Life - Liberty - Property
The X-Files — Season 1, Episode 2: Deep Throat

The X-Files — Season 1, Episode 2: Deep Throat

Any time the government declares war on a nebulous concept (drugs, terror, etc.)

…It’s about to trample somebody’s rights.

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations." — George Orwell
[source: YAL]

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations." — George Orwell

[source: YAL]

Notes: Federalist Paper #16

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Title: The Same Subject Continued (The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union)
Author: Alexander Hamilton (Publius)
Date: December 4, 1787

Volume: 1 - The Union
General topic: The insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation
Specific topic: The Federal government’s need for direct influence over citizens

Big idea:

  • The Federal government needs direct legal influence over the citizens. And if state legislatures are allowed to interfere with this influence, it will only lead the country into chaos.

Favorite lines:

  • “…Construct a federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and preserving the general tranquility. …It must carry the agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand in need of no intermediate legislations, but must itself be empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be manifested through the medium of the courts of justice.”
  • “[The federal government] must, in short, possess all the means, and have a right to resort to all the methods, of executing the powers with which it is instructed, that are possessed and exercised by the governments of the particular states.”

Paraphrased outline:

  • The concept of state legislation wasn’t a part of other confederacies we know from history, like the Lycian and Achaean leagues.
  • In fact, suggesting states control legislation is almost like suggesting anarchy. It will only lead states to rebel against each other in civil war.
  • If states were allowed to control legislation, they would be easily tempted to seek power over other states as well, and they might even conspire with foreign nations to attain that power.
  • And we shouldn’t expect loyal states to reign in rebellious states by force. It’s more likely that all would try to match the rebellious states in autonomy. This would lead either to an oppression of the majority or to the end of the confederacy.
  • At the same time, we don’t want a Constitution that an only be enforced by violence. That would lead to a standing army and military despotism. (Such regulation would be logistically impossible anyway.)
  • Also, history has shown that when smaller confederacies try to enforce the law with violence, they quickly fall into civil war. So it certainly wouldn’t work for us.
  • The only alternative to all of this is the Constitution, which enables federal legislation to reach individual citizens without allowing state legislation to interfere and empowers it to enforce its legislation through a court system.
  • In short, the federal government must have at least as much influence over citizens as their state governments.
  • Some would argue that the states could disempower the federal government through “noncompliance.” But that would only be true if the federal government had to go through the states to enforce its laws.
  • If the federal government were empowered to enforce its laws directly on citizens, however, the states would be forced into “active resistance.” And active resistance would only be successful if it had the support of both the people and their civil leaders—and that would only happen in cases of “a tyrannical exercise of the federal authority.”
  • A tyrannical person in the federal government would more effectively and properly be addresses by the courts than by the active resistance of states anyway.
  • A federal government would also be better resourced to respond to an uprising than any state government.

Personal thoughts:

  • What happened to the compromise Madison wrote about in Paper #10 in which the national legislature would address national interests while state legislatures address local interests? Yet again, Madison and Hamilton aren’t on the same page.
  • Hamilton seems to think we can only have either total centralization of power or chaos. That’s a false dichotomy. And his arguments about civil war and oppression sound like paranoia and fear mongering.
  • Hamilton suggests using courts instead of military to enforce laws. Finally he says something intelligent.
  • Hamilton writes that the government should be able to “address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals; and to attract to its support those passions which have the strongest influence upon the human heart.” He talks about the government like it’s God! …Hamilton’s statism is disturbing.

[Full Text]

The Shire at this time has hardly any ‘government’. Families for the most part managed their own affairs. Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time. In other matters they were, as a rule, generous and not greedy, but contented and moderate, so that estates, farms, workshops, and small trades tended to remain unchanged for generations …There had been no king for nearly a thousand years …usually they kept the laws of free will …muster and moot were only held in times of emergency …Thainship had ceased to be more than a nominal dignity …The Messenger Service and the Watch. These were the only Shire-services …The Sherriffs was the name that the Hobbits gave their police, or the nearest equivalent that they possessed…they were in practice rather haywards than policemen, more concerned with the strayings of beasts than of people. There were in all the Shire only twelve of them.

J. R. R. Tolkien, Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring (“3. Of the Ordering of the Shire”).

Tolkien’s ideal society was a libertarian paradise.

