Mike Lieber's Inception: The Reinvention Of The American Polity


Inception, the first book of a planned “Ops Populi” series, is unusual in that its plot turns on a secret cabal whose goal is a constitutional convention—certainly an unusual theme for an adventure story. Why offer an esoteric and seemingly oddball political argument as a basis for dramatic fiction? We can think of several reasons for reading a novel, but this topic is not one. Readers often turn to fiction for the intrinsic enjoyment derived from an aesthetic literary encounter. Another reason is didactic; we may learn something new, or perhaps be shown different ways to approach an already familiar topic. Whatever one's reasons, when considering the novel's form a different approach is probably required than that taken when reading non-fiction. In this context we admit from the start a questionable ability to offer much by way of an aesthetic critique. Novels are not our primary reading. At the same time, some preliminary words can be said anent the book's general format and style, while reserving a more cogent (hopefully) critique for the end. When criticizing style we must always keep a perspective. The obvious cannot be denied, nothing is ever personal, and most contemporary writing is always suspect. Likewise, if our own words are ever marked down for not being in the same league as, say, literary criticism from Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot, how ever could we not agree, and justly accept our grade?

Strictly, then, from a literary standpoint we do not think Inception can be enjoyed principally as an aesthetic encounter, at least if one's understanding of the novel flows from authors such as Proust, Dostoevsky, etc. Unlike the former, Inception's language is straightforward and uninspired; unlike the latter, psychological depth remains unexplored. And as in neither prior case, characterization within Inception is relatively superficial. But to compare any contemporary with Proust or Dostoevsky is to commit an unjust act, even if, in principle, we agree with Voltaire that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” And Inception is good, that much is clear. Moving from the realm of higher art, and considering a more popular mystery genre, two authors whose works we recently encountered can be mentioned by way of comparison: H.P. Lovecraft—stories now enjoying a heightened popularity, along with certain works from the pen of John le Carré. While variable, the former exhibit a command of evocative language not usually encountered within the popular genre, including Inception, while the latter's intricate plots and reserved pace remains unrecognized within the current novel. Instead, Inception is composed as a series of short chapters, action is brief and linear, dialog is cursory, and then it's on to something else. While all of the above may seem quite negative, we readily admit that once the storyline “opened up” for us, the book was sufficiently compelling, and created within us a desire to read through to the end. Again, we always remember Voltaire.

While reading it was tempting to relate the author's style to what else seemed familiar. We confess to not watching television inasmuch as, generally, our ability to tolerate more than a few minutes of what passes for popular programming is lacking. But it is not just the content. The form of television is weird. Quickly changing scenes, rapidly sped and then slowed to normal pace, odd angles, and so forth. In fine, television is not of a literate (that is, related to the printed word) form. At the same time, television is our our popular environment and its effects (effects easy to consider pernicious) tend to be unobserved by most simply because it is so pervasive. 1 When thinking television it became clear how the author's style is similar to the electronic medium's architectonic form, but not very similar to its programming, that is to say, its ideological content (although there is no intrinsic reason that the latter could not be the case). In fact, Inception would work perfectly well as a television screenplay—possibly a mini-series. Our suggestion to Mr. Lieber: contact the networks immediately, if you have not done so already.

Nevertheless, from our perspective Inception offers more than an opportunity for an afternoon of casual reading, and we suggest that it deserves a more serious encounter, fitting within our previously established context—the search for a sufficiently suitable polity. Consider that in previous discussions we approached ideas of Alain de Benoist, Tomislav Sunic, Guillaume Faye, Sean Gabb, and Volkmar Weiss. From each we discovered a common thread: a general concern over the possibility of modern-day democratic government along with the very real crisis modern regimes face from a variety of specific internal and external threats. It is the same for Mike Lieber, for whom the present American government shows itself to be unworkable due to inherent structural defects within its legal foundation—the fundamental ground of political action. In his view, amending the Constitution, the civil covenant, is the only tenable solution that could possibly result in the restoration of a functional government, allowing the people (more on who the people might be later) to once assert their sovereignty inasmuch as government is acknowledged by almost all to be unrepresentative of the majority citizens. Once again, a government, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” 2

Moving backwards to an earlier era we believe Lieber would agree with the words of James Madison:

“I do conceive that the constitution may be amended; that is to say, if all power is subject to abuse, that then it is possible the abuse of the powers of the General Government may be guarded against in a more secure manner than is now done, while no one advantage arising from the exercise of that power shall be damaged or endangered by it. We have in this way something to gain, and, if we proceed with caution, nothing to lose. And in this case it is necessary to proceed with caution; for while we feel all these inducements to go into a revisal of the constitution, we must feel for the constitution itself, and make that revisal a moderate one.” 3

