The following is an expanded version of an address I was asked to present recently. The subject is “radical,” in the sense that it digs down to the roots of the problem. But for that very reason it needs airing. Therefore, I put it out here for general consumption, and perhaps consternation. Please add it to the “I told you so” folder in your “favorites” list.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a certain nation was one of the richest countries in the world. [World War II] had left it a creditor nation; it was owed * * * billion[s of] dollars by Britain alone. The derelict state of the European economies gave [this country] an assured market for its exports, while making it difficult to import much from Europe, thus enabling th[is] country to protect its own * * * industries. After the neglect of the thirties there was money for public spending and the country was * * * absorbing a flow of immigrants * * * [who] were not illiterate and unskilled, but scientists, skilled workers, intellectuals.
What country was this? The United States? No-Argentina. 
The whole world knows what has happened in Argentina since then, and is still happening there. Informed individuals also know why: because Argentina’s dysfunctional leadership classes adopted faulty economic and political principles. Moreover, Americans can expect much the same thing to happen here, if the same conditions precedent are fulfilled. For although History may never repeat itself exactly, bad principles will bring about similar perverse consequences whenever and wherever they are put into operation. And America’s equally dysfunctional leadership classes have adopted the most dangerous of those principles. So, absent a radical correction in this country’s present course, the Argentina-ization of the United States is very likely to take place.
As in Argentina, America’s present economic and political systems are controlled by arrogant men and women steeped in avarice and ambition, and driven by their appetites for abusive power. The lyric by Enrique Santos Discepolo, master composer of the tango, sums up the situation here just as it did in postwar Buenos Aires:
Don’t you see, you poor fool, that whoever’s got the most dough is right?That honor’s sold for cash, and morals for pennies? That no truth can withstand two bucks? 
Simply put: Greed, accompanied by every manner of chicanery, both economically in the marketplace and politically in public office, has become this country’s one and only “hard currency”.
Nowhere does this appear more starkly than in the political arena. Contemporary politicians recognize no limits to their raw power. Observe that I do not say their “authority” – because to the extent that they act outside of the Constitution, they have no legal authority whatsoever (and, in the strictest sense, no power, either). Yet most of them do imagine themselves entirely outside of the Constitution – at least in terms of the constraints it imposes on them when they act under color of law in the guise of “government”. Indeed, they openly express their disdain for the Constitution. For instance, recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was asked at a press conference where in the Constitution Congress finds authorization to enact national health-care legislation. Her response was, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” No one asked whether she was serious – because, of course, everyone knew that she was.
That Representative Pelosi was quite serious is as disturbing as it is revealing. For the Constitution explicitly commands that public officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution”.  So, every time that officials treat constitutional limitations on their prerogatives as some kind of contemptible joke, they are in effect committing perjury. Yet America is saddled with governments, at every level, comprised largely of individuals for whom the willingness to commit serial perjury in furtherance of their own selfish interests appears to be a condition of obtaining and operating within public office.
Inasmuch as “Oath[s] or Affirmation[s], to support th[e] Constitution” are ultimately made to the American people as a whole, these rogue public officials plainly feel no sense of legal or moral obligation to the people. Doubtlessly they are strengthened in this malign conviction by their belief that the electoral system is so tightly controlled by the two major political parties and their clients and partisans in special-interest groups and the big media that the people can do nothing to change the situation in any event. In this belief, however, they are woefully mistaken.
Political loyalties move on a two-way street. Masses of economically deprived, socially dislocated, and politically disenfranchised, disgruntled, and disgusted people – who have next to nothing left and therefore almost nothing more to lose – are unlikely to entertain any obligation to the political system under which they happen to live, or to the political parties, politicians, and special-interest groups that run that system for their own parochial benefit. When America’s economy slips into the free-fall of hyperinflation or depression, impoverished people will rebel. First, against ever-worsening conditions, by demanding that public officials correct the situation. Then, when their protests accomplish little or nothing, they will rebel against incumbent officials at the next election. Finally, when they discover that the two major political parties are really one party with an empty cranium and a pair of duplicitous faces, and that changing the political personalities in office does not ameliorate the conditions that arise out of the government’s hare-brained economic policies, they will rebel against this country’s A general disdain for legality will become the order of the day. After all, if public officials refuse to obey the Constitution, which is the sole source of their authority, what obligation has anyone else to obey any law that those officials enact or attempt to enforce? Now, as many as 200,000,000 to 300,000,000 firearms and an immense store of ammunition are estimated to be held in private hands throughout this country. Can anyone believe that, in the midst of what promises to become the most severe economic crisis of modern times, perhaps of all time, this profusion of armaments – in the hands of people who have been rudely stripped of their financial security, disabused of their political illusions, and driven to the edge of desperation by homelessness, hunger, and loss of hope – will not come into play in the most direct manner possible? Can anyone believe that these people’s natural and justified antagonisms against public officials, politicians, and special-interest groups will not turn to rancor – rancor to hatred – hatred to an urge for revenge – and an urge for revenge into actual violent retaliation in more than a few isolated instances and in only a short period of time? Of course, no sensible person wants this to happen. But no sensible person can deny that it could, and very likely would, happen under the posited circumstances.
