AlterNet.org: William Hogeland http://www.alternet.org/authors/william-hogeland en Why the Raw, Animalistic Female Libido Is Repressed http://www.alternet.org/books/women-sex-monogamy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new book by Daniel Bergner rejects age-old thinking about female sexuality. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/female_body_1.jpg?itok=lYcvoRLI" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>My friend Dan Bergner has <a href="http://www.amazon.com/What-Women-Want-Adventures-ebook/dp/B009NG1SQ2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1370446870&amp;sr=8-1">a book out</a> covering recent and in some ways possibly startling research on women’s sexuality, specifically libido. Dan is a journalist, with previous books on the civil war in Sierra Leone and life inside Angola State Penitentiary; in this one, he interviews and brings to life a number of women reporting various kinds of sexual dissatisfaction and distress, as well as a number of research scientists developing new theories of the true nature of female desire.</p><p>The book ranges through a wide variety of experience and science, so I won’t try to summarize it or hype it. (A review is <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/06/02/the_truth_about_female_desire_its_base_animalistic_and_ravenous/">here</a>.) What interested me especially in this book are what I see as some of its more radical psychological and social ramifications. It won’t come as news to a lot of readers, male and female alike, I hope, that femaleness involves sexual intensity, or that a woman can possess a sex drive at least as strong as a man’s. What the book really gets into and makes a case for debunking is the widespread idea — which has been advanced partly by conclusions of “evolutionary psychology” — that female sexual drive and intensity are linked, ineluctably, and supposedly in contrast to male libido, with closeness, intimacy, and monogamy.</p><p>Some of the research Dan covers suggests that female drive is if anything less discriminating and more promiscuous than male drive. From which I draw the tentative conclusion that if women weren’t restrained by punitive social norms, they’d stop all the “nesting,” and the getting men to nest, and they’d be out relentlessly seeking as much sex as they could possibly get from as many different partners.</p><p>And of course, unlike men, when women go out looking for sex, they’re pretty much sure to find it. So we can imagine that without those punitive social norms, families, and thus society, would collapse in a spree of sexual immediacy. When men yield to their libidinous imperatives and go on a spree, there are some self-limiting qualities in play — and anyway, their “good” women are meanwhile keeping the home fires burning and feeling betrayed, hurt, abandoned, and morally superior, as we all (i.e., men and women) evidently think they’re supposed to; sooner or later, the lowlife slinks home. Life goes on.</p><p>But if women yielded to urges that might, the book suggests, be at least as strong, all hell would break loose. We’ve long harbored various versions of the notion that women’s sexual connection to monogamy stands as a bulwark against male-induced chaos. But we’ve long wanted to believe that the connection to monogamy is innate to women. This book suggests the opposite: women’s sexual <em>self</em>-restraint in maintaining civilization is far greater than men’s. Because a) the stakes are higher and b) the promiscuity of her libido is greater. [UPDATE: Which goes some way to explaining the roots of patriarchy.]</p><p>And the particular kind of discontent demanded of women by civilization is something worse than discontent. It’s dissociation. [UPDATE: I.e., patriarchy is predicated not only on outright suppression but also on an insidious process of female dissociation? OK, maybe we did know this. But I think few have forthrightly connected that idea to the existence of a promiscuous female libido. Once you start thinking of it that way, you realize you may have known it all along -- I only now realize I've known it since high school (!) -- and that's what makes for an exciting book.] Men are allowed and indeed encouraged to feel the pain of restraining a promiscuous libido often described as naturally almost insurmountable. Men can stay faithful and pat themselves on the back for having inner strength and/or fall off the wagon and feel bad; either way, they know how they feel. But women — according to some of the conclusions I draw from Dan’s book — are not supposed to know they’re restraining a massive force. They have to deny it. Because it’s not only that if they gave in to it, civilization would crumble — it’s that even <em>feeling</em> it would have that effect.</p><p>And that’s a kind of oppression men don’t know about. That’s punitive on a whole other level.</p><p>Now, I’m sure many, many women are fully, consciously engaged with the elemental promiscuity of their own sexual drive. (In fact it even seems to me that back in the early 1970′s, that engagement was alive and well, on the table, within and outside of relationships, and so was its relationship to patriarchy, at least among youngsters counterculturally inclined.) And those women are no doubt channeling their desire as best they can, to their own best purposes. Channeling it into love and work. Even into nesting. Even into sexual promiscuity, which takes channeling too, since for adults, everything does. That’s life. Under those circumstances, society does not crumble; it thrives. But Dan’s reporting reveals a lot of female sexual distress, a lot of stuff not alive and well, and once you’ve started thinking about these issues this way, you can start to see examples of the problem everywhere. We’re not thriving.</p><p>Read Sam Tanenhaus’s recent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/books/review/trial-and-error.html?ref=samtanenhaus&amp;_r=0">review of Amanda Knox’s memoir</a>. You don’t have to be a defender of the youth party scene in Perugia to note the reviewer’s revulsion not, most saliently, to casual sex but to female initiation of casual sex — reflexively termed “aggression” — with the foregone conclusion that such behavior, especially as then boasted about by the woman (adding insult to injury), damns her <em>a priori</em>. </p><p>What gives with the prude-prurience, all these years into the 21st century? I think Dan’s book starts getting at some answers that are not, shall we say, pretty.</p> Thu, 06 Jun 2013 08:56:00 -0700 William Hogeland, William Hogeland&#039;s blog 851273 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Culture LGBTQ Sex & Relationships Amanda Knox anthropology behavior casual sex Dan Bergner Free love Human behavior Human sexuality libido monogamy Person Career promiscuity psychology sierra leone journalist Surprise! Evangelicals Were Once Radical Economic Populists Who Planted the Seeds of Our Own Struggles Against the 1% http://www.alternet.org/books/surprise-evangelicals-were-once-radical-economic-populists-who-planted-seeds-our-own-struggles <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In a new book on America&#039;s founding era popular-finance movement, William Hogeland brings us forgotten folk heroes who fought against early elites. Many were Bible-toting, end-time Christians.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/hogeland_f12.jpg?itok=tz5aye8b" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's Note: You wouldn't know if from the way the Rev. Billy Graham cozies up to today's elites, but Evangelicals were once the staunch enemies of America's privileged class. In his new book</em><a href="http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/hogfou.html">Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation</a><em>, William Hogeland wipes away the cobwebs, slogs through the fog of historical consensus, and challenges the cherished myths of both the left and the right to take a clear-eyed look at what was really going on in late 18th Century America when the Revolution was born.</em></p><p><em>In Hogeland's refreshingly unsentimental account, which favors primary sources, the Great Myth of founding era struggles as a unified front of liberty-loving Americans v.  British despots instantly dissolves. In its place, we see that across the newly forming nation, especially in the western regions, economic radicals were agitating to fight regressive taxation, absentee landlords, and privilege among their own countrymen. Popular accounts of the Revolutionary Period obscure the fact that ordinary working Americans mounted aggressive challenges to rich oppressors at home and risked their lives to see an America develop that truly represented "We the People" -- and not just a small group eastern merchants, planters, and financiers. And they met with determined resistance.</em></p><p><em>Hogeland tells the story of how these populist-minded Americans pitted themselves against the early architects of high finance -- battles that resulted in protests, clashes, and sometimes violent rebellion.  All of us, he reminds us, tend to view the founding era through modern ideological lenses that blur the vitality and complexity of the period. Tea Partiers view early protests against taxation as challenges to big government instead of the calls for fairness and economic equality that they were. Liberals and progressives are often uncomfortable with millenialist visionaries whose reading of the Bible and end-time religious ferver drove them to champion programs of economic equality as part of their vision for Christian revelation.</em></p><p><em>Woven into the story of</em>Founding Finance <em>is the fascinating figure of Herman Husband, a charismatic Evangelical philospher who loved America, but despised the growing concentration of wealth. His full-throated calls for economic fairness troubled the likes of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton as much as those of radical rationalists like Thomas Paine – challenging their views on liberty and equality. Today, Evangelicals have been largely co-opted by the right, but their predecessors who existed outside the elite structures of established churches often shared common purpose with secular populists, promoting ideas on communal property, progressive taxation, and profit-sharing. Evangelicals like Herman Husband thought their desire for radical economic and social equality was in line with the high-Whig love for liberty embraced by the famous leaders of the Revolution. They came to see that they were wrong. But these economic justice-loving Americans are the ancestors not only of the Progressive Party, the New Deal, and the Great Society, but their legacy lives on in the battles we must wage today in an era of rising economic inequality. - Lynn Parramore</em></p><p><strong>From Chapter 2: “Riot, Regulate, Occupy (1765 – 1771)”</strong></p><p>Herman Husband lived in hope of imminent Christian millennium and therefore owned no slaves. He was a rich tobacco planter and entrepreneur from Maryland’s eastern shore, and in 1754 he left his home and traveled south, deep into the North Carolina backcountry. He wanted to make money and to build the biblical Canaan.</p><p>But Husband stayed in North Carolina to do something more: disconnect American government from economic privilege. Seventeen years later, he would flee on horseback minutes ahead of arrest and hanging, a fugitive from justice for his defiance on behalf of small farmers, artisans, and laborers. By then, Herman Husband was on his way to becoming one of America’s first full-time activists for economic and political equality.</p><p>Deemed eccentric by the privileged whose privilege he assailed, and largely ignored by history, Husband was by no means eccentric in his beliefs. Many thousands of ordinary Americans of his time shared his desires and tactics. The roots of modern American protest, specifically over finance and economics, shoot deep into the colonial period. Yet in contradiction not only to what the conservative Tea Party movement, in naming itself, asserts, but also what many Americans across today’s political spectrum have good reason to assume, our early struggles over money and government, and over the proper relationship between them, were by no means always struggles between American colonists and English authorities. As in today’s political arguments over debt, taxes, and public and private finance, ordinary, less privileged Americans and better-off, better-connected Americans vied with one another, throughout the period before the Revolution, for control of government policy regarding money.