15 Comments


  1. Would it have been possible to withstand the communist onslaught without a strong central government? Of course it would. There’s never been a nation with the military capacity to invade the US, including the USSR.

    And who is to say that we successfully withstood the communist onslaught? Under our centralized government, we’ve moved much closer to communism that ever before, with publically funded forced education, high tax rates that no pre-communist society would have dreamed possible, a currency totally controlled by a central government, credit controlled by the central government, government-sponsered retirement, etc.

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    1. Mitchell, this is where you and I would have to disagree.

      First, the Soviet’s advance wasn’t just militarily, but through political means. We know this – not the McCarthy garbage either – by looking at history. We provide protection for a good portion of the Western World. Not sure this could have happened with 50 States decentralized.

      And regarding you last bit – not sure that is really communistic, nor in the Soviet’s goal.

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  2. We played both sides in the Soviet business — while we fought them overseas we gave them great quantities of grain. We subsidized and fought them simultaneously.

    Our large federal government fought the Soviets, fed the Soviets, and provided them with a massive enemy that helped fuel Soviet patriotism and held their nation together.

    Our centralized government basically played both sides of that ‘war’. If a less centralized government would have been less able to engage in that sort of weird behavior, I’m not so sure that would be a bad thing.

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    1. Mitchell, I’ll try to respond to this comment, but for the moment, I am writing a response to your post to be published tomorrow.

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    2. RODOFA

      It was not the centralized government that was the problem, it was a government that did not recognize it’s boundaries. Key difference.

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      1. And Rod, I agree with you there. But because Joel was using our handling of the Soviet Union conflict as an argument for the necessity of centralized government. If the centralized government bungled that one and, perhaps, made it worth, than that argument for centralized government is removed.

        But I suspect more strongly day by day that, though the distinction may exist in theory, not recognizing boundaries is a feature common to all centralized govts.

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  3. Joel,

    I’ve been thinking for the last 2 years that many people are acting as if the Confederacy won the war. At least, if you read their rhetoric about small federal government…

    James

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  4. Mitchell Powell :

    And Rod, I agree with you there. But because Joel was using our handling of the Soviet Union conflict as an argument for the necessity of centralized government. If the centralized government bungled that one and, perhaps, made it worth, than that argument for centralized government is removed.

    Whoa, Mitchell – you misunderstand the reasoning and style of argument here. It is meant to engender questions and answers. Just because I am playing the advocate of one position or the other, that doesn’t meant that I am making an argument.

    Further, I note that you only see the Soviet argument. What about the forced desegregation plans in the 60’s wherein the Federal Government forced Southern States to abide by the dictates of the centralized Government?

    But, for the record, I think that during the Cold War, a strong centralized government was needed.

    But, we can go back further and ask ourselves – what if the government was less centralized in 1916 than it was…would the war have broken out?

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    1. Oh, I think I understand exactly the style of reasoning here — it’s the using of questions to make implicit arguments. And so I went after one of them.

      I did this because ‘the 1960’s’ is so incredibly vague that tackling it could be a massive undertaking. I did this because the question of giving women the right to vote was complicated by the fact that female suffrage was partially a means to bringing us prohibitionism. I skipped the ‘social upheavals’ bit because it was vague and implies something ridiculous about the ‘General Welfare’ clause.

      As to forced desegregation, yes, I’m with you on that. If the states are forcing injustice on blacks and the Federal Government is in a position to bring justice, let the Federal Government do it. This is fine.

      But the question you bring up about 1916 is spot-on, and gets to the core of my question about centralized government.

      If we hadn’t been so centralized in 1916, would the cold war have broken out? If we hadn’t allowed some upstart named Washington to produce a centralized military rebellion, would we have gotten rid of slavery peacefully in 1833, when the British Empire banned it? If we didn’t allow our president to run a fruitless undeclared war in Vietnam, might the social upheavals of the sixties have been more easily handled?

      Might these examples be multiplied until it is demonstrated that the primary thing that centralized government is good for is making giant messes and then doing a sloppy job of cleaning those messes up?

      I suspect the answer is closer to ‘yes’ than ‘no’.

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      1. Mitchell, you are picking and choosing your arguments, and redefining issues along the way – and I suspect that it to make your approach easier.

        I note that you are okay with forced desegregation, which was a State’s Rights issue, just as slavery was in the 1860’s. So, can I safely assume that you are okay with a centralized government when you believe that it is something that they should do, regardless if the majority is against it, legal tradition is against, and we still have civilian courts open?

        Multiplication based on unknown variables always tend to lead to what ever the multiplier wants it to.

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  5. If I’m unjustly picking and choosing arguments, let me know which ones I’m misrepresenting. We’re discussing a great number of issues all at once, and so I wouldn’t be surprised a bit if I’m somehow muddying things. But we all pick and choose arguments — that how discussion happens. I don’t suppose you yourself just reach into a large vat of arguments and lay them all out willy-nilly without an attempt at careful arrangement.

    As I told Rod earlier, I’m not so committed to states’ rights that I’ll stand with them at all costs. On issues of basic human decency, I’d shudder if the Federal Government simply set back and twiddled its thumbs.

    Whoever is in power must do what is right. There are times when that outweighs the general need for localism, legal tradition, and civilian court control. And I’m sure you already know my low opinion of majority opinion.

    Muliplying variables does make the arguments rather pliable. But that’s part of the essence of the libertarian line of argument: because we live in a world filled with such a huge number of unknown variables, shouldn’t we be leery of letting our complicated affairs be dictated from thinktanks and bureaus and a dysfunction congress?

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    1. Mitchell, you have to know that I am about as perfect as one can get, right?

      Regarding your other statements – so good! We agree! Labor Unions, the right to organize, and a single-payer health care system! Welcome to the fold!

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