It is important to recognize and completely understand that from the beginning (the Founding) there existed a significant difference in the character of government than what we find today. In the same document Madison wrote, “In our Government it is, perhaps, less necessary to guard against the abuse in the executive department than any other; because it is not the stronger branch of the system, but the weaker. It therefore must be levelled against the legislative, for it is the most powerful, and most likely to be abused, because it is under the least control.” Madison's observation is an odd anachronism for us moderns inasmuch as, today, it is Congress that cannot act very well (compare the failure of the present Congress to draw up either a timely or workable budget, while the Executive is free to engage in what is viewed by many as war at will, and seemingly war without end). Whatever else it might do, our regime does not really satisfy, and few find government responsive to majority citizen demands. Also, it is the same regardless of the party nominally in power. As highlighted in our discussion of Sean Gabb, we recall latter-day egalitarian liberal scourge, Southern populist George C. Wallace, a man that was always happy to remind anyone caring to listen that there wasn't a “dimes worth of difference” between the two major parties.

What can we learn from Inception? In order to learn we must first listen. And who better to teach than the author? Mike Lieber will better help us understand his ideas, and perhaps convince us of their merit. Once we have had a chance to confront his thinking, we may reflect upon both the author's understanding, and our own.


By way of introduction, can you give us a brief personal background?

Mike Lieber

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio in a typical middle-class environment for the time. I am the product of public education and blessed with a loving family, and a healthy mind and body. I took my first job delivering a morning paper at age ten and held various jobs throughout my youth. In the summer after my junior year in high school, I began an 11-year Army career by enlisting and completing basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. While attending Ohio State University, I served in the Army Reserve and the Ohio National Guard, earning an officer's commission in 1984, and a bachelor's degree in 1985.

In early 1986, the Army sent me to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where I was named honor graduate of my artillery officer's basic course. Given the choice of active-duty Army or continuing my education, I chose the latter, enrolling in graduate school at Florida State University. After completing my master's degree and earning a certificate in public administration, I was hired as a planner with a community planning council in Jacksonville, a job I loved since I was paid to do two things I truly enjoy: working with community volunteers and writing! The publication of a study on philanthropy in 1990 brought me to the attention of the regional United Way president, who discovered my interest in computers when, while meeting with her, I performed a minor tweak on her Mac – which she deemed nothing short of miraculous. For the next 6 years, I was United Way's MIS director, eventually rising to the level of Vice President before I resigned to start my own software development company. Two years later, after having moved to Virginia, I developed an interest in finance and started my current company, AEGIS Financial Solutions, which specializes in business financing for commercial clients.

Your novel is planned as a series?

I plan to write two more “Ops Populi” books. In progress is the second one, whose theme will center around the efforts of the formidable power elite to thwart a second U.S. constitutional convention and the intrigue that one might expect as the resistance mounts. The third will focus on the convention itself, which will be rife with multiple competing interests -- some well organized, others, much less so – and unlike the first convention, will be the subject of intense public scrutiny.

A fast paced novel about reforming the Constitution is a rather unusual topic. Can you tell us why you chose the novel form to transmit your call for a constitutional convention?

As student of political science an history, I was fascinated by the almost surreal founding of our nation – the boldness of our Forefathers to take on the most powerful empire of the age and win, their ability to craft the framework of a federal republic that, to this day remains a work of sheer genius in its adroit combination of the best of ancient and Enlightenment philosophies. As an aspiring writer and a fan of political fiction, I wanted to create something unique, yet relevant and meaningful to my generation of modern Americans. Since I consider the founding of the United States of America among the greatest stories in the history of mankind, I could think of no drama more compelling for those who embrace as I do the philosophical underpinnings of America expressed in our Constitution than a story whose central theme is based on the exercise of its core principal: popular sovereignty.

To the question of why I chose a work of fiction, I would respond that by building some entertainment value into the “Ops Populi” series, I hope to capture the attention and engage the minds of those not normally attuned to politics or civic affairs. Had I written non-fiction, my work would undoubtedly have joined the multitudes of the rather esoteric political books that are read and then gather dust on the shelves of only a small fraction of the public.

Most political commentators think of transforming government within an existing constitutional framework. Why do you believe the current framework requires modification?

