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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10218/happy-we-should-restore-the-monarchy-and-rejoin-britain-day/

Happy We-Should-Restore-The-Monarchy-And-Rejoin-Britain Day!

July 2, 2009 by

The celebration of the 4th of July as if it’s a libertarian holiday is a bit much to bear. Secession from Britain was a mistake. It’s easy enough to realize that the Constitution was not some libertarian achievement as conservatives and libertarians delude themselves into thinking. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to all the standard evils of war and raising an army–in the words of Jeff Hummel, “unfunded government debt, paper money, skyrocketing inflation, price controls, legal tender laws, direct impressment of supplies and wide-spread conscription.” Hmm, doesn’t sound very libertarian to me. (See also below on the language of the Declaration.) Stealing, conscripting, enslaving, murdering. The glorification of democracy. The expansion of empire. The entrenching of corporatist interests with the state. The substitution of traditional order with worship of the democratic state.

Monarchy isn’t perfect, as Hoppe argues, but the move from monarchy to democracy was not “progress” as even some libertarians have mistakenly believed (as Hoppe notes, “although aware of the economic and ethical deficiencies of democracy, both Mises and Rothbard had a soft spot for democracy and tended to view the transition from monarchy to democracy as progress”). When I suggest it was a mistake to secede from Britain, libertarians–brainwashed by both Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock propaganda (No More Kings; Fireworks; Three-Ring Government; The Preamble; Let Freedom Ring) and Randian pro-America mythology–freak out. “You want us to have a king? How terrible?!” or “But Britain is more socialist than we are!” Well, first, I don’t want us to have a king. I’d prefer we have no state: no kings or congresscritters or revenuers. But we have a king now, under another name; he can tax and murder us, just like the dreaded monarchian boogey-man; the state is overlord of all our property, as in feudalism. And rejoining socialist Britain now would be terrible–but would the European monarchies have become democratic socialist states if America had never left Britain? Our secession led to a constructivist new utopian order based on a “rational, scientific” paper document and the rejection of traditional, unwritten, limits on state power, thus setting the world on the path of democracy and democratic tyranny, and all the evils of the 20th Century–WWI, WWII, the Holocaust, the Cold War, Communism, Naziism, Fascism, Great Depressions I and II (see Goodbye 1776, 1789, Tom for links). America’s reckless utopianism corrupted its mother state, rendering it unfit to rejoin. But had we never left? One percent tax paid to a distant King over the ocean sound appealing, anyone? (See Would YOU sign the Declaration of Independence?)

If I didn’t hate states and flags so much I might just fly the ole Union Jack this Saturday!

What about the Declaration itself? How libertarian is it? Well, let’s just take a few choice parts:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

–Well, yes, except for Africans and women, and young men who don’t want to be drafted or executed for desertion, and probably atheists and witches.

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,

This is not the reason governments form–to secure our rights. This is just a sales job for the criminal state.

deriving their just powers

This falsely implies the state can have just powers. It cannot.

from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends,

This implies government does not necessarily become destructive–that good goverment is possible. It’s not.

it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government,

But not to have no government, right? Why does it deny us the right to get rid of the state altogether?

laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

In other words, they should be free to try one utopian experiment after another.

Update: Some friends sent me some other useful links debunking the “libertarian” aspects of the American Revolution: First, regarding US independence, see A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 2), by Mencius Moldbug (“So: let’s put it as bluntly as possible. At present you believe that, in the American Revolution, good triumphed over evil. This is the aforementioned aggregate. We’re going to just scoop that right out with the #6 brain spoon. As we operate, we’ll replace it with the actual story of the American Rebellion – in which evil triumphed over good”). According to Moldbug everything people know about the American Revolution is BS. He recommends this wonderful piece: Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia, a devastating attack on the Declaration of Independence and American Revolution written by one of its contemporaries, Thomas Hutchinson, the former Governor of Massachusetts.

And let’s not forget Mencken’s classic The Declaration of Independence in American — an excerpt:

That any goverment that don’t give a man these rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of goverment they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any goverment don’t do this, then the people have got a right to can it and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don’t mean having a revolution every day like them South American coons and yellow-bellies and Bolsheviki, or every time some job-holder does something he ain’t got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons and Bolsheviki, and any man that wasn’t a anarchist or one of them I. W. W.’s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain’t hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won’t carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won’t stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has pulled: …

Update: Hurrah for King George!, by John Attarian.

{ 137 comments }

Stephan Kinsella July 2, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Ebeling:

Mr. Kinsella is frustrated that the Founding Fathers were not libertarians, as he understands that idea.

Yes, it was a great tragedy that those Founding Fathers failed to consult the works of Murray Rothbard before they decided on their courses of action. If only they had, perhaps, had the chance to read advanced copies of Rothbard’s work, say, in early galley pages!

Oh, that’s right, Rothbard only was writing about 200 years later! How stupid of me!

Dr. Ebeling,

My contention is not that they are to blame for not being libertarians. It is that they were not, contrary to libertarian mythologizing and wishful thinking, libertarians. I do not say they had no excuses for not being libertarian. I only say that they were not libertarian. Nor was America at its founding.

