Americans Have Always Been Obsessed With National Security

Since the beginning of the republic, nationalists have warned that because America is exceptional, it faces constant danger.



The U.S. Constitution can reasonably be seen as a massive tax and mercantilist trade-promotion program. However, there's a third leg to this stool. It was a national-security program as well—almost a proto-PATRIOT Act. Indeed, these three elements formed an integrated project: it gave the new central government independent power to raise revenue by taxing individuals directly and to establish an army and navy in order to advance, by force if necessary, American trade. This, I submit, was not exactly a libertarian project. It let a terrifying genie out of the bottle ostensibly in order to contain it. Or, as James Madison put it, "You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

While the nationalists (that is, the self-identified but misnamed Federalists) saw military power as essential to the development of American commerce, the ability to raise an army and navy was intended to accomplish more than that, namely, continental hegemony and national security in a hostile world. As Madison, chief architect of the political system embodied in the Constitution, told the Virginia ratifying convention, America was surrounded by countries "whose interest is incompatible with an extension of our power and who are jealous of our resources to become powerful and wealthy. [They] must naturally be inclined to exert every means to prevent our becoming formidable." Thus the nationalists sought a permanent military establishment—albeit initially small—powerful enough that no nation would, as Donald Trump would say, "mess with us."

Whom did the Federalists fear? "The hostile nations the Federalists were talking about [Spain and England]," Max M. Edling wrote in A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State, "had dominions to the north and south of the union, while in the west they fuelled the animosity of the Indian nations."

It's odd, then, that so many libertarians think an obsession with national security dates back only to the end of World War II and Harry Truman's National Security Act of 1947. In fact it goes back to the very beginning of the republic, when Americans who sought to expand the power of the central state warned that because America was exceptional, it faced constant danger from the old powers and the Indian nations (whose lands the Americans coveted). Security, the nationalists explained, requires consolidation (rather than loose the "league of friendship" under the Articles of Confederation) and a ready peacetime military. Yes, a standing army was potentially dangerous, they said, and so need not be large; but America, as a unified extended republic secure between two oceans, did not have to fear a permanent military establishment.

Some libertarians believe that since Americans opposed a standing army, as the vocal Anti-Federalists did, the Constitution forbade it. That is clearly not the case. No prohibition is to be found, a fact punctuated by the Third Amendment, which prohibits the quartering of troops in people's home without consent in peacetime. Obviously, that could be an issue only with a peacetime standing army. (Thanks to Gary Chartier for pointing this out.)

But that's the least to be said. Congress was empowered virtually without qualification to raise an army and navy, the only restriction being that the military budget can be for no more than two years at a time: "Congress shall have the power to … raise and support Armies [and] To provide and maintain a Navy." Moreover, control of the state militias was taken from the states and nationalized. (See Article I, Section 8. In 1783 the Confederation Congress created a committee, chaired by Alexander Hamilton, to plan for a peacetime army and navy. Committee member Madison was unconvinced that Congress had the power to carry out any such a plan.)

These powers in the proposed Constitution outraged the Anti-Federalists, who opposed centralized government in a distant capital. They pointed out that this shift in responsibility to the national government would reduce the states to mere administrative districts with nothing to do but, as Patrick Henry put it, "take care of the poor—repair and make high-ways—erect bridges, and so on, and so on." They also warned that a professional military would suppress the liberty of Americans, who would be unable to resist because the militias would be gutted through federal neglect. Oddly, the Federalists argued that the powers would preclude federal coercion of the states because the new central government would "act directly upon citizens as individuals," as Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. explained in The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition(1972). Small comfort for those citizens, of course.

The Federalists understood that most Americans were suspicious a professional military, so the Federalists gave assurances that the force would be small and not stationed close to the people. But the Anti-Federalists were not pacified.

"My great objection to this Government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights; or, of waging war against tyrants," Henry said. "Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress?"

Edling commented that "the argument that the Constitution would allow the national government to create a standing army in order to expropriate the people's property [through arbitrary taxation] shows that the Antifederalist objections to the Constitution were grounded in traditional Anglo-American individuals rights." (Some have held, on weak evidence, that the Anti-Federalists were not proto-libertarians but rather radical democrats who wanted no limits placed on the state legislatures. Whether the leading Anti-Federalists and the rank and file differed ideologically would be difficult to determine.)

Another concern of the Anti-Federalists was that the Constitution could authorize conscription. Anti-Federalist writer "Brutus" warned of a coming "Prussian militia": If "the general legislature deem it for the general welfare to raise a body of troops, and they cannot be procured by voluntary enlistments, it seems evident, that it will be proper and necessary to effect it, that men be impressed from the militia to make up the deficiency." (The Anti-Federalists saw the necessary-and-proper clause as a blank check for the central government.)

And that wasn't all that worried the Anti-Federalists. As Edling explained: "By law the American militia consisted of all men between the age of sixteen and sixty. Congress's unlimited power over the militia therefore gave it power over the vast majority of adult men, which meant that the entire political nation was within reach of the government's command." Anti-Federalist Luther Martin (quoted in Edling) pointed out that members of the nationalized militia "from the lowest to the greatest [could] be subjected to military law, and tied up and whipped at the halbert like the meanest of slaves."

