Jubilee, or Something Like It

The West needs a peaceful, orderly way to delete inapt state institutions. E.g., the Fed, the UN, NATO, the Department of Education. We want something short of a general catastrophe – war, plague, famine, pestilence, in short, Collapse™ – that takes down all institutions violently and unexpectedly, killing millions.

General pervasive catastrophe is the only thing that has ever worked to cleanse the administrative systems of cultures. But devising something equally effective yet much gentler does not seem to be an insurmountable engineering problem.

Iterated ritual formal elections are OK for relatively pacific and orderly changes of leadership in the creation and modification of institutions. But so far they have not been quite adequate to the elimination of inapt institutions – to their complete deletions. Thus the bureaucracy compounds out from under the control of the executive, or of anyone else.

The legislature is then reduced to coming up with new stuff on the margins, to compensate for the social deformations engendered by the institutions it formerly created but cannot now destroy, or even walk back a little. The new stuff is of course composed all of new institutions of some sort, that then take on a life of their own, and wriggle out from under legislative or executive control. The executive and the legislature are reduced to effectual impotence before the bureaucratic juggernaut.

The spoils system would correct for this, a bit. Every new administration would be accompanied by a complete churn of personnel at the agencies. But the agencies would still roll along, empowered as ever to inflict their interference upon everyone’s doings.

No; the institutions must all periodically suffer utter destruction, in the most orderly pacific way, that everyone expects and no one protests. The ancient Hebrew custom of Jubilee served somewhat the same function. What’s needed is something like a cold reboot of the formal institutions that administer what must be administered, and a liberation from administration of what need not be administered at all. I.e., a ritual infliction of subsidiaritan control, by means of a deletion of supersidiary control.

The legislature would then have real, creative work to do, in deliberating how and whether to accomplish what the dead institutions had done, or been intended to do.

Institutions could die seriatim, to reduce the turmoil. But it would perhaps be better if they died simultaneously, so that the whole ecosystem of agencies, laws and lobbyists was rebooted at once.

Something to think about.

22 thoughts on “Jubilee, or Something Like It

  1. Pingback: Jubilee, or Something Like It | @the_arv

  2. Interesting.

    I have thought before that perhaps Jefferson was right when he recommended that a Constitutional Convention be held every 20 years. But of course modern Americans are horrified by the mere idea of a Constitutional Convention, and reject it out of hand. Especially “Constitutionalist” types, who are afraid of a convention because they/we might lose the Bill of Rights or whatever. But at this point I’m not real sure what of the Constitution they think they’re preserving, or of how they think they will ever gain back what has been lost short of something like a formal Constitutional Convention *at very least*.

    My biggest thing with the Constitution itself is that if we’re going to continue to ignore it, and act as though we’re doing so “lawfully” (“respect for the rule of law” and all that nonsense) I should rather scrap the thing and start over so at least we are being honest with ourselves about what our form of government actually is, and how we shall be governed.

    • Twenty years seems too short a time, although presumably Jefferson thought about the appropriate interval, whereas I have not. But prima facie, the 49 year interval between each Hebrew Jubilee seems somehow better, as giving each state institution enough time either to ripen or to rot.

      It would make each 50th year a new founding.

      I suppose there is no reason why a particularly disastrous state institution may not be deleted long before it has lasted 49 years, as may now be happening with Obamacare. But, at least every 49 years, the slate should be wiped clean. If everyone knows it is coming, no one will understand it as a disruption. They’ll plan for it, and it will all be rather fun. Traditions will develop to domesticate it, so that it is not a complete melt down, but rather only a refreshment.

      No doubt there would be some quasi-ecclesiastical “world turned upside down” celebrations involved.

      A constitutional convention is indeed a fearful prospect, if you have governed so badly for so long that you are beset with a nation of fools. But then, on the other hand, the danger of an onset of complete chaos unless you redo the Constitution right from the ground up might have the effect on delegates of a wonderful intellectual and spiritual clarification. The most likely outcome would be the reiteration of the basic document, with a tweak here and there. Nothing more would seem quite safe. Yet the terrifying thought that the Basic Document might be in danger would lend the whole proceeding an air of gravity, seriousness, and high purpose.

      In ancient Israel there were institutions that transcended the Jubilee, and perdured despite its effects: the kingship, the priesthood, the Temple establishment, the tribes and clans and families, and so forth. These not only survived the Jubilee, but enforced and administered it.

      Some similar transcendent, metagovernmental institution would seem to be called for by the reboot of the state institutions, so as either to bless or to damn the outcome. In the nature of things, the sort of institution best suited to that transcendent purpose would seem to be ecclesiastical; cultic; cultural.