</p><p>That the better-connected and better-off had the overwhelming advantage will come as no shock. They include all of the famous founders, across the political spectrum of the day, from Alexander Hamilton to John Adams to Samuel Adams</p><p>to James Madison. As we’ll see, they all rejected the radically egalitarian ideas about economics and finance espoused by many ordinary people in eighteenth-century America. Many historians have praised the famous founders for carrying out what is called a “moderate” revolution, eschewing economic and social egalitarianism that in the French Revolution led, only shortly later, to terror and totalitarianism. In being what we call moderate, the founders weren’t resisting temptation. It came naturally to them. Thomas Jefferson was unique among them even for fl irting with radical populism. He did that mainly in letters, not in action.</p><p>Yet rioters and protestors for economic equality had a powerful impact on our founding too. In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Herman Husband and thousands of his neighbors rebelled against authority that they considered economically corrupt. Their rebellion is known to historians as the North Carolina Regulation, and it gives history some headaches. Because the royal governor of North Carolina put down the uprising, in 1771 at the Battle of Alamance, nineteenth-century historians, looking backward through the lens of American independence, saw the North Carolina Regulation as a rehearsal for supposedly inevitable revolution against England. Some modern historians, too, view preindependence uprisings like the North Carolina Regulation as evincing populist moods they see climaxing in American independence.</p><p>There were important conflicts, however, between the Regulators and the men who became famous revolutionary leaders in 1776. The Regulators had an economic agenda that discomfited upscale American patriots as much as it discomfited British authority.</p><p>One of the strangest things about the North Carolina Regulation, from today’s perspective, is its religious inspiration. Herman Husband and other leaders of the uprising saw themselves as working toward the millennium, that culmination of human existence prophesied for Christians in the rule of Christ, prelude to an eternal state of perfect happiness for the saved.</p><p>Today’s political liberals lean secular as a group. They associate rationalist skepticism with famous American founders like John Adams, Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. The religious right attacks that association, deploying Christian-sounding quotations from those same founders to cast the biggest names in founding history as Bible-believers. What episodes like the North Carolina Regulation suggest to me is that both sides are looking for founding historical validatio in exactly the wrong places. If today’s religious rightists want to find evangelical fervor in founding-era America, they don’t have to rope in men like Washington, whose regard for something called Providence seems to me about as nonevangelical and nonmillenarian as it gets. There were real evangelicals in the founding period, with politics really biblically inspired. Herman Husband and the North Carolina Regulators are among them.</p><p>But because the right’s free-market ideology is diametrically opposed to founding evangelicals’ efforts to get government to restrain wealth and legislate equality, Christian conservatives don’t know about them, and the right goes on vainly trying to make our great founding rationalists into holy rollers. Modern liberalism can’t embrace early American economic activism either: that activism was saturated not merely with faith but with an especially illiberal kind of faith, the evangelical and millennial kind, whose calls to action are predicated not on scientific calculations for social improvement that modern liberals prize, but on spiritual warfare for transformation of the very terms of human relations, ultimately of human existence.</p><p>Today’s political liberals keep trying to press the wellknown founders, whose attitudes about religion were intellectually sophisticated, into serving as ancestors for modern American political progressivism. Meanwhile many of our real founding activists for economic equality remain obscure because they were evangelicals. The result is that we don’t know what happened in our founding.</p><p>By no means alone in either his evangelicalism or his activism, Herman Husband was nevertheless a dramatic and revealing case. In 1739, when he was fifteen, he heard George Whitefield preach. A twenty-five-year-old English superstar, Whitefield was touring America, attracting crowds outdoors and causing a sensation. In Philadelphia he preached on the courthouse steps to 8,000 people. In North East, near the Chesapeake Bay, 1,500 came, and Herman Husband was one of them. He had questions, and Whitefield’s preaching began answering them.</p><p>Only personal faith, received not through forms of worship but as direct experience, gave new spiritual birth, Whitefield said. Conversion wasn’t an idea or a practice but a feeling. Denominations legally established by colonial governments weren’t just useless to salvation but actively obstructed salvation. Only new, spontaneous, emotionally alive churches, he said, could bring about a saving inner change in people, acceptance of forgiveness of sin.</p><p>It was the Great Awakening. We often think of that phenomenon as fire and brimstone and railing against sexual pleasure. But as early as the 1720s, ministers were preaching especially hard against the greed, laziness, and materialism that they felt American society was encouraging. The Awakening was in many ways a youth movement, and in a time of xenophobia among colonies, it was the first American enthusiasm to sweep across boundaries and bring what today we think of as the country together, against establishments. In every denomination and province, established churches, called “old light” and “old side,” were condemned for spiritual deadness by “new lights” and “new sides.” Unestablished sects like Baptists, known for spontaneity and enthusiasm, gained new members. Services went on outdoors. Revival was both the style and the goal. Acquisitiveness—in some old-side Calvinists’ view a sign of virtue, even of possible grace—now looked to young Americans like lust for material luxury, sin.</p><p>Old-light ministers pushed back. They castigated what they saw as the Awakening’s preference for individualism over doctrine. Liberal theologians had been trying to get rational, Deist ideas into the churches; they condemned the Awakening’s appeal to mere feeling. Bosses were dismayed to find field hands and factory laborers dropping work to attend outdoor services. As the Awakening went on, and began losing its novelty among maturing members of the better-off classes, evangelicalism settled into working-class parts of American society. It stayed there.</p><p>In 1739, when the young Husband heard the young George Whitefield preach, the Awakening had begun to see itself as a sign of the biblical millennium. Prophesied for Christians in the Revelation of St. John and certain books of the Old Testament, the millennium involves an end time, a universal war, the last judgment of all souls, and the establishment for the saved of permanent bliss in divine love. The Great Awakening’s millennialism was at once more forgiving and more social—more American, perhaps?—than many earlier forms. The terrible last judgment depicted in classic theology, Awakening preachers began to suggest, might not be necessary. All might be brought into God’s love gradually and without horror. The end of history might be accomplished in the perfect happiness of life here on earth. Even the second coming of Christ might, in Awakening theology, be accomplished by the infusion of Christ’s redeeming love in all people. A sign would be the dissolving of distinctions between rich and poor.  From the 1740s on, evangelicals in America were calling for radical social and economic change, tantamount to millennium.</p><p>Filled with spiritual purpose, Herman Husband grew into manhood at odds with his parents. They were exponents of classic early-American upward mobility. His grandfather had survived a term as an indentured tobacco worker—mere survival in bonded servitude was an accomplishment—and then married a landed widow, obtained appointments in law enforcement, planted his own tobacco, and diversifi ed with an ironworks. He left a big inheritance. Herman Husband’s parents moved east to the shore, bought almost two thousand acres, and built a brick house on the main road on the east side of the Susquehanna River. They were slaveowning tobacco farmers, second-level gentry in a society that prided itself on cavalier elegance.</p><p>Growing up in luxury, the boy rejected what seemed to him his parents’ spiritually empty and morally corrupt lives. His family joined other rich Anglicans every week in church, but the teenage Herman saw no hope for salvation in their polite devotions, when they horribly abused others through the institution of slavery. Indeed, their church looked like what people then called Popish, corruptly Roman Catholic, the Antichrist on earth. And the pleasures of the Chesapeake planting class—gambling, riding, dueling, partying—gave him no pleasure at all.</p><p>He became what later youth movements would call a seeker. He wanted to fi nd the group that would, in biblical terms, be yeast to ferment the sea, bring on the millennium. He spurned his parents’ Anglicanism and joined the Presbyterians. He left old-side Presbyterians to join the new side. Then he left new-side Presbyterians to join the Society of Friends, the Quakers. For a time the Quakers seemed spiritually radical enough even for Herman Husband. They described</p><p>the holy spirit as indwelling love. They resembled early Christians for having been persecuted in both England and New England. They recognized all people everywhere as children of God, so they strongly opposed African slavery. They had no ritual forms or shows.</p><p>And they were pacifists. Quaker pacifism would come to form one of the most problematic elements in Herman Husband’s activism.</p><p>Quakers were by no means constrained by vows of poverty, however. When he came to the North Carolina backcountry, Herman Husband owned a big tobacco plantation of his own. He was a partner in two copper mines and a smelting business; he had investments in a Caribbean shipping firm.</p><p>Years later, an old man, Husband would be admired by some and scorned by others as a barefoot prophet and frontier preacher, but in his thirties he was a focused and effective American businessman, enjoying great financial success while hoping for the millennium in America.</p><p>Like so many other businessmen of his generation, in the 1750s Husband saw enormous financial opportunities in what people called “western land.” Seemingly endless expanses of thick, tall timber, pine barren, piedmont, deep valley, and rocky ledge were inhabited by native people, and had been used by white hunters and trappers who moved in and out, but pioneers had never yet cut those forests and dug, fenced, and farmed that soil. The American west began in the east, in woods at the ends of fi elds seen through westfacing windows. It rolled all the way to the foothills, up and over the forbidding Appalachian chain: Berkshires in Massachusetts, Green Mountains in what were then called the Hampshire Grants, Adirondacks in New York, Alleghenies in Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge in Virginia, Smokeys in North Carolina. White efforts to expand that way had always met with problems. Grotesque violence prevailed between natives and frontier whites. In 1768, George III drew a line down the crest of the Appalachians. By royal proclamation, he forbade white settlement west of what was now called the Proclamation line.</p><p>Settlers were not deterred. Patrolling the line reliably was nearly impossible. When they could, people moved across it, squatted, and traded atrocities with the Indians. Ambitious speculators meanwhile registered titles in land offices for trans-Proclamation lands with defiant impunity.