Blogs > Liberty and Power > What Mean These Stones?

Jul 4, 2004 8:21 pm

What Mean These Stones?

Last Fourth of July I posted the following editorial on my blog. Here it is again:

Is the Fourth of July -- or Independence Day, as I still like to call it -- a day for celebrating the United States of America, or is it instead a day for celebrating the principles on which the United States was founded? I suspect most Americans would answer:"both." But the nation founded in 1776 parted company a long time ago with the principles of ’76. We can celebrate one or the other, but not both.

According to the Declaration of Independence,"whenever any form of government becomes destructive" of people's rights to"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," it is"the right of the people to alter or to abolish it." The Declaration adds that one sign of a government's becoming unacceptably despotic is its having"erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance." Today the (constitutionally unauthorised) Federal bureaucracy comprises over five million employees. Are they harassing our people and eating out their substance? Check out James Bovard's books Lost Rights, Freedom in Chains, and Shakedown.

The Declaration also maintains that governments"derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." Right now the U. S. government is also the government of Iraq, and has recently suggested it intends to remain so for the next ten years. [Update one year later: Now Iraq is governed by a U.S. puppet régime instead of by the U.S. directly. The same point applies.] Does that government in any sense rest on the consent of the governed? Odd that a nation born in rebellion against an empire should end by becoming an empire itself.

The Constitution protects, inter alia,"freedom of speech, or of the press,""the right of the people to keep and bear arms,""the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," and the right to"just compensation" for any “private property ... taken for public use” -- all rights that are currently under assault from the U. S. government in the name of fighting the"War on Drugs" and/or the"War on Terror." The Constitution also guarantees that"no person" (not"no American citizen," but"no person") shall be"deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" -- another provision currently plunging down the Memory Hole.

Moreover the Constitution specifies a narrow reading of delegated powers --"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" -- and a broad reading of reserved rights --"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." These provisions obviously bear no resemblance to any political system currently existing in Mid-North America.

Aristotle said that a political community is defined by its system of government; when it abandons one system of government for another, it undergoes not alteration but destruction. By that standard, the nation whose birth is commemorated on July 4th no longer exists. We cannot celebrate it, we can only mourn it. But we can celebrate, and reaffirm our commitment to, the libertarian principles on which it was founded.

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Keith Halderman - 7/6/2004

As long as American troops occupied Japan that government was a puppet government too. Neither that government nor the one now in Iraq control their own territory and if the Japanese government had done something to displease us they would have been replaced. No country can have anything other than a puupet government as long as it is occupid by foreign troops.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/6/2004

That was the point of my Japan analogy- that that's not the test of whether something is a puppet regime or not. In Japan, the US occupation remained for x amount of time to be sure that liberal constituionalism took hold and wasn't immediately replaced by some Mishima-esque coup. Eventually, though, the occupation ended, and Japan is in fact a constitutional state. Not libertopia, but way more liberal than the Shogunate or the Tojoite fascists.
Same idea in Iraq - you can't just say "here's a constitution, see ya" - the army needs to stick around for a bit to make sure it "takes," otherwise at the first sign of theocratic resurgence, everyone will sceam that it's the Americans' fault for _not_ having ensured that liberalism took hold.

Keith Halderman - 7/6/2004

The government in Iraq is a puppet regime because it is not really in charge. The American government still occupies the country and there are numerous American edicts it must obey. If the new Iraqi leader got on TV today and told the U.S. its forces had to leave immediately, do you think we would go?

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/5/2004

How are you defining "puppet regime"? I'm familiar with the use of that expression to refer to situations such as the old East German government in the Soviet period, or Vichy France. But I wouldn't call the West German government of the same time period a "puppet regime"- although the Sovs (and the Western moral-equivalence left) frequently did. Neither would I refer to post-War Japan as a puppet regime - even though it's true that the victorious allied Occupation force obliged them to embrace a liberal constitution. Once they had adopted the new constition, and were self-governing, there was no "puppet regime," although again the Chinese typically described it that way. It's sort of like on old Trek: once Vaal or Landru or whoever is smashed, the people become autonomous, and then have the choice of joining the Federation or not, whereas the evil empire is made up of conquered worlds. (Is it your contention that there is a moral equivalence between the Federation and the Klingons?) In the real world, that means there's a difference between countries that are ruled by nominally liberal constitutions and countries ruled by dictatorships or theocracies. If one of the latter regimes is forcibly overthrown, and replaced with some kind of nominally liberal, autonomous, constitutional regime, how is that a puppet regime?