Tuesday, November 17, 2015
More on Philippians 2:6
My post on Philippians 2:6 attracted some correspondence from Christians so I have put up some further comments on my Scripture Blog.
How America Failed to Keep the Republic
The story, whether true or not, is that after the Constitution was adopted in closed proceedings at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin was asked on the street what form of government was created. He replied, “A republic -- if you can keep it.”
Through the creation of the “Administrative State,” with vast bureaucracies violating the separation of powers in ways unaccountable to the people and the Constitution itself, America has failed to keep the republican form of government created by the Founders.
Former Reagan administration lawyer Charles Cooper has penned a must-read essay, “Confronting the Administrative State,” which in terms of brilliance in describing the root causes plaguing America’s governance, ranks with Angelo Codevilla’s “America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution.”
Cooper’s essay describes how America has failed to keep the republic because the constitutional structure created by Franklin and his fellow Founders is no longer the law of the land. The Administrative State “has become a sovereign power unto itself, an imperium in imperio regulating virtually every dimension of our lives. Its nearly 450 agencies are manned by legions of bureaucrats, now numbering almost 2.7 million,” writes Cooper.
Unlike the frequent violations of the Constitution through legislation or executive orders that may be reversed by future Congresses or presidents, the Administrative State has become an institutionalized violation of the constitutional structure itself.
Instead of the representative branch of government making laws, a separate executive branch enforcing laws, and a neutral judiciary adjudicating disputes -- and enforcing the rule of law on government itself -- the republican structure of government has been displaced by the Administrative State. No longer are the powers of government separate.
Congress has delegated lawmaking functions to bureaucrats; bureaucrats have usurped the power to adjudicate disputes; and courts now defer to bureaucrats in interpreting the law. This is exactly contrary to the purposes of the Constitution, and has been a “fundamental transformation” of American government starting decades before Barack Obama ever uttered the words.
Citing Federalist Papers such as James Madison’s No. 51, Cooper explains how the separation of powers was designed to create conflict among the branches of government, which was “admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty.” Instead of “ambition . . . [being] made to counteract ambition,” the Administrative State grew under a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ approach among the three branches of government.
The principal villains in the destruction of the republic are not the electorate or those whom they elected, although elected officials clearly share the blame. It has been the courts, which time after time since the 1930s refused to be the bulwark for liberty by preserving the separation of powers. The courts have dismantled the constitutional structure by yielding powers to the Administrative State in ways not authorized by the Constitution. By conceding to the accretions of power within the Administrative State, the courts have institutionalized violations of the Constitution, and replaced its carefully planned structure with the Leviathan.
The other villain is Woodrow Wilson and his progressive roadmap of transplanting the Constitution by giving government officials “large powers and unhampered discretion.”
The lonely hero in Cooper’s essay, who seems to be holding his finger in the dike against total transformation away from a constitutional republic, is Justice Clarence Thomas. In the past term at the Supreme Court:
…four opinions authored by Justice Clarence Thomas…call into question the constitutionality of the massive and largely unaccountable bureaucracy that we commonly refer to as the administrative state. In bold and clear prose, Justice Thomas explained how the basic principles of our Constitution's separation of powers are incompatible with the system of bureaucratic rule that took root in the Progressive era and now reaches into virtually every realm of American life.
Cooper notes Justice Thomas’ reliance on the brilliant scholarship of Philip Hamburger, whose book Is Administrative Law Unlawful? has exposed the flawed, even unlawful, bases of the current Administrative State.
I would add two thoughts to Cooper’s brilliant analysis.
The power given to administrative agencies to issue their own warrants for papers, emails and other private property without probable cause or oath and affirmation before neutral judges has created a police-state effect. “Administrative subpoenas” are judge-less warrants. They are not only institutionalized violations of the Fourth Amendment, but are used as blunt-force instruments to create policy and silence critics of government through extortive concessions by their targets.
Secondly, the destruction of our republican structure of government at the federal level has trickled down into the states, which to varying degrees have adopted the Administrative State methods of the federal government. States themselves have a constitutional obligation under Article IV, section 4 to follow a republican form of government, yet many states have transplanted administrative discretion for the constitutional rule of law.
Opponents of a constitutional convention will find fault with Cooper’s recommendation for one, but that proposed solution should not distract from anyone’s appreciation of how his analysis of the problem shows the roots go beyond merely a solution through the ballot box. The destruction of America’s constitutional republic has become institutionalized, and may be beyond cure by even an army of constitutional conservative legislators.
Cooper’s is a must-read essay for political commentators, conservative elected officials, and anyone who is serious about trying to understand the sad state of how America is governed today in violation of the Constitution.
