THE MODEL REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT
No. 4 Little Radical Reform School Series
By David Arthur Walters
The moral, economic and political decline of the United States has brought the once greatest nation in the world to its knees. The nation prays for a model ‘republican’ president to save it from perdition, but is at a loss to find one. Instead, the people now have before them a choice between a preacher, whose fine words once lulled his devoted congregation into a false sense of security, and a used car salesman, who would replace the preacher at any cost, and promises the moon to sell a lemon.
The brief history of the United States including the abolition of slavery by the Republican Party used to be the leading example of the progress to universal liberty promised by the advancement of civilizations the world over. ‘Freedom’ is the catchword of the libertarian movement, but freedom from what? Absolute freedom is freedom from every possible impediment to obtaining desirable objectives. Yet individuals could not exist in a state of absolute liberty, for the individual is forged from its active and passive responses to resistance to its will, a will that would inherently persist forever without resistance if only it could. But it cannot, wherefore the ‘I’ exists in deprivation.
No, liberty as we know it from history is partial; otherwise it would be meaningless. ‘Liberty’ ordinarily has a political connotation, in its most liberal sense meaning the political freedom from the tyranny of the few who would makes slaves of the many. The leaders of the liberation movement were called ‘republicans’ before the circle of freedom strove for expanded to include everyone, and then they were labeled ‘democrats.’ We recall that the republican order evolved in opposition to the monarchical principle of government and allowed for the election of governing leaders by a qualified electorate. It is more or less democratic depending on the qualifications for holding office and voting. The United States, as everyone knows, enjoys a democratic-republican order; i.e., governments are installed by popular elections, after which the people are expected to obey the government it has elected, including but not limited to academics, entertainers, and used car dealers. Elected ‘aristocrats’ control the legislature, and they frequently vie with each other for power and oppose the wishes of the elected president, the ‘monarch,’ just as in days of old. The democratically inclined, whose aid was once enlisted in cities by kings to oppose the nobility, see the president as the people’s tribune or champion. The republicans remember well the ancient struggle of the nobles against each other and the kings, and are inclined to severely limit the powers of any government including the one they may control. But the democrats, when not in control of the legislature and presidency, oppose limiting the sovereign power because that would leave them at the mercy of the power elite who would fain exploit civil society without end because they can never have enough of a good thing.
A new party, an anti-slavery party, was established in the United States to forward the cause of universal liberty. Horace Greeley had the honor of coining a name for the fledgling anti-slavery party in 1854: "We should not care much whether those thus united (against slavery) were designated 'Whig,' 'Free Democrat' or something else; though we think some simple name like 'Republican' would more fitly designate those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion and promulgator of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery."
A Republican Representative from Ohio (1838-1859), Joshua R. Giddings, in History of the Rebellion (1864), informs us that “The Continental Congress of 1774 united in a solemn assertion that ‘the inhabitants of these Colonies, by the immutable laws of nature, by the British Constitution and their several charters, have the right to life, liberty and property.’ This avowal constituted the first step in the formation of what we call the ‘American Union.’ The publicists of Europe and many leading minds of the Colonies had turned their attention to the philosophy of human governments: many asserted the natural right of all me to life, liberty and happiness. The doctrine was at that time much discussed in public speeches, in newspaper essays and pamphlets published for its promulgation.”
The struggle to free slaves whosoever they might be has naturally been a major factor in the struggle to free all people from oppressive domination regardless of race, gender, age, and creed. We expect to find that freedom in an equitable order wherein everyone shall have his and her fair share according to available means and expenditure of effort, not merely in terms of calculable property which s/he may or may not want, but in incalculable terms of happiness. It is said that American liberty has its principles in the French Revolution, where an equal, so-called natural right to life, liberty, and property were the leading concerns. Yet remember well that the last term, ‘property’, famously appearing in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, was changed to ‘happiness’ in the United States Declaration of Independence. The notion that property should be more equally divided or held in common was abhorrent to most of the founders of the United States, so much so that the Constitution is said to have been written to protect their dominant interest in property. Fortunately for the progress of the nation, there was ample land initially available for everyone to have some of it after eliminating the natives.
