Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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Welcome to the 25th episode of Third Paradigm. Our question this week is whether the US Constitution was an act of treason. Treason is a deliberate act to subvert a government. But the Revolutionary War was fought in order to establish a government of, by, and for the people. Was this government by the people deliberately subverted by the so-called Founding Fathers? Did they find a way to co-opt the population into fighting their resource wars and working to multiply their wealth?
We'll look at the Articles of Confederation, put into place after the Revolutionary War, which established a Federal union of sovereign states – much like the European Union, or the South African Union, or the emerging UNASUR in Latin America. How did this differ from the Constitution that nullified it?
Ironically, those who argued to preserve the Federal government were dubbed the Anti-Federalists, led by Patrick Henry, who had earlier sparked the Revolution with his statement "give me liberty or give me death." What did he and others warn against with the new government?
We'll address these questions, and give the news on how sovereignty is faring this week, but first, we'll read a poem. In honor of my 52nd birthday this past week, this is May Swensen with Earth Your Dancing Place.
That was May Swenson with Earth Your Dancing Place from her book Nature: Poems Old and New. Now for the sovereignty news:
Dow Chemical is suing Quebec for its ban on lawn pesticides, saying that under NAFTA it amounts to expropriation of profits. To Third World countries, this is a familiar tactic. Under the infamous Clause X, if a municipality enacts any labor or environmental law that might decrease return on investment, the investors can hold them liable in international court. Although the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld pesticide bans, NAFTA overrides it. Three arbitrators – one appointed by NAFTA, one by the Canadian government, and one by mutual consent – will decide if taxpayers have to pay for the pesticides they're not putting on their lawns. The investors may request confidential hearings before the tribunal, which means that the environmental groups won't be allowed to present their case. Heads, I win, tails, you lose.
Zaproot, an entertaining videoblog with Jessica Williamson, asks "Who owns the rain?" In Colorado, Utah, and Washington, excepting Seattle, laws have been passed banning the collection of rainwater. But at the World Water Forum in Turkey, water cannons were, sans irony, turned on peaceful protesters marching against the privatization of water.
Brasscheck TV offers these three facts as an antidote to swine flu fever.
There's an excellent website I've found, thanks to David Bayer, my agroecologist friend in Peru. It's GRAIN.org, and includes a capitalist jargon decoder ring that should come in every box of cereal. The article he sent is called "A food system that kills: swine flu is the meat industry's latest plague." There's a photograph of a hog containment facility, with pens as far as the eye can see. Each one contains seven or more pigs without room to move. Swine flu started in La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico, where residents had been protesting against a Smithfield Farms hog containment facility. Last September, there was an outbreak of bird flu in the nearby poultry factories. The proximity of poultry increases the risk of viral recombination and the emergence of new pandemic strains. Residents of La Gloria have spent years resisting these farms, and spent months trying to bring attention to the respiratory illness hitting their people.
A couple of years ago in Romania, Smithfield refused to let authorities inspect their facilities despite the stench of hundreds of pig corpses left rotting for days. It eventually emerged that they were concealing a major outbreak of swine fever. In Indonesia, where people are still dying from bird flu, authorities still can't enter poultry factories without permission of the company. Around the world, thousands of communities are fighting against factory farms. We need to turn pandemic hysteria into a global movement to abolish them. My previous episode Love 'Em and Eat 'Em interviews Nicolette Hahn Niman on her book, Righteous Porkchop, about her years as a lawyer fighting against industrialized animals for food.
To begin the next section, I'd like to go back to 1787 when the New World was new, at least to Europeans. The Revolutionary War was over and the Articles of Confederation were in place. Each state agreed to defend each others' sovereignty against any threat. All was not, however, calm on the Western front. European investors in the war were demanding repayment in gold and silver. Wealthy urban businessmen were trying to squeeze whatever they could out of smallholders, many of whom had been conscripted into the war with no pay. Upon discharge, the states taxed them for the gold, then confiscated their land and houses, throwing them into debtor's prison when unable to pay. Luke Day organized farmers and veterans to stop the foreclosures. The courts ordered the militia to intervene, but the militia were often also farmers and veterans.
"Commotions of this sort, like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no opposition in the way to divide and crumble them."
Daniel Shays joined Luke Day and they shut down the local court. They petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to issue paper money to pay the veterans so they could pay their many taxes – class rates, town rates, province rates, and Continental rates. Instead, Boston merchants, after failing to get other states to pay, funded a 4000-man army to protect the Springfield court's debt collection and property seizures. In February of '87, they reached the armory ahead of Shays and put down the uprising. Then the merchant class got to work dividing and crumbling, so that in the future, the populace would fund the army that served the moneyed interests against them.
