What the Anti-Federalists Knew
As our national situation seems to be descending into violence, both official and “unofficial,” it is worthwhile to recall or recognize that when the Constitution was being debated in 1787 and 1788, those called “the Anti-Federalists” predicted just such an outcome as we are witnessing should that constitution be ratified. For example, some Anti-Federalists predicted that armies of national officials, both military and civilian, would swarm over the land, invading citizens’ privacy and forcing them to obey the laws.
What underlay these Anti-Federalist arguments were some rather simple propositions: (1) Human beings have a choice to make, either found their governments on consent or on force. (2) The only realistic foundation for what the Anti-Federalists called “the consolidated government” prefigured by the Constitution was force, not consent. Such a government would be too “distant” from the people, i.e., “distant” both geographically and psychologically, for the people to obey the laws voluntarily. As I use to say to students to illustrate this argument: “Think of the differences between ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘Law and Order’ regarding ‘law enforcement.’ Whereas in Mayberry, no one needed a gun, in New York City it often seemed like an army of occupation was needed to keep the peace.”
Those forces we call “the police” are, of course, actually military forces. They wear uniforms, they carry weapons, and they are authorized to employ “deadly force” in order to execute the laws. Whereas Mayberry could be governed without such a force, no large city or metropolitan area could be. Consent or force: That’s the choice, always and everywhere.
Not surprisingly then, we were better off as a people before “the feds,” agents of our “consolidated government,” got involved in law enforcement. We were safer as well, both physically and politically. Beginning with President Kennedy and ever since, law enforcement has been nationalized and, as a result, increasingly militarized. As I read human history, militarization via occupation, surveillance, and the use of deadly force always leads to resistance, always leads to civil unrest, as people seek to protect themselves from the occupiers and seek to preserve some degree of freedom. So we can, as a nation, go on as we have since the 60’s or we can choose a different road. Consent or force: That’s still the choice, always and everywhere.