</p><p>But when Herman Husband came from the Maryland shore to the western backcountry in the 1750s, the Proclamation line hadn’t yet been drawn, and Husband found promising land well east of the mountains in forests in the North</p><p>Carolina piedmont. He was operating on behalf of a consortium he’d formed for the purpose of land speculation there. He began buying parcels of likely backcountry woods, ripe for improvement. He soon owned ten thousand acres on the Sandy Creek and the Deep River. By 1762, he’d settled his family permanently on a farm.</p><p>Still a Quaker, he attended the Cane Creek Meeting. He wrote to Lord Granville, who owned the upper half of the colony; he wanted Granville to keep the Anglican Church from establishing itself as the legal religion of the backcountry, and to prohibit African slavery there. Husband was beginning to see his new, western home as the ideal place to establish the egalitarian society that would be a sign of the millennium.</p><p>Then one day he rose to speak in the Cane Creek Meeting. He condemned Quaker discipline. Every church, Husband complained, prevents its members from voicing revelations of the spirit when those revelations confl ict with procedures of the church. All churches kill spirit.</p><p>He was expelled from the Society of Friends. The relentlessness of his quest for revelation had left Husband on his own. He was forty. Unchurched, he would now put his spiritual insight into action.</p><p>Husband had long seen human government and the millennium as separate: government the dry, merely temporary necessity, something to improve but not perfect in advance of human transformation; the millennium that eagerly anticipated transformation itself. Now, however, he was looking at the social and economic situation in the western backcountry. He saw the possibility of achieving human redemption by ending corruption in government. This new phase of Husband’s quest—at once political, practical, and millennial— would make him a social and economic radical and lead to his flight from North Carolina, a fugitive of the Regulation.</p><p>The problems that the North Carolina Regulators became adept not only at opposing but also, thanks largely to Herman Husband, at describing, point to economic distress that made life hard in many parts of pre-Revolutionary America. Causes of distress came down to three things that combined to stifle ordinary people’s aspirations: tenancy, debt, and corruption.</p><p>Or, to flip that description the other way, the problem for ordinary Americans was caused by a far smaller, more powerful group of Americans: landlords, lenders, and officials who made representative government the landlords’ and lenders’ tool. Historical imagination has allowed us to associate economic oppression in colonial America with snobbery and corruption supposedly characteristic of the English elements in government (shorthanded as “Tory”) in opposition to democracy and honesty, supposedly characteristic of Americans. Landlords and lenders in founding-era America offer a prime example to the contrary.</p><p>Early American landlords and lenders are not unfamiliar to us. One way of talking about them is to use terms all classes used then, also used in founding history today: “the merchants” and “the planters.” The colonial merchants and planters are famous mainly because in the 1760s and ’70s so many of them, far from expressing any inherently Tory tendencies, resisted England especially strongly. Merchants and planters and their lawyers became the American revolutionaries we’ve come to call founding fathers.</p><p>Merchants traded merchandise within the imperial system called mercantilism. Planters produced the agricultural raw materials—lumber, tobacco, indigo, rice—on the grand scale that fed the system. Merchants are usually associated with the middle and northern colonies and planters with the South, but there were big plantations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York and mercantile operators making deals throughout the South; planters also bought and sold, like merchants. Merchants usually owned ships, but they also sometimes owned interests in farms. Agents and brokers for merchants and planters sat in coff eehouses, taverns, and dockside warehouses in London and in the American seaboard towns, making deals and striking bargains for theirvarious principals.</p><p>While American colonies had their own governments, the British Parliament made rules under which colonists operated in global markets. Parliament’s goal was to manage competition, balance interests throughout the empire, protect British industries, and promote British projects. For colonial merchants and planters alike, that process could make life complicated and tense. Acts of Parliament proliferated and overlapped. They reached so far into daily life that their names were sometimes cozily specific even as their effects were annoyingly complex. The Hat Act of 1732, for example, prohibited Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania from exporting furs to Holland because Holland was selling those furs to France, and France was thereby underselling the British hat industry. American hatters responded to the Hat Act by making and selling their own hats within the colonies, but that undermined hat imports to America from England, again hurting English hatters, so Parliament passed a new law prohibiting American hat sales outside a hatter’s colony.</p><p>The Molasses Act of 1733 corrected a situation that discouraged American importers and distillers from buying molasses from English sugar planters in the British West Indies: French West Indies planters were underselling the British in the North American market because the French government, also mercantilist, barred import of molasses into France for fear of rum’s killing the French brandy business; England, meanwhile, was prohibiting import of American meat and fish, in order to protect the English meat and fi sh industries, and that gave Americans a chance to sell meat and fish to the French West Indies in exchange for cheap molasses. Parliament therefore slapped a high duty on molasses imported to America from anywhere but the British West Indies, stopping American trade with the French.</p><p>The White Pine Acts reserved timber for British ships, to avoid Baltic imports. London’s role in fi nance was aided by an act prohibiting private banking in America. The Iron Act of 1750 limited production of American iron in order to stimulate iron imports to America from Britain. It went on and on.</p><p>Historians have long argued over which came first, American love of smuggling or American love of liberty. Many of the first families of America—both the merchants and the planters—opposed and sometimes avoided English rules.  They included the Hancocks, leading import-export Bostonians; the Boston branch of the Adams family, who invested in the Hancocks’ business; the Dickinsons, who grew tobacco on the Delaware and Maryland shore; the Livingstons of New York, rich through slave trading, who raised grain on their vast Hudson River estates; the shipping fi rm of Charles Willing in Philadelphia, where commercial and fi nancial sophistication grew fast; the dashing Lees of Virginia’s Northern Neck and the comparatively staid Harrisons of Virginia’s James River; the Pinckneys, who grew indigo in South Carolina. Objecting to England’s trade laws was an elegant, establishment American position.</p><p>It was when American lawyers started arguing that a defense of ancient English liberties justified American objections that the best-known part of the founding story begins. In 1758, the twenty-six-year-old lawyer Patrick Henry asserted</p><p>in Virginia’s “twopenny” cases that the Privy Council’s voiding a law of the Virginia assembly made the king effectively a tyrant. In 1761, James Otis argued in the Massachusetts “writs of assistance” cases that searching American ships without specific warrants violated rights guaranteed British subjects by the British constitution. The discussion sharpened when Parliament went beyond what American lawyers and lawmakers had long acquiesced in seeing as its legitimate role—legitimate, if annoying—in balancing imperial trade through tariffs. In the 1760s, with new acts known as the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, Parliament didn’t hope merely to balance imperial trade. It was trying to raise a revenue for the royal treasury.</p><p>To liberty-loving Americans, that was a tyrannical innovation in Parliament’s lawmaking power. Taking property solely for the purposes of revenue, without the consent given through representation, seemed to violate essential rights. Consent of the governed went back at least to the Magna Carta, when in 1215, on a fi eld at Runnymede, barons sat King John down and made him sign an agreement that limited his power. Article 52 of the Magna Carta prohibits the king from taking property at will, by levying a tax, say, or just moving his retinue into someone’s castle. He may take property only by consent of the owner. The American gentlemen who in the 1760s and 1770s became resisters to English trade laws called themselves “Whigs,” looking backward to English Whigs of the seventeenth century and the oldest English traditions in government.</p><p>In Philadelphia, the lawyer John Dickinson, writing as “A Farmer,” demonstrated the unconstitutionality of Parliament’s taxation for revenue without representation. American merchants, planters, and lawyers read and repeated the Farmer’s words. The stakes kept going up. When Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, it declared its right to tax Americans at will, for any purpose, whenever it wanted. With the Townshend Acts, it did tax them. When Boston suffered occupation by the British army, British tyranny in America seemed unrestrained.</p><p>The colonial assemblies responded extralegally. In 1774 and 1775, they sent delegates to the Continental Congresses in Philadelphia. The Delegates adopted a policy of strong, unified colonial resistance to England, ultimately rejecting a competing policy of moderation, accommodation, and loyalism. By the time the British began moving troops out of Boston to Lexington and Concord, in the spring of 1775, many American planters, merchants, and lawyers were ready to fight.</p><p>As potted as I can get it, I think that’s a pretty fair tracking of the famous founders’ progress toward the American Revolution. Some have called American merchants, planters, and lawyers touchy, even paranoid, hysterically immersed in seventeenth-century writings on liberty that in England amounted mainly to a literary movement, not a realistic political agenda; others try to show American assemblies as almost superhumanly consistent in their moral opposition to English overreaching. I want to look at what I think today’s most influential history glosses over, explains away, deemphasizes, or simply ignores, regarding the planters, merchants, and lawyers who became the famous American revolutionaries.</p><p>That is: In the view of many little-remembered small farmers, artisans, mechanics, and laborers, who made up the overwhelmingly greater part of American society, those upscale, liberty-loving men had long been running the colonial legislatures for the benefit of themselves and to the detriment of everybody else. Parliament and Crown weren’t the only oppressors in colonial American society. For many ordinary people, they were by no means the most direct oppressors.</p><p>Rich Americans were.</p><p>Here is where we may begin to see mutual hostility, not mutual support, between ordinary Americans and the famous leaders in the Revolution. And here is where Herman Husband began a career that would one day put him in opposition to some of the most famous of those men.