The Next Nullification Crisis

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American History

At today’s TPM:

Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is part of a class of Republicans who say they want to change the country fundamentally — and to that end, Cantor isn’t dismissing a plan by legislators in his home state of Virgina to blow up the Constitutional system and replace it with one that would give state governments veto power over federal laws.

For several weeks now, conservative legal circles have been buzzing with Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell’s plan to amend the Constitution so that a 2/3 vote of the states could overturn overturn any federal law passed by the Congress and signed by the President.

The problem of individual states objecting to federal laws has come up time and time again in U.S. history. Here’s a quickie review:

In 1781 the United States officially began as a confederation of sovereign states, but it was soon apparent that a confederation was unworkable and left much of the country in chaos.

So the original U.S. confederation was scrapped, and in 1789 the government was re-booted under our current Constitution. This provided for a much stronger federal government and reserved for the states some autonomy that the feds couldn’t supersede. And ever since, Americans have squabbled over exactly where the line between state and federal powers should be drawn.

Although much of the squabbling has been framed as disagreement over political philosophy, in truth the horse pulling the philosophical cart often is money. For example, a federal embargo act passed in 1807 was thought by Massachusetts to be a threat to its economy, and the state legislature flirted with the idea of secession. In the early years of our republic, New England states complained that the federal government was too much dominated by Virginia plantation owners who didn’t appreciate New England’s problems. Along with the grumbling, there was more talk of secession and lots of heated town hall meetings.

But later, it was the South’s turn to complain. A tariff act of 1828 that benefited economic interests in some states was considered ruinous by South Carolina, which voted to “nullify” the act within its borders. President Andrew Jackson declared,

I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.

After much chest-thumping on all sides, in 1832 Congress authorized the president to take military action against South Carolina. However, Congress came to a compromise over tariffs before the troops actually began to march. This relieved the crisis but left the arguments about state nullification of federal law unresolved.

Many of the arguments used by the South Carolina nullifiers were recycled in 1860 to support secession of the slave states. The Declaration of Causes documents drawn up by secession conventions made it plain that these states were seceding to protect what they saw as the foundation of their economic interests — the institution of slavery.

The Southern plantation class, which ran the southern states like feudal lords, worried that if more “free soil” states came into the Union they would eventually be able to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Several events of the 1850s made the slaveowners feel feel they were losing power in Washington, and the election of Abraham Lincoln, who ran on a “free soil” platform, was the last straw.

Ironically, to justify secession the slaveowners spewed out much rhetoric about their love of liberty and the tyranny of a federal power that might make them free their slaves. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

So, a Civil War was fought. The Confederacy went into the war with a number of advantages, the biggest of which was that it didn’t have to defeat the North militarily to win its severance from the Union. It only had to make itself a big enough nuisance for a long enough time that northern citizens would grow tired of the fight and concede. The North, on the other hand, would have to crush the South to win its compliance.

The South was crushed, however, and historians today cite two major reasons:

  • The North had more people and a big advantage in manufacturing capability.
  • The South was hampered by its “states’ rights” philosophy. With fewer resources, the Confederacy needed the full cooperation of every state to use what it had for maximum effect. Instead, several state governors refused to comply with Richmond’s requests for supplies and weapons, and they hoarded much-needed resources in arsenals and warehouses while the Army of Northern Virginia fought half-starved and barefoot.

The Confederate Constitution provided for a weaker federal government and a much diminished office of the presidency, and Jefferson Davis had less authority than did Abraham Lincoln to coordinate the war effort and make the most effective use of the resources at hand. In other words, “states rights” made the Confederacy vulnerable.

Of course, it didn’t hurt the Union that Lincoln was not only brilliant but was possibly the shrewdest politician who ever lived in the White House. But the main point is that once again, we see that a confederation of sovereign states has a big disadvantage over the federalized system provided by the Constitution.

