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If I Wanted to Make America Prosperous Again April 26, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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First, I would ask myself how did our ancestors build America from an agricultural colony on the edge of civilization into the number one manufacturing and commercial nation the world had ever known.

Why reinvent the wheel if round ones still roll?

The early American colonies of the British were founded based upon the economic ideas of Mercantilism.  Governmental regulation of industries, trade, and commerce characterized Mercantilism as every aspect of the economy was utilized for national policy. This was especially true with foreign trade, which was determined more by national aims rather than individual or local interests.

The definition of wealth began to change in the sixteenth century.  During the Middle Ages, wealth was defined by the amount of productive land a nation possessed.  As transportation, especially by sea, improved so did the ability to conduct foreign trade bringing with it an increase in the amount of cash generated by that trade.  The definition of wealth came to be the amount of cash a nation possessed.  Therefore every nation sought to have a favorable balance of trade.  They also sought to develop monopolistic type environments wherein they provided their own raw materials thus avoiding imports which meant money flowing out and fostering the export of finished goods raising the level of money flowing in.  Defining wealth as the accumulation of cash, the nations of Europe desired to conduct foreign trade on a larger scale, and they began looking for foreign sources of gold, silver, and raw materials.

This brings us to the British effort to develop North America as a source of wealth.

The Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland were the first successful British colonies in what was to become the United States of America.  Though the initial colonists came looking for gold they soon learned that prosperity came not from a shovel but instead from a plow.  It was tobacco that primed the pump and lifted the colonies from a burden to a benefit for the mother country.  After years of mounting expenses for the British and years of starvation for the colonists the cultivation of tobacco brought prosperity.  Virginia’s production of tobacco grew from 200,000 pounds in 1624 to 3,000,000 pounds in 1638 overtaking the West Indies as the number one supplier of tobacco for all of Europe thus boosting Britain’s balance of trade.

The cultivation of tobacco fostered a plantation system based upon indentured and slave labor.  A gentrified class of great planters sought to replicate the social structure of Britain with a small number of very rich ruling a large number of small land holders who prospered to a certain extent but never enough to challenge the status quo.  The wretched poor of Britain who had come to the Chesapeake colonies to find a better life did find more opportunity and the ability to advance from the landless poor to the ranks of yeoman farmer.  However, there was little opportunity to enter the ranks for the gentry which became a type of American nobility.

New England, because of the soil, the climate, and the fact that there was no major cash crop that grew well in the area, did not lend itself to large plantations.  Most farmers were operating at a subsistence level.  If they did generate a surplus it was in crops that were not easily transported across the ocean, and they were also crops that could be grown in England and were not needed as imports.

This climatic and environmental adversity did not condemn New England to being a poor relation to the Chesapeake nobility.  Instead the New English diversified, innovated, and used individual enterprise to not only match but to surpass Chesapeake and every other colony in the British Empire.  Those who settled New England were Puritans who sought to purify the Anglican religion of ceremony and return it to what they saw as the simplicity of early Christianity.  They did not believe that good works brought salvation but they did believe that salvation brought good works.  Therefore they sought to occupy their time with productive activity to glorify God through their labors.  This was a manifestation of what the sociologist Max Weber later called , “The Protestant work ethic.”  Whatever you choose to call it, it was this drive to succeed no matter what the adversity that led the New English to look beyond the soil, beyond the climate and to the opportunity.

First they exploited the fisheries of the Northeast.  In 1641 the New English caught 600,000 pounds of fish much of which was exported to Britain.  By 1645 they were catching more than 6,000,000 pounds per year employing more than a thousand men on 440 ships.  They came to dominate the fish trade shipping not only to Britain and its empire but also to Spain, Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.

By the end of the 1600s the merchants of the New English coast began to circle the globe trading the fish, surplus crops, and lumber of their area to all parts of the British Empire.  They became such shrewd traders that soon American ships were carrying trade from one colony to another even when the cargo didn’t originate in New England.  This secondary carrying trade generated a growing profit that in turn rebounded in a number of ways.  The increased profits brought home financed increased industry and growth at home, and it also spawned a shipbuilding industry which exploited the vast resources of the northern forests.

Between 1674 and 1714 the New English built more than 1200 ships, totaling more than 75,000 tons.  By 1700 there were fifteen shipyards in Boston which produced more ships than all the rest of the British colonies combined.  Only London had more shipyards.  This was a significant engine of economic growth.  To build one 150 ton merchant ship required as many as 200 workers, mostly skilled craftsmen.  The shipyards also supported the growth of numerous enterprises to supply their needs such as saw mills, smithies, barrel makers, sail makers, iron foundries, and rope makers. In addition, the farmers of New England benefited by feeding the craftsmen, supplying the ships, and providing the timber.

