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Dr. Arnn Begins To Outline Constitution 101 And The Three Crises Facing The Republic

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HH: Time for the weekly Hillsdale Dialogue with my good friend, Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. And after 114 of these hours spent together, the last radio hour of the week, we’ve done 114 of them, we are finally to the Constitution just in time for all of you people out there to go to and take the Constitution 101 course, the first lecture of which is also offered by Dr. Arnn, which I re-watched in preparation for this. And he actually does know what he’s talking about on these things. Dr. Arnn, welcome, good to talk to you.

LA: Yeah, and here you thinking I was a fraud all this time.

HH: All that time, I didn’t realize you actually had all this stuff down. But before we go to the beginning, and the three crises of the republic, one of which we’re still in, I want to play you a little bit of audio from the Supreme Court argument this week in King V. Burwell. And the first person you hear talking is Don Verrilli, and the second person you hear talking is the Chief Justice, John Roberts. And it goes, actually, to the heart of who makes the laws, and thus, to our subject. Here’s their exchange.

DV: Your honor raised this point about the need for clarity in a tax deduction, and the IRS in the statutory reading of tax deductions. There is a learned treatise that describes that as a false notion. And it’s certainly not consistent with this court’s unanimous decision in Mayo two terms ago that Chevron applies to the tax code like anything else.

JR: If you’re right about Chevron, that would indicate that a subsequent administration could change that interpretation?

DV: I think a subsequent administration would need a very strong case under step two of the Chevron analysis that that was a reasonable judgment in view of the disruptive consequences. As I said, I think you can resolve and should resolve this case, because the statute really has to be read when taken as a whole to adopt the government’s position.

HH: Now Larry Arnn, what the Chief Justice said there, a subsequent administration can change the interpretation given to a law is actually an invitation to lawlessness, of an unprecedented sort.

LA: Yeah, there’s a lot of that now. That’s right. It really is extraordinary how far, you know, prosecutorial discretion now means that three million, or six million, or some number of millions of people, their cases can all be decided by the President alone. And in this case, the statute, the Obamacare statute says that states may set up exchanges, and the federal government may help if they do. And now the Obama administration want to read it that they can set up federal exchanges and help that way.

HH: Earlier today, I was taping a program called Uncommon Knowledge here at Stanford University. I’m on the campus at the Hoover Institution all week, with John Yoo, a very smart guy, and Peter Robinson. And Peter was a great host, and he asked us both what we thought about the future. And I said look, I think the republic could be eclipsed.

LA: Yeah.

HH: It may be impossible to get it back. And I was thinking of that exchange. I know you’re not that pessimistic, but we really are dancing on the edge of the knife here, aren’t we?

LA: We are. Last few weeks, I’ve been, for some reason, because it’s the season, I’ve been having presidential candidates call me. And I tell them all the same thing. I say you know, this is one of those times when free government hangs in the balance because, I even believe it’s a design. The government is getting to a place where it’s very difficult for the people to control it. And it controls them, rather than they controlling it. And because of its size and because of the doctrines that drive it, and because of the relentlessness of the current administration, it almost doesn’t matter what they think, and they lose responsibility over even their own lives.

HH: And so that is where we are. And how we got there is what we’re going to be talking about over the next many weeks. And I want to urge everyone, if you want to understand the moment, you really ought to go and watch the Constitution 101. They’re brilliantly done. They’re 40 minute lectures. They’re not hour long lectures. And Dr. Arnn kicks them off. And then they walk through the three crises. And I want to begin, last week, we were talking about Nietzsche and the rise of nihilism. But we have to now go backwards, Larry, to 1763 or the conclusion of the French and Indian War and talk about what happened after that, because the young continent changed dramatically after the Brits expelled the French from the lower third of it.

LA: Well, so you know, from 1609 until 1763, a bunch of Europeans came to the American, to the new world, and they established some continence. And over that time, they set up the freest, most representative political institutions every known. And those were aged by then. They had been working for decades. And in 1763, the British won the big war, and they decided now that they were going to be much more heavily involved in the regulation and the taxation of the colonies, which they had not been so much before. And their case started with the fact that we just spent a lot of money fighting over there, fighting the French worldwide, including in North America. And so now it’s, you know, we’re the man, and we won this thing, and so now we’re going to govern the colonies. And this soon exposed, right, right away, after the treaty was made in 1763, there was friction. And it just got worse and worse until 1782 when the war was over, and the colonies were a new nation and independent. And the point is we say this is, well, I say, this is one of the three crises. Here’s what that was about, and it was the characteristic of a crisis. Crisis comes from the word to turn. So always in such a fundamental thing, there are questions at stake that effect the central principles of the nation. And that means that if those change, then everything changes. And always, the question of who rules and for what reason do they rule, well, this is open in 1763, because it soon emerges that the British think that because they founded these colonies, the people in them have to obey the British government, the king and Parliament, whatever they tell them to do. And for, you know, over a hundred years, that had not been the practice. And that was very much not the doctrine in the colonies. And so there was a fundamental disagreement about exactly who was entitled to do what and why.