The Anti-Federalists, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, were willing to concede power to the national government to raise an army in wartime -- but not in peacetime. However, the Federalists, as one of them, James Wilson, put it, wanted "the appearance of strength in a season of the most profound tranquility." The potential for abuse was too great for the Anti-Federalists to accept.

The Anti-Federalists were happy that the military would at least be under civilian control and that although the president was commander-in-chief, the Congress controlled the purse and held power to declare war. (We know what became of that power.) However, with the rise of the Society of the Cincinnati and with retired Gen. George Washington as the likely first president, how comforted should they have been about all this? ("Almost at once," Ekirch wrote, "the Society was criticized as an attempt to establish the former Revolutionary officers as a hereditary aristocracy, and the volume of protest soon reached impressive proportions.")

The Anti-Federalist case against unlimited central control of the military obviously did not prevent ratification of the Constitution, but it did yield proposed amendments to limit Congress's power, such as requiring a two-third majority of voting House members to approve the raising or keeping of troops in peacetime. That proposal was ignored, however, when Madison assembled what would become the Bill of Rights. Earlier, Luther Martin and Elbridge Gerry's amendment at the federal Convention to cap the number of troops failed, prompting Gerry, Edmund Randolph (a Federalist), and George Mason to refuse to sign the Constitution.

The Federalist Papers, which were newspaper columns written to sell the Constitution to the public, were stunningly frank in their defense of the vast military powers enumerated in the Constitution. In Federalist 41 Madison wrote:

Security against foreign danger is one of the primitive objects of civil society. It is an avowed and essential object of the American Union. The powers requisite for attaining it must be effectually confided to the federal councils….

Is the power of declaring war necessary? No man will answer this question in the negative. It would be superfluous, therefore, to enter into a proof of the affirmative. The existing Confederation establishes this power in the most ample form.

Is the power of raising armies and equipping fleets necessary? This is involved in the foregoing power. It is involved in the power of self-defense.

But was it necessary to give an INDEFINITE POWER of raising TROOPS, as well as providing fleets; and of maintaining both in PEACE, as well as in WAR?

…The answer indeed seems to be so obvious and conclusive as scarcely to justify such a discussion in any place. With what color of propriety could the force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit the force of offense?…

How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?

Answer these questions as you may, but don't think for a minute that the Constitution did or was intended to limit the national government's power to raise and keep a peacetime standing army, or what Madison and his colleagues euphemistically called a "peace establishment." At the Federal Convention Madison had acknowledged that "according to the views of every member, the Genl. Govt will have powers far beyond those exercised by the British Parliament." (Quoted in Edling.) 

As indicated, Madison tried to allay fears of a standing army by arguing that a unified country would preclude the dangers experienced in Europe. 

"The Union itself, which it [the Constitution] cements and secures, destroys every pretext for a military establishment which could be dangerous," Madison wrote. "America united, with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat…. A dangerous establishment can never be necessary or plausible, so long as they continue a united people." (But note: he did not favor only a handful of troops or none at all.) 

Indeed, he wrote, investigation into the matter "must terminate in a thorough and universal conviction, not only that the constitution has provided the most effectual guards against danger from that quarter [i.e., standing armies], but that nothing short of a Constitution fully adequate to the national defense and the preservation of the Union, can save America from as many standing armies as it may be split into States or Confederacies, and from such a progressive augmentation, of these establishments in each, as will render them as burdensome to the properties and ominous to the liberties of the people, as any establishment that can become necessary, under a united and efficient government, must be tolerable to the former and safe to the latter." 

In other words, it's not the central government's peacetime standing army that is dangerous. It's the standing armies of small sovereign states that were to be feared. Of course the states had citizens militias, not standing armies. 

In Federalist 23 Alexander Hamilton declared that:

the principal purposes to be answered by union [and hence the powers to raise taxes and military forces] are these—the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries. 

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation[italics added], BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FORESEE OR DEFINE THE EXTENT AND VARIETY OF NATIONAL EXIGENCIES, OR THE CORRESPONDENT EXTENT AND VARIETY OF THE MEANS WHICH MAY BE NECESSARY TO SATISFY THEM.

What was that about powers "few and defined"? 

In case anyone missed it the first time, Hamilton repeats:

Whether there ought to be a federal government intrusted with the care of the common defense, is a question in the first instance, open for discussion; but the moment it is decided in the affirmative, it will follow, that that government ought to be clothed with all the powers requisite to complete execution of its trust. And unless it can be shown that the circumstances which may affect the public safety are reducible within certain determinate limits; unless the contrary of this position can be fairly and rationally disputed, it must be admitted, as a necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority which is to provide for the defense and protection of the community, in any matter essential to its efficacy that is, in any matter essential to the FORMATION, DIRECTION, or SUPPORT of the NATIONAL FORCES.

