a more equitable distribution of income and an improved level of public services. Confronted by the realities of corporate power and the conservatism of Congress, the reforming zeal of the liberal state has been easily frustrated.

This is mirrored in the stymied hopes of the New Freedom by 1916, the stalemate of the New Deal by 1938, and the dissolution of the Great Society by 1966. What is left by these aborted crusades is not the hard substance of reform but rather the major instrument of change – the powerful central state.

The demands of a strong central government and an aggressive foreign policy were ideologically reinforcing. The liberal search for national unity and an expanding domestic economy could not be separated from the vision of an internationalist order which was “safe from war and revolution and open to the commercial and moral expansion of American liberalism. This was a vision shared by Woodrow Wilson and Cordell Hull.

To Hull and Wilson, and later Dean Rusk, peace required the structuring of diplomacy through an elaborate network of collective security arrangements; prosperity demanded the removal of national trade barriers.

Such a vision . . . could not contain within it the forces of either revolution or reaction and led almost inevitably to a foreign policy marked by conflict and crisis. Each new foreign policy crisis in turn strengthened the state apparatus and made the “National Idea” seem even more appropriate – a development which liberals, especially of the New Deal vintage, could only see as benign.

Peace and prosperity, political themes of the Eisenhower years, were considered indulgences by Kennedy liberals . . . Eisenhower’s cautious leadership was considered without national purpose. To those liberals the American mission could be no less than “the survival and success of liberty.”

The “National Idea,” glorified by such transcendent goals, became a Universal Mission, viz., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s assessment, “The United States has an active and vital interest in the destiny of every nation on the planet.” President’s felt mandated not to complete a mere domestic program but rather, to quote the Kennedy inaugural, “to create a new world of freedom.”

Nevertheless, such missionary rhetoric was eminently compatible with the liberal vision of governmental problem solving and reform emanating from the top. For those who gloried in the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the president was the incarnation of the “National Idea,” or in Richard Neustadt’s phrase, “the sole crown-like symbol of the Union.”

After a generation of such fawning rhetoric, it is little wonder that the modern president’s conception of himself bears closer resemblance to the fascist notion of the state leader than even to a Burkean concept of democratic leadership. As President Nixon described his role, “He (the president) must articulate the nation’s values, define it goals and marshal its will.

Republican presidents replaced Democratic presidents without affecting the slightest diminution of executive power. At the propitious moment of international crisis the Congress is circumvented, the public, then most vulnerable to demagoguery and deception, is confronted with a fireside chat, a special address, or a televised press conference.

The result, as conservative James Burnham has pointed out, is Caesarism – the culmination of the executive state: “The mass of people and the individual Caesar, with the insulation of the intermediary institutions removed, become like two electric poles . . . the vote is reduced to a primitive Yes-No . . . and the assemblies become a sounding board for amplifying Caesar’s voice.”

(The Ideology of the Executive State, Robert J. Bressler; Watershed of Empire, Essays on New Deal Foreign Policy, L. Liggio and J. Martin, editors, excerpts, pp. 2-7)

The Spirit of Republican Government

The American Union was conceived as a republic and the Founders did their best to protect it from the pitfalls of democracy. The French visitor and political observer Alexis de Tocqueville, like the Founders, saw this Union as a federation of independent republics, all of which could survive without belonging to it. Below, de Tocqueville foresees the extinction of republican principles in America should the original Anglo-Saxon citizenry be replaced with immigrants unfamiliar with those political traditions. It required only twenty-five years for the North to populate itself and the West with people unfamiliar with republican political traditions, and raise a two-million man war machine to subdue the republican South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Spirit of Republican Government

“The dismemberment of the [American] Union, by the introduction of war into the heart of those States which are now confederate, with standing armies, a dictatorship, and a heavy taxation, might, eventually, compromise the fate of the republican institutions. But we ought not to confound the future prospects of the republic with those of the Union.

The Union is an accident, which will only last as long as circumstances are favorable to its existence; but a republican form of Government seems to me to be the natural state of the Americans; which nothing but the continued action of hostile causes, always acting in the same direction, could change into a monarchy.

The Union exists principally in the law which formed it; one revolution, one change in public opinion, might destroy it forever; but the republic has a much deeper foundation to rest upon.

What is understood by a republican form of government in the United States is the slow and quiet action of society upon itself. It is a regular state of things really founded upon the enlightened will of the people. It is a conciliatory government under which resolutions are allowed time to ripen; and in which they are deliberately discussed, and executed with mature judgement.

