L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 253, January 4, 2004
The 51st State
Special to TLE
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson entered into a treaty with France that included the Louisiana Purchase: the acquisition by the United States of over 800 million square acres of land. The cost to the US at the time was $15 million dollars; even adjusted for inflation at approximately $3.75 billion 2004 dollars, it was quite possibly the cheapest land deal in human history.
The Louisiana Purchase cheaply and peacefully more than doubled the size of the then-United States. It also sparked a firestorm of controversy. The problem was that while the Constitution authorizes the President to make treaties with other nations (which must then be ratified by Congress), there is no specific provision that would allow the Federal Government to add land to the United States. France's willingness to sell a huge land area for a tiny sum was clearly an opportunity that could not be overlooked by any Presidentnot even Jefferson, who certainly knew better than to grant to government more power than absolutely necessary.
Jefferson himself knew that the President's authority to make treaties was never intended to include land purchases. In his own words, the Louisiana Purchase strained the Constitution "until it cracked."
Sadly, modern Americans have lost the historical context of the Constitution. Modern America consists of one gigantic land mass with an all-powerful central government headquarted in Washington, DC. States, counties, cities, and towns are simply secondary governmental entities that are all subordinate to the supreme rulers in Washington.
This is diametrically opposed to the intent and letter of the Constitution, which establishes that the States are in fact sovereign governments in their own right, unified for several (generally minor) common interests in the Federal Government.
In short, as described by the Constitution, the Federal government has almost no power, except in wartime. The Constitution describes those limited powers, and then explicitly states that anything not listed as a power in the Constitution is a right reserved to the States or the people.
Today, the Constitution is not a literal document but an anachronism. Today, government is free to do anything it wishes, bound only by the whim of those who happen to be in power at any given time. If the FedGov wishes to acquire territory, it simply takes it.
The unlimited power of governmentparticularly the FedGovis a curse that Americans will bear until it collapses of its own instability in the fairly near future. Nowhere is this curse more evident than in the non-war in Iraq.
It is the position of the Zero Aggression Institute (http://www.0ap.org) that any government warfare is immoral for the simple reason that government cannot conduct a war without initiating force. While the 0AI applauds the efforts of any individual who wishes to liberate a populace from government force initiators such as Saddam Hussein, we cannot condone such liberation when it is undertaken by government functionaries. We believe that the best approach is that taken by the Flying Tigers, a group of volunteer militiamen who fought as private, free individuals prior to American involvement in WWII.
Beyond the 0AI's official position, the glaring problem with the non-war in Iraq is that it is in blatent violation of the Constitution.
Constitutionally, there can be no "war" by the United States without a Declaration by Congress. The last such Declaration was signed on December 17, 1941. Every "war," "police action," "cold war" and "use of military force" since that time has been entirely, 100% Unconstitutional.
Right-wing socialists wish to claim that Congress' 2003 "Joint Resolution Authorizing the Use of Military Force" was the same thing as a "Declaration of War." It was not. I invite you to peruse the text of both to see the obvious difference (Declaration of War on Japan, Joint Resolution).
Both the left- and right-wing socialists wish to claim that the "War Powers Act" allows the President the latitude to conduct a war without an official Declaration. Were the War Powers Act not itself in blatant violation of the Constitution, I'm not swayed by such arguments.
The intent and wording of the Constitution is clear and simple: war must be declared by Congress and then prosecuted by the President. It cannot be performed in the reverse order (as suggested by the War Powers Act). The conflict must be a war, with combatants listed specifically (as opposed to a "police action," "Cold War," or "Use of Military Force").
The purpose of this system is simple: to prevent military power from being concentrated in the hands of the President. This avoids the possibility that a single corrupt individual might be inclined to use the military for nefarious ends, such as bombing an aspirin factory to take attention away from his impeachment hearings, or to make up reasons to make war on a long-time enemy in order to put an entire geographic region on notice that the United States won't tolerate terrorism.
In short: the Constitution is specifically constructed to avoid the precise circumstances that Americans have been forced to endure since World War II.
The United States Federal Government is now engaged in an immoral, Unconstitutional, de facto war. It is a fact that President Bush Unconstitutionally usurped power vested in Congress in conducting this war. It is a fact that the gutless wonders in Congress allowed him to do so rather than be put on the spot by having to actually take responsibility for a real war. It is a fact that when Congressman Ron Paul (R - Texas) called for a Declaration of War against Iraq, he was rebuked by Speaker Dennis Hastert, who informed him that the Constitutional requirement in question was no longer relevant in modern America.
The question therefore becomes: how can this situation be reversed? How can we move from an immoral, Unconstitutional situation to a moral (or at worst Constitutional) one?
The right-wing socialists would have you believe that this is not a necessary transition. As with all right-wing socialists, they believe that everyone is a little bit evil, so it is therefore appropriate to eject both morality and the Constitution to protect us from ourselves.
Left-wing socialists would simply have the situation moved to an international body such as the United Nations. As with all left-wing socialists, they believe that everyone is a little bit stupid, so it is appropriate to eject both morality and the Constitution to protect us from ourselves.
The correct Constitutional position, however, is that the Federal Government is at best in violation of its own founding document, and that this situation must be corrected if the Republic is to survive. More specifically, the Zero Aggression Institute supports bringing the Federal Government into compliance with the Constitution as a first step toward morality.
How can the FedGov be brought into compliance with the Constitution? The answer is simplicity itself:
Rather than undertake to rebuild Iraq immorally and Unconstitutionally (using money stolen from the American taxpayer to undertake activities for which there is no Constitutional authority), the problem could be solved by a simple vote of annexation by the Iraqi people.
In other words: give the Iraqis the opportunity to become the fifty-first State in the Union.
This has a number of advantages. Firstly, Iraqi Statehood would put to rest all the nagging problems the empire-builders in that region currently have:
Representation in Washington could be immediately secured via popular vote for two Senators and appropriate number of Congressmen.
The question of internal governance of the State of Iraq would cease to be a problem: a State Constitutional Convention could be held, and using one of the fifty existing examples, an Iraqi State Constitution devised. State Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches could be established, Senators and Representatives, a Governor, and judges elected.
There would no longer be any question about American troops being stationed in a foreign country: the Federal military would remain in Iraq long enough for the State Government to become viable, at which point local citizens could form their own National Guard.
For libertarians, Iraqi statehood would be a godsend:
Firstly, being a recently-liberated people, the Iraqis would no doubt insist that their new Federal Government be bound by the letter of the lawit would be entirely catastrophic for them if it were not.
They would insist that Bill of Rights be upheld, in particular. At present, Iraqis may own fully-automatic weapons unheard-of in the United States, and would object to their confiscation. Iraqi statehood would absolutely transform the nature of gun control, probably eliminating it for another two centuries.
Iraqis would object to having 50% of their income stolen from them by government at some level. They've just been liberated from a dictator, and would no doubt be enraged to discover that in terms of the money they take home to their families, nothing had changed. Iraq would probably be the least-taxed State in the Union, with loud voices at the Federal level calling for a reduction in Federal tax rates.
Because of the vast cultural differences between Iraq and the four dominant cultures of the continental States, an Iraqi State would have to insist that the original intent of the Constitution be upheld: that the United States are a collection of sovereign States with more power than that vested in the Federal Government. This would end debate regarding Federal involvement in an extraordinary number of issues, ranging from abortion to an official national language.
In short, accepting that there is no way to reverse time and force President Bush to conduct the non-war in a Constitutional fashion, the admission of Iraq into the United States could well be the answer to libertarians' dreams. Iraqi involvement in Federal politics would have the effect of transforming the Federal Government back into what it was supposed to be: an entity with little power, particularly when compared to that of the State government or the individual.
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