Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Reagan Revolution as a Political Crime Against Self-Government

“A tremor of fear ripples through Republican ranks [1980] – with reason most compelling. Inside the supply-side quackery and immense and dangerous force lies latent, coiled up within it like a boa constrictor. Once the Federal Reserve succeeds in disinflating the economy, the one certain result of Reagan’s huge promised tax cut is huge annual budget deficits – more than $100 billion a year; $150 billion, perhaps, counting the military buildup. So calculates Reagan’s future budget director, David Stockman, age thirty four, a former protégé of Senator Moynihan’s. No mace in Stockman’s eyes are these huge crushing deficits, but an ‘opportunity,’ he calls it, a once-in-a-lifetime chance for ‘a formal assault on the welfare state.’ Given the ‘battering ram’ force to those deficits, a titanic reversal of history lies within the power of the Right: ‘Forty years of promises, subventions, entitlements and safety nets issued by the federal government to every component and stratum of American society would have to be scrapped or drastically modified,’ so Stockman recalls himself thinking in those heady autumn days of 1980. The ‘craven politicians’ would have no choice: dismantle the enterprises of government, liberate and exalt the power of capital – trampled and brought low for so many years – ‘or risk national ruin’ from the crush of those deficits.

“Therein lies the true beauty of the scheme: no choice. No need to persuade a feckless electorate that mitigating gross inequality is an enterprise unworthy of a republican commonwealth. No need to persuade them that a house of one’s own, yeomanly independence, security in old age, clear air and clean water, the principles of liberty and equality perpetually upheld (however ill served), a public realm shielded from hungry mobs and criminal despair (for misery is the enemy of liberty) are impermissible public goals – ‘bloated, wasteful and unjust spending enterprises,’ so the future budget director calls them. No need to undertake the hopeless task of teaching the national mob the sublime, icy truths of laissez-faire capitalism; no need to persuade them – for it is equally hopeless – that no purpose beyond ‘economic efficiency’ is fit and proper for a capitalist country, for America as ‘just one big business,’ for America the ‘industrial giant,’ as the President-elect likes to call this Republic. Are we not something other than that, the feckless rabble would ask? Have Americans not died on a hundred battlefields for something other than that? For something more like government of, by and for the people, which is supposed not to perish from this earth? No need to turn aside such questions. The American people are drowning in inflation, are clinging to the balanced budget idea like a shipwrecked sailor clutching at flotsam. Let Congress enact – but will it? – these huge tax-reduction deficits and then let Reagan demand they be wiped away and there is no need to persuade a free people to abandon their feckless public goals. Under the crushing weight of ‘fiscal necessity’ – a false necessity, necessity brutally, deceitfully contrived – the judgment of the vicious many shall be subjugated to the will of the righteous few, to us, the Right, keepers of the flame, dwellers in the political wilderness for fifty years, in the wilderness no longer.

“Such is the latent power coiled up within supply-side quackery – the power to carry out a brutal plot, a deceitful scheme, a political crime, a crime against government by the consent of the governed, a tyrant’s crime against a free people’s freedom to decide their own fate, a crime by no means deeply concealed. On October 14, poor, unheeded Carter had presciently warned that his rival’s program must lead, inevitably, to a $130 billion deficit by 1983, to a bloated military establishment and a federal government stripped, impoverished and paralyzed for years to come. Suppose the supply-side plot were launched and the people rose up against it? What would become of the Reaction then? What possible hope would there be for Oligarchy restored?”

Walter Karp, Liberty Under Seige, pp. 127-29

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Anti-Federalists will rise again!