Monday, July 24, 2017

Politics As Usual

Politics as Usual
P. Schultz

            Below is a link to an article entitled “Republicans are in Full Control of the Government – But Losing Control of Their Party.” It is an interesting article but what the article fails to take note of: This is what the mainstream Republicans want because it means the status quo will continue and, if it continues, they continue and, hopefully for them, continue to control the party.
Here is the key passage: “Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have described the dynamic between the White House and GOP lawmakers as a “disconnect” between Republicans who are still finding it difficult to accept that he is the leader of the party that they have long controlled.
“The disconnect is between a president who was elected from outside the Washington bubble and people in Congress who are of the Washington bubble,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who works closely with the White House. “I don’t think some people in the Senate understand the mandate that Donald Trump’s election represented.”
Whether Trump had a mandate is questionable but he does have the presidency and this is a threat to those mainstream Republicans who share little with Trump politically and like him even less. So, what to do? Well, appear to be incompetent, bogged down in intraparty fights, and little or nothing will change. And because the most powerful Republicans want to preserve the status quo, Trump’s attempts to move them will fail.
But what about the country? I can hear it now: "But the country is getting screwed?" Of course it is. But where's the news in that? That's been going on since at least 1980 and Reagan's election. I mean just because Bill Clinton didn't screw Monica doesn't mean he didn't screw us!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What is Anti-Federalism?

What is Anti-Federalism?
Dr. Peter Schultz

            Those called the “Anti-Federalists” were, as most know, those persons who opposed the ratification of the Constitution when it was proposed in 1787 to the thirteen states. Among these persons were Patrick Henry in Virginia, Melancton Smith in New York, and Mercy Warren in Pennsylvania. It is the purpose of this paper to provide an overview of what the Anti-Federalists stood for and why they thought the proposed Constitution ought not be ratified.

            To begin at the beginning and where most would agree, the AF were proponents of what has been called “the small republic theory” of government. According to this “theory,” perhaps most famously cast in its modern form by a Frenchman by the name of Montesquieu, liberty could only be secured in small societies, i.e., geographically small societies. The reasons for this theory may be rather easily stated in the following three propositions.

            First, it was thought that only in small societies would people voluntarily obey their government. Second, it was thought that only in small societies could governments be genuinely responsible to the people. And, third, it was thought that only small societies could produce citizens, i.e., those kinds human beings necessary for maintaining republican forms of government. It will useful to consider each of these propositions to see what each meant or means.

            First is the thought that only in small societies would people voluntarily obey their government. This may be illustrated rather easily by contrasting life in small towns and life in big cities today. In small towns, a police force is often almost unnecessary, whereas in a city like Boston a police force is absolutely necessary or indispensable. Some small towns in northeast Connecticut, for example, don’t even have a police force and rely pretty much on state troopers for their law enforcement, such as it is. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and I must say that mothers were far more important in maintaining order than the police force there.

            Of course, a city like Boston is inconceivable without a police force, and a rather large and powerful police force at that. It is useful to consider what this means. What we call “police forces” are in fact military institutions. Like the military, the police wear uniforms, carry weapons, and are authorized to use those weapons even if it means that someone might die. This is not to say that there is no difference between the Boston police force and the U.S. Marines. It is only to say that there are similarities that we often overlook.

            Now, it is important to note the implication of the Boston situation. Government in Boston, maintaining law and order there, requires the presence of a military force, whereas life in small towns does not. Hence, there is a “militarization” that takes place in large cities, meaning not only a militarization institutionally but also a militarization psychologically. It also means that government in a city like Boston relies on force rather than consent to maintain law and order, to maintain the peace. Everyone knows, moreover, that militarization which leads to the use of force to maintain the peace and good order of a society requires, inevitably, that personal liberties will be compromised. There will be, necessarily and inevitably, less liberty in Boston than in a small town. And, perhaps more importantly, force will be the glue that holds the society together in large places whereas it is less necessary as the social glue in small places. [1]

            Insofar as force predominates then it is all too easy for fear to become another aspect, perhaps even the key ingredient, of whatever it is that binds a society together. And, of course, it is a question of what happens to human beings who are governed by means of fear. It is even possible to wonder whether such humans would be capable of self rule as they would always have to be controlled by others who make them aware of “the fearful” stuff. And it would be advisable under these conditions to have a government that struck fear into the hearts and souls of those it is governing. Such a government could hardly be called “republican.”