Notes: Federalist Paper #15

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Title: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
Author: Alexander Hamilton (Publius)
Date: December 1, 1787

Volume: 1 - The Union
General topic: The insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation
Specific topic: The Confederacy’s inability to enforce laws or unity.

Big idea:

  • We need a federal government strong enough to enforce the law on the people generally and to enforce unity on the states specifically.

Favorite lines:

  • “Government implies the power of making laws.”
  • “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”
  • “Regard to reputation has a less active influence when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.”
  • “Power controlled or abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which it is controlled.”

Paraphrased outline:

  • We have now shown you all the dangers our country will be exposed to if we aren’t united.
  • And most will agree that the Articles of Confederation aren’t serving our country well.
  • At the moment, the United states lacks many things: We don’t have the respect of other nations. We are unable to pay our debts. Some of our territory is still controlled by foreigners. We are unable to defend ourselves if other countries become aggressive. We have no credit. Our commerce is weak. Our ambassadors are ineffective. We have no confidence in the value of our land. And we face insecurity, disorder, poverty, insignificance and misfortune.
  • All this is because of disunity. So let’s pass the Constitution and change things.
  • Ironically, those who argue against the effectiveness of a federal government are the same people who would disempower that government. At the same time, they ask for impossible things (like increasing federal power without decreasing state power). So we will outline the fundamental problems with the Confederacy as it stands.
  • Right now, the federal government has the power to create laws for the states, but it doesn’t have the power to enforce those laws on the people of those states. This turns its laws into mere suggestions.
  • A government needs to be able to threaten violence if it is to enforce its laws. 
  • In the same way, the states need a federal government to enforce their union. Otherwise, their relationship will be as subject to whim as the weak treaties of European nations.
  • In order for a government to function, it has to be able to enforce its laws on the people and states. And it does this in two ways: By legal coercion (for disobedient men) or by military force (for disobedient groups/states).
  • People have argued that the states will adhere to federal law without coercion, but if this were even possible men wouldn’t need government at all.
  • Unless they are united, the states will likely resist and undermine the authority of the federal government. And this can only be a disservice to the common good of the nation. 
  • We can’t expect state leaders to understand or conform to the interests of the other states without a federal government to make them do so. 
  • Our current confederation lacks the power it needs to make the states comply with the interests of the common good.

Personal thoughts:

  • I wonder if there isn’t some fear mongering going on in Hamilton’s bleak description of the state of the country. Politicians have a habit of scaring the public into doing what they want it to do.
  • Hamilton gives us a short list of his motives: safety, tranquility, dignity, reputation, felicity and prosperity. I find it very disturbing that life, liberty, property and justice don’t make his list. Government doesn’t exist to provide us with safety and happiness; it exists to protect our rights and freedom.
  • In the previous paper, Madison assured the reader that state autonomy would be protected. Here, Hamilton says state power must be decreased in order for federal power to grow. Clearly, they aren’t on the same page.
  • I find it disturbing that Hamilton would advocate for the use of military force against dissenting groups with “no process of a court” …and that he would advocate military force against citizens at all. Wouldn’t that require the “standing army” warned against in Paper #8?
  • Hamilton argues that the government should be able to use force against rebellious groups, because men are even more inclined to their passions when they share the autonomy of a group. But isn’t this also a danger of government, which can just as easily be a group of impassioned men? Who watches the watchmen?
  • He makes a good point that it’s unrealistic to expect people to comply to the law willingly. But I’m not sold that government is the only answer; the economic incentive of anarcho-capitalism might also be considered.
  • It’s unbelievable that, just after Madison talked about how democracy is the tyranny of the majority in Paper #10, Hamilton argues here for a federal government to control the states in what is just a tyranny of the majority of states. Again, they aren’t on the same page.
  • Besides, isn’t it a good thing for the power of the federal and state governments to be at odds? Doesn’t Hamilton believe in balance of power?
  • Also… how hypocritical is it for him to suggest that the states’ rightful desire for autonomy is based in “the love of power” when he’s insistently arguing for federal power?
  • If we can’t expect state leaders to give proper regard to the interests of the other states, how can we expect federal leaders to give proper regard to the interests of anyone?

[Full Text]

ngoziu:

Storyboarding homework! My take on a sequence from Ayn Rand’s Anthem.

I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals. And I loathe humanity for its failure to live up to these possibilities.
Ayn Rand, on a 1936 publicity form for We the Living