Volatility

November 12, 2016

What is “States’ Rights”?

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And so once again we see lots of rhetoric about “states rights”. What does this term mean? I’ll begin by describing the principle of it, insofar as I can deduce any principle from the rather inchoate rhetoric of its proponents. Of course what it’s really supposed to mean in practice is something different, i.e. the usual collaboration with corporations.
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1. It makes a fetish of lines drawn on a map rather than any value derived from morality or reason.
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2. It does not want to be rational and base political units on watersheds or foodsheds.
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3. It is a form of pure statism which wants arbitrarily to centralize beyond rationally defined boundaries for no purpose other than to concentrate power.
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4. It differs from other pure statists in that it wants arbitrarily to halt the centralization at some point rather than expand this indefinitely. Lacking any other basis for where to call a halt, it chooses the arbitrary borders* of US states as the place to do this.
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[*There’s a few state borderlines which run along the crests of mountain ranges where streams divide, and thus in themselves are rational. But these are never organically part of any larger rational system of borders. Meanwhile far more common is the actively irrational practice of using rivers themselves as legal-political borders. This is worse than purely arbitrary; it aggressively splits reason in half.]
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So there it is. States rights ideology is based on two arbitrary leaps. First, it arbitrarily wants to centralize beyond rational boundaries and without regard for any rational or moral value. It has this in common with other forms of statism. Second, and contrary to conventional statism, it arbitrarily wants to halt the centralizing process somewhere short of however far power can concentrate itself.
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Some may say I’m leaving something out, that states rights does have a value, the value of constitutionalism. Allegedly, in exalting the tenth amendment this is trying to recapture the true spirit of the 1788 constitution.
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The most obvious refutation of this is that states righters, like everyone else who claims the constitution as a value, seem to care little to nothing about other core elements of the constitution such as those which would make the imperial army, the police state ,and the prison-industrial complex impossible, nor do they seem concerned to take back the constitution from corporate abusers. (For this, one must look to the community rights movement.) So in idolizing the constitution the states rights types are really just cherry-picking.
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And indeed, should the 1788 constitution, conceived by elites for the avowed purpose of quashing the American Revolution and building a continental empire (both Hamilton and Madison say so in the Federalist papers), be an object of idolatry in the first place? The fact is that constitution-worship is no value in itself for anyone, but rather is always a stalking horse for other, usually pro-corporate agendas. Of course the constitutional conventioneers accepted the Bill of Rights in the first place only under duress and only because they were confident that the authoritarian centralizing campaign enshrined in the main articles of the document wouldn’t unduly be hindered by what they saw as a pointless sop. And so it has been.
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Nor do I see any reason to think the states rights people have any greater respect than conventional centralizing statists do for the vastly more rational and morally coherent philosophy of community rights. If anything, the states rights types might be even more aggressive in wanting to allow/help corporations to devastate communities.
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Obviously in practice the notion of state rights is just like the constitution, or law, or property, or “free trade”, or “science”, or “the free press” or what have you. It’s propagated by corporate elites and meant to be used and abused, regarded and disregarded, in a purely cynical, tactical way according to whatever maximizes corporate domination.
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By fetishizing a purely arbitrary legally-defined border and caring zero for reason or any moral value, the “state rights” notion is especially useful for this corporate purpose. In this way it goes well with the most vile feral scam of all, “libertarianism”, which wants direct corporate dictatorship and uses the rhetoric of “freedom” to mean “freedom from all mutual responsibility, freedom from all human community, from all moral and rational values, license for total exploitation and theft, for those who are already rich.” Of course corporations are nothing more or less than creations and extensions of government, so to be for corporate power is by definition to be for big government, while to be against big government has to mean wanting to abolish government’s corporate power. That’s why it’s called the corporate state, a monolith. How in principle libertarians can be simultaneously for and against the most vile extremes of big government remains one of the mysteries of the universe. Of course the simple truth is that they’re liars. If they weren’t they’d be anarchists.
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Getting back to the state righters, I suppose many of them have the temperament which, among national groups, tends to manifest as nationalism. But, in spite of lots of idiotic rhetoric from conservatives and liberals alike, there is so far no such thing as an American nation, nor can a new nation ever cohere under the conditions of corporate globalization. Indeed, globalization’s basic thrust is to eradicate all human modes except that of the atomized individual, all alone in body and soul, facing the awesome might of the corporate demon. Never forget, anyone who in any way speaks against movement solidarity and organization as such is doing the work of the corporate Satan. (It should be needless to say that any political philosophy which explicitly or implicitly says voting is the be-all and end-all is part of this corporate assault.) Anyone who dreams of an American nation must commit to the total abolition of corporate rule as a prerequisite.
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It’s possible such an abolitionist movement itself can be a strong point where such a national consciousness can begin to cohere.
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Humanity and the Earth need a new movement based on a complete organic embrace of human values and reason, on the new idea necessary for a new beginning as natural history soon resumes after the berserk digression of the fossil fuel binge. And we need a movement basis which totally rejects and condemns all the lies and stupidities of the corporate global “order”. We must form the adamant core of the affirmation and the inexorable force of the negation. Anything which can be used toward these great goals may be used, but only in the right ways. The wrong ways also are for the flames.
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We have a long, hard road ahead. The necessary work is only beginning. It will continue at its necessary pace without regard for the idiocies of superficial “politics” and false “culture”. There we see nothing but decadent barbarism. The corporate age was always evil, and now it becomes ever more rancid. Sometimes it seems human beings need gas masks. It’s hard to tell what’s worse, the physical poisons or the spiritual ones.
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But the eternal wind, the wind of the spirit which nourishes and cleanses and carries us always between and through the home to which we’re heading and the home we never left, never stopped flowing. Briefly amid the din of Babylon we were unable to hear it and lost knowledge of whence and where it blows. But the strains of the new song are starting to come through.
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