Since the Civil War, “states rights” arguments have been most often associated with the “right” of states to deny equal rights to its citizens. Beginning in the early 20th century the federal government also has taken on a larger role in all manner of economic processes — product and workplace safety regulations, for example — and “states rights” arguments often are trotted out in opposition.

With no exception I can think of, the states rights issue pits the insular interests of the wealthy and privileged against the common economic good of the nation. And, of course, it also pits the “right” of local potentates to run roughshod over others against the protection of the civil liberties of United States citizens.

So today, in the spirit of the old southern secessionists who fought for the freedom to enslave people, Eric Cantor and his ilk have a plan to protect the Constitution by weakening the Union. Brilliant.

And Cantor is being supported by a movement of privileged citizens working on behalf of the narrow interests of the wealthy, in the name of liberty and patriotism. I swear, you can’t make this up.

But what this shows us is that it is in the interests of local authoritarians and powerful special interests to keep the federal government as fragmented and weak as possible. Weakening the federal government makes it so much easier to exploit and oppress the rubes, you know. I’m surprised no one on the Right has suggested bringing back indentured servitude, the 13th Amendment notwithstanding, although one could argue that the payday loan industry is creating a class of de facto indentured servants who can never work off their debt.

Now, it’s possible for these roles to be reversed. The federal government could become the power that limits individual civil liberties, and state and local authorities could become a bulwark against federal tyranny, but throughout United States history it’s usually been the other way around. You’d think people would have noticed this.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 1, 2010 @1:26 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head, maha.
    When they talk about returning to “Constitutional” principles, it’s the Confederate one that they’re talking about.
    Funny, though, I didn’t hear much about ‘nullification’ when Reagan and Bush “The Not Stupid, Just Evil, One” were in charge. And not at all when “Little Boots” had the Federal government under his polished cowboy bootheel.
    Why do you suppose that might be? It’s on the tip of my tongue… Maybe someone else can help me here?

  2. erinyes  •  Dec 1, 2010 @1:31 pm

    Hey Barbara;
    there are a number of George Santayana quotes that dovetail with your post, mainly that one about not remembering the past and condemned to repeat it.
    Then I came across this one that made me laugh out loud: “History is a pack of lies about events that never happened, told by people who weren’t there”
    I’m inclined to believe that’s true some of the time, especially in terms of western religion.
    I had a funny thing happen this morn while pumping gas in Haines City; a sweet young man came up to me with Bible in hand and asked me if I believed I’d go to heaven if I died tonight. I said ” No, not really”.
    He asked if I believe in heaven and hell; I said “No’.
    He asked why.
    I said “it would take a while to explain my reason, And I fear someone would shoot me if I took up this gas pump space much longer.”
    In the words of Yako Smirnoff, “What a country!”

  3. karl  •  Dec 1, 2010 @2:04 pm

    Lots of people have noticed this and lots of other people refuse to believe this, but for most people it’s just unpleasant to think or speak about this. Pointing out that the secessionists were defending slavery is considered a slur on our white southern brothers and sisters, however racist their contemporary rhetoric may be. What a country, indeed.

    BTW, you might want to replace “states’ rights” with “states’ powers”. It’s a more accurate reflection of the constitutional issues involved (people have rights, states have powers) and it discourages the subliminal idea that the poor little states are being discriminated against by the big bad federal government.

  4. maha  •  Dec 1, 2010 @2:29 pm

    BTW, you might want to replace “states’ rights” with “states’ powers”.

    You have a point, but the political theory (or family of theories, more accurately) being discussed is called “state’s right,” and if I call it something else it might not be clear that’s what I’m talking about. I do usually put “states’ rights” in quotation marks to indicate an ironic sense.

  5. CaffinatedOne  •  Dec 1, 2010 @2:39 pm

    The founders of the CSA might have had more of a ‘states rights’ philosophy as has been suggested, but if so, that’s not really reflected in their actual consitution. Their constitution was more or less a copy of the US constitution with some minor changes (Presidential line-item veto, states can charge tariffs on river traffic, and does restrain the federal government from certain types of infrastructure building) and one major change locking in slavery. Heck, it didn’t even allow for states to nullify federal legislation or secede (though it was apparently discussed).