This is reminiscent of young William F. Buckley's declaration that "we have got to accept Big Government for the duration [of the Cold War]—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged … except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."

In Federalist 25 Hamilton wrote that defense cannot remain the province of the states because "the territories of Britain, Spain, and of the Indian nations in our neighborhood do not border on particular States, but encircle the Union from Maine to Georgia. The danger, though in different degrees, is therefore common."

In other words, the central state was first and foremost to be a national-security state, or as it was called then, "a fiscal-military state," European-like but superficially tailored to Americans' distrust of centralized power and elites. Like Madison, Hamilton tried to turn this distrust on its head.

"As far as an army may be considered as a dangerous weapon of power," Hamilton wrote, "it had better be in those hands of which the people are most likely to be jealous than in those of which they are least likely to be jealous. For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion." Or: better to give the power to distant strangers than to nearby acquaintances.

The Anti-Federalist argument was that the nearby government of a small republic was one the people could more readily watch. The Federalists' government, they said, would be far away and dominated by the elite, which would have an advantage over working- and middle-class people in gaining seats from the proposed large congressional districts in which one man would represent up to 30,000 people. The Anti-Federalists also invoked a version of the dispersed costs/concentrated benefits argument in claiming that the unorganized masses, unlike the well-organized special interests, would find it impractical to keep at eye on the new government.

Admittedly, the Anti-Federalists' worst fears did not come to pass, but that happy outcome had much to do with the resistance mounted by their successors, the congressional Republicans, to the Federalists' proposed military buildup. (See Ekirch. Later, the Republicans became militarists.) While the professional army was occasionally used domestically by both Federalists and Republicans (legislation permitting this was passed in the Jefferson administration), federal laws by and large did not require such heavy-handed enforcement. (A prohibition on such use of the army was formalized in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.) The military establishment was of course essential in building the bloody and costly American empire, starting with the conquest of much of North America.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

NEXT: Regulatory Science Fiction

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  1. A standing army is like a whole regiment full of Adam Lanzas, Ted Bundys and Charles Manson, am I right?

    1. Quoting Richman I see. He did a great job of alienating libertarianism from anyone with even a tenuous link to the military. Why to go Richman. Lets see if we can get that tent even smaller.

      1. Look, it would be absolute idiocy for communists and nationalsocialists to pass up a chance to infiltrate the LP and Reason magazine. I can testify this has been going on since the summer of 1980. I watched an idiot get onstage and urge unilateral disarmament and surrender to the Soviets as "libertarian." Already our platform is contaminated with snivelling appeals to "good faith," that make the Democrats look like champions of individual rights for women compared to us and the nationalsocialist republicans who smuggled that in. Now this! Surely we should expect no less.

      2. Standing armies are not libertarian. Defense is currently a subsidized good that is overproduced. On a free market, people would spend but a fraction of what is currently wasted on the military. The truth is that those in the military are just on a different form of welfare.

        1. Wow. That is one of the most bat-shittingly stupid and ignorant statements I have ever read. You clearly know nothing about what it is like to serve in the military.

          Seriously, go fuck yourself. With Tony's cock.

          1. I like to fish for yokels, and I caught one of the big ones. But I practice catch and release. Back in the water you go!

            1. I see. A "yokel" is some little fucking pussy that scoffs at the military. Once again, go ride Tony's cock shitbird.

              1. Where does all this anger come from, Suicidy? You could address my arguments, but instead you go on a tirade insulting the person behind the arguments. Is it, perhaps, because you have no response to my arguments? Are you in favor of the free market? If yes, please explain why the free market would not apply to the production of defense. Do you even know the standard public goods arguments? You could at least return my serve with that, rather than throwing your racket at me.

          2. "Standing armies are not libertarian. Defense is currently a subsidized good that is overproduced. On a free market, people would spend but a fraction of what is currently wasted on the military"

            That I can agree with. Suicidy, if you've ever dealth with procurment, seen how horrid equipment acceptance policies are, and noticed the waste, fraud and abuse that goes on within the DOD, you'd realize that he is correct in what was quoted.

            The problems with the central planning and control of defense isn't a phenomena, as with every other program or service provided by gov't seems to suffer the same "crisis" to include financial, banking, crumbling infrastructure, healthcare, and so on. Do you really think when they built the USS Constitution, the cost overruns were caused because they didn't know how to efficiently build ships? The privateers didn't face such a phenomena when they built and equiped their ships far more efficiently than any gov't ship. Plus, their performance and effectiveness record was far better, and even less violent.

            A must read is "The myth of national defense" which you can even read for free. Take the information there and apply it to your own experiences, as well as other hostorical information in regards to the private production of defense, and that provided by gov't.

            How can one claim defense that is grossly inefficient, and wasteful, be more efficient and even effective than the private production of defense?

          3. If you've ever thrown a new $3,000 (1984 dollars) steam cleaner over the side, you'd understand. I gave it to the Marines to clean the LVTs and my division officer made me get it back and deep-six it.

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  3. "The U.S. Constitution can reasonably be seen as a massive tax and mercantilist trade-promotion program."