If we were to follow Mr. Kinsella’s view applied to Austrian Economics, we would have tear up and throw away our copies of Bohm-Bawerk. After all, he believed that utility was measurable (clearly an original sin that leads to progressive income taxation) and he worked for the State (he was finance minister of Austria-Hungary and he put together taxing legislation – obviously, a plunderer through-and through); and, oh, no, like 90 percent of all of those who have laid the groundwork for modern classical liberalism and libertarianism Bohm-Bawerk believed in – limited government. Oh, no, that means we have to tear up Mises’ works, too!

We can plainly and honestly admit where some of our teachers were wrong, without self-delusion. I do not put Bohm-Bawerk in the same category as a bunch of politicians, anyway.

Now, of course, we always judge the ideas of the past by our own understandings and perspectives that are held our today. How else can we do it? But our interpretations of earlier men and their ideas is tempered when we put them in that more historical, evolutionary intellectual context when we judge them from our more “lofty” contemporary point-of-view.

So… I should keep the prints, then?

I notice Dr. Ebeling does not deny that the Founders were unlibertarian. He does not deny the substance of my charges. Only that I am perhaps unfair in judging them too harshly. When the taxes and depredations on the lives and freedom of me and those I love and care for, foisted upon me by the mammoth state that grew from the seeds of the Founders’ enthusiasm, fall below 10%, say, I’ll perhaps have the leisure to contemplate the munificence they bestowed on me. (Though somehow I think I’ll never find a way to “understand” their racism and slaving. I’m just too “intolerant.”)

Christopher July 2, 2009 at 9:50 pm

“The anarchists contend that a social order in which nobody enjoys privileges at the expense of his fellow-citizens could exist without any compulsion and coercion for the prevention of action detrimental to society. Such an ideal society could do without state and government…
“The anarchists overlook the undeniable fact that some people are either too narrow-minded or too weak to adjust themselves spontaneously to the conditions of social life…An anarchistic society would be exposed to the mercy of every individual. Society cannot exist if the majority is not ready to hinder, by the application or threat of violent action, minorities from destroying the social order. This power is vested in the state or government.
“…The state is essentially an institution for the preservation of peaceful interhuman relations.”
von Mises, Human Action

Then there’s the “post hoc ergo prompter hoc” problem; i.e., “The Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to all the standard evils…”

A concrete pourer sets the foundation. The builder puts up the house. Should the concrete pourer be blamed if the house collapses due to termite infestation? I’d think not. It is completely unreasonable to say that the Declaration, or the Constitution, has “caused” the mess that we are in. The fallibility of man has caused the mess. When power and dominance are attainable, man will unfortunately falter, even in a theoretical anarchistic social order.

James September 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Thank you for this reasoned opinion. Kinsella is ridiculous and is just looking to get some hits on the Mises page, he can’t be serious with blaming the Declaration for our problems today. The argument can be made against the Constitution but the Declaration? Come on now…

vlad popovic July 2, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Isn’t Britain marginally more socialist than we are?

Why should we wish to be British subjects when, in my opinion, we are plenty socialist already?

I am not happy with things as they are, but rejoin Britain?

Cracka please!

HL July 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Ah, my beloved Stephan. Any radical thought worth stating is worth stating in an uncompromising manner and with a touch of “zing.” To wake the slumbering masses is fun; to speak openly to the “remnant” is divine.

Where would have I cast my lot if Sam Adams had sat down with me at the tavern? No doubt, revolution. That’s not to say my choice would have been optimal; just understandable and quite reasonable under the circumstances. The end result was not what it could have been – and those who took over afterwards were far in character from the dear Sam I followed, but isn’t that life?

Nuke Gray July 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm

It’s always fun to pick on the past. But couldn’t Kinsella help us all better, by showing how we can correct our present societies? A female friend of mine laments that we don’t live in a perfect society, and injustices are everywhere- but I point out that this gives us the chance to be the heroes that the future reads about, and admires!
Please, Mr Kinsella- give us The Anarcho-Capitalist Home Recipe Book, for healing law-sick societies!

Nuke Gray July 2, 2009 at 10:27 pm

It’s always fun to pick on the past. But couldn’t Kinsella help us all better, by showing how we can correct our present societies? A female friend of mine laments that we don’t live in a perfect society, and injustices are everywhere- but I point out that this gives us the chance to be the heroes that the future reads about, and admires!
Please, Mr Kinsella- give us The Anarcho-Capitalist Home Recipe Book, for healing law-sick societies!

Stephan Kinsella July 2, 2009 at 10:32 pm

HL–nicely put. And of course one cannot still but feel a bit of a twinge of regret that one could not meet the “radicals” that Hummel described–”men such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson”–though I’m too modern, “presentist,” and “intolerant” enough to really overlook … slaveowning by any of them. An excuse for not being a modern libertarian is one thing, but for slavery…? Helloo… Okay, so I confess: I don’t think I can get over the “owning fellow humans” thing. We rural Louisianans are small-minded like that. Not nearly “cosmopolitan” enough.

James September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Have you ever considered that your tolerance is no more or less a product of your time as was their intolerance.

