Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Audio & Transcript – Check out Mike’s exclusive interview with Professor Donald Livingston right here. They discuss the size and scope of the Federal Government and how out of scale it has become. This is the main focus of Mr Livingston’s new book “Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century.” Listen to the first five minutes of the interview and check out the transcript for the entire interview!
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Now to the Dude Maker Hotline. I told you earlier today that Professor Livingston would be joining us to talk with us about the new book, and what’s in the book more importantly, Rethinking the American Union for the 21st Century, edited and with an introduction by Donald Livingston. I have Professor Livingston on the phone line here. Don, it’s always a pleasure to get to talk to you, my friend. How are you in South Carolina today?
Professor Livingston: Thank you, Mike. I’m doing fine. We have wonderful weather in the springtime and all seems well.
Mike: I didn’t know, when I had the first copy of Rethinking the American Union book sent to me, that Kirkpatrick Sale had contributed an essay. I missed that.
Livingston: Yes. He did. It’s a very good essay, too.
Mike: It’s a great essay. I just got my copy two days ago. I read the entire introduction that you wrote, “The Old Assumptions No Longer Apply.” Then I was going down the list of contributors. You contribute; Yuri Maltsev, a Professor of Economics at Carthage College, who also was there and saw firsthand the Soviet Union breaking up and those mass secessions of state; Kirkpatrick Sale, as I just mentioned, who should need no introduction to anyone; Rob Williams, another essayist; Thomas DiLorenzo, another essayist; Dr. Marshall DeRosa, another essayist. This audience is all familiar with those gentlemen. Here’s a new face: Kent Masterson-Brown, a practicing attorney who has prosecuted and argued constitutional law cases from his offices in Lexington, Kentucky. Kent Masterson Brown gets right to it. Here’s the first essay in the book, “Fundamental Liberties.” Could you just talk for a minute about what listeners or what people would find in Rethinking the American Union book?
Mike: Give the example of the jury, Don, if you would. I hit my wife with that one last night.Livingston: Well, I think the main thing we bring for contemplation is that the United States, as a territory population, as a polity, is too large for self-government. This idea of size and scale is something that most modern political philosophers and political scientists don’t really confront. There are few, but not many. That is a thing can become so large that it becomes dysfunctional. That is the main point of the book. To explain that would take some time, but that’s the idea.
Livingston: Well, there are so many examples. A jury is a wonderful invention. It enables us to — it’s not perfect, but it enables us to protect the liberty of the accused and reach a just verdict. Twelve people have to reach unanimous consent. This forces people to listen to each other. If they don’t do that, they’ll be there all year, or they’ll have a hung jury, they’ll simply fail. If you increase the size to, say 120 people, there wouldn’t be time for people to listen to each other. You’d be there all year just talking about things. You wouldn’t have much time. You would have to resort to majority vote to decide a question of fact and law.
If you do that, you lose the jury. You don’t have a jury anymore; you’ve got a political game where majority rules. If you have the majority of votes, you’re not going to listen to the minority. You’ll just go ahead and vote. So size alone would have destroyed the jury system. A beautiful English cottage is a nice thing, but you increase it to four times its size, it would be a monstrosity. The same is true of republican government. Self-government requires a proper ratio between the population and representation. It’s very simple. The question is, what should that ratio be? May I mention what Madison thought?
Mike: Please do.
Livingston: He thought that the proper ratio was one representative for every 30,000 people. America at that time had around 4 million people. He thought a congressional district shouldn’t grow any larger than that. Some people thought it could grow a bit larger than that, but that was a fairly common idea at the time. Well, in 1929, Congress had increased the size of the House as population increased. In 1929, it capped it at 435 by law. Now we have 315 million people, by some estimates, and that yields one representative for every 750,000 people. That’s different from Madison’s one for every 30,000.
Mike: One of the things that I learned just by reading the first two chapters of Rethinking the American Union, not only is it about the scale of the thing, but it’s also about, as a guy named George Kennan put it, it is about the territorial division of it. At some point in time, it just becomes too large. It’s just too many miles in between where the governing happens and where the governing live, right?
