Sunday, February 26, 2012
Barry Goldwater and the Conservative Backlash:
A Case Study of Ethnic Collective Action by Whites in the Election of 1964
In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater, a two-term U.S. Senator from Arizona, defeated New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in his bid to win the nomination as their party’s candidate for president, opposing the re-election of incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the general election, Senator Goldwater carried his home state and the five Deep South states – including several states that had not voted for Republican presidential candidates since Reconstruction – but failed to defeat Johnson, receiving fifty-two electoral votes, two hundred and eighteen shy of the simple majority required to win.
Over twenty-seven million Americans, about six million of whom were strong Goldwater supporters, and nearly four million of whom worked in his campaign, backed the Republican presidential ticket in the election of 1964. Most of his supporters were males, the elderly, Republicans, and those who considered themselves conservatives as opposed to liberals.
Their support affirmed the existence of an abundance of voters who were willing to support a candidate who opposed labor unions, the ongoing American military involvement in Vietnam, excessive taxation by the federal government, and excessive spending on social welfare programs. But the outspoken rationality that rallied so many supporters to Goldwater’s side also contributed to his mischaracterization as racist, and to his eventual landslide trouncing.
The Senator propounded a complex, nuanced argument which at the time appeared to the average voter as a perspective that was in stark opposition to the racial progress that the United States needed and had just begun to embrace and advance. Goldwater opposed the portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that to him and his ideologues represented the encroachment of the federal government on the right of states to permit owners of private establishments who wish to deny patrons equal access to their property because of the patrons’ immigrant status or because of their racial, ethnic, or religious identity, to continue to practice discrimination and / or segregation based on those criteria if they so desired.
Democratic Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy and Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson had defeated Republican Vice President Richard Nixon in the presidential election of 1960. During Kennedy’s campaign, he expressed interest in encouraging Congress to enact a new Civil Rights Act. Following Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963 and Johnson’s subsequent succession to the presidency, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Johnson four months prior to his re-election to the presidency. It included Title II, which prohibited discrimination in facilities engaged in interstate commerce, and Title VII, which prohibited the practice of discrimination by employers and provided for the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The support for Barry M. Goldwater throughout his political career, from his first foray into politics in 1949, to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1953, to his candidacy in the 1964 presidential election, to his re-election to the Senate in 1968, until his refusal to seek re-election to the Senate in 1986, following his fifth non-consecutive term, is an example of a collective action because it fits sociologist Jack A. Goldstone’s definition of a “contentious collective action,” which is “any sustained effort at making claims on a society, or on other social actors, by a cooperating group (or groups) of individuals that provokes resistance [emphasis mine].”
The collective action of the Conservative Backlash was certainly sustained, as in 1966, many of Goldwater’s supporters helped elect his ideologue Ronald Reagan the governor of California, and in 1968, Alabama Governor George “Segregation Forever” Wallace became the most successful third-party candidate in decades, and Goldwater was re-elected as U.S. Senator from Arizona, going on to serve three more six-year terms.
Claims on society were certainly made by the Conservative Backlash. For example, Goldwater’s stated opposition to Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was based on the grounds that the act attempted to “legislate morality”, and on the idea that “[o]ur aim… is neither to establish a segregated society nor to establish an integrated society… it is to preserve a free society… [b]arriers infringe the freedom of everybody in society, not just the minorities.”
The action to support Barry Goldwater certainly provoked resistance. Despite the conservative senator’s history of supporting civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, which aimed to protect the rights of blacks to vote, and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which eliminated the poll tax, on June 18th, 1964, during a session of the 88th Congress, Senator Goldwater, “stressing… his belief that the legislation bestowed unconstitutional authority on the U.S. government in Titles II and VII… announced his intention to vote against [the House resolution to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964].” Goldwater’s declaration in defense of his position that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” was twisted and used against him by President Johnson, who called Goldwater’s “extremism” an “unpardonable vice.” He was also shamelessly campaigned against by Johnson re-election campaigns, best exemplified by the single televised airing of the infamous “Daisy” advertisement that featured the explosion of a nuclear bomb.
Support for Goldwater and the Conservative Backlash qualifies as a white ethnic collective action because 97.3% of Senator Goldwater’s supporters in the 1964 election were white – less than two percent below the figure for white supporters of George Wallace’s independent campaign, but over sixteen percent higher than the figure for white supporters of Johnson’s re-election.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was backed mostly by Northerners in both houses of Congress, and by a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats in both houses, gave the U.S. federal government primacy over the states with regard to the regulation of the right of business owners to choose to deny entry to and / or segregate potential patrons on the basis of certain categories of social distinction. It did so by redefining numerous types of private enterprises as “public” so that the federal government may have the right to regulate them as “public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce”, the power to regulate interstate commerce among the states having been specifically enumerated to the federal government in the Constitution.
Title II of the legislation provided that “[a]ll persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation… without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” It declares that a “civil action for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order, may be instituted by the person aggrieved” against those who “attempt to withhold or deny… or deprive… any person of any right or privilege secured by [the previous sections of the act]” to access establishments which “provide lodging to transient guests [with exceptions for those buildings having five rooms or less and those buildings which are occupied by the owner of the premises]”, are “engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises,” are “place[s] of exhibition or entertainment,” or are located within such establishments, provided that either their “operations affect commerce”, or that discrimination and / or segregation by the establishment is “supported by State action” or is “enforced by officials of the State…”.
In addition, Title II provides that injunctions and orders may not be made by aggrieved persons against “private club[s] or other establishment[s] not in fact open to the public, except to the extent that the facilities of such establishment are made available to the customers and patrons of an establishment within the scope of [the subsection of the title which described the types of establishments listed in the above paragraph].”
This law essentially redefined all private establishments which provided lodging, the consumption of food, exhibition and entertainment, as public places, and thus under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government. Although the law did not specifically state under what circumstances the owners of establishments could decide that their property constituted a “private club” – in which case they could have continued or resumed practicing discrimination and/or segregation on their property without fear of being subjected to legal recourse – the law did specifically state which types of establishments’ owners may not be permitted to practice discrimination and / or segregation.