I’m a history major and I’ve taken several African history classes, and something that is never spoken of is in 15th and 16th century England, the definition of black in addition to just being a color also included sin, evil, the unknown (as in nighttime) etc. This definition was fueled by Biblical texts that associate darkness with Hell and sin, and being the opposite of the light that God represented. So when the Englishmen began to see Africans for the first time, they associated the Biblical understanding of darkness and black with the much darker skin of these new people and unfortunately the rest is history. As much as we can view that from the 21st century in disdain, how in the world were they supposed to be tolerant in a homogeneous, religiously superstitious society?

Not much changed in thinking between the 1st contact with Africa and 18th century America. Slowly people were beginning to realize that Africans were fully and equally human, but that radical shift in opinion does not happen overnight. As for the Founders owning slaves, firstly Adams and Paine were not slaveholders, so feel free to sit down with them.

As for Jefferson, Henry, and Lee, as Virginians under the Manumission Act of 1723 it was illegal to just up and free your slaves. The master would have to make a recommendation to the courts as to the exemplary character of a slave he wanted to set free, and the courts would decide if the slave was worthy. And specifically speaking of Jefferson, the majority of his slaves were inherited through his marriage to his wife Martha Wayles. He didn’t go out of his way to buy them.

Yes I realize its very easy to judge them, and in a 21st century world they would be worthy of full disdain. But by and large, you are a product of the times you live in. The tolerance and acceptance that you speak of was no more known or understood to the 18th century world than the technology used to make the first automobile. I suppose we should judge Jefferson and Paine that they were using archaic buggies and carriages too?

Stephan Kinsella July 2, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Lawrence, Butte: also, the term “allodial” gets my crankdar going. It has nutball connotations, sort of like too many Initial Caps.

Peter July 2, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Hmm, the United States was the first country in the world in which individuals could hold property in allodia

Hmm., nonsense. Individuals – kings, i.e., – have always done so; and non-kings can’t do so in the US…

anonymous July 2, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Well going after the Founders for slaveowning strikes me as rather “cosmopolitan”, like those folks who think the Constituition is irrelevant due to this fact and that any argument supporting original intent or limited government are from reactionaries from “the horse and buggy age.” A good way to smear any opponent of big government.

Gil July 3, 2009 at 12:26 am

Wow, fundamentalist makes some pretty darn good points! Inevitably, there’s a “ha ha” about the ‘founding fathers’. They weren’t anti-government – just anti-foreign government. They weren’t against taxes – they were against foreign taxes and seeing their money going abroad. Such is the lot of a great many people. How many people complain when they have to take orders but are quite happy to give them when they are the ‘top dog’? How many people hate being lied to but will lie when it suits their purposes. Suppose society does collapse in a way everyone becomes a private property owenrs only to have a great many owners become mini-tyrants and start attaacking and seizing the land and property of other private property owners because there’s no one to stop them and the cycle of society begins anew?

proud patriot July 3, 2009 at 1:11 am

if America had never left Britain? Our secession led to a constructivist new utopian order based on a “rational, scientific” paper document and the rejection of traditional, unwritten, limits on state power, thus setting the world on the path of democracy and democratic tyranny, and all the evils of the 20th Century-WWI, WWII, the Holocaust, the Cold War, Communism, Naziism, Fascism, Great Depressions I and II

You’re article is disgusting, Stephen. You blame the freedom-loving patriots of the American Revolution for the mass murdering tyrants of the twentieth century. And you overlook the atrocities of the British Empire!

Thomas Paine suggested that the American Revolution was divine retribution against Britain for her crimes in India and Africa. I agree. In fact, every innovation of tyranny in America originated in England. Before there was a Federal Reserve and American banksters, there was a Bank of England and chartered corporations. America would have never been involved in WWI or WWII without the influence of British statesmen, most notably Winston Churchill. The American intervention in Iran merely protected British oil interests. The list goes on and on.

So lets take a look at the Declaration of Independence and see what the Americans were up against:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury

The Revolution was fully justified, and I’m glad it happened.

Nuke Gray July 3, 2009 at 1:49 am

Thomas Paine died poor and alone- retribution for his rabble-rousing and delusional book. As for the ‘sins’ of Britain against India and Africa, they were sinning against themselves before Britain arrived! I’ll bet the Amerindians wish that Britain had kept the palefaces cooped up in Eastern North America, instead of taking their lands and pushing them onto reservations! Your ancestors did that, Proud Patriot!
And Britain was the major power to outlaw slavery, in 1833, whilst your US had 1/3 of it’s States with slave societies! When Britain freed it’s slaves, they intermarried with the working class. What happened to your ex-slaves? Were they allowed to intermarry?
And one of the original taxes that ‘enflamed’ super-delicate American opinion was an existing tax that had been around for years before, but not enforced- Americans had been more inclined to smuggling than paying taxes. Perhaps they could have negotiated, if both sides had been more reasonable.

Justin July 3, 2009 at 1:54 am

We here in Australia never got rid of the British monarchy, and what difference did it make?

Hmm, lemme see now: the attempt to limit the growth of the state by written constitution has been just as much of a failure in Australia as it was in the USA. Your government has overspread its consitutional limits more, but then, it’s had more time to do it.

