[The following post should have appeared three weeks ago. We’ve just become aware that it was published to the wrong page and was probably not accessible to the public.]
I promise to go no farther (for a few weeks, anyway) than today’s remarks in my series of speculations about how we might reassemble some of our Humpty Dumpty republic’s pieces. It’s a depressing subject. I have not engaged it with the excitement of a utopian brat entering grad school who is pleased to treat people’s lives—and entire institutions of multi-generational pedigree—as chess pieces. I do not believe in man’s “perfectability”: on the contrary, I am convinced (like our nation’s founders) of the ineradicable corruption hiding within all things human.
It’s precisely for that reason that I have so far advanced the following ideas:
1) A defensive federation is essential. Individuals or individual states must not have the right to undermine the security of the whole. Undermining shared defenses in a persistent, deliberate manner and/or with obviously homicidal ends should be judged treasonous and punished with severity. (Hence my proposals are not secessionist, despite my frequent sympathy with secessionism in the recent past: quite the opposite.)
2) Within our restructured federation, states may do what they wish about marriage, consumption of mood-altering substances, possession of firearms, restriction of foods, provision of health care, and so forth. Their freedom to regulate the quotidian lives of their citizens will be almost unbounded, inasmuch as the federal authority’s interest is exclusively in defending the union rather than micro-managing lifestyles. Yet I write “almost unbounded” of state authority because (among other reasons) education and the news media, in their debased contemporary form, inevitably plunge us into issues of malevolent propaganda that must at last subvert the federation. I think objective boundaries are easy enough to draw. It really isn’t difficult to present both sides of a controversial issue in a classroom or newsroom setting: not doing so takes determination and requires design. Professors who preach embrace of Red China’s mass mind-control practices in the morning, therefore, should be dismissed that afternoon under federal law. Nobody’s telling them how to think—but the Federation must keep thought-hostile thinkers off of government payrolls. Institutional suicide should not be permitted. (Perhaps incurable malcontents could be resettled in other parts of the world that they suppose more amenable and that, for some reason, would consent to have them.)
3) Thanks to the liberality implicit in Item 2, many citizens will no doubt want to emigrate from State A and take up residency in State B. In the twenty-first century, this should pose few problems. There are no mountains or deserts to cross in Conestoga wagons. Yet new immigrants may have to abide in their adoptive states for a decade before being allowed a vote in local elections (with the terms of registration to be determined by each state). One of the most effective fulcrums employed in toppling our late great United States was the abuse of enfranchisement—abuse both unintended and designed: new residents flooding healthy states but voting in the manner that polluted their forsaken states, residents from far-flung societies with no republican tradition who embraced paternalistic government on reflex, illegal aliens who were allowed to vote in the certain knowledge that they would support the party providing them with cost-free benefits… this must not stand as universal practice. If certain states allow it to do so, then they must be permitted to crash, burn, and learn without dragging down their neighbors.
4) No Supreme Court will sit to adjudicate the essential, God-given rights of citizens; the federal bench’s role, rather, will be to determine when individuals or states have acted seditiously or traitorously against the interests of the federation, as a necessary measure of self-defense. Even in this function, one can readily imagine instances of excess and abuse, so the high court’s mandate would certainly have to be pondered much more deeply. Yet the clarity of risk in the single area of determining treason only underscores the folly—so visible in our routine affairs as I write—of allowing unelected arbiters to have thumbs-up-or-down power over how citizens worship, how they converse, how they hire and fire, and so forth. Our founders were uncharacteristically naive in supposing that an elite of robed Olympians would resist natural egotism and remain humble before the august authority of legal precedent (or dare I say “before God’s law”?). No such luck.
5) A corrupt executive appointing a supreme body of corrupt judges could conceivably do much damage, even in a looser federation; but it is to be stressed that the executive officer would himself be elected by a one-state, one-vote mechanism. No popular vote… and no electoral college, either. Since each individual state in this system potentially represents an experimental alternative (the phrase “crucible of democracy” has been used), one might view the fifty experiments as casting a collective vote. Item 3 ensures that no experiment may be manipulated—legalistically and against the will of long-abiding residents—by the sort of population games that the Left ruinously practiced upon the decayed United States.
6) Individual states would be free to form cooperatives within the federation for specific purposes dictated by clearly shared interests. Certain states might wish to address a regional water shortage or flooding problem together, for instance, since the root causes of such concerns seldom respect boundaries drawn on a map.
Among the few final recommendations I would make is an insistent one about tax structure. In the current (i.e., collapsing) system, we pay local sales tax and also locally varying property taxes (not to mention innumerable “stealth” taxes on licensures, franchises, and so forth). Everyone pays the sales tax: it’s the most equitable levy in the world. If you don’t want to pay so much of it, you learn to consume less. One might say, indeed, that it is a morally instructive tax, in that it teaches frugality and suppression of frivolous whimsy. In contrast, the property tax is a yearly fine upon citizens for the crime of daring to marry, save money, and purchase a residence as the foundation of family life. There’s no counter-balancing tax, of course, upon those who prefer to spend their wages on parties and vacations as they maximize their personal pleasures. The assumptions underlying the property tax, if they can be excavated from a century of mind-numbing habit, are morally outrageous.
