Whatever one may think of Hauerwas, he has a point:
Who has the infinite duty to honor the infinite claim of every person to the pursuit of happiness? The answer of the eighteenth century, and of those who have followed, is familiar: it is the nation-state. The nation-state replaces the holy church and the holy-empire as the centerpiece in the post-enlightenement ordering of society . . . the nation-state has taken the place of God as the source to which we look for happiness, health, and welfare (Stanley Hauerwas, After Christendom, p. 66).
For long years the situation has developed. The powers that be would prefer that we go blandly onward believing a cardboard cut-out picture. The United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave. “We” are always the good guys. No need to be concerned. Those who run the country are ever engaged in “the art of cutting into this chaos [the messy way things actually are] and imposing a simplified definition on the situation, that is, making people act as if the simplified picture were the reality” (F. G. Bailey, Humbuggery and Manipulation, p. 2).
Still, the networked-world renders this a difficult prospect. The state has failed. Today, even those of us who grew up attending state schools, indoctrinated into all the fine tales about the goodness of this fine nation, sense that the United States of America isn’t quite what it once was. In fact, the history of this nation is divided rather easily into periods, each dominated by a distinct ethos. One way to outline these is as follows.
United States of America 1.0
1775 – 1782 War of Secession from England (Revolutionary War / War of Independence)
1776 Declaration of Independence
1777 – 1789 Articles of Confederation
United States of America 2.0
1789 – 1791 Constitution
1791 Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution added)
1819 US Supreme Court rules congress’ powers not limited to those expressly delegated
United States of America 3.0
1846 – 1848 Mexican-American War (US acquires Alta-Mexico, i.e. The southwestern states)
1861 – 1865 War of Northern Aggression (Southern War for Secession, Civil War)
1862 Creation of US agency that became the IRS (Internal Revenue Service)
1869 US Supreme Court in Texas vs. White rules US Constitution does not permit states to secede
1886 Creation of US agency that became the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms)
1898 Spanish-American War (US gains control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam)
1898 US steals Hawaii
1908 Creation of US agency that became FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
United States of America 4.0
1913 16th Amendment to Constitution legalizes Federal income taxes
1913 17th Amendment to Constitution changes to direct election of senators
1913 Federal Reserve Act establishes Central Bank
1917 Woodrow Wilson and US entry into World War I
1919 18th amendment to the US constitution prohibits manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol
1929 – 1940 Great Depression I
1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt and US entry into World War II
1942 – 1945 110,000 Japanese descended imprisoned in US concentration camps by executive order 9066
1945 135,000 German civilians killed in Dresden bombing by Britain and US
1945 100,000 Japanese civilians killed in fire-bombing of Tokyo by US
1945 220,000 Japanese civilians killed by US nuclear weapons attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
1945 – 1963 US the primary polluter in above-ground nuclear testing
1947 Creation of US agency CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)
1950 – 1953 US-Korean War
1952 Creation of US agency NSA/CSS (National Security Agency / Central Security Service)
1965 – 1973 US-Vietnam War
1971 US abolishes gold standard, moves to only fiat currency
1979 Creation of US agency FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
1983 US invasion of Grenada
United States of America 5.0
1990 – 1991 US-Iraq War I (Persian Gulf War)
2001 USA Patriot Act
2001 – Present US-Afghanistan War
2002 Creation of US agency DHS (Department of Homeland Security)
2003 – Present US-Iraq War II
2007 Directive 51 gives president authority to declare suspension of regular operation of government
2007 US spy satellites in use against US citizens
2007 – Present Great Depression II
2008 US soldiers stationed and operating on US mainland
USA 1.0 covers the period of the United States’ war to secede from Britain. Many of the 13 former colonies specified that they were confederating in union as sovereign states.
Under USA 2.0, a major shift occurred from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. The result was centralization of power and a substantial weakening of the powers of the individual states. In the space of less than 30 years, the working of the Federal government moved from the tenth amendment’s language of powers “expressly delegated” by the Constitution, to the US Supreme Court ruling in 1819 that Congress’ powers were not limited to those expressly delegated. The hand-writing was on the wall, but who wanted to see it? Murray N. Rothbard states what had become obvious: “the Constitution has proved to be an instrument for ratifying the expansion of State power rather than the opposite” (For a New Liberty, p. 67).
In USA 3.0, we see naked thirst for empire slipping into the open. The idea of Manifest Destiny justified the expansion of the state. The lands of Native Americans were seized, treaties they signed disregarded by the USA. Overseas, numerous lands were taken by force. Finally, war between North and South was loosed after the imposition by the North of the Morrill Tariff Act of 1861, which imposed a 47 percent tax on the value of all imported goods coming through Southern ports. At this point, the Southern states sought to secede from the Union. The North aggressed. Where slavery had been ended peacefully almost everywhere else, in America it was ended via cataclysmic bloodbath in a northern victory.
In USA 4.0, the deterioration continues. Power is further centralized at the Federal level. A central bank is restored and the devaluation of the dollar proceeds. US presidents manage to manipulate facts and circumstances such that public opinion which had firmly opposed entry into world wars was turned. During WWII the US is directly responsible for the killing of half a million civilians, beside foreign military. American citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast are rounded up and imprisoned in dozens of concentration camps. The cold war began and the wealth of US citizenry was spent on stockpiles of genocidal weapons. The nation renounced the gold standard and moved to a purely fiat currency. (Several cases of foreign “regime change” under 4.0 and 5.0 are not here noted.)
In USA 5.0, we have empire fully on display. With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the US stood at a crossroads. No longer “necessary,” it was time to shrink the military-industrial complex. Fat chance. Instead, the US embarks on a further round of foreign military adventures, buying-off other nations and forming coalitions providing a cover of legitimacy. The terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 offered convenient justification for government surveillance of its own citizens. Unrestricted spending by the US triggers worldwide economic collapse. US debt during this period assumes catastrophic proportions. In repudiation of Posse Comitatus, US soldiers are stationed in the United States mainland to be available for use against US citizens in case of “civil unrest.”
We summarize, noting that there have been at least five iterations of the United States of America. From the initial concept of a very limited government and soveriegnty of the states in union, the state has travelled to its present situation as an autonomous behemoth operating independent of its founding values. The idea of a state whose power is limited by a piece of paper has run its course. We live in the result. In human terms, only time will tell whether the whole thing comes tumbling down of its own weight, or solidifies into a perpetual totalitarian regime as bad as the worst science fiction nightmare.
Welcome to America 5.0!