Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Woodrow Wilson: It's time to break from that constitution

In February 1911, Woodrow Wilson wrote an article titled "The Law and the Facts", starting on page 4:
Take the case of the United States.

It(the US) has been a great spectacle of splendid force released and challenged by every circumstance to work its will. It has, too, been a regime of utter individualism. The forces as well as the men have acted independently, of their own initiative, at their own choice in their own way. And law has not drawn them together,- it does not appear that it was its object to draw them together.

Note the separation there? Sure, the US has been a great spectacle. But, it has also been a regime of utter individualism. "Regime" is generally used negatively - This is entirely my own opinion, but I think he is complaining here. The central planner is complaining. Continuing to page 5:

And so individual interests without number have been built up. They have not been harnessed to a common cause; the common cause was supposed to be individual development and the right of those who could to use the country and its resources for the release of their private energy and the piling up of their own wealth. Separate opportunities were studied, not common obligations, variety, not community, of interest.

Continuation of the complaint. He asks:

Our search is for the common interest, but where shall we find it?

He has an answer. A commission - non partisan, experts. Sound like what we see today? Wilson explains:(bottom of page 6)

Such a commission would be in fact a commission to discover, amidst our present economic chaos, a common interest, so that we might legislate for the whole country instead of for this, that, or the other interest, one by one.

This is very important to me for a number of ways. First, note how he says 'we might legislate'. So where there were once free people pursuing their own interests, now the legislators direct them toward the mythical common goal. But more important than anything else, the more I read the words of the progressives from their own original sources, the more I'm convinced that progressives look at us as anarchists. Because you are buying a car, I'm buying a house, the other person is saving, yet another person is in college. What anarchy! What CHAOS. John Dewey used the exact same phrasing:

Peoples who have learned that billions are available for public needs when the occasion presses will not forget the lesson, and having seen that portions of these billions are necessarily diverted into physical training, industrial education, better housing, and the setting up of agencies for securing a public service and function from private industries will ask why in the future the main stream should not be directed in the same channels.

In short, we shall have a better organized world internally as well as externally, a more integrated, less anarchic, system.

I've seen this elsewhere as well in the writings of progressivism that I've read, but I'll have to research it further before making a headline. I think this is a fundamental of progressivism. The lack of a centrally planned state is by definition anarchic and chaotic - in their minds. Just the other day, Occupy was saying that democracy and capitalism are not compatible, and Wilson himself stated that democracy and socialism are one and the same. It's the anarchic free markets vs the stability and order of a centrally planned society. Let's get back to Wilson's article "The Law and the Facts", now on page 7, Wilson proposes finding a starting point:

Suppose we define business as the economic service of society for private profit, and suppose we define politics as the accommodation of all social forces, the forces of business of course included, to the common interest. We may thus perceive our task in all its magnitude and extraordinary significance. Business must be looked upon, not as the exploitation of society, not as its use for private ends, but as its sober service; and private profit must be regarded as legitimate only when it is in fact a reward for what is veritably serviceable,- serviceable to interests which are not single but common, as far as they go; and politics must be the discovery of this common interest, in order that the service may be tested and exacted.

What an incredible admission. But it gets worse: (bottom of page 7, to 8)

In this conception society is the senior partner in all business. It must be first considered,- society as a whole, in its permanent and essential, not merely in its temporary and superficial, interests. If private profits are to be legitimatized, private fortunes made honourable, these great forces which play upon the modern field must both individually and collectively, be accommodated to a common purpose. Politics has to deal with and harmonize many other forces besides those of business merely.

By 'society', he means government, and government must reach beyond business as well. Don't think it's going to get better:(Page 9)

Business is no longer in any proper sense a private matter. It is not in our day usually conducted by independent individuals, each acting upon his own initiative in the natural pursuit of his own economic wants. It is pursued by great companies, great corporations, which exist only by express license of law and for the convenience of society, and which are themselves as it were little segments of society. Law is not accommodating itself, therefore, to the impulses and enterprises of individuals, as experience pushes it forward from change to change; but is accommodating itself, rather, to the impulses of bodies of men, to the aggregate use of money drawn from a myriad of sources as if from the common savings of society at large. The processes of change will be organic only in proportion as they are guided and framed along self-consistent lines of general policy. As experience becomes more and more aggregate law must be more and more organic, institutional, constructive. It is a study in the correlation of forces.

Now we're getting at the heart of the matter. You want to know why progressives so arrogantly think they have a right to centrally plan society? Businesses are already segments of government in their view. Why shouldn't they be completely controlled by government? His use of the word 'institutional' is key here, given his prior commentary regarding the panel of experts. Yet, this is not the worst of Wilson's commentary: (moving to page 10)

Let us break with our formulas, therefore. It will not do to look at men congregated in bodies politic through the medium of the constitutions and traditions of the states they live in, as if that were the glass of interpretation. Constitutions are vehicles of life, but not sources of it. Look at all men everywhere first of all as at human beings struggling for existence, for a little comfort and ease of heart, for happiness amidst the things that bind and limit them.

It wasn't long ago that I posted an article about how Wilson hated the founders ideals. Here's more of it. Just ignore that constitution, it's too inconvenient. It's time to break from standard bodies of politic, and look toward new panels filled with experts, unaccountable to the people.


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