Fireworks for the mind on this July 4

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.

American flag and skull.
By Sved Oliver. AdobeStock – 282055795.

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…

  1. A small government, now grown into the largest institution in the land.
  2. Independent citizens (e.g., farmers, self-employed craftsmen, business owners, property owners). Now almost all are employees.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. A small nation. Our population has grown by a factor of 90 since the Convention.
  6. 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.

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 StoicismHedonism (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.

Eagle carrying off an American Flag - AdobeStock-268033806
By Romolo Tavani. AdobeStock – 268033806.


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

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon. For something different, see “The Swallow – a story of the WWII Night Witches.”

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.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see my posts about fear, about the Constitution, and especially these posts …

  1. The danger facing America, the names of the guilty, and our best hope for reform.
  2. Our institutions are hollow because we don’t love them.
  3. We have become cowards. We can become brave again.
  4. We gave our rulers the greatest gift that we can give.
  5. The Founders’ error dooms our Republic, but not the next.
  6. This post changed everything: A new, dark picture of America’s future.
  7. Asking what caused our decline and how to fix it.
  8. 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.

Caesar – a biography by Christian Meier.,

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar.

"Caesar" by Christian Meier
Available at Amazon.
Rome's Last Citizen
Available at Amazon.


12 thoughts on “Fireworks for the mind on this July 4”

  1. What a great essay! I cry at our loss of the country as it was created and recreated; now I move forward with anger and resolution!


    For years I have been trying to identify the cause(s) of our decline as a Republic and as a society. While there are many causes, one of the primary ones is, in a word, selfishness or stated another way, we no longer even consider “doing unto others”.
    A second primary cause is the loss of “faith”. We no longer believe in something bigger than ourselves whether faith in a greater power, faith in others, (a belief that people are inherently out for themselves and therefore cannot be trusted), or, (possibly the worst of all), a loss of faith in ourselves. We look to others for answers, for security, and for identity.
    Another cause is that we as individuals and as a society have learned that someone or something else is to blame for everything. We do not take responsibility whether as individuals, as parents, as families as employees/employers, or as citizens. We are eager to blame others, to dissolve marriages, to let a “village” rase our children, to get all you can both as employees an as employers, and take freedoms and liberties for granted.
    Finally, and not surprisingly, our whole value system has become a reflection of what we have individually and collectively become. The object of life is not to grow through self improvement not is it to help others to grow and prosper. The object of life is individual enjoyment and pleasure. There is a reason that professional athletes are paid so much and why teacher are paid so little. There is a reason that spare time is spent with some kind of device in our hands or infront of our eyes providing mind numbing “entertainment” rather than providing an increased understanding of our world and our place in it. There is reason we depend on drugs to get us through the day rather than finding fulfillment at the end of every day for time, the result in time well spent improving ourselves or helping other grow and prosper.
    This brings us full circle to selfishness, a focus on oneself devoid of “faith” and relying on something or someone to provide for our wants and need and the refusal to take responsibility for anything.

    1. FM’s Masthead has recently been revised at the suggestion of a previous commenter. It is appropriate and good enough.

      Look at top of FM Page.

      1. Longtrail — and Raymond,

        I appreciated Raymond’s suggestion, and am uncertain about what’s best to have on the masthead. “Breathing on the embers of a dying Republic” is a bit of poetry and describes what I am doing (my coauthors all having given up, more or less). But it does not describe what I’m trying to do – let alone what I’m trying to accomplish. Which of these is more important?

        Looked at from my favorite perspective – operational utility – which will have the greatest effect on readers?

  3. Tentative, as I do not feel I have a firm grasp on the subject, though I am working on it and making progress.

    Numbers are the only way in. The first thing is to figure out what has happened. The most insight I have obtained is from Bishop, The Big Sort. Its documentation is around 10 years old, its repetitive, it probably has a liberal bias, but it makes the case that migration into like minded enclaves, by both left and right, and away from heterogenous ones has been a very important phenomenon.

    The next question is, what has it led to. The Coddling of the American Mind makes a plausible case that one of the consequences of the migration has been that people increasingly avoid any opinions that differ from their own, which are in turn those of the circle they have moved to. And one in which when they encounter them by accident they find them enormously threatening and offensive. We have a culture which has fragmented into islands of the like minded.

    Its not that people have become apathetic about politics, as was a general fear in the 1950s. Its that they feel more strongly about politics, and because they are more distant from any opposing view, demonize any who think differently from those in their island. At the same time, this leads to increasing pressures to conform within the islands.

    There are lots of forces that accentuate this. One is the relentless rise of sophisticated marketing, with its emphasis on segmentation. Another is the treatment of politics as just another form of marketing and product placement.

    One of the key observations is that attitudes to subjects become associated, though there is no logical reason they should. For instance, skepticism about climate change has no logical connection to skepticism about whether trans women are ‘real’ women. But these and many other attitudes have coalesced so that you can predict attitudes on one from attitudes to others. In the social islands, there are sets of beliefs and attitudes that people buy into as a unit. A striking case of this is that you’ll find few people who believe that there is a climate crisis, who also believe that wind and solar are useless as generating systems. But the two are logically quite independent.

    The islands are also associated with distinct preferences in consumer goods and brands.

    The basis for a functioning democracy is not a system in which there are two sides who consider each other more or less evil, and who alternate in power to undo what the other has done last time. Its rather one in which there is active debate and compromise to reach cross-party action on key policy areas. This is particularly true in the American model with separation of powers.

    That used to characterize America before about 1965, but it no longer does. I have no idea how to go about redressing the situation, but I am sure that unless the nation desegregates in social and cultural terms and learns again that arguing and compromise is better than shouting, it will not be redressed.

    1. Good points Henrik, of course with the internet etc. the fragmentation isn’t necessarily geographic; you can have your island of wisdom surrounded by a sea of ignorance within your own physical area. Or visa versa.

  4. The fragmentation is the theory of intersectionality, on the ground. Ethical theory usually justifies the local practice, and so in this case. We can be discriminated against because we are black, female, gay. We can also move places in which ‘people like us’ are in a majority. As the list of attributes of an intersectional being multiply, so society fragments into smaller and smaller segments. And also, unconnected attitudes cluster.

  5. just a side note, but what happened in 1931? I thought you were referring to the New Deal, but I think of it as happening from 1933-35.

    1. Steve,

      That’s a great point! By 1931, events had forced Hoover to abandon his laissez-faire policies. He limited immigration (FDR would shut the door, and send back hundreds of thousands of Hispanics). Starting in 1932 he introduced measures that were in essence the core of the New Deal: the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) and Federal Home Loan Bank Act – followed later by Glass–Steagall Act of 1932 and Emergency Relief and Construction Act (public works as fiscal stimulus).

      All of this was on too small a scale. But these were bold enough measures for FDR to condemn them and the deficits they caused. FDR ran to the right of Hoover in 1932!

      The history we’re taught is to a large extent fiction.

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