Admittedly, there were a few happy slaves, yet slavery is not conducive to happiness. Nor is fortune amassed—property is a help but it is not the summum bonum. Happiness in itself is desired before all things, a desire that cannot be satisfied in any particular things. Goods are sought not for their own sake but for the sake of the ultimate good, happiness. Wealthier people and nations are generally happier than others, wherefore it follows that the happiness of the greatest number in a free market is the worthwhile end of liberal democracies, but all the goods in the world will not land anyone in utopia. Nirvana may be experienced but for a moment in this world of particulars. One must be a god to be truly happy. Indeed, the The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas equates happiness with God, who is happiness essentially.
‘It would seem that happiness is something uncreated. For Boethius says (De Consol. iii): "We must confess that God is happiness itself." Further, happiness is the supreme good. But it belongs to God to be the supreme good. Since, then, there are not several supreme goods, it seems that happiness is the same as God. Further, happiness is the last end, to which man's will tends naturally. But man's will should tend to nothing else as an end, but to God, Who alone is to be enjoyed, as Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 5,22). Therefore happiness is the same as God. Since happiness signifies some final perfection; according as various things capable of happiness can attain to various degrees of perfection, so must there be various meanings applied to happiness. For in God there is happiness essentially; since His very Being is His operation, whereby He enjoys no other than Himself. In the happy angels, the final perfection is in respect of some operation, by which they are united to the Uncreated Good: and this operation of theirs is one only and everlasting. But in men, according to their present state of life, the final perfection is in respect of an operation whereby man is united to God: but this operation neither can be continual, nor, consequently, is it one only, because operation is multiplied by being discontinued. And for this reason in the present state of life, perfect happiness cannot be attained by man. Wherefore the Philosopher, in placing man's happiness in this life (Ethic. i, 10), says that it is imperfect, and after a long discussion, concludes: "We call men happy, but only as men." But God has promised us perfect happiness, when we shall be "as the angels . . . in heaven" (Matthew 22:30).’
Still, relative goods are not to be overlooked, especially when they are needed to sustain life. A great American logician, the founder of pragmatism, Charles Sanders Peirce, remarked that what makes American great is that every poor slob thinks he can get rich. The chances may not be in his favor—Pearce took his chances doing what seemed practicable and wound up in abject poverty, surviving by the grace of his good friend William James—but at least the notion of equal opportunity exists. Some people agree with Plutarch, that the only man who should be ashamed of poverty is the man who is poor against his will. Many poor slobs have indeed become rich. The circulation from poor to rich and vice versa is rather slight, but not everyone wants material riches.
Many people find happiness in their work, their families, in leisure, and are content with modest possessions. They generally want their children to be better off, but that seems increasingly unlikely. A growing number of people are sinking into poverty. The majority believe that what little property and happiness they have is threatened by the material and spiritual decline of the nation and the failure of the deadlocked and corrupted government to provide a remedy. They attribute the degradation to the perversion and corruption of the power elite who exploit the nation’s resources including its human capital, making virtual slaves of most of the workforce, and do so with impunity because they have legalized their crimes against their humanity. They seek a model republican president to free them from the depredation, but the best available model seems to be a typical used car salesman, who promises everything—alas, the car may break down before the buyer gets to his driveway. They believe the model republican president will render the nation happy by freeing people of their miseries, when they would probably be better off freeing themselves from themselves, from their desires for more and more of everything. The sad truth may be that there is no political solution to the original sin of being born individual.
“No one denied,” Giddings recounted, “that all men were formed by the same Almighty Being; that all were endowed by heaven itself with the right to life liberty and happiness; nor did anyone deny the doctrine that colored men have a right to live, a right to liberty and happiness.” Furthermore, “The Federal Government continued for seventeen years to maintain the rights of all men under its exclusive jurisdiction, to enjoy life, liberty and happiness. Foreign nations looked with admiration upon this as the only political organization founded on the immutable principles of justice and equal liberty to all members of the human race.”
