By Christopher Roach
On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our independence. While we all enjoy fireworks and barbeques, this is supposed to be the commemoration of a revolutionary political act, our separation from Great Britain and, with that separation, the establishment of a new and beneficent political order.
The Declaration of Independence set forth the colonists’ complaints, chief among them the English crown’s disregard for the colonists’ traditional rights, the disregard for the consent of the governed, and, more broadly, a complaint that the government had devolved into rule by an alien and foreign people, who lacked the habits, opinions, and struggles of the nascent American people.
The intensity of Americans’ grievances may seem disproportionate to the offense. Government spending was a lot less than today’s 40% of the economy, and the colonists were unburdened by a mountain of regulations controlling where one could build a home, whom one could hire and fire, and whether to take an experimental vaccine.
This is to say that the size of the modern federal government, its impositions, and its expense are an order of magnitude worse than what the colonists endured. But size alone does not thwart the principles of American government. The Declaration of Independence is fundamentally a catalog of complaints about rule by aloof, hostile foreigners. The cry was “no taxation without representation,” not “no taxation ever.”
Independence Requires Self-Government
For Americans, an important part of liberty was popular control of the government; that is, the principle of respect for the “consent of the governed” and the right of self-government. A government that did whatever it chose without regard to what the people wanted was deemed to be a problem, regardless of its lack of severity or the benevolence of its intentions.
Nominal representation does not, however, vindicate the current regime. While on paper we are independent and possess a limited government controlled by the Constitution, the federal government today is quite literally out of control. This is not a mere partisan gripe because Joe Biden is president. Under its current structure, it hardly matters who is elected to Congress or to the presidency.
Just as a majority of government spending is non-discretionary and, as a practical matter, outside of political control, much of the government’s activity is also outside of political control. Regulations and the hiring of regulators is controlled by the army of unelected bureaucrats who make up the administrative state. Critics have rightly called this the “headless fourth branch.”
Examples of its impositions are legion. The ATF’s unpopular pistol brace rule originated without any new legislative input. The CDC’s various COVID rules came from the hunches of the CDC leadership, not a vigorous, politically accountable process. The FBI and intelligence community brazenly interfered with two presidential elections and lied about it.
When President Trump wanted to exercise his statutorily granted authority to restrict immigration, rebellious DOJ officials refused to enact his lawful orders. When Obama tried to reduce our footprint in Afghanistan and when Trump ordered our troops out of Syria, in both cases Pentagon officials lied, slow-walked, and otherwise resisted an elected president’s lawful orders because of their idiosyncratic notions of good policy.
In all of these cases, the American people are not deciding important policies, nor are their elected representatives. Rather, the managerial class administrators choose the policies they think best, their deliberations are hidden from view, and side deals and de facto bribes from regulated industries are common. When there is a challenge, these bureaucrats resist oversight by the president, the legislature, and the courts.
The Deep State Rejects Electoral Control
This deep state rightly understood the meaning of Trump’s election. This surprising result was a collective vote of no confidence by the American people in both the federal government and the broad ruling class consensus that emerged after the Cold War.
In the words of Andrew Bacevich, “Globalized neoliberalism, militarized hegemony, individual empowerment, and presidents elevated to the status of royalty might be working for some, but not for [Trump voters]. They also discerned, again not without cause, that establishment elites subscribing to that consensus, including the leaders of both political parties, were deaf to their complaints and oblivious to their plight.”
Being rather certain of themselves, the deep state responded to this no confidence vote by doubling down on all of their items of interest and rigging the 2020 election to install a pliable, senile figurehead.
Americans should understand the meaning of their own founding documents and history. The type of government contemplated by the founders prioritized “self-government,” one that obtains the “consent of the governed” by its nature. The current regime is a progressive-era holdover, an undemocratic managerial state ruled by putative technocrats and experts.
Progressive era managerialism claims legitimacy because it imagines the discovery of verifiably correct public policy. Having discovered technocratically correct policies, these policies may be advanced without regard to public opinion. After all, if the policies are correct, any expression of opposition is mere “misinformation” serving no purpose. Thus, the administrative state’s managerial heads will ignore, deceive, and manage public opinion to pursue policies that they have determined are the fruit of authentic political and managerial science.
There is more than one type of threat to liberty. Just as foreign occupation is incompatible with independence, rule by homegrown aliens, with whom one does not share the same interests, values, and pieties, can threaten independence as well. Arguably, the distance between ordinary people and the Washington D.C. government sector is more profound today than that of the American colonists from the English in 1776.
And, like those colonists, we live under a kind of occupation, complete with a new flag.
A New Government Requires a New History
The new system requires the erasure of the past, because continued veneration of constitutionally limited government would show such a system’s contrast with the undemocratic and essentially unlimited reach of the managerial regime.