Montréal, November 24, 2001  /  No 93
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Martin Masse is Publisher of QL. The Publisher's Page
Previous editorials 
on the war: 
Are we responsible for the massacres committed in our name? >>
La guerre contre le terrorisme 
que nous perdons >>
We are losing the war against terrorism >>
La droite succombe à l'hystérie guerrière >>
by Martin Masse
          On December 1st, Canadians are invited to visit the Big Apple and take part in a show of solidarity during the Canada Loves New York Weekend. They're asked to come and shop, go to the museums, theatres, restaurants, and take part in a big rally with mayor Giuliani and governor Pataki, their Canadian passport serving as entrance ticket. The Prime Minister himself, sporting a Canada Loves NY baseball cap, enjoined us all to participate and ensure a big turnout at the rally. 
          I might have gone to New York that weekend if not for the fact that the NY friend I regularly visit is doing the opposite journey, coming up to Montreal for a couple of days to change his moods after the emotionally charged past couple of weeks. If I had gone though, I would not have attended this official rally with politicians. It's not "Canada", this abstract state entity, that loves NY, it's me, a real person, and thousands of others. And showing a piece of paper that confirms that the part of the continent in which I live is under the control of one state entity instead of another seems like a very inappropriate way of identifying myself. 
Twin Cities 
          Look at a map of North America (see picture below). Montreal and New York sit at the two ends of a system of waterways that goes straight from north to south, the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain and Hudson River. From the early time of the colonies until the mid-18th century, this was the main communication route in the interior between the St. Lawrence River basin and the Atlantic seaboard. It was the main route for trade – but also for armies – between New France / Canada and the American colonies / USA. 
          Relations between Montreal and New York, antagonistic or friendly, go back centuries, and I don't need an official rally to express my love of this city and my solidarity with its residents after the September 11 events. I go to New York once or twice a year to visit my friend. We shopped at the Borders bookstore in the Twin Towers just a couple of weeks before they were destroyed. We did that not because we thought it would please the power holders, but simply because it was a nice shop, with a very wide choice of books, something created by entrepreneurial creativity in a free market. 
          The main hassle when I go to the Big Apple is having to stop at the customs. The bus trip is long enough, but I don't mind that, I read a good book and enjoy the view of the White and Greens Mountains of Vermont and upstate New York. But having to submit to the aggressive questioning, the inspection, having to wait 45 minutes just because some bureaucrat had to fill his quota of searches for the day and detained one of the passengers of the bus, that feels like a real waste of time and energy. Of course, that's another exclusive gift from the two imperial capitals (the cities marked with a big star on the map to show their inflated importance) that share control of the continent. 
          There is very little justification for this border. Canada and the USA are one integrated economy, one mostly English-speaking civilization, essentially an excrescence of British society and polity in the New World. Of course, this is far from a monolithic society, and there are many regional subcultures composing it, as well as groups that do not historically find their origin in the British Isles: the Native Indians, the black slaves and their descendants, the various immigrant groups, the French Canadians, etc. But then, any one of these divisions is probably more significant than that separating Canada and the USA, an historical accident deriving from the fact that two British North American colonies (Quebec and Nova Scotia) did not follow the thirteen others in rebelling against the English Crown. This division is no longer relevant today. 
          I've always felt more like a North American than a Canadian. Which is why I find it particularly silly and offending when I get accused of being "anti-American" because I do not toe the official pro-war line in the current conflict. George W. Bush and the various warmongering pundits have repeated it since September 11: You're either with us or against us. Since I'm not with the U.S. government, then I must be anti-American. 
          Many of those who react in this manner probably don't realize how thoroughly they have imbibed statist ideology. They confound the state with its people, the government with the culture and way of life of those who live under it. The weirdest thing is that some of them are confused libertarians who actually believe that the U.S. government is the incarnation of freedom, and don't understand how I dare criticize it. Wake up, pals!!! 
The decline of American freedom 