One can only speculate as to how widespread and intense such violent reactions could become in the course of a catastrophic economic collapse throughout the United States. The circumstances that provoked previous episodes of mass violence in America, however, pale in comparison to what should be expected from hyperinflation or depression today. For instance:
During the six days of the so-called “Watts Riots” of 1965 in Los Angeles, California, over 30,000 adults took to the streets as rioters, 34 people were killed, 1,100 were injured, and upwards of $100 million worth of property, including some 1,000 buildings, was destroyed, looted, vandalized, or otherwise damaged. The riots were triggered by an altercation incident to a simple arrest for alleged drunk driving – but their suppression required more National Guardsmen and police than the total of American Armed Forces personnel whom President Lyndon Johnson deployed to take over the entire Dominican Republic in that same year. And suppression of the rioters did not address, let alone alleviate, the riots’ underlying causes, which were chronic in the community – including such socio-economic problems as high unemployment, substandard living conditions, and a lack of adequate public education, together with political grievances linked to institutionalized racial discrimination in the city.
In the Los Angeles riots of 1992, again the triggering event was relatively trivial – the questionable acquittal of three local police officers on charges of using excessive force to make an arrest.  Within hours of the “not guilty” verdicts, rioting broke out and then continued for three days, with live television coverage of arson, assaults, looting, and vandalism by rioters, and suppression of the disturbances by National Guardsmen and police, being broadcast nationwide. Overall, 50 people were killed; more than 4,000 were injured; and some $1 billion worth of property was destroyed or damaged.
These events teach certain lessons that Americans would be imprudent to imagine do not apply to themselves today:
First, each of the riots in Los Angeles erupted over a relatively minor event – but one which people on the spot linked to long-standing, widespread, and serious animosities derived from social, economic, and political grievances that public officials had failed, neglected, or refused to address. In the course of a major nationwide economic collapse, such events – and many much more serious – will be quotidian and legion.
Second, the Los Angeles rioters obviously believed that mass violence could and should be employed as a justifiable form of political activism, when nothing else worked. In this, one might note, they were in rough agreement with the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And the timeless wisdom of the Declaration – that “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”, but that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations * * * evinces a design to reduce the[ People] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government” – will surely gain many more adherents as insufferable economic catastrophe, caused by the nincompoops in the General Government, sweeps across America.
Third, probably very few of the participants (other than perhaps adventitious semi-professional looters) expected to gain anything in terms of significant personal profit or meaningful social betterment as a consequence of the upheavals in Los Angeles. Most of the rioters could never have expected the riots to bring about any specific political reforms, but instead engaged in them simply as a staging of anguished, despairing, and defiant political street-theater, the value of which inhered in the unmitigated violence through which the dialogue was communicated to a national audience. People who find themselves in dire economic straits throughout America tomorrow may also be expected to turn to the red-curtained drama of mass violence in order to “send a message” across the footlights. This message, however, will not be sent from a very small part of the country to the rest of it, but from the entire country to the very small part that constitutes the failed economic and political leadership classes. So the level of violence will be far greater, and its focus far narrower and much sharper.
Fourth, although the territory in which they broke out was limited in extent, the riots in Los Angeles were so severe that they could not be put down with only the local police forces available, but instead required deployment of the regular Armed Forces (in the form of the National Guard). Major civil disturbances throughout the entire length and breadth of the United States will render this country ungovernable in short order, even if the entire National Guard were mobilized and none of it defected to the popular side.
