How to Avoid a Civil War

 

John Hawkins has written a cautionary piece for Townhall.com titled “7 Forces Driving America Toward Civil War.” Those forces — upon which he elaborates — are:

  1. A Post-Constitutional Era
  2. Tribalism
  3. Federal Government Too Powerful
  4. Moral Decline
  5. The Debt
  6. Lack Of A Shared Culture
  7. Gun Grabbing

Looking at that list, it seems that there is sufficient overlap that it could be condensed to two: Disrespect for our Constitutional System and Lack of a Shared Culture. The reason I am reducing this list is that it results in a short-hand test for our national policies and laws:

  1. Does this policy or law tend to support our constitutional system of division of power, equal justice under law, maximizing individual liberty, and protection of property rights and private contracting?
  2. Does this policy or law tend to support or undermine a common culture that respects conscience, celebrates freedom, emphasizes personal accountability rather than collective punishment, and rewards honesty and deferred gratification?

Notice what the tests do not do:

  1. Discriminate for or against anyone for an immutable characteristic.
  2. Result in global citizenship.
  3. Impose costs on society to cater to anyone who does not want to fully integrate into our common culture.
  4. Deprive anyone of their individual liberty, speech, movement, association, and thought.
  5. Deny anyone the fundamental right of effective personal self-defense.
  6. Undermine republican principles in favor of mob rule.
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There are 63 comments.

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  1. Inactive
    ST

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    • #1
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:23 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  2. Contributor

    Well-defined, @rodin! I think these kinds of summaries, if well-done, can bring the issues into focus and clarify the mess we’ve made. Thanks!

    • #2
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Member

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    I’d say breakup is inevitable. We just need to convince leftists to stop believing they can win national elections and control us. I see that even Chuck Shumer was embracing states rights last week. Its coming.

    • #3
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:31 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Member

    Civil War ≠ Breakup of the Country

    The last civil war started with the division of the country, but it didn’t end that way.

    • #4
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. Thatcher

    ST (View Comment):
    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war.

    I have a slightly different take. Both times, I was stunned by why any normal person would vote to keep these two people (Clinton and Obama) in office. After thinking about it, this is what I came up with:

    Most average citizens of either party want stability in their lives. They know swapping horses in mid-stream is not a good idea unless the situation is dire (Goodbye, Jimmy, hello, Ronald!). However, some things did change over the Obama tears, so there’s so credence to Hawkins’ contention. If anything, I’d add two more items:

    8. The push to eliminate freedom of speech (which can fall under # 1, but I want to pull it out like he did with #7), and

    9. Violent mobs (Antifa, BLM, college students) fomenting violence in the streets with zero response from law enforcement. Many of these so-called protests should have been broken up with automatic weapon fire, regardless of the body count. Violent protests should never be covered by the First Amendment. The pictures of cops standing in line wearing riot gear, watching as innocent citizens got beaten by these “protesters” turned my stomach.

    But back to #7. The left wants so desperately to disarm citizens because they know if a civil war ever came about, their side would fall in a hail of bullets. No one wants this to happen, and they want to avoid such a situation at all costs.

    • #5
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:42 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  6. Inactive

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    Why should it?…Jefferson’s thoughts just echoed in my head: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” from: Online Library of Liberty; http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/327

    • #6
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. Inactive

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well-defined, @rodin! I think these kinds of summaries, if well-done, can bring the issues into focus and clarify the mess we’ve made. Thanks!

    I agree with Susan, this is a very good summarizing of the issue.

     

    • #7
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:46 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Inactive
    ST

    Stad (View Comment):
    Many of these so-called protests should have been broken up with automatic weapon fire, regardless of the body count.

    Chile’s favorite son, Pinochet, used this technique quite effectively in Santiago on at least one occasion that I am aware of. An American friend of mine was not there to protest but ended up in jail anyway because he was crazy enough to try to get some pictures of the event.

    • #8
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:48 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    @rodin – Do you think that California is going to be the ragged, bleeding edge of this issue?

