Understanding Why the Constitution Was and Remains a Detriment to Individual Liberty

Column by Jesse Mathewson.

Exclusive to STR

America celebrates its freedom by promoting imperialistic military excursions that sometimes last decades across the globe. This nation has been precipitately moving towards collapse since the adoption of the Constitution. In fact, with the exception of Andrew Jackson’s reign as commander-in-chief, it has never been debt free and has in most cases increased its debt, level of taxation, area of influence and book of law since 1791.

To understand something, it is important to first study it in depth when able, as is the case with most history, be it documents or points in time. The most common story is the one promulgated by the winners of the era. In this case, the Federalists scored a coup of epic proportions with the passage of this as the pinnacle of legal recourse in this Union of Thirteen Colonies.
As several scholars have noted, the Hamiltonian Federalists were in some cases Tories and the leadership of this party was at the time extremely anglophile in its approach. Their desire to mimic the Bank of England and even England’s criminal justice system, as well as many other aspects of England’s government, is something that many Constitutionalists, now and through the short history of this nation, failed to grasp. Alexander Hamilton wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers in an attempt to ensure that the Constitution was accepted by the public as well as by the individual colonies’ leaders of the time. He led the Federalists with John Adams and used the debt incurred by the Revolutionary War as a stepping stone to ensure the public supported their approach. It was their desire to socialize the debt incurred by each colony and place that burden on all peoples within the union of states that would result from the passage of the Constitution.
The opposition to this approach was the Democratic Republican Party and Thomas Jefferson, who opposed the Constitution along with other stalwarts of the revolution, namely James Madison. These men feared that the Federalists desired a corrupted version of England’s monarchist approach, which would include a standing army, high taxes and government-subsidized monopolies. It only takes but a brief minute to fast forward and see through time that exactly that has occurred.
The fears of Jefferson and Madison have become reality as a direct result of the passage of the Constitution. With this background, we can proceed into the actual Constitution itself and, very quickly, will see its inherent failure directly related to its authors’ desires.
The United States Constitution’s true power is not in its amendments, but in the Articles that preceded said amendments. The amendments were initiated to assuage the fears of the individual colonies, with one notable instance being the inclusion of the Tenth Amendment by the notable James Madison. For the sake of clarity and ease of reading, it is easiest to address Article I, Section 8 as an example of the powers given to the government and the goal of its creators, being the solidification of imperial power.
Article I, Section 8 begins with the phrase, The Congress shall have Power To; meaning that it has absolute power in this regard. Legally, the phrase offers only one definition, and that is that Congress has power, especially in the following areas:
·     …lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
As an explanation and clarification of this single sentence, the rest of Section 8 ensures that only these things will occur.
The second sentence says:
·     To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
This is exactly what the United States has done so frivolously and completely since 1791, with one notable exception being the rule of Andrew Jackson, who presided over the only debt-free period of time in this nation’s history. Next it says:
·     To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
·     To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,
·     and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
·     To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
This approach effectively discards the notion that individual colonies, states and persons can manage their own affairs in business, banking or use of money.
Other powers specifically enumerated are:
·      To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
·      To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
·      To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
Some may argue that a postal service and the subsequent transit over roads meant, for this purpose, aid in the promotion of freedom. I would argue that private mail and communication approaches have far exceeded the benefits and effectiveness of the United States Postal Service and that those states with private toll roads are, in essence, better able to move from place to place on a largely more efficient system of roads. I would also argue that science and useful arts in the United States have largely stagnated as a result of the government’s insistence on remaining at the helm of all useful experiments and approaches. It can be argued successfully that not one government program or approach has resulted in a beneficial change for all citizens in this nation and that it is only individual ingenuity and fortitude that has truly benefited anyone. I would also argue that state justice has in this nation resulted only in the largest prison system on the planet, bar none, with the subjugation of its people being the end result of its institution of courts. Statistically, there has been no real reduction of crime, and in fact, in every instance of the state’s intercession and passage of laws, crime has gone up, however incrementally.
In the next group of statements we see the following:
·      To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
·      To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
·      To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
The power to define crimes being given to a small group of lawyers and politicians should frighten anyone who has ever sat in court. If that is not enough, however, they were also given the absolute power to make war, raise and support armies and make the rules by which these agencies act. This section alone is what has allowed a standing army to be kept in place since 1791, and has ensured that our nation has the military means to enforce its singularly dictated policies regarding all other nations, all of which is Constitutional as per Article I, Section 8.
Lastly we look at the following:
·      To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
·      To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The term “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever,” is used and effectively discards any last vestiges of liberty that this nation may have had before the hammer dropped and the Constitution was made law.
The very last line of Section 8 states a simple yet extremely beneficial allowance for the United States government:
·      To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing powers.
There is no discarding the very nature of that line of text, especially in that execution is capitalized for clarity. Absolute power was given to a central government with this document and this alone should provide any who truly desire liberty the ammunition necessary to discard it as a valid source. In fact, this document penned so long ago and notably not signed by Thomas Jefferson among others should be seen for what it is; a paper version of the prison at Alcatraz.
The Constitution is clearly a detriment to the liberty of the individual and is the easiest example of a falsely promoted ideal among government documents. If one desires a strong, corrupt and thoroughly impenetrable system of governance then they may look no further, as this document does just this. What must we do, however, in the absence of this document? For those who desire or believe that some government is necessary, one can look to the Articles of Confederation for solace. It outlines an approach that allows a large amount of personal liberty while still maintaining a basic government structure. Or one can go a step further and discard any trappings of government as they exist today or yesterday for the more beneficial, yet seemingly impossible, option of the individual.
Any real lover of liberty, however, should strive for the ideal of the individual as the cornerstone of society. There are myriad names for this approach, including individualism, voluntaryism, individual anarchy or agorism. The result is the same: the abolition of the relationship between the individual and the state. The American Wild West is a perfect example of a successful society without a centralized system of government. At its heyday, the Wild West had less crime per capita than New York City or Chicago. A complete secession from the state by the individual isn’t easy, but it’s possible.
Think, study, embrace liberty.
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painkilleraz's picture
Columns on STR: 4

