On Federalist 12 & 13: Madisonian Compromise amid Uncompromising Progressivism

TheFederalist.com is the new (exclusive) home of The Federalist Today. Our first essay is a defense of the prudence and necessity of the Lee/Cruz/Tea Party effort to defund Obamacare during the budget/debt standoff. Applying the principles of  Federalist 12 and 13 and drawing on the practice of the founders of the Republican Party, we argue:

Our current entitlement regime (and the tax scheme that supports it) is unsustainable economically, politically, and morally: it costs far more than we can afford, creates an intractable generational divide, and grossly violates the justice due to the young and their posterity. Those who recognize this must continue to press this case as clearly and forcefully as possible and to support the public measures best adapted to address it.

The American people, in the end, may refuse to hear or to heed the alarm. But if the Republican Party won’t sound it or rally around those who do, it may find itself as politically irrelevant as an antebellum Whig Party that couldn’t decide what it thought about slavery.

For more on The Federalist Today project, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

On Federalist 11: Progressivism and Limited Government

Fed 11 wealth of nationsoriginally published at TheBlaze.com on October 8, 2013

It has not been a good week for American government. But does this mean it has been a good week for the American people? Perhaps.

Faced with the discomforting prospect of funding another arm of the American Leviathan, a stalwart group of legislators has for a time delayed implementation of Obamacare. And a sizable portion of the American people, already having experienced the troubles associated with a one-size-fits-all health care system, has shown its distaste for this latest usurpation by supporting the efforts.

But what good can come from a situation in which half of the country considers the federal government its most earnest friend, while the other half views it as its most threatening domestic enemy? And what will our nation’s future look like if we move further along the progressive course?


More on Federalist 10: “Once Upon a Time in America…”

de Tocqueville picoriginally published at TheBlaze.com on September 27, 2013

After watching Wednesday’s Obamacare debate, we aren’t surprised to learn that 60 percent of Americans, according to the latest Gallup survey, believe the federal government is too powerful. In fact, it has now been more than eight years since fewer than half of Americans wanted to reduce the power of government.

And yet, since 2005, federal spending has grown 58 percent, the federal bureaucracy has added more than 100,000 to its ranks, and the cost of complying with its regulations has increased 59 percent – and all this before the full implementation of Obamacare.

That means in a period when more than half of Americans thought the government was too powerful, it has grown much more powerful still.

How does this happen in a republic? A momentary poll result can perhaps be safely ignored, but a sentiment sustained over eight years, through four congressional elections and two presidential contests? Plainly, something is wrong when the direction of the government and the sentiments of the people diverge to such an extreme degree.

In fact, several things are wrong. As we argued in an earlier essay in this series, the American governing class has become a “super-faction,” pursuing its good at the expense of the American people, as Congress’s special Obamacare deal illustrates. At the head of that group is President Obama, implementing a Progressive program that is purposefully and inherently divisive, the work of a faction-builder-in-chief.

But there is a less comfortable reality we can’t afford to ignore: the role that we, the people, have played in normalizing the politics of faction.

In Honor of Constitution Day: The Virtue of the Constitution

Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1originally published at TheBlaze.com on September 17, 2013

Two hundred and twenty-six years ago today, the Constitutional Convention came to an end. The delegates completed the first step in a process that would, in time, lead to the world’s longest-lasting and most successful charter of government. We honor their work as we celebrate Constitution Day. But just how many in America’s ruling class are celebrating the Founders’ Constitution with us?

Of course, disputes over the Constitution’s value arose from the start. After New York Governor George Clinton read it, he called it “a monster with open mouth and monstrous teeth ready to devour all before it.” Other (not always less strident) Anti-Federalists included Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Richard Henry Lee—great patriots all who had sacrificed much for American freedom and independence.

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists argued over whether the Constitution was a good means to their common end: to secure the long-term survival of a free republic on American soil. And so they supported or opposed the Constitution based upon their best judgment concerning whether it would help or hinder that effort.

Despite the sometimes sharp rhetoric of the debate, neither side had abandoned the essential principles of 1776: (1) that the job of government was to “secure” the God-given natural rights equally possessed by “all men”; and that this ought to be done by (2) “an impartial and exact execution of the laws,” as John Adams put it.

What distinguishes today’s progressive ruling class critics of the Founders’ Constitution from the Anti-Federalists is their wholesale rejection of both of these principles and almost all of the premises that inform them. In the spirit of their great intellectual forebear, Herbert Croly, they aim not to protect equal rights, but to produce equal results, with laws specially crafted and artfully applied to favor–well, those whom they favor.


On Federalist 10: The Faction-Builder-in-Chief

Fed 10 Richard IIIOriginally published at TheBlaze.com, September 7, 2013

A week ago, President Obama was on the verge of unilaterally ordering U.S. air strikes against Syria. Why did he change his mind and instead seek congressional approval? Did he fear the constitutional implications of going to war without the backing of the American people’s elected representatives?

No. In his words: “As commander-in-chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress.”

Why then have Congress deliberate on the matter of air strikes against Syria at all? Because he knows that there will be no real debate. Instead, with the assistance of fawning American elites, he hopes to stage a West Wing-inspired performance of Richard III in which the progressive protagonist turns our herd-like elected representatives into agents of their own political demise, at the cost to the country, yet again, of a further drift from constitutional republicanism.


Federalist Today Update

With Constitution Day approaching (September 17), we have a lot going on.

Our latest essay is now up at The Blaze, connecting Federalist 10 to President Obama’s factious rhetoric on Syria and beyond.

We are also very excited to have a longer piece entitled “The Republic of republics” coming out this October in The City,  a journal published by Houston Baptist University (click here for more). We argue that Federalist 10 shows us republics don’t just need good constitutions and an extensive territory to limit the effects of faction–but also a pervasive moral critique of factious behavior.

