Monday, 8 March 2010

Federalists, antifederalists, founding fathers and regionalists.

Here's another rather slap-dash offering for the Wessex regionalist forum that might be worth sharing.

"Recently I've been study American politics at uni and been doing an essay on the
origins of the US constitutions through which I've been reacquainted with the
federalists, antifederalists and founding fathers, all of which I'm convinced
have something to aid us regionalists and decentralists.

These figures are of interest to Wessex regionalists for several reasons.

I think importantly they deal with constitution making and nation building
which is an important area for us regionalists and they tend to do so not in the
fanciful, abstract way of the Jacobins but in a far more measured and
historically minded way. Particularly when taken together the federalists,
antifederalists and founding fathers, particularly Jefferson and John Adams,
show an encyclopedic scope of interest and ideas, perhaps due to their living
before the growth of modern ideologies, but still seem to retain that necessary

This is particularly true with their solution to the problems of a federal
system and one where the central gov't is limited in size and scope. There is a
difference in the individual authors but they deal ably with the need for unity
in diversity, this in my opinion is particularly true of the abler
antifederalist writers such as Brutus, the federal farmer, Cato and Centinnel
who deal with the need to limit central gov't power and deal with the individual
branches of gov't(Brutus deals particularly well with the judiciary.). Balanced
with the federal papers, just so the need for some central coordination and how
to best manage this is not forgotten, and Jefferson and John Adams and I can
imagine few better guides to regionalists and decentralists in the mechanics of
subsidiarity and "federalism".

What is also good for us Englishmen is the level of reliance these figures tend
to place on the English political tradition which may help us to remember and
reformulate our own traditions of political liberty and balance. Blackstone,
Magna Carta and Coke for instance are as important to the debates around the
constitution as Locke and Montequieu. Which brings me to the final positive
which is a more personal one, they actually, through some alchemy manage to
produce some good from the likes of Locke, Hume, Montesquieu and such who in my
opinion have very little offer otherwise.

There are obviously a few negatives though. The major ones are they deal mainly
with politics and not so much society and economics, although these both are
touched on quite a bit and even quite masterfully at times particularly by John
Adams(also Thomas Paine's only worth, in my opinion, is his economic ideas but
these go halfway to making up for the rest.). However the emphasis is still very
much on the more narrow task of constitution and nation building, although you
can't have everything of course.

Another negative is that although they largely manage to avoid the naive and
crude radicalism of the philosophes and Jacobins there is still a lack of overt
traditionalism and that vein of Burkean conservatism that is necessary for a
complete perspective on politics and society, particularly for decentralist.
However there is enough implicit traditionalism and the overt and extremely
insightful conservatism of John Adams to partially make up for this,
particularly if one takes into account John Randolph of Ranoake from the next

Some of the key documents including the federalist and anti-federalist papers
are available online:

Otherwise the political writings of Jefferson, John Adams, Madison and Paine's
Agrarian Justice are all very much worth reading as Wessex regionalists and
simply as those interested in politics.

What the antifederalists were? By Hertbert Storing,and The library of America's
debates on the constitution parts one and two(which contain most of the key
primary documents of both sides.) are good works of reference as well."

Saturday, 6 March 2010

US neoliberalism versus European social democracy.

What with university I haven't posted for ages but I thought this post on the Wessex regionalists discussion board was good enough to be repeated here:

"I'm hardly a defender of the US system. I simply don't consider social democracy
as any better. Both systems have their many faults, some similar and some
different. Basically neoliberalism and social democracy(or the Keyneisan
consensus.) are statefueled, very similar systems which ultimately are just
about supporting corporate-capitalism in slightly different ways.

What one needs to recognise about corporate-capitalism and capitalism is they
are state creations; state intervention has been used to benefit the rich and
corporations. This however creates a structural imbalance, which is at the heart
of Keynes' diagnosis of the problems of capitalism and which is key to Marx'
business cycle theory and to many other similar observations(for instance JA.
Hobson's and the Hammonds.).