But, in 1975, the Governor-General (Queen’s viceroy) did sack the Prime Minister who tried to run up a big debt without consent of Parliament, so it was good fun to watch him eat humble pie.

Gil July 3, 2009 at 2:37 am

Isn’t Australia an example of what might have happened if the American Revolution never happened? Australia and the U.S.A. have reasonably similar governments, economies, standards of living, etc., yet Australia never seceded. It would seem the West was moving towards Representative Democracies anyway and those who fought in the Revolution died in vain (ha ha!).

Nuke Gray July 3, 2009 at 3:08 am

As for Britain ‘dragging’ America into both world wars, I thought Germany sank the Lusitania, and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? Weren’t those the causes of American entry into the Wars?
Which country first used atomic bombs on its’ enemy? Was it Britain? It couldn’t have been America, surely? And which country thinks of Latin America as ‘its’ zone of influence? Is the Monroe Doctrine something that Britain forced you to do? If so, how?

EIS July 3, 2009 at 3:13 am

This is pure crap, and it completely contradicts Austrian principles. The belief that power should be completely centralized, in the hands of one individual, is the antithesis of libertarianism. I don’t know why this was even posted.

EIS July 3, 2009 at 3:15 am

This is pure garbage. The belief that power should be completely centralized in the hands of one individual, completely contradicts Austrian principles and libertarian doctrine. I don’t know why this was even posted. We’re Anarchists.

newson July 3, 2009 at 3:39 am

to eis:
hoppe is championing monarchy over popular democracy, not vis-à-vis anarchy, as the post makes clear.

i think the princely family of liechtenstein is a better example than britain. it has a more active role than the queen of england, essentially just a figurehead. even the house of lords has become democratized.

newson July 3, 2009 at 3:44 am

to nuke gray:
if you’ve got a taste for revisionism, you’ll find plenty of material on this site challenging “the official story” of both the lusitania and pearl harbour incidents.

Scott July 3, 2009 at 6:01 am

Well the colonies revolt, helped spark others. At least the ‘national razor’, wasn’t employed. The U.S.C. was a federalist usurpation of the confederation. As a citizen of the U.S.; I’m glad not to pay the burden of crown taxes on top of the taxes I already pay. I once felt the same, we have independence from one tyrant, in order to live under a different tyranny. On democracy, Aristotle called it rule of the poor. American democracy would have proved him wrong. It is oligarchy.

Stephan Kinsella July 3, 2009 at 8:10 am

It’s astonishing to me that some libertarians want to overlook the typical crimes committed by states anytime there is war–or to deny that the Declaration had anything to do with the Revolutionary War. “Proud Patriot” above says that I “blame the freedom-loving patriots of the American Revolution for the mass murdering tyrants of the twentieth century”.

The Declaration of Independence of course led to all the standard evils of war and raising an army-as Hummel noted, “unfunded government debt, paper money, skyrocketing inflation, price controls, legal tender laws, direct impressment of supplies and wide-spread conscription.”

Casual googling leads to all kinds of information on this. E.g.: as noted here:

The absence of a strong, central, colonial government resulted in a vast shortage of funding and human resources. Paper money and bills of credit financed the war, and while the paper money became almost valueless, inflation rocketed. Profiteers took advantage of these conditions to make money while workers held strikes for higher wages. Soldiers were also in short supply, with state militias sometimes competing against the Continental Army for them. Soldiers were generally ill fed, poorly clothed, and lacked weapons.

Around 5,000 blacks served in the colonial army. At first only free blacks were accepted, but the shortage in soldiers led to the conscription of slaves. Blacks fought with whites in unsegregated units. Americans Indians, threatened by colonial expansion, most often fought for the British, and after the revolt ended their claims to land and self-rule were largely ignored.

And here:

As the war dragged on, it became more difficult to find soldiers. States increased bounties, shortened terms, and reluctantly forced men to serve. But conscription was such a distasteful and dangerous exercise of state power that legislatures would use it only in extreme circumstances. More frequently, legislatures tried to reinforce the army with men drawn by incentive or compulsion from the militia for only a few months of summer service. The army’s composition thus reflected a bewildering variety of enlistment terms. After 1779, for example, a Connecticut company might have eight or ten privates serving for three years or the war, and twice or three times that number enlisted only for the summer. Washington’s complaints to Congress have obscured his genius in building an effective army out of the limited service most Americans were willing to undertake.

Here:

During the Revolutionary War, state governments assumed the colonies’ authority to raise their short‐term militias through drafts if necessary. They sometimes extended this to state units in the Continental Army, but they denied Gen. George Washington’s request that the central government be empowered to conscript. As the initial volunteering slackened, states boosted enlistment bounties and held occasional drafts, producing more hired substitutes than actual draftees.

Here:

Even with their powerful new ally, the Americans remained in dire straits. Enlistments were down and conscription, while utilized, was unpopular.

This book mentions the execution of soldiers during the Revolutionary War for desertion and other things — “For examples of soldiers executed without recourse to a trial by courts-martial, see Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States ..”