In May of '87 a convention was scheduled to meet to clarify the issuing of paper money and the regulation of trade. But a few men had a prior meeting in Annapolis with another idea – to use this convention to change the form of government from a union of sovereign states to a centralized supreme rule. John De Witt, who wrote as Federal Farmer, describes it this way:
"The states still unsuspecting, and not aware that they were passing the Rubicon, appointed members to the new convention, for the sole and express purpose of revising and amending the confederation – and, probably, not one man in ten thousand in the United States, till within these ten or twelve days, had an idea that the old ship was to be destroyed, and he put to the alternative of embarking in the new ship presented, or of being left in danger of sinking."
The delegates to this convention were principally connected to commerce, not members of Congress or judges. What they proposed wasn't an amendment to the Articles but an entirely new form of consolidated government with the power to tax directly, raise an army and navy, incur debts, and appoint judges that would rule over the state judiciaries. A New York judge named Robert Yates withdrew from the convention because it was overstepping its purpose. He became one of the most articulate and insightful anti-Federalists, writing under the name of Brutus. He claimed that the Supreme Court would become a source of almost unlimited federal over-reach, but his most dire predictions have been outstripped. Yates noted that portions of the proposed Constitution were well-formed but that the gilded pill contains the most poison. He implored New Yorkers to look at the foundational pillars. One of these was that there be one representative for every thirty thousand men, with five slaves counting for three freemen. Yates writes passionately about the hypocrisy of a country founded on liberty practicing slavery, and shows this as a ruse to give slaveholders more power.
A key point against state sovereignty has been our historical belief that slavery would have continued unimpeded without centralized rule. However, the new Constitution prohibited Congress from outlawing the import of slaves until 1808, although it could tax it. This 20-year reprieve on slavery indicates that there was a powerful movement to abolish it earlier. 1808 came and went without incident, showing that the new government, with disproportionate representation by slaveholders and funded by slave import taxes, was less motivated to abolish slavery than the original confederacy had been. In 1833 Britain abolished slavery, so US slaves would have been free if the US had not split off. And still by the Civil War, 30 years later, Lincoln told Virginia that she could keep slavery if she didn't secede – once more proving that the reasons wars are started and the reasons that justify them after the fact are two different things.
We'll now break for Tom Waits with Georgia Lee. We'll return with the brightest star in the anti-Federalist constellation: Patrick Henry and his words on the constitution switcheroo.
[Tom Waits – Georgia Lee]
That was Tom Waits with Georgia Lee from Mule Variations, his first studio album in six years. We're back talking about whether the Constitution, and the underhanded way in which it was brought about, constituted an act of treason against the government by, of, and for the people. We've seen that it wasn't introduced in Congress, but in a separate convention on trade and legal tender to which delegates were appointed. The expectation was that they would come to Congress with proposed amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they introduced a new form of centralized government to replace the federation of sovereign states. Now we'll hear from Patrick Henry on his address to the convention:
"I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. ...The fate of ... America may depend on this. Have they said, We, the states? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation. It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing – the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. ...Is this a monarchy, like England – a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland – an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely.
Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. ... Here is a resolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished...The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change.... Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan.
I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government." Patrick Henry continues on to say that Virginia should secede from the Union if this government is adopted. Switzerland, he points out, has lasted 400 years as a federation of different forms of governments, which enabled it to withstand France and England. But the Constitution changing the government ended up being rushed through ratification with little time for the people to understand what it meant. The best that Henry was able to do was add the Bill of Rights, giving some teeth to a document that otherwise said in pretty language, "Here's what we all believe, now trust us."
The "founding fathers" who drew up the Constitution in fact represented early transatlantic corporations wanting trade monopolies, financiers wanting taxation and property repossession, and slavers wanting the institution to continue. Local democracies, like the united farmers, veterans, and militia of Massachusetts, were their greatest enemy – to be divided and crumbled according to Washington, or to be executed as traitors according to Samuel Adams. Does a Congress made up of a Senate and House of Representatives double our power or divide and crumble it? How effective have we been against a centralized executive power that appoints the judiciary for life?
I can't help but make comparisons to my research on whether the Bible is a false document. Like the Constitution, it represents itself as the voice of the people, the revolutionary peasant class. But in fact, I believe both were written by the elites as a trick to confuse and neuter the revolution by using its own language against it. My episode "Josephus & the Multi-Colored Turncoat" on radio4all.net goes into more detail.
We'll end with Ani de Franco singing Smiling Underneath, as a reminder that what's important is our faith in each other, not some dusty documents. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for production and editing. And special thanks to Richard Grossman and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, whose analysis and research informed this episode.
[Ani DiFranco – Smiling Underneath]
Thanks for listening.