This imbalance is basically that the state intervention upsets the distribution
of wealth so that a few are very rich compared with most people's income and
most importantly these few take a very large proportion of the proceeds of the
production of goods compared to their numbers(or indeed their actual input.).
This means that there are too many goods being produced for most people to buy,
ie there is overproduction of goods, as the rich simply cannot or will not use
all their income to buy the goods being produced and the average people, taken
as a whole, cannot afford to. Linked to this the rich end up with a lot of
money, far more than even the most debauched is likely to spend on luxury, which
they need to do something with and they naturally, due to the internal dynamics
of the system, feel they need to invest. But as mentioned there is already an
overproduction of goods domestically so that this accumulated capital is too
much to be normally useful investment which leads to the situation of an
overaccumulation of capital.

So basically the original imbalance leads directly to a situation of
overproduction of goods, where there are goods being produced without the
effective demand to purchase them and an overaccumulation of capital which
cannot be invested with any likelihood of a decent return. So this means that
either the system will experience a crisis(such as a depression.), it will be
dismantled or the state will have to intervene further in order to manage demand
and provide reasonable outlets for investment. The middle option is that chosen
by distributism, the last one is that of both the neoliberals and social

Obviously there is a lot of shared ground between these latter ideologies, they
both attempt to open up more markets overseas(in which their nation's companies
are advantaged.), they both enact demand management and guarannted outlet
programs, they both attempt to try and maintain labour discipline and maintain
discipline among the populace at large so as to ensue the largest, safest profit
for big business and the rich. The difference is only in emphasis. Social
democracy, or the "Keyneisan consensus", attempted to bring big businsess, big
gov't and big labour together in a relatively harmonious attempt to deal with
these problems and it tends to have an important place for social welfare within
the demand management and population pacification realms. Whereas neoliberalism,
reacting to several problems like stagflation, accumulation crises and the 60s
legitimisation crisis that arose in social democracy, emphasises bringing labour
and the population to heal rather than working so hard to bring them on board.
It also downplayed the importance of social welfare compared to direct markets
and subsidies to corporations(although this was only a minor readjustment;
direct markets and sudsidies were important during the Keynesnian consensus as
well.) and made sure the balance between big gov't and big business was
maintained and gov't, who big business utterly relies on, did not overstep the
boundaries that the corporations decide upon.

Obviously this continued state intervention leads to the production of even more
goods and the accumulation of even more capital which perpetuates and increases
the original imbalance. Hence unless even more demand is conjured up by the
state to get enough of these goods purchased and even more outlets are found for
enough successful investment of overaccumulated capital then the system will
crash. the obvious inference is that this cannot go on for ever, one day the
operations will become too much for even the most energetic of modern gov'ts and
whether it is in 10 years or a 100 the system will collapse, unless it is
dismantled beforehand, and the crash will be that much bigger for all the effort
aimed at keeping it at bay for so long.

This is why distributism is not a luxury but a necessitity, the only other
solutions are the chaos of an evential massive collapse of global capitalism or
a new form of slavery, as Belloc realised.

Social democracy therefore is little better than neoliberalism, they are both as
corrosive to local and regional loyalties, to intermediate associations such as
family and local community and to traditional values. They are both as
state-driven and opposed to real economic freedom for most individuals where
they have the ability to own their own houses, their own land and productive
property and, if they do choose to work for a wage, where they can have a proper
dignity as an artisan and not a proletariat wage-slave. Certainly most employees
in Britain, Australia or Western Europe are hardly in a much better ultimate(not
in mariginal ways like a bit more pay but real econommic freedom such as
independence, control, dignity creativity and such.). I have only worked casual
jobs myself but everything single one has been like pulling teeth, I doubt
socially democatic Australia is much better than the US in this respect(although
obviously my personal experience doesn't go past partime jobs while I'm

When to the US, it is the federal gov't which created the corporate-capitalist
system far more than the state, the states would have not been able to engineer
such a system if the feds had been kept in their place, or it is unlikely
anyway. It has taken massive intervention since 1789 including opendoor
imperialism, the Brettonwoods institutions(which are little more than a way for
Western capitalists to dominate the world's economies.), corporate personhood
and welfare, guaranteed buyer schemes like the military-industrial complex and
so on. Did you know that congress' own 1980 report showed that in 1976 direct
subsidies to industry outweighed corporate profits?