Paris attacks: fall of Rome should be a warning to the West
Niall Ferguson, a Harvard historian, says that Europe today is as decadent as the late Roman empire
I am not going to repeat what you have already read or heard. I am not going to say that what happened in Paris on Friday night was unprecedented horror, for it was not. I am not going to say that the world stands with France, for it is a hollow phrase. Nor am I going to applaud Francois Hollande’s pledge of “pitiless” vengeance, for I do not believe it. I am, instead, going to tell you that this is exactly how civilisations fall.
Here is how Edward Gibbon described the Goths’ sack of Rome in August 410AD: “ ... In the hour of savage licence, when every passion was inflamed, and every restraint was removed ... a cruel slaughter was made of the Romans; and … the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies ... Whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent, and the helpless …”
Now, does that not describe the scenes we witnessed in Paris on Friday night? True, Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, represented Rome’s demise as a slow burn. Gibbon covered more than 1400 years of history. The causes he identified ranged from the personality disorders of individual emperors to the power of the Praetorian Guard and the rise of Sassanid Persia. Decline shaded into fall, with monotheism acting as a kind of imperial dry rot.
For many years, more modern historians of “late antiquity” tended to agree with Gibbon about the gradual nature of the process. Indeed, some went further, arguing “decline” was an anachronistic term, like the word “barbarian”.
Far from declining and falling, they insisted, the Roman Empire had imperceptibly merged with the Germanic tribes, producing a multicultural post-imperial idyll that deserved a more flattering label than “Dark Ages”.
Recently, however, a new generation of historians has raised the possibility the process of Roman decline was in fact sudden — and bloody — rather than smooth.
For Bryan Ward-Perkins, what happened was “violent seizure ... by barbarian invaders”. The end of the Roman west, he writes in The Fall of Rome (2005), “witnessed horrors and dislocation of a kind I sincerely hope never to have to live through; and it destroyed a complex civilisation, throwing the inhabitants of the West back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times”.
In five decades the population of Rome itself fell by three-quarters. Archaeological evidence from the late 5th century — inferior housing, more primitive pottery, fewer coins, smaller cattle — shows the benign influence of Rome diminished rapidly in the rest of western Europe.
“The end of civilisation”, in Ward-Perkins’s phrase, came within a single generation.
Peter Heather’s TheFall of the Roman Empire emphasises the disastrous effects not just of mass migration, but also organised violence: first the westward shift of the Huns of central Asia and then the Germanic irruption into Roman territory.
In his reading, the Visigoths who settled in Aquitaine and the Vandals who conquered Carthage were attracted to the Roman Empire by its wealth, but were enabled to seize that wealth by the arms acquired and skills learnt from the Romans themselves.
“For the adventurous,” writes Heather, “the Roman Empire, while being a threat to their existence, also presented an unprecedented opportunity to prosper ... Once the Huns had pushed large numbers of (alien groups) across the frontier, the Roman state became its own worst enemy. Its military power and financial sophistication both hastened the process whereby streams of incomers became coherent forces capable of carving out kingdoms from its own body politic.”
Uncannily similar processes are destroying the European Union today, though few of us want to recognise them for what they are. Like the Roman Empire in the early 5th century, Europe has allowed its defences to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its malls and stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.
The distant shock to this weakened edifice has been the Syrian civil war, though it has been a catalyst as much as a direct cause for the great Volkerwanderung of 2015.
As before, they have come from all over the imperial periphery — North Africa, the Levant, South Asia — but this time they have come in their millions, not in mere tens of thousands. To be sure, most have come hoping only for a better life. Things in their own countries have become just good enough economically for them to afford to leave and just bad enough politically for them to risk leaving.
But they cannot stream northwards and westwards without some of that political malaise coming with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.
It is doubtless true to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent. But it is also true the majority hold views not easily reconciled with the principles of our liberal democracies, including our novel notions about sexual equality and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilisation within these avowedly peace-loving communities.
I do not know enough about the 5th century to be able to quote Romans who described each new act of barbarism as unprecedented, even when it had happened multiple times before; or who issued pious calls for solidarity after the fall of Rome, even when standing together meant falling together; or who issued empty threats of pitiless revenge, even when all they intended to do was to strike a melodramatic posture.
I do know that 21st-century Europe has itself to blame for the mess it is now in. Surely, nowhere in the world has devoted more resources to the study of history than modern Europe did.
When I went up to Oxford more than 30 years ago, it was taken for granted that in the first term I would study Gibbon. It did no good. We learnt a lot of nonsense to the effect that nationalism was a bad thing, nation states worse and empires the worst things of all.
“Romans before the fall,” wrote Ward-Perkins, “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”
Poor, poor Paris. Killed by complacency.
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Posted by JR at 1:37 AM