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What Is To Be Done? Part 4 - States Rights Ride Again

It's time for the states to remember who they are, and tell the Feds to take a hike.

By Petrarch  |  November 23, 2020

As the inauguration of our Pretender-President Joe Biden draws ever closer, those on the Right watch aghast as their country and traditional liberties slip away.

How We Got Here

How have the enemies of historical America become so powerful?

We've discussed the universal tendency of governments to expand government power and cost until taxpayers can't afford the government any more.  History shows that societies collapse when the taxpaying public can no longer afford the costs their government imposes on their society.

We thought this was a manifestation of bureaucratic greed.  Confucius observed that unless the Emperor chopped off enough heads to keep the deep state honest, the bureaucracy would steal more and more tax money, leaving fewer resources to maintain roads and the army.

In a macro sense we were correct, but perhaps we missed the underlying mechanism which drives long-term bureaucratic growth.  The Atlantic article "Can History Predict the Future" discussed Peter Turchin's explanation that it wasn't just that bureaucrats wanted to steal money for themselves, they were looking out for their children.

Prof. Turchin is a Russian ecologist who created mathematical models to explain why natural populations grow and collapse.  The Atlantic credits him with introducing mathematical rigor into the study of ecology, and discusses his thoughts on the mathematics behind current trends in American civilization.

As living organisms expand by geometric progression until the population collapses when they exhaust the resources they need to survive, our ruling educated elites are multiplying faster than legitimate government positions can be created for them.  Members of the Saudi royal family are multiplying faster than the government can find royal jobs, for example.  American elites have fewer children than the Saudis, but American elites are still multiplying too fast because birth isn't the only way they're created anymore:

In the United States, elites overĀ­produce themselves through economic and educational upward mobility: More and more people get rich, and more and more get educated. ...  problems begin when money and Harvard degrees become like royal titles in Saudi Arabia. If lots of people have them, but only some have real power, the ones who don't have power eventually turn on the ones who do.

If someone is educated enough and ambitious enough to want to join the power elite, but there aren't any powerful positions available for them, one approach is to increase government power to create a new power position.  That takes freedom away from ordinary citizens, but it's generally easier than displacing a powerful person to take over an existing position.  How often do incumbents lose elections?

... you can see more and more aspirants fighting for a single job at, say, a prestigious law firm, or in an influential government sinecure ...

"You have a situation now where there are many more elites fighting for the same position, and some portion of them will convert to counter-elites," Turchin said.

He sees the battle between President Trump and the Deep State as a classic conflict between elite factions.  "The Donald" was rich and well-known, but he wasn't influential or powerful in the sense that his friends the Clintons were.  Barack Obama was a not-rich nobody who rose to a place of such power and arrogance that he felt able to insult and humiliate The Donald publicly; it's been said that's when he decided to run for president himself.

The Trump administration hired many members of the educated elite who had been shut out of previous administrations because the Ivy-based establishment didn't have enough vacancies. This is where the rubber met the road:

Elite overproduction creates counter-elites, and counter-elites look for allies among the commoners [a.k.a. deplorable Trump voters - ed]. If commoners' living standards slip ... they accept the overtures of the counter-elites and start oiling the axles of their tumbrels. The final trigger of impending collapse, Turchin says, tends to be state insolvency. At some point rising insecurity becomes expensive. The elites have to pacify unhappy citizens with handouts and freebies and when these run out, they have to police dissent [cancel culture, deplatforming, shadow banning, etc. -ed] and oppress people. Eventually the state exhausts all short-term solutions, and what was heretofore a coherent civilization disintegrates[emphasis added]

Or, as Louis XV might have said, "The peasants are revolting, aren't they..."

Devolution of Power

Our Constitution was written in the mid to late 1700s.  The British East India Company had been chartered in 1600, nearly two centuries previously, and was deeply familiar to our Founders, some of whom had personally helped unload their ships.