  3. Pingback: Jubilee, or Something Like It | Reaction Times

  4. According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives has total discretionary power over all federal courts below the Supreme Court. Those courts are statutory; the Supreme Court is Constitutional. At its discretion, therefore, the House may abolish any statutory court — like the Fourth or Ninth Circuits of federal review. I propose that Congress impose on the House the duty, every ten years, to abolish every circuit court, and then re-establish those courts in radically altered jurisdictions. For example, the Ninth Circuit might be abolished and the re-established, not as a large West-Coast jurisdiction, but as a small, North-Eastern jurisdiction; pertaining, say, to the northern half of Maine only. Needless to say, the sitting president would appoint new banks of judges.

    • Now that would be a righteous churn.

      One of the cultural institutions that would likely survive a purge of state institutions – at least in the Anglophone world – would be the Common Law. I count that a good thing. Those aspects of the Common Law that concerned the motions of purged state institutions – e.g., the Income Tax and the Estate Tax – would fall into total desuetude, except insofar as it had application in analogous cases. But the bulk of the Common Law would perdure.

      • The Common Law will endure insofar as the majority of people insists on it and as long as individuals of that majority are willing to die for it. The fear of death is one of the great impediments to the radical re-republicanization of the state. General Blucher was seventy-four years old when he pulled the Duke of Wellington’s chestnuts out of the fire at Waterloo. He didn’t give a damn about his life. Please, Congress, give me a commission.

      • A certain devil take the hindmost, kill them all and let God sort them out bloody-mindedness would seem to be a prerequisite of any reboot.

        But note that this is so only when, as in the modern West, the reboot is not itself institutionalized. In ancient Israel, no one was disturbed by the Jubilee, because everyone knew it was coming. The reboot (of most agreements and contracts and covenants) was normal. Everyone could prepare for it, so no one’s life or estate was abnormally disrupted by its onset. No one’s ox was gored, so no one fought it.

    • According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives has total discretionary power over all federal courts below the Supreme Court. Those courts are statutory; the Supreme Court is Constitutional.

      The supreme Court — notice the spelling, which is what the Constitution uses — may be “Constitutional”, but it is still subservient to Congress. That is, according to the Constitution. Look it up in the document itself — other than the jurisdictions explicitly given the supreme Court in the Constitution, the extent and limits of its jurisdiction is under the control of Congress.

      ERGO, Congress could have ended (and can) the abortion regime at any time it wished, had it wished. ERGO, Congress could have (and can) put the kibbosh on “gay” “marriage” at any time it wished, had it wished.

      • That intentional oversight is dispiriting in what it indicates about the mind of the American people. It shows that the code of the law is moot where there is no will to enact its terms. It shows also that there can be no Jubilee – once, or ever again – where the people do not want it. So, first a spiritual Jubilee; then, maybe, a political implementation thereof.

      • The Progressives have spent well over a century “teaching” the American people that the supreme Court is the Supreme organ of the federal government.

      • Kristor:

        That intentional oversight is dispiriting in what it indicates about the mind of the American people.

        To be very honest, I don’t really know what to make of the term the “American People” anymore. It’s like we take a bunch of incompatible groups, mix them all together under the denomination American People, come up with a base average and conduct our business (the government, the economic system, education, blah blah) according to that average. Problem is of course that half the people are above, and half the people below, that average; very few fall strictly within its range. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

        It shows that the code of the law is moot where there is no will to enact its terms. It shows also that there can be no Jubilee – once, or ever again – where the people do not want it. So, first a spiritual Jubilee; then, maybe, a political implementation thereof.

        Right. And again, the severe lack of societal cohesion that has been brought about by multiculturalism is a huge inhibitor to either/or. I suspect that is one primary reason Dr. Bertonneau sees a kind of Balkanization in America’s future.

      • Ilion:

        The Progressives have spent well over a century “teaching” the American people that the supreme Court is the Supreme organ of the federal government.

        Right. Federal law = the supreme Court, in the land of lies.

        In hindsight it was all just a waste of energy, but I used to spend a lot of time arguing with Constitutional illiterate progressives/liberals about why their favored slogans amounted to, at very best, extra-constitutional sociopathic nonsense.

        I’ll never forget the newspaper columnist (Mike Jones, Tulsa World) who constantly railed against States like Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama et al, for their inability to grasp very simple and straightforward Constitutional principles such as “federal law trumps state law [simply by virtue of its being law],” and therefore “immigration is a [an exclusively] federal issue.”

        I finally had enough and sent him a six page handwritten letter explaining why his conception of the Constitution’s principles had been fully formed in the liberal echo chamber of his miserable, angry, “hate” obsessed existence; along with a pocket Constitution with the relevant passages highlighted by my own hand, as well as instructions as to which Federalist papers to read for a more thorough explication of the relevant concepts.

