Above, Basil Marceaux, a candidate for the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination in Tennessee who became the laughing stock of the internet a few months ago, partly for his ideas but mostly for his speech impediment (sadly) presents his platform on the nightly news.
While Marceaux may or may not have hatched the idea about planting vegetation in vacant lots on his own, it might be worth noting that some of what might be the most unfamiliar parts of what he says, such as, “I’m-a remove all gold-fringed flags from the state,” and the bit about traffic stops (also known as “right to travel” issues) actually derive from little-known but long-standing political and legal discussions extending back at least to the Civil War, which is appropriate these days because it seems that that may be where America’s headed, right after we get through reliving the Great Depression. From the American Patriot Friends’ Network:
The flags displayed in State courts and courts of the United States have gold or yellow fringes. That is your WARNING that you are entering into a foreign enclave, the same as if you are stepping into a foreign embassy and you will be under the jurisdiction of that flag. The flag with the gold or yellow fringe has no constitution, no laws, and no rules of court, and is not recognized by any nation on the earth, and is foreign to you and the United States of America.
When you enter a courtroom displaying a gold or yellow fringed flag, you have just entered into a foreign country, and you better have your passport with you, because you may not be coming back to the land of the free for a long time. The judge sitting under a gold or yellow fringe flag becomes the “captain” or “master” of that ship or enclave and he has absolute power to make the rules as he goes. The gold or yellow fringe flag is your warning that you are leaving your Constitutionally secured RIGHTS on the floor outside the door to that courtroom.
Although there may or may not be legal substance to what these “constitutionalists,” libertarians and old-style republicans* suggest, there certainly is risk in some of the schemes that some of them propose. For instance, one can pay thousands of dollars to individuals such as those advertising their “sovereignty” services through the Practical Course in Miracles and then possibly end up like the Montana Freemen. Then again, there is also Joe Bannister, a former IRS agent who claims he jumped through the proper legal loopholes in court to avoid paying income tax, which, according to his research, he says, is voluntary to pay.
A look back eight decades or so shows that income tax was a major pet peeve of the British Fascisti, who held that more residual income for hiring domestic servants was the solution to an unemployed workforce, just as it is a major issue for American libertarians today, a group which bases its highly individualistic philosophy on a policy of no force and no fraud, and therefore take the position that because it is not a voluntary transaction, taxation, like many or even most functions of government, is inherently immoral. (Scheming to use the natural vulnerabilities of one’s fellow man against him for gain in “the market,” however, apparently isn’t, at least, not enough so as to justify its prevention by legal mandates, which apparently can get a little bit too complicated for these often Manichean, “freedom versus tyranny” thinkers.) Frequently cited here is an unsourced and probably apocryphal quote from George Washington, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force.” In addition, a progressive income tax is called for directly in the Communist Manifesto, which more or less automatically makes it bad to libertarians.
Congressman Ron Paul’s bid for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 on an anti-war, “pro-liberty,” platform, brought “constitutionalist” and libertarian thought to “the masses,” a. k. a. “the sheeple.” And against other Republicans back in the 2007 and 2008 debates, he looked great. Today, next to many Democrats, and especially next to the progressives who’ve been particularly critical of the “other” antiwar interests that he, and his ridiculous son, Rand, represent, he simply doesn’t compare, and that is becoming more and more apparent as time goes on. There were a lot of details in his agenda, for instance, which went largely unmentioned until recently, such as opposition to those darn “socialistic” minimum wage laws. And how about that Department of Education?
When you get right down to it, the libertarian vision for the United States is a repeal of all New Deal provisions which were enacted on behalf of the many labor strikers in the early half of the twentieth century whose demands, such as the forty-hour (versus eighty hour) work week under safe (versus lethal) job conditions could no longer be ignored. It’s the law of the jungle, baby: thrive or die, greed is good. Living in a refrigerator box? Not to worry, that’s just a “market correction,” thanks for taking one for Team Wall Street. And this is to say nothing of libertarianism’s roots in the egoistic objectivist philosophy conceived by Ayn Rand, which literally and without irony regards selfishness as a virtue, making it not at all hyperbole to compare these beliefs to modern Satanism. (There are also a number of interesting connections here between Ayn Rand and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who would theoretically be a nemesis of Paul’s “End the Fed” movement.)
The Ron Paul Revolution, as they refer to themselves, have credited themselves with starting the “populist” Tea Parties, which, they now complain, have been taken over by other forces within the Republican Party. Really though, even the movement behind Paul, itself, was, in ways, a quote-unquote “hijacked” version of the much more dangerous 9/11 skeptics’ movement which had come before it and to which the Afghanistan-invading Paul would privately proclaim sympathy while publicly denouncing it at every turn. (To be fair, however, the utterly disorganized American left, not the center-left to center-right Democratic Party, but the actual American left, can also take a good share of the blame for not picking up this and related issues more readily themselves.) But is Paul, who has for years argued for a return to the gold standard, long the bane of populists from William Hope Harvey to Bill Still for its tendency to favor the rich, really a populist?
In desperate economic times such as America currently faces, all sorts of ideas can gain ground which, under any other circumstances, would flounder, as the anger of the lower and middle classes against the causers of their financial woes seeks expression. Whether that anger is going to be expressed in a way which is constructive or destructive to their actual interests is a question which remains to be seen, but a hysterical phobia of all things “communist” and “socialist,” however those terms are currently defined by the fear-mongering right, seem to be at the core of the rhetoric of the billionaire Koch Brothers-funded Tea Parties, and stands in the way of the lower American classes asserting themselves rationally. Indeed, in America, where citizens have for decades consumed more hours of the saturation levels of propagandistic television broadcasting than in most economically comparable countries, union membership is at a historic low, working conditions, where well paying work is even available, are often degrading, prejudiced attitudes about social reform movements abound and general emotional malaise and mental confusion seem to be at a maximum.
Reactionary politicians, mainly Republicans but also some Democrats, such as arch sell-out Bill “End Welfare As We Know It” Clinton, have been chipping away at the progressive income tax and other such “socialist” laws for nearly a half century now. The supposedly populist libertarians and their ilk, however, offer now the promise of bringing it all down, baby and bathwater alike. The Tea Parties must be allowed to pass without further incident, and the media would do well to stop covering these hideous spectacles also. The politics of ignorance and quick fixes for complex problems have no place in a free society; they are, in fact, probably the gateway to a final American breakdown, the kind that left Europe burned and ruined in the 1940′s.
Furthermore, in addition to there being nothing inevitable about “belt-tightening” and spending cuts in the face of this crisis (the same rhetoric the right wing has been spouting for decades, all the while lining their own bank accounts), any and all predictions that a “third” party of “progressive libertarians” will arise are extremely misinformed. If libertarians and progressives do see an increase in representation in office, it will largely be independently of each other, with different voter bases. Once in power, they may align from time to time on certain subjects but more often than not and especially on domestic questions, they will be each others’ bitter enemies.
Civil liberties, like workers’ rights, are a vital topic of discussion, and one certainly ought to question the hundreds of U. S. military bases in operation worldwide today but as a whole, libertarianism is a no-go on almost every economic and work-related issue and is absolutely not a viable substitute for the currently absent but badly needed left in America. There must be more than pure debate, however; there must be action. Take France, for example: the government announces that benefits will be postponed several years for retirees and the middle and lower classes are able to shut the country down in protest. In the States, on the other hand, far too many working stiffs still believe that Bill O’Reilly and “Joe the Plumber” types really are looking out for them and the rest are too afraid to make more than a passing comment about their grievances.
Furthermore, if America wants to remain a first-world nation following the rapidly approaching end of her economic and military supremacy, the money to maintain and build new roads, train lines, hospitals and schools has to come from somewhere. If it’s not coming from the tax-avoiding rich, those who have the least percentage of their income tied up in providing themselves with the bare essentials of life and whose Congressional representation keeps “reforming” the tax code by downgrading their own tax levels (currently at about 35% versus 90% in the mid-20th century), it’s going to have to come from the next in line, the middle class. The less cash the middle class has to spend because it’s going toward national infrastructure, the more the demand side of the economy slows down, the less time there is to spend with the children due to second jobs and overall, everyone suffers, everyone but the wealthiest five or ten percent.
Why does America put up with it? Why tolerate less vacation time, less benefits, less education? Is America going to organize or is she going to let Joe the Plumber tell her to suck it up and eat macaroni and cheese more often for dinner “until the crisis passes,” i. e. until America’s ready for another fleecing? The future holds great promise for a class-conscious America which can manage to get control of its government again and while there will always be room for debate on the specifics of how government spends money, “the market” has shown time and time again that “it” will not provide for society adequately on “its” own and libertarians, despite what valid points they can make about Democratic weaknesses, will be fighting that all the way with their suicidal program of social collapse.
*Are “constitutionalists” necessarily libertarians, or vice versa? No, but judging from the web sites, there is considerable overlap. For instance, Ron Paul gave his endorsement to the Constitution Party‘s Chuck Baldwin after finally stepping down from the 2008 Republican primaries and had run as a Libertarian Presidential candidate in 1988. “Constitutionalists” is in quotations here because, while there is widespread agreement that various officials have violated certain provisions of the U. S. Constitution which are not open to diverse interpretation, almost anyone can take a particular agenda, no matter how outlandish, and argue that it’s the “true” reading of the document.