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The US Constitution and The Federalist Papers as “the Great Experiment” in the Light of Brexit and a potential Itexit

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The Constitution of the United States is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”-William Gladstone, Prime Minister of England

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] s the above quote suggests, most educated Europeans are aware of the importance of the US Constitution for the birth and development of modern democracy. Many consider it among the great contributions to political philosophy. What many don’t know, however, is that before the Constitution, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay had put together the so called Federalist Papers in order to win over the state of New York to the ratification of the proposed Constitution.

It can be argued, that a full understanding of the US Constitution requires an attentive reading of those papers, for those papers are nothing less than a work of original practical philosophy in the ancient tradition of Plato and Aristotle. Those essays constitute a veritable education in the founding of a nation: political philosophy on a grand scale written by men who were young but wise, and confident that things that have never been done cannot be done save by methods never tried before; acutely aware that historically republics have always failed. In brief, they are an education on the grounds, political and ethical, for any republic or federal union to succeed and survive. We, on both sides of the Atlantic, ignore them at our own peril.

The greatest danger is to confuse “populism” for the rule of the ignorant, vulgar mob. You see this phenomenon with the rise to power of individuals such as Le Penn, Le Farge, Trump, Grillo, Berlusconi, just to mention a few. All were democratically elected by misguided people who expect those so called leaders to redress their grievances not by democratic methods but by bullying, Machiavellian tactics of power grabbing, and even clownish methods. Give people bread and circuses and one can do what one wants. These unfortunately have never been very democratic tactics and far from solving people’s social problems, it may exacerbate them and be a prelude to demagoguery and even tyranny. We find ourselves in that deplorable situation as we speak.

But to return to The Federalist papers, they are and remain important documents because they offer the philosophical background to the US Constitution. To be sure, the dominating political treatises of the time were those of Locke (which most founding fathers had read), Montesquieu, and Rousseau, but none of those essays were the template for a national government, for the “American experiment” so called, which would be imitated and repeated by newer sovereign states in the subsequent two centuries.

As one surveys those essays one becomes increasingly aware that their writers (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) had in mind an audience that was large and pluralistic. That kind of audience could only be won over by specific arguments that confronted specific criticisms. This is a first, indeed, in political philosophy: an in depth conversation with the people on how to self-govern.

In total, the three authors of The Federalist Papers published 85 essays in New York newspapers between October 1787 and April 1788 under the pseudonym Publius. Hamilton planned the whole project and contributed the greatest share, followed by Madison. Jay’s contribution was slight but nevertheless addressed some important points. In any case, it is Madison, more than any other of the delegates, who deserves the praise for giving Americans their Constitution.

Madison says in those essays that a political regime is a republic only when the government’s power is derived entirely from the people and administered by persons holding their offices for a limited period and during good behavior. There is nothing new here, but Madison then observes that history shows that the closer something comes to that sense of a republic, the sooner it dies.

The only republics that seem to succeed for a long time are the ones which he refers to as a kind of puritanical republic. John Adams was behind that view. He had written that only “pure religion or austere morals” will be capable of holding a republican form of government together. Keeping those observations in mind, Madison distinguishes between pure democracies, subject to the functionalism that leads to anarchy, and the right sort of republic, in which power is delegated by the people. There is a tension here, almost a paradox, between the need of a central government able to secure the finances and defense of the nation and the jealously guarded freedoms of the individual states.

We must also observe that a remarkable feature of the Convention of 1787, which drafted the Constitution, is that it specifically refused to incorporate a Bill of Rights. This was written separately with the expressed purpose of defending the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. It was a deliberate omission, for a self-governing people should decide what its own rights are. To list them is ipso facto to limit them. That is to say, the federal government should not trump the communities, or the states, that compose the federation; the people of a particular state have formed self-governing communities based on their own views of their rights.

You have no need of federal guarantees of your rights against your local community. This is derivative of the concept of “unalienable rights” mentioned in the declaration of Independence: a people are born with certain human rights. They have them by the mere fact that they are human. No State can confer them or violate them. Their violation is, for all intent and purpose, a violation of the natural law. So, right from the beginning we observe a tension between a centralized government, intent on consolidating its power, and a decentralized federalist government intent on leaving power in the hands of the people. In some way this is the current dilemma afflicting that other confederation called the EU.

The lesson taught by Montesquieu was that there are only three types of government: 1) despotism, which rules by will with the people cultivating reverential fear and submission, 2) monarchy, with rule by law in the hands of a single person, which calls for the cultivation of honor, 3) republic, dependent on the cultivation of virtue. A republic is what Garibaldi had in mind before the monarchy succeeded in coopting him to the cause of unification.

In any case, here power needs to be separated or the republic will convert into a tyranny. This is what we find in the Stoic outlook of the founding fathers: the republic will succeed in as much as we create and preserve lives of virtue and self-sacrifice. Power in this kind of republic would flow toward a natural kind of aristocracy which would arise spontaneously when the free exercise of virtue is permitted and even encouraged.