In order to understand the causes and context of Goldwater’s defeat, and of the 73-to-27-vote failure of the U.S. Senate to prevent this legislation from being passed, it is necessary to briefly explain the history of the opposition to racial segregation and discrimination in the decade and a half that preceded the 1964 election.
During the 1950s and the first term of the Kennedy-Johnson administration, the United States underwent rapid social change, especially in the South. In the first few years of the 1950s, lawyers associated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed several suits in federal courts questioning the constitutionality of public school segregation, eventually resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Kansas decision. Brown made segregation in public schools illegal, “thrust the NAACP into the limelight”, and made it conceivable that blacks might very well succeed in using non-violent, legalistic methods to fight systematic segregation and discrimination in public settings.
Although it was a “limited victory”, the 1953 mass bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, officially headed by Reverend T. J. Jemison, and “mobilized and directed through the local black churches and the United Defense League”, which was an “organization of organizations”, provided “evidence that the system of racial segregation could be challenged by mass action”.
The successful mass bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama several years later, was organized by Rosa Parks, E. D. Nixon, the NAACP, the Women’s Political Council, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, and “the majority of Montgomery’s black ministers”, who “saw this moment in history as a critical time when they and their churches could change the oppressive social system that choked Southern blacks at every turn.” The boycott lasted over a year, drew national attention, and served as a solid example of a non-violent successful collective action by blacks to oppose discrimination in publicly-provided services.
Following the Brown decision, the mass bus boycotts, and the integration of the University of Alabama, all of which were supported by the NAACP, “the bureaucratic strategies of the NAACP came under intense scrutiny and criticism by blacks for the first time.” The State of Alabama banned the NAACP in 1956, which “went to court to fight for the right to exist” for over eight years. Due to the fact that Birmingham, Alabama was the site of the headquarters of the NAACP’s Southeastern Region, which comprised six states, the entire Deep South was affected.
The attack on the NAACP by whites “occurred at a moment when the NAACP stood a good chance of attracting a large following”, “destroyed not only a great deal of what the NAACP was but also what it might have become,” and “left an organizational and protest vacuum in many Southern black communities”, depriving blacks of “organization[s] through which to address local grievances”.
The period between the bus boycotts and the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter sit-in protests of 1960, which sparked the broader, South-wide sit-in protest campaign (and which inspired more than fifty additional sit-ins in Southern cities in the following week alone), is referred to as the “quiescent period,” during which time “organizations appropriately designed to facilitate collective action were established… operat[ing] in a fluid but organized manner as they mobilized and prepared the masses to engage in direct action.”
Although the common misperception regarding the Greensboro sit-ins is that “they were the product of an independent student-initiated movement”, the four black male students at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College who sat down at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro that February “were, or at some time had been, members of an NAACP Youth Council” and “had participated in numerous meetings in social action-oriented churches in Durham.”
The fact that the students had been involved with the NAACP should not be misconstrued to suggest that any part of the NAACP besides members of its Youth Councils were openly or directly involved in coordinating the sit-ins. On the contrary, “[t]he NAACP, with some 380,000 members… was dominated by older leaders who never endorsed the sit-in strategy.”
This particular non-violent sit-in protest occurred at a time when the NAACP was mired in a legal battle in the courts of Alabama, and was effectively outlawed in the South (including North Carolina) at a time when the number of anti-segregationist organizations by which one could be recruited had recently grown. Numerous “[p]reviously established movement centers were directly involved in the planning and execution of the early 1960 sit-ins,” such as the Southern chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP’s Youth Councils, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.
The dramatic increase in the frequency of the practice of non-violent sit-in protests in the late 1950s and the early 1960s represented a distinct shift in the strategies of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement, which had used legalistic techniques of contentious collective action to achieve justice in public schools nationwide in the Brown victory, and which had used non-violent, direct-action techniques of contention in the bus boycotts, had succeeded thus far in its goal to stop racial segregation and discrimination in public settings.
Considering that those high up in the leadership of the NAACP did not endorse sit-in protests, and that the success of the Montgomery bus boycott “let the black population know that the tactics and strategies of the mass movement could be effective and could bring far faster results than the legalistic method of the NAACP”, and given that sit-in protests had been common and successful in the South for the previous three years, is it any surprise that youths who had been involved in anti-segregationist organizations would once again choose to employ methods of non-violent direct action to fight for their right to be served in settings which they felt they deserved the permission and ability to frequent? Moreover, is it any more surprising that they would do so without considering that the business owner, as a legitimate possessor of property, an obvious racist though he very well may have been, in theory retained the legal right to decide who comes on to his property and for what purpose? Is it irrational or extremist to suggest that, with the NAACP held in thrall, the movement lost focus on its original goal of prohibiting discrimination in public places and instead unwittingly drifted into the realm of organized crime?
When those students decided to occupy the segregated restaurant section of that segregated Woolworth’s shop that day, they boldly bore the brunt of whatever harassment and humiliation the whites frequenting the shop were willing to dole out, and they deserve praise for their bravery and courage, and also admiration for their success in sparking action that caused many businesses throughout the South to voluntarily end segregation long before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did away with their ability to choose to do so.
However, the direct anti-segregationist action that those four college freshmen implemented was in fact unlawful, violated the rights of the owner or owners of the Woolworth’s store, and was essentially a case of conspiracy to commit the criminal trespass of private property. Furthermore, the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for which the protesters expressed approval, constitute violations of the Fifth and Thirteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Following Barry Goldwater’s loss to incumbent President Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, ruled against the plaintiff, attorney Moreton Rolleston, the owner of the motel, who was asking for $11 million in compensation, re-affirming the legitimacy of the Civil Rights Act that had been passed several months before, and issued a permanent injunction against Rolleston, requiring him to integrate his lodging facility within twenty days. The circuit court case which had preceded the U.S. Supreme Court case had prohibited Georgia Governor Lester Maddox from using race as a criterion by which to deny entry and access to his Pickrick Cafeteria in Atlanta, which employed blacks. Rather than integrate, Governor Maddox chose to shut down his cafeteria.
