16. July 2011 · Comments Off on The Shape of Things to Come · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, History, Politics, Tea Time

(A comment by Xennedy at this thread on Belmont Club which struck me as being particularly perceptive — and histoically apt.)

I’m not thinking of military history for this one. I’m thinking of the various schemes by which the southern states retained political dominance of the United States over the increasingly more numerous and anti-slavery northerners prior to the Civil War. Eventually these schemes became so odious and unpopular that they destroyed the political structure of the Union as it had existed. The response of the South wasn’t to accept demotion or immediate war – it was to engineer a supreme court decision to end the house divided, as Abraham Lincoln put it, and make the whole union slavery friendly. I’m thinking of the Dredd Scott decision, and in my evaluation of that ruling in theory southerners could bring their slaves into (say) New York and compete with free labor unhampered by the free state status of that state. In practice the Civil War intervened before anything like that actually happened, but my point is that the political establishment of the day attempted to rule game over and cement their hold on power in perpetuity regardless of the will of the people.

Seem familiar? In my view similar events are happening today. Cram Obamacare through, hold 40 Senate seats, and it’s extremely difficult to repeal. Issue EPA regulations from the executive branch, and ignore Congress. Re-elect Obama, pick another two or three supreme court justices, and the Constitution means whatever the left wants it to mean.

The problem with this – or perhaps I should say the solution – is that eventually people tire of the rigged game, and lose their willingness to play.

So was Obamacare a new Kansas-Nebraska Act – which preceded the formation of the modern Republican party – or a new Dredd Scott decision – which preceded secession and civil war? Or neither?

I don’t claim to know. But I do think we are in the opening acts of a much larger story, and the drama over the debt limit is much less important than it appears in the immediacy of the here and now. The welfare state paradigm of American governance is collapsing, and that collapse will continue even if a debt ceiling increase gives it a slightly longer run. To quote that famous Chinese curse we live in interesting times. Alas.

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