Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FDR, Obama, and Sykes

Charlie mentions an article which tells us that Obama will not have to work too hard to transmogrify the Federal Gummint into a Super-Leviathan, as FDR did a bunch of the heavy-lifting a long time ago.

By co-incidence, Patrick Deneen had something to say about that.

Taking a longer view, we can find some instructive thoughts on the current financial crisis from a number of the original opponents to the Constitution. Many will recall we last heard from these so-called "Anti-federalists" nearly 220 years ago, when they expressed what were then thought to be overheated concerns about "consolidation" that would be effected gradually under the proposed Constitution. "Consolidation pervades the whole constitution" wrote Pennsylvania's opposition in the ratification debates. Over and over, its opponents saw the grant of powers that promised eventual consolidation of power to the center, and the evisceration of the place of the States and robust local diversity. "The convention appears to have proposed the partial consolidation evidently with a view to collect all powers ultimately, in the United States into one entire government," warned "The Federal Farmer." The lever by which power would ultimately be accrued was the use of powers not necessarily then required, but granted for future possible use as would be "necessary and proper." Wrote the Pennsylvania minority, "the legislature of the United States are vested with great and uncontroulable powers, of laying and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; of regulating trade, raising and supporting armies, organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, instituting courts and other general powers.... And if they may do it , it is pretty certain that they will; for it will be found that the power retained by the original states, small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of government of the United States; the latter, therefore, will be naturally inclined to remove it out of its way."


They saw that the particular way that this consolidation was being effected was by the hurried response to a crisis, and the willingness of a populace to acquiesce to a grant of power to the center in an effort to contain not just such a crisis, but the uncertainty it aroused - especially financial anxieties

Umnnnnhhhhhh...yah, yah, yah....

...as financial and political systems expand, crises cannot be contained, and enlargement and consolidation of powers is deemed to be the only solution. A system inaugurated theoretically with the aim to shrink government to small and legitimate size has been the driver of the most massive expansion of public, financial, police and military power in the history of humanity

And (believe it or not) it gets worse:

...one likely outcome of our decades-long investment in the creation of a global financial system will be a concerted effort to set into motion the creation of new international institutions and organizations that will almost as surely have a propensity to accumulate power to the center as that same propensity was perceived by the Anti-federalists. Just as surely, we are likely to see calls for a new global system that can respond to what are now de facto global crises

And the lever-operators will be the antitheses of Palins and plumbers:

...just as surely, the people who will guide us through these crises - people who have the acumen and savvy, the education and credentials to navigate from the center - will bring to bear the particular values they have learned from the culture and its institutions of higher learning, above all, ethics of extraction, mobility, abstraction, meritocracy, and economic materialism. Views that are deemed backwards or insufficiently progressed - even if popularly supported - will be summarily excluded, although it will be claimed that such exclusion will be done in the name of "democracy." Excluded still - following the concerns of over 200 years ago - will be "every order of men in the community ... - professional men, merchants, traders, mechanics, etc.," who will enlarge the sorts of concerns and commitments that are undertaken in the name of the common good.


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