Friday, December 13, 2019

Offsite Post: ‘City vs Countryside’

How much influence should large metro areas have in Statewide elections?  That is a question nearly all the States face today.  Kentucky’s recent election for governor puts the question starkly before us:  In a State with 120 counties, only 23 have decided the winner.  The results of Louisiana’s choice for governor are similar, though less lopsided.

The backcountry is not being well-served by this system.  The more traditional voices of the sparsely populated ‘red counties’ are being drowned out by the overwhelming numbers of the enemies of tradition in the ‘blue counties’.  The strife this creates is obvious for all to see, but it is the necessary outcome of adhering to the doctrine of the numerical majority.

There is no reason, however, to bind ourselves forever to the rotting carcass of this pestilential political ideal.  It is time for what Englishmen and Romans (the spirits of both of whom have been very much present in the South) have excelled at so often in their histories:  a little prudent reform.  No building castles in the clouds; rather, only realistic, concrete proposals for human beings living in this part of the world.

As we have said above, two main divisions exist in the States at the present moment:  the untraditional large cities and the traditional hinterland of the counties.  A way for the two to protect their interests at the State level is needed.  John C. Calhoun nearly two hundred years ago, provided us with an answer:  the plural executive, each with the power of veto.

His examination of Roman and English history showed him the benefits of this type of system.  What he says about Ancient Rome, which had developed a system by which the two main classes in the Roman lands, the patricians and plebeians, could veto one another’s proposed laws as well as stop the execution of them, is worth examining.  In the passage below, Mr Calhoun details the benefits such a system bestowed upon Old Rome, exactly the kinds of benefits the States are missing out on with their current winner-take-all, single executive system:

No measure or movement could be adopted without the concurring assent of both the patricians and plebeians, and each thus became dependent on the other; and, of consequence, the desire and objects of neither could be effected without the concurrence of the other. To obtain this concurrence, each was compelled to consult the goodwill of the other, and to elevate to office, not those only who might have the confidence of the order to which they belonged, but also that of the other. The result was, that men possessing those qualities which would naturally command confidence—moderation, wisdom, justice, and patriotism—were elevated to office; and these, by the weight of their authority and the prudence of their counsel, combined with that spirit of unanimity necessarily resulting from the concurring assent of the two orders, furnish the real explanation of the power of the Roman State, and of that extraordinary wisdom, moderation, and firmness which in so remarkable a degree characterized her public men.

--John C. Calhoun, ‘Speech on the Force Bill’, Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun, ed. Ross M. Lence (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1992). 11/7/2019.

Now, the best system of government the States have lived under seems to have been the one they were born into – not one stitched together from new theories and speculations but one of inherited, time-honored lore and customs.  In it, each colony/State/ethnos was able to live life according to its own folkways without interference from the others.  The harmony of all of them was maintained by occasional regulations from the King of England and his Parliament, which were enforced by the royal governors and other officials appointed by the Crown.  But local political bodies (town councils, county courts, State Houses of Representatives, jury trials, etc.) kept careful watch and objected if any of them overstepped proper bounds.  But if the peoples of the States will not have it (and various strains of ‘American exceptionalism’ make many people recoil from it as though it were a venomous snake), then what Mr Calhoun proposed with his plural executive is a good alternative. 

One of the worst political mistakes the States have made has been to jumble all ages, classes, occupations, etc. into one undifferentiated mass of voters and then ask this polyglot creation to speak with a unified, harmonious voice.  What we have gotten instead is unending friction and dissatisfaction.  Instead of trying to enforce a false, chimerical unity, we need to winnow and separate.  Let the two dominant interests in each State, the rural and the urban, elect its own executive (the current governor chosen by a Statewide vote would no longer be necessary).  Population density above or below a certain threshold would qualify a county as either urban or rural.  Only when the two executives are in agreement should a proposed law or executive order be enacted, or an executive action undertaken.  But if either one of them object, the proposal will not be enacted or undertaken.

If this makes political action at the State level more difficult (and it probably would), then it is a great opportunity for local institutions to take the reins and govern.  This is where most decisions ought to be made, in counties and towns, neighborhoods and churches.

Because of this, everyone would have a little breathing space, a little elbow room, a chance to tend and nurture his own culture and appreciate the good in the culture of his red or blue neighbors in the other counties.  And through this arrangement, perhaps more cooperation and less partisanship could be found at the State level.  But if not, then at least each culture will be able to live peaceably enough under the diligent guardianship of the co-executive it has sent to the capital to protect its way of life.

But none of this will happen so long as the erroneous doctrine of the Supreme Court in Washington City of ‘one man, one vote’ is in force.  . . .


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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