Then we have the graduated income tax, exacted by the federal government and by most states. No secret here about its moralistic underpinnings: soak the rich. From those to whom much is given, much is required (even our secularist utopians can quote scripture when a context-less snippet props up their predation). The truth is that extremely wealthy citizens know all too well how to skirt the tax man: hence Warren Buffett’s notorious claim during the Obama years that he paid less tax than his secretary.
The real opprobrium of the graduated income tax, however, lurks in the presumption that resources not taxed are resources removed from any benefit to the commonwealth. This is absurd. The only reason any millionaire would transform his portfolio into gold and silver that he hides under a mattress is that his government’s catastrophic mismanagement of the economy terrifies him. Normally, this same Ebenezer Scrooge would seek out profitable investments so that his substantial capital continues to grow; and these investments, in turn, would finance new business start-ups and other opportunities for small players to prosper.
Money siphoned away from such activity by a greedy Nanny State, on the other hand, passes through dozens or hundreds of public-bureaucrat fingers before reaching its “charitable” destination: a paternalistic bribe, essentially, to secure struggling people in whatever trough life has set before them and, thus, to solidify them into a permanent constituency. In the process of handing off revenues down the line, unholy alliances between public and private sectors also build up like an economic arterial sclerosis. Industries selected by “corruptocrats” (after bribes, kick-backs, and campaign contributions) to supply the forever-needy grow fat and squeeze out legitimate competition. This is the squalid underbelly of capitalism which so justly outrages our know-nothing youth poised to vote for Bernie. The correct word for it is corporatism.
Here’s my recommendation. End all income tax and property tax (or allow states to mix whatever “tax cocktail” they wish… and then stand back to let citizens vote on the brew with their feet). Revenues spent in provision of the national defense would all be raised from sales tax. The ordinary Joe and Josephine would thus be able to understand with visceral reality just how much an effective national defense costs; and furthermore, no resident within the nation’s borders—legal or otherwise—would be able to skate on making a fair contribution.
To be sure, the outcry of protest would be deafening in any given fiscal year. It probably ought to be: that’s probably healthy. Government contracts allowing Lockheed to put champagne upholstery in a transport plane (or to charge champagne prices for wormwood product) would evaporate. Pressure would also be placed on state and local government to carve out a smaller piece of flesh. And… need I add that our immigration debacle would somewhat self-correct if “guest workers” absorbed a proportionate cost for the society from whose security they profit?
The lynch pin of the whole thing is a relative independence of states within a rigorously maintained defensive unit. We see the disastrous results of a system featuring the reverse emphasis when we look across the Atlantic (if, that is, we insist on being blinded to our own disaster). The member nations of the EU have only obligations to Brussels: the oligarchic elite, in return, recognizes no duty to defend any national border. If our entire planet is not to decay into an Orwellian dystopia, then we must allow our “visionaries” as free a hand as possible in designing their terrestrial paradises… and also insist—absolutely insist—that they face any consequences of engineering malfeasance that don’t involve mass die-off. People who want to live the lives of spoiled children or gibbering idiots should be free to do so unless they are, in fact, children or idiots. Otherwise, as adults, they have a solemn right to the harsh consequences of their folly.
In postscript, I will briefly acknowledge that I have written nothing directly this month about the two most subversive elements, perhaps, gnawing the marrow of our moribund republic: our broadcast media and our university system (whose tentacles reach ever deeper toward the toddler). The truth is that I don’t exactly know how we might chastise the worker-bees of “hive ideology” eagerly staffing these cultural hornet’s nests without echoing their mindless buzz. In the dark, prickly Garden of Manmade Eden where Sanders supporters are fist-pumping over the prospects of American gulags and Elizabeth Warren has magnified Obama-era “Net neutrality” into prison terms for those who speak against her royal will, one wants to reach for a pitchfork instead of wag a finger. Knocking heads in defensive reaction is hard to resist (and is also, let us never forget, the very response to which the propaganda machine would goad “deplorables”). For that reason, I am more than half inclined to rescind my suggestion above that college profs who dish out totalitarian indoctrination from the rostrum be cashiered: it may be a bit too Warrenesque.
Yet how exactly do we defend ourselves, and especially our youth, from these Satanic evangelists—these “murder is love” Mansonists? I don’t entirely know. I can only repeat, in parting, that allowing citizens who leap into that pot to simmer away without interference strikes me as the best recipe for stimulating a postponed adulthood.
The risk is that the witches tending the brew may call for adding, say, a Chinese or Iranian seasoning whose resulting stench threatens surrounding states. Somehow, the union’s safety must be thrust to the fore in daily practice.