By 1700 Boston was the third city of the Empire behind only London and Bristol and the New English shippers were earning freight charges for carrying produce and material that was neither produced, shipped to, or shipped from their home colony.  The enrichment of the area spread prosperity far beyond the sphere of shippers, sailors, and their sundry suppliers.  According to Boston’s shipping register for 1697-1714 over 25% of the adult males in Boston owned shares in at least one ship.

All of these linkages produced an economy filled with diversification and development as opposed to the stratified monoculture of the Chesapeake colonies.

These trends continued as time went on leading to the industrial North eventually overwhelming the agricultural South.  The expansion and growth of America was based upon a foundation of hard work and innovation born of adversity.  Finding themselves in a hard place Americans found a way to prosper and grow like a young plant reaching for the sun.  Freed from the rigid restraints of the home country and then guaranteed freedom by the constitution and the limited government it provided America surged to the front ranks of nations.

Today, America labors under self-imposed adversity.  We are in the grip of an oppressive Progressive Movement that after 100 years of incremental advance is poised to transform America from what she has always been into what they want her to be.  America has traditionally been a constitutionally limited Republic operating on democratic principles providing individual liberty and economic opportunity.  The Progressives envision America as a centrally-planned highly regimented social democracy where the wealth is spread around from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs .

If I wanted to make America prosperous again I would take off the self-imposed shackles of a central government on steroids, stop imposing new regulations, and reduce taxes everywhere on everyone.  Then I would stand back and watch our economy takes off like a rocket and we take our place beside our ancestors as free people with economic liberty and a will to succeed.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

Liberty is Null and Void April 18, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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America was founded as a Federal Republic.  This means our nation was designed to have two levels of sovereignty.  The States which pre-date the central government and which created the central government is to be one level and the central government they created was to be the second.   The separate States first combined to found a central government when they drafted and ratified the Articles of Confederation in 1781.  This combination was strengthened and expanded in the writing and ratification of the Constitution in 1789.  However, in both of these new beginnings it was always stated and assumed that the States were the building blocks out of which the whole was built.

The Anti-Federalists sought to safe guard the inherent rights of the Sovereign States in the face of a proposed national government which concentrated power and superseded the primacy of the States.  The Anti-Federalists are often dismissed by those of succeeding generations who have been educated by the victorious philosophical descendants of the Federalists, as mere obstructionists and people of no-account.  However, their ranks were filled by some of the greatest names of the Revolutionary times such as Samuel Adams, George Mason, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.

Another well-known leader of the Antifederalists, Patrick Henry, questioned the very legitimacy of what are possibly the most famous words in the document: “We the People” when he said, “I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but, sir, give me leave to demand, What right had they to say, We, the people? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the people, instead of, We, the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states.”

Once the Constitution was maneuvered through the ratification process most of the Anti-Federalists faded into the background.  Forgotten were their war time services and forgotten were their warnings that a central government once established would inevitably grow in power to eclipse the States.

In the early days of the Republic the former Anti-Federalists attempted to keep alive the idea that it was the States which had created the central government and that the States therefore had the authority to determine if the central government had overstepped the authority which had been delegated to them by the States.  They proposed to do this through a process known as Nullification.

Nullification is the process through which they believed a State could suspend a federal law within its borders. In opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams Administration Thomas Jefferson and James Madison first enunciated this concept in1798. The tactic was accepted as a legitimate tool of the States by the Hartford Convention in 1814.  It was seen as a logical and legal protection against the encroachment of the central government upon the sovereign rights of the States.

The idea that a state or a combination of States could nullify what they perceived as unconstitutional laws passed by the central government which exceeded the delegated powers granted to it remained a point of contention until it reached a crisis in 1832.

The enactment of tariffs which were believed to be advantageous to the rapidly industrializing North and injurious to the agrarian South brought the question to a head.  South Carolina led the way by adopting an Ordinance of Nullification which stated that the tariffs, “are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State.”

This was countered by President Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832.  In this proclamation President Jackson stated, “I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”

Immediately after the President issued his proclamation Congress passed the Force Act.  This law authorized the use of military force against any state resisting the tariff acts. The President being the man of action immediately sent warships to Charleston harbor and ordered the strengthening federal fortifications there. The situation staggered towards war as both the central government and the government of South Carolina prepared to dispute the Doctrine of Nullification on the field of battle.

It was at this critical juncture that Henry Clay who had not been able to find any other State willing to join South Carolina earned his reputation as the Great Compromiser. On the same day the Force Bill passed, Clay negotiated the passage of the Tariff of 1833. This law provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff over ten years until it reached the levels which existed in 1816.  Jackson signed both measures thus priming and holstering the Federal power at one time.  In response South Carolina repealed its Ordinance Nullification while at the same time reaffirming its belief in the legality of Nullification by nullifying the Force Bill. President Jackson knew he had won a victory and sought to move on by ignoring this face saving action.

