Monday, May 30, 2011

Straws in the Wind

My reference is to the Legal Tender Act of 2011 (link), legislation that passed in Utah. It became effective March 25, 2011. The law makes federal gold and silver coinage legal tender in the state. The value of these coins may be based on their actual value as metal, not merely their face value. Why do I call this a straw in the wind?

When a society or a culture begins to break down in earnest, the functions performed at the highest level begin to be performed at a lower—in our case at the state and local level. I witnessed this myself as a boy in Germany immediately after World War II when the economy collapsed and the local currency entirely lost its value. An important memory of mine is a windy morning when, at an intersection, I saw a cardboard box chuck-full of Reichsmarks (Hitler’s currency) being blow down the street by the wind, and nobody bothered picking up the money. Black marketeering was illegal; barter was illegal too; you were supposed to exchange that worthless money, along with ration cards, for the few miserable goods actually available in stores. Our family lived by the black market, and I participated in it myself as ten-year-old helping my Father and Mother. We were busy—but acting in stealth.

When such breakdown begins, initially the actions are illegal. Then they are legalized. The Utah law is the action of a state of the Union. Someday the illegal Michigan Militia will emerge (or something like it) as the legal military force of a state that will have seen itself forced to take over defense. And Utah’s action comes in the context of the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) which the Supreme Court Upheld on May 26, 2011 (link). That law permits the State to prevent employers hiring illegal immigrants. For decades now that has seemed to me, anyway, the logical point of putting pressure on this system.

For years now I’ve been saying that the day will come when states like Kansas, say, will begin to impose tariffs on agricultural or mineral commodities leaving their borders—at first in the face of huge outcries, eventually with legal approval.

There is a word for this: Devolution. We’ve already seen that process in action, are seeing it now. It takes the entirely legal form of the Federal Government washing its hands of responsibilities and transferring the action to the states under the name of block grants. Once the duty has been transferred, the next step is to cut the actual funding of block grants gradually until the state either funds on its own or cuts it out. The Arizona law is a form of active devolution, grasping a responsibility the Federal Government is failing to perform. The Utah act is an instance of anticipatory devolution—making its citizens less subject to the sudden or slow devaluation of the dollar that, in Geithner-hands, will not be stopped by rigorous action.

At the cultural level I’ve discussed this subject as The Deformation, here. What grows complex must sometimes fall apart—unless it is a genuine improvement, maintained by deeper and more fundamental values and communal discipline. This law (“what goes up, must come done—unless it has reached and exceeded escape velocity”) applies to everything. In economics, in defense, in law generally—if the center fails, many lower centers will take over. And I’m seeing it happening now. Therefore “straws in the wind.”

But this also needs to be said: The Tea Party phenomenon is misunderstood. It is itself a sign of devolution. The party is seen as right-wing, etc., but it carries ideas, assertions, and demands that have, alas, the character of genuine value, like gold, values that time will not tarnish.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting this comes at a time when they are showing new series on the Civil War on the History Channel. There was a fine documentary on Gettysburg yesterday.

    The devolution is happening at a time when we have met many of the criteria for social/empire collapse:

    Lost of food production: Check
    Overextended Military: Check
    Extensive Dole programs: Check
    "Barbarians" at the gate: Check
    Lost of central Control: Check
    (I say barbarians to keep with Roman theme. More accurately would be a diametric opposed group on the rise pressuring the established superpower)

    The interesting thing is that we do have one advantage: Communications.

    Unlike most empires, we have not overextended our communications lines. We have a strong medium to ensure social cohesion.

    Now what I think will happen is exactly as you say: States will have more local control and fill the roll of the Federal Government.

    And that is as it should be, as things were before the Civil War.

    Now that we are wiser to the limitations on letting states do whatever they want (i.e. slavery and segregation) this might be a good move if it is systematic and controlled.

    Cultural difference between states used to be greater, but now a great deal of choices are taken from states through mandates to get dollars from the Federal Government.

    Why we need to even do that is beyond me, we collect dollars to spread them out again? Why not let the States collect and spend? Don't like how your state spends money? Use that amazing American mobility to find a state that meets you needs.

    Will it be perfect? of course not. But the Federal government will be there to ensure that something as obnoxious as segregation does not rear it's ugly head.