To fully understand my mindset, you would have to agree with my premise that it is the framework itself that is failing, weakened over time by distortion of its most important principles. Many individual factors can be cited as contributing to this insidious decay, but I would argue that the single most important systemic issue – and one that I assert will never be corrected without constitutional reform -- is the progressive disruption of the delicate separation of powers, both among the three branches of the federal government and between the federal government and the states, through delegation, decree and outright usurpation. We cannot expect to correct these imbalances unless and until both a string of Supreme Court decisions dating as far back as the early nineteenth century and the substantial body of law built around them have been overturned by formal Constitutional revision. As a practical matter, the Court -- precisely nine individuals -- has the final say on what the Constitution means and how it applies to the lives of a nation comprising nearly 310 million people.

As we witness time and again, the system continues to falter regardless of who we send to Washington, and any peripheral tinkering that is attempted. Campaign finance reforms, for example, ultimately does not stem the decay. Arguably, by neglecting substantive reform and “muddling through” with a failing system, the deterioration of which, by most objective measures, has accelerated in the past decade, we only increase the likelihood of catastrophic end to our republic. For far too long, Americans have tolerated and conferred legitimacy on a national government whose officers flout its fundamental principles and arbitrarily violate its charter. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, esteemed political scientist James MacGregor Burns, warned that “major changes will not be made until there is a severe crisis – at which time we might open the floodgates to reckless constitutional change.” His advice, which I believe to be the only logical and peaceful remedy open to us, is to take thoughtful action now. “We must all become framers,” he advised.

What aspects of the Constitution require most modification? Can you speak to the doctrine of incorporation, and the liberal interpretation of the commerce clause?

The first reform proposed by “Ops Populi,” the name given to the reformers of my novel, is changing the way we deal with revisions to the Constitution. Federal power and influence over our society has grown enormously since the Constitution was written; yet, collectively, Americans have no practical control over its actions. We are relegated to the passive role of watching our leaders – most of whom are selected from a narrow, elite-centric segment of the population -- destroy our country, our home, and the hopes and dreams of generations, both the born and unborn.

The doctrine of selective incorporation is the name given to the reasoning developed by the U.S. Supreme Court to apply nearly all the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights at the federal level to the states through its creative interpretation of the “equal protection” and “due process clauses” of the 14th Amendment. While uniformly extending most civil and criminal procedural rights codified in the Bill of Rights to all citizens at the state level, the doctrine has also been exploited to confer powers to the federal government power it was not granted by the Constitution. Likewise, through an expansive interpretation of the “commerce clause” contained in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, enormous powers have been transferred to the federal government the Founders did not intend it to have.

Arguably, the massive growth of federal power has resulted in substantial social and economic benefits for multitudes of Americans, most notably the underprivileged and disadvantaged, but also insofar as the by-product of the nation’s economic development is attributed to this power, the middle and upper classes as well. Whether or not the positive outcomes of this power shift outweigh or justify its detrimental effects is obviously a highly debatable political question; however, it does not change the fact that in terms of scope, size, and power, the present federal government is not the one established by the Constitution. To legitimize the federal government requires that it be consonant with the Constitution that establishes it, so we must change the Constitution to provide for the monolith that now exists, change the government to be in accord with the Constitution as written, or some combination of the two. Regardless, it is the peoples’ government, so it falls to them to take matters in their own hands in the peaceful process provided for by the Founders, make the tough choices, and effect the changes they feel are best.

What is you general view of the post Civil War amendments?

In my view, the Reconstruction amendments, 13, 14, and 15, played an essential role in healing a nation that nearly annihilated itself. It is quite likely that without them and the civil rights they guaranteed to every American, particularly the newly freed Blacks, America would have been plagued by intolerable civil unrest, violence and economic disruption indefinitely.

Do you have an opinion on monetary policy? What about the Federal Reserve?

Since the Federal Reserve figures prominently in my second book, I will restrain myself somewhat. But I will offer that, like building a whiskey still in the bedroom of an alcoholic, the Fed has functioned as the enabler of a government run amok and consequently has hastened the decline of our republic. It is an institution whose ostensible purpose is well-intentioned, but whose continuation in its present form as the principal facilitator of a dying economic model of debt-based capitalism is unlikely.

What about American Middle East activities in light of the Constitution?

In a strict sense, no U.S. military action since World War II has been constitutional, including our current exploits in the Middle East and now, Libya. Under the Constitution, war making powers are reserved to the peoples’ representatives in Congress, which is the venue where the Founders believed a thorough vetting should take place before committing American lives and treasure to any military engagement. As a practical matter, the President must have the authority and resources to respond quickly to national emergencies. But as we know so well, Congress has routinely abrogated its duty and violated the sacred trust of the people numerous times in the last 60 years, giving the executive de facto authority to make war without its prior consent.