Livingston: Yes. Well, you can see that a number of ways. Let’s suppose we keep that for the representation in the house, 435. When we get 435 million, that will be one representative for every million persons. It’s already too large, but that gives you some idea of just how absurd it is. That’s not representation, one for every million. Put it another way.
Suppose our representation had been in place in 1790 in the first Congress. There would have been five representatives in the House for 4 million people. That is an absurd ratio. The founders would never have accepted that, five representatives in the House for 4 million people. We shouldn’t accept it either, but that’s the ratio we have. These obvious facts just haven’t sunk into people’s minds to see just how we have lost. We’re not in danger of losing representation; we have lost it already. If Madison’s ratio were used today, of one per 30,000, there would be 10,500 members in the House. That is too large.
Mike: It would be impossible to get anything done, which would be a great thing, wouldn’t it?
Livingston: Yeah, but does that mean that Madison’s ratio was wrong or does it mean that the United States has structurally become too large for self-government? Kennan argues that it’s become too large. The only way to solve it, it won’t do to increase a few hundred people in the house, from 435 to 535 or 635. You’ve got to go with a different ratio. If you do Madison’s, you’ll have 10,500. There are only two ways to solve this problem.
Congress is never, ever going to solve it. It’s an oligarchy. It’s not going to allow 10,500 in the House. One solution would be the one that George Kennan suggests, and that is to divide the union into a number of federations of states. Rome divided when it got too big, between a capital in Constantinople and one in Rome. The Soviet Union divided when it became dysfunctional. Fifteen states peacefully seceded. The world didn’t come to an end, and some of those states are doing quite well.
We don’t realize how big this union is. For example, if Texas were an independent country, it would have a GDP about the same as Russia. We all think Russia is a big player. Romney not too long ago said it was our main enemy. Nevertheless, we think of Texas and Russia as on par economically. That’s just one state. If the states of the confederacy existed, the eleven states, it would be the fourth largest GDP in the world. There’s no reason why huge — we haven’t talked about Pennsylvania and New York and Florida. All American states are viable as independent countries. Kennan says we should rearrange this thing. We could have two or three federations, as Jefferson thought would happen naturally. That would be one way to deal with the representation problem.
Another way would be to not divide the union but to divide the House. Have the 10,500 members but put them in each state. Each state would have, in addition to its state government, it would have a Federal House of Representatives in the state, according to its proportion. Imagine if you had that, 10,500 representatives in proportion and put around the various states as a Federal House of Representatives. Try to float ObamaCare through that and see how you’d do.
Mike: I don’t think that you would do very well, seeing as how you have 26 states in court right now suing to stop ObamaCare from being implemented. Professor Donald Livingston is with us. The book is Rethinking the American Union. This is one of the things that I want to stress to the listeners out there. Many people hear the word “secede” and they start freaking out. They start thinking of Stonewall Jackson and Gettysburg and Antietam and Anderson, South Carolina and Lincoln and death, murder, mayhem and destruction. No one is advocating anything of the sort.
What Professor Livingston is bringing to the table here — and Don, I’ve been very clear with the audience, stressing this almost every day that I’m on the air here, that I believe this is the natural course of things. This is going to happen. You can try and stop it and deny it all you want, but it is going to happen. If it happened to the Soviet Union, if it happened to the Roman Empire, it’s going to happen to this one.
I was especially encouraged by what I read in your book, as you were summarizing in the introduction. I’d just like to read one passage from Professor Livingston’s essay for you people to think about if you don’t get the book, which is available in the store right now, by the by. You can even get Professor Livingston’s autographed copy. I’d like to read this. This is what Professor Livingston wrote.
The topic of size raised here is not to be confused with the way the term is used today in ordinary American political discourse. There one hears invective against “big government” or “reducing the size of government” or of “limiting government.” These expressions usually mean limiting the increase in government spending, or much less often, reducing the government’s budget, or reducing its functions, or reducing the size of its bureaucracy. George Kennan, however, means something quite different. He means a territorial division of the union into a number of smaller political societies. If the regime has grown too large with respect to population and territory, it should be divided. He is quick to add that this should not be done unless people see the advantages of it and really want it. To this end, he thinks we should begin a public debate on size and scale and how we might downsize a regime that has grown simply too large for the purposes of self-government. This book of essays is a contribution to that discussion.