    Sheldon Richman can reasonably be seen as a jackass.

    1. I see a lot of this. People who claim to be fans of liberty decrying any advances towards liberty in some mealy-mouthed, wheedling way.

      Perhaps Richman can show us a constitution that has advanced liberty more than our own, current or historical.

      1. Why does the "It could be worse!" line of reasoning appear to be so popular?

    2. I read this opening line, then read the byline, then declined to read any further.

      Why does Reason keep giving bandwidth to this idiot? He belongs on HuffPo or Kos. There's nothing even remotely libertarian about his views.

  4. It seems Sheldon hates the constitution and would like to replace it with what? Trade at the point of a gun was the purpose? I just don't understand why he's here or where he gets his ideas.

    1. And there were never large a standing armie and navy in this country untill after WW 2.

      1. Well, WW2 was a come as you are war for the US. And we were a little short handed and inexperienced at the start.

        The standing army was an effort to avoid repeating that experience.

        The purpose of the US Navy was from the beginning fighting Muslim fanatics and pirates. Barbary Wars.

        1. Who were hurting free trade in US shipping.

          1. Everybody knows free trade would flourish if we unilaterally disarmed.

            1. And kneeled before Iran. Or Zod.

              1. Or both. Kneel before everyone!

    2. Well, based on his recent writings, the US should surrender Iran. That bastion of reason and enlightenment in the ME. Then we can work under their direction to exterminate those evil Israeli tyrants that threaten us with WW3.

  5. Keeping the sea lanes open for American traders was the main purpose of the early US Navy. Free trade is not free when there be pirates.

    1. ...and the governments of sovereign nations along the trade routes who would hold the trade of others hostage for its own ends.

      1. See the Gulf States, North African States, China, etc. today.

    2. Good point. The Hobbesian State of Nature is all around us, and never does the Miracle of the Competing Defense Agencies emerge from the rubble to create Paradise. This is because until menacing and the initiation of force are excluded by law from a jurisdiction, no free market agora can exist there for longer than a few minutes. IF government is established to secure these rights (antecedent), THEN these rights are secured (consequent). Affirming the consequent is how fools advertise their cluelessness. It is another leper's bell of the approaching looter.

      1. Are you and Agile Cyborg like the two different sides of Harvey Deny/Two Face?

        1. Argh, Harvey Den*t*, though Harvey Deny sounds pretty epic too.

    3. Sorry Simon, but the privateers and corsairs were far more effective and efficient than the Navies of the gov't. So to claim otherwise is historically innacurate. Piracy is something that can be handlds through armed merchants and private defense, where the shipping companies either provide their own security or contract it out through insurance companies or what have you.

      1. That's an interesting notion, but I don't think most people these days are in favor of mercenary navies fighting it out on the high seas over trade routes. Seems like a step in the wrong direction, libertarian principles aside.

        Also, this idea only works if EVERY country decides to forego their own navy in favor of letting privateers sort it out. What incentive does, say, China have to do such a thing? While a privateer merchant force might be able to successfully fend off pirates and such, any such force would be crushed in an instant by a state navy. And China has demonstrated that it's already more than willing to use it's military to intimidate in the name of their trade interests.

        Fact is that if you like free trade, you should love the US Navy. No other single institution has enabled the peaceful flow of goods between nations better than they have.

        1. Your emotional appeal to the Navy seems great when you ignore everything else. How can you claim that somehow, in this case the Navy, that somehow it is more efficient through misalocation of resources. Cost plus fee contracting is used for a majority of projects. That was attacked in the 80's where FFP, or FPI contracting became the norm instead of CPF.

          How could the private production of defense be a step in the wrong direction, when it was far more efficient and effective before it was essentially banned? The "gun free zones" on merchant ships and reliance on the Navy for protection helped lead to skiffs taking over a giant merchant ship. Now, private security is either hired, or some shipping companies provide it themselves with their own teams and are far better equipped to combat piracy. The efforts of the Navies to combat piracy could have also been handled by private defense, as was historically done.

          "Fact is that if you like free trade, you should love the US Navy. No other single institution has enabled the peaceful flow of goods between nations better than they have." This isn't a fact, as the history of the privateers provides far different facts. They have a proven record that shattered anything the gov't ships were able to accomplish at that time. While the USS Constitution was grossly over budget, privateers were crewed, and equipped without such cost overruns.

          1. You're completely ignoring what I said about privateers versus state navies.

            I conceded that private security would do a good enough job combating piracy, and they should be allowed to do so. But that's not the primary reason we have a navy these days. The fact is that the far bigger threat to free trade is from state actors using their military to intimidate merchant vessels, embargo trade routes, and take over sea lanes for their own advantage.

            Sure piracy is an expensive nuisance, but it pales in comparison to the impact of, say, Iran closing down the Straits Of Hormuz, Russia mining the Bosphorus, or China claiming the entire South China Sea as it's sovereign territory.

            There are no private vessels equipped to handle such a threat. And you're living in a fantasy world if you think such threats don't exist.

