Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – The last caller to the program asked me what I thought the founders, why they opposed or why they afraid of big government. I said to him that to answer that question, you’d have to understand or explain exactly what big government would have meant to them. It did not mean to them what it means to us today, because we see this monstrosity and this excessive abuse of power that unfortunately has become commonplace, it seems, has been accepted by the rank-and-file citizenry out there, and is the great tragedy indeed of the early part of the 21st century, I think. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: The last caller to the program asked me what I thought the founders, why they opposed or why they afraid of big government. I said to him that to answer that question, you’d have to understand or explain exactly what big government would have meant to them. It did not mean to them what it means to us today, because we see this monstrosity and this excessive abuse of power that unfortunately has become commonplace, it seems, has been accepted by the rank-and-file citizenry out there, and is the great tragedy indeed of the early part of the 21st century, I think. That is precisely that the things that would have alarmed the founders don’t alarm us anymore. Perhaps this is as responsible as anything else for the current size, scope, and shape of the federal leviathan.
One of the things I told the last caller about, I was trying to explain what a founder might have viewed big government as. One of the things he would have been mortified of, absolutely mortified of, would have been a standing army. Of course, today a standing army is celebrated at the NFL, major league baseball, NBA, little league, anywhere. [mocking] “We’d like to thank our veterans.” Look, I don’t want to say, don’t want anyone to think that thanking those that have sacrificed body parts and have given the ultimate sacrifice and have been dispatched by politicians, that they are not worthy of or have not earned our love, our admiration and our honor, because most of them if not all of them start out as the most honorable among us, choosing to serve over life as a civilian. That view is one that is heavily influenced by what is now accepted norm. The accepted norm is we’ve always had this. That was supposed to be part of or is by design part of the tradition and the government that was instituted by the founders. That is just not the case, it simply isn’t.
Just to flesh that point out, I mentioned earlier if you’re a Founders Pass member (and why aren’t you?), in today’s Pile of Prep — I’ve been doing this for a week now. We just started this a week ago, another thing that we’ve added to the stuff we keep behind the curtain there. You’ll find Prep Better. It will be what I am reading that’s long form, meaning pages upon pages, maybe a pamphlet, maybe a book that’s accessible online. In this case, it’s an essay written in 1982 by Joseph Stromberg, “Country Ideology, Republicanism, and Libertarianism: The Thought of John Taylor of Caroline.” One of the things that is described as dangerous to American liberty at the time of the founding by Taylor is the standing army. I’m just going to read from a part of the easy. As I said, it’s very lengthy, and I don’t have time to get into the whole thing.
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Classical republican writers like Montesquieu had denied the possibility of stable republican government for a large country. To meet this objection, naturally brought up by the Antifederalists, Madison inverted the argument in the famous “Federalist No. 10,” asserting that “extend[ing] the sphere” would actually solve the problem of “faction”-i.e., the attempt of narrow interest groups to control government to their own advantage. [Mike: Boy, we have that in spades today.] In describing faction Madison stayed close to Harrington, but his solution—an extended Union to dilute and alleviate faction—was, as William A. Williams observes, an exercise in American mercantilism. [Mike: Mercantilism, by the way, we would call it corporatism today. We have that in spades, too.] By tying republican liberty to territorial expansion Madison long anticipated Turner’s frontier thesis and read the logic of empire into the Constitution (ignoring the Radical Whig belief that empire necessarily undermines liberty). In sum, Madison saw the Union as “a feudal system of republics” with power distributed between states and central government as in a medieval hierarchy.
Taylor denied that popular character by itself could produce faction (or Harringtonian class struggle). As McConnell notes, rather than arrange a Constitution to mitigate “the effects of factionalism” . . .
Mike: This will go back to Daniel McCarthy’s argument earlier that conservatives need to stop whining and start governing, in other words, figure out how to be better managers than libs are of the welfare state. Taylor of Caroline would reject that claim outright, and here’s why:
. . . Taylor sought “to remove [its] causes.” Class struggle was ever the effect of unjust legislation, especially mercantilist economic interference. Hence, as McConnell writes, for Taylor the obvious answer was:
“Remove the legal base from under the stock jobbers, the banks, the paper money party, the tariff-supported manufacturers, and so on; destroy the system of patronage by which the executive has corrupted the legislature; bring down the usurped authority of the Supreme Court.”
This radical analysis and program echoed the social welfare conclusions of the English and French liberal economists. They had judged that government was unproductive and must be kept to a minimum . . .
For Taylor, the Constitution, strictly construed, set up a far-reaching division of governmental powers. He supposed the states to possess full concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government. This commitment to concurrent jurisdiction as an essential feature of federalism explains Taylor’s vehement denunciations of the Supreme Court; hence his strenuous attack on John Marshall’s decision denying Maryland the right to tax the National Bank (McCulloch vs. Maryland, 1819).
Mike: This is just really thrilling reading here, and will help you to understand some of what you may hear me talk about on the program and don’t understand when it comes to the basis on which republicanism is built, which is and must remain the division of power. It is all about division. It is all about dividing power, and keep dividing it until it’s almost ridiculous that you divided it so much. You have people beginning to complain: We can’t get anything done. Fantastic! You have to work it out amongst yourselves. You’re going to remove the possibility that someone is going to be able to cheat at life, basically, and use the government to gain an advantage over the rest of us. That’s really the essence of it. I think that a study of this will reveal to you, as it has revealed to me, the proper role — if you’re going to ask what the founders thought the proper role of government was and how it could be limited, I think you have to look at Taylor, not just Jefferson, and probably rely on Taylor.
End Mike Church Show Transcript