There is no doubt that The Federalist Papers and “the great experiment” in self-governance mark a special chapter in human history; a chapter where there would be convergence of political, scientific, and moral energies capable of overturning the old order. But the signal feature of the whole enterprise was the direct, open, respectful address to the people, an attempt to gain support by appealing to the common sense and mature political understanding of those who, in virtue of being fit for the rule of law, are fit to rule themselves. That address to the people is the essence of The Federalist Papers.

Perhaps at this point we begin to comprehend the open admiration of William Gladstone for the American Constitution as expressed in the above quote. One can only hope that more people, on both sides of the Atlantic, would take the time to read The Federalist Papers, constituting a theoretical but also pragmatic approach to political philosophy. This is essential for an enduring friendship and alliance among democracies; they cannot long last if they are based on a misunderstanding of each other’s political patrimony.  

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Americas

A Disintegrating Trump Administration?

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If Donald J. Trump wanted a historic presidency, he certainly seems to have achieved it — he is now the only president to have been impeached twice.

According to the rules, the House impeaches followed by a trial in the Senate.  There is precedent for the trial to continue even when the office holder has left office.  Should that trial result in conviction, it prevents him from seeking any future elected office.  Conviction is unlikely, however, as it requires a vote of two-thirds of the members present.

It has been reported that Trump wanted to lead the crowd in the march to the Capitol, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Secret Service who considered it much too dangerous and could not guarantee his safety.

Various sources attest that Trump’s mind is focused on pardons including himself and his family members.  Whether it is legal for him to pardon himself appears to be an unresolved question.  But then Trump enjoys pushing the boundaries of tolerated behavior while his businesses skirt legal limits.

He appears to have been greatly upset with his longtime faithful vice-president after a conversation early on the day of the riot.  As reported by The New York Times, he wanted Mike Pence to overturn the vote instead of simply certifying it as is usual.  The certification is of course a formality after the state votes already certified by the governors have been reported.  Pence is reputed to have said he did not have the power to do so.  Since then Trump has called Vice President Pence a “pussy” and expressed great disappointment in him although there are reports now that fences have been mended.

Trump’s response to the mob attacking the Capitol has also infuriated many, including lawmakers who cowered in the House chamber fearful for their lives.  Instead of holding an immediate press conference calling on the attackers to stop, Trump responded through a recorded message eight hours later.  He called on his supporters to go home but again repeated his claims of a fraudulent election.

Aside from headlining the US as the laughingstock among democracies across the world, the fall-out includes a greater security risk for politicians.  Thus the rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Sunday has been postponed raising questions about the inauguration itself on January 20th.

Worse, the Trump White House appears to be disintegrating as coordination diminishes and people go their own way.  Secretary of State Pompeo has unilaterally removed the curbs on meeting Taiwanese officials put in place originally to mollify China.  If it angers China further, it only exacerbates Biden’s difficulties in restoring fractured relationships. 

Trump is causing havoc as he prepares to leave the White House.  He seems unable to face losing an election and departing with grace.  At the same time, we have to be grateful to him for one major policy shift.  He has tried to pull the country out of its wars and has not started a new one.  He has even attempted the complicated undertaking of peace in Afghanistan, given the numerous actors involved.  We can only hope Biden learned enough from the Obama-Biden administration’s disastrous surge to be able to follow the same path.

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Flames of Globalization in the Temple of Democracy

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Authors: Alex Viryasov and Hunter Cawood

On the eve of Orthodox Christmas, an angry mob stormed the “temple of democracy” on Capitol Hill. It’s hard to imagine that such a feat could be deemed possible. The American Parliament resembles an impregnable fortress, girdled by a litany of security checks and metal detectors at every conceivable point of entry. And yet, supporters of Donald Trump somehow found a way.

In the liberal media, there has been an effort to portray them as internal terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called his fellow citizens who did not vote for him “a raging mob.” The current president, addressing his supporters, calls to avoid violence: “We love you. You are special. I can feel your pain. Go home.”

That said, what will we see when we look into the faces of these protesters? A blend of anger and outrage. But what is behind that indignation? Perhaps it’s pain and frustration. These are the people who elected Trump president in 2016. He promised to save their jobs, to stand up for them in the face of multinational corporations. He appealed to their patriotism, promised to make America great again. Arguably, Donald Trump has challenged the giant we call globalization.

Today, the United States is experiencing a crisis like no other. American society hasn’t been this deeply divided since the Vietnam War. The class struggle has only escalated. America’s heartland with its legions of blue-collar workers is now rebelling against the power of corporate and financial elites. While Wall Street bankers or Silicon Valley programmers fly from New York to London on private jets, an Alabama farmer is filling up his old red pickup truck with his last Abraham Lincoln.

The New York banker has no empathy for the poor residing in the southern states, nothing in common with the coal miners of West Virginia. He invests in the economies of China and India, while his savings sit quietly in Swiss banks. In spirit, he is closer not to his compatriots, but to fellow brokers and bankers from London and Brussels. This profiteer is no longer an American. He is a representative of the global elite.