            1. Noone said such threats don't exist. The reason there are no private vessels equipped to handle what you spoke about, is because they are banned. The market doesn't exist anymore, wherein shipping companies can contract with various businesses to provide them with protection from aggressors. Or the companies providing their own protection for that matter.

              Of the 4 trillion dollars of cargo transported by the shipping industry (based on percentage of market share North American companies carry around 1.120 trillion of it) the cost of a fleet larger than that of the Navy would be a drop in the bucket. 25 million customers would pay a premium of $1208.08 per year, or $100.67 per month to employ such a fleet of privateers. The customer base would include not only shipping, but freight rail and trucking too.

              Plus, private ship building, contracting and procurement is demonstrably far more efficient than gov't contracting.

      2. More efficient and effective at raiding merchant shipping, not tremendous at fighting naval vessels. Privateers did not protect friendly trade; they raided enemy trade. I have heard privateers thrown out as a free market defense example, but since they were an offensive weapon against trade I question the legitimacy of the example.

        1. Sorry, the privateer's record of combatting vessels was far superior. A good example is the effectiveness of the President, and the performance of the privateers which fought in the north sea. The privateers were the Rattlesnake, and the Scourge. The President managed only to burn a single tar carrying brig, while the two privateers destroyed, or captured a total of 23 Merchant ships.

          During the last year of the war of 1812, Privateers (not particularly tasked with engaging in naval battles) destroyed 3 warships, to the 15 british warships the American navy seized/destroyed. So to say that privateers could not be effective at combat is a fallacy. They were, and if employed as primary combatants, based upon their records, would have been far more effective.

  6. Or: better to give the power to distant strangers than to nearby acquaintances.

    That's not what I get from the quote.

    It seems that what Hamilton really meant was that it's better to have the power in hands that the people will distrust and therefore watch, than to have it in those hands in whom the people trust and will therefore give in to.

  7. Richman is confusing the behavior of this government, which he rightfully despises, with our constitution. There really is no connection between the two. It doesnt matter what you put on paper as long as the people bound by those words are determined to skirt those bounds.

    Then there is this curious bit: "Americans opposed a standing army, as the vocal Anti-Federalists did, the Constitution forbade it. That is clearly not the case. No prohibition is to be found, a fact punctuated by the Third Amendment, which prohibits the quartering of troops in people's home without consent in peacetime. Obviously, that could be an issue only with a peacetime standing army. (Thanks to Gary Chartier for pointing this out.)"

    Quartering troops in people's homes was a rampant practice by both sides during the Civil War. By 'an issue only with a peacetime standing army' does he mean it would only trouble people during peacetime and they would have no issue with it during war, or that an army raised only during wartime would not use the practice? The inanity of that statement aside, the quartering of troops in people's homes despite the third amendment is ex. #3,456,789,004,277 of the nature of govt types that give lip service to constitutional restrictions until it suits them not to.

    The greatest flaw of our constitution is that it does not provide much in the way of punishment for those who violate it. And term limits. We need term limits.

    1. The greatest flaw of our constitution is that it does not provide much in the way of punishment for those who violate it.

      Who does the punishment, and who punishes the punishers when they fail in their duty? The nature of power is having the last word. You can't be punished, because you are the one who does the punishing.

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      1. I won't sugar coat it; special prosecutors are an attempt to remedy that problem and have proven less than perfect.

        As you point out having measures for doing so means nothing if those responsible for taking them refuse to do so. See: Hillary Clinton.

        There is no system that cannot be rigged.

        1. There is no system that cannot will not be rigged.


          1. If only humans weren't so damn human!

            1. Keep your hands off me, you damn dirty humans!

      2. I'd argue that the second amendment gives the people the means for punishment.

    2. "Quartering troops in people's homes was a rampant practice by both sides during the Civil War. By 'an issue only with a peacetime standing army' does he mean it would only trouble people during peacetime and they would have no issue with it during war, or that an army raised only during wartime would not use the practice?"

      Not to defend this article in general, but the 3rd amendment only applies in peacetime, Richman's point is that the amendment obviously presupposes that there would be a peacetime standing army as it sets a rule for quartering such an army. In wartime the 3rd amendment simply requires that Congress set standards.

      No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

      1. I forgot about that. Ok, that is correct. I need more coffee...or vodka. Both?

  8. That is why I think the whole idea of government is sickening. The Navy's original intent was a first line of defense against invasion. Then traders slipped our politicians a few bucks to use the Navy to protect their ships from pirates. The people were told it was National interest. Then businesses paid our politicians to use our Navy and Marines to forces other countries to trade with us. And so it goes on and on. We have troops in over 100 countries propping up mostly dictatorships all in the so called National interest. Our latest fiasco is Saudi Arabia pays our politicians to topple all other non Sunni dictatorships all the while sponsering very terroist that blew up the Twin Towers and are spreading terroism throughout the West. We send our sons and daughters to die in some god forsaken land that most people can't find on a make while continually going further into debt while our corrupt politicians holler National Interest. I have one serious question. If the world was flat and there was only Mexico, Canada and the US would your life be one bit different. Probably not. So national interest and a politician's bank account are the same thing. It time WE THE PEOPLE said NO MORE.

