Paul Brodsky: "We The People..."

Submitted by Paul Brodsky of Macro Allocation

We the People…

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

     - Gouverneur Morris

The preamble to the US constitution is more familiar to American children than is the body of the constitution to American adults. It was written in 1787 following some very serious drama that threatened liberty and freedom (and profits) – a bloody revolt, not mere political upheaval.1 In fact, since 1776 the US has been at war over 90% of the time (219 out of 240 years); to protect itself and its friends from tyranny or, more recently, to promote democracy (and gain resources) from geopolitical pariahs.

The US found it fitting to adopt The Star Spangled Banner as its official national anthem 144 years later, in 1931. Taken from a poem inspired by the Battle of Baltimore in 1812, the song boasts how the American flag stayed true amid “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”. The anthem captures the independent, take-no-guff nature of the American spirit, the same spirit used by an ad agency a few decades later to sell cigarettes: “I’d rather fight than switch”. The cowboy image promotes a self-reinforcing can-do virility that comes in handy when it comes to preemptive warring.

Americans did not get around to pledging allegiance to the US flag until 1942, during World War II. It was written in 1892 by an avowed socialist. We note that allegiance is pledged to a flag, not to a nation and certainly not to a government, which seems fitting. One wonders whether colonialists would have gone for pledging allegiance to any state, even the one they fought and died to save from foreign imperialism.

And the student became the master. The new nation’s largest trading partner would be England. The US constitution was written originally for a mostly agrarian society of about 3 million white Anglicans and about 800,000 black slaves. American prosperity would be built upon vast resources and immigration. Immigration through forced slavery was coming to be seen as immoral. England abolished the slave trade in 1808 and abolished it altogether in 1833. Labor would have to be attracted to America another way.

Labeling is a complicated matter. The name “United States of America” is a chest-thumping declaration that may be reduced to the word “States” surrounded by two unnecessary modifiers. (Are American states in Mexico or Brazil, or provinces in Canada, not united with others?) It was chosen, no doubt, because the non-native American patriots lacked an indigenous culture. The newly independent nation’s sense of self had to be created, and the brilliance of the founding fathers was that they branded a then-150 year old society into a principle its inhabitants and future immigrants would be expected to embrace.

The US brand would not be a culture based on the ways of ancient peoples like Saxons or Gauls. Rather, the brand would be individual rights and social, economic and political freedom. The brand reflected reality, which had developed since the pilgrims first arrived in 1620 or maybe even since Columbus first searched for gold in 1492. The US brand would attract the ambitious and mostly decent from around the world, which in turn would grow its economy and raise living standards for all.

The US brand still reflects its basic principle – unfettered ambition, in all its forms, within the context of common decency. The reality is that the United States is neither a nation of laws, as strict constructionists would have us believe, nor a nation where government is supposed to equalize the living standards of all inhabitants, as broad constructionists argue. In this regard, the sociological meaning of fair is equal opportunity to succeed or fail and the expectation that one would be supported after failing so that he or she may try again. Common decency has never meant mandated state support for not trying.

The United States was never meant to be and is not understood today to be a nation defined by its government. Yes, there is a constitution written and emended by legislators, but the US is supposed to be ultimately governed by its people. Nor is the US meant to be bullied by its economic policy makers or banking system. Yes, nearly infinite credit creation has sped social advancement and brought economic and military foes to their knees, but broadly distributed, inextinguishable debt owed to future generations is explicitly antithetical to the most basic tenet of American society. It is right there in the preamble: “to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”.

Today, the “United States of America” is more than a color on a map and a legal jurisdiction. Its name is a 240 year-old phrase that still elicits the notion of ambition in all its forms within the context of common decency. The United States of America is a state of mind.

As technology, communications and connectivity advance, Americans no longer have to live within its borders. Indeed, “Americans” – those hewing to the principles first set forth by American pilgrims, formalized by the founding fathers, advanced by the Union army, and defended by the Greatest Generation – are all over the world and carry passports from all countries. They may never have stepped foot in the US but share the same state of mind.

A better name for the United States of America and all people and entities around the world engaging peacefully with each other to form a more perfect union, pursue justice, insure global tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, might be something like Democratia. (How about a state of mind naming contest?)

To be clear, we do not endorse state-led globalism or private sector globalization driven by artificial, uneconomic means. We reject the trend towards coordinated global oversight of social, economic, political and financial dimensions, and the coordinated global manipulation of trade and exchange rates by financial and political dimensions. State-led globalism and state-subsidized private sector globalization create hostilities between governments, mal-investment across nations, and, most depraved, a distorted and uneven global pricing mechanism that removes the ability of an individual to control his or her destiny.

We whole-heartedly endorse naturally occurring globalism in which peoples and individuals around world connect directly and use market-driven forces to arrive at global economic equilibriums for goods, services and trade, and in which mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers arrive at a range of understanding about what constitutes common decency. Yes, this may be naïve and idealistic, but we believe such naiveté and idealism capture the growing mood of the masses in the US and around the world.

Is it wise to endorse nationalism? While we acknowledge the emotional pull towards a simpler time when clans and then more diverse peoples were able to control their own social, economic and political destinies, doing so in today’s world on a sustainable basis seems impossible. We know and have direct access to too much real-time information.

Nevertheless, elected officials (and media) still seem to see government as the necessary agent to negotiate a sovereign’s place in the world. They are wrong and will fail. Sovereignty is becoming a common understanding among peoples connected by the World Wide Web, not connected by proximity. States, as in governments, seem to be in the process of using the considerable rope the masses lent them to hang themselves.

The US government and its citizens are going to have to accept a less influential role in the world. The American people seem to be getting it and accepting it quicker than the US industrial political complex. At least ten percent of voters on the right naturally lean libertarian, which is more a laissez-faire attitude than a preference for isolationism. The same is true of millennials on the left, who overwhelmingly took the same position by backing Bernie Sanders. The burgeoning conflict is located at the point where the changing preference of the crowd is meeting the rigid preference of established agents to keep power.

To many of us, it is regrettable that one of the two major candidates will be elected president next week. It is not an oversimplification to suggest that the choice reduces to deciding between a person with a consistent history of corruption representing the old, decaying order, and an ignorant sociopath who wants to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Neither should be rewarded with the presidency. The election of either candidate will not threaten the American state of mind unless the winner succeeds in undermining the US brand and overarching principle of unfettered ambition, in all its forms, within the context of common decency. In option parlance, we have the right, but not the obligation, to vote.