</p> Thu, 01 Nov 2012 07:07:00 -0700 William Hogeland, University of Texas Press 737048 at http://www.alternet.org Books Belief Books Economy Occupy Wall Street The Right Wing Alexander Hamilton america american revolution American government anglican church Appalachians Billy Graham boston British Parliament British West Indies british army caribbean Charles Willing Chesapeake Bay chesapeake Colonial history of the United States concord Deep River delaware Early Modern period Editor farmer ” demonstrated the unconstitutionality france franklin French West Indies French government George III george washington George Whitefield Granville Green Mountains Herman Husband Hudson River humanities Indies james madison James Otis James River john adams John Dickinson Lexington london maryland massachusetts Modern history netherlands new england new york north carolina Patrick Henry pennsylvania Person Attributes Person Career Person Location Person Travel philadelphia Privy Council Quotation Runnymede Sandy Creek Society of Friends south carolina Stamp Act Susquehanna River tea partiers thomas jefferson Thomas Pain The Founders’ Muddled Legacy on the Right to Bear Arms Is Killing Us http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/founders-muddled-legacy-right-bear-arms-killing-us <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '693137'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=693137" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A case of 18th-century politicking has stymied our ability to deal with a 21st-century crisis. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1340996402_gunblood.jpg?itok=bNJzCkiS" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Amid horrifying reports of American gun violence -- the latest from College Station, Texas, yesterday, and Aurora, Colorado, last month -- it's natural for Americans on all sides of the dire issue of gun control and gun ownership to invoke our founders' legacy regarding arms and rights. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution famously asserts a "right of the people to keep and bear arms." Determining what the founders meant by that right has long seemed critical to winning arguments for or against gun legislation.</p><p>But that’s a slippery slope. Any serious effort to address whatever lies behind the astonishing rate of American gun violence should really begin by criticising the founders’ contradictory stance on this issue, not appealing to it.</p><p>Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice-president, who champions rights of gun owners, believes that the U.S. is unique for having been founded on the idea that "our rights come from nature and God, not government.” Ryan's attitude reflects a pervasive desire, across the American political spectrum, to ground current political positions in what many Americans see as absolute rights, protected for us by our founders in the U.S. Constitution.</p><p>Unfortunately. on the right to bear arms, the founders did not say what they meant, and did not mean what they said.</p><p><strong>A Little History</strong></p><p>The Second Amendment has produced cognitive dissonance and a lack of candor regarding the relationship between liberty and arms. The resulting confusion has enabled us to indulge in a deadly mix of immature fantasy and apodictic certainty, disconnecting us from reality to a degree that we can no longer, putting it mildly, afford. A more grownup and realistic confrontation with the process that gave us our constitutional rights--bitter medicine, perhaps--might be a precondition to curing what seems to ail us so desperately.</p><p>The <em>realpolitik</em> in which the Second Amendment was framed, during the first U.S. Congress of 1789, involves some unedifying but illuminating features. The amendment was a response to the federal government's power over state and local militias, as set out in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution. That provision had been among the most hard-fought at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Delegates committed to state sovereignty feared--rightly enough--that if the federal government were empowered to control the state militias, states would lose sovereignty.</p><p>In that elemental debate lay the beginning of a perennial American disingenuousness regarding arms and rights. Delegates led by James Madison wanted to create a national government, directly acting on and protecting all citizens, throughout all states. To achieve it, they had to play down how entirely they wanted it, how nearly utter the states' loss of power would be. Madison's convention notes show Madison himself, along with other nationalists, <a href="http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/debates/0823.html">minimizing the impact of the federal militia power</a> in order to soothe certain delegates' fears of losing state sovereignty.</p><p>As we know, the nationalists got what they wanted. Despite concessions to their opponents' ideas about state sovereignty, we became a nation. And critical to that achievement was the constitutional provision giving the federal government control of states' military institutions.</p><p>So when amending the Constitution, Madison continued to prevaricate. Former antifederalists in Congress and the state legislatures still resented the federal power to control militias; they were hoping to use the amendment process to regain some military control and thus retain some sovereignty. In the Second Amendment, Madison tried to defeat those hopes by placating them without really addressing them. The amendment gestures vaguely at state sovereignty in a way intended to make little practical sense.</p><p><strong>Permanent Doubt</strong></p><p>We argue fiercely today about the intended relationship between the famous opening phrase ("A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,") and the famous main clause ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed"). But it's fruitless to try to nail down that relationship, to hope to prove for good and all that the opening phrase is or is not a preamble, or that a preamble does or does not determine the meaning of a main text, or that a "being" phrase means something different from or identical to a "whereas" clause.</p><p>The sentence is weak. The weakness is deliberate.</p><p>Madison couldn't afford, on the one hand, to let the amendment seem to contradict the hard-won federal military power in the main body. He couldn't afford, on the other, to underscore too strongly for the states' comfort the overwhelming nature of that federal power. He seems therefore to have resorted to a preamble-ish-like phrase (others in the first 10 don't have preambles), referring to supposed benefits of state militias, but resorting to the loose “being” construction -- technically a kind of "absolute" phrase that modern English avoids, for good reason -- that has left the phrase's grammatical relation to the main clause permanently in doubt.</p><p>And even as the amendment's opening phrase refers to a "free state," its main clause refers to a "right of the people." In 1789 Madison was still trying to move sovereignty away from the states and locate it in what the Constitution's preamble calls “We, the people" --  citizens of the whole United States. Some today who favor assertive gun laws follow the historian <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/sep/21/to-keep-and-bear-arms/?pagination=false">Garry Wills' famous argument</a> that the opening phrase refers to a state power, not an individual right, and that whereas in the Fourth Amendment, “the right of the people” does refer to individuals, in the Second it doesn’t. Meanwhile, defenders of a right to private gun ownership insist that when the founders said “a well-regulated militia," "a free state," and "the right of the people," they simply meant that private individuals must remain armed against potential tyranny.</p><p>However well or poorly such arguments are formed -- Wills' is exhaustively well-founded and logical; many of the gun advocates' are not -- both sides in the current gun-rights debate are trying to make sense of something intended by its author not to make that kind of sense. Madison was not trying to protect a right to individual gun ownership. He was trying to conjure a mood of grudging, semi-coherent consensus, to establish nationhood. To that end, he denied real divisions and real effects and wrote the denial into founding law.</p><p>We must learn to manage, somehow, the unintended consequences of founding politics. To that end, we must face up to them. Without the nationalists' smoothness -- even their slipperiness -- at the constitutional convention and during the amendment process, our nation might not have come into being. Neither Madison nor any other founder could have envisioned the modern uses that the Second Amendment has been put to, or that arms have. For political reasons having little to do with our struggles today, the founders incidentally built a murky confusion around the relationship of guns and liberty into American culture, a confusion that stunts, all these years later, much-needed public discussion of what has long since become a deadly national problem.</p><p>To begin to free ourselves from incoherence, to begin thinking publicly about how we might drastically reduce our penchant for gun violence, we must face the stark fact that in this case, our founders don't have much help to offer us. We're on our own.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '693137'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=693137" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 14 Aug 2012 13:39:00 -0700 William Hogeland, AlterNet 693137 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics The Right Wing aurora College Station colorado congress Garry Wills Gun politics james madison militia paul ryan politics Quotation Right to keep and bear arms texas U.S. Congress u.s. constitution United States Constitution united states author gun violence mass shooting state's rights federal government federal military historian vice-president The Racism-Conservatism Link: 'National Review' Firestorm Over Racism Calls Up William F. Buckley's Troubling Legacy http://www.alternet.org/story/155124/the_racism-conservatism_link%3A_%27national_review%27_firestorm_over_racism_calls_up_william_f._buckley%27s_troubling_legacy <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '670471'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670471" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Did Buckley ever really renounce his defense of white supremacy in the South?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The <em>National Review's</em> dropping of two writers -- one for publishing a racist article in another publication, the other for giving a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/167372/national-review-drops-another-racist-writer">racist talk</a> -- has renewed discussion of that magazine's early positions regarding race and the legacy of its founder and guiding spirit William F. Buckley, Jr. Since Buckley's magazine was critical to the success of the postwar right, mainstream conservatism's supposed renunciation of racism has depended in part on a prevailing, little-examined notion that having defended white supremacy in the South in the 1950s, Buckley later apologized for that position.</p><p>His fans, both conservative and liberal, cite the apology. It's become part and parcel of a contention that racism and conservatism are not ineluctably connected.</p><p>But the aged Buckley was renouncing a position entirely different from the one he'd actually advanced in the 1950s.</p><p>Writing in 1957 in defense of jury nullification of federal voting laws, Buckley insisted that whites in the South were "entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, where they do not prevail numerically," because the white race was "for the time being, the advanced race." In 2004, asked whether he'd ever taken a position he now regretted, he said: "Yes. I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary."</p><p>Nicely done. Where in '57 he'd asserted a right even of a minority of whites to impose racial segregation by literally any means necessary, including breaking federal law, in '04 Buckley expressed regret for supposedly having believed only that segregation would wither away without federal intervention.</p><p>Stupid the man was not. He gets credited today with honesty about his past and with having, in his own way, "evolved up." Modern conservatives, more importantly, get to ignore the realities of their movement's origins.</p><p>Buckley did evolve, just not in the way his fans like to imagine. His effort to construct working-class white Southern racists as an advanced race was brief. (Given Buckley's ideas of what advanced races like to do -- sail, listen to Bach, defend high culture against barbarity -- it's not surprising if they disappointed him.) By 1965, at a famous Oxford Union debate with James Baldwin, Buckley was fighting what had already become a rearguard action on civil-rights legislation, and he was taking a new position. Claiming now that everybody already agreed that race prejudice is evil, he accused the civil-rights movement of no longer seeking equality but the actual regression of the white race. He announced that if it ever came to race war, he was prepared to fight it on the beaches, in the hills, in the mountains.