HH: And they were Englishmen, primarily, and we are coming up on fast the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in June. And Englishmen thought a lot about these things, didn’t they, Dr. Arnn? And they had very determined views about them.

LA: Well, Britain was a monarchy, and an aristocracy, and it was the freest and most limited in the world, in the history of the world, a point that the king makes in 1774 when he gives an address from the throne addressed to the colonists. But on the other hand, they weren’t really, you know, so for example, it had been established by Magna Carta, and later by the English Civil War, and then later by the English Bill of Rights and the English Revolution. And those things unfolded over 400 years. It had been established that the king and the government cannot spend money unless the House of Commons, the most representative part of the British government, approves. And one king lost his head over that question, and another was deposed over that question. And the Magna Carta threatened those things over that and related questions. So now that’s the idea, that people have to be represented when they are taxed. And so now, an amazing opportunity comes up right now, because for the first time, they have this imperial situation, and they decide that they can tax the people who live in the colonies without their consent.

HH: And they did that first with the Stamp Act, then with the Tea Act following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, the Boston Port Act of 1774. You actually walk through it fairly quickly in the lecture, but it is a long-simmering dispute fought over a vast stretch of land that people had to ride horses to communicate on. And nevertheless, a sort of consensus emerges, doesn’t it, Dr. Arnn, among the colonists…

LA: Very fast.

HH: …that this is not going to stand?

LA: It’s 1774 is the time to look at, because that’s when they passed what are collectively known, were collectively known as the Intolerable Acts. And the British didn’t call them that. The Americans did. And what did they include? We proclaim the right to regulate and tax the colonies in all cases whatsoever. There were some new taxes after some others that had been protested about, including tea, had been repealed. Then, there was a Quebec Act. And what they did was they simply changed completely the government of Canada, which they had taken in 1763 from the French, and they just set up a government the way they wanted, and they didn’t follow the precept that had been everywhere in North America under British rule, that the people elected their provincial government. And then they took the Northwest Territory, where you grew up and where I stand right now today, Hugh, and that was the great part, see, of America. It’s the first time, it’s the first place that the United States grew to. And even back then, before the Revolution, or as the Revolution was brewing, they thought wow, all that land out there, right? We can get bigger still.

HH: And they did. When we come back from break, we’ll talk about how the Northwest Ordinance got that land settled. Of course, the great capital of the Northwest Territory was Warren, Ohio.

— – – – –

HH: The first lecture in Constitution 101 about the three crises of America is actually taught by my guest, Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. And he provides in succinct form an overview, and I’m going to make sure we do that now and then come back to the first crisis. The first crisis, Dr. Arnn, is the birthing of the republic, which begins in 1773, and you declare ends in 1800 with the election of Jefferson.

LA: Right.

HH: And you said some bad things about Mr. Jefferson in your lecture, but then you attempt to take them back by saying you liked him anyway. But you nevertheless…

LA: I did, yeah.

HH: Yeah, that was the first crisis. The second crisis is the crisis of slavery, and the third crisis is the one we’re in today. Can you describe before we come back to the first crisis what those other two are?

LA: Well, they all have in common with the first they concern the central idea of the republic, and they all have in common that depending on how they go, we will have a very different kind of government run by very different people. So what the slavery crisis was about was a change that came between the Revolution and the Civil War about the question of human slavery, because in 1787, the Northwest Territory, where Hugh and I, where I live and Hugh comes from, was admitted to the Union having been given by Virginia with the stipulation that there may be no slaves in it. And Virginia was a slave state. And Thomas Jefferson moved that, and he was a slaveholder. But there was a consensus that we can’t let slavery grow.

HH: That’s really remarkable. By the way, I had forgotten that. That’s really remarkable.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And people should dwell on that, that Jefferson and the Virginians gave up all their land on the condition that no slaves, which they owned, would be allowed there.