People are willing to die for their liberty, in which case they would be absolutely free, so give them relative liberty on this Earth or the happiness of Heaven. The “revolution” led by Liberty was successfully waged; it was really a reform, a changing of the national guard. Conscience was compromised; slavery was embodied in the new Constitution, wherefore slaveholders felt they had a right to retrieve slaves escaped to the free states. As far as Giddings was concerned, a slave who escaped to a free state had the same right of self-defense against his master as a people had a right to revolt against a government that would enslave them. In Pacificus No. 2 ‘Fugitive Slaves’ (1842) he declared:
“A slave by escaping to a Free State acquires certain important rights and privileges. When he reaches our territory we regard him as a man, not as property.... While in a Slave State he may not resist the violence of his master by any act of self defense; if he do so, he may be instantly slain by his master, or otherwise severely punished under the laws of such State. It is this law, declaring it criminal in him to defend his person against the violence of his master, which constitutes slavery. That law can have no operation in our State.... (H)e may defend himself against his master while in this State, for the obvious reason that self-defense is a natural right, and there is no law having force within the State of Ohio which forbids its exercise. If his master attempts to arrest him, the slave may defend himself with so much force as may be necessary to protect his person and liberty. If the master press upon him and it becomes necessary for his protection, he may kill his master, or the agents of his master, be they few or many, without inquiring whether they come from a Slave State or be citizens of Ohio.”
Politicians prostituted themselves to the slaveholding minority, some even extolling slavery as virtuous: “The free people of color in Philadelphia and vicinity sent to Congress a memorial stating the facts (of the slave trade) and prayed protection and relief from that body. The memorial was respectfully presented and its reference to a committee moved. Southern members hoped it would be laid on the table and never again called up. They spoke of the ‘colored gentlemen’ who had signed the petition in the most bitter irony, wishing northern members’ joy in their new association with negroes. They said they too had colored men, but they were slaves, and they thanked God that they were slaves, and not at liberty to cut their masters' throats. They referred with great apparent contempt to the ‘new fangled French philosophy’ that proposed ‘universal freedom’, and declared it injurious to discuss the subjects embraced in the petition. (Footnote: The French Assembly of Deputies had declared freedom to the slaves in their West Indies colonies).”
Nevertheless, Giddings, one of the founding fathers of the Republican Party who for twenty years was freedom's champion in Congress, lived to see a Republican Speaker elected, and even conducted him to the chair, was enthusiastic about the future of the Republican Party:
"We are as a nation, emerging from difficulties, and the Republican Party alone can probably claim that the brightest page of our country's history has been written by the true friends of freedom and progress. The Republican Party has yet work to do. We are confronted to-day in Congress by nearly the same spirit that prevailed in the years before the war. They tell us that the National Government is but the servant of the States; that we shall not interpose, as a nation, to guard an honest election in a State.... There are sentimentalists and optimists who may see no danger in this. There have been sentimentalists and optimists in the Republican Party, but to-day all were stalwarts. President Hayes, when he came into office, was an optimist, but he saw all his hopes, conciliation frustrated, and all his advances met with scorn. We all now stand together on the issue as one."
The Republican Party helped free the slaves, but soon abandoned them in the South, and virtually enslaved them again. Indeed, the Republican Party was betrayed by traitors to the principle of liberty and justice for all, traitors who were eager to virtually return to the status quo ante bellum. General James Garfield, an Ohio Republican, spoke of this at the 25th Reunion of Western Republicans held at Madison, Wisconsin, in July 1879:
"The Republican Party, organized a quarter of a century ago, was made a necessity to carry out the pledges of the fathers that this should be a land of liberty. There was in the early days of the Republic, a Republican party that dedicated this very territory, and all our vast territory, to freedom; that promised much for schools; that abolished imprisonment for debt, and that instituted many wise reforms. But there were many conservatives in those days, whose measures degenerated into treason; and the Republican party of to-day was but the revival of the Republic party of seventy years ago, under new and broader conditions of usefulness...."
Republicanism seemed to be all about universal liberty i.e. democratic liberty. General Garfield spoke of universal liberty during the delivery of his Andersonville Reunion speech at Toledo on October 3, 1879:
"All these men and all their comrades went out inspired by two immortal ideas. First, that liberty shall be universal in America. And, second, that this old flag is the flag of a Nation, and not of a State; that the Nation is supreme over all people and all corporations. Call it a State; call it a section; call it a South; call it a North; call it anything you wish, and yet armed with the nationality that God gave us, this is a Nation against all State sovereignty and secession whatever: It is the immortality of that truth that makes these reunions, and that makes this one. You believed it on the battlefield, you believed it in the hell of Andersonville, and you believe it to-day, thank God; and you will believe it to the last gasp."
