Volatility

April 19, 2011

We Must Fight For Local Government, the Closest to the People’s Sovereignty

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The American Revolution went through a long ideological evolution on the issue of sovereignty. This continued an evolution going back to the 16th century in Europe. In America, the 18th century inherited the concept of sovereignty reposing in Parliament. As the colonial conflict with this body escalated in the 1760s, the activists questioned this notion of sovereignty. They experimented with the idea of sovereignty as split between the King and the legislature, with Parliament and the colonial assemblies being co-equal and having no legitimacy over one another. But eventually they abandoned this scheme in favor of the only one which makes any sense at all: Sovereignty resides only with the people.
 
This was therefore the implicit basis of the written Constitution, although the Framers, at best ambivalent about democracy, didn’t render this explicit the way they had so often in the years leading up to 1776. The closest we come in the written document to an explicit repose is in the 9th and 10th amendments, where the most legitimate power is said to reside with the states. This implicitly admits the Articles of 1788 were an arrogation. So has been all federal aggrandizement since then. (The 9th and 10th both mention the people, but in a basically condescending way; the people retain whatever rights we deign to leave to them. The 10th basically says the same thing regarding the relation of the federal government to the states, but since the entire debate over the Constitution focused on federal legitimacy vs. that of the states, it has to be taken as a more serious admission of illegitimacy on the part of the so-called “federalists”. At any rate, the entire process was illegitimate, and the document fundamentally flawed, since it despised the people’s sovereignty which had been the basis of the Revolution in the first place.)
 
So the written Constitution, by the 10th Amendment, significantly empowers the states. But since state sovereignty itself is merely a convention established only at the sufferance of the truly sovereign people, the states cannot assault the people. But that’s what we see in Michigan and Wisconsin, where administrations “elected” by a small portion of the electorate, and therefore existing with only the most threadbare pseudo-legitimacy (that is, no legitimacy at all, if we rightly consider each election a plebiscite on the entire fraudulent process) are enacting these veritably fascist Emergency Manager laws. These laws claim to empower the state government to appoint bureaucrats with the power to dissolve local governments and break contracts these governments have with the people. It’s a direct top-down assault on the very idea that local government has any legitimacy, and therefore on the fundamental American principle that the people have sovereignty. It’s a reactionary reversion to the pre-1776 mindset, an attempt to usurp pseudo-sovereignty by government elites. It’s a new escalation of the general campaign to completely roll back the American Revolution itself, as well as the accomplishments of the English Revolution prior to it. As with everything else, the goal of a restored feudalism is clear.
 
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an assertion on the part of the states. Even if one could try to argue it was technically allowed by the 10th amendment, that’s not in fact the spirit. Again, the 10th implicitly stands only on the underlying philosophy of the American Revolution, which reposes sovereignty in the people only. This in turn implicitly reposes the greatest legitimacy in local government.
 
On the contrary, the goal here as everywhere is to liquidate all democratic sovereignty and power in favor of direct centralized tyranny exercised by the federal government, acting as goon and bagman for the big banks and other big corporations.
 
This is civil war, and the front line is right in your home town. Wall Street can’t directly destroy your local government, but it’s trying to have its state-level thugs do so. Whether or not you let them is the measure of your claim to be citizens and human beings, and of your right to freedom and prosperity. This applies in every town, and it applies to we the people as a whole.

 

 
 
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10 Comments

  1. I wish it could be so. But direct democracy can’t work outside of small, homogeneous communities.
    In addition, incompetence & corruption don’t stop @ local level. Personally, I’ve had a more difficult time resolving issues with my city council reps & state assemblyman than with federal agencies. And I communicate with these individuals face to face & through social media. JH Kunstler’s world is inviting but not accessible 4 vast majority. Reading history of Rome-..Same as it ever was..(Talking Heads) A cycle in the eternal battle among patricians, populists, military, moneylenders and immigrants.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 19, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  2. I disagree, Natalie. “Direct democracy,” like any other cultural tool or attribute of human beings, is an evolved trait that can be gained or lost, strengthened or weakened. Unlike most other species, we have the ability to create and pass on cultural traits, as opposed to simply genetic and bodily traits. Russ has pointed out how this evolutionary heritage (of democracy) must be remembered, talked about, enhanced, and transmitted.

    Ancient Athens was not really that homogenous: being part of the city state was a matter of convention, not tribal or genetic. Same with the Indian tribes: they were very generous about letting escaped slaves and disaffected whites into the tribe.

    It is true there may need to be some agreement about values (democratic, egalitarian) for direct democracy to work, and there is probably an upper limit on the size of the political unit, as Rousseau pointed out. Empires are always evolving towards dictatorship or worse.

    Life may be an eternal battle, but one can hold eternal verities and values to make it worthwhile.

    Comment by Publius — April 19, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  3. I share those values-but they don’t last as generations evolve, old cycles emerge. Remember what happened to Cicero. Jefferson was a rebel in his day. Size is a problem-in business, govt & communities. How do we deal with that?