Those representing Governor Maddox and Mr. Rolleston had argued that their Fifth Amendment rights had been violated because they had not been justly compensated for the compulsory taking of their property (i.e., their labor and service) for public use without due process of law. They also argued that their Thirteenth Amendment rights had been violated because they had been forced by Congress, through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to serve people they did not wish to serve, which to them amounted to “involuntary servitude,” (i.e., slavery), which the Thirteenth Amendment prohibits without either due process of law or just compensation.
Concurring with the Supreme Court’s decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote the following: “in view of the Commerce Clause, it is not possible to deny that the aim of protecting interstate commerce from undue burdens is a legitimate end. In view of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, it is not possible to deny that the aim of protecting Negroes from discrimination is also a legitimate end. The means adopted to achieve these ends are also appropriate, plainly adopted to achieve them, and not prohibited by the Constitution, but consistent with both its letter and spirit.”
Black also wrote that “[i]n the past, this Court has consistently held that regulation of the use of property by the Federal Government or by the States does not violate either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendment… A regulation such as that found in Title II does not even come close to being a ‘taking’ in the constitutional sense… Moreover, it would be highly ironical to use the guarantee of due process – a guarantee which plays so important a part in the Fourteenth Amendment, an amendment adopted with the predominant aim of protecting Negroes from discrimination – in order to strip Congress of power to protect Negroes from discrimination.”
It is lamentable that there has to this day been no successful opposition to the proclamation by the highest court in the nation that racial equality is to be recursively defined as the conditions that result from the implementation of any law that is interpreted by the court to have been passed in order to “protect Negroes from discrimination,” and even more lamentable that the efforts by Goldwater and his supporters remain largely forgotten today, perhaps in part due to the evolution of the Republican Party away from its ideological roots.
What is fortunate for the public is that so many of the prominent political and ideological figures who succeeded Goldwater and allied themselves with him as part of an “extremist” Conservative Backlash or as members of what Goldwater called the “new liberal” faction of the Republican Party, such as George Wallace, recurrent presidential candidate and political commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, have proven themselves to be too conservative, intolerant, or unamenable to reason with regard to social issues (save for Wallace, who, following the attempt on his life in 1972, rescinded his pledge to always support segregation) to experience sustained political success.
Although it has been said that Goldwater energized the libertarian movement of the early 1970s, his efforts likely did more to empower people like Wallace, Reagan, and Buchanan than people like Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul and his son Barry Goldwater, Jr., the former congressman from California, who remains for the most part invisible on the national political scene, having left Congress in 1983, but having campaigned for Dr. Paul and appearing as his hypothetical running mate on an unofficial Louisiana Taxpayers’ Party ballot.
The Conservative Backlash continued to affect national politics during the 1980s as the elder Goldwater remained a senator until the latter half of that decade, regaining prominence towards the end of his career with the reworking of the military command structure in the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. Although the “extremist” / liberal Republican faction lost steam due to competition within the party against the religious right – which gained notoriety and popularity following the era of public focus on family values during the presidencies of born-again Christian Jimmy Carter and during the Reagan-Bush era – today, the stranglehold imposed on national politics by evangelicals and born-agains of the religious right has appeared to begin to weaken.
This weakening is best symbolized by the widespread popular opposition to the social policies of former President George W. Bush, the dismissal of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as an inexperienced, insufficiently intelligent religious conservative unfit for office, and by Arizona Senator John McCain’s failure to invoke the moral-religious legal rhetoric necessary to garner enough of the Reagan-and-Bushes-voting conservative religious base of the Republican Party without alienating himself from those supporters who exalt him as a “maverick” for his contention with his own party, though reticent as he was to distance himself from his would-be predecessor.
With many supporters of Barack Obama seeing him as part of the legacy of the Kennedy-Johnson administration, and perceiving the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as having been an event which secured the freedom of immigrants and of racial and ethnic minorities to associate with society, and moreover an event which allowed for the possibility that the son of an African immigrant could become the commander of the strongest armed forces on the planet, it is almost inconceivable that a politician today could voice his support for the reversal of the 1964 bill and the subsequent court decisions which affirmed its legitimacy and still be taken seriously as a viable candidate around which either of the two major parties could organize a presidential campaign.
Since the tide of public support turned against Republican President George W. Bush after his 2004 re-election, and especially in the past several months, which have seen much debate concerning which ideologically conservative figure ought to be thought of as the one best representing the views of the party, the Republican Party now appears to be in imminent danger of becoming fractured, leading the public to consider the possibility that there will soon emerge a niche for a new breed of conservative – perhaps one that will embrace secular values, perhaps a religious extremist the likes of which this country has not seen since Alan Keyes vowed to implement state-sanctioned prayer in public schools – but nonetheless one who will undoubtedly threaten the stability of the domination of electoral politics by two parties that inevitably drift toward one another as every other November nears, by doing what true mavericks do best: by unwaveringly and unapologetically demanding that the issues highlighting the differences between more than two candidates and parties be addressed and brought to public attention.
“[F]reedom is diminished when barriers are raised against the freedom not to associate.”
- Senator Barry Morris Goldwater, five-term United States Senator from the State of Arizona
Written in May 2009
Originally Published on February 26th, 2012
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I would like Madisonians to think about a segment of the Wisconsin populace that both sides of the Walker-versus-the-unions issue have overlooked – and seem to want to continue to overlook; I’d like to offer a libertarian perspective on this, the one-year anniversary of the Wisconsin union protests.
Are you ready to take back your freedom of peaceful assembly and your freedom of speech? Do you want to put a stop to these wasteful, disastrous, undeclared wars in the Middle East?
Do you want to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the NDAA and stop illegal searches and seizures by the TSA and the FBI? Do you want to end warrantless spying and wire-tapping, extrajudicial killing of American citizens, and indefinite detention without trial?
