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The Unchecked Will of The Majority

From the progressive standpoint, the Framers had not so much erred in their efforts as subsequent events had rendered their formulations moot. Madison had been particularly worried about a fractious majority violating the public good or minority rights for selfish ends. That is why, to accomplish this great desideratum, the Framers relied upon the popular will in only one half of one of the three branches, the House of Representatives; they believed that majorities could be as dangerous to true republicanism as anything. In contrast, the progressives believed that history had finally forged a national consciousness that could only be expressed by the unchecked will of the majority. In Madison’s day, the thirteen far-flung former colonies barely had identifiable common interests beyond defense against the European powers, but the nineteenth century had created a people with a shared identity and common purpose. Standing in its way, the progressives reasoned, was Madison’s most cherished doctrine, the separation of powers. Originally intended to keep fleeting majorities from undermining the public good, it was now inhibiting an enduring national majority from using government to realize the public good. Thus, whereas Madison sought to separate power as broadly as possible, the progressives— Wilson in particular— sought to concentrate it. Only by locating power in a single place could that power be made responsible to the public at large, and therefore reflect the newly developed national consciousness.

Cost, Jay (2015-02-10). A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption (p. 132). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

HKO

IMO The great flaw of the founding of the Progressive movement was this concept of a national consensus that minimized the concerns of a democracy understood by the founders.  Wilson’s belief in this consensus was made even more worrisome by his belief in a charismatic leader to guide this consensus.  An unchecked democracy and a charismatic leader is precisely the condition that turns democracies into tyrannies.  Wilson was our only PhD president, and the irony was that his example of a country getting this right was Prussia.

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Founders’ Thinking on Secession

Walter Williams

Walter Williams

a bit of American History from Walter Williams at Townhall in Historical Ignorance:

The 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the war between the colonies and Great Britain. Its first article declared the 13 colonies “to be free, sovereign and independent states.” These 13 sovereign nations came together in 1787 as principals and created the federal government as their agent. Principals have always held the right to fire agents. In other words, states held a right to withdraw from the pact — secede.

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede.

On March 2, 1861, after seven states seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that read, “No state or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s a question for the reader: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?

On the eve of the War of 1861, even unionist politicians saw secession as a right of states. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, “Any attempt to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force would be impractical, and destructive of republican liberty.”

HKO

If the toxic subject of slavery was not a part of the civil war how would history’s view of it change?

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A New Kind of Servitude

“Is it too pessimistic to fear that a generation grown up under these conditions is unlikely to throw off the fetters to which it has grown used? Or does this description not rather fully bear out Tocqueville’s prediction of the “new kind of servitude” when:

after having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrial animals, of which government is the shepherd.—I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.22

“What Tocqueville did not consider was how long such a government would remain in the hands of benevolent despots when it would be so much more easy for any group of ruffians to keep itself indefinitely in power by disregarding all the traditional decencies of political life.”

Excerpt From: F. A. Hayek. “The Road to Serfdom.” University of Chicago Press, 2010-04-06. iBooks.
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Institutionalized Corruption

All of this helps us understand how the spoils system became rampant in the nineteenth century. The resources required to win a nationwide presidential election were too massive for parties to raise on their own, and so they turned to the public treasury for partisan purposes, rewarding their friends with jobs, contracts, sinecures, and so on as the spoils of victory. The Constitution anticipates that such corruption will not happen; the Congress is expected to check a president who abuses the public trust in such a fashion, or vice versa. But the political parties united these disparate entities in a shared quest for power, and therefore plunder. The result was an institutionalized form of corruption that would endure for generations, and indeed continues in one form or another to this very day.

Cost, Jay (2015-02-10). A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption (p. 64). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

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The Gradual Encroachment of Ideas

“It was perhaps John Maynard Keynes who said it best, in the closing chapter of The General Theory:

the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

“Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.109”

Excerpt From: F. A. Hayek. “The Road to Serfdom.” University of Chicago Press, 2010-04-06. iBooks.
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Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/vAe3H.l