Best wishes for a Happy Fourth of July weekend. Here are some thoughts to enliven your celebrations!
“… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
— George Washington’s First Inaugural Address (1789). Now we see its results.
The story of America
The first American Republic was born on 1 March 1781 following ratification of the Articles of Confederation by the 13 States. The Second Republic came alive on 13 September 1788 with a resolution by Congress following ratification of the Constitution by the States. It assumed its mature form with two events in 1803. First, the Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison re-created itself as a co-equal third branch of the government. Second, Jefferson – an advocate for limited government until he became president – expanded it by making the Louisiana Purchase.
The Mark II version of the Second Republic was born in 1931 during the fires of the Great Depression and WWII, when the Regime was re-shaped like Play-Doh into a drastically new form. Since then the government has grown in power beyond our control.
Now America dies
When I first predicted on this day in 2006 the death of the Constitution, readers found it controversial. Now the perilous state of the Republic is the everyday fare of op-ed pages. There is less agreement about the cause. Here are a few common explanations.
(1) Perhaps America has changed. Perhaps we no longer meet the conditions the Founders considered necessary for self-government, such as…
- A small government, now grown into the largest institution in the land.
- Independent citizens (e.g., farmers, self-employed craftsmen, business owners, property owners). Now almost all are employees.
- An educated citizenry, knowledgeable about the republic’s history and operation. The Federalist Papers were written for a mass audience. Now they are understandable only by the college-educated (and not by all of them).
- A people jealous of their liberties and willing to fight to preserve them. Now we whine as our liberties are stripped away one by one and bicker amongst ourselves (the “factions” feared by the Founders most among threats).
- A small nation. Our population has grown by a factor of 90 since the Convention.
- We are not the same people we were. Our children are raised by single mothers and spend much of their early years in daycare. Vast numbers are medicated by powerful psychotropic drugs. Sperm counts have crashed, warning of gigantic changes we cannot yet see or understand.
(2) Both the Right and Left tell us that evil people killed the Constitution, although they disagree on the names of those responsible. They agree that “we” are angels and “they” are demons (each somewhat accurately describes their foes, but lack self-awareness). They seldom explain why we elect and re-elect such evil leaders.
(3) I believe that we have grown tired of carrying the burden of self-government. Now we see ourselves as passengers of America, not its owners and crew. Inevitably others take this load from us. and in return govern in their interests (not ours). The Republic is falling as did Rome’s Republic. Christian Meier’s Caesar: A Biography tells the story of the Roman Republic’s last generation, with its eerie similarities to our own time.
Whatever the causes, the result is now obvious. Our allegiance made the Constitution powerful. Now it is just an old paper, invoked to justify whatever our elites wish to do. Already those on the Right and Left mock us to prepare for what comes next.
- Law professors Eric Posner (U Chicago) and Adrian Vermeule (Harvard) explained that the Republic has died (they are OK with it) in their 2011 book, The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic. See the first chapter at Amazon or read Posner’s summary at the Volokh Conspiracy. Bottom line: they tell us that tyranny is necessary and inevitable.
- Law professor Louis Michael Seidman (Georgetown) says “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution“ in a December 2012 NYT op-ed (a confident Leftist, in his 2013 book, On Constitutional Disobedience, he recommends that we become lab rats for his theory).
These days are the messy transitional period. Eventually, a new regime will arise on the ruins of the Republic.
“If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”
— Calvera, bandit leader in the film “The Magnificent Seven” (1960).
What comes next
This is an old story. The Romans responded to the death of their Republic with resignation. The popular philosophies during the Empire were Stoicism, Hedonism (including Epicureanism), and Christianity. How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died? Reform or resignation?
If you choose reform, there’s time to think and plan – but there is no time to waste. How should you respond to this milestone in American history? My recommendations: anger and resolution – but only thoughtfully, least we become emotional and easily manipulated pawns. When enough of us are angry, then we can consider next steps. We can learn from the failure of the Second Republic and build a Third Republic better than the Second. But the price for regaining self-government might be our lives, fortunes, and honor.
Something to think about on this July 4th.
He is taking it away. Perhaps someday we will deserve it again.
I will send a copy of Rome’s Last Citizen (see below) to those who post the best comments to this series of posts. I have ten copies. Only one book per winner. Decisions are purely subjective by the judges, based on the originality and quality of insights, plus supporting facts and analysis, of the comment.
A copy also goes to whoever suggests a new masthead for this website. “Helping to reignite the spirit of a nation grown cold” shows a hopeful spirit I no longer have.
For More Information
I highly recommend Martin van Creveld’s new book, Seeing into the Future: A Short History of Prediction. “From the ancients watching the flight of birds to the murky activities of Google and Facebook today, Seeing into the Future provides vital insight into the past, present, and – of course – future of prediction.” Our media overflow with predictions. This will help you sort the useful ones from the chaff, and so better see our futures.
- The danger facing America, the names of the guilty, and our best hope for reform.
- Our institutions are hollow because we don’t love them.
- We have become cowards. We can become brave again.
- We gave our rulers the greatest gift that we can give.
- The Founders’ error dooms our Republic, but not the next.
- This post changed everything: A new, dark picture of America’s future.
- Asking what caused our decline and how to fix it.
- A new beginning for America and this website.
Look to the past to see our future
The Founders looked to the Roman Republic for ideas and inspiration. In this time of peril, we too can do so. See two books about the people who were the poles of the forces that could have saved the Republic, but instead destroyed it.
Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar.