A terrifying account in the Sunday editions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press explains why my family and I spent about F$200 this week on books, including a copy of The Anti-Federalist Papers ‡ and other volumes that point a way toward a freer future.
Local economy and the free market are stymied by the state in many ways. The more obvious ones are government-controlled credit, taxation and subsidies. Less obvious ones are those hidden among criminal statutes that impose draconian punishments for slight infractions.
Here’s an outline of the story. Edward Young is convicted for burglary and serves time in Tennessee prison. He meets his wife, Stacy, and marries; they have four children. Mr. Young helps a neighbor, Neva Mumpower, recently widowed, move. Mrs. Mumpower tells him that if he assists her in disposing her furnishings at a flea market, she’ll split the proceeds with him. Mr. Young takes custody of a piece of furniture containing seven shotgun shells; he accounts for them, intending to deal with the objects later. But he forgets about them. In 2011 he falls into crime again, thievery, and in a search of his house in Hixson, a police hunting party finds the shotgun shells in Mrs. Mumpower’s furnishings on Mr. Young’s property.
Reaching into Chattanooga from its international jurisdiction, a pliable federal grand jury in Chattanooga indicts Mr. Young under provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) that holds in part that a convicted felon is not allowed “to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” Notice the pretense of the banned weapon being an object in interstate commerce.
“Once the charges were filed and the federal grand jury indicted Young, nothing could stop the machine that is federal law,” the Times Free Press says in its Page A1 story. Prosecutor Chris Poole argues Mr. Young is a career criminal who deserves at least a minimum 15-year term. Judge Curtis Collier, justifying the words dropping from his lips, says the 15-year sentence he imposes “is not so much a punishment for the present crime as it is a punishment for your history of crimes.”
Helpless, except in our living
The story about the Young family is a tale of grief. It is about an attack on local economy. Mrs. Young is going to have to provide for four children ranging from 6 to 16. The couple’s youngest boy will be 20 when his father leaves federal prison at age 62). The story reflects the Pharisaism in American law promulgated by Republicans and Democrats in the federal legislature. It’s fair to call it Pharisaism because, as the lawyering in Jesus’ day in the old Hebrew republic, it represents an effort to be holier than God. The Pharisees, ostensibly to keep people from breaking any of the 10 commandments, wrapped God’s laws in their own codifications, and became, as it were, more righteous than the Almighty.
National government is marked by not only by financial unsustainability and dysfunctionality. But by injustice; the antifederalists in the 1780s warned about the potential for despotism inherent in its shift away from the articles of confederation to having a strong man in Washington, D.C.
At the homeschool expo over the weekend and the Friends of the Library book sale that concluded today I have added several worthy additions to a small personal library. How did Chattanooga and Tennessee get into their fix. How did these legacy systems fiercely disconnected from justice come upon us? Is there anything good people might do?
➤ The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution. (Liberty Fund) This 1800 volume by Friedrich von Gentz was translated from German by John Quincy Adams, the sixth federal president under the constitution. The thesis: the American colonies were acting under law, while the French humanists, under their cry of equality and fraternity, were acting against law.
➤ The End of the Nation State[;] The Rise of Regional Economies, by Kenichi Ohmae, 1995. This important work explores how national governments, controlled by maps, are being made increasingly irrelevant by the free flow of capital and information. “In a world where economic borders are progressively disappearing, are their [states’] arbitrary, historically accidental boundaries genuinely meaningful in economic terms?” (p. 2)
➤ The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. This is a fresh translation of Max Weber’s important sociological study showing how modern capitalism rises from a revived Christianity at the time of the Protestant Reformation (Calvinism). This 2011 edition from Oxford University Press is the revised 1920 edition of Weber’s work in German.
➤ Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals. It’s time I read this book to learn more about community organizations’ role in a continuing revolution in favor of statism. Mr. Alinsky dedicates the book to “the very first radical” who “at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
➤ Nullifying Tyranny[;] Creating Moral Communities in an Immoral Society, by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy, 2010. The authors are pushing for a constitutional amendment recognizing states’ nullificatory powers as against Uncle. My theory of local economy does not have high regard for high-minded and hugely complicated and costly political efforts of that kind. It favors instead local action, local investment, repatriation of capital to home and personal business, liquidity, pronatalism, service to the other and vigorous Christian living. Politics, as an exhausted god, seems ever less capable of any sort of reform.
➤ Pierre Viret[;] The Angel of the Reformation, by R.A. Sheets. I lived nearly two years in Lausanne, Switzerland, home of Viret, a contemporary of John Calvin. This beautifully illustrated history relates how Viret in the mid-1500s helped shatter the Roman Catholic deathgrip on Christendom by biblical teaching. Main arguments of the reformers: The sovereignty of God, the imperial prerogatives of Christ and the glory of unmerited grace upon sinners.
➤ How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary. This 2004 book is by a preeminent constitutional lawyer, Edwin Vieira, whose important work deals with constitutional coin and currency, Pieces of Eight. Main theory: state nullification of federal edict and opinions, impeachment of federal judges for lack of good behavior. I see the power of interposition by lesser magistrates as a growing Tulis book shelf theme.
➤ Private Means, Public Ends: Voluntarism vs. Coercion. This book from the Foundation for Economic Education points out that “Private action occurs within a staggering array of institutions, integrated by the market mechanism. Individuals and communities of individuals, working sometimes in their own interests and sometimes as altruists, build a society largely independent of governmental ministrations.” Gift book for a boy at which I’ll look.
➤ The Design Revolution[;] Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. 2004, William A. Dembski. This book is one of two dealing with information systems that I will be giving to my eldest son, David, 19, a computer engineering student at UTC.
Ideas have consequences
A man’s books tell what he thinks. I am shocked by teenagers at church who cannot tell me which book they are reading. In God’s providence I married a book-loving woman. Jeannette bought numerous volumes as well. Thursday night she and fellow female book lovers dined at our house with Jan Bloom, a used book seller (Books Bloom) and author, and husband, Gary, exhibitors at the expo. The topic: The best children’s authors.
As Richard Weaver says, ideas have consequences. Your ideas matter. If you are going to be useful to other people, you have to have ideas. We need to follow the best authors, some of whom might be in my list. History is changed by a dedicated minority, a happy few. The arguments on these pages are a minority report about God, about the nation, about family, about morality. Do you find my work useful? If so, let me know. Let me know what you’ve been reading.
Sources: Todd South, Page A1, no headline (“In some cases, old mistakes echo across the years, etc.”), Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 21, 2013
‡ Raph Ketchum, ed, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates; the Clashes and the Compromises that Gave Birth to our Form of Government (New York: New American Library, 1986), 406 pp