Citizenship, Free Society

Compromise – a slippery slope?

(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 (…-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.

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.