Liberty Matters

Republicanism and Eternal Returns

A naked permission to keep and bear arms is an insufficient ally of election or civil sovereignty. (…) Without a ‘well-regulated militia,’ the military sovereignty of a nation exactly resembles its civil society under a government of hereditary orders.”-- John Taylor of Caroline[86]
Two Points
In response to Dr. Halbrook, I would just add that since the 1970s many historians have rejected the old Federalist disdain for the militia’s role in the American Revolution and see the militias as crucial to the winning of American independence. Militias were, in fact, good (or adequate) for local defense, but rather poor at invading Canada. As historian William F. Marina wrote: “A citizen-militia is amateur-oriented service… Volunteer armies, when they assume imperial responsibilities, quickly become professionals with a career orientation.” [87] (He joked that “standing armies don’t stand around for very long.”)
Dr. Wootton suggests that British taxation was no more regressive than continental taxation. If so, it was far more productive. Joel Mokyr states that in the 18th-century only the Dutch paid higher rates. He also underscores the centrality of regressive taxes. John Brewer holds that after 1714 indirect taxes (customs, excises) provided about 70 percent of steadily increasing revenues.[88] If those ratepayers, whose voices counted, approved of overseas projects, we can indict them as social imperialists on some later day.
Underlying Issues
Under a veil of ideology, people on both sides of the water have taken outwardly good ideas (republican theory or Locke), on faith, as sufficient. The fine print having gone unread, the gap between legal constitutions and extra-constitutional powers gradually became an abyss for staring into (and being stared back at). On this, Bruce Lenman writes: “The U.K. executive’s operative culture leans heavily on the royal prerogative and notoriously preserves … the authoritarian, condescending style of the ancient régime, complete with the conviction that the security of the state justifies extreme measures and is identical with the convenience of the executive.”[89] The American executive, sending his arrows of desire around the world in “real time,” shares those attitudes and practices and expects undisputed primacy in them.
One wonders if the problem of the “the ownership and location of deadly force” was very well settled, especially since imperial isolationism has consistently undermined the British[90] and American opposition movements (Country Parties) with the doctrine that overseas empire does not injure liberty at home. (Our Court Parties have urged the same, but with less “isolationist” rhetoric.)
Empire comes in at least two[91] forms: (1) a consolidated landed state with an irresponsible executive; (2) overseas empire – colonial or informal. (The United Kingdom and United States have sometimes tried combinations of the basic types.) While the modern Hobbesian bureaucratic state corresponds nicely to empire in the first sense,[92] it normally drops out of discussion as the noncontroversial ground of putatively liberal order. This, in turn, makes it easier to accept professional -- and nonmercenary – armies as some kind of solution. 
A Wintry View of the Prospects for Liberty
The centuries-long career of interest-group politics and corruption[93] (in republican terms), and the related worldwide crisis of fictitious capital, make a return to Country Party ideas attractive. But the numerical analysis has run out. The One (the executive) claims all, even if it necessarily requires the help of a Few and a section of the Many to do its good works. As for estates, it’s unlikely we have any left to “balance.” We therefore find ourselves thinking that “that [our] conclusions should be more drastic.”[94]
Community, republicanism, and liberty now look essential. J.G.A. Pocock, tireless student of American republicanism in the flow of time, noted the emergence of the United States as “the greatest empire of patronage and influence the world has ever known,” sustaining “forms of corruption it was created to resist.” Several years earlier, he saw America’s Machiavellian Moment as all played out: “what would succeed that perspective is hard to imagine – the indications of the present point inconclusively toward various kinds of conservative anarchism – and its end does not seem to have arrived.”[95] 
A Door in Need of Opening
Reflecting on the teleological view of America as a Redeemer Nation, rationally and providentially founded, Pocock also commented that “to suggest that there were no promises and no covenant would be to strike at the heart.”[96] But faced with an increasingly militarized state consecrated to commercial empire and given to ideological seizures, we (Americans[97]) must address many original misunderstandings, including our famous exceptionalism. After that, we might find a way to enjoy real communities on a human scale. Godwin took up that challenge, even if his attempt had its problems. Standing armies and alternatives to them are one place to start.
[86.] John Taylor of Caroline, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (London: Routledge, 1950 [1814]), 396 (punctuation modernized). Online version: John Taylor, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (Fredericksburg, VA.: Green and Cady, 1814). </titles/1308>.
[87.] William F. Marina, “Revolution and Social Change: The American Revolution as a People’s War,” Literature of Liberty, vol. 1, no. 2 (April-June 1978), 22-27 (historians’ reevaluation of militia) </titles/908#lf0353-02_1978v2_head_006>; “The Dutch-American Guerrillas of the American Revolution,” in Morgan Norval, ed., The Militia in Twentieth Century America (Falls Church, VA; Gun Owners Association, 1985), 101-126; “Weapons, Technology, and Legitimacy,” in Norval, Militia, 189.
[88.] Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 427 (next-highest rates), 427-28 (“regressive” taxes), 431 (middle classes paid most). John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1989), 89-91, 95, 98-101. Cf. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), 3-304, 602-603 (indirect taxes).
[89.] Bruce P. Lenman, “Political Identities and the Languages of Liberty in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of British Studies, 35 (July 1996), 413.
[90.] See David Armitage, “The Cromwellian Protectorate and the Languages of Empire,” The Historical Journal, 35 (1992), 531-555, for early statements of imperial isolationism.
[91.] “There may be others” – Leonard P. Liggio.
[92.] Cf. G. Kitson Clark, “The Modern State and Modern Society,” in Heinz Lubasz, ed., The Development of the Modern State (New York: Macmillan, 1964), 90-103; Gianfranco Poggi, The Development of the Modern State: A Sociological Introduction (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1978); Tom Burns, “Sovereignty, Interests and Bureaucracy in the Modern State,” British Journal of Sociology, 31 (December 1980), 494-95; Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1985).
[93.] Ludwell Johnson, The Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1993), xiii.
[94.] Bob Dylan, “Queen Jane Approximately.”
[95.] J.G.A. Pocock, “1776: The Revolution against Parliament,” in Pocock, ed., Three British Revolutions: 1641, 1688, 1776 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 286, and The Machiavellian Moment, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 545. 
[96.] J.G.A. Pocock, “Between Gog and Magog: The Republican Thesis and the Ideologia Americana,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 48 (April-June 1987), 338. 
[97.] Perhaps something similar could be done across the water.