By Wealth for Wealth: The United States Constitution
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The following was created as a footnote to substantiate the assertion: “The United States is a nation founded by wealth, for wealth.”
I begin with the conclusions of Robert A. Mcguire who was the head of a research effort to quantitatively understand the motives of the founders of this country, by analyzing their voting tendencies relationship to their economic interests including their associates.
I use the words of the founders, mainly, the chief architect of the constitution James Madison to establish the intents of the system they were creating. The dominant political philosophy and principle of the founders is established.
Some delegates are mentioned for the conflicting interest between representing their personal economic interest against the direct interest of the public who stood to be harmed by the financial interest of the person with which they trusted duty.
The position of power the United States enjoys in the world is informally connected to WWII and not to the system itself which nearly led to the demise of the country more than once.
Robert A Mcguire, using a quantitative technique called multivariate logit regression found “The types of economic interest that mattered for the choice of specific issues were likely to have counted for a substantial portion of the overall wealth or represent the primary livelihood of the founders… Had there been among the ratifiers, fewer merchants, more debtors, more slave owners, more delegates from among the less-commercial areas,… there would have been no ratification of the constitution…The modern evidence suggests that constitutions are the products of the interests of those who design and adopt them.” (The Political Economy of the Constitution, by Robert A. McGuire, University of Akron, pp 23,26, and 29.) If most people’s interest was not congruent with the interests of those who voted to ratify the constitution, and if those interests would have decided the fate of the constitution, they would have decided it differently, then we recognize the constitution is a product of an elite minority agenda.
McGuire also wrote “Many others question an economic interpretation because they question whether the founders were really attempting to solely, or even to principally, enhance their personal wealth, or the wealth of those they represented, as a result of adopting the Constitution. Of course, the founders were not.” (McGuire pg31)
I do not see how this is obvious? While it is difficult to argue any decision has a sole motivation, given the number of possible foreseen consequences of any particular action, if an individual’s votes can be largely predicted based on his economic interest, then his economic interest is demonstrated to be a governing principle; and since this principle carries more weight than other principles, then principally, how were the founders attempting to do anything but enhance their personal wealth (and protecting it) through the adoption of the Constitution? McGuire also wrote in the same paper “quantitative studies contend that the Constitution was neither drafted nor ratified by a group of disinterested non-partisan demigods motivated only, or even principally by high minded political principles to promote the nation’s best interest”. (McGuire pg22)
If you are attempting to create a national government, not disinterested, but interested in your economic interest, as is observable by your voting tendency, and not principally motivated by high minded political principles to promote the nation’s best interest, then principally, you are attempting to enhance your wealth as a result of adopting the Constitution. Which is why it is not obvious to me the founders weren’t attempting to do that based on what I read.
The only reason for my criticism, is to anticipate the response from “those individuals who view the founders through rose colored glasses”. Who may contend through portions of McGuires quoted material, that I am taking the work out of context. “Others question an economic interpretation because they question whether political principles, philosophies, and beliefs can be ignored in an attempt to understand the design of the Constitution. Of course, they cannot.” (McGuire pg31) I do not disagree but what were these “political principles, philosophies, and beliefs”?
On guarding against factions, James Madison, in The Federalist Papers Vol.10 wrote:
“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community …the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.”
As Madison admits “the most common and durable source of factions” is the haves and have nots, which makes clear the right they were most concerned with being impacted by factions or democracy was the right of property. If you are persuaded by liberty, and you foresaw an issue between those who have property and those who are without, knowing the extent to which individual liberty has its roots in property, the goal would be to ensure equal opportunity exists for all people to acquire property, not to ensure that those with property, are protected from those without property.
As explained by Madison “In England, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place… Landholders ought to have a share in the government to protect these invaluable interests and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority poor and this body should be the senate”. (Constitutional Convention, June 26th 1787, Words of the Founding Fathers, Steve Coffman McFarland, Aug 3, 2012, Page 86)
If you are interested in a republic, you create a single body for legislation which allows “the delegation of government to a small group of people elected by the rest”. The argument against a more democratic system of government is fear that populist whims will negatively impact the liberty of all. The issue is, for examples to support the argument against a more pure democratic system you have to go back to Greece. The actual problem for the founders is their class only represented a small portion of the population and they could not maintain power or have their interest represented disproportionate to their numbers in a more democratic system. More democratic does not have to mean one elected body for representation, but in settings where there is one elected body, with one executive, like every US city, we don’t see democratic hysteria harming liberty. This probably has as much to do with the fact that even local governments in this country are largely directed by money, and because a majority just shy of a totality, is either too ignorant to know what their interest is, or have been trained to adopt an interest that is actually against their own interest. People are blind to it even as they view it eyes wide open.