No gods no masters


tzo's picture

The government has the right "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever."

All the rest of the document is redundant. If they can legislate all cases, then everything that government may ever want to do can be declared legal.

And if government can legislate anything, why go on and point out specific cases, like the post offices and the roads? Because that one sentence had to be surrounded by a flurry of fine-sounding respectability.

For anyone who wants to point to the 1st Amendment, or any other little old Constitutional thing, the government points to its right "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever."

The People who support the Constitution are getting exactly what they asked for.

WhiteIndian's picture

The People who support division of labor — specialization in violence was one of the first instances — and hierarchy (both are gushingly rhapsodized in Austrian religio-economic literature) are getting exactly what they asked for.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

That is a misreading of the text - the government has the power to exercise exclusive legislation etc ONLY IN the District of Columbia.... as is made clear by the phrase immediately following: "over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States"

I'm no fan of either the Constitution or the US government (and I want Hamilton's body exhumed and burned, and the ashes mixed with piss and ochre and used to daub graffiti on Lincoln's memorial), but we do not advance the ball my mischaracterising elements of the now-dead Constitution.

As with a lot of countries with codified constitutions, it is the COMMERCE power that is used as the 'catch all' to expand tyranny. And that's certainly the case in the US: so much so that recent decisions have hinged on the court's opinion that the state may penalise acts that do NOT cross interstate boundaries, if the activity can be seen to impinge INDIRECTLY on interstate commerce (although case law on indirect effects has been abundant prior to recent decisions).

And for example, the Gonzales v Raich decision (about HOME GROWN marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws) makes it clear that in the opinions of the robed charlatans, the activity does not even have to be commercial in nature - the significant part of the ratio decidendi was that the output of home-grown pot MIGHT at SOME FUTURE DATE be used in (black) market activity. On that basis, they can legislate against home grown vegetables, even if you never sell a single one... because one day you MIGHT.

At bottom, we are on the same page: Constitutions, as Spooner famously pointed out, are contracts entered into without the consent of the overwhelming majority of the contractees, and claim to bind in perpetuity those who are not yet born (much as Tom Paine complained about the Act declaring perpetual loyalty of the British people to William and Mary).