After this crisis the issue of nullification died down.  However, the belief that this was a viable and legal recourse for the States did not disappear, it instead evolved into the belief that the States which had created the Union could or should be able to nullify the union itself.  This in turn led to the secession of Southern States beginning with South Carolina.

This next crisis precipitated the Civil War.  This most deadly of all American wars destroyed the balance.  The power of the States was crushed by the overwhelming power of the central government.  Since that time the central government has grown, and grown, and grown until today it has become Leviathan.  Not the sea monster referred to in the Bible but the soul crushing all controlling political and social government described by Thomas Hobbs.

Today this debate over the relationship between the central government and the States has resurfaced.  As an administration moves aggressively to transform America beyond any semblance of a federal structure into a centrally-planned and totally controlled socially engineered society citizens from sea to shining sea are searching for ways to return to the limited government won by the Revolution and supposedly safe-guarded by the Constitution.

One of the most revolutionary proposals is a direct descendant of the Doctrine of Nullification.  The Repeal Amendment is supported by citizens and their representatives in every State and in the Federal Congress.  This proposed amendment states, “Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.”  As of today, no State has passed the Amendment, and it has not gained enough support in Congress to advance past the proposal stage.

This proposed amendment is designed to restore the validity of the 9th and 10th amendments which have been fundamentally supplanted and submerged by the ever growing power of the central government.

The 9th Amendment states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The 10th Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Unless we rebuild the reality of a balanced federal system we will soon find ourselves locked in the embrace of an all-powerful central government.  This Leviathan will seek to regulate the smallest details of our lives and the spirit of totalitarianism we spent the last half of the twentieth century fighting will win by default as the change our fellow citizens voted for brings the death of hope.

Keep the faith.  Keep the peace.  We shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

The Heart of the Problem is in the Heart April 12, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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Benjamin Franklin told us, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

Socialism is a debilitating confidence game dressed up as an ideology used by demagogues and want-to-be dictators to fool its victims into believing it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.  Those who fall under the spell of the charlatans singing this siren song actually come to believe it is fair and just to force some people to labor for the good of others.  This is the same type of sophistry and rationalization that was used by the clergy and philosophers of the Antebellum South to justify unending human bondage for an entire race of people because it was for their own good.

This twisted tool of central planners and bureaucratic tyrants teaches those who have not that it is fair and just to take from those who have and re-distribute the plunder as the government decrees.  This is not fair!  This is not just!  To teach that it is raises up generations of people who believe they have a birth-right to that which is not their own forfeiting their true birth-right: the opportunity to succeed through their own efforts.  The products of such an educational system are citizens without virtue voting pawns without honor.  Not because they have made a personal decision to live without these two attributes but because they have been programmed to believe taking the fruit of someone else’s labor is permissible as long as it will be given to someone else.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

Those who drank the Kool-Aid dispensed by the government schools learned that this type of theft is not only permissible it is laudable.  They were told and they believe that this is what Robin Hood did: steal from the rich to give to the poor.  However, in reality the legend of Robin Hood tells of a fighter for liberty and the sanctity of personal property who robbed the stolen wealth of corrupt government officials so that he could return it to its rightful owners: those who produced the wealth in the first place.  However, the leaders of America today have turned the world upside down demanding that people objectified by the name “Millionaires and Billionaires” need to pay their fair share.  Yet they never say what that fair share is or when enough will ever be enough. According to Noah Webster, “…if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded.”

We look around us and we watch as our beloved United States of America crumbles.  Our elected leaders act as if it is their goal to spend us into oblivion.  The only way to understand the pronouncements and actions of this administration is if we consider ourselves a conquered people and the Washington-centered oligarchy as an occupying power.  We, the silent majority who labor, innovate, and produce are treated as subservient beasts of burden needed and appreciated more for what can be extorted from us than for who we are.  Samuel Adams once said, “No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”

It is no wonder that we see such a sorry collection of second-rate scoundrels prancing about on the stage of power.  They sell their snake oil of class warfare indoctrinating their victims to be needy and then promising to fill their gnawing need with loot legally taken from others.  This immoral process breeds a population without the virtue of self-reliance or the honor of being independent.  The soul sapping addiction to eternal government support leads to a nation neither adapted to nor deserving of liberty.  When a birthright has been sold for a bowl of stew it cannot be regained by demanding more. Thomas Jefferson said, “Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”

We the present day guardians of America must stand before the tsunami of anti-education that leads our nation away from virtue and into unrighteousness.  We must serve as examples working to earn what we receive and refusing to either play the victim or accept the self-imposed victim-hood of those who seek to expropriate the fruit of someone else’s labor.  We must stand for righteousness or we will fall before the juggernaut of socialism’s final assault upon the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In the coming election we must choose wisely.  We must find someone who is virtuous and who adheres to the principles of constitutionally limited government which alone can protect personal liberty, individual freedom, and economic opportunity.  Samuel Adams instructed us in this basic truth, “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen onto any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

