Free Society

Understanding Gradualism and the Dialectic

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl  Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

One of the ways the Progressive Movement has taken over the country is through gradualism. The mechanics are simple. First you capture the education system as the socialists did in New York City in the period 1890-1920. You bring up the younger generations believing the primary values of the Founders were democracy and compromise. This leads toward amending the Constitution to become more democratic as well as more centralized.

To be honest, the framers of the Constitution were concerned with making a working union. They represented states. The word today is used to mean subdivisions of a nation. In 1787 the term referred to sovereign entities. This is why the Senate is a house of the delegates of the various states. They were willing to compromise only as long as their states remained sovereign and only specific powers and responsibilities were delegated to the central government.

The Federalists wanted the Constitution as written. The Anti-Federalists, realizing that the document would be adopted, demanded a Bill of Rights to further restrict the power of the central government. The high school history and civics curricula refer to this as a compromise the Framers worked out. The Anti-Federalists did not consider this a compromise—rather it was a condition precedent to the formation of the Republic.

While the original federalists had disagreements among themselves, they generally pulled together to get the states they controlled to ratify. While the ratification process only required nine states, without New York and Virginia, and to a lesser extent Massachusetts, it was not going to fly. The firebrand anti -federalists were able to set the agenda in those states despite the smooth talk of Hamilton, Jay and Madison. And they would have left the compact were it not for the ratification of the bill of rights.

So here is the status quo in 1792. A federal republic made up of a confederation of 13 republics with very little central power and the funding had to come from tariffs and excises. The Republic was dependent on the states for general governance and for militia to defend. Hamilton lobbied hard for a national army. The Senate resisted. The emergency came in 1798 when President Adams got into an undeclared naval war with France. Voila! An army. Never mind that the national army fell apart in 1814. 1815: We need a larger army.

In the nineteenth century along came Marx who used Hegelian dialect while dismissing Hegel. In Marx’s version history can only move in the direction of communism.

In dialectic there is the thesis. Along comes an opposing idea called the antithesis. As they colllide they merge and the product is called the synthesis. In time the synthesis becomes the new thesis. And a new antithesis (which may be the same antithesis) appears. There another merger and the synthesis is a step closer to the antithesis.

In the Progressive movement the synthesis becomes the status quo. The antithesis is the position of the movement. And the synthesis is the ever to be worshiped compromise. And that is how gradualism works.

In 1934 the objective of the Roosevelt administration was to disarm the citizenry. The first proposal that was shot down (by the Democrats) was a total ban. Remember, the New Deal was modeled on the ideas of Benito Mussolini. Francis Perkins, Secretary of Labor, was the brains behind the New Deal—so much for the idea that women are a moderating force. She had worked toward passage of the Sullivan Law in New York which was introduced by “Big Tim” Sullivan at the behest of some of his old cohorts (he was a street thug before discovering that more money that could be made through graft) who were upset because businessmen carrying handguns were putting a crimp in their robbery business.

Mrs Perkins was on board with the whole panoply of limitations. As it finally got to the bill, an excise was used so that it would not apply to Mr Roosevelt’s wealthy cronies. Ordinary people would not be able to handle the fees and paperwork. While sporting rifles and shotguns were exempted handguns were in the bill. So it would cost about $200 a transfer. Opposition in Congress scuttled the inclusion of handguns—my theory is that the cheapskates in Congress had handguns and did not want to pay the fees. So we got the current Title II registry as a compromise. The excise power of the United States was upheld on a shotgun with a barrel less than 18” when it was “shown” that such a weapon had not been used in the “Great War.”

The Title II registry and excises. The Congress and the Court were more precise in those days. Excises were fees for transfer of property whereas the only taxation powers of the United States were on income. So in 1968 the status quo is the treasury based 1934 Act. The attempt to ban came up with GCA 68 which regulates all transactions through dealers and defining “prohibited persons”–far more than the Constitution allows but far less than the progressives sought. In 1994, a lame duck congress negotiated a ban on “assault weapons,” and high capacity magazines along with a waiting period that has been replaced by an Instant Check System. The cost to the progressives was a grandfather clause on the magazines and the weapons ban and a sunset on both but the NICS check (devised by the NRA) remained. The NICS is a jobs program.

So now the progressives have a status quo of the 1934 NFA with a few tweaks in 1986 which loosened the requirements, but allows no automatic weapons built after a certain date to be traded to the public as well as GCA1968 with the background check. The antithesis or proposal is, as it has been since 1934, disarmament of the civilian population.

Anyone who opposes the progressive program is called reactionary. And that is what the liberty movement has been. It is time to take charge and make the antithesis the total repeal of GCA68 and NFA34. History does not run in a straight line and the progressive movement has no monopoly on the tactics. The bill should be ready by November so it can compete with whatever Obama proposes.

At the very least we should know the methodology of the opposition which has almost accomplished its goals. The time has come when we reverse the track or lose.


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