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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Arthur Shreds "Goddamned Piece Of Paper"

US Constitution
Actually a goddamned piece of parchment
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
- President George W. Bush (disputed)
Many of us are concerned with the deterioration of the oversight for the rights assigned to us by our Constitution, a document I hold some reverence for myself (with reservations, specifically regarding the right to property), and for the erosion of the rule-of-law in general. Arthur Silber brings our attention to an important fact: That this achievement of the American Enlightenment yet retains dubious pedigree: An early weapon, wielded by moneyed elites, against the ideals of true democracy.

Arthur Silber (emphases in original):
The Constitution created a government of, by and for the most wealthy and powerful Americans -- and it made certain (insofar as men can make such things certain) that their rule would never be seriously threatened. The most wealthy and powerful Americans were the ones who wrote it, after all...

Today, many of the people who complain most vigorously about the current state of affairs still clamor for a return to "real Constitutional values" and for the revival of the Founders' vision of the Republic. With very rare exceptions, their efforts are directed to the continuation of the Founders' revised version of "democracy," not to the vision with which the "Revolution" had begun....

What we have today is the rule of law -- the rule of law as conceived and implemented by the ruling class. As is true of the State itself, the law will always be conceived and implemented by
someone -- and those who conceive and implement it will be those who have the most power...

...again the most obvious point that seems to remain entirely invisible:
The State and "the law" will always be devised and implemented by those with the most power: that is why they are devising them and not you. To expect the powerful to erect a system that will strip them of every advantage they possess fails to comport with the lengthy testimony of history, or indeed with human nature itself...
Mr. Silber quotes extensively from Terry Bouton's Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution. Some brief samples, but go read Arthur's essay for a more complete case (emphases courtesy of Mr. Silber):
When it comes to symbols for the spirit of 1776, Pennsylvania has almost a monopoly. After all, it is home to the Liberty Bell, Valley Forge, and Independence Hall. It was the location of the First Continental Congress and the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence...

There is, however, another symbol of the Revolution that complicates the ending to the traditional story. ... the heavily loaded wagon of a county sheriff bearing the foreclosed property of debt-ridden citizens... one striking comparative fact is this: there were more Pennsylvanians who had property foreclosed by county sheriffs during the postwar decades than there were Pennsylvania soldiers who fought for the Continental Army...

...First, the cash scarcity [from the Revolutionary War] brought hardship to a wide range of people across the state, not just poor backcountry farmers. Second, although the crisis hurt some gentlemen, most of the pain was borne by those of the middling and lower sorts. And, finally, property redistribution performed by the sheriff ended up greatly widening the gap between the rich and everyone else...

In the end, the unequal distribution of pain translated into a widening gap between the wealthy and nearly everyone else...


...many of the gentry began embracing ideals and policies that they had once denounced as British "oppression." Frightened by the upheavals of war and spurred by a heightened sense of social status, many of Pennsylvania's self-styled gentlemen abandoned their commitment to extending political and economic power to ordinary folk. Instead, they adopted a new idea of "good government" based on concentrating both political and economic might in the hands of the elite. They launched a prolonged attack on popular ideals and the democratic achievements of the Revolution, attempting to undo reforms that many of them had helped to create. In this sense, the postwar period was essentially a replay of the 1760s and 1770s, with the revolutionary gentry playing the roles of Britain...
Things for all would-be fashioners of a more perfect democracy to consider.

As I've said, there is much more at Arthur's place.

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