As my friend Manuel Lora wrote me: “In order to be free we shall establish a state, inflate the money supply, control trade and enslave people to work the fields and the killing fields. … Happy 4th of July.”

S.M. Oliva July 3, 2009 at 8:22 am

Sometimes I think Kinsella became a libertarian just so he could find reasons to explain why everyone else isn’t a libertarian.

fundamentalist July 3, 2009 at 8:24 am

Daniel: “But wouldn’t you say that as soon as capitalistic or free market forms of action are introduced that a particular society is not- in those particular instances- democratic, socialist or monarchical ?”

I guess it depends upon one’s definition of capitalism. In my definition, all that is required is property rights, the rule of law and a relatively honest judiciary and police. Real property rights, and not just paper titles, limit government to protecting life, liberty and property. I can see where such a system could exist under a monarchy, democracy or anarchism.

Emil Suric July 3, 2009 at 8:32 am

“It’s astonishing to me that some libertarians want to overlook the typical crimes committed by states anytime there is war–or to deny that the Declaration had anything to do with the Revolutionary War.”

Yes, war is a terrible thing, with human right violations as the inevitable consequence. But how does this legitimize your point? How does a libertarian prefer monarchies over constitutional republics? You can be a libertarian and hate America, but you can’t be one and support monarchies (relatively speaking of course).

As far as slavery is concerned, it’s not simply an American issue, or an American contradiction. It was a plague which infected the vast majority of human civilization. The first actual ban on slavery occurred only in 1772.

Furthermore, America may be hell, but relatively speaking, it’s the greatest country in the world. No other nation shares our standard of living, and no other nation has ever seen such a vast creation of wealth despite the numerous interventionist policies which seek to retard it.

fundamentalist July 3, 2009 at 8:49 am

The Constitution of the US is political poetry. It is among the most beautiful documents on government ever written by mankind. It created about the most perfect government that mankind is capable of producing.

But for its wonderful ideas to be implemented required self-control and honesty on the part of those charged with instantiating its principles. Many of the writers understood that. They did their best to limit the federal government. Unfortunately, succeeding generations chafed at those limits and discovered every dishonest way possible to escape them. It’s not the founders’ fault that they couldn’t control the selfishness, dishonesty and power hungry nature of later generations.

And the American people are at fault, too, because they elected the SOB’s who destroyed the Constitution. They did so out of greed and envy. As de Tocqueville realized, the experiment ended when people realized they can vote themselves an income.

The inauguration of the president is one of the most disgusting ceremonies in political life because the president swears to uphold the Constitution, then spends the next four years shredding it with the joyful approval of the American people, Congress and the Supreme Court. If we had an honest military, the generals, who are also sworn to uphold the Constitution, would arrest every one of them and hang them for treason.

fundamentalist July 3, 2009 at 9:04 am

It’s important to keep in mind that the founders considered the Constitution to be an experiment. They weren’t certain it would succeed. Their weakness was in misjudging human character. They believed man is better than he really is. The experiment failed, as Kinsella pointed out. But the fault doesn’t lie in the beautiful document they created, but in the character of men and women who were supposed to implement it. The American experiment proves that people are incapable of ruling themselves justly.

fundamentalist July 3, 2009 at 9:10 am

It’s important to keep in mind that the founders considered the Constitution to be an experiment. They weren’t certain it would succeed. Their weakness was in misjudging human character. They believed man is better than he really is. The experiment failed, as Kinsella pointed out. But the fault doesn’t lie in the beautiful document they created, but in the character of men and women who were supposed to implement it. The American experiment proves that people are incapable of ruling themselves justly.

Samuel Wonacott July 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

Fundamentalist, I’m not sure I agree with you. While you won’t hear me making the same irrational comments Kinsella has been making, I do think one of the faults lies in the Constitution itself. See, I think we have to take human nature as a given, and human nature is ultimately selfish, corrupt, and wicked. As far as I’m concerned, humans are bad, and most of human history attests to that.

The question becomes one of minimizing the bad aspects of human nature. It becomes an institutional question (realizing that ultimately no institution will be perfect). How do we create a system where the incentives just so happen to align with the parts of human nature worth bringing out? The Constitution, while agreeing with you that it is a beautiful document, is not a system where the bad aspects of human nature are limited. The idea of a government with divided powers has been criticized by most libertarians and rightly I believe. How can you have a system where the divided powers are ultimately part of the same organization? It would be like Wal-Mart creating its own court system, and expecting the Wal-Mart court to rule fairly in cases involving Wal-Mart!

As James Madison said, “If men were angels we need not have government.” The correct response is “if men are devils we DARE not have government.”

Tomás July 3, 2009 at 11:16 am

Nicely done, Stephan!

You know you’ve won when your opponents are off attacking strawmen.

Please don’t ever change.

John Seiler July 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

I just got in the government mail a summons from the IRS demanding that I file its complicated tax forms for 2007. I didn’t file on time, as I usually do as an obedient imperial slave, because just before April 15 that year, my mother died, and I just haven’t gotten around to it since then. The same thing happened the next year, 2008, when my father died just before April 15.

King George III had no income tax on Americans.