The republicans in the United States set a high value upon morality, respect religious belief, and acknowledge the existence of rights. They profess to think that a people ought to be moral, religious and temperate, in proportion as it is free. What is called the republic in the United States, is the tranquil rule of the majority, which, after having had time to examine itself, and to give proof of its existence, is the common source of all the powers of the State.

But the power of the majority is not of itself unlimited. In the moral world humanity, justice and reason enjoy an undisputed supremacy; in the political world vested rights are treated with no less deference. The majority recognizes these tow barriers; and if it now and then overstep them, it is because, like individuals, it has passions, and, like them, it is prone to do what is wrong, whilst it discerns what is right . . .

It was impossible at the foundation of the States, and it would still be difficult, to establish a central administration in America. The inhabitants are too dispersed over too great a space, and separated by too many natural obstacles, for one man to undertake to direct the details of their existence. America is therefore preeminently the country of provincial and municipal government. The English settlers in the United States, therefore, early perceived that they were divided into a great number of small and distinct communities which belonged to no common center . . .

In the United States, the sovereignty of the people is not an isolated doctrine . . . That Providence has given to every human being the degree of reason necessary to direct himself in the affairs which interest him exclusively; such is the grand maxim upon which civil and political society rests in the United States. The father of the family applies it to his children; the master to his servants; the township to its officers; the province to its townships; the State to the provinces; the Union to the States; and when extended to the nation, it becomes the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.

If republican principles are to perish in America, they can only yield after a laborious social process, often interrupted, and as often resumed; they will have many apparent revivals, and will not become totally extinct until an entirely new people shall have succeeded to that which now exists.

It may, however, be foreseen even now, that when the Americans lose their republican institutions they will speedily arrive at a despotic Government, without a long interval of limited Monarchy. Montesquieu remarked, that nothing is more absolute than the authority of a prince who immediately succeeds a republic, since the powers which had fearlessly been entrusted to an elected magistrate are then transferred to a hereditary sovereign.

This is true in general, but it is more peculiarly applicable to a democratic republic. In the United States, the magistrates are not elected by a particular class of citizens, but by the majority of the nation; they are the immediate representatives of the passions of the multitude . . . and they are left in possession of a vast deal of arbitrary power. [It] is impossible to say what bounds could then be set to tyranny.

Some of our European politicians expect to see an aristocracy arise in America, and they already predict the exact period at which it will assume the reins of government. Nevertheless, I do not assert that the Americans will not, at some future time, restrict the political rights in their country, or confiscate those rights to the advantage of a single individual . . . [or] that they will ever found an aristocracy.

But a people, having taken its rise in civilization and democracy, which should gradually establish an inequality of conditions, until it arrived at inviolable privileges and exclusive castes, would be a novelty in the world; and nothing intimates that America is likely to furnish so singular an example.”

(Spirit of Republican Government, 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville; American History Told by Contemporaries, Volume III, National Expansion, 1783-1845, Albert Bushnell Hart, editor, The Macmillan Company, 1938, excerpts, pp. 553-557)

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)

 

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

It is said that the war against American conservatism was in high gear by Lyndon Johnson’s administration; it was Johnson who conferred the Medal of Freedom on the socialist A. Philip Randolph in 1964, and Randolph’s closest confidant was admitted communist Bayard Rustin – who organized MLK’s mass demonstrations. The liberal-dominated Republican party in the 1960’s went along with the unprecedented expansion of the federal government, abandoned efforts to abolish affirmative action, did little to restrict illegal immigration, oppose gay rights or gun control. Also, the most dangerous Supreme Court appointees – Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, O’Connor and Kennedy – were advanced by Republican presidents.  The very first Republican president reportedly issued an order for the arrest of the Chief Justice for upholding the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

“[The] fifteen years from 1960 to 1975 were a time of unprecedented expansion in government domestic spending. Spurred by the plight of the blacks and Puerto Ricans in Northern cities and the deplorable health and education opportunities available to the poor in the South, the national mood turned toward reform.

A sufficient number of liberals were elected to Congress to wrest control of crucial committees from conservative Southern and Midwestern congressmen and substantially change a longstanding system of Federal priorities.

The country’s underlying prosperity made it all possible. In 1964 [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was able to sign on successive days the Economic Opportunity Act, which created a national War on Poverty, and legislation directing across-the-board tax cuts for almost everyone. Social conscience was free.

As the barriers to change came down, a stream of legislation poured out of Washington – besides the War on Poverty, there were Model Cities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and greatly improved social security benefits.

When concern for civil rights and the poor was generalized to problems of pollution and congestion, the federal government responded with subsidies for urban mass transit, tough new air and water quality standards, and sharply increased levels of funding for sewage treatment and air pollution control.

