(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
“Remember,” my wife said, “that this nation is built on compromise.” To a large extent that is true—we would not have the Department of Defense were it not for compromises made after World War II. We would not have the USAPATRIOT Act, the Transportation Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security without honorable legislators compromising their principles and their Constitution.
The Department of Defense was supposed to give Congress and the administration a handle on spending—it also creates a Secretary who can resolve disputes between the military (Army and Air Force departments) and naval (the department of the Navy was left intact) forces in time of war. The only time this really was a problem was when planning the route for the invasion of Japan in 1944 when Roosevelt had the problem of mediating between the Nimitz plan (through China) and the Macarthur plan (through the Philippines). The Nimitz plan made more strategic sense, but Macarthur threatened to resign and accept the Republican nomination to run against FDR. The President folded quickly. So after the War, George Catlett Marshall worked at developing a unified defense establishment—he intended to reduce duplication and make procurement more economical, and, by the way, eliminate the Marines.
The Marines are still here—to have a UDF you really need to start without strong traditions. Three of the five largest air forces in the world are in DOD. In 1960 there was a big push for a single belt buckle across services—see above The Marines are still here. I have no idea how many extraneous layers of bureaucracy exist in that five-sided building, but I do know we fought World War II with a lot fewer General Officers and you did not have the requirement of a flag in every nuclear armed B-52. So an audit of function as well as budget—conducted by former enlisted personnel rather than officers might be a guide. Compromises generally enlarge agencies.
What else happened was that the venue for compromise was moved to an Executive Branch “superdepartment” in which the arguments about budget are “fully explored, discussed and winnowed” before being presented to Congress in the executive budget proposal. Back before Hoover, Congress did not receive a unified budget proposal—departments competed for the attention of a Congress that took its responsibility for thrift seriously and would decide whether the Army needed ten new tanks more than the Navy needed a new cruiser. Now the Department of Defense has already vetted the request and anything less than full funding of two littorals, twenty tanks, and 150 drones is unacceptable. And congressional compromise is limit to whose district will benefit.
The Transportation Security Administration is an example of a party agenda forcing a “compromise.” The Democrats told Bush the airport security program was DOA unless it included a federal jobs program. The Administration folded. Ten years out there is scant evidence that the quality of personnel has improved—further, the prohibition on unionization has been lifted and TSA employees are now in the fold. Compromises lead to further compromises. See Understanding Gradualism and the Dialectic (https://loboviejo.com/2012/07/19/understanding-…-the-dialectic/).
Back in 1998, at the request of President Clinton, Gary Hart and Warren Rudman co-chaired a Commission on 21st Century Security. The report, issued in 2001, layed out a proposal for a homeland security program at the federal level. The constitutional authority for such an endeavor is found in Article X of Amendment which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Through a series of compromises agreed upon by the three branches of government and not seriously challenged by the states as a unified body the Commerce Clause has become sort of a general grant of powers to the Federal Government. The European model for internal security is extremely centralized—note that no western European nation encompasses six time zones (Maine to Hawaii).
The Bush administration wanted an Office of Homeland Security within the White House, a sign that the problem involved coordination between current agencies while Congressional Democrats wanted a Department. The difference is that an Office may be abolished when it is no longer necessary—a Department becomes a permanent fixture and seeks, on its own, to expand by developing its own constituency in the Congress and the press. A Department becomes a default budget item whereas an Office may be in the third or fourth tier of priority.
The result of compromise in order to achieve the Bush agenda on other matters was the Department of Homeland Security.
So where does this leave us. We are faced with a situation where there will be compromises required for the government to operate over the next four years. We need only look at Europe which is devolving to see the consequence of continued spending without the means to spend. We have a “running scared” Republican establishment thinking about the next election and what is needed to “make a comeback” and a “smugly confident” Democratic establishment that knows the way to win elections is to identify constituencies and “deliver the goods” so that the votes and the contributions come in. There is no political advantage to cutting spending—the key is to pretend to be “investing in America.” All compromises will be made in this context.
In the area of individual liberties, they have been compromised away in pursuit of the Security state. Either Ben Franklin or Richard Jackson wrote; “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” In other words there is something that should never be compromised—lest it never be regained.
As an example only, I am going to look at the issue of gun control because it is so much a matter of where the statists have worked through gradualism and compromise to get where they are currently.
Do you know that the National Firearms Act of 1934 had nothing to do with gun prohibition and was only passed as a revenue measure under the excise power of the United States? Who said that? The US Justice Department, in appealing the acquittal of Jack Miller for failing to pay a transfer fee on a five dollar shotgun that had its barrel shortened. Never mind that there was no case in controversy as Mr Miller could not be served—having disappeared into the anonymity of poverty that was most of the rural south in the 30s. Never mind the prohibition on double jeopardy. The government did not argue the fear of “gangster weapons” that dominated the congressional debates. This was a valid exercise of the excise power to raise revenue—and anyway a “sawed-off” shotgun is not a weapon of military utility. The Court made the finding of fact that such weapon had no military utility and therefore it was not a Second Amendment question.
Do you know that the 1968 gun control act was passed by compromises protecting the US firearms industry? Further, it limited prohibition of possession and transfer to individuals whose civil rights in general are infringed—it does not have a prohibition on the mentally ill but rather “(4) has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution…” The major US manufacturers bought off.
Do you know that the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 was only passed because of a compromise prohibiting the manufacture and transfer of machine guns in the civilian market after 19 May 1986? The NRA went along with the compromise.
Recall that the anti-federalist movement, once the inevitability of ratification became apparent, made the Bill of Rights a condition precedent to participation in the Compact. There can be no compromise on that portion of the Constitution.