The US population in 1789 is estimated to have been four million. Then there were 65 house members. Today the population is at least 300 million with 435 representatives. Given the magnitude of this "dilution of representation" how, in any sense, can we be said to be represented, and do you believe an increase in the number of representatives is in order, or even if it is a problem?

Inadequate representation is, indeed, a significant issue diminishing the quality of our national political system. The notion that a single representative can adequately and fairly represent the interests of roughly 650,000 people is patently absurd by any objective standard. Until 1911 – when the current number of 435 was set by public law -- the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives steadily increased as America’s population grew, though never in sufficient numbers to maintain the original ratio of one Representative per 30,000 citizens advocated by George Washington.

By creating small districts and requiring frequent elections, the Founders clearly intended members of the House to be closely tied to their constituencies. I have to believe that Washington and most of the Founders would be appalled to learn how grossly distorted their design has become in 2011. Today’s House is dominated by highly organized and well-funded special interests and the members who cater to them in order to raise the boatloads of cash they need to be re-elected. With huge, gerrymandered districts, incumbent representatives are unlikely to face serious competition, which erodes the accountability and, therefore, the legitimacy of the entire legislative process.

A 30,000-to-one ratio is no longer practical, since it would require a House of roughly 10,000 members. However, by at least doubling the number of Representatives, districts could be reduced in size, allowing more voter accountability and closer ties with constituents. Moreover, with close to 1,000 members, the value of each Representative’s vote would fall, lessening the propensity for the back-room deals and horse trading that characterizes much of today’s legislative process, as members trade “favors” and buy each others’ votes with pet projects. Another desirable benefit: dilution of the influence of special interests and their lobbyists, as targeting individual members would become a more difficult and expensive proposition.

Would you say that, generally, natural law should be the foundation for positive law, or, on the other hand, do you generally discount the idea of natural law in human action (morals, economics, and so forth), instead supposing that law ought to be based wholly upon immediate contingencies divorced from classical notions?

I see natural law as the preferred intellectual basis for positive law. The U.S. Constitution and the American system of jurisprudence have firm roots in common law, which in turn, was founded on natural law.

Your character Mr. Lochridge states (p.385), "We cannot tolerate a system that allows our President to be chosen by a minority...we should each have an equal say in who becomes our leader..." What does it mean to hold that people are equal in a political sense? For instance, the Founders were certainly not equalitarian in any modern meaning of the term, but were instead rather exclusionary when it came to political participation.

The Founders knew that their Constitution and the government it created were far from perfect, which is why they took great pains to keep it weak and build in the safeguards of Article V. While “elitist” in the modern sense, there were legitimate arguments for limiting participation in the context of colonial America -- an irony, given the ideals of Classical liberalism that guided the Founders’ quest for equality. It was equality before the law, not equality of outcome that they most aspired to guarantee to all Americans. My assertion is that any justifications for exclusion that once may have been defensible have now been rendered obsolete, primarily by communications technology and universal education. Equality before the law should apply to participation in choosing the people who make and execute the laws we are all equally subject to and to which we are all equally held to account.

Among others, Professor Don Livingston of Emory argues that the republican form of government should be our ideal, and discusses what, in his opinion, are (small R) republican attributes:

The following are essential features of republicanism. (1) sovereignty resides in the people or their representatives; (2) all citizens are equal before the law (which is not to say that the laws should be the same for all); although there can be inequalities of wealth, all citizens should have a measure of economic independence; otherwise factions, demagogues, and tyranny will result. (4) republics are morally intrusive; that is, they enjoy a distinctive way of life binding together generations; and this way of life is rooted in a law not made by the legislature, but is rooted in nature or sacred tradition. Governments can only legislate in accord with law; they do not make law; (5) republics must be small.” 4

He contrasts the Lincolnian view derived from, as he sees it, French Revolutionary thinking -- one that calls for a strong center, with a Jeffersonian view where decentralization and federation are desired. In the latter case, government is not able to scale well -- the larger it becomes, the more it must impose, and notions of local rule become discounted in favor of authoritarian directives from the center. Similarly, the current European New Right appears also to envision small autarkic federations loosely conjoined to a larger center whose primary purpose would be to protect the rights of decentralized federations. These ideas, if enacted would essentially lead to the dissolution of the Union as we know it. Where does your thinking fit in such a scheme?