LA: That’s right. That’s right. And remember, this passes the Congress in the summer of 1787 by consensus, right? So that’s the first expansion of the American Union. But the second one, now it gets to be 1820, precisely 33 years, one generation later, and we can’t let Missouri in without a compromise that keeps the number of slave and free states even. And so an opinion grew up that slavery was defensible or good. And that is what provoked the second crisis, because now you have all men are created equal on the one hand, and on the other hand, you have the black ones have evolved to a lower place, and they are made to be our slaves.

HH: And what was remarkable about your lecture, this, I just didn’t realize it that the original slaveholders had joined in the condemnation of the peculiar institution, but they were replaced by the Calhounists and others who thought it proper to continue that peculiar institution. And that all, 33 years and I’ve begun to think since I watched our lecture again, what in the world were they drinking? How could they go from general, and as you say, unanimous condemnation of slavery to a defense upon which 600,000 Americans would die?

LA: Well, it turns out the climate of thought was changing, and so the natural equality of man asserted in the Declaration of Independence, they talk forever in the American Revolution about the law of God and nature, a fixed law that abides for all time. But in the 19th Century grew up the idea, we went through it with, and Hugh, by the way, you did Hegel with Paul Rahe not long ago.

HH: Yes.

LA: …that everything changes with time, including human beings change with time. And so now all of a sudden you see a bunch of them, and their skin is darker, and they seem more ignorant than the ones who have the lighter skin, and they’re subservient. And so maybe they’ve evolved to the place where they’re lower beings now. And it just so happens that John C. Calhoun in South Carolina studied with a man who had studied in Germany with Friedrich Hegel. And so those idea come over.

HH: Interesting. Wow.

LA: And they begin to undercut the Declaration of Independence. And slavery, the great slavery crisis, you know, which is America’s most costly war, was the result, and because of the greatness of the American people, and because of the greatness of Abraham Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence was vindicated through that crisis as it had been in the one before.

HH: A republic of suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust calls it. At the end of that, though, it had been restored. It was central again. What’s the third crisis, Larry Arnn? And then we’re going to go back to the first one in the next segment.

LA: Well, the third crisis is actually related to the second, because we do believe now that everything is change and evolution. And we believe, and you know, this is sort of this 19th Century historicism that was also behind the Confederacy. We believe that the great story of mankind is the story of mankind conquering nature. And so we’re not obedient to nature. We don’t have our rights in nature anymore. Our nature is change. Our nature is to get control of everything. And so in the progressive era, the idea was introduced into America systematically that the Declaration of Independence was obsolete, wasn’t true anymore, times had moved on, and the Constitution was in the way, because we needed to apply the tools of scientific administration to the governing of human beings. And if we had a more efficient and comprehensive government, we could have a more efficient, a more equal, a more perfect people and society. And so that movement, you know, which has taken a very long time to get to where it is today, was very impatient with Constitutional rules, and very…and separation of powers and all the structures of the Constitution, and it was very impatient with, you know, Woodrow Wilson writes, just like John C. Calhoun, he writes that the Declaration of Independence is obsolete. It’s written to a time, he says, that was accountable to Isaac Newton and his thought, but now we have Darwin. And we know that government and society lives and changes and evolves and becomes something new.

HH: And this is so timely. I’m going to replay the clip from the Supreme Court argument two days ago of King V. Burwell, because the Solicitor General of the United States is putting it to the Chief Justice what are we going to do, and we’ll come back from break and do that, and the Chief Justice entertains the idea, Larry Arnn, which is a progressive idea, that bureaucrats can change the law.

DV: You honor raised this point about the need for clarity in a tax deduction, and the IRS in the statutory reading of tax deductions. There is a learned treatise that describes that as a false notion. And it’s certainly not consistent with this court’s unanimous decision in Mayo two terms ago that Chevron applies to the tax code like anything else.

JR: If you’re right about Chevron, that would indicate that a subsequent administration could change that interpretation?

DV: I think a subsequent administration would need a very strong case under step two of the Chevron analysis that that was a reasonable judgment in view of the disruptive consequences. As I said, I think you can resolve and should resolve this case, because the statute really has to be read when taken as a whole to adopt the government’s position.

HH: And when we come back from break, we’ll have Dr. Arnn expound on how that is actually where progressivism had to lead inevitably. It had to lead to the Chief Justice’s question. Now I don’t know how he’s going to answer that question. I’ll find out what Dr. Arnn thinks about that. But it is the third crisis coming to its boiling point this week, and we’re talking about it in the Hillsdale Dialogue on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

— – —

HH: And I went to break playing so timely a question that’s not an answer, it’s a question from the Chief Justice, whether or not bureaucrats get to change the law, Dr. Arnn. And the progressives would obviously say yes, wouldn’t they?