    It is not unusual to read of California Progressives arguing for the nullification of Federal laws unpopular among the California ruling class. It’s also not hard to find suggestions that California might secede from the Union if it the rest of the US does not follow it’s lead towards the Progressive Utopia.

    What are your thoughts? Will California be the bellwether? 

    • #9
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Member

    1) A Post-Constitutional Era

    2) Tribalism

    3) Federal Government Too Powerful

    4) Moral Decline

    5) The Debt

    6) Lack Of A Shared Culture

    7) Gun Grabbing

    “Civil war” strikes me as somewhat hyperbolic, but I think the list speaks for itself. It’s written solely from a single perspective and offers little room for common ground. Of course these issues, as framed, are divisive. Or am I missing the point?

    • #10
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Inactive
    ST

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    Why should it?…Jefferson’s thoughts just echoed in my head: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” [Online Library of Liberty; http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/327%5D

    I’d say that Lincoln (as in honest Abe) showed us that Jefferson’s ‘throwing off’ concept is harder than it looks.

    • #11
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:53 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Inactive

    ST (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    Why should it?…Jefferson’s thoughts just echoed in my head: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” [Online Library of Liberty; http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/327%5D

    I’d say that Lincoln (as in honest Abe) showed us that Jefferson’s ‘throwing off’ concept is harder than it looks.

    Granted, but it may involve more a drifting-apart/migration of the like-minded than a wrenching/tearing apart…It’s already happening; it just doesn’t have two separate names, etc., no?

    • #12
    • April 23, 2018, at 11:57 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Inactive
    ST

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    Why should it?…Jefferson’s thoughts just echoed in my head: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” [Online Library of Liberty; http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/327%5D

    I’d say that Lincoln (as in honest Abe) showed us that Jefferson’s ‘throwing off’ concept is harder than it looks.

    Granted, but it may involve more a drifting-apart/migration of the like-minded than a wrenching/tearing apart…It’s already happening; it just doesn’t have two separate names, etc., no?

    Would expect some pushback from the ‘takers.’ They probably don’t want to see the ‘makers’ abandon them. Although I think they also like to keep us around so they can can point out how we ‘didn’t make’ whatever it is that they don’t want us to have that day.

    • #13
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:01 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  14. Member

    Personally, I don’t see civil war.

    If a state, or even a group of states, were to vote to secede from the union I’d wager that Washington D.C. would rather negotiate a free trade agreement with the new country than fight a war over the issue. The incentives for keeping the union together by force simply aren’t there like they were in the 1860s (namely, the threat of an expansionist Confederate States of America eyeing the western territories which had yet to be granted statehood).

    There may be more domestic terrorism in the future, but it won’t be organized enough to take political control of any states, and it certainly won’t be organized enough to overthrow the federal government.

    Furthermore, this would hardly be a new phenomenon for the USA. e.g. There were literally thousands of domestic bombings between 1968 and 1972.

    (Apologies that I can’t find the citation for those bombings. It’s in Wikipedia somewhere, but I can’t find the article.)

    • #14
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  15. Inactive

    ST (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    Why should it?…Jefferson’s thoughts just echoed in my head: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” [Online Library of Liberty; http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/327%5D

    I’d say that Lincoln (as in honest Abe) showed us that Jefferson’s ‘throwing off’ concept is harder than it looks.

    Granted, but it may involve more a drifting-apart/migration of the like-minded than a wrenching/tearing apart…It’s already happening; it just doesn’t have two separate names, etc., no?

    Would expect some pushback from the ‘takers.’ They probably don’t want to see the ‘makers’ abandon them. Although I think they also like to keep us around so they can can point out how we ‘didn’t make’ whatever it is that they don’t want us to have that day.

    Sure enough; but, maybe it’s time to begin to codify what already exists informally? Return to regional governance; you’ll pardon the expression: Confederation (as in Articles of)… 

    • #15
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Inactive

    (Will be otherwise occupied for a bit; be back ASAP.)

    • #16
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:12 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Member
    Rodin Post author

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    @rodin – Do you think that California is going to be the ragged, bleeding edge of this issue?