            Second, it was thought that only in small societies could government be genuinely responsible to the people. It is important to note at the outset that “genuine responsibility” meant to the AF a government that adhered to popular opinion, not a government that tried to mold popular opinion or lead popular opinion as is so commonly said today. A genuinely responsible government was responsive to the people.

            To ensure such responsiveness, the AF would rely on certain institutional devices, especially short terms in office and strict term limits. This would help to ensure that the people representatives would not lose touch with the people, as so often happens with what we call “professional politicians.” Under an AF scheme there would be no professional politicians and, hence, little chance that politicians would get “out of touch.” Of course, for this to make sense it is necessary to see that the AF had a different conception of what governments should do than we have today. That is, if governments are to undertake large social projects that seek to “re-form” society, then professional politicians would be advisable. However, if governments are not to undertake such social projects, then professional politicians are not necessary. The AF were fond of arguing that “no great talents “ were needed in politics but, again, to make sense of this argument, it should be kept in mind that it entails a very different understanding of the proper scope of government than the one we have today or than the one the Federalists had in 1787.

            But these institutional devices were only part of the AF thought on maintaining a genuinely responsible government. Also, they thought it necessary that those who would be elected to office should be like the people they represent. That is, the people representatives, together, should “re-present” the people in the government. The government should look like, have a likeness with the people themselves. So, unlike today, when Representatives and Senators are unlike the people they represent, in an AF scheme government officials would reflect the people.

            It is useful to emphasize that such a scheme would require a very different mindset than the one that predominates today. Today it is thought that what might be called an “elite” is best suited to the task of governing and, hence, we elect those who we think are “better” than we are, at least in a socio-economic sense. For example, it is quite common to hear a person praised for taking a government position that requires an economic sacrifice on their part, whereas it is implied that the wealthy are better suited for government than the less well off, the middle or lower class people.

            For the AF scheme to work, a middle class society is necessary and by a middle class society I mean a society in which people aspire to be middle class and think that those in the middle class are “better” than either the lower classes or the upper classes.[2] Hence, in such a society, the people would choose middle class people to represent them. Only with such a mindset would those chosen to govern be like most of those they represented. 

            Further, an AF scheme would then require a middle class society as its base. Such a society would not then aspire to the creation of great wealth, either in individuals or for society itself. And it might be fair to say that such a society would not aspire to greatness of any kind, cultural, economic, militarily, or politically. As it might be put today, such a society would not aspire to “super power” status. For illustrative purposes, I might say that a middle class society would aspire not to greatness but to goodness. It would seek to be good, not great. It would not undertake projects, either at home or abroad, that sought to achieve greatness. To be flippant about it, such a society would not aspire to “No Child Left Behind” but, rather, to supply all children with the nurturing needed to be decent. Education would not be seen as a ladder to “success” or “fame,” but rather an arena where children would be taught not competition but caring. Or it would not declare “a war on drugs,” a war that sought the eradication of mind-altering and illegal drugs. Rather, it would seek to build the kind of society in which such drugs would seem superfluous or irrelevant to the kind of life style most people aspired to.

            Lastly, the Anti-Federalists thought that it was only in small societies that the kind of citizen could be developed who could support the demands of a republican government and a republican society. Republican government demands that the governed control the governors, which is only possible, as was intimated above, in simple, close-knit societies with relatively simple, transparent governments. And a republican society demands a kind of likeness among the people, the kind of likeness that blurs the differences between the rich and the middle and lower classes. This is why George Mason at the constitutional convention suggested that the national government be empowered to pass “sumptuary laws,” that is, laws that regulate such events as funerals or weddings in order to prevent the few from making ostentatious displays of their wealth.

            But there is another aspect to republican citizenship as understood by the Anti-Federalists which is perhaps best understood by contrasting it with the kind of citizenship that was embraced by the progressives at the beginning of the 20th century and which still carries a lot of weight today. That citizenship was to be characterized by what might be called a “nationalistic fervor,” that is, an intense nationalism that would create unity among the people. One might say that the progressives sought to replace a “union” with a “nation.” In unions, the parts retain their integrity while in nations, the parts are subsumed into or consumed by the whole. In a nation, the parts become invisible or are “disappeared.” In this view, citizens rally to the nation’s cause almost as one, after being summoned by a “leader.” They are to “ask not what their country can do for them but what they can do for their country.” Moreover, they pledge their allegiance in schools everyday, while standing solemnly at attention while listening to the national anthem. And those who won’t honor these rituals, whether for religious reasons or not, are not considered citizens.  