So as I cringe in fear before the mighty IRS, where, exactly, is my “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”?

John Seiler July 3, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in 1954, when the State in Britain was much smaller than today, but growing frightfully fast:

“The State, in fact, is the greatest of all tyrants, the ultimate tyrant. Kings can be executed, oligarchies can be broken up, millionaires can be despoiled of their money, Popes can be defied and heresies persisted in, but the State is, in principle, ourselves, and how can we put down ourselves? We who are the Leviathan cannot slay it. To try to do so is suicide, not rebellion.”

(“Farewell to Freedom” in “Things Past: An Anthology,” p. 111.)

Brandon July 3, 2009 at 12:32 pm

“It’s important to keep in mind that the founders considered the Constitution to be an experiment. They weren’t certain it would succeed.” Fundamentalist

The same can be said for FDR and his socialism. Uncertainty of results doesn’t let people off the historiographical noose.

vc July 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm

“It’s important to keep in mind that the founders considered the Constitution to be an experiment. They weren’t certain it would succeed.” Fundamentalist

What does “succeed” mean?

The Constitution slyly stripped limitations from the Articles of Confederation and granted powers couched in vague language. This allowed the continual accrual of power and centralization that we see today.

To deny this was purposeful or that they did not know it would “succeed”, as such, is to deny the entirety of history, the nature of man, and the plain meaning of the relevant texts.

I am free because the government allows me to apply for licenses to do alomost anything I want, most of the time, as long as I obey their regulations and give them a hefty cut.

Nick July 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Grow up, Steve.

matt July 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

stephen you make my head hurt sometimes. i appreciate your writings and agree with a lot of your ideas but sometimes i think you just like to be disagreeable. i swear i wouldn’t be surprised to read a critique from you on why the sun isn’t bright or water’s not really wet.

Indecence Day July 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

The ONLY ones who benefit from democracy are the politicians. Democracy means that power “shifts” every 4 years without bloodshed.

Politicians no longer have to fear for their necks and they even have a lifetime pension plan, free healthcare etc.

Today’s politicians are worse than yesterday’s kings.

Democracy is a crime against humanity. We want individual freedoms not mob rule !

And it’s not even democracy, because we don’t vote for policies, we vote for politicians. The decision making power are in the hand of politicians, not in the hand of the people.

Every major decisions should be submitted to a vote and the more you pay taxes, the more your vote should count.

josh July 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm

So, does this mean Rothbard instead should have written Conceived in Tyranny ?

I Can't Believe What We've Become July 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm

“But had we never left? One percent tax paid to a distant King over the ocean sound appealing, anyone?”

I’d drink that cup of tea anytime, LOL !

If they tought that taxation without representation was bad, they should see how taxation with representation looks like, it’s a real steal, LOL !

I’d be very happy to change systems and only pay 1% to a distant king and get to keep 99% of my income.

LOL ! Democracy and the USA sucks, the 4th of july is going to be the saddest day in my life.

J.K. Baltzersen July 3, 2009 at 7:07 pm

I am largely in agreement with Mr. Kinsella. However, I have doubts about how helpful his provocative style is.

Limitations — formal or informal — on the powers of the monarchy is one thing. Transferring power from him to another body is another thing. They are conceptually separate. Yet, most people — when they debate this issue — confuse these two concepts

Secession from Britian and the American parting from the monarchical order too are two separate concepts. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn noted, the American War for Independence was not initially anti-monarchical.

In 1775, Parliament was the target of the colonists’ complaints. A year later — when the Declaration of Independence was signed — the King got all the blame. Yet, the Declaration of Independence was against a particular Prince. It did not denounce monarchy as such. There were several candidates for an American monarch. Anti-monarchist sentiment, however, quite soon became an essential element of Americanist mythology.

My main point here is that parting from the monarchical order was not a necessary consequence of parting from the British Empire.

When we see claims that centralizing all power in one man is not in line with Austrian thought, this illustrates the misunderstanding of Western classical monarchy by modern man, perhaps by Americans in particular. Also, the “Austrian school” was born under the Habsburg monarchy. Here culture, arts, and sciences flourished. It was not a system where all power was centralized in one man.

Mr. Kinsella has gotten harsh criticism for his counterfactual scenario. It has been suggested that the U.S. would be very much like Australia or Canada is today. Yes, that is a possible scenario, but it is not very likely. Yes, the “Glorious Revolution” did take place about a century before the U.S. Constitution came into being, but without the American War for Independence, we would probably not have had the French Revolution or American entry in World War I. It is likely that absolute democracy would have had a much harder time developing.

Cybertarian July 3, 2009 at 7:10 pm

What we need is CYBERTARIANISM.

That is computer-networks assisted libertarianism.

Right now, the free-market is being assaulted by interest groups, criminal gangs, police organizations, governments, international laws, national laws, the senate, unions etc.

What we need to do is create an artificial intelligence impersonation of the market.

Someone, an artificial someone, a computer generated someone which in itself represents the market. The free-market capitalism.

What is needed is that it would be necessary to use this intermediary to buy and sell.

This impersonation of the market would then garantee that anyone who uses this system is free from the assaults of taxation, regulation or prohibition.