Do you want to stop the CIA’s funding and armament of foreign drug lords? Do you want the DEA to stop raiding legal medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and California? Do you want to pardon all non-violent drug offenders and legalize the recreational use of marijuana?
Do you want to let the states raise their fuel-economy standards for automobiles if they think they can do better than the standards set by the EPA? Do you want to give towns and counties in northern Wisconsin the freedom to raise their clean-water standards if they think they can do better than the rest of the state, and protect themselves against the hazardous health effects caused by the pollutants of mining operations? Do you want the federal government to stop selling-out our water, air, and farms to BP, Halliburton, the Chicago Climate Exchange, and Monsanto?
Do you want to stop congressional insider trading without making it harder for politicians to disclose to the public the details of the bills that congress is considering? Do you want to close the revolving-door between politicians, lobbyists, and high-power corporate lawyers? Do you want to end corporate finance of political campaigns and the legal fiction of corporate personhood?
Do you want to put an end to these multi-trillion-dollar bailouts that lose taxpayer money, add to the debt and the deficit, don’t stimulate the economy, and make industries harder to regulate instead of easier?
Are you prepared to see more of your income taxed away – and put your children and grandchildren into debt slavery – to pay for this wasteful deficit spending, and hundreds of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities?
Are you tired of the Federal Reserve printing up trillions a year to cover for all this waste, inflating the dollar and devaluing your wages in the process?
Are you sick of giving special legal protections to politicians, and helping them stay unaccountable to the law and to the people they represent?
Do you want to abolish secrecy at all levels of government?
Several years ago, President Obama promised the American people the most transparent and open administration in history, but it is becoming more apparent every day that this has not happened, and that it is not going to happen.
If the events of the last twelve years have taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer tolerate the degree of government secrecy to which we have become accustomed. This is especially obvious in regards to our foreign policy, our intelligence agencies, and our developing lobbying-regulation complex.
This complex permits legislators and representatives of big business such as lobbyists and corporate lawyers to collude to write laws and company policies favorable to their own common interests. It also gives a revolving door for such people to switch jobs, has allowed our politicians to get away with a form of legalized insider trading, erodes at our campaign finance laws, and corrupts the integrity of our elections.
John F. Kennedy once said, “the very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in an open and free society”. So how may we best remove secrecy from our political process? Perhaps we should look even closer to home than lobbying, campaign finance, and congressional insider trading; perhaps we should look at the very act of voting itself.
How long must we suffer the evils posed by voting machines, hacker threats to voting machines, the tabulation of voting-machine results in undisclosed locations to counter such threats, and people voting under the names of recently-deceased registered voters (which recently corrupted the results of several Republican primaries)?
How many would agree that Wisconsin’s toughened voter-identification requirements threaten the integrity of our democracy and undermine the privacy of our secret-ballot system?
But what if the privacy that the secret-ballot system gives to our politicians and to the voting public is the same kind of privacy possessed by the “independent” private Federal Reserve System? What if the reason that politicians and representatives of businesses can get away with these back-room handshake deals – and the reason that the president can get away with signing unconstitutional bills with a robotic pen – is precisely because there is no paper trail; and because there are no real, verifiable signatures?
What if the ballot is a contract between the people and their public officials, and the spoken oaths our politicians take to “preserve, protect, and defend” the law are meaningless? What if the voluntary, written contract is the necessary condition for all open, free, transparent, and legitimate government; and this secret ballot that we never sign is the source of all government secrecy?
What if the Statute of Frauds – which states that no contract to provide goods shall be enforceable unless evidenced in writing – applies to the public goods provided by government, and therefore stands in direct and flagrant violation of the secret-ballot-voting provision of the State Constitution?
What if, instead, it is the secret-ballot provision which is in violation of centuries of common contract law upon which the Statute of Frauds – and indeed, our entire legal system – is based?
How can we expect a politician who has never signed a written oath of office be held legally accountable to a group of people who never signed a written agreement to give him authority?
Surely this lack of written evidence that an agreement has been made – coupled with the constitutional provision that no congressman shall be required to respond to questioning (except in a speech or debate) – does nothing to prevent the use of government power to ensure that our politicians remain unaccountable for their actions and votes, and irresponsive and irresponsible to the will of the people.
What does it mean when our representatives in congress are immune from prosecution for most misdemeanors? When five-sixths of them cannot be recalled by their constituents? When they have the sole power to impeach other federal public officials – while they themselves are extraordinarily difficult to impeach – and when we do not have the option to vote “none of the above” and choose not to be represented (without a new election being held later)?
What does it mean when we are not free to represent ourselves?
Although we pay their salaries, our “public servants” do not work for us. Nor can it be said that any mutual exchange occurs in the act of secret-ballot-voting for political representation. Nor even do we merely work for our politicians, no; something else entirely is going on here.
If the purpose of government is to promote “liberty and justice”, why then are we required to choose someone to make decisions on our behalves? Certainly it would be most just for us to have the liberty to make our own decisions, as long as they do not directly harm others or damage their property.
Certainly if we choose to participate in a civil-societal system in which actions whose morality is more debatable than causing direct physical harm are made illegal according to the will of a majority of the people’s elected representatives, we owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors – both majority and minority – to establish some mechanism whereby it can be verified that participants in such a system choose to cooperate willingly, voluntarily, and not under duress; and consciously, of sound mind, and capable of giving informed consent.
When did you and I agree to support this government? Who among us can rightfully claim that he was informed and not under duress when he agreed to do so?
Do we agree to support this government when we vote? If so, were we informed when our politicians pandered and lied to us? Were we informed when we perfectly and completely understood macroeconomics, constitutional process, and the concerns of our fellow voters?
It has been said that the secret-ballot system is a safeguard against voter intimidation and bribery. Putting aside that voter intimidation and bribery do exist under the current secret ballot system, who among us can say that he did not vote against one candidate because he was afraid of the kind of controls which that candidate would impose on him? Is this not voter intimidation? Is this not duress?