We’ll be on the radio too:

9/10: The Joy Tiz Show, 5:00 p.m.

9/10: Christian Talk that Rocks with Richie Laxton, 9:20 p.m.

9/11: Powers to the People with Tony Powers, 5:30 p.m. (David Corbin only)

9/17: On Point: The Right Conversation with Laurie Bartlett, 5:00 p.m.

9/18: Republicans Abroad Radio with Cynthia Dillon, 10:00 a.m.

To stay up-to-date with all of our appearances and writings, follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page.


On Federalist 9: The Government Super-Faction

Fed 9 Boss_Tweed,_Thomas_Nastoriginally published at TheBlaze.com August 15, 2013.

Congress is on recess, but the American ruling class hasn’t been idle.

Last week, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders joined with President Obama to carve out a special Obamacare “rule” for the Congress and its staff that would subsidize their health insurance to protect even maximum federal salary earners against otherwise sharp increases in premiums. That could sure help a lot of people in states like Florida and Ohio, where insurance rates are projected to increase an average of 35% and 41%, respectively, but where Obamacare subsidies are phased out at a much lower income level — just like they are everywhere else, except Congress.

Republican government has always been troubled by factions — groups wanting to promote their private good at the expense of everyone else — but rarely in American history has the governing class so boldly and so openly elevated its own faction and shown such disregard for the citizens it is supposed to represent and serve.


On Federalist 8: Obamacare and (Bureaucratic) Standing Armies

Fed 8 Napoleon's Grand Armyoriginally published at TheBlaze.com on August 6, 2013.

The founders’ many warnings about standing armies may seem rather quaint in an age of supersonic jets and ICBMs — or not, when we consider the legions of new bureaucrats about to enlist indefinitely in Obamacare’s army.

Despite the increasing unpopularity of Obamacare and the headlines announcing exploding health insurance premiums in one state after another, the GOP’s smooth operators are counseling conservatives to simply get out of the way. They’re promising to translate the Obamacare “train wreck” into a big 2014 mid-term election victory if the Senate’s “wacko birds” don’t alienate moderate voters by attempting to defund Obamacare. Having been around many a DC block, Republican political professionals suggest, once again, that the prudent fight is just after the next election.

But the Tea Party’s rise and political success suggests that many Americans have had enough of fiddling while Rome burns — and enough of a Republican establishment that talks about our founding principles but seems more interested in leading the next congressional majority that mocks them. Just in time, too. For while success by reformers in states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Texas suggests that it is not too late for action, Detroit’s bankruptcy (and Chicago’s looming fiscal catastrophe) shows that the clock is ticking.

Today, Detroit is a war zone–it has the highest violent crime rate of any large city, but the damage runs deeper, the consequence of a half-century of Progressive governance: almost a million“missing” citizens, thousands of abandoned buildings, and the general collapse of community life.

This nightmare ought to discredit the ruling class approach to urban development, centered on a massive system of social welfare programs managed by a large, generously-compensated bureaucracy. Of course, that should have happened already, since the same formula has failed wherever it has been tried. And yet here we are on the eve of implementing our largest entitlement program ever.


On Federalist 7: All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

hobbes leviathanoriginally published at TheBlaze.com on July 25, 2013.

As this week’s headlines have revealed, the NSA’s domestic data mining program is small potatoes compared to the database to be compiled for Obamacare. And if it concerns you that a mid-level employee of a government contractor could legally access the reams of classified documents Edward Snowden illegally leaked–then wait until hack community organizers have legal access to your financial and medical records, as Obamacare allows.

On July 26, 1947, President Harry Truman signed the NSA Act, creating a new federal agency whose charge was to protect American citizens from Soviet communism. Given the size and scope of the Soviet threat and the uncompromising Marxism that drove it, this was a rational response to a real, soon-to-be existential threat to American freedom. Nevertheless, continued vigilance would be required to ensure that the NSA and the rest of the institutional apparatus established to fight the Cold War remained a friend of liberty, as Truman’s successor, Dwight Eisenhower, warned in his farewell address.

A less-remembered warning from the same speech perhaps captures more of the threat to American liberty today. What, Eisenhower wondered, would be the consequences of new federal programs giving millions of taxpayer dollars to American universities for government-sponsored research? The corruption of the university, for one: where “a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.” But more troubling still would be the rise of what he might have called the “academy-bureaucracy” complex: “that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” In other words, what we’ve seen in the academy is the empowering of tenured, indignant Thrasymachuses who are paid handsomely to subvert the life of the mind and “the liberties of a great [American] community.”

The result is an American government at war against almost every aspect of the human condition except war itself. Forget the war to end all wars: we live in an age where man’s permanent condition, in every part of life, is a state of war.  The War on Drugs. The War on Poverty. The War on Terror. The War on Childhood Obesity. The War on Global Warming. Identify a threat, and they are looming around every corner, and soon there’s a new bureaucracy ready for battle, allowing every last-pick-on-the-playground academic to dream of one day training federal firepower against his favorite social pathology, real or imagined.


On Federalist 6: Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits

Fed 6 Henry_Singleton_the_Storming_of_the_Bastilleoriginally published at TheBlaze.com on July 16, 2013.

The American foreign policy establishment is divided over whether a nation $17 trillion in debt should give the $1.5 billion it promised to an Egypt governed by democratically-elected Islamists to an Egypt now governed by unelected military secularists.  Convinced that their studies, contacts, and inside sources give them the keenest understanding of the parties involved, those on both sides will continue to lobby the Administration and Congress to choose the lesser of two evils–or the better of two goods.

A better debate would focus on why establishment academics, journalists, and policymakers are so confident in their (contradictory) judgments–and why the United States continues to grow less and less able to defend its interests.