    1. I certainly agree with most of what you wrote. However, I wonder whether you support free trade, and if you do, whether you support protecting that trade?

      Many of the terrorist attacks made on us and our interests so far have been economic. That is, the attacks were attempts at damaging our trade. The World Trade Center attacks speak for this by its very name. Attacks on consulates are attacks on political centers but also--because we are a nation built on trade--they are attacks on international trade. The attack on the USS Cole was definitely a military attack. But because most US Navy ships are involved in protecting the sea lanes as well as projecting force, the attack could also be considered economic.

      I'm certainly no hawk, but I recognize that without protection our merchant navy would be under regular attack from the very same terrorists who attempt to attack our civilian population. Because halting our international trade would affect us more than any military defeat.

      1. The economic angle is a tricky one where the military is concerned since it leads to interventionism. There is no question - either by choice or circumstance - the United States needs to maintain a powerful military. While the size of its army (and amount spent) should be relative to the size of its nation and for protection of its borders, the reality it is it has economic interests that go beyond its borders. This expands the military. Add that it has taken Western civilization under its wing since the end of the second World War and it still needs more expansion.

        1. Good points. As a US citizen and taxpayer, I'd rather other trading nations contribute their share of navy and army support to the cause of protecting trade routes. But as a realist, I recognize that it's difficult to impossible to have so many navies and army bases in such close proximity as that required for the task without frequent disputes that escalate to kinetic military actions. For now, the US of A is playing World Trade Route Policemen, but that will change when the US dollar collapses.

          1. Like, I reckon, the Venetian Republic and its empire. Its existence was predicated on preserving and protecting its trade routes often bringing it into clashes with Genoa (the mortal enemies) and allying with agents (Ottomans; even though they went to war eventually. And all the semantics that went with its justifications to fight and ally with certain players) that clearly were against the interest of Christianity and Italy (to the extent it was perceived to be a 'nation') interests.

            The U.S. finds itself in similar situations (think Saudi Arabia).


      2. Why can't the merchant navy finance its own protection? Why subsidize its protection by taxation taken from everyone, even those that make no use of its trade? It's the same solution as with the roads. Let those who use them pay for them with user fees. Except in this case, the fees would be reflected as higher prices, rather than as the currently subsidized prices. Having a strong navy protecting ships is no different than farm subsidies or wal street bailouts.

        1. Why can't the merchant navy finance its own protection?

          They could, and possibly they should. However, one of my points was that having multiple parties with varying allegiances could make the situation worse in that these various armies and navies would get into fights with one another in addition to protecting their respective merchant fleets.

          1. But that wasn't the case historically. Multiple parties actually made it better. Letters of marque ships, and privateers contracted to provide defensive/protective services went unrivaled by anything the gov't put to sea. The agreement of France effectively put an end to privateering. The governments saw how successful they were, and knew they better rid the seas of them in case these privateers and corsairs were used to defend against a tyrannical gov't.

    2. The Navy's original intent was a first line of defense against invasion.

      What makes you think this? It was well understood at the time that the US would need to trade with Europe if we wanted to become anything but a backwater. Our manufacturing capability at the time of the Revolution was nothing, and we needed what Europe had.

      Indeed the first uses of our Navy, in the Barbary Coast wars, were strictly to protect US Trade. And the same people authorizing the development of a Navy were the ones who wrote the Constitution.

      There was a longstanding maritime tradition that considered ships sailing under a flag of a nation to be the jurisdiction of that nation. I don't see how anyone thought that it wasn't a legitimate use of a navy to protect these ships. Do you have a cite to say otherwise?

      1. Our manufacturing capability was better than that of any other colony. The Brits needed ships and cannon for which These States had the lumber and technology. At that same time the Portuguese mercantile empire absolutely forbad even Bronze Age technology in its colonies, a prohibition rabidly enforced with torture, drawing and quartering.

        1. It may have been better than other colonies, but that is only because in combination, the colonies were rather large and heavily populated. Nevertheless, the Colonies were largely agrarian and raw producers. We depended heavily on Europe for manufactured goods. While the US had a burgeoning manufacturing base, it was so small as to be insignificant. In the Revolutionary war, the majority of manufactured weapons were Brittish (e.g. the Brown Bess) and later, French.


    1. Part of me wants to agree, but the other part suspects that the outcome would be similar to this.

      1. The new First Amendment would be the right to food and shelter.

      2. There is no communism without communists.

    2. Given that the populist strain of American Politics has given us Trump and Sanders, while the establishment strain pushes Hillary and Bush, what sort of Constitution do you think we would get?

  10. So the Founding Fathers, I interpret from the article, were for freedom with exceptions?

    Is that the gist?