Anyone who would then assault a market participant by either taxing or controlling him would automatically be debarred from using the system and the impersonation would then forbid that aggressor from buying and selling.

Freedom to buy and sell and the assurance that the ones you do business with are not there to get you, this would be the doctrine.

Under Cybertarianism, people could buy and sell whatever they want at the price of the market.

This means they could buy and sell weapons, drugs, organs, controversial medical procedures and all the information, software and media they want. Nothing would be censored.

However, what would be immediately punished would be the crime of hindring the market.

Anyone who wants to tax(steal) from another, anyone who wants to decide what gets to be sold or bought, anyone who wants to prohibit certain goods or services would immediately be debarred from the system and condemned to a slow and painful starvation.

We need to create an impersonation that will represent free-market capitalism and that will be there to protect this market from plunderers and tyrants.

fundamentalist July 3, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Samuel: “The correct response is “if men are devils we DARE not have government.”

That assumes that anarchism would work. The evidence for that is pretty slim. The same evil that exists in mankind and empowered them to break the restraints of the Constitution would still be at work in anarchy and could result in a far worse situation. Of course, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try if it ever becomes possible. I don’t oppose anarchism on moral grounds the way anarchists oppose the state. I just question its viability. Still, I would like to give it a go.

Vc: “The Constitution slyly stripped limitations from the Articles of Confederation and granted powers couched in vague language. This allowed the continual accrual of power and centralization that we see today.”

Much of what the founders did was pragmatic politics. The 13 states started the revolutionary war and then refused to pay for it. Had it not been for the generosity of the French government, which we bankrupted, and the Dutch, we would have lost the war. Increasing the power of the federal government to tax was just a pragmatic move to make sure it didn’t suffer from the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the state legislators again.

I don’t think the Constitution allowed any of the growth of power of the government. The writers were honest men. They didn’t foresee that politicians who succeeded them would be so incredibly dishonest in interpreting the Constitution. Had the Constitution been followed as written and interpreted from original intent, the federal government would be less than 1% its current size. But dishonest presidents, congressmen and justices twisted the wording of the document, or simply ignored it. A good example if the fraudulent use of the interstate commerce clause. The court has allowed dishonest presidents to commit all kinds of crimes by appealing to that clause.

Maybe the writers didn’t foresee such incredible dishonesty, or maybe they foresaw it and realized that if people were going to be so immoral, they could do nothing to stop them. I tend to lean toward the latter because many of the founding fathers warned that an immoral people would rip through the Constitution as though it were a spider’s web.

If politicians are willing to distort words to the degree that day means night, and black means white, then we have left the rule of law far behind and have descended into the mud pit of the arbitrary rule of men with no limitations on their power or the evil they can commit. When the leadership has descended to that level of immorality and the people applaud it, there is nothing left to do but fold our hands and wait for the wrath of God.

proud patriot July 3, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Stephen’s pathetic screed about the Declaration of Independence misses the whole point: the Declaration was the first legal document ever to express the right of the populace to “alter or abolish” their system of government. Without that right, a libertarian anarchocapitalist paradise is just a pipe dream, not a viable political option.

In his essay “When Did The Trouble Start?” he somehow paints the Bill of Rights (which protects individual freedoms against federal and state governments) as destructive to liberty.”The Constitution as ratified in 1789 was fine as it was. Boy, what a great achievement. But the Bill of Rights was added in 1791. If this had not been done…. there would be stronger structural limits on federal action in place today.”

Then, he pinpoints the Protestant Reformation as the cause of the “trouble”.

Stephen Kinsella, an opponent of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and a defender of royal and papal authority, somehow passes for a libertarian. Weird, I know.

Andrey July 3, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Good article.

A lot of perceptive men understand that democracy is a very dangerous, destructive system. At least a lot of monarchies were static and limited. A democracy is the most dynamic system, it always changes and grows, and it tends to become more and more oppressive, have more and more regulations and interventions into human life. That’s the nature of the system.

The constitution was probably intended to limit the democracy, but it seems that the nature of the system dictates its growth, not some document intended to limit it. Under monarchy there were fewer incentives for rulers to grow government as fastly and recklessly as under democracy. Under democracy there are a lot of incentives and opportunities to do that and more ‘rulers’ who can do it and get away with it.

vc July 3, 2009 at 8:47 pm

@fundamentalist

your naivte is astonishing.

Hamilton,for example, wanted to appoint George Washington as permanent president and have him appoint the state governors.

They didn’t dislike the British mercantilism in principle, they just wanted to be in charge of it.

The simple exclusion of the word “expressly” before the word delegated was a purposeful act meant only to allow the unbridled power of the central government to unfurl at an acceptable pace.

I strongly suggest that you read http://www.javelinpress.com/hologram_of_liberty.html

And consider Spooner’s admonishment: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.”

IMHO, even a cursory reading of the relevant texts, the early case law, and the history indicates that the coup succeeded and that everything we have today was preordained. “We are living in Hamilton’s republic”, as a great thinker has recently stated.