In his inaugural address of 1881, he stated that, "The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. No thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people."
President Garfield believed that merit should be the criteria for holding public office. Alas, on July 2, 1881, he was shot while passing through the railroad depot at Washington, D.C., by one Charles J. Guiteau, a deranged office seeker, and died on September 19, 1881 from the effects of his wounds—sepsis and internal bleeding—despite the efforts of Alexander Graham Bell to find the bullet with a device so the doctors could remove it.
The struggle for political liberty continued in the civil rights movements of the last century. The political advancement of women and minorities has been profound, but social equity is lagging. We are equal under the law, at least theoretically, but the law is too expensive for most people; the law still is, first and foremost, what rich and powerful people do, and it tends to legalize the power elite’s domination and exploitation of society. In any event, no matter how evenly it is applied, the law simply cannot render society flat as a pancake, for instinctively recalcitrant individuals simply will not tolerate the repression of their willful nature. Ultimately, the law must represent the elusive ‘general will’ of the ‘People’ in a democratic-republic or the state will fall. What individuals have in general to a certain degree is their individualism, sometimes referred to as their “original sin,” or tendency to rebel against their commonality whether or not it is projected as a deity who is hardly omnipotent since it depends on a diabolic opponent for its godly existence.
Some compromise is therefore needed. Everyone wants to be liberated to a certain extent from the dictates of their society as well as the governing order. Yet anarchy will not do, for they also need to be liberated from themselves. A return to the sacred forest for an apelike existence where behavior is dictated by irrational custom will not satisfy the yearning for happiness howsoever conceived. People want to be liberated from evil however that is conceived. Wherefore they need a devil to fight.
The great jihad is obviously not over. From the perspective of the miserable majority of the world population in the rest of the world, our way of life in the United States is wonderful. We may struggle to keep them at a distance lest our good fortune be watered down, or venture afar to liberate them from their devils. Let us not cease with our struggle until everyone is liberated, for Liberty is certainly not a thing to be owned and conserved by a forceful or fortunate few who are relatively free from constraint, but is rather the power of life given to all human beings to exercise at will as they can. Liberty would endure forever if only she could; hence she struggles for the broadest exercise of her power in all people. All people are liberals, for everyone loves their own liberty as they love their life, and they would like to have a little bit more of it at least. But a few individuals would get the most of the mundane means of liberty at the expense of many others. They would accumulate and conserve the freedom of others for themselves and demand laborious interest on their hoard, enslaving them unto death. Against this the radical liberal struggles to more broadly and equally distribute basic political and civic freedoms, that no part of humanity may enslave the whole.
In that outward struggle liberty is pursued but not won, for no mere monogamist may fully win liberty over all to themselves, yet all may have their fair share. The most fortunate master discovers his own freedom in the revolt of his slave. In other words, the revolution of the slave teaches the master about the right exercise of liberty and frees not only the slave but the master as well. Indeed, civilization owes the spread of its liberty therefore its progress to revolution against those who would conserve liberty within a small circle, limiting it to a ruling class or power elite. The modern master or captain of his soul owes much of his liberty to slaves, serfs, proletariat, Communists - Communism should have been given a kinder funeral. Modern men have feminists to thank for many of their freedoms.
The status of women is the measure of the height of a civilization, as J.S. Mill noted well in The Subjection of Women: “Experience does say, that every step in improvement has been so invariably accompanied by a step made in raising the social position of women, that historians and philosophers have been led to adopt their elevation of debasement as on the whole the surest test and most correct measure of civilization.”
The battle of the sexes is up close and personal. The apparent object of the struggle can be as petty as a television remote control device, but what is wanted is personal power. Everyone would be liberated from the unwanted restraints of others, therefore craves power. J.S. Mill observed that “Everyone who desires power, desires it over those who are nearest to him, with whom his life is passed, with whom he has most concerns in common, and in whom any independence of his authority is oftenest likely to interfere with his individual preferences.”
Feminism has worked to free men from the prejudice that women are a class inferior to or weaker than men; that women need to be protected or dominated in their dooms by their doms, i.e. gods. J.S. Mill believed that “The inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest.” Mere might makes right until reason has its sway. “History gives a cruel experience of human nature, in showing how exactly the regard due to the life, possessions, and entire earthly happiness of any class of persons, was measured by what they had the power of enforcing; how all who made any resistance to authorities that had arms in their hands, however dreadful might be the provocation, had not only the law of force but all other laws, and all the notions of social obligation against them; and, in the eyes of those whom they resisted, were not only guilty of crimes, deserving the most cruel chastisement which human beings could inflict.”