    I kinda get the part where the idea of a true libertarian nation was never possible. From the near onset the USA "broke" its libertarian promises with things like the Sedition Acts and Louisiana Purchase or the fight against piracy in North Africa and ultimately The Civil War and to some the dropping of the Atomic Bombs. I'm sure in each case even libertarians are divided on those decisions.

    Other than that, Toobin approves of this article!

  11. Mr. Richman failed to account for Federalist Paper 29, which is all about the standing army and the danger it poses to liberty--including the danger of a standing army necessitating conscription.

    "If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper."

    ----Federalist Paper No. 29


    1. The army has been largely unnecessary since May of 1945. Politicians and the Military-Industrial Complex have induced the invasion of faraway satrapies in order to conjure up hobgoblins with which to frighten the peasants and make them desirous to be led to safety. Abolishing the 1848 communist income tax amendment that goosestepped into the Constitution alongside the religious prohibition amendment would cut off funding for such suicidal adventures.

      1. Aye after May of 1945 all was well in the world and all hailed peace and freedom, the sky was purple and unicorns gamboled freely.

        1. Seeing as how we had the bomb there was no threat of invasion which is the only reason to have an army.

  12. Later in No. 29, we get the logic of the Second Amendment:

    "It will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.''


    Doesn't read like the Federalists were all in for a standing army to me. The Second Amendment was about having a "well-regulated militia" of citizens who were well-practiced in the use of arms both to prevent the necessity of having a standing army in the first place and to stand up and fight against a standing army should that ever become necessary.

  13. was not exactly a libertarian project.

    Compared to whose?
    These States are surrounded by berserker nihilist saracens and totalitarian socialists--since the Jefferson Administration. In over 200 years no other nation has rights in its constitution other than with nonsensical collectivized meanings. Our only problem is that religious fanatics have taken over God's Own Prohibitionists and totalitarian socialists dominate "the other" media-subsidy party. But every other country in the world is MUCH worse off, and deservedly so.

    1. We get it, you're an anti-religion zealot. And you have turned being anti-religious into a religion. The irony.........well, it's palpable.

  14. I don't really get the point of this. Is there any doubt that any nation would need protection to survive- even in times of peace?

    Consider that even at the time of the Revolution, Colony trading ships were being attacked in the Mediterranean. It was only the fact that those ships were protected by the Crown that they were able to bring much needed trade goods to support the Colonies. Once the US was born and British protection removed, the US had three options:

    1) Ally with other nations to get their protection (We did this at first with France, but their protection was lacking)
    2) Pay tribute to the Pasha for "protection" (We did this too, but they continued to capture our ships any time they felt the need to raise our tribute).
    3) Raise our own force to protect our ships.

    Essentially, this article comes down to, "In order to survive, the US needed a standing army and navy. But it was a devil's pact since, once you create these institutions, they take on a life of their own."

    This is my shocked face.

    The US was born from force. And let's be clear, any "nation" that has ever arisen has been created by its people banding together for the purposes of defense- often over the objection of neighbors of that same nation who disagreed. This is the natural consequence of life and nature- you try to make what is yours, and protect it from people who want to take it.

    1. My point is that Richman acts as if the question at this part of the Constitution was between having a national army/navy or not. This is ridiculous. Everyone- anti-federalist and federalist alike- knew that it would happen. Hell, we had one during the Revolution in addition to the Militias.

      The question wasn't about whether standing armies would exist, but how we would keep them effective and in check. Would they be somehow managed by Governors, or by the President? The reason for the 3rd Amd was to make large armies prohibitively expensive. And until additional amendments were passed, this was largely the case.

      Richman steals a base with the assumption that the system favored by Anti-Federalists and Anti-Nationalists would NOT have resulted in the something similar to today. Consider that had the Anti-Federalists have won, what would our world look like today? Would Europe have not still raised million man armies to impose their will on neighbors and the globe?

    2. I don't think you're getting it, Overt. If we leave every other country and terror organization alone, then they will leave us alone and we don't need a standing military or a multi ocean navy. All anybody or any organization wants it to get along.


    3. Not the Vatican.

  15. It seems to me that Richman is using the failure of the founders to live up to certain ideals as evidence that they never held those ideals, never wrote them down, etc.

    Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder. He held his own children as slaves.

    Jefferson also held to certain ideals that conflicted with that behavior.

    Failing to live up to one's ideals isn't evidence that such ideals were never held. It may simply be evidence that the framers were human.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights". We may have failed to live up to that ideal, but thank God for it. Where would we be without it?

    The framers eventually betrayed other ideals besides, too. Look at the Alien and Sedition Acts. There are plenty of other examples, too. Doesn't mean they never believed in freedom of speech. That they succumbed to projecting military power shouldn't surprise us either. Doesn't mean they didn't subscribe to certain ideals just because they failed to live up to them.

  16. As a clarification, I want to emphasize that use of the army to enforce federal law was not common in the early decades of the country. Later, however, after 1867, the federal government used regular troops to break strikes. Edling writes, "According to one estimate, the army was employed in more than three hundred labor disputes in this period [1867-1957]. During the Pullman strike in 1894, of the army's nominal 25,000 men, 16,000 were made available against the strikers.... [G]iven the widespread fear of a standing army a century earlier, it is striking that the government would now use regulars for such purposes. There were certainly critics of the government's use of force, but it seems reasonable to conclude that during the century following Washington's suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, the federal government felt increasingly confident about using regular solders against civilians as a means to maintain order and to realize its policies."