    Given that, even for the CSA, it was never about “states rights” so much as perpetuating slavery.

    USA/CSA constitutional comparison

  6. maha  •  Dec 1, 2010 @3:39 pm

    The founders of the CSA might have had more of a ‘states rights’ philosophy as has been suggested, but if so, that’s not really reflected in their actual consitution.
    CaffinatedOne:

    The founders of the CSA might have had more of a ‘states rights’ philosophy as has been suggested, but if so, that’s not really reflected in their actual consitution.

    I disagree. For example, the very first section in the CSA constitution is:

    We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

    And the page you linked to, which is very interesting, says of this:

    The Confederacy’s preamble generally deleted any reference to collective interests, presumably because it ostensibly intended to be a country focused more on state independence than any sort of grander, national goal. The CSA does not promise to form a “perfect union” nor does it aspire to provide for the “common defense” or promote the “general welfare.”

    It does, however, explicitly evoke God. So there would be no court challenges about the Pledge of Allegiance in alternate CSA-won-the-Civl-War-world.

    This strengthens my point — “state’s rights” theory is very much reflected in the CSA constitution. In fact, the whole document reads as if some teabagger convention wrote it, except (maybe) for the “slave” parts.

    It’s true that most of the document is just a revision of the U.S. Constitution, but that makes sense if you realize they saw themselves as the actual heirs of the Founding Fathers, and that the damnyankees were the ones trying to change the system. In their eyes, they were clarifying what the Founding Fathers meant the Constitution to say.

  7. vjbinct  •  Dec 1, 2010 @6:41 pm

    Those who ignore history are doomed to—detention.

    I mean, seriously, people who ignore nearly 250 years of settled law really ought to be ignored, after a salutary klop upside the head.

  8. tom b  •  Dec 1, 2010 @7:50 pm

    Tomorrow you’ll hear how they are trying to bring back that black people equaling 2/3 of a human thing.

  9. Doug Hughes  •  Dec 1, 2010 @8:57 pm

    Truly great post, Maha. The following should have been in CAPS! (and strike the word ‘often’. It’s ALWAYS about money.

    “Although much of the squabbling has been framed as disagreement over political philosophy, in truth the horse pulling the philosophical cart often is money.”

    The money issue here is the 13-Trillion federal deficit – and whose gonna pay to reverse the debt. Revenue HAS to go up – from somewhere and soon – and the projected rise in the cost of Medicare guarantees other sources of revenue are essential. Or…….

    The only other option is to slash spending – not just unemployment and food stamps – but Medicare and SS also. Here’s a budget breakdown by percent.
    Defense – 20% Social Security 20% Medicare Medicaid & CHIP – 21% ‘Safety Net’ Programs – 14% – That’s 75% of the budget – that’s where cuts MUST be if cutting the budget becomes the ‘solution’ – which is what the conservative players are banking on.

    The problem for conservatives is how to make the cuts stick when a voter blacklash is guaranteed. SOMEHOW the spending cuts for the most vulnerable would have to be made permanent and irrevocable – and the tax cuts for the elite with income in 7-figures would also have to be beyond the reach of lawmakers – which should be impossible in a democracy. (I keep hearing trolls in the forums ‘The USA is a republic – not a democracy.’) I am not sure that the Constitutional Convention is that play but it fits the requirement – somehow undoing the voter outrage and making elections an impotent ritual unable to wrest the budget from the wealthy elite.

    After WWII, when the deficit was this high (as a percent of GDP) the tax rates for the wealthiest was 92%. (Most historians believe that the wealthy cheated – which was possible in the 40s.) The top tier – and I am talking annual income in 7 figures – live in fear and dread that they will be required to pay taxes of 50% or more – in a computer age that would make cheating impossible.