          Yes, despite slavery and the persecution and dispossession of their lands inflicted on Indians, the United States of America was at its foundation and for many decades afterwards the freest and most blessed country in the history of the world, an example of the kind of society and government we libertarians wish for. But that model has long since been diluted. 
          One could trace the decline of American freedom to the very beginning of the republic, when the Articles of Confederation were set aside in favour of a more centralized constitution. The slow movement towards a stronger central state can be chronicled throughout the 19th century, with a brief but ominous peak during the disastrous Civil War (see the classic study by Arthur A. Ekirch Jr., The Decline of American Liberalism). 
          At the end of the 19th century, the USA was still essentially what we could identify as a libertarian society. But then, it suddenly became a multinational empire when it took over bits of the Spanish empire during the Spanish-American War of 1898. A few years later, it got involved in WW1, and under the impulse of president Wilson and the so-called "progressive" elites was born the idea that it could export "democracy" and "freedom" and impose it to the rest of the world. This inaugurated a policy of interventionism in foreign conflicts and in the affairs of other countries that continues to this day, a policy thoroughly at odds with the American tradition of isolationism. There are today American troops everywhere on the planet, which is exactly what we should expect of an imperialist power. 

     « One could trace the decline of American freedom to the very beginning of the republic, when the Articles of Confederation were set aside in favour of a more centralized constitution. »
          WW1 also saw the creation of the income tax, as well as the Federal reserve. Both are still part of the arsenal of state intervention in the economy. Of course, taxes in the U.S. are still much lower than in Canada and Europe, but they are at historically record high levels there, as is public spending. As for the Fed, it is the main source of misery that the U.S. Leviathan has bestowed upon the world. Its irresponsible manipulation of monetary levers was to create the Great Depression and all the subsequent economic downturns since, including the one we are now experiencing. 

          The so-called "New Deal" of the 1930s was simply the American equivalent of the corporatist and fascist state-building that happened in the same period on the Old Continent. It did not end the Depression but rather extended it, and constitutes the first major step in the creation of an American Welfare State. Other steps were taken in the 50s, 60s and 70s. 
          Ronald Reagan is falsely seen as somebody who put an end to this growth of government and radically curtailed state power. In fact, although taxes were reduced a bit and some industries were deregulated, no important government agency was eliminated in the 1980s and 1990s, and the American federal state continued to grow. The USA went further than any other western country in the enactment of "politically correct" coercive regulations for the management of race and gender relations, resulting in a widespread invasion of people's private lives and businesses' private decisions. Whether it is Democrats or Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, the U.S. state grows and grows and grows. 

A constitutional libertarian government or an imperial tyranny? 
          And now, we're going through a new phase in this increase and centralization of power. Since September 11, laws and decrees have been adopted that grant almost unlimited power to the government to tap suspects' phones, spy on Internet communications, conduct searches and detain witnesses, in an ever-tightening pattern that is choking civil liberties. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he intends to bug prisoner-lawyer conferences involving terrorist suspects, and could do so even if people have not been charged and even in the absence of a court order. 
          It is said that more than 1,100 people of Middle Eastern descent have been detained for many days without access to lawyers or knowledge of the charges against them since the attacks. The FBI and the Department of Justice are now discussing using coercive methods to force prisoners to talk – what we usually call "torture". 

          George W. Bush declared an extraordinary emergency that empowers him to order military trials for suspected international terrorists and their collaborators, bypassing the American criminal justice system, its rules of evidence and its constitutional guarantees. The presidential directive, signed by Bush as commander-in-chief, applies to non-U.S. citizens arrested in the United States or abroad. 
          The Washington Post has reported that: 