Mike: I like the way you set that out, to just put people’s minds at ease. Look, no one is saying this has to be done tomorrow, but inevitably, it must happen naturally at some point in time. What would you say to people that are reticent to even have the discussion, Professor Livingston?
Livingston: Well, I think we’ve shown in the book that the union structurally is too large for self-government. That’s simply a fact these figures I’ve laid out in our conversation, I think, demonstrate. There’s no putting the head in the sand. Do you really want to have one representative in the House for every million people, which is what you’re going to get when we get a population of 435 million. That’s absurd. Well, it’s already absurd, one for every 750,000. There’s much more that could be said about the structural failure of self-government in the United States.
Something is going to have to give. We’re going to have to do something. We need to start thinking about that. This book is not — we’re not proposing a policy. I don’t know how to divide the union. It shouldn’t happen if people don’t want to do it. If no one wants to do it and we want to go along the same path, we’ll just go on the same path, but be aware of what’s coming down the pike and what’s already here with us. Americans aren’t. They’re sold on the notion we are a republic. They say we are a republic; we enjoy representative government; we have the rule of law.
We have the largest congressional districts in the world. We are among the worst in the world in self-government. France, Britain, Italy, other countries are much better than the United States in respect to self-government. We don’t have republican government. We don’t have rule of law. These are not cynical remarks by someone; these are just structural facts. So we should confront them and ask ourselves what can be done about them. Our task is to confront the issue more than it is to suggest a policy.
Mike: And you’ll find the essays by Professor DeRosa, Professor DiLorenzo, Yuri Maltsev, who was there when the Soviet Union broke up, Kirkpatrick Sale, and one of the later essays in the book by Yuri Maltsev is “Too Big to Fail: Lessons from the Demise of the Soviet Union.” We were taught as we were little children growing up, Don, we were taught that there was this big, giant, evil empire out there, the Soviet Union. Anything and everything communist was to be hated, to be guarded against and we were to be on guard from it happening or manifesting itself here in the United States.
Some of the things we were told to look out for is groupthink and people thinking alike, an entire nation being hell bent on invading other parts of the world and force-feeding other parts of the world communism, which was their point of view. As you point out in the introduction to the book, that’s precisely what the American empire does these days. Of course, we do it under the blanket of freedom and that we’re spreading liberty and democracy, but if you’re on the receiving end of our spreading of liberty and democracy, you’re not thinking of it from that point of view, are you?
Livingston: No. No, you’re not. I must say, I was caught up in the Cold War ideology along with other people. I have nothing good to say about the Soviet Union. It was awful, the gulag and all the rest of it. It was just awful. It was also exacerbated. We’ve got to realize that regimes stay in power often by war and by creating enemies and flaming passions about the enemies. The United States has done this, as well as other countries, I’m sorry to say. It’s taken me some time to appreciate that. Sometimes people are accused of not being patriotic if they don’t get on the war bandwagon. We need to stop and think a bit before we plunge headlong into these bellicose fears.
Mike: One of the other things that Mr. Kennan has offered is, not only would you divide into twelve, I think he says nine federations is his idea, but you’d have nation-state cities, wouldn’t you? Chicago would be a republic, basically. New York would be a republic. There’s another one or two in there, isn’t there?
Livingston: Los Angeles, yes. Well, that’s right. Look at Switzerland. There’s a wonderful country. It’s a little over half the size of South Carolina in territory. It has about 7 million people in 26 little states. These aren’t counties. These are states with their own constitutions, their own militia, etc. Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York in the ‘60s some time — I can’t remember the date — on the platform of New York seceding and becoming the 51st state. He could imagine some of the boroughs of New York becoming little Swiss-type states with their constitutions and the like. New York has around 8 million people. It’s a bit larger than Switzerland. There’s no reason why it could not be a state. I mean, 8 million people is enough for that.
Also, we need to realize that Fernando Wood, in the 1850’s, argued that New York should secede and become a free trade state, like Singapore. Well, Singapore’s not free trade so much, but it’s a city-state. In 1850 and the 1960’s, we’ve had significant people realizing that New York can govern itself. It’s just a creature of the legislature of New York. The city doesn’t have self-government really. It’s chartered by the legislation and run by the legislation, pretty much.