    1. Right, which means you had three pages to explain a basic point. "Resisting external forces that would infringe the liberties of your people means creating a matching force with equal ability to infringe upon the liberties of your people."

      It is a sad fact, but it is still true.

      But what are you going to do? Just the act of protecting your house from natural predators requires some ability to project force. And someone is going to use that force to attack others. So they will need to match that force. And it will go on and on.

      If the Federalists and Anti-Federalists had been debating a country that could match the external powers of its neighbors and trade-infringers and a country that lacked those powers, then in reality they were debating a nation that exists today or a country that is occupied by those foreign powers. But I don't think that is what was happening at this period in history. Both factions were fighting to create Force that would match external threats- they just had different ideas of how that Force would be managed. The error lies in thinking that had most power been reserved to the states, that power wouldn't have eventually been used on its peoples. This is wishful thinking.

      1. If the Federalists and Anti-Federalists had been debating a country that could match the external powers of its neighbors and trade-infringers and a country that lacked those powers, then in reality they were debating a nation that exists today or a country that is occupied by those foreign powers.

        This was a hash of a statement on my part (glad I don't write for a living). Let me try again:

        If the standing Army/Navy debate centered on whether the US would support a force that matched external belligerents or would not, then in reality it was a debate on whether the US would exist or become a vassal of those belligerents.

    2. While I disagree with using the army to put down strikes, I do understand that the army was the only force that the federal government of that time had to prevent a ban of malcontents from shutting down interstate commerce. The position of the feds was wrong, but it is certainly conceivable that they saw the strike as a national emergency.

      Although the aircontroller strike under Reagan is different, the implications are similar: strikers were shutting down interstate commerce and holding the economy for ransom for their personal and collective gain.Reagan had the better solution. I'm not sure his approach wa viable for the Pullman strike.

    3. Later, however, after 1867...

      Hmm, something significant about that date, but for the life of me I just can't recall why a Federal Army might have been such a tool of 'policy' then as opposed to say in the 1820s.

  17. To Whom It May Concern:

    Dream On?:

    "..In your dream, the constitution was not a scam,
    In your dream, the Supreme court is not a scam,
    In your dream, 9/11 was not a scam"
    In your dreams, the war on terror is not a scam,
    In your dream, al -qaeda was not a scam,
    In your dream I.S.I.S. is not a scam"

    Lyrics excerpted from:

    "Dreams [Anarchist Blues]":


    Regards, onebornfree.

    1. In your dream you made a point.

      I guess you're wanting to say that every happening is a conspiracy of big, bad government? Or maybe that everything is a scam, and I suppose then every person is a scam artist. But you've not yet gone over the cynical edge.

      1. 'In your dream you made a point.'
        Nice, nails it.

      2. Anarchists are fucking weird, man.

  18. I was surprised even to learn that Congress didn't take July 4, 1789 off!

    1. Oh, OK, I see in Wikipedia that the 2 houses passed the tariff bill on July 1 & 2. Geo. Wash's signing it on July 4 must've been a ceremonial thing. Or maybe he was busy on July 2 & 3; he was only a short walk away, but didn't like coming into the bldg. where Congress met.

  19. The passage mentioned is "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"

    This is NOT evidence that the Federal government took over control of the Militia! The Federal government had to call up the militia in case of war or national defense and only had control over the troops while they were serving in a national call-out. Otherwise the states maintained the militia. So, like most other provisions of the Framers, this was a balance of power set-up.

  20. What would Sunday morning be like without Richman's weekly dose of dumbass?

    1. He does seem to be losing his touch though; used to be you could count on a good flame-fest with a healthy side of OT on any of Sheldon's weekenders. These days, man... ["you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days"]

  21. Youth, Beware!

    Threats to national security come in many forms. They are not all military. Some are economic. The most recent is the so-called cashless economy.

    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." -Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812)

    All the schemes of all the central bankers are failing. The stench of their desperation fills the economic atmosphere. So, what next to do? Eliminate cash-money.

    To paraphrase the Bard, a sewer by any other name would smell as foul. Such is the case with ending cash-money.

    Should the evil scheme come to pass, it only will add to the economic, legal, and political tyranny progressively enveloping this nation on fire. Meanwhile the Swiss, besieged by us among others, continues to print CHF1,000 notes. There even is a small but notable movement there to print a CHF5,000 note.

    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    The proponents of tyranny always claim to be protecting national security or the public interest. A single system of plastic cards and electronic transfers merely represents the latest scheme to enrich the government and buy votes by redistributing wealth from the productive to the unproductive.

    Who will suffer most? The young! You who are young, be not fooled by the governmental swindlers.

    See "Youth, Beware!" under ...
    http://nationonfire.com/category/economy/ .

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