Personally, I doubt whether mankind will ever devise a better form of government than the republic. If you will indulge me, this is a great place for one of my favorite Jefferson quotes: "The Republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind." I favor the model of widely diffused power and weak central government envisioned by the Founders. We should endeavor to limit the scope of central government to those functions delineated in the Constitution’s preamble, with localized control of as many of the aspects of the daily lives of citizens as is feasible for proper administration. Localized control is the essential feature of a republic that espouses representation with accountability, and it is much more difficult for government with close ties to the government to become corrupt.

Regrettably, as the population of the United States grows and becomes increasingly heterogeneous, we continue to shift our locus of governmental power toward the central government. I’ve heard the term “devolution” used in the context of redistributing power from the center, and I believe the U.S. has reached a point in its history when it must happen if we are to preserve our long-cherished republican ideals for future generations. Again, the theme of “Ops Populi” is to undertake the task in a deliberate, peaceful fashion rather than risking the more unpleasant, but in my view, increasingly more likely outcome of disintegration.

Your protagonist, Sean May, wonders (p. 349), "Why should the American people, with all the advantages afforded them by affluence, education and technology, not trust themselves to reform and modernize their own government?" This begs the question of exactly who the American people are. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 essentially changed American demographics from a more homogenous to a more diverse population. As the United States becomes increasingly transformed by people no longer having any indigenous ties to the Founding, and its European antecedents, that is, to Western style governmental forms, can we legitimately expect May's "reforms and modernizations" to manifest in anything but a more socialist-oriented form since that is often what these new Americans know and what they bring with them from the "old country"?

Our American “melting pot” has indeed become an amalgamation of broader and richer cultural and demographic diversity than ever before. One can only assume – unless and until it is measured – that on balance, immigrants do not come to the U.S. with the objective of transforming or radicalizing our political system. Rather, as was the case with the Western European immigrants of prior generations, they come primarily in search of economic opportunity, liberty and to escape repression and tyranny. Studies have consistently shown that once here and firmly established, immigrants’ socio-political allegiances to their countries of origin weaken as they assimilate into the “American” political culture and cannot reliably predict their political behavior.

As has been the case since the early days of the Republic, immigrants will continue to change the complexion of American society indefinitely; however I see no reason to assume that any extreme ideologies of either the left or right that most leave behind them would have any great appeal in a country with a strong tendency toward the political center and whose political core has remained both solidly moderate and stable throughout its history, despite periods of considerable social and economic upheaval. On balance, immigrants tend to have a commitment to American ideals at least as strong as many of the native born and, given the actions of many of our elected officials in recent years anathematic to the U.S. Constitution, perhaps we should be more welcoming than we are.

You do not explicitly discuss religion in your novel. Does religion have a place in government?

The “separation of church and state,” a phrase long attributed to Thomas Jefferson, is, of course, well established as a pillar of American liberty. As I recall, the concept is derived from the writings of the British philosopher John Locke, whose principal argument is that governments lack any authority in the matters of individual conscience. In his view – one that I share -- all governmental power is granted by the governed, and power over conscience is not something rational people will readily give up to governments to control. To Locke, liberty of conscience is a natural right, one that must be shielded from governmental interference, and the right that took priority as the first one protected in the Bill of Rights. In my view, religion is a moral compass, and one would hope that its influence on the behavior of individual policymakers is positive. As to a formal, institutionalized role for religion in government? Look only to blood-soaked soil of old Europe or the modern Middle East to see where that leads.

Any closing comments on anything?

As we can plainly see, our national government is failing fast, and since the American people retain sovereignty, they also shoulder the burden of setting it right. In order for a Democratic Republic to function as such, two things MUST occur: One is that the 'rule of law' must be more powerful than, and trump the authority of, the rule of men. The other is that a truthful and honest FREE FLOW of information must serve as the foundation for decision and policy making. Neither of these conditions exist in the United States of America. I would like to see the Federal Government re-made to more closely fit the one envisioned when it was created, but I am just one voice in a few hundred million. Irrespective of my wishes, however, to have legitimacy, the de facto national government and the de jure national government should be one and the same, and it is beholden on the sovereign to make it so.

Finally, do Ginny and Sean ever hook up?

One of the most my frequently asked questions (along with why they didn’t already!). Since I have a vested interest in not answering this question definitively, I will hold my
tongue (or fingers, in this case), but I will say that their relationship remains platonic on page 100 of the second book!