They call it checks and balances, and the purpose is to check the interest of the majority by a wealthy minority, and ensure the balance of power rests with those who hold wealth. Again, in the beginning, many states had property requirements to hold office, and senators were elected by the representatives of states. The senate was quite literally as Madison wrote, “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority poor.” Even today, where senators are elected popularly, you still have a choice of candidates that is in a position to be elected because of the wealth that puts them in a position to be elected. A number of people so small (51 to 60) that it facilitates the ease by which the minority interest of wealth can be protected.
Of course, the senate is only one check on popular interest, the other is the president. One person within whom powers are invested to decree (through executive order) or prevent legislation from moving forward (veto).
Staggered term limits of 2 years in the house, 4 years for the president, and 6 years for the senate also contribute to curbing the power of popular interest.
Reinforced by Adams attitude against limiting suffrage which also has the effect of protecting the minority of the opulent against the majority poor, “it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; …every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”(Mc Farland pg 231, First heard in Noam Chomsky Boston University Lecture)
What do we call a system where every man having not a farthing has a voice less than equal with those possessed of wealth? The word plutocracy comes from the Greek words Ploutos meaning wealth, and kratos meaning power, dominion, rule. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy Source: “Plutocracy”. Merriam Webster. Retrieved 13 October 2012.) If men without money should not have a voice, then consequently men with wealth have power have dominion, or rule over a state established according to that principle. While this is only one founder’s opinion on the matter, it isn’t difficult to understand the dominating intent, and the consistent results with which this country was founded.
Why should wealth be represented disproportionate to the number of people who possess it? Principally, democracy is not only about arriving at what appears to be the best collective decision, but for the purpose of limiting dissatisfaction, after all, fundamentally, if a decision is going to create a problem for one individual out of 100, is it better that the one individual is dissatisfied for every 99 satisfied? Or for 99 to be dissatisfied for every 1 to be satisfied?
Presuming the 99 wouldn’t have an issue being dissatisfied if they were the one who was affected as the one would be affected. I have heard arguments that the beauty of the constitution, is that 99 cannot get together to take away the rights of 1. Is it beautiful still when 1 is able to take away the rights of the 99? Why should they be powerless to remedy an imposition on their liberty by him or her exercising his liberty?
Most know that democracy was not chief among the “political principles, philosophies, and beliefs” at least if we consider democracy in the broader sense, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the collective decisions that form the rules that govern society, assign tax spending, and policies carried out in the name of the collective. Madison explains that a republic exists when there is “the delegation of government…to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.” Since the country was founded with restrictions on voting, according to race, class, gender and even religion, the delegation of government to this small number of citizens, is not elected “by the rest”, and therefore you did not have a republic according to Madison’s definition. Some may argue these restrictions were restrictions by the states, but at the convention, the only reason voting qualifications and office holding qualifications were left to the states was because there was no easy way to reconcile the different economic interests of the period. Those possessed, were economically possessed of different qualifications, so to impose one qualification would limit other interests possessed of different qualifications. (An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. Macmillan Company 1921, pg 164 ““Several Propositions”, says Mr. S. H. Miller, were made in the federal convention in regard to property qualifications…if it was made high enough for the south, it would not be applicable to the eastern states.” Pg 165 “Propositions to establish property qualifications were defeated, not because they were believed to be inherently opposed to the genius of American government, but for economic reasons.”)
In 1791, Madison writes to Jefferson, “The subscriptions are consequently a mere scramble for so much public plunder. It pretty clearly appears, also in what proportion public debt lies in this country, what sort of hands hold it, are by whom the people of the United States are to be governed.” (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-20-02-0266 Madison to Jefferson, July 10th 1791)
This is a clear admission that the government was designed intent on being governed by wealth. How else do we correlate the acknowledgment that those who held public debt would be enriched and the next statement “in what proportion public debt lies in this country… are by whom the people of the United States are to be governed”? An admission of governance by wealth, from the chief architect of the system. And these are the kind of statements that cause the intentions with which this country was founded on inconsistent with a republic, democracy, or liberty in opportunity for all. Otherwise, the financial enrichment of a few through the federal government assuming state notes, would have nothing to do with “whom the people of the United States are to be governed”, unless you were establishing a system to be governed by wealth; then the fortune they made through “public plunder”, qualifies them as those who have power rule or dominion.
Oliver Ellsworth predicted in his argument against allowing southern states to continue importing slaves “As population increases, poor laborers will be so plenty as to render slaves useless”. (Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Repbulic, 1776-1821. 2010 Gary John Kornblith) No need to import slaves, because the system we are creating will lead to a mass of poor people who will be desperate for work. And is there a time in this nation’s history when this has not been true? Ellsworth was also from among those who held a significant amount of public debt. (Beard 1921 pg 88,89, “he appears in December, 1791 with 1330.50 in deferred sixes, 2660.98 in funded sixes, 1995.75 in 3 percents.” Source: MS. Treasury Department: Connecticut Loan Office Ledgers A, B, and C. Folio 21 in each volume.)