Certainly we need to be more intelligent than those who paint the feds as always
bad and the states and locales as always good, we are talking of humanity and
there needs to be balance(although whether that requires a gov't the
size[geopraphically as well as other kinds.] of the US federal gov't is
obviously questionable.). But as regionalists and decentralists it is obvious
that we are going to feel that on balance the states and locales are better and
should have more power than the higher up levels and on balance we are supported
by the evidence.

One positive of the American system is that, outside the liberal coasts, the
elites and the media, there is a far more conscious and cohesive section of
social conservatives who, misled as they are in choosing allies and in how they
view economics, still maintain old fashioned values and committment to the key
smallscale associations like the family and a necessary idea of social cohesion
which under so much threat in Europe and which when undermined results in the
tensions and problems of social atomism and the clear scope for centralised
power to move in with the barriers and support of a healthy, strong society and
social bonds removed. Obviously corporate-capitalism and its necessary statism
will achieve this social disintegration almost as fast in the US, but at least
there is a more cohesive, conscious faction(because we exist in Britain and
Europe but lack group consciousness and cohesion.) which doesn't consider social
disintegration and atomism a good thing(the only difference between atomists
seems to be the divide between the right atomists who want powerful corporations
to provide for an atomised society and left atomists who want a powerful,
centralised state to provide for an atomised society.) unlike a lot of
Europeans(and liberal yanks.) who have come to celebrate the lack of any but the
most vague and fluffy social values, social authority and social bonds as a
positive development; as if an individual shorn of all his social and cultural
supports is likely to find freedom, contentment or peace."

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Links and other background additions.

I think it would be a good time to discuss what sort of links and other background additions we all would like to see on the blog.

Personally I think links to other key blogs and sites would be very useful as would perhaps a section naming key decentralist thinkers with links to wikipedia or other resources on them.

Any other ideas?

The Decentralist papers.

Well thanks to the other guys we have this fantastic blog set up now, the question is how do we first proceed with the initiative.

I've been reading recently the Federalist papers, the Anti-federalist papers and the writings of Jefferson and my idea is that we too create some sort of loose "decentralist papers" online. Basically we create a number of succinct but hopefully insightful mini-essays aimed at arguing for and responding to objections against decentralism, regionalism, distributism and similar issues.

We could structure it perhaps like an faq, similar to the anarchist faq though most probably not as large in scope.

What are other's views on this idea?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Welcome & Proceed provides an opportunity for those interested in regionalism and related philosophies to discuss issues of common concern, to exchange information and ideas, and to spread knowledge of what regionalism is about.

So what is it about? In current circumstances it is, at least predominantly, decentralist. It rejects the idea that the man/woman in Whitehall knows best. Power divided is empowerment maximised. Take any policy that a government might adopt to improve the well-being of its citizens. Some citizens may prefer one version, others another. The larger the political unit, the larger the number of citizens dissatisfied as a result. But divide the political unit into two or more and allow each its own, different policy and the number dissatisfied diminishes. Mathematically, the variation around the mean is minimised by maximising the number of units within which that calculation is carried out.