What is remarkable about Inception is not really the style, the dramatic action, the characterizations, etc., but the recognition that existing political action within the current constitutional structure is a dead-end, or even worse. Also, the recognition that representation is no longer the raison d'etre of modern-day government. At the same time we find an understanding that within the Founding, however it be conceived, whatever is currently lacking may be rediscovered and re-implemented. The way out is the way back to 1787. And New Philadelphia, wherever that might be, could well be our last peaceful (that is, non-revolutionary) means to the goal. However, as the author shows, the way may be less peaceful than we might like, inasmuch as interests completely vested in the current regime are unlikely to embrace any action diminishing their power. Who are these interests? The author has his own cast of characters, but for our part we suggest that certainly central banking authorities, whose deliberations are cloaked in secrecy, would not be happy supporting any structural changes affecting monetary policy. We know that those holding the purse command power above and beyond anything citizens could ever claim, and one marvels at their seeming hold over politicians. Over the past three years the Federal Reserve opposed efforts by Bloomberg to gain access to loan records, but has recently been discovered to have been active in making secret foreign loans, including loans to Libyan banks, a country whom we are now engaged in an “Executive war.” And what of Congress? Would it ever go along with a convention? Could they refuse? Probably not, but who knows? The States? Given the demise of federalism and the fact that many state governments depend upon federal subsidies for their solvency, it is a big an open question whether enough State legislatures would act. Finally, could a “citizen initiated” convention, as the author argues, work? Better first we should ask, “Who are the citizens?”

One must have an appreciation of just how far the United States has strayed from the now contested principles of federalism. At the Founding the franchise was limited. Men could be voting citizens, women not. Blacks were generally ineligible. There were no Asians, Hispanics were Spaniards, and Muslims were Barbary Pirates. The new nation was considered by all to be a confederation of mostly independent sovereign States, and in Congress each claimed its own representatives (Senators) whose job it was to represent their independent State legislatures. Only after the Civil War did the push for universal democracy eventually lead to a de facto dissolution of the existing federal compact. The so-called incorporation doctrine extended the Bill of Rights to the States, effectively giving the Supreme Court jurisdiction over heretofore sovereign State matters, while the bizarre interpretation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 essentially destroyed that very part of the Constitution describing and setting forth enumerated powers.

The general idea of the Founders, that representative democracy in its republican form can only manifest positively when the electorate shares similar values and standards, and that power flows from the periphery to the center has long been forgotten. The forgetting can be traced to the aftermath of the Civil War, and Lincoln's gnostic idea that, instead of upholding the Constitution, it was his duty to uphold the Union. The Civil War effectively ended the idea that States have within themselves the right to suspend the civil contract, thus guaranteeing henceforth the centralization of power. Finally, it must be understood that the electorate prior to the Civil War was homogenous within its separate (local) jurisdictions. The South was the South, and North North. A liberal drive toward direct democracy split the electorate's homogeneity (not to be confused with an absence of competing interests within more or less cohesive groups), and passage of the 1965 Immigration Act engendered the kind of demographic transformation that insured that our federal government will always move toward socialized collectivism. 5

It is within this context that we express disagreement with the author's optimism that non-Western immigrants will meld into a political “middle way.” It is very difficult for us to understand how, say, Somali immigrants will not turn their new environs into little Mogadishus, just as Cubans have their Little Havanas and Chinese have Chinatowns. But South Florida Cubans have mostly internalized the Western European way, at least economically, and Chinese possess traits not found within the general sub-Saharan population. Therefore, it is germane to ask what can reasonably be expected of Somalis, or Mexicans (whose own country has essentially broken down, with large sections now controlled by drug warlords). Similarly, can anyone expect that an increase in Muslim immigration will not lead to even more rigorous calls for American sharia courts? Too, what of our own indigenous racial divide—a divide that has not appreciably melted since Reconstruction? In the last election 96% of blacks voted their race. How a descent into the maelstrom of racial and ethnic political/social chaos can ever be considered a positive thing is not very well explained by any existing (that is, official) material.

With all this in mind we call attention to Israeli professor, Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilian University, who recently penned a small essay currently making the Internet rounds, and currently provoking some debate. Professor Kedar writes:

“For a state to be considered legitimate by most of its citizens it must be the political embodiment of their national, communal, historical and, perhaps, religious desires. Nine Arab states [are] based on one tribe to which most of its citizens belong. National law reflects traditional tribal customs; since the leadership consists of the traditional tribal elite, the state is perceived as legitimate by its tribesmen citizens. The sociological stability in the emirates is the basis for legitimate, stable government and allows for a well-developed economy... Legitimate states based on traditional social groupings [are] able to create partnerships, federations or other types of unions [edited for clarity of context].” 6

Dr. Kedar's argues from a more classical political framework, and understands the destructive power of difference. The liberal mantras, “Diversity Is Our Strength,” along with its correlate, “Celebrate Diversity,” are completely at odds with peaceful political action, and antagonistic to the development of a natural organic demos. Therefore, we cannot share Mr. Lieber's optimistic view of the willingness of radically diverse immigrants to ever assimilate into a traditional American culture—a tradition that is, in any case, slowly devolving into something far less than traditional.