It is difficult to argue that the constitution was created and drafted by men who were ethical, despite their deification in the minds of men who proudly display the American flag on the rear of their pick up trucks. Consider Oliver Ellsworth, who being possessed of investments and arguing and voting for clauses having a direct effect on his personal investments and the opposite effect on most of the people in the country is a conflict of interest. Something that is not exclusive to Ellsworth and even delegates that did not hold state debt were compromised by having people close to them who did. The point is, if the one arguing and voting for something will cause him to experience prosperity and the people he represents to be the one’s providing that prosperity, he cannot represent the interest of the people because in doing so, he harms his own interest, or in representing his own interest he harms the interest of the people. Of course history tells which interest was represented.
Most American’s were against the constitution, but as was then, as is now, most American’s didn’t have much say in the affairs of their states and the unification of the states. Patrick Henry said “I believe it to be a fact that the great body of yeomanry (small farmers) are in decided opposition to it (constitution). I may say with confidence, that for 19 counties adjacent to each other 9/10ths of people are conscientiously opposed to it…You have not solid reality, the hearts and hands of the men who are to be governed. Have gentleman no respect for the actual dispositions of the people in the adopting states? Look at Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These two great states have raised great objections to that government as we do. There was a majority of only 19 in Massachusetts. We are told, that only 10,000 were represented in Pennsylvania, although 70,000 had a right to be represented.” (The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Digital Edition, ed. John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, Richard Leffler, Charles H. Schoenleber, and Margaret A. Hogan. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. Canonic URL: http//rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/RNCN-02-10-02-0002-0013-0001 [accessed 11 Feb 2013] Original source: Ratification by the States, Volume X: Virginia, No. 3 )
The dominant political principles, philosophies, and beliefs embraced by the delegates who ratified the Constitution were oligarchic, plutocratic, and otherwise erecting a power structure that is economically despotic. Whatever term you choose to apply, the minority rule conclusion is accurate. It was rule by a specialized class, as in they had wealth, and so they established a system to ensure that wealth would control matters of the state, and the state would protect those with wealth as well as help them achieve more wealth.
“In order to set up national government, Hamilton and his colleagues had to make plans, not on the theory that men would cooperate because they had a sense of common interest, but on the theory that men could be governed… It is a fair guess that if everyone had always regarded the Constitution as did the authors of it, the Constitution would have been violently overthrown, because loyalty to the Constitution and loyalty to democracy would have seemed incompatible… Jefferson referred to his election as “the great revolution of 1800,” but more than anything else it was a revolution in the mind. No great policy was altered… the Constitution was, in spirit, rewritten… chiefly by looking at it through another set of stereotypes, the facade was no longer permitted to look oligarchic” (Public Opinion. 1922, by Walter Lippmann, Chapter 18)
I don’t mean to deviate too far from the purpose of this substantiation, but I must anticipate the response of the lowest common denominator and offer the rebuttal despite the fact that those who would offer this response are among those whose comprehension skills are rivaled by middle school reading levels. (The average American reads at a 7th to 8th grade level) The grown children that comprise the great majority of this country, probably as well as the educated grown children, state intellectuals, career academics still searching for their first original thought, may concede that the US was founded as a plutocracy, that it came into being against the interest of the majority of people, but it is the most powerful and prosperous country in the world, and this is the system that created the nations prosperity and power. Followed by chants of USA, USA, USA!!!
We shouldn’t forget that it was less than 100 years ago that the United States was close to collapse during the depression, where social concessions had to be made to content the masses and avoid a violent end of capitalism. FDR “It was this administration which saved the system of private profit and free enterprise after it had been dragged to the brink of ruin.” (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Wikiquote:Transwiki/American_history_quotes_New_Deal 7th quotation.)
Much of the success of the United States came after WWII. The war itself helped to increase the industrial capabilities of the nation, but also left the US in a clear position of dominance in the world as every other developed nation was devastated by the war. The aftermath details will be explained in another section of notes, but the point being is, the Nazis are more responsible for American power and prosperity in the world today than the system of American government.
Power, prosperity, and freedom is relative. What is the merit of being in the most powerful and prosperous country in the world if you are homeless or spend most of your life working an unfulfilling job that provides little more than the basic necessities of life? What is the merit of being in the freest nation in the world if you are incarcerated? What is the benefit of being in the most powerful country in the world when you are without power to participate in decisions of opportunity, legislation, collective spending, or foreign policy? What purpose does it serve to have freedom of speech when your speech, whether written, spoken or otherwise expressed, is suppressed, drown out by the waves of dominant attention directing propaganda, or cannot be comprehended by a population that has been gutted of the ability to read and think beyond what is required for pleasing a master for an external reward, or avoiding the figurative lash? How is a right a right when it requires means that elude the opportunities of most people for that right to be upheld?