    IMO – That’s the game – everything else is smoke and mirrors.

  10. Candide  •  Dec 1, 2010 @9:03 pm

    I’m not trying to take this thread off topic, but I have to (briefly) respond to an attack leveled on me yesterday. In my time zone (east Asia) I’m out of sync with most of you, so when you guys post in the evening (my morning, and I’m on my way to work) I really don’t get to see your stuff until after you’ve pretty much closed the thread. It’s almost 9 am here now and I’ve got to go out, so this will be brief.

    The simple paragraph I posted yesterday was hardly meant to be inclusive of all my economics views, which would require a small book. Some of you assumed I must be a Libertarian – I am not. I only mentioned that US banks are bust and used accounting tricks to hide this. They are still bust. Much of this bad paper has been transferred onto US taxpayers, via Freddie and Fannie, which will eventually break the US government as well. And the US government continues to lend money to the banks at 0.25% interest and then the banks purchase US Treasuries at 5.25%, which is a direct gift to the banks.

    Interesting item I saw this morning:

    Fed made $9 trillion in emergency overnight loans
    http://money.cnn.com/2010/12/01/news/economy/fed_reserve_data_release/index.htm

    The articles said that the banks have already paid back these loans. Amazing. The size of the US economy (gross national product) is about $14 trillion. So the banks borrowed 2/3 of the US economy in 2009 and – during a recession – generated profits to pay it back in one year, while all their assets (real estate loans and derivatives) were falling in value. If you can believe that, then you might as well believe in the tooth fairy.

    I’ve really got to head out now, I’m late. More later, if anyone is interested.

  11. buckyblue  •  Dec 1, 2010 @9:52 pm

    Fine, let ’em go. The powerhouse economic states, besides Texas, are in the North and are Blue. I’m tired of having my tax dollars going to a piss poor state like Mississippi with a true Klan member as its governor. They don’t want to pay their taxes so the federal gov’t. pumps MY tax money into it. Don’t let the door hit your red-neck ass on the way out.

  12. khughes1963  •  Dec 1, 2010 @11:35 pm

    Doug-the whole claim “The USA is a republic – not a democracy” started with the John Birchers in the 1950s. They looked for communist conspiracies around every corner, and failed to see how we failed to grant constitutional rights to our own citizens.

  13. maha  •  Dec 1, 2010 @11:57 pm

    Candide — unless you can link to a credible (i.e., not right wing) source for your theory, it’s time to let it drop. This sounds too much like noise generated by wingnut websites.

  14. Candide  •  Dec 2, 2010 @9:27 am

    Candide — unless you can link to a credible (i.e., not right wing) source for your theory, it’s time to let it drop. This sounds too much like noise generated by wingnut websites.

    Alright, I’m going to drop it. But before I go, just a few parting words…

    I guess you didn’t look at the link I provided. That was to CNN’s financial news. I hadn’t realized that was a wingnut web site. The only politician quoted in the article was that arch conservative Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

    I just looked at that bastion of right-wing web sites, Huffington Post. I see they’ve got a video relating to the story I mentioned above, featuring those two right-wingers Bernie Sanders and Eliot Spitzer:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/01/bernie-sanders-wall-street-federal-reserve_n_790825.html

    I’ll end this monologue by suggesting for further reading a certain author named Matt Taibbi, who writes for the Libertarian magazine “Rolling Stone.” RS published at least a dozen of his great articles about the economic crisis – all of them worth reading – but here’s one of his latest:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/222206

    I could keep going with this train of thought, with a lot more links, but I’ll give it a rest.

    It’s getting late (in my time zone) so I’ll go.

  15. maha  •  Dec 2, 2010 @10:18 am

    I guess you didn’t look at the link I provided. That was to CNN’s financial news. I hadn’t realized that was a wingnut web site. The only politician quoted in the article was that arch conservative Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

    I did see the CNN article, but it didn’t reach the same conclusions you reached.