        The overarching point of the letter was twofold – (1) if you’re going to opine about Constitutional principles in your columns, then at least learn something, anything about your subject for goodness sakes; and (2) if you begin to feel like a complete fool and utter jackass after having actually looked into this on even a cursorial level, then that is a good thing; it is a very small but essential first step in the road to recovery.

        There was actually a third point, to wit: you’re entitled to your opinion about the Constitution, but this doesn’t mean your opinion is “equal” to that of, say, Rob Natelson. Far from it. And moreover (free advice) never ascribe to or project upon the framers your personal opinion concerning the supremacy clause, etc. Doing so is very often to ascribe to them views they did not subscribe to, and just makes you look like and read like a total ass.

        I have sent numerous such letters to Senators and Congressmen as well, both at the state and national levels. But like I said, waste of energy that probably could have been better spent.

  5. Often these “reboots” center more around who the actors are than the ideas. Currently here in New York State the voters are being given a choice to vote for a constitutional convention. I find this proposition a little dubious because of our state’s low voter turnout. With the question being placed on the ballot this year and Albany even more rotten than ever, it’s not the reform I fear. It’s the individuals and the means they assumed their positions to facilitate the reform that gives me pause.

    • When I used the example of what is happening here in NYS, my problem is who will be bringing about the changes. Here in New York the states capital is rotten to the core which most likely explains why the measure was placed in the ballot in a off year election when our state’s has really poor voter turnout out. Who benefits? That is the problem I have with this type of thing being done on federal level if the same corrupt forces ( our opinions on what these forces happen to be may differ) are allowed to set the rules for a convention.

      • This is why the market for public offices must be white (rather than black, as at present) and perfected: i.e., owned, and priced, thus internalized. There is always an oligarchy. If we pretend otherwise, the oligarchy is ipso facto corrupted, and so therefore tends to be rather corrupt. If on the other hand the oligarchy is open, public, and everyone recognizes that public offices are assets that can be legally owned, then the information about the prices of their activities, and so of the reality of the economic, political and moral character and consequences of their activities, can be widely available. Judgement may then be rendered, and a people the more readily ascertain whether their rulers have or have lost the Mandate of Heaven.

        Of course, the oligarchic beneficiaries of the current black market in oligarchic offices would never move to whiten and internalize their chosen field of play, for that would be to change the game in such a way as to disfavor men of their own sort. That’s exactly why there is no Jubilee; and it is why the first Jubilee will probably need to be rather violent in its effects.

      • This just seems to give the people the illusion of “the consent of the governed” because most people wouldn’t be able to afford to compete with these oligarchies ( I knows I seek like a Marxist here). I guess not only the question of who really pulls the strings of the change is of concern to be, but it’s what comes after that bothers me even more.

      • Well, there’s never any certainty about this sort of thing. Government is always a sort of moral hazard. Misrule seems almost to be a guaranteed character of the human predicament, right up there with death and taxes. It may comfort you then, in considering the notion of a periodic institutional reboot – odd to be characterizing it this way, as comfortable – to remember that we are already governed by scoundrels, who are doing pusillanimous things to public policy that will certainly ruin us unless they are corrected. It would be difficult for us to do worse than we are if we were starting from scratch with wholly new personnel, no state institutions, and no policies. As Buckley famously remarked, better to be ruled by the first 500 people in the Boston phone book than our current oligarchs.

        As to whether commoners such as we can much influence the oligarchs: when has it ever been otherwise, except in the perfervid imaginations of utopian idealists?

      • Mr. Granger,

        Your concerns are what I was talking about in my initial comment to this entry. The alternative to doing something is to do nothing at all and hope for the best; and since we don’t live in a static universe, things can only continue to worsen under governance of that impulse.

  6. Kristor, you wrote:

    A constitutional convention is indeed a fearful prospect, if you have governed so badly for so long that you are beset with a nation of fools. But then, on the other hand, the onset of complete chaos unless you redo the Constitution right from the ground up might have the effect on delegates of a wonderful intellectual and spiritual clarification. The most likely outcome would be the reiteration of the basic document, with a tweak here and there. Nothing more would seem quite safe. Yet the terrifying thought that the Basic Document might be in danger would lend the whole proceeding an air of gravity, seriousness, and high purpose.

    I thought you (and perhaps a few of your readers) might appreciate the following anecdote from back in our old VFR days of not too distant memory.:

    While, like you, I have the good fortune of having had many email conversations with our old friend, Larry Auster, I only had two telephone conversations with him, and your paragraph I’ve excerpted above describes the basic content of our discussion in the first.