            Needless to say, there is little room for such a galvanizing citizenship in small or localized republican communities. Localized communities don’t have flags that are revered and they don’t have anthems, unless of course one exists to celebrate the local sports’ team victories. Moreover, as the purpose of government and society is to achieve good, not to achieve greatness, “heroic citizenship,” like the kind of “heroic leadership” that summons it, is not only unnecessary; it is irrelevant. That is, it would not make sense for a mayor or even a governor of a state to say: “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country!”  The kind of citizenship that exists in small republican societies is one that is vigilant with regard to government and especially with regard to people of great ambition. Both phenomena are dangerous and when combined are doubly so.
            No doubt, Anti-Federalism, understood as I have presented it above, will seem more than a little strange to us today. That is to be expected because taking Anti-Federalism and the Anti-Federalists seriously requires that we lift a veil that has shrouded our vision for a long time. The Constitution of 1787 was ratified and it has, we have been taught to think, worked well for more than 200 years. There is no doubt that the founders, that is, the Federalists who wrote, helped ratify, and helped implement, did some good work. But, and especially these days, there can or should be little doubt that while the founders did good work, their work is far from perfect. To understand why, it is more than useful to consult the Anti-Federalists, as they were the dissenters in 1787 and 1788. And not only were they dissenters; they were cleared eyed dissenters and, as such, they saw just how defective the new political order might become. The veil had not yet descended, the Constitution was not yet revered as it came to be revered, and they were still in touch with a way of thinking politically that no longer is visible. It behooves us to pay them some attention.

[1] Some will argue that in fact there is more liberty in large cities like Boston than in small towns and, hence, that is why people like living in large cities. In small towns, everyone knows everyone else’s business and, hence, there is less liberty. While this seems persuasive, it rests I think on confusing anonymity with liberty. Big city anonymity does offer more freedom than that found in small towns. But it is not clear that overall people are freer in big cities than small towns as is evident if one thinks of how children can live in small towns. Also, the constraints felt by adults in big cities, such as where they cannot go safely, are not insignificant and liberty must mean or include the freedom to move about as one wishes. 
[2] “Better” did not mean for the AF innately better. It simply meant for the AF that those in the middle class were, because of their circumstances, more moderate, more “moral” than those in the other two classes. For example, those in the middle class have to work for a living and, hence, have less time and, by the way, less money to engage in activities that are, for want of a better term, “unproductive.” For the AF, living as middle class was a “better’” way to live than to live poorly or, and this is especially interesting, to live richly.  In a genuinely middle class society, most would not want “to marry a millionaire” or to be millionaires. 

What Is Federalism?

What is Federalism?
Dr. Peter Schultz

            Having raised the question, “What is Anti-Federalism,” it seems necessary to raise the question above, “What is Federalism?” That is, what were the Federalists for?

            Here we enter a thicket from which we might never emerge if we were to try to figure out and summarize the views that have been attributed to the Federalists. As the victors in the debate over the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, the Federalists have garnered much more attention than the Anti-Federalists, as is always the case with winners and losers. Moreover, because they were the victors, their cause was victorious as well and, hence, people use them to support their various causes as they can provide a kind of imprimatur for these causes.

            So to avoid this thicket, I will not be spending time reviewing the various interpretations of the Federalists and their cause. Rather, I will move into what I think their cause was, paying attention to points of intersection between them and the Anti-Federalists.

            If the Anti-Federalists may be said to be partisans of “small republics,” the Federalists may be said to be partisans of “large republics.” Or as James Madison argued in Federalist #10, they were proponents of “a large, commercial republic.” So it may first be asked, What was the problem(s) with small republics and how was or were these addressed by the creation of a large republic.?

