Government

By the Declaration's Logic, Is It Time for Another American Revolution?

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit weighs in with a provocative prevarication.

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Here's Glenn Reynolds of University of Tennessee Law School and Instapundit talking revolution in USA Today:

Government, in the [Declaration of Independence's] explanation, exists to protect rights, and rather than subjects enjoying rights with the consent of the government, the government itself rules only by the consent of the governed. And when the government fails to live up to its duties, and the people no longer consent to it, it becomes illegitimate and subject to replacement by something the people like better.

As Dan Himmelfarb noted in The Yale Law Journal 25 years ago, not much contemporary attention is paid to this. I'm sufficiently cynical to think that the lack of attention isn't an accident, but rather a consequence of not wanting to address the questions that the declaration's second sentence raises, which bode poorly for our ruling class.

Does our government now have, as its principal function, the protection of people's rights?…

So is a new American revolution in order?

Spoiler alert: Reynolds cautions restraint, even as he notes a recent poll showing that just 21 percent of Americans think the goverment has the consent of the governed. Still, he says,

it might be a good thing for our ruling class to spend a little time pondering the Declaration of Indepence, and its principles. There is more to government than graft. May they recognize that in time.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. This sounds familiar:

    No Secession, No Legitimacy!

    How does the United States Government compare to the Federal Government?
    Grievances from 1776

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. …… State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

    Grievances from 2008

    These grievances essentially boil down the the King interfering with local legislatures to prevent them from passing laws that the local inhabitants wanted.

    Of course, the Federal Government does that now: the people of numerous states have voted to legalize marijuana possession. The Federal Government has refused to permit this. Numerous states have proposed to reduce the drinking age, and the Federal Government has opposed this.

    The Federal Government does not have to disband state legislatures like the King did; rather it merely threatens to withhold highway, educational, law-enforcement or medical funding.

    … and it keeps going! 🙂

    1. In no uncertain terms, the founders rebelled against a tyranny far less grievous than that which the modern US government inflicts and ratchets up every single day of the week.

  2. …subject to replacement by something the people like better.

    Oh, God, I’d hate to think what our contemporaries would fashion to replace it.

    1. It would be far worse than what we have now, is my guess, and would justify dissolution of the union.

    2. “I’d hate to think what our contemporaries would fashion to replace it.”

      That’s always been a concern when the subject of a Constitutional Convention comes up. People bring it up in the context of a specific issue but you can’t limit it to just one thing. The whole prog wish list would come out.

      1. That would be the exact time and place at which a very long extremely bloody civil war starts.

    3. It’s already been done, look around.

  3. Sure government exists to protect our rights! Like our rights to free housing, free clothing, free food, free health care, free education, free cell phones, free internet, free this, free that, free everything else, all paid for by the rich who, by virtue of the fact that they are rich, have not paid their fair share!

    1. Well you certainly saved Tony the effort required to post his views.

      1. Are those not rights equally as valid as your right to not be required to serve a customer? Or your right to police protection (regardless of whether the police are actually obligated to protect you)? These are all rights we can choose to adopt, or drop, through government. And if my guys win then SUCK IT

        1. I see you do not understand the difference between positive and negative liberty.

          1. I think your sarcasm meter needs calibratin’. Ironically.

              1. Could be Poe’s Law. I just find it hard to believe someone could actually believe that.

    2. Don’t forget the all-important right not to be offended.

      1. Only tolerant people (people who agree with the left) have a right not to be offended. Intolerant people (people who disagree with the left) have no such right.

  4. “And when the government fails to live up to its duties, and the people no longer consent to it, it becomes illegitimate and subject to replacement by something the people like better.”

    Well, obviously, we can’t let people replace the government with something they just like better. Whatever they want to replace it with has to actually be better according to scientists, academics, civil rights leaders, environmentalists, and the LGBTQ lobby.

    For goodness’ sake, we’ve got people running around out there with guns who believe in the Bible. Government by the people?! Have you ever actually met The People? They’re frightening, unwashed, ugly, and illiterate little creatures–many of whom stubbornly cling to primitive ideas about individualism, liberty and justice.

    And you want government by the People?

    Up against the wall, motherfucker.

    1. I’d still rather take my chances with the scruffy illiterate People than the Top Men you favor. I have a feeling those shining paragons you point to will be certain they know what’s best for me better than I know myself. At least the unwashed and unschooled might be inclined to leave me alone.

      1. Umm, check your sarcasm meter.

        1. My meter is basically FUBAR.

      2. That’s alright, Buddy Ro!

        I was being sarcastic as hell.

