Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Federalist Papers
In 21st Century Language

(Editor's Note: I have no intention of revealing how the following correspondence fell into my hands - RLK.)

DATE:          APRIL 2012
RE:                WTF?

 To the people of the State of New York and to the other States:

  Greetings to you all. We're sure you're wondering who we are. We are your spiritual forefathers sending you some Email using these nifty new servers they just connected to the Net.

  We are those known to you once as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, and we extend to you all our most humble greetings.

  You have surely heard of us, even after 200 years. James here is the fourth President of the United States; John is the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Alexander the first Secretary of the Treasury before an unfortunate incident on the bluffs of New York.

  Now we're sure you're all wondering what we mean. After all, we've all three of us been dead for almost two centuries, give or take a decade. And as you know, dead men tell no tales.

  We've been granted a small privilege, given the gravity of the current situation on Earth. We have taken a look at the state of the Union and we're not happy with what we see. So we applied to Upper Management for a special dispensation.

  We've accordingly contracted with a recent arrival hereabouts--I believe his name was Bart Bright, or some such, when he was with you all--and enlisted him to transcribe these message to you in a form of English more in keeping with the 21st Century: a time that from what we hear is both very alien and very familiar to us.

 And, of course, this writing style doesn't match at all that which we used the last time we were writing together. This is because, as we have to use Mr. Bright as our amanuensis, we have to use his voice and not our own. An annoyance really, but it has its advantages as well, which we'll discuss shortly.

  Now, this all started when Alexander recently completed his stretch in Purgatory and said he wanted to see what had become of our country, and we-–James and John--chose to join him for a little tour.

  We're not entirely pleased at what we see.

  Yes, we're very proud of how you have resolved many of the difficulties that marked our time. We're delighted that not only have you ended slavery but you've even overcome most of the dark habits we picked up imposing it. We're very proud about how you led the free world in fighting the monstrous regimes that took power over the last century. And we're delighted to see how your imagination and industry has created so many new instrumentalities of technology.

  But all is not well in this our nation.

  We're united in our dismay in seeing a serious breakdown in our system. You've locked in a group of representatives who seem intent on spending you all into the poor house. You've elected a President who appears not to know what he is doing–although we are pleased to see his ethnic background puts paid to much of the old ways. We see the business district of New York which we helped create is being occupied by a group of economic luddites. We're even hearing talk about cancelling elections and "decreasing democracy"  and even have heard the current President doubts that the Supreme Court should even perform its Constitutional duty!

  We've discussed the situation, and we've come to the conclusion that something needs to be done.

  In short: You all need to become reacquainted with what the Constitution means and how we came to this point.

  So we're going to urge you to reexamine certain papers of ours. They're quite famous, of course; the Federalist Papers are still read regularly by your intellectual elites and attorneys.

  But there's a problem. We've been gone a long time, and the English language has changed. Not everything we said back then is going to make much sense to you; furthermore, it's heavy style deters many from reading it.

  What to do about it?

  Well, truth is, one of our delights in our recent visit was to see a stage play in New York, a light musical based on Shakespeare. The story's the same, but since the form and language is that of New York and not sixteenth century England, the people enjoyed it much more.

 In the alternative, we've seen that the art of reading intelligently has declined pretty dramatically since the day we were about.

  So this is what we're going to do.

  Mr. Bright has agreed to transcribe and transmit our voices. We're going to rewrite and republish the entire Federalist Papers series, but in a form of English that is more amenable to your generation. The meaning will remain the same, but the form will be a little lighter and, we hope, a bit more enjoyable.

  While the tone may be less heavy than in 1788, the idea is that YOU GUYS NEED TO READ THIS STUFF. If you can't read the original (and if you can, forget Mr. Bright and for God's sake, read it!) But if you can't, or would rather not, then read this version. It's lighter, it's easier to comprehend, and it still will get the message across.

  Because if you people can't get your stuff straight, all our efforts may be wrecked.

  But keep this in mind: although the language is the language of the 21st century, we ask you imagine that it's 1788 all over again, and that we're writing for that audience.


  Read on, MacDuff.




 To the People of the State of New York:

  It's pretty clear to everyone now that the Articles of Confederation don't work, and that we've tried to fix it. Now's you're chance to judge our efforts.