Mike: Professor Donald Livingston, Rethinking the Union for the 21st Century, a brand-new book, is on the Dude Maker Hotline. I was actually privileged to be at the Mises Institute about one year ago when parts of this book were presented in lecture form. I was there when Professors DeRosa and DiLorenzo made their presentations, one about the subversion of the Constitution by DiLorenzo, and the other about the Tenth Amendment awakening.
What I found interesting as I was thumbing through the book is Professor DiLorenzo’s about the Tenth Amendment awakening, DeRosa says that yeah, it’s all great, fine and dandy to invoke the Tenth Amendment where you want in attempt to nullify or interpose against the federal leviathan, for example in ObamaCare, but if you’re going to do it, you can’t go to the federal courts to do it. You have to do it inside your own state, right?
Livingston: This is something that Americans don’t appreciate. They have had drummed into them since the war between the states the idea that all power is located in the central government and the states are just kind of counties. Lincoln called them counties. They’re not counties; they’re states. If Texas is the size of Russia in GDP, it’s not a county; it’s a country in federation with other countries in the United States.
We need to revive the notion of state identity, that they are sovereign states, that they have constitutions, executives, legislatures, judiciaries. Some of them are older than the United States and helped create the United States. They are the sovereigns. That’s still the case. Nothing has happened to change that. The Civil War didn’t change that. That is a structural fact of the American Union. But, the central government, and its agencies, executive, legislative and judiciary, have given stand to the Constitution to centralize power. The states have to counter that. They have to push back using constitutional arguments. They can’t nullify laws they don’t like, but they certainly can nullify laws that, in their judgment, are unconstitutional, null and void, because they intrude on the state’s prerogatives. They have to do that. Only the states can do it.
So the last place the states ought to go is to the Supreme Court. I understand that people expect that to happen so they can go, but if the Supreme Court doesn’t decide things as they think the Constitution is, the states have the authority to declare what is constitutional because they form the constitutional compact. They should simply nullify what the Supreme Court says and say that Missouri is not going to enforce ObamaCare, or this part of ObamaCare, in its territory, not because it doesn’t like the policy, but because it’s unconstitutional. As Madison said, they have a “duty” to protect their citizens against violent intrusion.
Let me just say one other thing. It occurred to me one day — we talk about checks and balances, but only at the federal level. Another part of our system is the states can check the central government. That is a check and balance that we have not been using.
Mike: About a year ago, you were on this program. You dazzled a lot of the audience because they had never thought in terms of size and scale and how yes, governments like anything else, like bedrooms and little English cottages can get out of scale. You had talked about what the great republics of antiquity have produced and how small they were.
I can’t claim credit for this, but someone brought this up to me. What if the area in California that is known as Silicon Valley, just imagine for a moment that we’re not talking about Silicon Valley as being a part of the State of California, but we’re talking about Silicon Valley of being the Republic of Silicon. Would the Republic of Silicon be one of the wealthiest, most productive, most endearing republics in modern history for its contributions to mankind, Professor Livingston?
Livingston: I hadn’t thought about that, but I’ll have to think about it. It looks like it. Sure. Sure. Switzerland has more Nobel Prize winners than any other per capita. Small countries can do quite well.
Mike: I had brought up the example that you brought up. If you look at Italy during the Renaissance or just prior to the great enlightenment, and you’d mentioned the cities of Florentine — there were three cities that you mentioned. None of them had a population over 160,000, yet what did we get out of those cities? What did the world get out of those cities? Republics.
Livingston: Yes, they were republics. Florence had under 100,000 and it produced Michelangelo and da Vinci and Galileo and Machiavelli and world-class architecture, the Duomo in Florence, modern banking, opera. Of course, it wasn’t self-sufficient economically. It had to trade, but that’s true of most countries. Japan is not self-sufficient. It can’t feed itself on 97 percent of its soil. It’s an economic giant.