Fifth, although those in positions of political power eventually suppressed the Los Angeles rioters with armed force, the cost was exceedingly high in relation to what might have been the bill for nonviolently correcting the worst of the underlying conditions that had spawned the people’s grievances before those grievances finally took shape in destructive rebellion. Today, even worse shortsightedness is evident. For nothing is being done by the political and economic leadership classes to lift the crushing burden of debt – much of it unconstitutionally incurred in the first place – from the American people’s shoulders. Instead, more and more debt is being shoveled into the national account – eventually to be billed to common people through taxation and inflation – precisely in order to “bail out” the very institutions and individuals responsible for the present financial mess.
Sixth, the rioters in 1965 and 1992 were neither organized nor disciplined; and although some were armed, no concerted and systematic use of arms throughout the disaffected communities occurred. Neither did the rioters attempt to extend their violence into other areas, so as to attack the people they considered their oppressors in those people’s own neighborhoods. Under similar circumstances in the near future, this almost certainly will not be the case. And,
Seventh, in general, the more extensive the underlying socio-economic dislocations, and the more callous the disregard for these problems exhibited by the political apparatus, the more likely the eruption of mass violence that the perpetrators will rationalize as their only effective means to protest, broadcast, and redress their grievances with petitions written in the harsh language of destruction. Which augurs ill for the present time, inasmuch as no one can believe that the socio-economic problems that underlay the riots in 1965 and 1992 in Los Angeles alone were anything but minor in comparison to the dislocations that full-blown hyperinflation or depression – or even the run-ups to those conditions – will bring about in contemporary society throughout America.
Now, if Americans are to deal intelligently with this situation, they must understand the reasons for it. Basically, the reasons relevant here are that one vitally important constitutional principle has been flouted since 1913 and that another such principle is now being systematically disregarded.
The central economic problem plaguing this country since 1913 has been the presence of the Federal Reserve System. Without the Federal Reserve System’s debt-currency scheme having effectively supplanted the constitutional monetary system based upon silver and gold, it would have been impossible – not simply improbable, or difficult, but impossible – for politicians in the public sector and speculators in the private sector to have amassed the staggering level of unpayable, unconstitutional, and unconscionable debt that now bears down upon this country.
The critical political problem now emerging is the absence of a proper “homeland-security” structure based on “the Militia of the several States”, which the Constitution itself declares to be “necessary to the security of a free State”. Instead of thoroughly organizing and preparing the American people at the State and Local levels to deal with economic and social crises by themselves and with their own resources, public officials are setting up a centralized para-military police-state apparatus, which in a major nationwide crisis will impose upon this country the very worst kind of “homeland insecurity” in the style of the East-European communist “people’s republics” of the 1950s.
These two problems are inextricably interlinked. The people in political and economic control in Washington, D.C., and New York City may be knaves; but they are not all fools. They know that the Federal Reserve System – indeed, any central-banking scheme that circulates instruments of debt as “currency” – is inherently unstable, and will eventually self-destruct. And they realize that, here in the United States, “eventually” is no longer far off. Either they do not want to replace the Federal Reserve System, or they do not know how to replace it (at least in time). In any event, they have decided to attempt to “manage” its ever-more-destructive effects and thereby somehow “muddle through” with their power, wealth, and social positions intact – and the staggering costs of saving themselves to be imposed on hapless common Americans.
A major breakdown of the monetary and banking systems will, to some degree or other, negatively impact upon every economic transaction and relationship everywhere throughout the United States. So the crisis will inevitably and inexorably entail social unrest on an immense scale. Even if most State and Local police forces are marginally adequate to deal with the unrest that arises within their own jurisdictions, they will need to be coordinated in conformity with some overall national plan, so that a unified national effort can be made to stem the crisis. This will require a central apparatus of command and control. All the more so if State and Local police prove inadequate to the task. For which reason, more than any other, the Department of Homeland Security was originally created.
1Nicholas Fraser & Marysa Navarro, Evita: The Real Life of Evita Perón (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996), at 77
2Quoted in Robert D. Crassweller, Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987) at 81
3U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 3
4The underlying incident was the infamous beating of one Rodney King by four LAPD officers, an horrific videotape of which was aired repeatedly throughout the country.
This four-part editorial was previously posted on News With Views.
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