LA: Yeah, well, the dean of our graduate school, and one of our politics professors, R.J. Pestritto, wrote a beautiful essay a year ago about the impatience of the progressive thinkers with separation of powers. And they, and you know, the heart of the American Constitution is found in this doctrine of separation of powers. And it’s an echo of the distinction between man and God that is observable in the Declaration of Independence, where God is mentioned four times. The king is criticized for violating separation of powers in the Declaration of Independence, but God appears as all three branches of government. He’s the creator, He’s the divine providence, He’s the maker of the laws of nature and nature’s God, and He’s the supreme judge of the world. And so this distinction between man and God and beast is what the meaning of human equality is, and that gives rise to the structure of our Constitution, because Madison says the structure is the most important thing, and it is fashioned in the knowledge that men are not angels, and angels do not govern men. So we have to have government, but government has to be limited. And what the progressives think is it doesn’t have to be anymore, at least not much, because now we’ve reached the time of professionalism and scientific credentials in government, and these people are disinterested, their jobs are guaranteed, they have guaranteed incomes. They have no reason to do anything except respond to their professional duty. And so we don’t want to beak the government up into parts. We want it to operate as a unity so it can do a lot and fix all the problems in the society. And so there’s a clear test. And by the way, that is the test of this time in which we’re in, because you would think, I mean, people according to my lights and your lights, Hugh, we would think that after 60 years of this kind of government, after the constant scandals, after the untold expense, after the trillion dollars or whatever it is spent on the war on poverty, and poverty being higher after it’s all over, that we would see that people still remain self-interested and fallible, even when they get high government jobs, and you could even say especially.

HH: And that there are incentives for them to act that have nothing to do with the common good, but have to do with the expansion of their authority and their privilege and their pay. And that’s what the progressives never really entertained, that bureaucrats might act like Lois Lerner at the IRS for the benefit of her party and her position.

LA: If we don’t, and by the way, Hugh, you started out darkly here today, but which is unlike you, but if we get out of this, because I agree, we may not, but on the other hand, if one studies Winston Churchill, he knows that if a thing must be done, then it shall be done. That’s how he reasoned. So if we get out of it, why will we? And the answer is the numbers are very clear that people don’t like this kind of government. They’re afraid of it. It seems dangerous to them. It interferes with them. If you ask the American people anytime in the last ten years but never more than now, do you believe you live in a system of consent of the governed, overwhelming majorities, and the last time it was asked, it was close to 80%, say no. And so they don’t like this. And my own opinion, and that’s one reason why we’re in the teaching business at Hillsdale College, and why we hope people will watch this course, and why we do the Hillsdale Dialogues for that matter, 114 of them, you were saying…

HH: Yup.

LA: …is that the way out is to see the way out. And that begins with seeing the alternative. And the alternative is written in our own history. And you don’t have to make up. Yesterday, one of the prominent presidential candidates whom Hugh happens to like called me up. The call was scheduled for a week. And you know what he asked me? It’s really great. He said so can you describe for me the particular values and character that the American people have? And I said yes, I can. And so he said okay, go ahead. And so I talked about it for five minutes, and he said gosh, that’s good. And I said you know, sir, I said I didn’t just make anything up there. Yesterday, I was saying to somebody, I was telling the story to somebody from our music department, and I said look, if we want to know what a good symphony sounds like, we don’t necessarily have to go write one.

HH: That’s absolutely correct. When we come back from break, we’ll continue on this conversation. We’ll try to get out of him the name of that presidential candidate. We know it’s not Carly Fiorina, because he used he. So we’ll figure it out.

— – – — –

HH: I want to go way back to the beginning now, Dr. Arnn, to the first crisis, because you mention in passing the king’s response to the little people who were giving him trouble. And he wrote a message, and I love the fact it began, “Those who have too long successfully labored to inflame my subjects…” He really was condescending, wasn’t he? He thought that he had been manipulated as opposed, and on the left today, a lot of that same arrogance goes towards the self-styled Tea Party and conservatives. They have been inflamed by Fox News and Larry Arnn and Hugh Hewitt when in fact…

LA: Yeah, and there, it’s just all so backwards and so completely out of bounds, right?

HH: Yes.

LA: How much time do we have? I’ll tell a quick story about another thing.