Who among us can say that he did not vote for his candidate of choice because of the economic gains that that candidate promised him? Is this not bribery? If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, then what about when those threats of control and promises of economic gain would be delivered through methods which violate the Constitution and do not promote the general welfare?
Some say that when we vote, we agree to support the government, but only for a period of time equal to the length of the term which our elected officials would serve. But do we not agree to support the government for as long as we choose to be citizens? Do native-born Americans indeed choose to become citizens? Do we agree to support this government when we begin to benefit from it by participating in its programs?
Who among us can say that he was informed and conscious of what was happening to him when his nurse stamped his footprint onto his souvenir birth certificate, or when his parents signed him up for a Social Security number in his first weeks of life?
Who among us can say that he truly consented to these actions? Being that we were not able to resist them – nor able to understand why we might want to – were these actions not performed under duress and without informed consent?
If our civil society is truly based on “the consent of the governed” – and if participation in it is based on informed consent, then why – when we come of age – does the government not make it known to us that we may choose to opt-out of the Social Security system; or permit us to expatriate ourselves (that is, renounce our federal citizenship)?
The 14th Amendment provides that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens”, but only if they are “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. Do we not have the right to choose whether to subject ourselves to the federal government’s jurisdiction?
The federal government, the governments of the states, and we the people are – after all – co-equal sovereigns, who only submit to one another willingly. Are we to take it on faith that the governments of the states wield the collective right to subjugate our wills to the power of the federal government, or should we consider that the existence of the federal government – and our participation in it – may constitute a rebellion against the sovereignty, freedom, and independence of the states?
Why is political representation in the U.S. House based on the number of residents in each state who are available to be compelled to fund the operations of the federal government, rather than on the number of people who – willingly and of their own volition – agree to become federal citizens, and to support and fund the federal government’s functions?
Why do the politicians who tell us that “citizenship is not an entitlement program” not remind us that we have the right to waive and forfeit the benefits of citizenship, thereby relieving the government of the burdensome responsibility to provide for the privileges associated with citizenship?
Why do these politicians instead use “citizenship… not [being] an entitlement program” as an excuse to encourage us to fund and pledge loyalty to the government, and to consume its resources? What benefits are we to expect from a system that often requires us to kill and to die against our will for the furthering of its own power?
Private property has been defined as the absolute power and freedom to exclusively possess – and to use and abuse – at one’s own discretion; it is the ability to become the sole controller and dominator of an object, and the right to refuse to respond to questions about whether a possession is being either used or abused.
But do not our politicians have the power to control and dominate – to use and abuse us – at their own discretion? Do not their special privileges from arrest, their power to remove other politicians from office, and our lack of power to refuse to consent to delegate authority to them make their rule over us exclusive and absolute? Does not their legal immunity from questioning – except when we are choosing which one of them will control us – make their rule over us irresponsive and irresponsible?
Are our bodies not, then, given over by our parents at birth as possessions to be dominated – absolutely, exclusively, and irresponsibly – by rulers whose authority we have no power, right, or privilege to withdraw consent to delegate?
Are we not, then, sold into a system which we are legally incapable of resisting but required to obey? Are we not, then, the literal property of our government masters? Are we not, then, but prisoners and slaves? Are not prisoners permitted to earn and spend money? Are not slaves permitted to breathe fresh air?
What is your registration of birth but a contract signed by your parents to permit the government to repossess you if its deems your parents’ level of parental care to be below some standard set intentionally high so as to excuse your kidnapping by Child Protective Services, which studies have shown to have much higher rates of physical and sexual abuse than does the general public?
So are you a person, or are you a piece of property? Is a corporation a piece of shared property, or is it a person? We can actually answer both of these questions at once.
What is a person? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, statutes may define a “person” so as to include not only human beings and corporations, but also labor organizations, partnerships, associations, legal representatives, trustees, and others. This would explain why corporations and labor organizations – unions – have the same rights as people when it comes to donating money to political campaigns.
Why is the root of the word “organization” – as in “labor organization” – organ? Why do we call Congress a “legislative body”? Why is the root of the word “corporation” corpus, meaning body?
Governments, unions, and businesses do not have real, tangible, physical bodies which can be destroyed like ours can; they have the potential to exist indefinitely. Indeed, President Reagan was not far from the truth when he said, “…a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth”.
So when did these ghosts – the State, the labor union, and the corporation – steal from us our corporeity; our “bodiliness”; our attribute of being regarded by the law as possessing a body? In the late 19th century, when a former railroad industry robber-baron became a court reporter and injected his own opinion into a U.S. Supreme Court decision about a railroad company, thereby establishing the legal precedent of “corporate personhood”? Hardly!
The U.S. Constitution is not a legal document outlining how we should be governed as much as it is a contract by the states to cede powers to the federal government in exchange for monetary subsidies, and to promise to share in the payment of the debt which the federal government and military acquired from the British, who funded both sides of the Revolutionary War. This promise was made in secret by the founding fathers on behalf of the residents of the colonies who were never given any opportunity to decide whether to support the new American government.
As a side-note, let us not forget that it is the loser of the war that pays war debts; and let us ask whether the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 were truly wars between the British and their colonies, or whether they were nothing more than violent civil wars and trade skirmishes which were fought over debt obligations and the legal statuses of citizens, and only brought to a resolution not because of a peace settlement, but because both parties settled financially?
Through the Constitution, the states gave the Congress the power to borrow money, and the Constitution provides that no law shall impair the obligation of contracts (financial obligations and trusts not excepted). This agreement by the states to share in the repayment of federal debt was – in truth – a mutual trust, which established the states as financial corporate subsidiaries of the corporate federal government. The United States is, effectively, a plantation; a “tax farm”.
I’d like to pause for a moment to caution my audience; let it never be said that no self-described libertarian has ever criticized the Constitution or its framers. Indeed, so long as one takes a close, honest look at the wording of that document – and probes the true legal meaning of each important word – there is a thin and blurry line between a libertarian who strongly supports the Constitution and a libertarian who strongly opposes the Constitution.
