Home / General / Don’t Forget the Confederate States of America — It Worked Really Well There Too!

Don’t Forget the Confederate States of America — It Worked Really Well There Too!


Shorter Verbatim Amity Shlaes: ‘There will be objections [to my cockamamie idea that federal taxes should be collected by the states], of course. The first is that states’ collecting the money isn’t our tradition. It is, actually. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states, not individuals, owed payments to the federal government.”

The fact that when tried under the Articles of Confederation it was a complete fiasco is to Shales presumably a feature rather than a bug — drowning government in a bathtub and all that.

While celebrating the disastrous constitutional order our current Constitution was designed to replace is extreme, fetishizing the discredited arguments of losers in constitutional struggles is pretty much what contemporary Republican constitutionalism consists of. The argument made by the reactionary dissent in NFIB v. Sebelius may seek to effectively overrule McCulloch v. Maryland and contradict the constitutional order created by the New Deal, but it’s not without precedent per se — cf. the jurisprudence of Roger Taney and James McReynolds. Whether this is an attractive vision of the American constitutional order I leave to the reader’s judgment.

…as a commenter notes, in fairness Shlaes’s ideas come from an unimpeachable source: Kevin “Dow 36,000” Hassett. Who is a Romney adviser.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Amok92

    Has anyone ever seen “Amity Shales” and Andy Kaufman in a room together? Somebody’s pulling our leg here.

    • montag

      Maybe we are missing the point entirely. Maybe Shlaes is a humorist, and we’re just too dense to see the subtlety of her satire.

      On second thought, nah. Shlaes doesn’t tell jokes. She is one.

  • Davis X. Machina

    They’ve gotten the Civil War — well, maybe not the chattel slavery part — reversed on appeal. (A national firearms policy written by the ghosts of Nat Turner and Toussaint Louverture, just to stay topical.)

    Justice Thomas is halfway there, what with his position on the incorporation of the 14th amendment and all.

    Why not go for a do-over on Ratification?

    • Davis X. Machina

      (…there was an obvious mental ellipsis in there re Thomas.)

  • …isn’t our tradition. It is, actually. Under the Articles of Confederation…

    The Articles of Confederation are our tradition?

    • Malaclypse

      Of course. That’s why everybody knows that John Hanson was the first American President, and that piker Washington was the ninth.

    • Bill Murray

      I say no to the Articles, the Mayflower Compact is our true heritage and I say we covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

  • Joe

    Justice Thomas is halfway there, what with his position on the incorporation of the 14th amendment and all.

    Other than thinking “establishment of religion” is a federalism security that wasn’t incorporated, I’m not sure what this means. He might use the privileges or immunities route (historically this probably is accurate) as shown in McDonald v. Chicago for certain provisions at least, but as a whole, where does he say that he thinks the BOR as a whole is not incorporated?

    He even supported — see Troxel v. Granville — some protection for unenumerated rights.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Thomas is largely right about incorporation, of course, although he seems to want some of his own Slaughterhouses when it comes to the establishment clause.

  • Hogan

    Yes, states must be free to experiment and find the optimal results! Unless it involves TANF, in which case granting waivers to states that request them is an outrageous usurpation of Congress’s power!

    (BTW, it’s Shlaes, not Shales.)

    • Pith Helmet

      pronounced “hack.”

      • Bill Murray

        much shorter and simpler than Throat Warbler Mangrove

  • Joe

    States early on continued to have some responsibility (the 1792 Militia Act probably presupposed states would enforce its requirements) but our “traditions” has been to change things over the years and the Constitution’s feature, not bug, is to allow that. Some fail to understand this, ironically relying on “tradition” to do so.

  • ploeg

    One of George Washington’s main jobs during the Revolutionary War was to write letters begging state governments for food, money, and clothing. So yeah, it works real well.

  • Joe

    And the idea actually appears to come from none other than Kevin Hassett, one of Mitt Romney’s economic advisors.


    Admittedly, “Hassett didn’t develop details”

    • Holden Pattern

      Admittedly, “Hassett didn’t doesn’t develop details”


      • Joe

        Well okay. Just quoting the piece.

  • c u n d gulag

    Isn’t this Megan McArdle with a different byline?

    • firefall

      more self-aware and viciously deceitful, I think – McCurdle is just blissfully unthoughtful and ignorant.

  • Joshua

    Kevin Hassett is an economic advisor to Mitt Romney? The Dow 36,000 guy? LOL. Holy shit.

  • working stiff

    sure its a stupid idea, but think of the upside. all those welfare loving red states that life off the productivity of the liberal regions will finally get their utopia of low taxes and low revenues. sure a lot of people will suffer, but in the right wing world, that’s all part of the way it should be.

  • We’ve now moved to a time when Alexander Hamilton and James Madison are not originalist enough for modern Republicans.

  • John

    When did Taney fetishize the discredited arguments of the losers of past constitutional struggles? I don’t think that’s what Dred Scott does, and my understanding was that, Scott aside, Taney’s jurisprudence is reasonably respected and not particularly radical.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’m not saying Taney did this, exactly, I’m saying that modern Republicans are exhuming his vision of federalism.

      • John

        Ah, okay, that makes more sense.

  • DrDick

    Nice to see Schlaes openly admit that what modern conservatives really love is the Articles of Confederation and not the Constitution. After all, they hate effective and workable government.

    • greylocks

      They love our country, except for the parts they hate.

      • swearyanthony

        Most of them regret the wrong side won the civil war. Obama/Zombie Sherman 2012: Because you obviously weren’t paying attention last time.

        • firefall

          Zombie Sherman/Obama would work better.

          • Bill Murray

            but whose brains can Zombie Sherman eat? Steve King? John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Rmoney? Those wouldn’t fill him up enough for a walk to the park, let alone a march to the sea.

  • Cody

    Well, obviously the “one-up” culture extends to all professions. So you can cite the Constitution, eh!? I can go back even further! The Articles!

    However, I can go further back, although this isn’t in America. Surely it counts though!

  • Warren Terra

    I still think she needs to be renamed. I’m partial to “Mendacity Shlaes”, though I’m open to alternatives.

    • Hogan

      Calamity Shlaes?

    • Malaclypse

      Fracking Tar Sands Shlaes.

    • wjts

      Mendacity Shllis (or Shills, depending on one’s preference) is one of the better ones I’ve heard, though I’d still go with “Amityshlaes Horror”.

      • greylocks


  • Pingback: Reader Feeder Bits for (Mon. 23-Jul-12 1732) | Boulder Dude()

It is main inner container footer text