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Created Equal: Political Science Analysis of the Utopian Equality and its Existence in Contemporary America


 

Published Nov 27th, 2012    By Nikita Chirkov



Human experience provides us with extraordinary lessons of our nature. There is no better institution, no brighter philosopher, and no bigger textbook that can teach us more about who we are than the very truths by which we live, have lived, and will continue to live until our race meets the dawn of its existence. Students of experience can easily show us repetitive trends of philosophic principles under which human societies have either flourished or collapsed; but they will pause and think upon unusual circumstances and questions which can not be as easily addressed.

            One of such questions is the question of equality. For centuries, all the way up until the present time, and perhaps for just as long a term into the distant future, men have labored diligently to achieve equality. In some societies the resultant became oppression. Men were subject to dehumanization, and were viciously stripped of every last remnant of individualism. Equality, consequently, became a form of pandemic despotism; and the members of such societies were only as equal to each other as they were equal in the magnitude of their suffering. In other societies, equality was achieved by rather different means. It was not approached as a societal project of government, but was rather visualized as the foundation of human nature. In such societies, rights which made us equal were already established by the laws of nature and nature’s god; and it was the primary responsibility of the government to protect them. In other words, such systems embraced the positive natural nuances of human nature, thereby facilitating equality in liberty, not tyranny.

However, despite the fact that human experience may point to a number of examples for each of the latter two categories, the most unique and bothersome circumstance is yet to be adhered to or properly understood; that is, what would happen to a society if it allowed for the existence of both of these expedients? The latter question will, therefore, become the primary focus of this work, and will be answered by a closer look at the modern American government through an analytical examination of three specific sectors. The first sector will focus on revealing which type of equality was the intended foundation for the American constitutional government, and weather or not it allows for the existence of the other. The second sector will analyze some key individuals and the legal tools by which they have advanced the utopian equality. The third and final sector will focus on the effects of this coexistence which I strongly believe, and propose as a thesis of this work, will lead our society into a degrading state which the great French political observer Alexis de Tocqueville described as “soft tyranny”.

In order to understand which equality was the desired outcome of the Framers of our Constitution, we must first understand the fundamental truths of human societies and governments. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine explains: “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness Positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher... Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an in tolerable one…For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest.”

The latter truth, at its fundamental appearance, is an appealing thought to a ruling human mind. A society in which natural freedoms of men are diminished allows for a capability to design, alter and sculpt it to whatever form and shape deemed appropriate by the few elite. It invites fantasies of domination and innovation- an ongoing experiment in which a whole country could be altered by the snap of the fingers of one man- a pure, unopposed control of the entire society. However, those who pursued this tyrannical fantasy knew well the lessons of basic human nature. A suppression of human liberties never guarantees full compliance, philosophical or practical, with the will of the ruling class. One element persistently stood in their way- faction.

At the same time, but from a different degree of political observation, stood a group of individuals who rightfully disagreed with this noxious temptation to control many by the will of the few. They have recognized the dangers of such mentality to the free people, and puzzled themselves not on how to shape the society based on their individual schemes but rather how to manage a nation of extraordinary sizes without suppressing individual liberty. Before them stood a monumental task of increasing the size of the federal government and at the same time preserving an individual’s role in a democratic process. They too knew well the lessons of human nature and understood that tyranny of the many could corrupt the indispensible principles of the intended government. One element persistently stood in their way- faction.

However, despite the fact that in both of these circumstances the same principle of faction stood in the way of progress, the two methods of overcoming it were anything but similar. In Federalist 10, James Madison explains that “There are two methods of curing the mischief’s of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects…There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.”

When the minds of those who targeted a creation of an all powerful authority confronted the nature of faction, they too pondered upon finding a proper remedy to its unwanted side effects. In their view, faction allowed for diversity of opinion. It illustrated the capability of galvanized citizens to unite under a cause more just and proper, to denounce the iniquity of rulers who demand complacency in the name of innocuous tyranny. Therefore, under these circumstances, the experiment is doomed to fail. It becomes only a matter of time before the oppressed citizens repudiate their tyrannical government in a quest for pandemic liberty. Unless of coarse, faction is removed… entirely. Thus it follows, that for an institution of an unstoppable government authority, the principle of faction must be erased from the society by means of removing its causes. 

Meanwhile, James Madison and the Framers of the Constitution saw the necessity of faction. They observed that “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.” Private property and its existence was the fundamental core of the American society. Its protection was to be the “first object of government”. Therefore, seeking to remedy faction through an elimination of its causes would consequently annihilate private property and the very purpose of a constitutional government.  Madison explains: “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency. The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.” In other words, this type of equality of interests and economic outcomes was not a product of our Framers thought and consequently not that of our Constitution. American government was founded upon a different logic, particularly that of John Lock. John Lock projected a vision of equality as that of being subject to the same laws of nature and God. Locke further reasoned that: “Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where the rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant uncertain, unknown arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature”.

Now that the contrast between the two types of equality is demonstrated and derived to its fundamental elements, it is time to analyze the factors which have advanced the existence of utopian equality in the United States. After reading a clear rejection to a forced uniformity of interests in Federalist 10, one may only wonder how and by what constitutional means does the utopian equality manage to exist in our society? The answer comes in two parts: first, the rejection of constitutional originalism in the courts; second, the advancements of progressive policy in the legislature.