    Believe me, I’m not so naive as to think there couldn’t possibly be something screwy going on with the bank loans, which we’ve all been reading about. But this is complex stuff, and we need to take care what dots we connect.

  16. joanr16  •  Dec 2, 2010 @9:52 am

    Candide, I think I better understand what you’re trying to say, but unfortunately I still don’t find it credible. The phony FASB accounting rules create a reasonable possibility that American banks will fail; that still doesn’t change the current valuation of TARP.

    Because my parents both died of cancer before they were 65, there’s a reasonable possibility the same will happen to me; that doesn’t mean I’m now a ghost. I still behave like a living person, and have regular cancer screenings.

    I think you’d make a useful point if you said, “If we don’t address phony accounting rules now, that $25 billion valuation really could become $700 billion– at least.” You’d no longer be (near as I can tell) confusing one possible future with current actuality.

    I have learned one thing: TARP hysteria apparently has no philosophical boundaries.

  17. Pat  •  Dec 2, 2010 @12:29 pm

    Cantor and his ilk are only interested in the breakdown of any and all authority that might stand in the way of the corporations that get them elected. It’s their master plan to eliminate any and all opposition but I see little popular support for this and hope it makes others as uneasy as I feel. Part of their strategy seems to be to get the government to clamp down on something/anything…Wall Street, financial industry, states…anything to give credence to the nutty assertion that Obama is some kind of authoritarian or socialist. They know that where there is chaos there is opportunity to all those who have some agenda besides harmony. I’m still surprised that there has not been a mass rejection of the GOP for the same reasons children feel secure when their parents have a harmonious, loving relationship. This daily playing out of well-planned discord benefits hardly any except those with deep pockets and the will to profit from the misfortune of others. However I doubt their success will take us back to civil war times. It would be more like Bosnia.

  18. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 2, 2010 @1:44 pm

    One last thought on Cantor’s stupid proposal.
    Can’t even the weak of minds on the right see a huge problem in this proposal? Or, maybe that’s the point of it! Let me explain:
    If you think that government can’t get anything done now, just wait for Deadlock 2.0!
    Think of the ligistics. Any, and every, Federal Law could have go back to the states for approval. From whom? The Governor? Unlikely. The state legislatures, who get to debate the BS all over again? Yup. And don’t forget, some of these are going to be laws dealing with not just national, but international issues – to be decided by some state legisltator who’s probably lucky he/she remembers where the State Capitol is! And then, after these new “experts” weigh in, we have to wait for 2/3’s to approve of it before it becomes law?
    Nothing will ever get done. Governmment will come to a complete halt. So, if you look at it right (literally, right), actually, Cantor’s proposal is a feature not a bug.
    It’ll just help accelerate the meme that ‘government can’t get anything done.’
    This is the worst idea of all time, unless your goal is to completely embarass this nation in front of the world, and make it about as functional as an analog watch with not hands – and about as useful.
    If this is signed, which I doubt, it’ll be like signing a death warrant for this already dying nation. But, it’ll now be something else for the teabagger morons to hang their tri-corner hats on.
    The pure evil of this stupid idea really is genious. And, there are plenty of dopes out there ready to buy.
    I shudder for our future.

  19. CaffinatedOne  •  Dec 2, 2010 @4:26 pm

    Hi Maha,

    I happened across that site awhile back when I was interested in the assertion that someone was making that slavery was a relatively minor issue and the real issue for the south was tariffs. Not surprisingly, with a quick read, I could content myself that the sky was indeed still blue 🙂

    This strengthens my point — “state’s rights” theory is very much reflected in the CSA constitution. In fact, the whole document reads as if some teabagger convention wrote it, except (maybe) for the “slave” parts.

    It’s true that most of the document is just a revision of the U.S. Constitution, but that makes sense if you realize they saw themselves as the actual heirs of the Founding Fathers, and that the damnyankees were the ones trying to change the system. In their eyes, they were clarifying what the Founding Fathers meant the Constitution to say.

