No new Civil War – the revolution already happened

July 20, 2017

Mike F. Brown

OPINION by MIKE F. BROWN

Recently there has been a growing epidemic of media handwringing about the divisiveness of American politics. Pundits on both the left and right worry that the country has never been as divided since the decade leading up to the Civil War. There is condensable discussion about the possible fragmentation of the nation and some fantasizing about California (perhaps with Oregon and Washington) becoming a separate nation.

Receiving less current attention is the idea by some extreme Hispanic nationalist groups of the South Western United States (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado) becoming the new nation of Atzlan. In some versions Atzlan might also contain remnants or portions of the current Mexico.

From time to time, some Texans imbibe nostalgia of an independent Texas Republic, free from the regulatory and fiscal depredations progressive establishment.

Of course, then there is the vision of an independent city-state of Berkeley, the erstwhile “Peoples’ Republic” and “The Athens of the West.” The ultra-politically correct city council has lost control of its downtown streets, which are plagued by filthy homeless encampments at major intersections where the combined stench of urine and marijuana permeate the air.

Those positively flirting with these centrifugal visions might consider the horrible cost and protracted consequences of the Civil War and its aftermath. 

In the 1850’s, the horrendous moral, legal, humanitarian, and cultural contradictions of slavery (regarded as a form of property right by some) drove the inevitable cataclysm forward.

Simultaneously, and adding to the breakdown, was the growing realization by southerners that they were inexorably being relegated to the status of a domestic economic colony of the paleo-industrial successors to the Puritan oligarchy that dominated the northeast (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania). The costs of the conflict were awful, including the death of over 600,000 soldiers from both sides.

The ultimate defeat of the Confederacy annihilated a generation of young men, wreaked vast physical destruction on the South’s infrastructure, farms, and cities, and left much of the region isolated and impoverished.

It was not until the 1960’s that we saw the beginnings of the huge economic and cultural efflorescence of Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Nashville, Memphis, the northern Virginia metro complex, and so many other towns and cities throughout the South. The actual results were not as pleasant as portrayed in the romantic lithograph. The young mother was much more likely to have been an impoverished widow dependent on relatives and/or working as a servant or seamstress to eke out a lonely and dismal living well into the early 20th Century.

Had the Confederacy won the war, it is very possible that the two separate and weaker successor nations could have successively fallen victim to potential aggressors such as the British Empire or Imperial Germany or both. As late as World War I, the Brits had a fully developed plan to invade and defeat the United States by invasion from Canada. Or the two nations might have been locked into recurring or perpetual conflict with each other.

Today, a potential breakup will certainly beckon the interest of the Chinese, Russians, and Islamic imperialists.

But is it possible that the interests of the vast Federal, state, local, and public educational bureaucracies act to prevent potential dissolution or fragmentation notwithstanding secessionist or balkanizing initiatives of various political groups?

Key issues dividing American society are manifest in both the political and cultural realms. Are these as dangerous as the slavery, states’ rights, and economic dominance questions were in 1860?

The progressive left and the conservative movement are divided by disputed positions relating to six generic issues of politics. These are:

1. Citizenship/Legal Equality – Are all people in the society citizens with the same rights and status before the law? Are all peoples’ security and property equally protected regardless of race, economic class, religion, gender, national origin, age, and other characteristics? Although this question has largely been answered in the affirmative, there remain new and disputed areas of action.

Key contemporary issues of contention:

·         Do non-citizen visitors living here legally and undocumented people possess the full status and rights of citizens?

·         Should they be allowed to vote?

·         Should new immigrants who are here legally, or, for that matter any other group, be allowed to set up separate criminal and civil legal systems or a state within the state based on their religion, cultural heritage, or other rationale?

·         Is the existence of private property guaranteed, or, although given lip service, will it actually be expropriated by ever increasing taxes and regulatory measures?

·         What about a free market economy?

·         Should the Federal Government or states impose expanded restrictions on the sale and possession of various categories of firearms and ammunition by citizens?

·         Should the police and military be the only entities in society allowed to possess and use firearms?

·         Should the US strictly control immigration and particularly illegal immigration across its southern border?

·         Do identity politics, the resurgence of ethnic and racial differences, and political correctness undermine the heretofore-achieved consensus on citizenship and constitutional rights?

2. Social and Economic Equality – Are equal access to opportunity and the guarantees in item one above sufficient or should there be guaranteed outcomes and income redistribution to pay for those outcomes.

Key contemporary issues of contention:

·         Is every citizen entitled to “free” health care?

·         Is every citizen entitled to “free” housing?

·         Is every citizen entitled to “free” college?

·         What about resident non-citizens of various statuses?

·         If the answer is yes, how will these entitlements be funded and by whom?

·         What is the impact of funding all or part of these entitlements on investment, private property, and freedom?

·         What about the inevitable slackers, who fail to perform in school, work, and other aspects of life? Should they be entitled to the proverbial “all-expense-paid life”?

·         Should the children of the wealthy and upper middle classes be allowed to inherit large sums of money, stocks, and property, which give them an inherent advantage, or should these inheritances be confiscated and used to fund social and educational programs so that everyone starts out on an equal basis and succeed based on their inherent smartness, energy, and work ethic?

3. The Appropriate Scope of the Role of Government At All Levels – Should the Federal government, states, and local governments continue to expand their services, regulatory role, and portion of economic activity or should these be restricted?