Freedom was the premise from which this liberal philosopher reasoned: “The a priori presumption is in favor of freedom and impartiality. It is held that there should be no restraint not required by the general good, and that the law should be no respecter of persons, but should treat all alike save where dissimilarity of treatment is required by positive reasons, either of justice or of policy.”
It appears that the “nature” of women was manmade or artificial, but women were willing participants in their subjection: “The rule of men over women differs from all these others in not being a rule of force: it is accepted voluntarily; women make no complaint, and are consenting parties to it.”
What men deem to be “natural” is usually the status quo fashioned by custom and tradition. Men who love women have at times conceived them to be their equals in all things but physical strength. “In the feudal ages…war and politics were not thought unnatural to women, because not unusual; it seemed natural that women of the privileged classes should be of manly character, inferior in nothing but bodily strength to their husbands and fathers.” But in his own time he noted that, “In the case of women, each individual of the subject-class is in a chronic state of bribery and intimidation combined. In setting up the standard of resistance, a large number of the leaders, and still more of the followers, must make an almost complete sacrifice of the pleasure or the alleviations of their own individual lot.”
Times have changed, and are changing, all too rapidly as far as regressives are concerned. With the help of progressive men, an increasing number of women have become equal partners with the “opposite” sex. Yet many still live in a chronic state of bribery and intimidation combined, and men are not entirely to be blamed. Libertarians have plenty to do at home. There is ample occasion for domestic reform in that personal arena.
Liberal republicans may also strive for economic freedom. The concept of increasing individual liberty remains the sine qua non of liberal progress to this very day. For example, Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser, in his 2007 ‘Reaction Essay’ to Daniel Klein’s ‘Coercive Regulation and the Balance of Freedom,’ begins with his version of the typical understatement in his own analysis of minimum wage laws: “I start with the view that individual freedom is the ultimate goal for any government. The ultimate job of the state is to increase the range of options available to its citizens. To me, this is not a maxim, but an axiom that is justified by both philosophy and history….”
Furthermore, “A belief in the value of liberty flows strongly through mainstream neoclassical economics. Economists frequently speak about an aim of maximizing utility levels, and this is often mistranslated as maximizing happiness. Maximizing freedom would be a better translation. The only way that economists know that utility has increased is if a person has more options to choose from, and that sounds like freedom to me. It is this attachment to liberty that makes neoclassical economists fond of political liberty and making people richer, because more wealth means more choices.”
Happiness is not his god, for sacrifices to other idols have to be made: “There is a recent wave of scholarship suggesting that the government can help individuals be happy by reducing their choices. While happiness may be a very nice thing, it is neither the obvious central desiderata for private or public decision-making. On a private level, I make decisions all that time that I expect to lower my level of happiness, because I have other objectives. On a public level, I can’t imagine why we would want to privilege this emotion over all other goals. A much better objective for the state is to aim at giving people the biggest range of choices possible, and then let people decide what is best for them.”
Liberals of another feather flock together to declare that so-called free markets are inevitably dominated by a capitalistic power elite whose rationale is ultimately disastrous to society. For example, during downturns, the first people to be sacrificed on organized greed’s altar are the people most in need, the poor, the aged, the infirm, the disadvantaged, and so on. They cry out for social justice, something that their cost-effective, profit-seeking opponents would rather be liberated from.
Again and again, we see that freedom is not found in matter alone, no matter how matter is owned and molded; therefore we should not be enslaved by property whatever its form. The revolt from matter is spiritual, but anarchy and chaos will not do; some material form will be required. Some order will be needed after the revolutions. What will slaves do with their freedom once freed from their masters’ dictates? What will women do with themselves once freed from the tyranny they have inherited and voluntarily submit to because it seems natural? What will the poor do when freed from the selfishness of the rich? What will employees do when freed from the dictatorial style of the business they work for because they have no alternative? May they all just produce and consume and live happily ever after? The model republican president should have persuasive answers to these questions.
-To Be Continued-
Miami Beach 2012