We would not, however, argue against, but support Mr. Lieber's call for a constitutional convention as a “last best hope.” Whether such a “call” could ever be heard, or whether it would ever be allowed is a big question. And what remains, if not? A radical alternative might be the complete dissolution of the Union, although it is difficult to understand how such an event could ever be peaceful. Another scenario: with the continued and eventually complete debasement of the dollar, and with the continuing economic rise of China along with an increasingly Third Worldification of the United States, we could possibly face a slow, withering away of American economic and political hegemony, as the United States becomes just another stagnant liberal democracy, unworthy of productive investment. Whatever the future holds, voices like Mike Lieber offer at least some kind of political hope and change, although we seem to recall hearing about that combination in the recent past, albeit in a different ideological context. Ops Populi: Power to the People.





1 Compare the discussions of the means of communication within the works of H.M. McLuhan, principally Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, but also his Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting for insights into the subliminal but pervasive nature of media.

2 These words, from Lincoln, are quite ironic within their historical context. See note 5 for further explanation.

3 From The Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, First Congress, 1st Session, pp 448-460.

4 Donald W. Livingston, Republicanism and Size—Part 1, Vermont Commons (March 2006). 

5 Lincoln's gnostic project is explained in M.E. Bradford's, Dividing the House: The Gnosticism of Lincoln's Political Rhetoric, Modern Age (Winter 1979); and The Heresy of Equality, Bradford Replies to Jaffa, Modern Age (Winter 1976). Bradford's discussion is, of course, based upon Eric Voegelin's idea of political gnosticism. Both articles can be found on the Web after a suitable search.

6 Mordechai Kedar, Small Homogeneous States Only Solution for Middle East, IMRA news digest. 

Nullification as a solution.

In response to Dr. Bertonneau's comments, I want to begin with a reflection on the idea that “things” must degenerate in order for “new forms” to manifest. It is, indeed, an old idea. One may recall Ovid's Metamorphosis, or several of many biblical themes, such as the Tower of Babel. Psychologically we are often not prepared to face the consequences of both a natural de and re-generation, especially those of us who believe that we are living in a twilight age. Also, as professor Bertonneau rightly points out, anxiety follows the pessimistic outlook inasmuch as pessimism always highlights mortality. Politically, then, the question becomes whether one ought to work toward reform, or alternately wish the destruction of an offending regime. Or simply do nothing and watch events unfold as they will. This, or course, begs the question, what possibly can be done?

I am reminded of the Greek-Armenian Russian, G. I. Gurdjieff, who always told anyone that could listen about the distinction between knowledge and understanding, and the necessity for both in correct proportion as a prerequisite for any real and authentic development. Gurdjieff contrasted those having a heightened insight but a general inability to act, with those able to very frequently, but ignorantly, act. The former, Gurdjieff called stupid saints; the latter weak yogis. Understanding that men can act, a basic and necessary metaphysical presumption if we are to call ourselves men, demands of us, then, an immediate confrontation with political questions. I believe that, today, most political thinkers recognize that we have reached (or soon will reach) a “critical mass” wherein liberal social totalitarianism will manifest to an extent that peaceful reform will be impossible. And all in the name of “democracy.”

The argument Mike Lieber (and some others) offer is that structurally, change is impossible within our existing political framework. That is to say, the current regime delimits the possibility of any meaningful redirection of policy. Think of the current regime's nominal representative, Mr. Obama, a man promising “hope and change.” Strictly viewing his policies, where can one find change? In social policy he simply extended Bush's agenda to a more logical conclusion. For instance: Bush the Younger argued for policies leading to the sub-prime “mortgage meltdown,” Bush led the drive toward Medicare expansion (the prescription drug benefit), Bush began the first round of banking “bailouts,” and so on and so forth. In foreign policy we remain mired in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. Recalling the old Jack Webb television show, the names have changed, but who is innocent? Again, the question: “With our new Hope and Change, why should this be?” The answer?—the structure of the regime dictates the form of the policy, although the actual content may marginally vary, depending upon the actors.