This is how America stalled. America started out with the idea of having small republics. This is why Madison is talking about one for every 30,000. This is what a republic would look like. If it got too big, it would split and divide. As population filled up in the United States — let me just say this. In 1776, the largest city in America was only 30,000 people. That was the biggest one. New York did not achieve the size of ancient Athens until 1830 with around a little under 200,000 people. The founders were in a world of human scale that we can’t even remotely imagine. We need to realize that all of the ideas they frame were tethered to that world. That’s how they thought. We ought to start thinking that way, too. We’re just too big.
Mike: One of the other things I tell people, that doesn’t mean you lose your common ancestry to Jefferson and Madison and Adams and Washington. There is no severing that link. The Scottish people, even after what has happened with — even though he was executed, the Scottish people have never lost their link and love and admiration and honoring of William Wallace or any of the other great Scots that you find statues of in Edinburgh. Same thing is going to happen here, but people are afraid. Professor Livingston, hold your thought for a second. I want to get some of the listeners in on this because they’re anxious to talk to you if you’re game.
Mike: Let’s talk to Neil in North Carolina. Neil, you’re on with Don Livingston and Rethinking the American Union. How are you doing?
Caller Neil: I’m doing great, guys. I appreciate this topic. Honestly, I think this is our last hope, I really do. I heard the professor make a comment a while back about the “oligarchy” would not allow Congress to be raised to another limit to change the level of representation. It kind of sparked in me, I really think an argument — well, when you see the Secretary of Defense go before the Senate and testify that they will go to the United Nations to decide when and where we will declare war, and they come back to the Congress and tell them what they will do, I think an argument can be made that we’re no longer under constitutional law. I wanted the professor to comment on that.
Livingston: Well, I think that’s right. You can mention the Supreme Court, too. The Supreme Court has made a number of decisions in its case law referring to EU law, European Law, and laws of other countries, international law. Our elites are interested in connecting with a global kind of government and law. That’s in place right now. That’s going on right now. Also, on social policy, the most important social policy-making body is the U.S. Supreme Court, which is absurd. Any of the important issues, abortion, gay marriage, whatever, you’re not going to have anything to say about it. I’ll be decided by the courts, unless you do say something about it. That’s the way it is.
Mike: Justin is in Texas next. You’re on with Professor Livingston and Rethinking the American Union. Hello, Justin.
Caller Justin: Hey, how you doing?
Mike: Well. Thank you.
Caller Justin: Just to let you know, my family has been here since 1619. I can honestly say that. I am a direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson. First of all, I’m proud to be a Texan. One thing I’m noticing around here is so many people are now talking about Texas separating from the union because we honestly feel like we’re not getting anything from the union and all the union is doing is hindering our state. It’s hurting our state more and more every day and people are fed up with it. Where I used to see American flags flying, I now see more Texas flags flying. People around here, we’re tired of the way we’re being treated in this area.
Mike: I think that sentiment is growing. Don?
Livingston: I would add to the gentleman’s remarks what I said before. Think about it. If Texas were an independent country, it would have a GDP equal to that of Russia. They would have the 14th largest GDP in the world. If it were an independent country, it could protect its borders against illegal immigrants. As it is, it’s helpless. Its Anglo culture, which established Texas through secession, is melting away. Hispanic culture is all very well. I have nothing against Hispanic culture, but I have nothing against Anglo culture either. There’s no reason why the people of Texas cannot determine their own demography, but they can’t.
They’re powerless, unless they assert themselves through forms of state interposition and nullification, and I don’t mean rebellion. I mean lawful acts of checking unconstitutional acts of the central government and forcing the American people to ask themselves, “Is this constitutional or not?” and for the states to decide it in conventions rather than going to the Supreme Court and having their fundamental liberties defined by nine, politically well-connected lawyers.
Mike: We talk about this. It comes up so often here, with the court, here on this show. One other thing that I have been pointing out more and more of recently, Don — Professor Donald Livingston here with his book Rethinking the American Union, which, by the way, you can get on our website. The professor has also graciously consented to personally autographing 100 copies for us.