Predominantly decentralist. Because it does not preclude co-operation where co-operation works for the mutual benefit of those involved. Proudhon’s federative principle is still sound today: divide what can be divided and not what cannot. We should always be healthily sceptical about claims that powers need to be gathered together for the common good. Subsidiarity is a fine principle – that nothing should be done at a wider level that can be done as well or better at a narrower one. It works only if the narrower units are the assessors of their own competence and that of the wider levels to which they have delegated their authority. They cannot avoid being judge and jury in their own cause, any more than those wider levels can. But why should they, when they are their own customers for what they do? Even where little tyrannies exist they are less destructive and more easily ended than larger ones. It is a lesson lost on so many who loathe local autonomy, who imagine that a centralist state will impose their personal values, rather than suppress them. Centralism leads to violence because in a winner-takes-all constitution the stakes are that much higher.

The opposite of centralism would seem to be localism, and regionalists are generally localists too. Often first and foremost. For many, sovereignty rests, after the individual, with the parish. Everywhere else enjoys authority only by delegation, not by right. The curbing of local autonomy by Westminster legislation is no less offensive than sending in the tanks. Local government structures may be creatures of statute but they have the same democratic mandate as Parliament, arguably more so, as they are closer to the people. Successive Labour and Tory governments have become obsessed with concentrating political power at the centre. Sane politics means learning to live without the centre in most respects. It’s there to be our servant, not the other way around.

Why regionalist then? Because events have shown that there is something about the regional scale that makes a crucial difference. Devolved or federal units right across Europe – and the wider world – are small enough to respond to local conditions yet big enough to take on substantial powers and to stand up to bullying by the centre. No-one in London is going to kick the Scottish Parliament around. Berlin must acknowledge the views of Bavaria. And a trip to Andalusia might convince the visitor that its government is a sovereign entity. The Andalusian flags are on every public building, the remnants of the Spanish state all but invisible.

Europe has many small nations of regional scale, most notably the various countries dubbed ‘Celtic’. But regionalism is not necessarily nationalism. It is comfortable with multiple identities, from the parish to the planet. The region may be merely the middle level of a many-tiered sandwich. Demands for independence are a negative way of expressing a positive demand for power unreasonably withheld. And unreason has a habit of being matched with unreason. How much suffering could Ireland have been spared if Home Rule had not been so long delayed?

If some regions are also nations, what of those that are not? That they do not aspire to the national tag does not mean they have no history upon which to draw for inspiration. Wessex and Mercia have had their day but can have it again if need be. And need there is, as no constitutional settlement for England that does not address the grotesque concentration of power in the capital city can be sustained.

The Prescott debacle has tarnished the good name of regionalism, linking it to regionalisation, a purely bureaucratic exercise that never had any intention of giving real power away. On the contrary, the exercise has been about removing power from local communities to regions that are now duly hated and doubtless doomed. Hated not just because of what they are but also because of where they are. Nowhere. What a failure of nerve and imagination to prefer bland compass bearings to revival of our historic regional identities. Supporters and opponents alike of the regionalisation process point to Brussels as its instigator – the regions are also the constituencies for the European elections – but the reality is far more boring. The regional boundaries are a warmed-up version of ones in use by our own dear civil service since before the Second World War. If it’s a conspiracy, it’s Sir Humphrey’s, not Herr Hitler’s.

We cannot go on living under a system so centralised that other countries wonder how it can work at all. A lot of the time it doesn’t, but the fact is kept concealed by the concentration of opinion-formers in the capital. It’s their perceptions and prejudices that define the national conversation. A regionalised England could be a very different place. Regions would make their own policies, pass their own laws, set their own taxes. One result would be a greater diversity of discussion about the real quality of life, as regional media reported debates in regional parliaments and the Westminster village counted for less. The economy would be different too, with more recognition for those who make and do things ‘out there’ in the provinces and less reliance upon the City of London as the magical national bread-winner.

Despite Prescott’s bruising of its ideals, regionalism will return to the political agenda because in the long-run there is no alternative. The sooner we get it right, the sooner it can happen. And the sooner it happens, the sooner we can all start to benefit. Illuminated by decentralist thought gleaned from around the globe, this blog will make its contribution to that vital debate.