    This all came about as Mr. Auster had been writing and posting various drafts for Constitutional Amendments at VFR and, that being kind of my thing at the time, I was in regular communication with him concerning tweaks I thought he should make to give his draft amendments teeth.

    One of my big things then was a determination to eliminate the possibility of Judicial Review by writing the prohibition into the amendment itself. Which, btw, Larry actually agreed to do (after some back and forth between us concerning why or why not such a prohibition would be necessary in a Constitutional Amendment) in one proposal which I seem to recall was included in the Fixing the Founding VFR entry you might remember, but I am not 100% sure about that.

    In any case these email conversations would venture into ideas about calling an Article V Convention, subsidiarity in control or regulation of immigration to the U.S., amending to eliminate the threat of Islam and so on and so forth. And at some point in the midst of these exchanges, Larry wrote to me something to the effect of ‘you know, you have lots of interesting ideas on these subjects, why don’t you give me a call at such and such number and we’ll discuss it further.’ So I took him up on his invitation and called Larry at the number he had given me a few days later. And I must say that I was a little bit nervous initially in the conversation. But it is a fond memory; I enjoyed that conversation very much.

    Around a year or so later I began to brainstorm at my old blog about how best to go about achieving all of that, and accordingly wrote several such entries myself. One of which calls for a Constitutional Convention held at regular intervals of twenty years (“at every fifth leap year” per Jefferson), with an additional stipulation that the States, by two-thirds majority vote, shall direct the Congress by what method to act “at every third convention interval.”

    Oh the “good ol’ days”! I sure miss those exchanges with Larry. Good times!

  7. John Stuart Mill comes to mind:

    Under this régime, not only is the outside public ill-qualified, for want of practical experience, to criticize or check the mode of operation of the bureaucracy, but even if the accidents of despotic or the natural working of popular institutions occasionally raise to the summit a ruler or rulers of reforming inclinations, no reform can be effected which is contrary to the interest of the bureaucracy. Such is the melancholy condition of the Russian empire, as shown in the accounts of those who have had sufficient opportunity of observation. The Czar himself is powerless against the bureaucratic body; he can send any one of them to Siberia, but he cannot govern without them, or against their will. On every decree of his they have a tacit veto, by merely refraining from carrying it into effect. In countries of more advanced civilization and of a more insurrectionary spirit, the public, accustomed to expect everything to be done for them by the State, or at least to do nothing for themselves without asking from the State not only leave to do it, but even how it is to be done, naturally hold the State responsible for all evil which befalls them, and when the evil exceeds their amount of patience, they rise against the government and make what is called a revolution; whereupon somebody else, with or without legitimate authority from the nation, vaults into the seat, issues his orders to the bureaucracy, and everything goes on much as it did before; the bureaucracy being unchanged, and nobody else being capable of taking their place.

    • A state that can be administered only by trained sophistical experts is *vulnerable.* What’s wanted is a state that’s like a Model T, with few moving parts, and that anyone who knows machines can run and repair.

      Mancur Olson suggested that strong, vital nations eventually languish and fall not so much because they are conquered, but rather on account of what makes them vulnerable to conquest (or plague, famine, &c.) in the first place, which is their internal weakness; and that this internal weakness is due to a compounding sclerosis and friction in their basic operations, caused by the multiplication of laws, administrative rulings, regulations, legal proscriptions due to precedent, financial complexities, rococo parliamentary niceties and protocols, and so forth. Olson argued that any society that attained unrivalled superiority over its competitors for any length of time would fall prey to this disease.

      Olson adduced the spectacular growth of Japan and West Germany in the aftermath of WWII, which had utterly destroyed almost all of their state institutions, wiping the slate clean.

      I would argue that you need more and more political constraints to maintain good social order only when you have less and less morality – which is to say, less and less society, properly so called. There seems to be an almost incorrigible inverse relation between the sophistication, height and power of civilization on the one hand, and morality on the other. This relation has been noticed since Israel’s encounters with Egypt, Canaan, and Babylon. It is a commonplace of ancient literature that cities – the hotbeds of civilization – are noisome dens of iniquity and disease, and that it is in the countryside that the hale old ways are kept, and the air is healthy, and life is as it was meant to be.

      It’s easy to see why this should be so: the larger the local population, the easier it is to carry off anonymous, even undetected defection.

      Institutions must be renewed if they are to remain any good. They are no different in that respect from any other sort of biological system. Out with the old, in with the new. Death, i.e.

      There are two sorts of ways to accomplish that renewal, that cleansing of the doors: violent death at the hands of outsiders and interlopers, that destroys the whole organism and replaces it with something different; or something like Jubilee – which is to say, a peaceful death, a passing of the baton, just as normal and orderly as the death of the patriarch and the succession of his eldest son, or the retirement of a CEO and his cohort of fellow C Suite officers.

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