</p><p>And he joked that what he really objected to was any uneducated Southerner, black or white, being allowed to vote. That's less a turnabout on equal rights for blacks than a retreat to a more logically consistent snobbism, and the joke was serious: that same year, James J. Kilpatrick put forth in the <em>National Review</em> an argument mixing states-rights populism with ruling-class prerogative, warning that federalism would be destroyed unless states were free to impose voting qualifications, and that such qualifications must discriminate equally, not racially.</p><p>Race nevertheless long remained a defining conservative issue for the <em>National Review</em>. In a 1969 column, Buckley hymned the research of Arthur Jensen on race and IQ, which showed blacks testing lower than whites on abstract reasoning skills, a finding from which Buckley deduced a racial imperviousness to improvement by education. In the 1970s the magazine persistently defended apartheid South Africa on the same basis that it had once defended Jim Crow.</p><p>The problem isn't that old Bill Buckley gets a pass. If conservatives today really mean to mark out an American conservative ethos with no remaining ties to racism, wouldn't they need to reckon, far more seriously and realistically than they seem prepared to do, with the painful legacy of the postwar right when it comes to what was then called racial integration? With the Cold War, integration was the hot issue of the day -- and that was the day when the right wing was taking over the Republican Party. Nelson Rockefeller was a fire-and-brimstone Cold Warrior but hyperliberal on race; he was just the type the Buckleyites were knocking out. Ties between conservatism and straight-up, hardcore, undisguised disgust at the presence of African Americans in any position other than servile were once so tight that for some of us with long enough memories it's somewhat bizarre even to have to review them.</p><p>And the deeper one digs into the history of race and the right wing, the trickier things get. There's another remark of Buckley's that gets him routinely credited with acknowledging, in old age, postwar conservatives' error on race and personally recanting it: a comment he made during an <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/20060401_william_f_buckley_bush_will_be_judged_on_failed_iraq_war/interview">interview</a> with Judy Woodruff in 2006 regarding his opposition to the 1962 Civil Rights Act. "The effect of that bill should have been welcomed by us," Buckley told Woodruff. He framed his old objection to the act in terms of William Rehnquist's supposedly having persuaded him and Barry Goldwater, when developing positions for the Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, to view opposition to the act as an inescapable conclusion of the supposed strict constitutionalism on which Goldwater was running, a position that Buckley told Woodruff he'd since come to regret for its "constitutional formalism."</p><p>Buckley's 2006 frame is a false one. Advancing states-rights and anti-judicial-review arguments against civil-rights laws was nothing new to Buckley in '63-'64, and his arguments certainly didn't depend on any "formalist" urging from Rehnquist. By the time of the Goldwater campaign, nearly 10 years of unrelenting objection to every form of civil-rights legislation had appeared in the <em>National Review</em>, weirdly blending the (supposedly race-neutral) "strict-constitutional" argument with Buckleyite claims for the right of cultures deemed superior by Buckleyites to violate the Constitution.</p><p>So if Buckley was really telling Woodruff in 2006 the only thing his admirers can mean when they call his remarks an apology or a recanting -- that he'd been persuaded in the '60s by a well-regarded legal scholar to go along with a strict constitutional position that, while intellectually sound, had some regrettable real-world ramifications for black people, which Buckley only later came to understand and thus to regret -- he was being preposterous.</p><p>But there's a more intriguing possibility. In 1952, Rehnquist wrote a now-famous memo on <em>Brown vs. Board of Education</em>. The <em>Times</em> recently revived a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/us/new-look-at-an-old-memo-casts-more-doubt-on-rehnquist.html?_r=1">discussion</a> of it, and of Rehnquist's denial that it reflected his own opinion. That memo put forth an idea related in interesting ways to Buckley's '57 "advanced race" essay.</p><p>In the memo, Rehnquist deemed the Supreme Court a poor place for ruling on individual rights, suggesting that the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment can't be enforced by judicial review in communities where those rights are opposed by a majority. That is, they can't be enforced. "In the long run," Rehnquist wrote, "majorities will decide what the constitutional rights of minorities are." And that's at first what Buckley seemed to mean, too, when he said in the '57 essay that the question of the white right to prevail could not be "answered by merely consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born equal."</p><p>But Buckley's '57 essay turns that already startling idea upside down. It says that even a minority of whites has a right -- nay, a duty! -- to take measures necessary to prevail against a majority of blacks. That kind of romantic, questing elitism did not fit the new Rehnquist-Goldwater populism, which appealed to majority and states rights in resisting federal enforcement of racial integration. Really, Buckley's view revealed too much of what "states rights" was so often code for: white supremacy.</p><p>Is it possible, then, that what Rehnquist actually advised Buckley during the '64 platform discussions amounted to a request to tone down the eccentric flights of derring-do, to get with the program of pushing the rights of majorities in local communities over those of the federal judiciary and legislature -- i.e., get with the right-wing party line regarding segregation, which Rehnquist was even then transforming from the fatalistic mood of his '52 memo into a positive program for Goldwater's speeches?</p><p>And when Buckley said he regretted going along with Rehnquist, might he really have meant he regretted relinquishing youthful, romantic militancy about the rights of superior civilizations, and adopting instead a dry, constitutional argument promoting mere white majorities (often irritatingly low-class majorities at that)?</p><p>If so, Buckley's remark to Woodruff would at least make sense. And Buckley often made sense.</p><p>Buckley's most quoted remark from the Woodruff interview is cryptic, relying uncharacteristically on the passive voice: "The effect of that bill should have been welcomed by us." How can "the effect" he's talking about really be legislating equality for blacks (something Buckley continued to object to, as I've pointed out)? That would be weird. More likely the cagey old bastard meant conservatives should have welcomed the effect of the Civil Rights Act on white voters in the South. They of course did respond to its passage by flocking to the Republican Party, an effect explicitly "welcomed" at the time by Buckley, and by others who would soon be leveraging that effect for the election.</p><p>In any event, it would be interesting to see conservative intellectuals, not liberal ones, digging into this history.</p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '670471'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670471" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 23 Apr 2012 21:00:00 -0700 William Hogeland, AlterNet 670471 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Media News & Politics The Right Wing racism national review conservatism william f. buckley "How Could This Happen in America?" Why Police Are Treating Americans Like Military Threats http://www.alternet.org/story/153170/%22how_could_this_happen_in_america%22_why_police_are_treating_americans_like_military_threats <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '668571'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=668571" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why is the armed might of the state, (necessary in waging war against foreign enemies) being applied to domestic policing of local communities and peaceful protests?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>"How could this happen in America?"</p> <p>"Is this still my country?"</p> <p>In the past few days, those and similarly poignant Twitter posts have appealed to fundamental American values in objecting to the notorious U.C. Davis event, where <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdDLhPwpp4">police pepper-sprayed seated protesters</a>, and to cities generally cracking down on the Occupy movement. The crackdowns have brought a military level of combativeness to what many Americans -- even those not in sympathy with the protesters -- would normally see as a police, not a military matter.</p> <p>Police, not military. The distinction may seem academic, even absurd, when police are bringing rifles, helmets, armor, and helicopters to evict unarmed protesters. But it's an old and critical distinction in American law and ideology and in republican thought as a whole. The 17th-century English liberty writers, on whose ideas much of America's founding ethos was based, believed that turning the armed might of the state, (necessary in waging war against foreign enemies), to domestic policing of local communities tends to concentrate power in top-down executive action and vitiate treasured things like judiciary process, individual liberty, representative government, and free speech.</p> <p>Constabulary and judiciary matters, high Whigs came to think, should never be handled by what they condemned as "standing armies." It's true, on the other hand, that keeping public order, not just aiding in prosecutions, is a duty of local police. When concerted crowd violence occurs against people and property, policing may be expected to be pretty violent too, and distinctions between combat and policing sometimes naturally blur.</p> <p>But where protest is peaceful -- maybe loud, maybe deliberately annoying, combative in its rhetoric, even possibly illegal, yet not actually violent or dangerous -- treating it the way a state normally treats an outside military threat will give many Americans, across a broad political spectrum, a gut problem.</p> <p>We've seen military hardware and tactics used in the Occupy crackdowns. We've seen them in post-9/11 federal funding in the states and municipalities for homeland security. We've seen them in the aptly named "war on drugs." And anyone who has watched shows like "Cops" has seen -- and may by now take for granted -- techniques and technologies of military-style police raids on homes, raids that in more upscale neighborhoods might amount to nothing more than knocking on a door and serving a warrant. A Twitter post from Joy Reid, of the blog the Reid Report, put it this way last week: "Disconnect: liberals see a suddenly 'militarized,' possibly federalized police force. Black people see 'the usual.'"</p> <p>The police behavior at U.C. Davis -- manifestly not "rogue-cop," a trained, planned exercise -- reveals the cool military thinking behind the operation. Pepper-spraying looked surgical, preemptive, even robotic. The strategic directive must have been to conserve police effort and maintain police maneuverability at virtually any cost. Such efficiencies and capabilities would be important in a riot; they're not important when hoping to evict unarmed, seated protesters. It's not as if officers have been resorting to battle gear under otherwise unmanageable pressure or initiating violence only as a last resort. They've been arriving in battle gear. They've been construing noncompliance as potential attack. They've moved preemptively to disable attack where none existed, not just trying to evict but seemingly hoping to inspire fear, to punish and defeat.