Although the British came late to the Asia trade vs. the Iberian nations, they prospered mightily.  One of their advantages was that educated second and third sons of British nobles, who had no hope of inheriting the family castle, sought fortune and power overseas.  In contrast, French younger sons stayed in France, while the desire of so many nobles to live large increased taxation and government spending to the point of triggering the French Revolution.

It's possible that part of the reason our Founders set up our federal system was they realized that they had to create as many real power centers as possible.  Why didn't The Donald run for Mayor of New York City?  Because state bureaucracies have taken so much power from the mayor that there isn't enough city power to satisfy him.

Why not Governor of New York?  Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for governor of New York in 1928 and served until elected President in 1932; Teddy Roosevelt marched a similar path.  But in the century since then, federal bureaucrats have usurped so much state power that being a mere state governor still wasn't enough for a billionaire of Trump's mettle.

Government functionaries multiply government power to take care of their children, not just to get more money for themselves.  The problem is that government agencies are far better at stopping progress than at accomplishing anything.  We've written of a project to add one lane to a Colorado highway which spent 13 years in planning before the first shovel of dirt turned.  This gave a host of powerful alphabet soup agencies chances to come up with objections and delays at great cost, but not one of these extremely expensive feather merchants added any value whatsoever.

The Rebellion Begins

The solution is to return to our Founders' original intent of having meaningful power positions in state and local government, so that ambitious people can get jobs where they have the authority needed to accomplish something as opposed to becoming a cancer on the taxpayers by getting in the way.

That means whacking back both federal and some state government agencies so that power flows back to elected officials and to the people.

Our liberties are very much at risk, but Joe Biden is not Joe Stalin and Kamala Harris is not Hitler.  They have neither the power nor the brains to be effective as dictators, nor, likely, will their immediate successors.  We may be at the eleventh hour for America, but the clock has not yet struck midnight.

Thus far in this series, we've examined the limits on the evil powers of a tyrannical woke Federal government, and a multitude of ways in which Americans large and small can obstruct, resist, and defeat them.  Yet, in the long run, the only thing that can truly defeat an evil government is another government.  That is why our Founders, in their wisdom, created so many different governments, at all different levels, with complex and overlapping powers.

The enemies of historical America may now control most of the levers of Federal power and a fair number of states.  But there are plenty other states where they don't, and thanks to our Federal system, there is real power there, and we need to grab back as much power from the feds as we can.  We just need to grasp the opportunity.


From the very moment the Constitution was signed, there's been an ongoing debate between the states and Federal government over exactly how much power the Feds have to push the states around.  On some issues, it's crystal clear: the President is the Commander in Chief of the Army, 'nuff said.  On others, though, the Constitution is silent, except to say that on topics where it is silent, the states are in charge:

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.

Far from being a firm bright line, it's ebbed and flowed over the years.  The Old South felt that the Constitution gave the Federal government no power to regulate or limit slavery.  In the long run, they proved their point, because slavery was ultimately banned by Constitutional amendment.

Those who believed in banning alcohol changed the Constitution to do so; those who want to ban drugs weren't nearly so orderly.

In the mid-twentieth-century, there seemed to be no limits on Federal power whatsoever: in the notorious Wickard v. Filburn decision, the Supreme Court notoriously gave the Feds the power to ban a farmer from raising his own wheat to feed his own animals on his own farm - because if he didn't grow that wheat, he'd have to buy it, and it might have been imported across state lines. Ergo, interstate commerce!

More recently, the Court has moved back somewhat from this extreme position that made the Tenth Amendment effectively null and void: beginning in 1995 with United States v. Lopez, it has ruled on an increasing number of subjects that the Feds have no business meddling with.  There are many opportunities to extend this trend given our more originalist Supreme Court bequeathed to us by The Donald.

In a perverse way, the tactics of the Left have been very helpful in this effort.  If there's one thing that the Constitution is plain should be the purview of the Federal government, it's foreign affairs.  Yet, just about every Democrat-run jurisdiction ostentatiously has declared itself a "sanctuary" for illegal aliens - that is, foreign invaders who have infiltrated our country contrary to our laws in place.  Obviously the Left doesn't believe that the Feds have power to enforce laws they don't like in blue states that don't want them.