The utopian equality was reborn and popularized largely by the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels five decades after the Framers first drafted the Constitution; and needless to say, many of the principles argued by Marx in the Communist Manifesto run counter to those of our founding. Consider the “primary object” of the federal government to protect the different “faculties of men” form where “the rights of property originate” for instance. This massage was projected by Locke and articulated clearly by our Framers and Founders. However, the Communist Manifesto has a slightly different perspective of things. Marx states that “In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” Another great example is modes of taxation to which the individuals were to be subject to. In Federalist 12, Alexander Hamilton argued that “Personal estate…cannot be subjected to large contributions by any other means than by taxes on consumption”. Karl Marx, on the other hand, firmly believed that one of the most crucial pillars to constructing communism is a strong “progressive income tax.” In this second example, however, Marxist ideology has overpowered the message of the Framers, and the legislature has delivered the famous words of the Sixteenth Amendment, proposed and ratified sixty five years after the publication of the Manifesto. Yes, as a matter of accuracy it has to be mentioned that the first tax on income was actually proposed by Abraham Lincoln as an effort to pay off the Civil War debts. However, that tax was temporary and only taxed 5% of income of the highest group which is nothing compared to what we see today. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, it can be said that the Sixteenth Amendment was the first official tool through which utopian equality appeared in America by basing a sturdy legal stronghold inside the Constitution.

However, this was just the beginning. Woodrow Wilson took office nearly a month after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, and brought about some of the bitterest anti-constitutional rhetoric of the time period. One of the principles argued by Wilson is the principle of non-formal amendment of the Constitution which was to be done through the courts. This idea seemed acceptable to Wilson, who observed that “The process of formal amendment of the Constitution was made so difficult by provisions of the Constitution itself that it has seldom been feasible to use it; and the difficulty of formal amendment has undoubtedly made the courts more liberal, not to say lax, in their interpretation than they would otherwise have been. The whole business of adaptation has been theirs, and they have undertaken it with open minds, sometimes even with boldness and a touch of audacity...” It seems that Woodrow Wilson implied that the structural mechanism of the amendment process was too strict and outdated, ignoring the fact that the process was not designed to adjust to changing passions of the society but to resist mutability of public opinions in the strongest possible manner.

As if echoing the teachings of Woodrow Wilson, came Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt knew that the social equality he stood for was not of the constitutional origins and that the courts would stand in his way of social progress. Aside from his efforts to pack the courts, the courts themselves have delivered some of the most deadly blows to the Constitution. Perhaps the most famously strange of them all is Wickard v. Filburn, 1942. In that decision, a farmer who grew wheat for self consumption was ruled to still being subject to federal regulation due to the fact that his withholding of wheat affected the price of wheat elsewhere, thereby affecting interstate commerce. In other words, the court has ruled that commercial inactivity equals commercial activity, and that the government now has the precedent to regulate it. Roosevelt’s success in winning the Social Security battle, passing a number of social equality programs and having the courts deliver some of the most crucial decisions such a Wickard in his favor makes him the most prominent example of using both the legislative advancement, and the judicial opposition to originalism strategy, as well as becoming one of the most influential presidents to advance utopian equality.

Lastly, we move toward answering the final question of this work; that is, what are the consequences of this coexistence of equalities? The answer, as they say, is self evident. The logic which thrives within case law today is of alien origins. It relies not on the original intent, but on deliberate evasion of the checks placed upon the federal power by our Constitution. If we are to take an individual foreign to our history and teach him the true intent behind our constitutional principles, and then in the next place teach him how they are applied today, he would be unsure that the two resultants are even relative to the same constitution. So distant is the ideology of some modern day law makers from that of the Framers that they altogether reject the nature and the original intent of the Constitution; and when a society operates upon those terms it not only rejects its own history and founding, but also knocks itself from the fine axis of constitutional limitation, doomed for an inevitable systematic collapse. This serves as an imminent danger to our present union. From the dismissal of historic experience to manipulation of constitutional law - we can only betray so many fundamental principles before the new models begin to betray our fundamental truths. And thus it follows, if the termination of power restraint upon the federal body is the preferred end, then the termination of the core principle values from which the restraint system originates must precede it; for only a successful evasion from historical context can secure the desired outcome and burn the bridge through which we can identify its fallacies.

Equality, therefore, becomes the perfect tool for the latter objective. It advances truths which undermine the existence of a free society by assaulting, in the first place, the engine of liberty and in the next place liberty itself, thereby enslaving a citizen to total dependency on an all-powerful state. It is often disguised as fairness, civil duty, and perhaps most notably as a magical paradisiacal “right” given to us by the most benevolent and caring government. The reasons behind such “rights” are constructed to sound just, fair and humanitarian. In a way, the government becomes like a doctor, while equalization of economic outcomes, property, interests, and other areas similarly situated - a cure for the disease that is but a construct designed to lure the usage of the defective remedy. Alexis de Tocqueville referred to this type of government as “soft tyranny”; and rightfully so, for there is perhaps no better definition which captures these truth as accurately and eloquently. Tocqueville explained, “By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. A great many persons…are quite contended with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large…”

The full derivation of this subject to its basic elements is perhaps too detailed and intricate for a daily discussion of politics with our family and friends. However, it is absolutely crucial in understanding the truths of origin of the philosophies which threaten the existence of our constitutional republic. In so many ways the damage done to our Constitution is irreversible, for the mentality of the public has been successfully altered to embrace principles which are non-existent in its text. But nonetheless, it is the effort we must take in order to rescue what is left standing of our dear country, our sacred homeland, and our beloved union.