</p> <p>The mood these operations convey is that failure to achieve police objectives must result in something awful for the body politic. In reality, leaving citizens sitting around a park or campus a few more days, even possibly illegally, might be frustrating for police and others; it's hardly the end of the world. Sometimes taking a few deep breaths is the only thing to do. But military training, tactics, and weaponry seem to inspire the idea in civic strategists that failure to achieve an objective is tantamount to fatal defeat by a hostile enemy. Intolerable. Not an option.</p> <p>That mentality tends to place American governments at enmity with their dissident citizens -- and vice versa. The fact that much militarizing of police, over the past twenty years, has federal sources raises endlessly complicated questions that reflect strangely on the histories of American federalism and government suppression. A horrific theme of the Civil Rights Movement was police violence, and many Americans have branded on their brains the watercannons, clubs, dogs, fists, and boots used against nonviolent protesters in the 1950s; police involved were generally state and local. Then in 1957 federal troops -- the 101st Airborne Paratroopers -- entered Little Rock, Arkansas, with fixed bayonets, to enforce federal law by ensuring the entry of African American students to state school there; states-rights advocates talked about federal overreaching and police state, the end of liberty. Then again, in the 1960s and '70s the federal government, via its law-enforcement arm the FBI, carried out a covert war -- involving assassination, it's fairly uncontroversial to say -- on the militant activist group the Black Panthers, who it's fairly uncontroversial to say were not always peaceful protesters.</p> <p>Responding now to police efforts against demonstrators, liberals and leftists have begun raising anew the issue of inappropriate police militarization and violence. Yet it's the libertarian right that has done much of the reporting and research on the issue in recent decades (<a href="http://www.democracynow.org/">Democracy Now!</a> is among left-liberal institutions that have also covered the issue for many years). The current state of heightened awareness means there's a possibly interesting opportunity for people of varying backgrounds and politics to begin a new conversation. That conversation would involve some very strange bedfellows -- and might spark new enmities. The Salon columnist Joan Walsh's suggestion last weekend on Twitter that if police violence has federal sources, then President Obama bears some responsibility set off a torrent of invective violent even by Twitter standards.</p> <p>James Madison may offer some long-range perspective. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, <a href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_531.asp">arguing</a> for forming a nation instead of retaining the confederation of states, he said that force applied to citizens collectively rather than individually ceases to be law enforcement and becomes war; groups so treated will seize the opportunity to dissolve all compacts by which they might otherwise have been bound. Madison's argued against militarism in favor not of anarchy but of a higher kind of law and order.</p> <p>And in 1794, Secretary of State Edmund Randolph, advising President Washington (to no avail) to eschew military adventure against the so-called <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion">Whiskey Rebels</a>, and to use prosecutions instead, argued passionately that the real strength of government always lies not in coercion but in the affection of the people. Randolph was facing an actual insurrection, with threat of secession, not a peaceful protest; there were federal crimes involved. Still he advised against a military operation. The loathing of military suppression as a substitute for due process of law, going back to our first administration, runs deep in the American psyche.</p> <p>But it's worth remembering that equally strong feelings have always run the other way. Long before events known as the Whiskey Rebellion had risen to any kind of crisis, Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, was urging Washington to bring military force against citizens somewhere in the country; otherwise, Hamilton believed, authority would always be in question. When Washington did so, he ignored habeas corpus and nearly every individual right set out in the new Bill of Rights, federalizing militias to bring overwhelming force to shock and awe innocent citizens of an entire region of the country. In his book <em>Crisis and Command</em>, John Yoo, author of the notorious "torture memo," has defended the George W. Bush administration's tactics in dealing with suspected terrorists by citing precedent -- not wrongly -- in Washington's behavior in the 1790s.</p> <p>"Is this still my country?" That's been a question from day one, asked by Americans of widely diverging views in response to government crackdowns on protest. Objecting to military violence against protesting citizens may be inherently American. The urge to crack down can look inherently American too.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->William Hogeland is the author of the narrative histories 'Declaration' and 'The Whiskey Rebellion' and a collection of essays, 'Inventing American History.' </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2011 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '668571'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=668571" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 22 Nov 2011 01:00:01 -0800 William Hogeland, AlterNet 668571 at http://www.alternet.org Occupy Wall Street Occupy Wall Street News & Politics Economy Human Rights military civil liberties police protests bill of rights pepper spray occupy wall street u.c. davis 4 Ways the Poor Get Screwed That Everyone Takes for Granted http://www.alternet.org/story/153043/4_ways_the_poor_get_screwed_that_everyone_takes_for_granted <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '668465'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=668465" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Even if we&#039;re not in the 1%, lots of us still benefit every day from policies that burden the less financially fortunate.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I'm not in the 1%. At the lower end of what I think of as the upper middle class, I nevertheless take daily advantage of a raft of systems intended to ensure that people who have less money than I do pay more than I do. Since my economic advantages result from public policy, it's fair to call them taxes, levied on people least able to afford them and applied upward for the benefit of people like me. Since the glory days of feudalism are long over, and we don't like to revel in high position, matters are arranged to keep me and people like me from noticing the systemic nature of our economic advantage.</p> <p>Here, therefore, are four quotidian things we deal with half-consciously every day that move money upward and keep it there:</p> <p><strong>1. ATM's.</strong> Some readers have reason to think the lowest amount that can be withdrawn from an ATM is a twenty-dollar bill. Others have reason to know that in less privileged parts of town, ATM companies set the machines to dispense ten-dollar bills, with ads calling attention to the fact. The reason is fairly obvious: many people's balances and obligations don't permit them to withdraw $20 at one time, and ATM companies and storeowners don't want to miss out on collecting fees in such a large -- and these days, and in those neighborhoods, such a growing -- population.</p> <p>The up-front fee for withdrawing $10 is the same as the up-front fee for withdrawing other amounts. That gives me a distinct, recurring financial advantage over less well-off neighbors. This morning, for example, on my way to the subway, I withdrew $120 at a local ATM, paying $1.75 on the transaction -- around 1.5%, a reasonable fee for the convenience. I usually take out as much cash as I can when using an ATM not at my bank. It saves money. And if I keep a certain balance in my account, I pay no transaction fee to my own bank for using the ATM.</p> <p>An up-against-it neighbor, by contrast, made a ten-dollar withdrawal, paying the $1.75 fee too. Where my cost was less than 2%, his was 17.5%. If his bank account is less “preferred” than mine, he’s paying his bank a fee on the transaction too, a fee not announced at the ATM. The act of taking out cash costs him proportionally more than ten times what it costs me, and possibly far more. Because I can afford it, my money is cheap to get. Because he can't, his is expensive.</p> <p>Changing that situation would require a law changing how ATM fees work. That law's nonexistence is an act of financial-regulation policy. I'm not in the 1%, but that famous -- or infamous -- banking-government connection is operating to my financial benefit.</p> <p><strong>2. Subway Cards.</strong> My pockets full of cheaply accessed folding money, I proceeded this morning to the subway station to buy a MetroCard, which is how we pay for public-transportation in New York City. When you put more than $10 on a MetroCard, you receive a 7% bonus. I put $80 on the card, the maximum. That way I get what I think of as two free rides, plus part of another one.</p> <p>The fantasy that I'm getting nearly three free rides, on top of 35.5 rides that I think I purchased for $80, is predicated on the false premise, advertised by the Metropolitan Transit Association, that subway fare is $2.25 per ride. In reality, the fare is capped at $2.25 per ride for a round trip -- but it isn't set there. Nothing’s free: the fare per ride varies, of course, depending on how much you put on the card.</p> <p>Fares go down for those who can afford more, up for those who can afford less. If you can afford only a round-trip card, your fare will indeed be $2.25 each way. If you put a large amount on the card -- and, a key consideration, if you can tolerate the concomitant risk of losing that card -- you can get your subway fare down to about $2.00 per ride.</p> <p>In other words, after some hasty scribbling, I find that a 7% bonus for those with the most to spend equates with a 12.5% extra charge for those with the least. The rationale for this policy, I think, is that the bonus "incentivizes" me to use public transportation (though not being in the 1%, I have no helicopter), to keep living in the city, to support the tax base, etc. Various choices I’m described as enjoying make me eligible, as a matter of public policy, for programmatic benefits not granted those with fewer choices.</p> <p>I know there are reduced-fare subway programs, which, along with other relief programs like food stamps, give people with fewer resources ways of getting easier terms on essential goods and services. You have to apply for such government programs, and at first glance that seems natural enough. Yet the program I'm in, every bit as much a government program as the relief one -- the program that charges poorer people to benefit me -- requires no application.</p> <p><strong>3. American Express. </strong>When I was buying that MetroCard this morning, I decided not to use the cash I was lucky enough to withdraw from my ATM at such a comparatively low discount. I used my American Express card instead.</p> <p>Many of us who are not in the 1% have American Express cards. They cost money to own, since the financial advantages of owning them are tangible. My neighbor -- the same one who withdrew money from the ATM at more than ten times my cost, and then spent 12.5% more per subway ride than I did -- had to take the money to pay for his MetroCard out of his pocket, or out of his bank account via debit, right there at the point of purchase.</p> <p>But no money came out of my pocket or account when I bought my MetroCard. That money won't leave my virtual coffers until I get the AmEX bill and get around to paying it, and until my check then clears. So if my money is in a money market, for example, it's actually making me yet more money while my AmEx bill waits to be paid. The "float" on my single MetroCard purchase may be negligible -- but the more times and ways I postpone payment this way, the more money I keep, in the short term, to grow for the long term.</p> <p>Plus I am "awarded" "points" by American Express for every dollar I've thus postponed spending. That makes it cheaper for me than for those who can't afford the card to fly in a plane, to rent a car, etc. Membership has its privileges: nonmembers paying more.