            Most importantly, the problem with small republics may be called “the tyranny of the majorities.” That is, it was thought that in small republics, majorities could form rather easily and because in a republic the majority legitimately holds power, then once formed these majorities would prove to be oppressive. One advantage of a large republic, perhaps even the advantage of such a place, is that it is more difficult for such majorities to form. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 10, a “multiplicity of interests” necessarily spring up in large and complex societies making it more difficult for “a permanent majority” to form. Emphasis should be placed on the word “permanent” because, of course, for anything to get done in a republic majorities would have to form. However, in a large, complex, and economically developed society, these majorities would most likely be temporary, coalescing in order to pass a particular piece of legislation, to endorse a particular policy and then disappearing.

            Moreover, because these majorities were temporary, it was thought that there was a likelihood that they would actually come to agree on something that was very close to or resembled what might be called the “common good.” Of course, no particular group was interested in the “common good” but because of the negotiating that would be necessary to form working majorities, it was thought that something resembling the “common good” would emerge from the political arena. At the very least, the rights of minorities would not be compromised given the absence of a permanent majority.[1]

            However, it must be said that there is more to the appeal of a large, commercial republic than reducing the possibility of majority tyranny, an appeal reflected by the character of the government created by the Constitution. A large, commercial republic was also appealing because such a republic would be able to rival monarchies in terms of greatness, in terms of what was called in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere “a great empire.” To create such an empire, a powerful, complex, and central government was needed. Simple government controlled by “simple” – read “middling” – persons would no longer suffice. A government that merely reflected the middling majority would need to be replaced by a government composed of representatives who represented a refinement of those of the middle class. Moreover, these types of representatives should be permitted to govern for long periods, to be professional politicians for the same reasons that these types were allowed to populate other professions, their superior talents. Unlike the Anti-Federalists, the Federalists did not aspire to “sameness” or “likeness” in their representatives.

            And of course such a republic must have a government that is composed of offices of great powers and much prominence. For example, there might be an office fit for the greatest man of the day, just as the presidency is often said to have been created with George Washington in mind. If such an office then helped make its occupant the greatest man of the day, the nation’s leading man accompanied by “the First Lady,” that would be fine as well. After all, it is not possible to have a government capable of doing great things without great offices and great men to occupy them. The greater the office, the more it would appeal to those men who are driven by, in Alexander Hamilton’s words,  “the love of fame, the leading passion of the noblest minds.” Men of noble minds want to do noble things and a government of great offices is the only way to make such doings possible.

            So whereas the Anti-Federalists argued that “no great talents” were necessary in a government, the Federalists did not. It is important though, to do justice to both sides in this debate, to recognize that neither argument is persuasive absent a consideration of the appropriate ends of government. If the wish is to have a government do great things, to remake society in significant even basic ways, then it is indispensable to have “great talents” in the government. It takes “great talents” to do “great things.” On the other hand, if the wish is to have a government that does not seek to do “great things,” that seeks to do, say, “good things,” then it is not necessary to have “great talents” in the government. In fact, as the Anti-Federalists liked to point out, such men would be dangerous, as great men with great ambitions always are.

            So at bottom then, the differences between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, the differences between what we call “small republics” and “large republics,” come down to differences over the appropriate ends of government. And it might even be said that these differences come down to differences over whether governments – and of course human beings – should seek greatness, to do great things, or should seek goodness, to do good things. If the wish is to pursue greatness, then a great government, composed of great offices filled with great human beings, is absolutely essential. However, if the wish is to pursue goodness, then a simple government, composed of simple offices filled with simple human beings, is absolutely essential.

            The Federalist had, it has been said by the leading authority on the Anti-Federalists, the more powerful argument.[2] Such would seem to be the case. The appeal of greatness, of doing great things, perhaps even as a recent president thought, of ridding the world of evil, is about as seductive an appeal as is imaginable. To do great things, to do the greatest thing, to create, would appear to be almost god-like. To conserve, on the other hand, as even Lincoln pointed out,[3] pales by comparison. But while the argument for greatness is more powerful, we may wonder if it is better. The more powerful arguments are such because they appeal to our passions, while the better arguments, although weaker, appeal to our reason. And so it is worth wondering whether, even though the Anti-Federalists made the weaker argument, they did not also make the better argument. They would not be the first example of human beings trying “to make the weaker argument appear stronger.”

[1] That this argument makes some sense, think of the areas where something very much like a permanent majority exists in the United States, viz., race, and then think the oppression of and what great effort it took to overcome the oppression of the minority race.
[2] See Herbert J. Storing, What the Anti-Federalists Were For.
[3] See Lincoln’s speech “On the Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.”