Key issues of contemporary contention:

·         Should governments be regulating and providing taxpayer funded incentives and disincentives to reduce the level of greenhouse gases?

·         As a corollary, should governments be supporting some industries and corporations with incentives while suppressing others?

·         Are more regulations needed in most aspects of economic, social, and cultural life, or has the level of these reached a point at which they are negatively impacting productive capacity, innovation, income, and freedom (including rights under Item one above)?

·         Should governments expand their roles in capital investment beyond highways, harbors, airports, educational institutions, utilities, military installations and systems, parks, and transit systems?

·         What about subsidizing automobile manufacturing? How about inter-city rail?

·         Should government employees, the peoples’ employees, be allowed to form labor organizations and to bargain against the people who fund their salaries and benefits for which their jobs exist in the first place?

4. The Appropriate Division of Authority (Centralized or Decentralized) – The Degree of Federalism) – Should the Federal government be supreme, with more centralized power and functions, or should power and functions be distributed to the states, and then within the states to the counties, cities, and other local entities?

Key Issues of contention include:

·         Should the states and cities be allowed to set up their own immigration standards and become sanctuaries for people who are here illegally?

·         Should the states or the Federal government regulate the standards for marriage and families?

·         Should the states or the Federal government determine whether the recreational use of marijuana should be legalized?

·         Should the states or the Federal government set educational standards?

 

5.  The Legitimacy of Government (Particularly the Federal Government) – Do people trust that their elected and appointed officials achieved their offices by legal and honest means?

Key issues of contention:

·         Are the various branches elected and appointed legally and are they operating legally and within the generally accepted parameters for items one through four above?

·         Are elections clean or rigged?

·         Should non-citizens who reside here be allowed to vote? Are they voting?

·         Has campaign financing by corporations, wealthy individuals, foreign governments, government employee labor unions, and other interests populated the various offices of government with officials who are so captive to these special interests that the concept of the public interest has been annihilated?

6. The Role of the United States in the World – Does the historic American experience, freedom, rule of law, and broad based high standard of living create a moral imperative for the United States to oppose nations, movements, and cultures that would weaken or destroy American civilization – exceptionalism?

·         Should the United States use force to compel North Korea and Iran to cease their nuclear ICBM programs?

·         Should the United States use force to compel the Russians to cease acquisition of territory in Eastern Europe?

·         Should the United States affirmatively promote its culture, vision, economic, and legal system in the world?

Inter-Action of the Key Questions:

These questions and the answers, which are always evolving, do not exist in isolation from one another, but interact with each other in the political and cultural milieu. Does substantial dominance by either the progressive left or the conservative movement presage a breakdown of the nation’s political structure?

If the electoral institutions began to collapse, would the various bureaucracies (the deep state) simply keep operating, particularly the military, police, justice system, and social service bureaucracies, to prevent secession, rebellion, and/or anarchy?

Or has the collapse already happened? If it did, who do you think prevailed? And are we so anesthetized and distracted that we just haven’t noticed?

Mike Brown is the Government Affairs Director of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business (COLAB) of San Luis Obispo County. He had a 42-year career as a city manager and county executive officer in four states including California. He can be reached at mike@colabslo.org.







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6 Comments

  1. straddle says:

    Issue #7, role of religion in politics: campaign financing, candidates, foreign policy etc…

    Both sides are hypocritical. Conservatives want to make state’s rights supreme when it comes to gun laws, abortion, and marriage….but turn federalist when it comes to immigration and legal marijuana. Liberals are opposite

    For #5, the antiquated electoral college which allows states like Texas and California to be woefully under-represented and others like Wyoming, Ohio, and Wisconsin to be more powerful than their population calls for.

    For #2, who is calling for equal outcomes? Fringe socialists maybe? Nobody I have ever met, on either side, has ever advocated for equal outcomes. Opportunity yes, outcomes, no.

    #1, nobody with any credibility is advocating for a state within a state. C’mon. Furthermore, as a paid shill of Big Grape, you fail to mention the elephant in the room that nobody ever talks about: There would be no illegal immigration problem if illegal immigrants weren’t hired and allowed to make more $ here than they can at home. Simple supply and demand that all politicians, including you Brown, ignore because you’re bought and paid for.

    (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  2. 1965buick says:

    Interesting commentary. All valid points.

    I would add that politicians’ rhetoric hasn’t exactly brought us together either.

    (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
  3. Otis says:

    The article hints at the question are we a Constitutional Republic or an evolving Federal Democracy. Is our Constitution obsolete regarding representation in a Senate that overrules the House! For example: why should the Northeast have 15 senators and the West Coast only six?

    (-4) 12 Total Votes - 4 up - 8 down
  4. Liberty1948 says:

    Well written, Mike. This article sounds very Libertarian, at least subtly. As a Libertarian I much appreciate the article. If all taxes were voluntary those who want bigger, more intrusive government could have it and those who don’t wouldn’t have it. It would be a win-win for both sides of this issue.

    (-4) 28 Total Votes - 12 up - 16 down
  5. Slosum says:

    Well laid out Mike. Fortunately in America the pendulum has always swung back to reason. It is doing so now.

    (2) 24 Total Votes - 13 up - 11 down
  6. abigchocoholic says:

    Or has the collapse already happened? If it did, who do you think prevailed? And are we so anesthetized and distracted that we just haven’t noticed?
    —————–
    All questions and no answers.

    What if?

    (0) 18 Total Votes - 9 up - 9 down

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