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 19, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    • The end of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels, upon which all economic “growth”, centralization, and size (as we know them) depend, as well as the intrinsic unsustainability of this Tower of Babel, render the collapse of the structure, one way or another, almost certain.

      The criminals want to ride out energy descent with their refeudalization plan. They intend to replace plentiful fossil fuels with slave labor, while the remaining oil and coal sustains their luxuries and security apparatus.

      But the other possibility is that we relocalize in an organized way to resist this and force the structure to collapse without putting the yoke on us. In the aftermath we’d have the great opportunity to reorganize to feed ourselves, provide for our other needs, and establish new, decentralized political communities to coincide with our decentralized economies.

      The oil-founded Leviathan cannot transform itself into a post-oil empire. Like Herman Daly wrote, a plane can’t change itself into a helicopter in midair. And while there’s no guarantee that out of the ruins of fossil fuel “civilization” new post-oil empires won’t eventually arise, just as empires existed pre-oil, if we could constitute a democratic revolution in the interregnum, we’d have an excellent chance of forestalling this outcome.

      Comment by Russ — April 19, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  4. Russ, do you feel like you give the Corporatist more credit than is due? As much as we see the writing on the wall of Peak Everything and scarcity-based Hard Times approaching, so do they. The efforts to subvert and destroy local democracy is a rear-guard effort to kick the legs out from citizens organizing for local self-sufficiency and consequently having no need for a Globalist Elite.

    They are acting out because they have nothing to offer and stand to lose everything when the abundance paradigm “formally” shifts to scarcity. Our actions shouldn’t be meant to corner this very dangerous animal, but induce it to act irrationally and to cede it’s own rear-guard defense in it’s mania for control.

    Perhaps the Local Governments in existence need to be shunned as illegitimate, too. Food sovereignty groups, Transition Town groups; these should form the basis of an organically reconstituted local democracy. My local assemblyman is likely cut fro the same megalomaniacal cloth as my Congressman because the same motivations pushed these individuals to seek the office; asymmetric social leverage.

    Also, this gem from YouTube:
    Programmer under oath admits computers rig elections

    Comment by Ross — April 19, 2011 @ 11:02 am

    • I know they’re aware of Peak Everything. That was one of the two main reasons they launched the neoliberal onslaught in the 70s. The 1970 US oil Peak was the signal.

      I know many people say local governments are often just as nasty as more distant ones. But those are the only ones we have a chance of taking over, and they’re going to play an important part in the struggle one way or another. They can be thugs or rallying and organizational points. I think it’s worth trying to fight to make them serve as the latter.

      But I agree that our primary need is a movement, locally centered yet confederated for mutual assistance, completely separate from all existing government structures; parallel to them, and seeking to supersede and replace them.

      (BTW, so far as I can see Transition Towns has no such ambitions whatsoever. For all the good it does, it’s still an “apolitical”, pro-capitalist, reformist organization seeking to work with and within the system.)

      Comment by Russ — April 19, 2011 @ 11:19 am

      • I only know of Transition Towns objective to mitigate and adapt for Peak Oil. There are likely “our people” involved, in spite of their limited ambitions. Certain geographies will be lost to Mad Max-type breakdown collapse. But there will be a breakdown spectrum. Transitions at least puts certain pockets on the spectrum.

        The movement needs geographic focal points. I’m outside of Chicago and there are literally thousands of local governments within a 100 miles. I don’t see myself getting any traction online – I haven’t so far. I see it from meeting people standing on the street, leaving flyers in coffee jobs and “culture jamming.” From that, attracting and establishing a core group.

        Comment by Ross — April 19, 2011 @ 11:38 am

      • I don’t have exhaustive knowledge of TT, but everything I’ve seen is like I said. I also read that they’ve had trouble importing the organization to America precisely because they have a snobbish attitude toward filthy American anti-system ideas. But I haven’t read a lot about them, so I don’t insist on that interpretation.

        I recently got one of their newest books, Local Money by Peter North. I’ve only read parts of it so far, and it looks like what I expected: Encyclopedic information, no political content. That’s OK, since I wanted it for the information on various alternative schemes, how to set them up, pros and cons, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, etc. My relocalization group is planning to set up a time bank, and our first meeting on the project is later this week.

        It sounds like you’re doing good work. I hope you find success with it. I don’t know anything about the Chicago area, although a commenter here once posted this link about an Illinois bill seeking to bestow advantages on local food.

        http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/12/23/LocalFoodBill/

        Comment by Russ — April 19, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  5. Good luck 2 those of U intending 2 establish fresh,responsive local communities/govts. Recommend reading Drop City by TC Boyle. This kind of thing was tried by communal hippie groups in the 70’s.
    Boyle’s newest, When the Killing’s Done reflects on conflicts within environmental groups.It’s difficult to achieve consensus on policy & allocation of resources. People do vote with their feet over time-as they are able. Suggest heading for exoburbs of established legislative districts with copacetic political reputations.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 19, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

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