By 1967 even cataloguing the immense range of new initiatives was a formidable task . . . more than $15 billion in aid available, scattered through four hundred separate grant-in-aid programs – although beleaguered local officials insisted that the programs numbered more than a thousand.

With the rush of programs, federal domestic spending increased sharply, as did the involvement of the federal government in local affairs. Aid for manpower, education, and social service programs jumped from $1.3 billion in 1960 to $10.3 billion in 1970, and to $18.2 billion in 1975.

While the overall federal budget tripled from 1960 to 1975 . . . the federal share in local and State budgets increased by 40 percent. [By] 1975 cash income maintenance programs alone were budgeted for a larger amount than national defense.

In many ways the device hit upon by the lawmakers for increasing federal involvement in local affairs – the categorical grant-in-aid – was as important as the absolute volume of the new federal commitments. Funding was allocated for specific purposes, and usually with detailed operating conditions attached, reflecting a prevailing lack of confidence in State and local administrations. In the South local autonomy too often meant racial discrimination; too many State legislatures in the North and West seemed sleepy, rural-dominated, special-interest societies.

[To change the emphases of State and local governments], a common device was to include generous federal funding in the early stages of a program, with the expectation that local funding would pick up the program later. Community mental health programs, for example, receive 90 percent of their finding in the first year from federal sources, but the federal share is phased out entirely over a seven-year period, leaving the local government with an expensive program, a high standard of service, and an organized set of supporters.

Public employment programs began the same way . . . but local officials were left to face a financing problem or the pain of reducing a popular program as the federal support was reduced in subsequent years.

Programs developed “vertical autocracies” of their own, a chain of officials stretching from the local government through the State and regional federal bureaucracies to Washington and the halls of Congress.

Elected officials rarely could afford the time or trouble to master the complex laws and regulations and were increasingly the captives of their program-oriented bureaucracies, who held the secret to the continued expansion of outside financing.

The powerful expansionist impulse that Nelson Rockefeller brought to [New York] State government was in his family tradition – they had long tried to live down their legendary wealth with a broad range of philanthropic undertakings – and was consistent with his basic personality.

Rockefeller was a perennial presidential candidate, and at least until 1968, his national aspirations rested on his position as spokesman for the Northeastern liberal wing of the Republican party, which was in competition throughout the decade with the hard-line conservatism of the South and West.

Republicans were hopelessly outnumbered nationally, the reasoning went, and the route to victory lay in capturing the center of the national consensus. At least through the first half of the 1960s – or until the bills began to come in – that seemed supportive of the drive toward government initiatives to equalize opportunities between blacks and whites and rich and poor, to put out lifelines for the cities, and to make up for decades of underinvestment in the public sector.”

(The Cost of Good Intentions, New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975, Charles R. Morris, McGraw-Hill, 1980, pp. 34-36)

Oct 8, 2016 - America Transformed, Democracy, Enemies of the Republic, Pathways to Central Planning, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on Democracy and the Prize of the Dominant Class

Democracy and the Prize of the Dominant Class

Democracy and the Prize of the Dominant Class

“Class war eventuating in class dictatorship is, however, only the most dramatic of the perils inherent in the democratic idea, the end product of the modern tragic fallacy. Democracy in practice has shown itself prey to lesser ills which must weigh against it in any accounting of its capacities. The fear of one-man power, is, for example, a democratic obsession, so that the people are willing to sacrifice governmental efficiency in a misguided effort to guard against such power.

The spoils system in civil service in an unavoidable conclusion of democratic premises regarding political equality. The idea that each man is as good as the next leads to rotation in administrative office and foments stubborn popular opposition to the development of a merit system. This opens the way to the establishment of a self-perpetuating political oligarchy, since the political organizer is paid for his services in the coinage of government jobs.

Democracy has also led increasingly to a new and degraded form of political decision-making. “The activity of the State, under the new democratic system, shows itself every year more at the mercy of clamorous factions, and legislators find themselves constantly under greater pressure to act, not be their deliberate judgment of what is expedient, but in such a way as to quell clamor, although against their judgment of public interests. Inevitably, “the consequence is the immense power of the lobby, and legislation comes to be an affair of coalition between interests to make up a majority.”

The drive for power among conflicting interests tends always to convert the state into a prize to be won by the dominant class; meanwhile, issues of social policy are decided, not on the basis of their merits, but in accordance with the pressures brought to bear on the tribunes of the people.”

(American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910, Robert G. McCloskey, Harper, 1951, pp. 59-60)