Gil July 3, 2009 at 9:54 pm

You got to be kidding vc, fundamentalist’s on a roll! The system failed because the people failed. If the average people are generally terrible then society (regardless of its make up) will be terrible. After all, that Mudderidge quote is utter garbage – presidents, prime ministers, senators, ministers, etc., are flesh&blood people as well. His rant gives a righteous sense of helplessness as he depicts the state as ‘all-powerful’, He reckons he can get away with that bull because few people would actually know what it’s like to live in a stern monarchy or papacy. Those who actually did usually regarded the monarchy or the papacy as seemingly all powerful too (e.g. Frank McCourt).

However, I disagree with “I don’t think the Constitution allowed any of the growth of power of the government.” The U.S. Constitution has an amendment process therefore it can be change and the government thereof (e.g. the 16th Amendment).

Yossarian July 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

J.K. Baltzersen: I am largely in agreement with Mr. Kinsella. However, I have doubts about how helpful his provocative style is.

Why the doubts? I thought it was terrific and meant to be provocative. Judging by a lot of the comments, this essay hit a nerve with a lot of people who expressed anger that someone would dare question anything about the intentions of the founding fathers.

I mean really – I’m new here, but if I didn’t know better, I’d think I had stumbled across a conservative or republican site: pro-founding fathers, pro-Constitution and DOI, etc. Yikes.

Fundamentalist: The writers were honest men. They didn’t foresee that politicians who succeeded them would be so incredibly dishonest in interpreting the Constitution.

Well, you may be right about that if you gloss over Washington’s saddling up Old Paint to lead troops to put down a tax “rebellion” and the precedent-setting of “implied powers” and his national bank and John Adams’s Alien and Sedition Acts, and Jefferson’s embargo and Louisiana Purchase, and Monroe’s war and the Monroe Doctrine.

Fundamentalist: [the Flounders] weakness was in misjudging human character. They believed man is better than he really is.

Wrong. The founding fathers never trusted or even liked the masses, but held them in contempt, like all politicians. Hamilton wrote that the people, being turbulent and changing, could not judge or determine right, and that “nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy. Their turbulent and uncontrolling disposition requires checks.”

Then there are the People-Are-Stupid letters exchanged between Jay and Washington. In 1786, John Jay wrote to Washington: “The mass of men are neither wise nor good…” to which Washington replied: “We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature… Experience has taught us, that men will not adopt & carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good without the intervention of a coercive power.” Washington to Jay, 1787: “…mankind are not competent to their own government, without the means of coercion in the Sovereign.” Washington to Madison, 1787: “I have my doubts whether any system without the means of coercion in the Sovereign, will enforce obedience to the Ordinances of a Genl Government.”

The Flounders were only against the King eating out our substance because they wanted to do it.

Good job Stephan, more, more!

mdeals July 4, 2009 at 12:49 am

Monarchy isn’t perfect as Hoppe argues .

Michael July 4, 2009 at 5:30 am

Yeah, no thanks, I’d rather the world didn’t have, what, Canada + UK + America + ??? all under one top government.

DS July 4, 2009 at 7:05 am

Comment on a couple of odd quotes along the same the vein:

“King George III had no income tax on Americans.”

“I’d be very happy to change systems and only pay 1% to a distant king and get to keep 99% of my income.”

First, you are aware that the Constitution had to be amended in order to institute a permanent income tax (Lincoln did it unconstitutionally and it was revoked), right? If the Constitution caused the income tax, why did 3/4ths of the States have to agree to amend teh document in order to allow it? The implication in these quotes is that the Constitution allowed for and even encouraged the income tax.

The original income tax was at a very low rate and supposedly only paid by the very rich. ALL taxes start small and grow over time, how do people who presumably have read Mises, Rothbard and Hayek not know that?

The Constitution was certainly not a perfect document, mainly because it contained the seeds of its own destruction in a couple of vague passages and because the document’s writers did not take into account the idea that everybody in the Federal government and the majority of the citizens who elect them would decide to just ignore it when it didn’t fit their whims, or twist its words to mean exactly the opposite of what it intended. The Constitution was created in secret in order to re-write the Articles of Confederation, an imperfect document whose flaws were greatly exagerrated for sure. I don’t even argue that the “Founding Fathers” were a homogeneous group who were all of the same mind, or who were universally brilliant, honest or benevolent – they were flawed individuals who were acting partially in their own self interest. They created a hybrid document that was a compromise, as all things written by comittee end up being. The document created as many questions as answers which is why the politics of the early republic were so nasty, confrontational and personal – because they were arguing over real issues unlike the phony dance played out by Demoplicans and Republicrats today. I don’t think anybody who visits this site thinks the path eventually taken was the right one, but I don’t think this path was the destiny of the United States, just unfortunately where it ended up. In order to get to where we are today the Constitution had to be violated and ignored repeatedly to the point where it isn’t even used any more. It truly is a relic and a museum piece, literally and figuratively.

But to argue that the secession from England was a mistake, that the Declaration of Independece was a fraudulent document and that the Americans would have been better off and had more liberty under the monarchical rule of a mercantilist empire is absurd in the extreme.

I try to only use the word Stupid once a year. I’m using it now.

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