    It is not unusual to read of California Progressives arguing for the nullification of Federal laws unpopular among the California ruling class. It’s also not hard to find suggestions that California might secede from the Union if it the rest of the US does not follow it’s lead towards the Progressive Utopia.

    What are your thoughts? Will California be the bellwether?

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    “Civil war” strikes me as somewhat hyperbolic, but I think the list speaks for itself. It’s written solely from a single perspective and offers little room for common ground. Of course these issues, as framed, are divisive. Or am I missing the point?

    It would seem California will be a bell weather, but events always surprise us. Certainly California with its one-party system, wealth and size is best positioned to champion a civil war if they don’t get what they want out of DC. And it is not getting what they want that is the key. Progressives have been getting what they want for a long time. And every time they get one thing, they want more. Reagan was a push back while Bush I and II were mostly accommodations. The Contract with America constrained Clinton, but with Obama it was Katy Bar the Door. So the electorate tried to rein in progressivism with Trumpism, but the outcome is still in doubt. A civil war happens only when the divisions are both sharp and the positions well-defended. We are getting sharpness even as we are yet to find out whether there are any significant redoubts for our constitution and national character.

    • #17
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Coolidge

    What are the odds that 2 or 3 such parcels could get along well without eternally pestering each other? If the “coastal” groups are like a single federation with middle and south contiguous but kind of surrounded…..how long before the socialists decide to “emancipate” the poor living in the “backwards” states? Or, let’s suppose the poor all just relocate to the coasts for plushier social benefits and the more successful residents get irritated with the extra tax burden and decide to extract it somehow from the backwards middle? They will remain convinced that they know what is best for EVERYONE, after all.

    Meanwhile, maybe the “divide” is no more dire here than in Europe. This isn’t about absolute numbers but shows significant perceptions:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43760959

    • #18
    • April 23, 2018, at 12:45 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    1) A Post-Constitutional Era

    2) Tribalism

    3) Federal Government Too Powerful

    4) Moral Decline

    5) The Debt

    6) Lack Of A Shared Culture

    7) Gun Grabbing

    “Civil war” strikes me as somewhat hyperbolic, but I think the list speaks for itself. It’s written solely from a single perspective and offers little room for common ground. Of course these issues, as framed, are divisive. Or am I missing the point?

    Can you elaborate? What’s the other perspective?

    What could be common ground?

    • #19
    • April 23, 2018, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Member

    Eridemus (View Comment):
    Meanwhile, maybe the “divide” is no more dire here than in Europe. This isn’t about absolute numbers but shows significant perceptions:

    I read an article recently about research that suggested the supposed crisis of an increasing “political divide” between average Americans is incredibly overhyped, but that the increasing divide between politicians (and also those who are active in politics, either professionally or on a volunteer basis) is very very real.

    (I can’t find the URL of the article, sadly, so I’m going by vague memories of the research’s methodology. As always when I fail to provide a citation, my apologies.)

    It was something like this: They compared the percentage of US politicians who voted contrary to the majority position of their party to different metrics about the political affiliations and beliefs of the general public. The public was way less united in their political positions and/or affiliations than the politicians were. The average American is a mish-mash of political beliefs which don’t conform very well at all to the policy positions of either political party, and which only barely vaguely conform to any sort of left-right paradigm.

    Furthermore, this really shouldn’t be surprising, considering the low voter-turnout statistics in the United States. The people who vote are split close to 50/50, but they’re a minority of the American public.

    The research suggested that the vast majority of Americans get along just fine with each other. For everyone else, a career in politics becomes very attractive.

    (Up here in the Great White North, it used to be said that outside of work hours Members of Parliament had no problem drinking, dining, and otherwise socializing together. Today, each party is “known” to have its own unofficial watering holes where members of other parties never go. My hypothesis is that technology is at least partly to blame. The ubiquity of miniature digital recording devices capable of both audio and video have made it impossible for politicos to ever let their hair down and speak “off the record”. You never, never, never know when you’re being recorded.)

    • #20
    • April 23, 2018, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  21. Member

    Addendum: Also, would you prefer that instead of being divided 50/50, your electoral outcomes were perpetually closer to something like 75% to 25%? Going by all the hand-wringing about “division”, one might be led to believe that a three-quarters consensus of opinion would result in a veritable utopia!