But I digress; the reason the 14th Amendment uses the word “citizen” and the word “person” – rather than using either word twice – is because these words have different meanings. In truth, the 14th Amendment created two separate and legally-distinct classes of people.
A “person” is a natural, flesh-and-blood human being who has a real body, capital-C Citizenship, and individual sovereign power within the independent common-law state in which he resides. A small-c “citizen” is a “naturalized” artificial corporate person, who has a piece of paper with his all-capitalized name on it in a file drawer in the office of a government bureau, privileges and immunities (although no rights or protections), and an obligation to pay the debts contracted by the federal government on his behalf.
Every state in this union is a sovereign and independent country in and of itself, and legal documents spanning from 1778 to just three years ago will confirm that. The Constitution only authorizes the federal government to have jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and over the lands it has purchased, and the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed that the federal government has jurisdiction over lands it has conquered.
Therefore, if the federal government has jurisdiction over a state, it is either because it has purchased or conquered that state, or because that state has allowed itself to be purchased or conquered. Likewise, if the federal government has jurisdiction over you, it is either because it has purchased or conquered you, or because you have allowed yourself to be purchased or conquered by it.
Unless and until you and I and the states resist and re-assert our sovereign powers, rights, and protections, our corporate federal government literally owns the states within this Union, along with all the businesses, tangible and intellectual property, and human beings which exist within them.
This is what I meant when I brought up the birth certificate; the “registration of birth”. Because we are required to register our cars, the government can repossess them if it doesn’t like the way we are using them. Just as our parents registered our birth – us, for all intents and purposes – the government can repossess us if it doesn’t like the way our parents are using their freedom to raise us as they see fit.
Just as we are required to take out insurance policies on our cars, all of us – purportedly – are now required to purchase health insurance policies. But we can choose whether to buy a car; we cannot choose whether to own our own bodies. Our cars – like our bodies – are the property of the government, and, therefore, can be regulated like (so-called) property.
There is virtually no private property – and no private sector – left in this country. All is subject to government regulation; anything you think you own – your body, your car, your house, your business – you merely rent, use, possess, or occupy temporarily.
All goods and services are deemed to be subject to the whims of the public-sector government, and able to be repossessed by it via eminent domain, and sold off – privatized – to some other temporary user. But although privatization is a province of government; it just may be the closest thing to real private property which still exists, at least in regards to anything worth owning.
You may think you own your business, but through charter it becomes the property of the State, which will take from you and your business in property taxes, personal income taxes, and corporate income taxes however much it pleases. You may think you own your car, but you are required to have a license, registration, and insurance if you don’t want the government to repossess it.
You may think you own your body, but take a look at your birth certificate. Your name is capitalized; this capitalization makes you an artificial person, a legal fiction; a naturalized corporate citizen with no legal rights or protections, but only the privileges and immunities conferred upon you by the federal government.
You are not a name on a piece of paper in a file drawer in a government bureau in the nation’s capital; you are a soul who possesses a body; an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and sovereign power equal to the federal government to affect the laws of the states.
Although you never signed your birth certificate – consenting to be identified as your all-capitalized name – you did sign your driver’s license. Although you may not believe you consented to be a federal citizen, you did check-in the box on your census form identifying yourself as such. Perhaps this decennial census is an opportunity to end your citizenship in the United States Government.
If our natural Right of Expatriation is the right to withdraw our federal citizenship provided that we have some other free state to go to – and if each state has been described in government documents as free, sovereign, and independent – then why do the states not issue passports, or contain consulates or diplomatic offices to facilitate communication with the federal government, which only wields exclusive jurisdiction in the District of Columbia and its overseas dependencies?
What are the implications on the “consent of the governed” asserted by the Declaration of Independence if we cannot choose to be subject to only our states, much less choose to opt-out of all forms of territorially-monopolistic governance altogether? The implication is that the existence of a right cannot be confirmed by some scribbles on a piece of parchment paper; the existence of a right can only be confirmed by our ability to exercise the right.
The budget of the federal government is eighty times larger than the budgets of the governments within the average given state. Congress has now committed to spend some $160 trillion in unfunded liabilities; nearly ten times greater than the amount of wealth produced in the country in a single year, and ten percent greater than the amount of wealth produced on the planet in a year. These figures are set to double every three-and-a-half years.
Despite these facts – and despite the fact that we become second-class citizens when we cede our authority to the federal government (whereby – in the process – we agree to help the government pay for such extravagant, irresponsible spending) – there exist huge portions of supporters of both major political parties which emphasize a greater role for the federal government in our everyday lives.
Why should we accept this? Why should we accept the federal government’s supremacy in creating policy, overriding the decisions made in the states and in the county and municipal governments? Why shouldn’t we argue for a greater role for the states and the local governments in creating policy, and for providing public goods and public services?
Why should we agree to maintain the federal government’s monopoly power? Why should the more local governments not compete against the government to put forth better policies and to provide better public services, thereby undermining the federal monopoly power to do these things?
Why should we count on the federal government – rather than the more local governments – to defend us from the power of the states? Are we to continue to pretend that the federal government knows better than the states what their residents want, and that the states know better than the communities what their residents want?
This is the principle of subsidiarity; the principle that decision-making authority should be as close to the people it affects (as would be effective, efficient, and responsible). It is the principle of subsidiarity which is the reason for the 10th Amendment (the states’ rights amendment), and for the institution of dual federalism (the idea that the states have supreme power in certain policy areas, while the federal government has power only in areas which the states allow it).
But opponents of these principles are too apt to characterize states’ rights as permitting slavery, ignoring the facts that it would allow California, Colorado, and other states to legalize medicinal marijuana, as well as allow a third of the states to raise their standards on the fuel efficiency of vehicles.