          The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan have dramatically accelerated a push by the Bush administration to strengthen presidential powers, giving President Bush a dominance over American government exceeding that of other post-Watergate presidents and rivaling even Franklin D. Roosevelt's command. 
          On a wide variety of fronts, the administration has moved to seize power that it has shared with other branches of government. In foreign policy, Bush announced vast cuts in the U. S. nuclear arsenal but resisted putting the cuts in a treaty – thereby averting a Senate ratification vote. In domestic policy, the administration proposed reorganizing the Immigration and Naturalization Service without the congressional action lawmakers sought. And in legal policy, the administration seized the judiciary's power as Bush signed an order allowing terrorists to be tried in military tribunals. Those actions, all taken last week, build on earlier Bush efforts to augment White House power, including initiatives to limit intelligence briefings to members of Congress, take new spending authority from the legislature, and expand the executive branch's power to monitor and detain those it suspects of terrorism. 
          Some historians and political scientists call this "the Imperial Presidency". When one man or a small group of men can deprive people of their rights and imprison them without charge, have billions of dollars at their disposal to spend, can launch a war even if the Constitution does not allow them to, can decide the fate of millions in other countries, what kind of government is that? A constitutional libertarian government or an imperial tyranny? 

          Even the government of what was once the freest country in the world is just that – a government. One should not be blinded by the glorious history of the USA, and by the rhetoric and propaganda that we hear today. The logic of a state is to extend its control within its borders and project its power outside of them. The American state is no exception to this rule. Those who do not see this are either totally ignorant of history, naive in the extreme, or deep down authoritarian supporters of a big government whatever they may say. 

The worst possible solution 

          Since Canada and the USA are so similar and close to each other, I used to think we should just merge the two countries and have one big united continent. There is quite a bit of support for that idea in Canada, and strangely enough in French Quebec more than anywhere else. 
          I have since realized that merging states to create even bigger states is the worst possible solution for the advancement of freedom. It is true that in Europe, there is more freedom of movement for people and businesses than there were a few years ago, thanks to the European Union. But the EU is following the same pattern that all other states follow, at an accelerated pace. It is growing into a super-state, intervening in all kinds of matters that are crucial for the future of European civilization like the size of sausages, imposing uniform rules and regulations over the whole continent and preventing local diversity and competition from upsetting this march towards uniformity. It already has its common currency, its agricultural policy and its industrial policy, and soon will set up its continent-wide welfare programs to ensure that millions of Europeans become dependent on its growth and power.  
          Why should we follow this route? Every day, millions of Canadians and Americans do something together: buy each others' goods, use each others' services, visit, exchange calls or e-mails, whatever. We don't need politicians to tell us to get together; in fact, they spend most of their time trying to put up artificial barriers between us and then meeting at summits to negotiate so-called "liberalization" agreements so as to mitigate their adverse effects. These, of course, would be unnecessary if barriers had not been erected in the first place.  
          A North American federation would create an even bigger and more dangerous imperial power, however small the constitution says it should remain. What we need in order to unite Canadians and Americans is not a common government, but rather the destruction of the two imperial states – the Canadian one being admitedly much less dangerous for global peace, but still destructive of freedom in its own sphere. We need to have as many little statelets or purely private territories as possible. These will be able to cooperate for defense if need be, but will not have the means to intervene all over the world in the affairs of other peoples, and will face competition from their neighbours if they restrict freedom too much at home.  
          Let us work so that individuals all over this continent share, cooperate and exchange, without having to submit to the dictates of parasitic coercive institutions. That will be the best demonstration of friendship and love between Canadians and Americans.  
Previous articles by Martin Masse

Le Québec libre des nationalo-étatistes

    « Après avoir pris ainsi tour à tour dans ses puissantes mains chaque individu, et l'avoir pétri à sa guise, le souverain étend ses bras sur la société tout entière; il en couvre la surface d'un réseau de petites règles compliquées, minutieuses et uniformes, à travers lesquelles les esprits les plus originaux et les âmes les plus vigoureuses ne sauraient faire jour pour dépasser la foule; il ne brise pas les volontés, mais il les amollit, les plie et les dirige; il force rarement d'agir, mais il s'oppose sans cesse à ce qu'on agisse; il ne détruit point, il empêche de naître; il ne tyrannise point, il gêne, il comprime, il énerve, il éteint, il hébète, et il réduit enfin chaque nation à n'être plus qu'un troupeau d'animaux timides et industrieux, dont le gouvernement est le berger. » 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

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