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Socrates (470-399 B.C.) – a renowned Greek philosopher from Athens who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle, and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Socrates used a method of teaching by asking leading questions. The Greeks called this form “dialectic” – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being veritas – truth.

Characters

  • Socrates
  • Alexander Hamilton, Federalist
  • Thomas Jefferson, anti-Federalist

(Setting: The Symposium of Socrates)

Socrates: We are gathered here today at my symposium to discuss this very important question – What happens to a free people who over time have become complete dependents on an increasingly despotic federal government? In addressing this dialectical question let us make diligent inquiry into the ideas of the two earliest political parties in America – the Federalists versus the anti-Federalists as delineated in Chapters 7 and 8 of Benjamin Wiker’s “10 Books Every Conservative Must Read.”

Recalling the words of James Madison who said, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself,” I have invited members from each side to put forth the best arguments for their cause: Alexander Hamilton will represent the Federalist side and Thomas Jefferson the anti-Federalist view.

Hamilton: Having learned many painful lessons from the First Constitutional Convention (1774), the Second Constitutional Convention (1775) and our protracted Revolutionary War against Great Britain (1775-83), we Federalists strongly argued for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, for a strong national government due in large part to the weak, inefficient central government under the Articles of Confederation (1781).

Jefferson: My arguments for an anti-Federalist government are based upon fear: fear of ratifying the U.S. Constitution absent a strong Bill of Rights, fear of a strong national government. We both believe in a federal system of government: that is, a governing power that represented the union of the states and the separate governing powers of each state in that union.

Socrates: So the major disagreement between the Federalists and anti-Federalists in large part is how to set up this new republic?

Hamilton: We have fears to, Mr. Jefferson: Federalists fear dissolution of the union, anarchy and national weakness because government power is maintained in disjointed, perpetually warring little states. Federalists envision an America becoming a great and powerful nation, a vision that demands a strong, centralized and ambitious national government.

Jefferson: We anti-Federalists also fear the tyranny and loss of local liberty and independence that goes with a powerful centralized government, and the remedy for them was to ensure that the national government, however necessary, was not made too strong. That’s why we fought such a protracted Revolutionary War – to remove monarchical rule, to secure our liberty to govern ourselves as free citizens under God and Natural Law.

Socrates: Indeed the vision of the Federalists is one of national glory, and the vision of the anti-Federalist is one of freedom and independence of local communities and states.

Hamilton: A fundamental maxim of good sense and sound policy that every power ought to be proportionate to its object. Therefore, this Constitution must include the federal power of taxation, the most important of the authorities proposed to be conferred upon the union. Money is the vital principle of the body politic, as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions. For this reason, the power of taxation is the most important of the authorities proposed to be conferred upon the union.

Never again shall Congress be required to beg the individual states for funds as we were compelled to do during the Revolutionary War. How many times was our national treasury depleted or nearly close to being depleted and the Articles of Confederation did little to remedy the situation? Never again will we “leave the general government in a kind of tutelage to the state governments.”

The only remedy to maintain a healthy and vigorous union is “that of permitting the national government to raise its own revenues by the ordinary methods of taxation” rather than depending on the states to supply it voluntarily. That is, the national government must be able to tax individuals directly.

Jefferson: Outrageous, Mr. Hamilton! Your plan amounts to a de facto destruction of states’ rights, and upon its ashes you would erect a limitless federal government monster. What limits could be placed on the federal power of taxation once unleashed upon We the People?

Hamilton: The means ought to be proportioned to the end, so that in regards to taxation, there ought to be no limitation of a power destined to affect a purpose, which is itself incapable of limitation.

Socrates: As we look down the corridors of history we see that though the Revolutionary War taught the Federalists the need for a strong, self-funded federal government. That war always strengthens national power. Such national emergencies make the case for centralized authority easy and compelling for legalized thievery called “income taxes” to occur. Here are just a few historical instances:

  • 1861 – The first federal income tax was passed by Congress and implemented by President Lincoln in the Revenue Act of 1861 to help pay for the Civil War (1861-65). This tax was abolished in 1872;
  • 1913 – Congress passes the Sixteenth Amendment giving it the power “to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever sources derived.” President Woodrow Wilson used that power to fund World War I;
  • 1935 – FDR pushed through the Social Security Act which contrived a new method of taxation, and ushered in the birth of the welfare state;
  • 1939-45 – World War II expanded national power via a “painless” taxation – the income tax withholding which legally steals people’s money from them before they even receive it. In 1944 FDR raised the marginal rate to 94 percent.

Hamilton, Jefferson: {in unison} Socrates, we are confused. Which political philosophy was the best for America’s Republic, Federalist or anti-Federalist?

Socrates: To reiterate our dialectical question – What happens to a free people who over time have become complete dependents on an increasingly despotic federal government? A generation after America’s Constitution was ratified the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville would answer in this wise – America must not fall into a form of “soft despotism more extensive and milder than occurred in ancient tyrannies, one that would degrade men without tormenting them.”

I believe that all evils that corrupt the youth and societal morality can be traced to the seductive collusion between government, religion, science and economics including my untimely death by jealous Greek leaders who perverted government and religion to accuse me of impiety and alleged that my philosophy corrupted the morals of the youth.

Hearken to me America and all true Federalists and anti-Federalists alike! Return to Natural Law which derives from nature (God) principles and standards not simply made up by humans but rather are part of an objective moral order, present in the universe, accessible to human reason and are equally binding upon all humanity.

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