Intrastate subsidiarity would go the additional mile by allowing towns in northern Wisconsin to raise their standards on water safety, and to protect themselves against decisions made in Madison to damage the health of the local and native populations with mining operations; as well as allow the communities actually affected by the Keystone pipeline to decide whether to permit its construction, rather than the federal government treating land in the Great Plains states as its own property.
For the states to stand up against the federal government by re-asserting their rights to enact laws and administer policy would compromise the federal government’s monopoly power to provide public goods and public services. State governments’ policies would – in essence – compete against the policies of the federal government, thus undermining its power. But to bring about a more perfect competition against government in general would require that additional steps be taken.
I don’t see this public-sector unions controversy as a question of whether Governor Walker or the Democrats have the interests of public employees at heart; I interpret it as an example of unwillingness by both sides of the aisle to take steps towards diminishing the power of government and its bureaucracies to compel us – the taxpayers – to pay for them to provide us with those goods and services which are typically thought of as public.
While opponents of Governor Walker are apt – and correct – to criticize the government when it increases the power of businesses (leading to unchecked corporate and P.A.C. influence on elections, business monopolies and oligopolies, privatization schemes, and government sponsorship of enterprises); they are not willing to admit that “corporate greed” – which is nothing more than business executives trying to return wealth to their investors through profit – is not the source of the problem.
The problem is that we have a government which is powerful and large enough to give those privileges to businesses at the expense of the taxpayers. The desire of private persons to obtain and increase their own wealth has existed since the dawn of time, and will never cease to exist, no matter how hard we may try to regulate that desire away.
But when we give our government the power to give special rights to certain businesses, and to award contracts to provide public goods and services to certain businesses, we are giving a signal to the market that the government will compel people to use their services and buy their goods.
This is why force and compulsion are antithetical to the freedom of the marketplace, and why competition is antithetical to monopoly and oligopoly. It is forceful government violence corrupting peaceful market freedom; the ancient struggle of brute force playing itself out in the market.
Contrary to what those who support central economic planning may tell you, competition does not inevitably lead to monopoly in a free market; competition only leads to monopoly when the government decides to establish special privileges for – and award contracts and charters to – the least ethical, most ruthless competitors.
Provide an avenue for smaller governments to engage in a more accepted and robust competition against centralized government power, and you will see domination of industries by a select few businesses become greatly diminished.
But aside from the monopoly powers of government and the monopoly powers of business, opponents of Governor Walker also tend to overlook the monopoly powers of unions, and even the corporate personhood which Citizens United granted to labor organizations in addition to corporations. Suffice it to say that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. has done little to inspire us to criticize the Citizens ruling.
Why should the status of “corporate person” not be denied to both businesses and unions in the interest of fairness? Why should the labor movement – large segments of which evidently fashion themselves revolutionary and anti-monopoly – actively promote the ability of certain unions to exclusively represent workers in negotiations with management, protected by compulsory governments wielding territorial monopolies on the legitimate use of violence, no less?
Practically gone are the days of minority-unionism and wildcat strikes which were once the tactically-pure principles of the labor movement, uncorrupted by the desire of institutionalization and privilege conferred by coercive monopoly government.
This conflict was the reason for the 1924 split in the Industrial Workers of the World; between those who sought political privilege for unions; and those who sought to refrain from using violent government power to compel others to accede to their demands, but instead to make employers and the public aware of and sympathetic to their concerns, and to spread information about the plight of the working man through peaceful discourse and convincing rhetoric.
But the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt effectively ended this dispute among the labor movement at large; in 1935, his National Labor Relations Act outlawed wildcat strikes, gave a single federal agency – the N.L.R.B. – the sole power to permit or deny the permission of unionized workers to strike.
Certainly we can agree that when workers with more modest demands form their own rival union to compete with the established union in their workplace, this can undermine worker solidarity within that workplace. But when a more radical, idealistic, and extreme segment of employees feel that the established union is being too modest, and call for a wildcat strike, the established union can bring charges against the more extreme workers, sacrificing their just demands in the name of getting things done.
Thus, we see the established unions undercutting the efforts of both the more modest and the more extreme workers, each group of which assuming the risks and responsibilities associated with their own actions. It becomes evident that – primarily – the established unions seek not solidarity, but rather the institutionalization of their exclusive power to negotiate on the behalves of workers; their own monopoly power of representation within each unionized workplace.
To this day, the Industrial Workers of the World promotes minority unionism, and even goes so far as to recommend that non-unionized workers engage in solidarity unionism tactics, rather than to pursue “the legalistic strategies that have led us to the current mess”.
Indeed, perhaps the I.W.W.’s humble anarchism explains why it claims just one nine-hundredth as many members as the A.F.L.-C.I.O., one-tenth of whose members are in the business of providing public services, and another tenth of whose members are in the automobile industries, companies and unions in which were bailed out under Bush and Obama.
But this is all in regards to collective bargaining in the private sector. What of public-sector collective bargaining, and the effects of Governor Walker’s budget-repair bill on the power of unions?
Being that the public-sector workers who struck a year ago were government employees, the fact that they strengthened their appeals to and rapport with the party more inclined to support them was to be expected. However, it was not well-advised.
I submit that if the Republicans’ assault on their alleged rights was so egregious, then they should have used the opportunity which this crisis presented to show their independence rather than their dependence, thus proving that they are as powerful – if not more so – than the government, and that their right to demand the moneyed property of the people through the threat of force exists regardless of the opinion of whomever happens to be the current governor.
They should have gone into competition with the government; they should have shown that they provide public services so efficiently, effectively, and responsibly that any rational person would choose to use their services rather than those which would still be provided by the government.
Why didn’t public employees show their strength and their independence by competing against the government, thus proving their worth? Maybe they know something we don’t know.
But perhaps a more important question is: why didn’t public employees show their strength and their independence by marching to the door of each taxpayer in Wisconsin, and threatening imprisonment unless we surrender the funds necessary to provide for their benefits? Maybe they lack sufficient firepower, the willingness to use it, or both.