Citizens, at least certain citizens, understand that events have overtaken them, and that “things” were not always so. They look to the past, our not so mythical Founding, and somehow instinctively know that what we now have was never part of the original design. Thus do they call for a “return” to Founding principles. Nevertheless, I believe it is the case that most Americans have only a vague idea of our pre/post antebellum history, and therefore only a vague idea of what they are seeking. If there was one point in American history that created our present state of affairs, it was the war of Southern secession. What most believe about the “Civil War” has been so distorted from fact as to turn it into a grotesque fiction. At the same time, we must recognize that from the earlier Founding there was no general, and certainly not a harmonious, agreement about the form the new government was to take. We can more or less contrast the philosophies of Hamilton with Jefferson, the former being a proponent of central authority, the latter arguing decentralization. With the conclusion of the Civil War, the former can be said to have triumphed, and the South as a “way of life,” one with a distinct philosophy of governance, died.

Those adhering to a Jeffersonian conception of government have no chance to effect any significant changes within the current regime. State legislatures have mostly forgotten their right of nullification, and it is doubtful whether in today's political system nullification on any scale would ever be allowed by the center. On the other hand, who would stop the States? Congress is essentially ineffectual, we have unelected and questionably constitutional agencies dictating policy, the president is mostly free to conduct foreign war without oversight but refuses to secure our national borders, and states thinking about undertaking this task are prohibited from doing so by unelected federal judges. If a handful of federal judges ruled against nullification, who would listen and obey? Would the Executive send federal troops to occupy the state houses? It is an interesting question. If the president were Lincoln, a man closer to Mao than Jesus (albeit Mao without an agricultural policy) the answer would be clear.  On the other hand, during the Cultural Revolution, Mao was at least ready to admit defeat, and once again go into the mountains to wage revolutionary war against his comrades in the politburo. That was more than can be said about Lincoln, but, then again, not.

Since the adoption of the 17th Amendment the Senate ceased being a representative of the States. This structural change reduced the power of state legislatures to effect control over an all powerful center, and ironically the amendment's passage, argued as a drive for direct democracy, limited the power of the people to regulate Congress. Certianly if nullification were to manifest it would be a sure sign of the assertion of state's rights and a more local self determination. Nullification would essentially render the center's commands void, and act as a check and balance. It would have the effect of fragmenting the center, as some states would go this way, others not.

I agree with Dr. Bertonneau on the practical efficacy of nullification, and also agree that our immediate future will not be happy. How “bad” it will have to get before the general populace becomes alarmed is anyone's guess. I don't think it will be long, though. In fact, I suspect that as the economy worsens dramatically, people will be forced not only to gain knowledge, but will begin to actually understand, and henceforth will no longer be akin either to stupid saints, or weak yogis.

In their biography of H. G.

In their biography of H. G. Wells, Norman and Jeanne McKenzie defended Wells against a criticism often leveled at his many utopias: Namely that they invariably arose out of catastrophe and destruction and that they plausibly indicated their author’s delight therein.  It was the second part of the criticism, delight in catastrophe and destruction, I would imagine, that spurred the biographers into defensiveness, and rightly so.  But the Wellsian trope remained – before things can be put back together sensibly they must first fall apart.  Plato, to whom Wells owed much, had the same tragic intuition, which informs his “Atlantis” story in Timaeus and Critias and his vision of cycles of civilization in The Laws.  Aristotle too believed that the polis, like any other living entity, was subject to mortality, and even to violent dissolution in the throes of its decline.

While I am glad to know of the initial installment of Mike Lieber’s Ops Populi trilogy (admirably represented by Michael Presley in his review), and while I share many of Lieber’s views of our current predicament, I have grave reservations not only about the possibility, but also about the advisability, of a new constitutional convention.  In the first place, there is no strong national will for it; in the second place, even if the will existed, the danger would also exist of such a convention being hijacked by the very bad-guys against whose centralizing projects it would be aimed.  Indeed, what is the liberal project except a perpetual constitutional convention that constantly redefines bureaucratic purviews and aggrandizes the federal center?  Nullification, which has already begun, seems to me the likelier remedy to the sickness of the centralized super-state.  Nullification is praxis rather than theory.  But my real point is that the failure of the existing system is not yet sufficiently evident to a sufficient segment of the voting public to stimulate remedial change through the electoral process, and that before things get better, they will probably need to get worse.

I do not say that a worsening of our straits is desirable; I only say, with Wells and Plato that such worsening strikes me as both likely and, in a dreadful way, necessary.  It would be both useful and gratifying were either Mr. Presley or Mr. Lieber to address the question of whether a constitutional convention is without danger.  The left, after all, seems much better organized and much better prepared than the right to commandeer any effort to transform the political blueprint of our national house.