        But Poe’s Law–given that there are so many people out there who actually believe that crap, how could you have known I was joking if you didn’t know me?

        It’s all good.

        1. And they’ve absolutely come out of the woodwork since the gheymerge ruling…

    2. It will be replaced by direct democracy with no built-in restraints. It won’t be pretty.

  5. By the Declaration’s logic, it’s about 100 years past time for another revolution.

  6. Here’s what I think: the people have already taken it upon themselves to replace the government with something they like better. That’s why we have a government that doesn’t really look anything like the original. It was a long, slow change so most people didn’t really recognize the revolution as it was happening.

    1. It’s a uniquely American quirk that even the people who want to shred the constitution and amendments as written and rewrite it to suit their ends commit acts of total depravity against language and logic to fit their ends into the existing document rather than bother to change it.

      1. That’s called the “living document, bitch” principle.

        1. It’s also an initiation of force.

          1. Are you opposed to the “initiation of force”?

            1. If you have something to say…say it.

              1. I did. I asked you a question. If you feel uncomfortable answering because you immediately recognize your own logical inconsistencies, then say it.

                1. Look, shithead, I have no problem debating anarchism with you, but lately you’ve become a real asshole.

                  I am opposed to the initiation of force. And I’m well aware of the inconsistencies between Minarchism and the NAP. Said inconsistencies don’t change the fact that you have nothing better to offer, as you will lose your liberty as fast or faster than I.

                  SO, I can rehash the whole thing again, if you like, or we can simply not, and agree to disagree.

                  1. Look, shithead, I have no problem debating anarchism with you, but lately you’ve become a real asshole.

                    All I did was ask a question. I’m not picking on you, you just happen to be a person who routinely posts arguments that have no internal consistency and you take your less than stellar arguments for granted.

                    The last time you got a sandy a vagina I was similarly just asking questions. Maybe you should put on some big boy pants and actually own your arguments. Though of course it’s much easier to deflect, project and call names. So if that’s all you have to offer then I’m happy to put that display as often as necessary.

                    Said inconsistencies don’t change the fact that you have nothing better to offer, as you will lose your liberty as fast or faster than I.

                    Well I recall that you like to debate hypotheticals in the same way two children playing cops and robbers argue about who shot the other one first with the imaginary gun. So I agree it’s a waste of time to go down that road with you. Which is why I didn’t. I pointed out that your own theoretical defense of statism, has nothing to support it. And the fact remains that I don’t need offer an alternative solution pursuant to pointing the out irrationality of your arguments.

                    1. Welcome to ‘talking with F’dA’. Next stop: ‘why giving Iran a nuke will bring peace to the Mid-East’.

                    2. My philosophy is one of maximizing liberty (for everyone). My tenets do exactly that. The first, based on the NAP, draws the boundary of liberty EXACTLY where it should be. Where any more liberty would infringe upon someone else’s. SO:

                      1. A person may do as he wishes, provided he doesn’t infringe upon the rights of another in doing so.

                      The second recognizes that government and liberty is a balancing act. Without a potent last word in force, someone, some group, or some other government will eventually get around to taking your shit. (And is the part you and your fellow anarchists don’t recognize.) BUT, given any more power than protecting individual rights, the government will become the taker of your rights. Hence the balance:

                      2. The ONLY legitimate function of government is to protect the negative rights of the individual.

                      IOW, the only positive right you have is that the government will protect your negative rights. Yes, I’m fully aware that providing that positive right requires revenue and that taxes are forcing people to participate against their will. Tenet 2 is the exception to tenet 1. And any government at all requires a social contract.

                      I see no way around it AND be able to have a force powerful enough to protect my rights. And no anarchist has been able to argue a reasonable solution to my satisfaction.

                      You’ve been like Eddie recently, flinging spears from left field. If you have something to say, say it.

    2. I think our present government is a response to a series of crises, each of which has been frozen in time and preserved long after the crisis is gone.

      Half of our government is a response to the Great Depression and the aftermath of World War II.

      1. Interesting point.

      2. Crises, opportunities, whatever.

      3. Still, that couldn’t happen without the people first giving the government the ability to do so. The fact that most people aren’t against the government having certain powers shows that they’re alright with it. Even if it’s in an apathetic, what are we gonna do way.

        1. People don’t give the government anything. The government takes, because there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

          There is no such thing as The Will of the People. That’s a myth. When you get right down to it, The People means Everyone Except You. It’s just the Divine Right of the King dressed up in a suit instead of a crown.