  This is a big, er, deal, as your present Vice President put it so, er, eloquently. It covers whether we should be one country, and how safe those parts making up the country would be both under the new Constitution and independently.

  We are the subjects of a great experiment: whether people can pick their own government or not. This is something completely new–and History isn't on our side.

  This is the time and place. If we blow it, Mankind will suffer immensely.

  Patriotism and public spiritedness require that we pay attention to what is going on here.

  We need to pick carefully, and we need to choose dispassionately for what is really good for us as a whole and not necessarily what might be good for us as individuals.  (Figure the odds that this will happen, though. Again, History is Not On Our Side.)

  After all, this issue covers lot of territory, such as state and local governance and the effect the central government will have on them. These factors, and the effects they have on people at every level, guarantee that a lot of factors extraneous to the discussion will come into play.

  The most important obstacle facing the new Constitution is the fact that those in power already will do everything they can to prevent any change which lessens their personal power and/or income. Others, too, will fight it, as they would prefer to be big fish in a relatively small state pond than small fish in a large Federal lake. Many who would profit from disunion will lead the fight against Union.

  This series of essays, however, are not about this issue.

  It's of course unfair to equate all opposition to the Constitution to that of greedy men who want to maintain in power.

  It's possible that some of these men are arguing from legitimate reasons or from right intent. Much of our opposition will of course be made up of righteous individuals who, while holding wrong opinions, do so for correct reasons.

  We must remember that many good people will have mistaken opinions on this subject, and that their mistaken opinions does not diminish their inherent decency.

  We therefore should remember to be moderate in our criticism and modulate our tone, as we struggle to a great extent against our own.

  Furthermore we should also remember that many on our side of this constitutional question are not necessarily righteous in either their reasons or their intentions and bad motivations my be behind their good support. So let's be cautious and merciful in what we say.

  Furthermore, we all know that political intolerance occurs on both sides of the fence, and intolerance can arise in any political struggle and be far more destructive of the state than the questions that cause it to arise.

  In religion and in politics, conversion by sword point is a poor idea, and one usually can't eliminate a heresy by persecuting the heretic.

  I suppose that we should, nevertheless, expect it to arise in our present circumstance; and flamage and trollery will occur in this discussion as in so many others.

  Each side, we expect, will attempt to outshout the other. and the good guys will be accused of being power-hungry and enemies of freedom.

  Those who are careful to champion the people will be accused of being poseurs who want to be popular so that they can take advantage and those who have a passion for liberty may often harbor an obstinate hostility toward those they view as the enemies of liberty.

  We can't forget, though, that liberty can only be guaranteed by a sufficiently powerful government. These interests are inseparable. Beware, however: potential tyrants invoke "the people" much more often than they do a strong government.

  Advocates of "the people" have historically caused more despotisms than advocates of strong government; they often start as demagogues before they end up as tyrants.

 As you read these essays, we've tried to put you on guard against any politicized viewpoint, and we're attempting to give you as much information as possible based on truth, not spin. (Although I am sure you've already probably figured out that we favor the new Constitution indeed, we do....) we're convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness.
 Nor will we give voice to any doubts that we do not actually have.

  We also won't pretend we're still deciding when we have indeed already decided.

  We're for the Constitution. Now we'll say why, as pretending to be evenhanded while being ambiguous betrays bad intent. (We're not going to tell you our personal reasons for supporting the Constitution, however; that business is strictly our own.) We're willing to lay this on the line, however, so that you can judge and we're going to try to speak the truth as best we see it.

  Over the course of this series, we're going to discuss the following subjects:


  We're also open to questions and we'll try to answer them as this series goes on. Some may think that it's pointless to offer arguments about why the Union is a good thing–it should appear to most people to be a truth self-evident (to coin a phrase).

  But we hear from a lot of people that there are whispers going around–that one government can't handle an area so large, with so many different states of different sizes and characters, and that it is likely to be better if we were to have independent states in a few smaller confederacies. They aren't talking about it now, but they will later, because it's pretty clear that if this Constitution falls so falls the entire Federal union.

  So let's start by discussing the bad things that will follow if the Federal government should disappear.

  We will discuss this in our next. See you then.

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Keep it clean for gene.