Does the same apply to red states?  There'll never be a better time to find out - we aren't likely to ever get more conservative Supreme Court Justices than we have right now.

Now, it's possible that not all these efforts will be upheld or prove practical.  Does that make them not worth trying?  Not all the Left's efforts win at court either, but they keep at it, and they've gotten enough wins over the years that they now have the capability to steal elections wholesale.  The least we can do is push back where possible.

Besides, if you set the bar high enough, you can see it pushed back down and still be better off than you were.  Suppose the Biden Administration somehow manages to get a law passed that forbids requiring photo ID in Federal elections.  Fine: create two ballots, one with all the offices, and one with just the Federal ones.  Voters with ID get the long ballot, and those without just the short one.  Wouldn't it be interesting to have actual proof of which way the unidentified really vote?

We are beginning to see what, we hope, are the first glimmering signs of this, as governors flat-out tell Pretender-President Biden where he can stick his ideas of a national covid shutdown.  For too long, governors have meekly done what they're told by the feds; this needs to end if we're going to have any liberty left anywhere at all.

Triggering Over-reactions

If the Left has a besetting weakness, it's that they don't know when to stop.  Most of the time this doesn't seem to much matter - your humble correspondent has watched aghast as Americans simply grew so used to being molested by the TSA that it isn't even worth writing about anymore.

Similarly, that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs is giving warning that the insanity of pointless mask mandates is traveling the same road.  Hopefully, that's simply because we happen to reside in a deep-blue area, as we read in optimistic reports from elsewhere:

[Florida Governor Ron DeSantis] said the state will not impose the stringent lockdowns that Florida saw earlier this year.

"We will never do any of these lockdowns again, and I hear people say they'll shut down the country, and honestly I cringe," DeSantis said.

The governor was possibly referring to a statement Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made this month during an interview with ABC News in which Biden said he would shut down the country if scientists recommended.

Well, when our Pretender-President becomes our Usurper-President and fulfills his threat of imposing a total shutdown, Gov. DeSantis is going to have a hard choice to make.  Does he listen to the science, his voters, and the Constitution, and tell Sleepy Joe to take a hike?  Or does he bow the knee to the lies, forfeit the opportunity to increase his own power, and impoverish his own people?

The plain fact is, there is nowhere in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enforce dress codes or to imprison people anywhere without the action of law.  The Presidential pen, by itself?  Fuggedaboutit, with emphasis on the first two letters.

By a strong, timely use of base vernacular, Gov. DeSantis might just save the rest of us from a very personal tyranny.  But if, somehow, Joe Biden decides to defy reality and declare such a mandate?  Arguably even better: the whole country can see first one state, then more, openly refuse.

Then what?  It gets better: would the administration try to embargo an entire state for non-compliance?  How would that go down?  What would other states do?  Would Georgia put state troopers on the border with Florida, or allow the feds to blockade?  Likely, the opposite: Georgia's governor is no fan even of mask mandates, to say nothing of shutdowns.

In fact, it's not entirely inconceivable that much of the old Confederacy might be forcibly rebuilt by Joe Biden, as Florida rejects shutdown mandates, blue New England and California enforce them harshly, and everybody else picks a side.

At the end of an even more bizarre 2021 than 2020 has been (?!), we might find ourselves in a markedly better situation, with Hidin' Biden's bullies revealed as ineffective laughingstocks in any state that cares to say them nay.  Even setting aside any question of Joe Biden's legitimacy, this would be a supremely healthy restoration of the virtues of federalism.  Let California lock themselves into the poorhouse - we don't have to follow their lead.

This wouldn't work if Joe Biden were Napoleon, Caesar, or even Khrushchev.  Fortunately, he's not.

We couldn't ask for a better opponent if it truly comes to a test of will - the only will Sleepy Joe has is the one Jill wrote for him to sign.  The question is, does our side have any will remaining?  Or was Donald Trump the last true American determined to doggedly stand on his own two feet and flip the bird to our betters with both hands?