One of the things I brought up this morning, we are now, as citizens of these United States, we are always taught to think in terms of “we.” There is no individuality left. Well, what’s going on with Trayvon Martin? We ought to do this. What’s going on with the stock market in New York? We ought to do this. What’s happening with the pipeline in North Dakota? We ought to do this. Who in the hell is “we”? When did it become “we”?
I heard one of the anchorettes yesterday talking about some case that had happened in, I think it was California. The person that was commenting on there, the guest I guess, was using the “we” language, too. I’m just thinking that’s a case that’s happening in a high school somewhere 3,600 miles from where I currently sit, yet I’m supposed to participate in determining the outcome? This is the mindset that has now possessed the people of these United States.
When it comes to the military, when it comes to our invasions, when it comes to our wars, when it comes to our displays of jingoistic military pride at events, it’s all for one, one for all, one union indivisible and if you don’t like it, we’ll either lock you up in jail or we’ll export you. What form of freedom is that, Professor Livingston?
Livingston: That’s one thing — Yuri Maltsev, who has an essay in this book, he was on an advisory committee to Gorbachev before he left the Soviet Union. He remarked to me one day that he was stunned by this “we” language, the very thing you brought up, that “we do this” and “we do that.” What this means is that when the policies are bad, they’re policies we’ve made. We’ve done this. Since we’ve done it, we’re sort of reconciled to it. You can’t just disown what you’ve done, in a way. He said in the Soviet Union, they didn’t talk that way. They talked about what they did, what they did to us. He said the language didn’t exist.
We need to get to the point that, since we do have an oligarchy, that we start referring to what they’re doing, not what we’re doing. We’re not doing much of anything. We’re paying taxes. We’re being told to pay taxes and being told to shut up. I know that sounds harsh, but don’t you feel that way sometimes?
Mike: You certainly do. Professor Livingston, we are just about out of time. I have time for one more. This is JC in Georgia. You’re on with Don Livingston, Rethinking the American Union, which we’re doing here today and will continue. Hello, JC.
Caller JC: Yes, sir. I would like to express my opinion on this. It’s a great idea. Let’s just suppose you would take Texas and put all the workers in Texas and take all the people, this group off in Louisiana, and put them in Louisiana. Separate the states of the workers and non-workers. Who’s going to support the non-workers? The individual responsibility that we do not have in the United States are the people thinking I’ve got to have this from the government, you’ve got to give me this. That is the bottom line. Can it work? Can you do that? What’s going to happen if all the non-providers get separated from the providers?
Mike: You’re in luck, JC, because Professor Livingston just happens to be, his real calling, he’s a professor of philosophy. Don?
Livingston: Well, if the welfare check is cut off, people have to go get a job. They will sort themselves out. There are people who are handicapped and can’t do anything, but if you cut the checks off, people will have to get a job, they’ll just have to, and they will.
Mike: Even in that instance, though, you can’t delude yourself into thinking that rethinking the union and actually executing it makes things perfect. You still have to govern yourself. There still will be tragedies to deal with, natural disasters, maybe even invasions and wars. No one can possibly predict this. Folks, life stinks, get a helmet. The question is, when a war does occur, or when a tragedy does occur, or when a social policy is in front of you and it’s crying out for change, do you want to be able to effect that change where it’s closest to you, or do you want to trade a little security for a sliver of liberty, as Franklin said, and have it adjudicated for you 3,000 miles away in an alabaster building that looks like it belongs on a craggy hillside in Athens?
Livingston: Let me just mention something the Danish Minister of Health wrote back when Clinton was trying to get Clinton Care through, the medical program. He said that the United States should not have a socialized medical system because it is too large. He said if you have such a system, which Denmark has, you need to have a small country with a homogeneous culture because you’re going to need strong social discipline to carry it out. In other words, you’re going to have to ration care at times and so on. You need that kind of society where people are willing to undergo that discipline. He says the United States is too large, not homogeneous, to have that kind of discipline, so it should have a market economy. This is from a socialist Minister of Health in Denmark. I thought that’s very interesting.
Mike: I think that’s very applicable. Don, we have to leave it there. We’re out of time, my friend.
Livingston: Thank you, Mike.
Mike: I appreciate you more than you can possibly know, sir. It’s always good to talk to Professor Livingston.
End Mike Church Show Transcript