    But that’s not how politics works. Instead, the people consistently on the losing side would rapidly become very disillusioned by the political process, and that’s when armed revolution happens.

    A 50/50 split means that both sides get to govern roughly the same amount of time. Small shifts in public opinion add up to bigger shifts at the ballot box that tip back and forth across the middle line, like an evenly-matched rope-pulling tournament.

    (Up here in the Great White North, the Liberal Party has been the governing party for 75% of the country’s history. That’s great if you’re a Liberal crony, but not so great if you’re one of the majority of Canadians that never votes Liberal.)

    • #21
    • April 23, 2018, at 1:40 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Member

    Addendum #2: Also, it’s still unproven that a 50/50 split of rabidly-partisan politicians is a “bad thing”. As George Carlin once said (and I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t have the exact quote), “when politicians stop fighting each other it means they’ve teamed up to fight you.”

    Bi-partisanship usually means working together to enrich themselves. It can also mean that both parties are backed by the same groups of donors.

    It may be better to have both parties at each others’ throats so they’ll cut advantages to the other guys in roughly equal measure.

    • #22
    • April 23, 2018, at 1:44 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  23. Thatcher

    ST (View Comment):

    The re-elections of both Clinton and Obama proved to me that we are headed towards a break up if not a civil war. The entitlement mentality has bested the Protestant work ethic. The middle cannot hold.

    I don’t see a civil war. The middle will not hold, it will be destroyed and replaced with Democrat constituent groups.

    Trump is the last GOP POTUS. He only got in by accident because the fix was in but was not good enough. That mistake will not be allowed to happen again. They are in the process of removing or minimizing Trump and anybody that is stupid enough to be connected to him. His ability to be effective is reducing rapidly.

    • #23
    • April 23, 2018, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Member

    I know people who pointedly ignore political news and debate. Hawkins’ list is a good one and the consequent divisions are increasingly significant. But many citizens can’t or won’t think so philosophically, if they can even be bothered to pay attention. It’s easier to spontaneously complain about whatever effects result. 

    War is never democratic. There is never a civil poll of all citizens to decide how important competing values and threats are. If there is ever a formal split again, it will be because politicians and wealthy influencers choose. 

    The gist of Hawkins’ argument is that we can afford to disagree only after some basic agreements. Without that shared legal and cultural foundation, we are neighbors only by force… and ever more force will be required.

    • #24
    • April 23, 2018, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  25. Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    The gist of Hawkins’ argument is that we can afford to disagree only after some basic agreements. Without that shared legal and cultural foundation, we are neighbors only by force… and ever more force will be required

    Yes, this.

    • #25
    • April 23, 2018, at 2:52 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. Member

    Here’s an article in Time: http://time.com/4501670/bombings-of-america-burrough/

    • #26
    • April 23, 2018, at 3:01 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Member

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    … There were literally thousands of domestic bombings between 1968 and 1972…

    “Yeah, there were! Wish I’d done more!”

    • #27
    • April 23, 2018, at 3:03 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  28. Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    some things did change over the Obama tears

    +1

    • #28
    • April 23, 2018, at 3:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Member

    I just don’t see any State in the Union seceding over any of the current political arguments. At most you might have individuals trying to start up revolts but with no institutional help and both State and Federal opposition (from law enforcement agencies) such moves will be quickly crushed (as they should be) and be properly labeled as domestic terrorism at worst depending on how violent such “uprisings” are. The dominant culture will eventually swamp the minority culture in time on the big divisive social issues, and some new social equilibrium will form around what the new manners should be regarding taboo speech. America always had a big streak of Puritanicalism, just the bugaboos keep changing. 

     

    • #29
    • April 23, 2018, at 4:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Member

    You say “disrespect for,” I say “ignorance of”:

    https://youtu.be/08uk99L8oqQ

    Whether you take that to mean inside the workings of government or among the voting masses: I rest my case.

     

    • #30
    • April 23, 2018, at 6:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
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