</p> <p>And AmEx is a service I pay for, not a line of high-interest credit I access. Should that neighbor of mine, when buying his MetroCard, decide he needs to hold onto his expensive cash withdrawal, and not further lower his precarious balance via debit, and should he therefore use a credit card for his subway ride, he will pay up to another 20% more on the subway fare than I do.</p> <p><strong>4. Sales and Sin Taxes.</strong> As the MetroCard bonus is framed not as a tax on those who can't afford it but as a benefit for those who can, sales taxes and sin taxes go the other way: they admit to being taxes, but they don't admit to being overwhelmingly for the benefit of the better-off.</p> <p>Sales tax is a "flat" tax, like the ATM fee, notoriously regressive. Government's dunning the buyer of a $60 pair of jeans with a 5% sales tax, say, regardless of whether the buyer makes $20,000 or $2,000,0000 per year, places a disproportionately greater responsibility on the poorer buyer for contributing to the public revenue. In New York, therefore, the state doesn’t tax the purchase of essential items like clothing priced under $55. And the same percentage is charged for a $60 or a $600 pair of jeans -- so the person who can afford a more expensive pair does therefore pay more. You have to be buying something like a yacht to see the rate itself go up, and not being in the 1%, I’m not buying one of those. Sales taxes thus benefit me in ways not immediately obvious when paying them.</p> <p>The tobacco excise, too – a “sin” tax -- should be seen as a regressive tax that masquerades as something else. The tobacco excise comes cloaked in concern for the health and welfare of smokers: the tax is rationalized as a disincentive, in this case, from doing something bad for health.</p> <p>But in New York City, the price of a pack of cigarettes can exceed $15.00, and New York State collected $10 billion in tobacco taxes over the last six years. It's no secret that at this point long-term smokers come in large numbers from the disadvantaged; it's no secret that they're not indulging a luxurious habit out of some perverse choice but feeding a flat-out addiction. If they buy cartons, they can save, but buying cartons, like putting $80 on a MetroCard or beating down the ATM discount, takes cash flow.</p> <p>They could quit, of course, and it's easy enough to say they should -- but can anyone seriously believe that if smoking hadn't become, partly through public policy efforts, overwhelmingly a behavior of people with lower incomes, and if the upper middle class were still chain-smoking like it's 1962, that taxes on cigarettes would be anywhere near where they are now? The regressive taxation involved in tobacco has made the hard core of low-income smokers’ quitting economically undesirable for everyone else.</p> <p>That situation works out well for me financially. Because I don't smoke, I rely on a large group of underclass addicts with little real choice in the matter to pay a significant portion of the revenue that funds civil services I use. If people who are now shelling out the cigarette tax were to stop smoking -- or if we banned the sale of this product we claim to find so destructive -- I'd be paying more.</p> <p> That's not likely to happen. Once again, those with less money are paying more of theirs so that I can keep and grow more of mine.</p> <p>I don't own that helicopter or that yacht. And I've seen the graphs. I've seen that line representing possession and growth turn vertiginously upward when it gets above my level and enters the 1%. I can only imagine what goes on up there, so far over my head. Here in the upper parts of the 99%, government and the financial industry work together to keep me only dimly aware of the persistent economic edge they give me every day.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->William Hogeland is the author of the narrative histories 'Declaration' and 'The Whiskey Rebellion' and a collection of essays, 'Inventing American History.'. </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2011 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '668465'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=668465" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 11 Nov 2011 04:00:01 -0800 William Hogeland, AlterNet 668465 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Occupy Wall Street Economy economy tax policy occupy wall street 1% public policy Tea Partiers Have a Very Mixed-Up Notion of What the American Revolution Was About http://www.alternet.org/story/150097/tea_partiers_have_a_very_mixed-up_notion_of_what_the_american_revolution_was_about <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Memo to Tea Party: The major political battle during the American Revolution was over the proper uses of money and credit. Not getting government out of the economy.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><blockquote></blockquote> <p><strong><em>Note:</em></strong><em>Think the Tea Party has a monopoly on American history and values? Think again. With</em><a href="http://www.newdeal20.org/category/founding-finance/"><em>'Founding Finance'</em></a><em>, the Roosevelt Institute's</em><a href="http://www.newdeal20.org/"><em>New Deal 2.0 blog</em></a><em>reclaims the progressive narrative from the earliest days of the Republic, showing how ordinary Americans bravely stood up to financial elites. Tune in <a href="http://www.newdeal20.org/">every Monday</a> for author William Hogleand's rousing stories of our forbears who fought for economic prosperity.</em></p> <blockquote> <p>“I got debts that no honest man can pay … ”~~Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City”</p></blockquote> <p>O. Max Gardner III, a patrician lawyer in Shelby, North Carolina, has started a movement for resisting home mortgage foreclosures.</p> <p>In what <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/10/28/us-usa-foreclosure-gardner-idUSTRE69Q5XM20101028">Reuters describes as “legal jiu jitsu,”</a> Gardner teaches techniques for using a bank’s lumbering hugeness to enable people to stay in their homes long after banks want them gone. He’s not alone. A foreclosure resistance movement has gained national traction in the past year. The <em>Times</em> has reported on <a target="_blank" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/nyregion/18foreclose.html">local sheriffs’ refusals to evict</a>, and in an especially pointed act of guerilla theater, Patrick Rodgers of Philadelphia recently turned the tables on Wells Fargo by starting a foreclosure against the bank’s local mortgage office. According to <a target="_blank" href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/philadelphia-man-forecloses-wells-fargo-mortgage/story?id=12932362">ABC News</a>, the bank had not paid Rodgers a court-ordered judgment it sustained in the process of failing to respond to his demand under the <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_Estate_Settlement_Procedures_Act">Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act</a> (RESPA) for information about his mortgage. Rodgers thought his foreclosure gesture would at least get the bank’s attention.</p> <p>The foreclosure resistance movement understandably disconcerts those who are concerned above all about fulfilling legal contracts and taking what the Tea Party-connected right calls “personal responsibility” for the inability to make mortgage payments. Yet the resistance has strong precedents in the same founding-era America to which the Tea Party constantly appeals. Conflicts not between American colonists and the British government but between small-scale American debtors and big-time American creditors illuminate struggles that continue today.</p> <p>It can be hard to envision an early America seething with conflict between ordinary, hardworking Americans, stifled in their efforts to get ahead, and the rich, predatory Americans who stifled them. Prevailing historical fantasies of pre-Revolutionary America conjure a modestly thriving yeomanry, along with craftsmen, small businesspeople, and merchants participating together in a representative civics. In this fantasy, income and wealth disparities look minor and manageable; slavery and women’s subjugation are terrible deviations from an ethos of liberty shared more or less democratically by free Americans of all types. The main problem for everyone is the restrictive influence of the British elements in government. The rosy narrative has it that a revolution dedicated to freedom of trade and thought and the proposition that all men are created equal will launch this society on a grand progress, embattled but irresistible, toward a democracy that includes everybody.</p> <p>Of course many historians have added troubling nuance to that picture; some have debunked it entirely. Certain history students, possibly over-interpreting the work of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.howardzinn.org/zinn/">Howard Zinn</a>, routinely reduce famous American founders to self-interested hypocrites. Yet across the political spectrum, fuzziness about founding-era economics, credit and monetary policy persists. The fuzziness helps today’s populist right cast nativism and unfettered markets as essentially American.</p> <p>The possibly startling fact is that the major social battle raging before, during, and after the American Revolution was over the proper uses of money and credit in American life. For ordinary people of the period, these were hardly abstractions. The only real money in 18th-century America was metal — silver and gold coin from England, Spain, and Mexico — and for long, terrible periods, money was rarely seen by ordinary people. Small farmers and artisans, wanting to survive and improve their lot, had to borrow. Merchants, gaining access to metal through imperial trading networks, used their money to make money, becoming lenders. Well before the Revolution, Americans defined themselves in practical terms either as “debtors” — poor and working people in small-scale enterprise — or “creditors” — well-heeled merchants growing their money by lending it.</p> <p>Workings of the debtor-creditor relationship will sound unpleasantly familiar. Merchants had the money supply conveniently sewn up. Small farmers and artisans had to post the land and shops they hoped to develop as collateral for the credit they needed. Merchants might set interest rates as high as twelve percent — per month. Default, often predictable at the loan’s outset, subjected borrowers to foreclosures, which in bad times were epidemic. Families became indigent while their land, tools, and homes were snapped up at bargain prices, often by the merchants themselves, who speculated in land as well, and were building immense parcels. The rich got richer.</p> <p>Is it any wonder that ordinary people viewed this disastrous economic predicament not as some incidental fallout from vigorous free-market competition, but as an egregious, systemic injustice with political, moral, even spiritual implications? They were being held back, exploited, and even ruined by a monopoly on money and credit. And unlike today’s populist right, founding-era Americans did not imagine that government’s simply leaving markets alone would create new and exciting opportunities for them. They believed their governments should make laws to restrain the overwhelming power of the creditors’ metal and protect those who labored and produced goods from those who planned dynasties of descendants living in luxurious idleness.</p> <p>And remember: unless people had property in excess of certain amounts, they couldn’t vote. Whig elites — the ones who became patriot leaders, lionized today — axiomatically equated the right of representation with property. It took even more property to run for office. Legislatures erected counties to ensure that representation favored the rich and the cities. They placed cash fees on every imaginable transaction, paralyzing working people’s efforts to pursue legal recourse and enriching lawmakers’ friends and families appointed as collectors and administrators. Roads and other infrastructure built at public expense (and by coerced labor taxes) served the merchant interest, not the people’s. Hardly an embryonic American democracy, representative colonial governments were monopolized by forces that small-scale debtors and tenant farmers could only view as a creditor conspiracy to exploit their labor, prevent their participation, and take what stuff they had.