        2. “The fact that most people aren’t against the government having certain powers shows that they’re alright with it.”

          The contemporaries are alright with it under the circumstances of a specific crisis, but then the next generation is born and for them it was always that way.

          What will it be like when no one alive remembers when the government wasn’t listening to our phone calls? And maybe by then, Al Qaeda will be even less of a threat than the defunct Khmer Rouge.

          No doubt, people are responsible for what they let the government get away with, but I don’t think that means the government we have is the government people want.

          No question our government is oppressive under the logic of the Declaration of Independence. But just because I’m not willing to rise up and overthrow the government, doesn’t mean we have the government I want.

          1. It may not be the one you want, but it’s not so bad that you’re willing to do something about it. Granted it would be insane to try to solo the US government, but in other countries there are people that insane.

            The best we can say now is “at least we’re not [insert third world shithole]”.

            1. “It may not be the one you want, but it’s not so bad that you’re willing to do something about it.”

              Yeah, there’s a cost/benefit analysis involved, and that’s rational.

              Give me liberty, or give me death?

              How ’bout give me liberty or I’ll bitch and moan about it and write obnoxious comments about you on the internet.

              I make a good living. I say what I want to say. Mess with my access to females, my motorcycle, my ability to run my business profitably, or my savings and investments–any of that in a big way–and all bets are off.

              1. There will not be any revolution because most people are far too comfortable for that to happen.

                1. I agree there won’t be an armed uprising. The revolution has already happened.

      4. Obligatory Mencken quote:

        “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

        1. We need heightened security on 7/4 because terrorism!

          1. Well the heightened security worked, didn’t it? Now, I’ve got this tiger-repelling rock that also works real good…..

            1. Being afraid of terrorism is like being afraid of natural disasters. Being so makes you a great big giant pussy, as the odds of being killed by one are remote and there is very little you can do about it anyway.

              I remember the first time I flew after 9/11. It was out of McCarran. I was incensed. Not belligerent, but incensed. I said something to the effect of, “What is this? This is the United States of America, not Soviet Russia.”

              I actually had some little weaselly guy, with fear in his eyes tell me to shut up. I have never wanted to punch a guy like I wanted to punch him.

      5. I think that’s probably accurate. 90% of the FYTW logical underpinnings are directly a result of the Civil War though.

        1. I agree with this assessment.

        2. That’s what I get for commenting before reading the other replies to a comment.

      6. Half of our government is a response to the Great Depression and the aftermath of World War II.

        Yep. Half our government, and that’s probably an understatement, is yesteryear’s temporary bailouts that became unsustainable permanent fixtures.

      7. The other half is a response to the Civil War.

  7. Fuck yeah!

  8. So if we had another revolution and it succeeded, then what? Some kind of Heinlein inspired Constitution is a nice thought – but it would only be accepted by most people at the point of a gun.

    Move the capital to fly-over country and just enforce our Constitution? It might work for an election cycle or two. That’s it.

    1. Google ‘Soviet Constitution’ if you want an idea of what a new one would look like.

      1. And something like the Spanish or Chinese civil war would ensue – with modern weapons and the most heavily armed population on Earth.

      2. Hey, Ginsberg likes the South African Constitution. I figure we’ll go that way.

    2. We already have the Heinlein inspired constitution. It’s the Constitution. This is in several books and stories–most notably The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

      1. Well, he was an old white dude that lived, like 100’s of years ago, man.

      2. Yes and his future revolutionaries tried to strengthen it with a House of Repeal in that story, and a service requirement for voters in Starship Troopers.

        1. The Service Requirement was the problematic issue for me; it’s profoundly un-libertarian for the State to demand indentured servitude from members of its polity in order for them to exercise the right to choose their tyrants.

          The only crumb of comfort I extract from it is that it’s probably better than all the other alternatives.

        2. As I recall, he (through the voice of Prof. de la Paz) also urged for geographic legislative districts to be done away with, and have people grouped by some combination of age/occupation.

          Because the specific part of the moon on which you reside is the least relevant aspect of your life.

        3. As I recall, he (through the voice of Prof. de la Paz) also urged for geographic legislative districts to be done away with, and have people grouped by some combination of age/occupation.

          Because the specific part of the moon on which you reside is the least relevant aspect of your life.

    3. Some kind of Heinlein inspired Constitution is a nice thought – but it would only be accepted by most people at the point of a gun.

      I suppose it will depend upon who wins, no?

      Likely the losers will not have seats at the next constitutional delegation, so you’re likely looking at debate between factions of what were Republicans.

