Unlike Romney and Obama, Ron Paul is neither a repeater of Republican Party platitudes about “America’s greatness” nor a mumbler of silly socialist platitudes that sound like they were paraphrased directly from The Communist Manifesto (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”). Ron Paul is a seriously learned man when it comes to economics and political philosophy. He is very familiar with the writings of all the classical liberals, especially Austrian School economists such as Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, F.A. Hayek, and Murray Rothbard. As such, he must know that Rothbard considered John C. Calhoun, the nineteenth-century U.S. Senator, Secretary of War, and Vice President of the United States to have been one of America’s greatest political philosophers as well.
Because of his educational background, Ron Paul would have articulated Romney’s truthful comment about how the moochers and parasites of American society (“the 47%”) are on the verge of overwhelming the producers politically. He would not have gotten involved in the mindless media “debate” over whether it is 47 percent or 49 percent of American adults who pay no income taxes but receive benefits from government. He likely would have quoted or paraphrased Rothbard’s favorite American political philosopher, Calhoun, from his magisterial 1850 Disquisition on Government instead.
“When once formed,” Calhoun wrote, a political community “will be divided into two great parties – a major and minor – between which there will be incessant struggles on the one side to retain, and on the other to obtain the majority . . . . ” Consequently, “some portion of the community must pay in taxes more than it receives back in disbursements; while another receives in disbursements more than it pays in taxes.”
The community is thus divided into “two great classes – one consisting of those who . . . pay the taxes . . . and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds.” This will in turn lead to “one class or portion of the community [being] elevated to wealth and power, and the other depressed to abject poverty and dependence, simply by the fiscal action of the government.”
This has certainly come true. The real “One Percenters” that should have been the object of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters are not American capitalists per se, but the politically-connected, subsidized and bailed out ones, combined with the political class itself, including all politicians, bureaucrats, and their ideological minions in the media and academe. Even the lowliest “city manager” of a small California town can retire on a pension in the range of $800,000/year, the media sensationally reported a year or so ago.
Calhoun further warned that the power to tax will inevitably be used “for the purpose of aggrandizing and building up one portion of the community at the expense of another,” which will “give rise to . . . violent conflicts and struggles between the two competing parties.” Stay tuned, Americans, and pay attention to what has happened in places like Greece.
Calhoun also understood that the totalitarian-minded enemies of a free society (i.e., most politicians of all parties) would say and do anything to destroy all roadblocks to their totalitarian dreams. Thus, “it is a great mistake,” Calhoun wrote, to suppose that a written Constitution would be sufficient to protect individual liberty because the party in power “will always have no need of [constitutional] restrictions.” As Andrew Napolitano pointed out in his book, The Constitution in Exile, the U.S. Supreme Court failed to strike down a single piece of federal legislation as unconstitutional from 1937 to 1995, and precious little since then. The government’s “Supreme Court” long ago became what Alexander Hamilton wanted it to become: a rubber stamp operation for anything and everything the state ever wants to do.
Such men as Hamilton and his political descendants would use “cunning, falsehood, deception, slander, fraud, and gross appeals to the appetites of the lowest and most worthless portions of the community,” Calhoun predicted, until “the restrictions [of the Constitution] would be ultimately annulled, and the government be converted into one of unlimited powers.” Calhoun wrote this in 1850; the succeeding 162 years proved him to be prescient.
Representative government and a written constitution were good things in Calhoun’s eyes, but would never be sufficient to thwart tyranny and economic collapse unless some mechanisms could be adopted that would allow the people themselves to interpose their will directly on government. That’s why he proposed nullification, a “concurrent majority” of citizens that could veto unconstitutional federal legislation, and secession, the principle idea of the American revolution.
September 21, 2012
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today. His next book is entitled Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.
Photo added to the original post.