    I saw that, and you’re certainly correct that the big picture framing that they put in the preamble as the justification does indicate a much more ‘states rights’ goal. What I found interesting primarily is that it’s not actually reflected in the actual meat of the document. Aside from slavery (the big difference), the differences between it and the US Constitution are minor. You’d think that if they were concerned with empowering states, that they’d have actually done so given that they were able to write the document from scratch if they chose.

    I suspect that you’re correct in them viewing themselves as the “True Heirs” to the Founding Fathers, and perhaps that explains it, but it’s just odd that if they were concerned about an overreaching federal government that they didn’t add significant limitations for such in their constitution (heck, even the commerce clause is retained). Presuming that the change to the preamble would be sufficient to make sure that it was interpreted “correctly” would seem to be quite a leap of faith on their part given the way that power works.

    Anyway, I don’t want to digress too much since I don’t think my observation is anything beyond ‘curious’ in this context 🙂

  20. maha  •  Dec 2, 2010 @4:41 pm

    You’d think that if they were concerned with empowering states, that they’d have actually done so given that they were able to write the document from scratch if they chose.

    They didn’t need to completely re-write the Constitution. A little tweaking and some shading of interpretation accomplished what they wanted.

  21. Doug Hughes  •  Dec 2, 2010 @6:34 pm

    I want to respond to candide. The original comment without exaggeration was that the banks used an accounting trick, allowed by regulators, to inflate the value of foreclosures on the books. Additionally, the claim was that the banks are broke and when the fed bails them out, the US will also be insolvent.

    Economics is unlike any other science in that reality becomes what the vast majority expect or believe. Contrast with aviation – if a 747 hits turbulence and an idiot jumps up and screams, ‘We’re crashing – we’re all gonna die!” it doesn’t happen, no matter how many people believe it. The lift is a function of the shape of the wing and the speed – not the opinions of the passengers.

    However when there’s not enough confidence in a currency or economic system – regardless of the ACTUAL health of the system – when enough people BELIEVE it will fail – that expectation becomes self-fulfilling. The observation that the banks are cooking the books is valid – but it’s self-correcting. As the real estate is sold, the banks will take the loss on each property, and the hit will be spread over years. NOTHING about that irregularity justifies the tone of panic which candide tried to spread. If you can identify a problem AND have a constructive suggestion how to fix it, fine. But if you want to spread irrational fear, it can have a REAL effect in economics – so STFU.

  22. emilyjane  •  Dec 7, 2010 @8:59 pm

    “THE RULER ONCE DETESTED…HIS ACTIONS…WHETHER GOOD OR BAD…CAUSE HIS DOWNFALL”

    ….TACITUS

    “Those who would be shepherds of the people best be watchful of rising ‘tempest’ and know the limit of inequity and abuse the flock might endure! Just as the Sun often burns of impending darkness, long unseen scandal or treason to the best interests not of the people will in time see rising sedition, warning of certain necessary changes in order to avoid the great “tempest rising”.

    Libels and Licentious discourse against the ‘government’, when increasing and open; with rumor and false news from government running up and down but add to the commotion and future trouble. Should government attempt suppression rather than change, only despising increases and brings the great wonder sooner.

    They were in office, but disposed to dispense rather than execute the commands of their superiors; disputing, excusing, cavilling upon mandates and directions is a kind of shaking off the yoke and assay of disobedience; especially if, in those disputings, they which are for the direction speak fearfully and tenderly, and those that are against it audaciously.

    When discord and quarrel are carried openly and audaciously, it is a sign the reverence of ‘government’ is lost. So when one of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken or weakened…religion, justice, counsel and treasure…men have need to pray for fair weather.

    The surest way to prevent sedition is to take away the matter for its rise; for if there be fuel prepared, it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it aflame. Usually seditions are of two kinds…much or growing poverty, and much discontent. Lucan noted well the state of Rome before the civil war:

    Much devouring usury and interest accumulating rapidly…credit shaken…and war seeming profitable to many.