  9. C’mon, Nick that show wasn’t that bad.

    Remember this:

    We were cold and soaking wet and lost out in a storm
    We went inside a spooky house just hoping to get warm
    The dusty clock said half past six, we knew that it was wrong
    When we set the hands to twelve the clock began to bong

    We found a friend, friend, friend in Funky Phantom
    He’ll pop right in just when you need him most
    And Boo will too, and you can’t do without ’em
    That cat and that Funky Phantom ghost!

  10. Perhaps we won’t see much of a revolutions but more of a slow dissolution. States will just ignore the federal government, especially as the latter tries to tighten their grip more and more. Texas, for example, could easily break the bonds from the Feds, perhaps starting small at first and then, as time passes, going off on their own for treaties, border enforcement, etc. Citizens within such strong states would effectively ignore fines, the IRS, DEA, or any other agency. Once that Rubicon is crossed it is a matter of time before other states follow that road.

    Smaller states could form trade groups with other states – and once the tax reservoir dries up, so does the power of the Feds.

    And the more the Feds push their power, the more likely this scenario could happen.

    Or maybe not. Can’t read the future, but the end of the Soviet Union scenario is one path among many.

    1. That scenario seems very plausible.

    2. I think this could easily happen in the near future.

  11. So, I’m anticipating Prof. Reynolds will be getting a call from Preet Bharara some time this week. He’ll be asking for the contact information for that Jefferson character. Sounds like a threat.

  12. I don’t think we need a revolution, as we aren’t even using the power we have that the colonists lacked–the power of the ballot box. If so many of us are unwilling to insist on limited government and civil liberties at election time, how would a revolution succeed either, leaving aside for the moment the human and economic cost of a conflict like that?

    1. The colonists were free and wild creatures that truly desired liberty. We are merely their domesticated descendents. Most people would appreciate liberty about as much as my pug would appreciate being let loose in the woods.

      1. That’s true, of course, but they also had fewer options at their disposal.

    2. If I’m not mistaken, only about 30% of the Colonists sided with the Revolutionaries. The rest were either neutral or loyalists.

      1. That was a wild guess Jefferson made in a letter, & everybody keeps repeating it as if it were a scientific survey. If he were around, he’d say, “Huh, looks like I hit it on the nose! Where’d you get that from? You got it from me? Hahaha!”

  13. a recent poll showing that just 21 percent of Americans think the goverment has the consent of the governed.

    I know this ultimately doesn’t mean anything, but it still warms my heart a little.

  14. Talk about “an inconvenient truth”!

    ” Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” is a terrifying call to adulthood that many (most) go to great lengths to try avoid thinking about.

  15. Just sayin…

    “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment… laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind… as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times…. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    1. Fine, change the written constitution by the means provided, but don’t do it via the living constitution silliness that decided that the word “white” now means “black” and that “up” now means “down”.

      AND, please don’t let it get turned into a self-contradictory maze of inconsistency.

  16. Does our government now have, as its principal function, the protection of people’s rights?…

    So is a new American revolution in order?

    As is the case with any monopoly; over time the costs will continue to rise and the quality will continue to fall. Economic services monopolized by the government like protection and dispute resolution are no different than any other monopolized production process.

    1. Those things are either monopolized or they don’t exist.

      1. That’s demonstrably false. Various places, times and developed peoples have had those things in lieu of monopolies. Monopolies of those things weren’t always even possible let alone the natural state of being.

  17. What is the breaking point? I do not see that as now. No one wants to subject themselves or especially their famiilies to the horrors of war. No one wants to die. Most do not want to kill. I don’t. Our poor have a quality of life superior to that of the aristocracy not long ago. The benefits must outway the costs for a call for armed revolution to take hold. Those costs are potentially astronomical. The fact that you can’t even get people to seriously look at a 3rd party that promises liberty should tell you everything you need to know about the potential for revolution. Hell, half the population doesn’t even vote.

    1. What is the breaking point?

      I think it will likely coincide with considerable hardship brought on by either economic collapse or natural/manmade disaster. I agree, as shitty as it is, I have no desire to give up my comfortable life and live the rest of it fighting in the woods. But if I’m living in the woods anyway…

      Under such conditions, many will blame the government for their suffering (rightly or wrongly). And that will be the time that the rabble rousers for liberty, the Sam Adams’ of the day can make their play and be very convincing.

      1. Well one way for the government to ensure that happens is to keep those “printing presses” rolling. That never ends well.

  18. They had that already, 150 yrs. ago. After a while you realize there’s no getting away from people.

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