HH: We have eight minutes.

LA: We have what?

HH: Eight minutes. Go for it.

LA: So there’s a really great guy in the 19th and early 20th Century named Lord Curzon. And he almost became prime minister of the country, and we was in fact a very great man, although he made the mistake of fighting with young Winston Churchill all the time.

HH: Yup.

LA: And one time, there was some famous meetings in his house, the most famous was when some people showed up and he had been expecting them to come and make him prime minister, and they never came, and people reported how crestfallen he was. But there’s another one like it, and here’s what it was like. They come in his house, it’s a very grand house, and he’s shaking. And his colleagues, other great men of the aristocracy said my lord, he said, what’s wrong with you? He said my gardener has just resigned. And he said, and they said well, you can get another gardener. And he said you don’t understand. Do you know what he said to me? And they said what, and he said I asked him why he was resigning. And he said because you, Lord Curzon, are, excuse the language, a son of a bitch. And so he was shaken by that, right? He couldn’t imagine anybody talking to him like that. And that’s the point, see?

HH: Yes.

LA: The king…

HH: That’s the king, that’s George III, and that is in fact Washington, D.C. elites today.

LA: You see, I mean, you know, in the Dodd-Frank financial bill, there’s an article published by a Harvard Law professor then who invented that agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and she says that we have to, Elizabeth Warren, Senator Warren, likely to be, in my opinion, for the Democratic nominee for president. And she says in that thing that we have to have one unified expert entirely devoted body to keep up with the pace of innovation in the financial markets, because the people cannot do it for themselves. See?

HH: You know what’s remarkable about that, and I think I heard you predict it, that Hillary would be out of this because of the Brewgate, or Homebrew or whatever it is? But what’s remarkable about that is the certainty with which she professes it against the weight of the evidence that government never does anything well.

LA: Yeah, and see, that’s the thing, right? In other words, and we’re in a cycle in which its failures call forth more. And the weight of it is very hard to resist, very difficult, you know. I mean, I’ve been having a lot of inspiring conversations with people lately, because the college is famous, and I happen to work there, and so people call me. And some really rich people have called me lately, and they haven’t given me any money. I don’t know if they will. But you know, that kind of person is not really who makes Hillsdale College. Ordinary people do, lots of them, you know, and we do. We’re all ordinary people, too. And but lately, some really important rich people have been calling me and asking me questions about how we do what we do. And we have a new marketing firm from Chicago, and they’re really good, and they stopped by my office having spent their first two days on campus, and they represent a lot of colleges. And they said we didn’t understand. And I said what did you not understand? The lead lady said well, these students keep telling us that what they came here was to learn what the good is, and to see that. And I said yeah. And she said we never heard that before. I said well, you don’t know the history of the academic world from its founding in Greece until early this century, because that’s what it always was.

HH: Until early this century.

LA: Yeah. And that’s, so it’s, we’re seeing a potential eclipse both of freedom and of civilization. And we’re giving our lives over to the power of modern science to take care of everything for us. And we are delegating authorities to the government that are hard to control. And we either have to stop doing that, or we’re going to get to the end of the test that comes between the principles of James Madison that men are not angels and angels do not govern men, or the claim of modern progressivism and historicism, and all of that, Fabianism in Britain, that in fact we have actually got to the time when Heaven is about to be here on Earth. And we’re going to find out who’s right about that.

HH: In rather rapid fashion, don’t you think?

LA: Well, things are moving really fast now. I mean, it’s remarkable how fast. And I worry a lot, you know. I told some of my important people lately, you know, I said you know, because today, people think of Hillsdale College as a great bastion and fortress, and it is that. And it’s very strong. But the truth is, it’s one of the oldest teachings in political philosophy that learned people, people who contemplate and have high, educated friendships, they need a certain kind of government to protect them. And the wrong kind of government doesn’t like people like that.

HH: Oh, my goodness not.

LA: And so…

HH: That’s why the lantern of the north is Hillsdale College, and it’s why I think everyone ought to go there right now. It’s why voice impaired we might be, the ideas still come through. And all the ideas in Constitution 101 are ideas that you should know and listen to. And you will enjoy listening to those lectures as you enjoy, I hope, the Hillsdale Dialogues. So please repair to, sign up and start. We will spend the next dozen weeks talking about this because of the crisis that is upon us. There’s no better subject to do it with and anyone to do it with than Dr. Larry Arnn. Thank you, Dr. Arnn.

End of interview.


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