</p> <p>­So they organized in vociferous protest. “Mob” is a loaded term; “crowd” is perhaps more fair, and early American crowd action should be understood as a tactic, in the absence of access to the franchise, for pressuring and even changing government. One of the most famous outbreaks occurred in the 1760’s in North Carolina, when ordinary people briefly had a few champions in the legislature. They forcibly closed courts, tore down corrupt officials’ homes, and finally went to war against the provincial government. Royal Governor William Tryon put that rebellion down — but the King’s appointee was more sympathetic to the people’s plight than upscale American legislators and merchants were.</p> <p>Crowds could be flamboyantly scary and even violent, but they did not run amok, merely venting. In carefully organized disruptions, people moved en masse into courthouses where debt cases were heard, shutting down a judicial process they considered unjust. They felled huge trees across roads to prevent sheriffs from repossessing homes. They enforced no-buy covenants when foreclosed property went up for auction. They staged daring rescues of prisoners held on debt charges. Serving on juries in debt cases, they refused to convict. Well before the famous Stamp Act riots and other acts of resistance to new British trade laws, American life involved orchestrated crowd actions to prevent financial injustice and push government to act on behalf of ordinary people. After the Revolution, the event known as <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays%27s_Rebellion">Shays’ Rebellion</a> became only the most famous of the debtor uprisings that continued the people’s struggle in a new political context.</p> <p>While emulating Shaysite and other debtor crowd actions today would pose an interesting counter-demonstration to Tea Party efforts, the question this history really raises has to do with what Americans want from their government. Do we really want to roll back “nanny state” protections like RESPA, for example, under which an ordinary citizen like Patrick Rodgers was able to interrogate his bank? RESPA is but one detail in a program — and a power — that our ancestors painfully lacked.</p> <p>Tea Party history insists ordinary, hard-working Americans of the founding era wanted nothing more than to reduce government and keep it out of economic markets. But what those Americans really wanted can be gleaned from their terminology. The rich called them rioters. The people called themselves regulators.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->William Hogeland is the author of the narrative histories Declaration and The Whiskey Rebellion and a collection of essays, Inventing American History. He has spoken on unexpected connections between history and politics at the National Archives, the Kansas City Public Library, and various corporate and organization events. He blogs at <a href="http://www.williamhogeland.com">http://www.williamhogeland.com</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 01 Mar 2011 11:00:01 -0800 William Hogeland, NewDeal 2.0 665469 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy history credit money foreclosures tea party american revolution Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann Would Call 18th-Century Philadelphia Freedom Fighters 'Un-American' http://www.alternet.org/story/150027/sarah_palin_and_michele_bachmann_would_call_18th-century_philadelphia_freedom_fighters_%27un-american%27 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Right-wing efforts to cast passive government, unfettered markets, and wholesale tax resistance as the founding values of ordinary America have very little basis.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>In a brand new series, “Founding Finance”, author William Hogeland challenges Tea Party myths about the early days of our Republic and reveals the rich progressive tradition of Americans fighting for economic justice.</em></p> <p>At a recent<a target="_blank" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-j0oIUx030">speech in Iowa</a>, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann induced widespread cringing with her claim that Americans of the founding period, no matter who they were, enjoyed exceptional freedom to pursue their hopes for betterment. Slavery and the U.S. Constitution’s <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-fifths_compromise">three-fifths clause</a>don’t qualify as little-known facts, and Bachmann seemed ignorant, too, of women’s original exclusion from rights secured by the representative government established in the Constitution. Who knows how she’d evaluate the native population’s historic situation.</p> <p>There’s another group that Bachmann might be surprised to learn suffered exclusion from political participation in founding-era America: Most of the free, white male artisans, laborers, and small farmers. That’s right, an overwhelming majority of the white men in early America would dissent heartily from the idea that they were free to advance themselves, through work and pluck and luck, regardless of who they were and what they owned. Ordinary, working Americans of the period — the very type the Tea Party constantly evokes — were engaged in a ceaseless struggle against the wealthy, well-connected American merchants and landowners who sewed up business and barred the unprivileged from political power.</p> <p>In that struggle, 18th-century populists came to articulate a radical new idea about the relationship of liberty and equality, anathema to the Tea Party politics of today. Securing true liberty, working Americans of the founding period insisted, requires government to regulate business and finance in the interest of economic fairness. They demanded such things as debt relief, an end to the regressive gold standard, the severing of rights from property, and legal curtailment of mercantile interests. Some wanted progressive taxation; some envisioned a social security program. Their real political ethos directly contradicts current right-wing efforts to cast passive government, unfettered markets, and wholesale tax resistance as the founding values of ordinary America.</p> <p>Many progressives, too, will find it counterintuitive to contemplate an 18th-century American economic radicalism. Getting a clearer look at the period requires revisiting Philadelphia in 1776 — but this time walking eastward on Chestnut Street, away from the soaring State House, one day to be called Independence Hall, where the Continental Congress meets, and peeking instead into the smaller but ruggedly beautiful artisan headquarters <a target="_blank" href="http://www.carpentershall.org/visit/virtualtour.htm">Carpenter’s Hall</a>. Delegates noisily crowding the floor here are writing a constitution for the newly independent Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In dress, speech, and attitude these men are nothing like the well-heeled members of the fabled Congress up the street. These are small farmers, artisans, and laborers, the ordinary free white men of the period. They boast no well-placed family connections. They lack fancy educations and professions. Almost all of them are new to representative office.</p> <p>While in some ways the men of Carpenter’s Hall might appear to be ancestors of Sarah Palin’s “real Americans”– they hunt, fish, build, farm; they keep and bear arms (and serve in militias); they’re political newcomers — Palin would brand them socialists. They’re here to create a radically new kind of government, one that restrains wealth, regulates business, and empowers labor. For the first meaningful time anywhere, their <a target="_blank" href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pa08.asp">1776 Pennsylvania Constitution</a> will break the ancient connection between property and the political franchise, writing what we now call progressivism into law. Its legacy will survive in the Square Deal, the New Deal, the Great Society, and those programs’ reverberations in the very policies that today’s right condemns as categorically un-American.</p> <p>Did that radical Pennsylvania constitution gain approval from the better-heeled founders up the street? Hardly. (John Adams on the Pennsylvania document: “Good God!”) Did it last? Only until 1790 (it was overturned by upscale forces whose power it had tried to restrict). Do historians give it much credit?  Many do — but not Samuel Eliot Morison, for example. His suggestion in <a target="_blank" href="http://www.alibris.com/search/books/qwork/9188720/used/The%20Conservative%20American%20Revolution%3A%20Volume%20I">The Conservative American Revolution</a> that the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution impressed nobody but French revolutionaries epitomizes the mood of dismissal, at once airy and leery, that many big-name historians, both liberal and conservative, have adopted when considering our earliest radical movements for economic equality. Historians across the political spectrum who prefer American consensus to American conflict have downplayed the long struggle that came to a kind of fruition in 1776 Pennsylvania. So we don’t know much about it.</p> <p>Historical marginalizing of our founding challenges to economic elites damages current political thinking. Modern progressives seeking precedents in history tend to travel backward through the New Deal, come to a screeching halt at the Populist and Progressive movements, squint approvingly back at Jackson, and fail to focus on the horizon where an economically egalitarian American spirit, more truly radical than Jackson’s, seethes, neglected. Reclaiming that spirit — at the very least exploring it — would have the virtue of denying the Tea Party a monopoly on anything supposedly fundamental about the American founding and American values.</p> <p>Reclaiming our founding tradition would also give a rest to the endless ideological tug of war over the famous founders. One of the most exciting things about our early popular movement is that it centered — in a way that Jefferson’s and Madison’s philosophies of government, as brilliant as they are, didn’t — on just the kinds of real-life economic issues that still confront so many Americans today. Foreclosure epidemics, insider high-finance corruption, predatory lending, recessions and depressions, income disparity, mercantile exploitation of labor . . . ordinary 18th-century Americans applied themselves to these problems with both sophistication and courage.</p> <p>So in succeeding posts, I’ll dig into and expand on the welter of people, ideas, and actions that make the founding era such a surprisingly fertile and compelling one — sometimes a problematic one too — for progressive economics and politics today. My guiding theme, especially relevant these days, involves finance. As the historian Terry Bouton shows in his benchmark study <a target="_blank" href="http://www.amazon.com/Taming-Democracy-Founders-Troubled-Revolution/dp/0195378563/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=books&amp;qid=1297803403&amp;sr=1-1">Taming Democracy</a>, ordinary 18th-century Americans had a grasp of public and private finance that many otherwise sophisticated people lack today. Further posts in this series will therefore get into 18th-century foreclosure crises and debtor uprisings; the founding bonded national debt; early labor organizing and popular demands on government; the structure and economic intentions of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution; the gold standard versus paper and other popular currencies; founding-era real-estate and debt-securitization bubbles; etc. Stay tuned . . .</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->William Hogeland is the author of the narrative histories Declaration and The Whiskey Rebellion and a collection of essays, Inventing American History. He has spoken on unexpected connections between history and politics at the National Archives, the Kansas City Public Library, and various corporate and organization events. He blogs at <a href="http://williamhogeland.com">williamhogeland.com</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 23 Feb 2011 12:00:01 -0800 William Hogeland, NewDeal 2.0 665382 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing News & Politics michele bachmann sarah palin