Douglas MacArthur warned us, “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”

Finally, looking to the ultimate source of wisdom Proverbs 14:34 tells us, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

Supreme Contempt April 5, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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Recently President Obama made this remarkable statement, “Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”  For someone reputed to be a former professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago this statement is hard to explain.  Any high school student in a sophomore American History class knows there are many precedents for the Supreme Court making laws passed by Congress null and void.  As a matter of fact, in the system of government tradition has delivered to us overturning laws as unconstitutional has been an important power of the Supreme Court for more than two hundred years.

And if the primary content of the President’s statement isn’t strange enough the supporting information is wrong.  Obamacare wasn’t passed by a strong majority in Congress. In reality the final vote in the House vote was 220 to 215.  Every Republican and thirty four Democrats voted against the law.  In the Senate the vote was sixty Democrats and Independents voting for and thirty nine Republicans voting against.  The Democrats, even though they controlled both houses of Congress knew they would lose enough of their own members that it was going to be a close vote so they moved the bill outside the regular order of business and used a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation to avoid giving the Republicans the opportunity to filibuster the law.

What is the context of these current pressure tactics being used by the executive branch on the judicial branch?

Soon after taking office in 1829, President Andrew Jackson a long time Indian fighter spearheaded one of his signature pieces of legislation through Congress: the Indian Removal Act.  This act gave the president the power to negotiate treaties with the various tribes which still existed in America East of the Mississippi.  These treaties, often accepted either under duress or under questionable circumstances seized the lands of the tribes and forced them to move West to the Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma.  The time for fighting had passed and most of the tribes quietly left their ancestral lands.

One tribe decided to try another route.  The Cherokee Nation had adopted the ways of the Europeans.  They devised their own written language and wrote their own Constitution.  They had their own plantations, printing presses, and businesses.  They also had their own lawyers and instead of going on the warpath as their ancestors had done they went to court to fight the orders from the State of Georgia which dispossessed them of their land.

In two cases; Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the United States Supreme Court considered whether or not it had the power to enforce the rights of Native American nations in disputes between them and the states. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to review the claims of any Indian nation within the United States. In Worcester v. Georgia, the Court ruled that only the Federal Government not the states, had the power to regulate the Indian nations.

What the ruling in Worcester v. Georgia meant was that Georgia could not legally seize the Cherokee lands.  It was at this junction when referring to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Marshall that President Andrew Jackson made one his most famous statements, “Mr. Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it!”  Instead of enforcing the ruling the Federal government joined in and the result was the Trail of Tears as the Cherokee lost their lands and moved west.

Franklin D. Roosevelt legislating Keynesian economic philosophy in the New Deal sought to end the Depression through government spending and central control.  With massive majorities in both houses of Congress the president’s agenda was enacted as quickly as possible.  Then less than three years after the New Deal began to transform America the Supreme Court began overturning some of the central portions of Roosevelt’s program

In response to this resistance to his vision for what should be done FDR decided to pack the court with Justices who would support his laws.  What he proposed was that for any justice over the age of seventy who refused to retire, the president could appoint a new justice to sit beside the current justice and do his work.   If his plan had been adopted and none of the then current Justices retired he would have been able to appoint six new Justices.  Since he couldn’t force the conservative justices to retire he sought in this way to outnumber them and thus change the ideological complexion of the court.  As the president moved ahead in his attempt to pack the court the Supremes started ruling in his favor which eventually stopped the need for his effort to influence the court through overwhelming appointments.  Then time and attrition did what he had tried to do with legislation.  By 1941, four justices had retired and two had died consequently by the end of his presidency seven of the nine justices were Roosevelt appointees.

Now we come full circle to President Obama and his obvious attempt to belittle and intimidate the court.  Should anyone be surprised?  This is nothing more than standard operating procedure for a Chicago politician.  It is also a normal technique for a community organizer who has been trained in the tactics of Saul Alinsky.  No, we shouldn’t be surprised but we could have expected more of anyone who has been entrusted with the highest office in the land.  It is just such crude strong-arm tactics such as this which open Mr. Obama up to charges of being a typical South Chicago thug.  If he wishes to avoid such charges he needs to avoid such actions.

The above brief review clearly shows that this was not the first attempt of a president to influence the court.  However coming from one who is constantly extolled as a constitutional scholar it is certainly disquieting.  As a constitutional scholar the president would obviously know what he said was incorrect leaving no other interpretation to his words than a conscious effort to alter the traditional system of checks and balances and the power relationship between the separate branches of the federal government.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

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