Sunday, May 23, 2010

Puritan Utopia

Utopia was written by Sir Thomas More (whose tribulations have been the subject of several of the posts on this blog) in 1516. Utopia, in turn, was built on Plato's Republic from 4th Century BC Greece.

At the time Sir Thomas wrote, English Puritans were on not yet on the horizon as their fundamentalist sect hadn't jelled sufficiently to be either a political or religious force to be reckoned with. The Puritan sect arose, essentially fully formed, during the reign of Elizabeth I as a reactionary and purifying element in the (and eventually separate from) the Church of England, which itself had recently gone rogue from the Catholic Church as a consequence of Henry VIII's overweaning self-love and his erotic/dynastic desires.

The concepts of the ideal republic that were the touchstone of both Plato's Republic and Sir Thomas's Utopia would become central to radicals and reformists alike throughout the English speaking world and beyond. Some of that influence came to America with the Puritans of New England, and it spread from there. While Puritanism and Utopianism are not the foundation of the American move to Independence, there can be no doubt of their strong influence.

And today, Puritanism and Utopianism are once again arising as answers to what ails the faltering (or in some views, my own included, the extinct) American Republic. We see it in the widespread Fundamentalist Religious movements, and we're seeing it in the Libertarian/Propertarian public figures of Ron and Rand Paul and their ilk which have been so highly "scrutinized" since the Younger Paul's Republican Senate primary victory in Kentucky.

Libertarianism and its narrow-focused brother Propertarianism are Utopian and they are Puritan. They propose a narrowly defined ideal civil society based on theoretical constructs of human nature and what should be, ignoring what is or what has been experienced along Libertarian and Propertarian lines, in favor of constant adherence to and promotion of what the ideal would be and should be if only everyone applied it purely enough. That no one does apply the theoretical concepts of Libertarianism/Propertarianism -- at least not sufficiently for Ultimate Proof of the theories -- is a failing of ruling elites and ignorant masses, not -- at all -- a failing of the political, social, and economic concepts involved, and certainly not a failing of Utopian and Puritan vision. Which, by definition, cannot fail, they can only be failed by cowardly humans who deserve their own misery. So there.

They are Unredeemed. Perhaps Unredeemable. Oh well.

Ron Paul has long been the Voice of Libertarianism in the US Congress, where he has had the seat from Galveston, TX, off and on for many a long year. He claims to be a Constitutionalist, but like many such self-proclaimed Puritans, he is nothing of the kind. It is impossible for someone like Paul, who disputes essentially the entire history of self-government under the Constitution, warts and all, to be a Constitutionalist in any rational sense.

What I've said is that he is a Confederate. And so is his son.

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America (ie: Dixie, the Rebel South as it were) is similar to that of the United States of America, but for that fact that property (specifically and especially property in Negro slaves) has a much more important role in the purpose of Government. It is close to a Propertarian's dream, and because it is otherwise similar to the United States Constitution, so similar as to be identical word for word in many cases (somewhat like the US Bill of Rights is sometimes word for word similar to the English Bill of Rights of 1689, though the two had very different purposes), there might be something of a Constitutional Confusion in the minds of so-called Constitutionalists like the Pauls. Just what Constitution are they referring to? Hm?

Property is so central to the Libertarian/Propertarian Puritan Utopia that Ron and Rand Paul, in defending their "concerns" about the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and so on, essentially declared them "unconstitutional" insofar as they interfere with or regulate the use of private property by their private owners. An argument can be made -- and certainly was made by the property-obsessed Owners of the South (and elsewhere) back in the day -- that legal prohibitions on segregated public accommodations violate some sacred notion of private property. It is difficult, nay impossible, to find that sacredness in the US Constitution as amended, because it isn't there. It is, however, in the Confederate Constitution, and it is implied in the Articles of Confederation that preceded the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.

The struggle with the South -- and parts of the West -- has been over the primacy of private property rights ever since. Libertarians/Propertarians are as focused on the primacy of private property as any Georgia Cracker ever was.

And their claims of adoration of the Constitution of the United States ring hopelessly hollow. Securing, protecting and defending private property rights is not the prime objective of the United States Constitution; in fact, property rights barely enter into it at all.

However, those protections and defenses missing from the US Constitution are in the Confederate Constitution, and they are implied (through the primacy of States Rights) in the Articles of Confederation.

The Private Property Utopia was neither the intention nor the outcome of the adoption of the United States Constitution, but there have been many opportunities for individuals and groups to form Utopias within the United States -- based on pretty much anything they want. They haven't succeeded. There are and have been extraordinary opportunities within the United States to acquire, develop and prosper from private property, but always under some form of lawful taxation and restrictions. The absolutist notion of rights in property that are so fundamental to the the Libertarian/Propertarian world view (and achieving their Utopia) are simply not part of the framework of American law and governance.

Consequently the Puritan Utopia of Private Property -- which is fundamentally what Libertarianism and Propertarianism are all about -- is not American, as in the United States of America. It is, however, a principle of the Confederation and the Confederate States.

The Perfesser Chomsky explains it all for you:

Private Tyranny - the Libertarian Wet Dream and Utopia

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