“A republic if YOU can keep it.” – attributed to Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
Ever since I can remember myself and to this very day, I have been convinced of two things: that the purpose of government was to steal my money and destroy my life and that anyone wearing a police uniform was going to abuse my rights in the worst way possible. In most, though not all, cases I have been proven right. A few were pleasant surprises. The truth is that there is no inalienable right that the Creator in His great wisdom had endowed me with that the government had not sought to alienate and no power that We the People had given to the government that it had not sought to abuse. This had been true no matter where I had lived, whether in the USSR, in Israel, in the US, or in Canada, though to vastly varying degrees.
When I first came to America, I found the Americans’ naïveté with respect to the functioning of their own government, their belief that it had been set up to serve them rather than the other way around rather charming. Most other non-Americans find it to be one of the greatest attestation to Americans’ stupidity.
The reason I disagreed with those in “the Americans are stupid” camp was empirical rather than sentimental. For about a century and a half, from the late 1700s and to the middle of the 20th century, the American government did indeed work for most Americans, that is for the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ones. In that America of yore, if you belonged to that particular majority group, you really had nothing to fear from the government, nothing to worry about when you were pulled over by a cop, no reason to suspect that your federal law enforcement agencies had turned on you.
That America is now, sadly, a thing of the past and it is not coming back. Today, America is like any other country. American elites, like elites everywhere else, are in business for themselves and they want nothing to do with regular Americans, of any color, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Those elites see regular folks exclusively as a means to their own enrichment and empowerment. They run the various all-powerful government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels as nothing but their private armies whose sole purpose is to enforce their will upon the populace.
Slowly, over the course of the first two decades of the current century, Americans are beginning to shed their youthful innocence and wake up to the idea that they are no longer in any way exceptional. That their government is neither by them, nor of them, nor for them, but rather is made up of people who want to have nothing to do with them, who get promoted from within in total obscurity, and who bequeath their positions of power to their offspring at rates that would put any absolute hereditary monarchy to shame.
The last vestiges of American naïveté, the final bastion of American wishful innocence, is the preposterous idea that American law enforcement agencies, the so-called “rank and file” among them, will, when push comes to shove, refuse to carry out the “unconstitutional” orders of their superiors.
The first and most obvious problem with this idea is that it, in and of itself, is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not allow itself to be interpreted by local sheriffs or rank and file officers, but rather by elected mayors and governors, councils and legislatures, and finally the courts. If officers find themselves unable to carry out orders, the only way forward for them is to resign. This would be highly publicized and thus the most effective way possible to express both revolt and revulsion against “illegal” orders.
But who are we kidding? Folks in uniform love authority and power and they love orders that allow them to practice more of it. They have pensions to look forward to and mortgages to pay. They will not disobey any orders, you can count on it. Have you ever met a fish whose only rotten part was the head? When you open a yoghurt container and see green mold on top, do you assume that the rest of it is just fine? Corrupt organizations hire and promote corrupt people. If you believe that the upper echelons of the FBI are corrupt, in other words that they serve the elites rather than the Constitution, why would you assume anything different about the regular field agents?
It took three blows to finally defeat the American Federal Republic, all of them self-inflicted and all of them took the form of massive overreaction to very real problems. First, in the 1960’s, the institutionalized racism in the American South led to a massive transfer of power from the states to the federal government under the auspices of the civil rights movement and the so-called “war on poverty”. Specifically, the unionization of the federal workforce and the series of laws that enshrined its untouchability, created in America a class of civil servants (actually, unelected overlords with lifetime appointments and hereditary powers) that would be all too familiar and utterly horrifying to the Founding Fathers. In a 1970’s aftershock, the environmental problems in America’s rust belt resulted in the creation of the EPA, another unelected and tyrannical part of the American federal government.
The dawn of the 21st century saw the events of 9/11, events that I, like most of you, remember very well. The massive overreaction to this despicable act by a few insignificant groups in the Middle East created the next massive federal bureaucracy known as Homeland Security, removed (in practice) any vestiges of Americans’ rights to constitutional protections, and resulted in the absolute unmooring of the American fiscal policy form the shores of reality in order to fund endless wars in the Middle East.
Today, we are living through the third and final phase, the coup the grace, so to speak, in the demise of the American Constitutional Republic. The threat from COVID-19 resulted in our government asking us to take a couple of weeks off, so it could better prepare to deal with its consequences. Two weeks became four and now it appears that life is not going to return to “normal” at all, but rather to a “new normal”, a normal that will, no doubt, see us more enslaved than ever before.
For just over a century and a half, the American Constitution provided most, though not all, Americans with truly exceptional liberty and opportunity. For the three quarters of a century since, Americans, for various “good” reasons squandered that opportunity forever.
Now, America is back to being much more similar to the England the Founding Fathers’ generation had rebelled against than the totally new country they had brought forth into the world.
In America today, there are the elites, people whose net worth, as scientists would measure it, is in the 10^8 to 10^11 (hundreds of millions to hundreds of billions) range. These people enjoy freedoms and privileges that no one else can even conceive of. No laws apply to them, no allegiance is required of them, they are the only true deciders of our communal fates. Then there are the professional castes. The doctors, the lawyers, some engineers, a few folks who were able to build not insignificant wealth in business, in professional sports, or in the arts. These guys are worth anywhere between 10^5 to 10^7 (hundreds of thousands to tens of millions). They have good lives, meaningful jobs, and even some freedoms, but their only real function is to provide for the elites and they are rewarded or punished at the elites’ whim. Finally, there are most Americans. These are folks who, if they liquidated all they own and paid off all they owe would be left with a few grand to their names, if even that. Understandably, these are people, the vast majority of the population, who are so utterly dependent on the elites’ largesse that they would do anything, agree to any iniquity, give up any freedom, as long as that next check is in the mail. This is the soon to come universal basic income crowd; people who are now being “nudged” to see government checks with the king’s name upon them as a legitimate source of income.
Most civilized human societies, from the ancient river civilizations of the Nile, the Tiger and Euphrates, the Ganges and the Yangtze to today’s Europe, Russia, China, and now America had this same exact societal structure.
The 150 years of the American Constitutional Republic were nothing but a beautiful aberration, a shining city upon a hill, one whose destiny was not to last.
The American experiment was, like most successful experiments are, a victim of its own success. People who were ethnically and religiously cohesive gave birth to unprecedented prosperity and unequalled liberty, which, in turn, attracted people from across the globe who wanted to live in what my Yiddish-speaking ancestors called the “Goldene Medine”, the golden country. Alas, these people had no grasp of what had made America golden, and even if they had had it, they would have been quite conflicted about it because it was precisely the ethno-religious homogeneity of America that had made it fertile grounds in which to plant the frail sapling of liberty. As disruptors of this homogeneity, these newcomers would have been the unwitting agents of the Republic’s demise.
Nothing is going to bring back the American Constitutional Republic. Americans will now have to learn to live like everyone else, in tyranny, though as yet more benevolent than most. There are many ways in which to live happy, productive, and even reasonably free lives under such conditions, but the first prerequisite for that is harboring no illusions.