    This same ‘war profit to many’ is an assured and infallible sign of a state disposed to seditions and troubles; and if poverty and broken spirit be joined with a want and necessity of the people, the danger is imminent and great; for the rebellions of the belly are the worst.

    The causes and motives of seditions are…innovation in religion, taxes, alteration of traditional laws and customs, breaking of privileges, general oppression, advancement of unworthy persons, strangers and disbanded soldiers, factions grown desperate and garrisoning of foreign soldiers.

    The first remedy, or prevention, is to remove, by all means possible, that material cause of sedition wherefor is spoken, which is…want and poverty in the society to which purpose serveth the cherishing of manufacturing providing good jobs while giving pride of producing necessities; the banishing of idleness with meaningful work; the repression of unnecessary excess and waste; improvement and proper husbanding of the soil and fauna; the prevention of con or excess price; the elimination of foreign tribute or taxes.

    The multiplying of nobility or bureaucracy and other degrees of quality, in an overproportion to the common people, doth speedily bring society to discontent for they bring nothing to the common stock.

    Above all things, good policy is to be used, that the treasure and moneys in a society be not gathered into few hands; for otherwise a society may have a great stock and the common people yet starve…and money is like muck, not good except it be spread. This is done chiefly by suppressing, or at least keeping a straight hand upon the devouring trades of usury, engrossing, great pasturages…and the like.

    Sharp speech by past Princes have given fire to sedition:

    Galba…”his soldiers were levied, not bought…”

    Probus…”If I live, the Roman Empire will have no further need of soldiers…”

    Let great Princes have great military background with a great military that has much respect both for, and by the greatest number of people within all economic class…”

    …Deja vu

    Suppose someone wants to destroy a nation or country without open warfare. One only seems to need to collapse that nation’s economy and then wait for the results of what Tacitus warns destroyed the Roman empire. Much of what Tacitus wrote now has much similarity to the present condition of the United States

  23. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 8, 2010 @8:47 am

    emilyjane,
    This is exactly what the rich and powerful people, through the Republicans, have been trying to do for decades.
    Ever since the middle class in this country shook off the yoke of poverty, mostly due to unions and government action, like high taxes, jobs bills, the GI Bill of Rights, SS, etc., and sadly, a World War, and woke up to realize that many blacks and women were disenfranchised due to racism and sexism, and the poor whites held down because of industrial and agricultural individuals and companies and the lack of education, and looked to help them rise up, those rich and powerful started quaking in their boots – they were losing control. Civil and Womens rights, students protesting against the Vietnam War, regular people joining with them, shook them. Their stake in the economic pie had gone down since the late ’20’s, and they were determinged to do something about it. And so, Nixons Southern Strategy, Roe v. Wade, and the backlash from the DeBakey decision (on affirmative action) gave them wedge issues to greasing the wheels for dividing the people . The erosion of the middle class, caused by lowering tax rates in the last 40+ years, breaking unions, created more economic insecurity,using fear as the fertilizer for a backlash against the gains that blacks and women had made.
    I could go on and on. It’a very clear-cut case. But basically, you can sum up the philosophy of the rich and powerful who control the Repbulican Party (and a piece of the Democratic one thanks to the DLC) by Satans words in Miltons “Paradise Lost:”
    “I’d rather rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
    And so would these people. If the country is left a smoking ruin with hungry wretches crawing through streets of smoking ruins, that’s fine – as long as they’re the ones standing on top of the ruins. And if the can’t rule that, they’ll move on to work on the next nation, be it China, Russia, India, etc. Smoking ruins don’t bother these folks, they have the power and money to move on, and gain more power and money. Nice job if you can get it, eh? But first you have to sell your soul absolutely and completey. And if there’s no God or Satan, it’s an even better deal. No repurcussions, you see.



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