In the 2020 elections, the globalists took revenge. And yet, more than 70 million Americans still voted for Trump. That represents half of the voting population and more votes than any other Republican has ever received. A staggering majority of them believe that they have been deceived and that Democrats have allegedly rigged this election.

Democrats, meanwhile, are launching another impeachment procedure against the 45th president based on a belief that it has been Donald Trump himself who has provoked this spiral of violence. Indeed, there is merit to this. The protesters proceeded from the White House to storm Congress, after Trump urged them on with his words, “We will never give up, we will never concede.”

As a result, blood was shed in the temple of American democracy. The last time the Capital was captured happened in 1814 when British troops breached it. However, this latest episode, unlike the last, cannot be called a foreign invasion. This time Washington was stormed by protestors waving American flags.

Nonetheless, it is not an exaggeration to say that the poor and downtrodden laborers of America’s Rust Belt currently feel like foreigners in their own country. The United States is not unique in this sense. The poor and downtrodden represent a significant part of the electorate in nearly every country that has been affected by globalization. As a result, a wave of populism is sweeping democratic countries. Politicians around the world are appealing to a sense of national identity. Is it possible to understand the frustrated feelings of people who have failed to integrate into the new global economic order? Absolutely. It’s not too dissimilar from the grief felt by a seamstress who was left without work upon the invention of the sewing machine.

Is it worth trying to resist globalization as did the Luddites of the 19th century, who fought tooth and nail to reverse the inevitability of the industrial revolution? The jury is still out.

The world is becoming more complex and stratified. Economic and political interdependence between countries is growing each and every day. In this sense, globalization is progress and progress is but an irreversible process.

Yet, like the inhumane capitalism of the 19th century so vividly described in Dickens’ novels, globalization carries many hidden threats. We must recognize and address these threats. The emphasis should be on the person, his dignity, needs, and requirements. Global elites in the pursuit of power and superprofits will continue to drive forward the process of globalization. Our task is not to stop or slow them down, but to correct global megatrends so that the flywheel of time does not grind ordinary people to the ground or simply throw nation-states to the sidelines of history.

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Deliberate efforts were made to give a tough time to President Joe Biden

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Image credit: Todd Jacobucci/ flickr

President Trump-Administration is over-engaged in creating mess for in-coming President Joe Biden. The recent deliberate efforts are made to give a tough time are:  naming Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, Terming Iran as a new home to al-Qaida, and lifting restrictions on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan.

The consequence may turn into dire situations, like a return to cold war era tension. Efforts were made to resume Cuba-US relations to normal for decades and were expected to sustain a peaceful co-existence. Any setback to relations with Cuba may destabilize the whole region. Pompeo’s redesignation of Cuba as a sponsor of state terror will possibly have the least material impact, but it signifies a personal loss to Biden and a momentous political win for Trumpism. In doing so, Trump is hitting the final nail in the coffin of Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

Yemen issue was a creation of Arab spring sponsored by the CIA, and after realizing the wrongdoings, the US was trying to cool down the tension between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but with the recent move to name Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, may open new hostilities and bloodshed. It has been designated by UNICEF as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people — some 80 percent of the population — in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.” Such statements may halt humanitarian assistance and may result in a big disaster.

The history of rivalries with Iran goes back to 1953 when the UK and the US jointly overthrew the legitimate government of Prime Minister Mossadeq. But the real tension heightened in 2018 When President Trump withdrew from JCPOA. But the recent allegation that Iran as a new home of al-Qaida may take a new turn and give a tough time to Joe Biden–Administration. Although there is no evidence, however, Secretary of State Pompeo made such an allegation out of his personal grudge against Iran. It can complicate the situation further deteriorate and even may engulf the whole middle-east.

Lifting constraints on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan, is open violation of “One-China Policy.” Since Washington established formal diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, it has resisted having official diplomatic associations with Taipei in order to avoid a confrontation with the PR China, which still comprehends the island — home to around 24 million people — as part of China. Chinese are very sensitive to the Taiwan issue and struggling for peaceful unification. However, China posses the capabilities to take over by force, yet, have not done so far. Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo’s statement may be aiming to instigate China and forcing toward military re-unification. It might leave a challenging concern for Joe Biden-Administration.

Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said, “The Trump administration is locking in place a series of conflicts that change the starting point for Biden walking into the office on the world stage.”

Even Mr. Pompeo had a plan to travel to Europe to create further hurdles for in-coming administration, but fortunately, some of the European countries refused to entertain him, and desperately he has to cancel his trip at the eleventh hours.

It is just like a losing army, which destroys all ammunition, weapons, bridges, infrastructures, etc., before surrendering. Although President Trump’s days in office are numbered, his administration is over-engaged in destruction and creating hurdles for the next administration. He is deliberately creating hurdles and difficulties for President-Elect Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden has many challenges to face like Pandemic, unrest in the society, a falling economy, losing reputation, etc. Some of them might be natural, but few are specially created!

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