But maybe the most important question is: why in this time of reckless government spending and unprecedented State violence and intrusion into our daily lives are individuals who supposedly value their privacy and their individual rights begging the government to stay the same size, and maintain or increase the privileges of its employees? And how does the situation in Wisconsin relate to the situation of the country as a whole?
The actions of the Obama Administration have shown its reluctance to cut taxes, spending, government services, and the size of the federal payroll; and it appears unwilling to allow private enterprise and the governments of the states to compete against it to provide public services.
The current administration has even gone so far as to reduce tax breaks for charitable contributions, which I interpret as an assertion that the government is more moral than are the people, and that it has the right to take from anyone who would attempt to bypass its inflation taxes and the overhead fees of its corrupt bureaucracies in using their liberty to help others.
I believe that the state and local governments, the private sector (especially small and local business entrepreneurs), and fledgling labor unions pose some of the most significant threats to the perception that the federal government, government-sponsored enterprises, and unions with government privilege are the most legitimate, moral, efficient, and qualified to provide goods and services to the public; and – as such – experimentation regarding their role competing against the federal government to do so should be encouraged.
We have arrived at a point in the history of American political economy when the majority of leftists have deviated from their social-anarchist roots and acceded to the power of the established centralized, federal social democracy, rejecting both the free-market principle of competitive capital and the anarcho-syndicalist principle of competitive labor.
But the problem of competing against monopoly government – specifically, centralized monopoly government – remains to be addressed in our public discourse; in this case, the monopoly power that Governor Walker and the Republicans currently have the potential to wield over regulating the benefits and negotiation privileges of government employees providing public services.
Make no mistake; the Democrats constitute no real challenge to the current Republican power monopoly. In fact, most if not all Democrats actually desire to entrench the government monopoly; specifically, through increased taxation which would provide for the expansion of government cooperation with both established unions and established capital. We would be hard-pressed to find a single Democrat in power who consistently votes to encourage competition against the established oligopolies of both labor and capital.
So replace Governor Walker with a Democrat if you must. Replace him with a big-government, pro-gun-control Democrat who wants to chip away – even further than the Republicans do – at your right to defend yourself against those who would seek to threaten violence against you for rightfully asserting that you never knowingly entered into a contract promising to give them as much blood and money as they require for the rest of your life.
Or – instead – we can bring charges against our state governments, compelling them to decide whether the Statutes of Frauds violates the secret-ballot provisions in the state constitutions, or whether the secret-ballot by its very design flies in the face of basic principles of the Anglo-American common contract law; essentially, getting the states to declare whether their authority comes from us voluntarily giving up the right to make some of our decisions, or else admit that their powers are only based on domination, control, and violence.
Instead, we can abandon these spectres of secret, coercive, monopolistic government, capital, and labor; and provide public goods and services through gift-giving, bartering, trading, and sharing; through philanthropy by private citizens to charity and religious organizations; through the efforts of small and local private businesses seeking to undermine the strength of the established multinational corporations and state-sponsored enterprises; through consumer- and citizen- advocacy agencies; through open and legitimate municipal, county, and state governments; and through direct-action general and work-to-rules strikes, picketing, boycotts, and confrontation of management by freely associating and disassociating segments of mutually sympathetic workers; lest we consign ourselves to manipulation by big-labor leaders, corporate lobbyists and attorneys, and corrupt, well-paid career politicians in the national government who until this very moment have used us as pawns to entrench their own wealth and power.
Instead we can revive the principle enshrined in the 10th Amendment – that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and to the people – ushering-in a new era, wherein the federal government’s grip on our everyday affairs is greatly loosened, permitting us to engage in political experimentation which exalts participatory and direct democracy and local governance over representative democracy and centralized governance, for only then may we learn to tolerate a diversity of opinion and of administration of best practices, and come to discern for our own subjective purposes – of ourselves and our communities – which combination of practices suits us best.
Let us take the crisis which Governor Walker has created by cutting government funding to public services as an opportunity to let volunteers fill the void; to educate our youth, to care for our sick and vulnerable, to build our roads, to provide us clean water, to put out fires, to keep our streets safe, and to protect and defend our businesses, our property, and ourselves.
Let us require no teacher, health worker, police officer, or fireman to worry about his pay and benefits while toiling under the reign of a politician who doesn’t represent his political and economic interests. Let those who provide public goods and services – Republican or Democrat, libertarian or socialist – work to provide them in the way they see fit.
Let us do away with the notion that the best way to care for the less fortunate and underprivileged – and to provide for the average person’s everyday needs – is to force us to pay taxes; funnel them through corrupt, wasteful, bureaucratic middlemen; devalue that money through inflation brought about by our usurous national centralized Federal Reserve Bank; and require us at the threat of fines and imprisonment to purchase the products and services of unethical companies who have successfully curried the favor of our politicians.
Let us do whatever is in our power to cease associating ourselves with the world’s largest and wealthiest criminal gang which calls itself the United States Government. Let us use our inalienable rights and our common-law sovereign powers within our states to affect an even greater protection of the freedoms of speech, press, and peaceful assembly – and the rights of the accused and of self-defense – than our federal government now seems willing to provide us.
Let us begin to view the debts it has contracted under our names and the taxes it has extracted from us as evidence that they have committed crimes against us. Let us assume the responsibility to bring charges and punishment against those who would provide aid, comfort, or material support to our treasonous, alien enemy the State.
Let us pay to one another the criminal restitutions which the government owes to all of us, without worry that these government thugs will resurface and force us to give them a cut of every transaction in which we may take part in our quest to provide each other with the means to subsist.
Let us abolish this conception of the State as having a “monopoly on the legitimate use of violence” which President Obama has endorsed, proclaim that no violence is legitimate, and bring about truly free association; with voluntary unionization, voluntary interaction with businesses, and voluntary government.
Achieve these goals, and you will have total liberty and equality of opportunity, without sacrificing a financially secure outcome for those who provide us safety, peace, and prosperity.
Please vote for me – independent candidate Joe Kopsick, the candidate of liberty, sovereignty, independence, and social liberalism – in the election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District on November 6th, 2012.
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