They are always formulated in order to give a veneer of respectability to the rule of the masses by a narrow clique; from there the judiciary is populated with 'like minds' (be they Democractic or Republican, they still believe in the right of the State to wield its power expansively) and ANY rights asserted by the polity are parsed as narrowly as possible.

We know this - and it serves little to make logical errors by mir-parsing one phrase (which specifically concerns the District of Columbia), except to the extent that I guess the robed charlatans may bring 'indirect; reasoning into the arsenal of tyranny. I would not put it past the likes of Scalia, Alito, Roberts and the rest of them... there is a track record of the court helping stretch the sphincter of liberty, going even farther back than that paragon of jurisprudence - Oliver Wendell "Sterilise the Feeble-Minded" Holmes and his 1927 decision in the Buck case.

tzo's picture

Yes, I know. Dolphins do not have specialization and hierarchy and are very happy. They are particularly tasty, as well.

How's that product-of-evil computer of yours working out for you?

"The people who support division of labor..."

I certainly don't. Everyone should be forced to do exactly the same set of things. This is perfectly natural. Human history is replete with men and women all sharing the hunting/gathering/fighting/cooking/building/working/medicine equally, with no one specializing in anything. Also, a person just learning a skill should never defer to the knowledge of a more experienced person, because this is hierarchy, and is bad. Teaching is inherently evil and unnatural.

I look forward to the next regurgitation permutation of the nine things you keep repeating. 9! is 362,880 (Dunbar's number times 2,419), so I'm sure we have many more to go. I might suggest writing a little program to generate the entire set and posting it to a website so we may all stop by and admire the full set in all its glory.

Hey, it was kind of fun going back to junior high! But now I'm bored.

WhiteIndian's picture

- "They are particularly tasty..."

You're mindlessly regurgitating Hobbesian mythology, reflected in Darwin's "red in tooth and claw" view of nature. A more accurate view of natural evolution, and how life really works, is Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin.

"Darwin saw his theory of natural selection arising from the incredible lethality and ruthlessness of the natural world. This narrative has remained in place, even while the evidence to support it has eroded completely away."
~In Praise of Laziness
by Jason Godesky | 5 June 2007

- "...product-of-evil computer..."

City-Statists like you consistently crow at how completely Non-State society has been wiped off the surface of the earth.

So I'll ask you: "Did you drive on any publicly funded roads? Using that internet developed by the military for nuclear warfighting? How's that working out for you?"

- "Everyone should be forced..."

Incorrect. Egalitarian societies do not force anything.

You don't even know what egalitarianism means, because you think it means "forced equal outcomes," which the city-Statist Austrian school of religio-economics has taught you.

Egalitarianism simply means equal socio-political power. No government, no bosses, no "lording-over." Only in egalitarian Non-State societies can one be a sovereign individual.

"Historically, people in non-state societies are relatively autonomous and sovereign. They generate their own subsistence with litde or no assistance from outside sources. They bow to no external political leaders."
~Elman Service

- "...the nine things you keep repeating."

The only reason I have to keep repeating is you keep parroting nine agricultural city-Statist errors.

tzo's picture

"Egalitarianism simply means equal socio-political power. No government, no bosses, no "lording-over." Only in egalitarian Non-State societies can one be a sovereign individual."

Such a simple truth you state here. But then you complicate things by insisting that I, along with dozens or hundreds or thousands of others cannot implement this simple idea in WHATEVER MANNER we wish. Even if we choose to plant seeds in the ground and keep animals for food and labor. And build houses. And learn particular trades. And develop a trading system based on exchanging commodities. And any of a great number of VOLUNTARY means of organizing society. You criticize voluntary behavior and interactions, which makes your arguments opinion and nothing more. Opinions noted.

The sentence I quoted above is my foundational premise, and I parrot no other agriculturist city-Statist errors. I attach zero baggage to the statement, as it stands quite nicely all by itself. You insist on stapling on caveats and criticizing the efforts of people who simply want to live according to this premise. I am not Mises, Rothbard, or Rand, so critiquing their flaws and attributing them to me is unwarranted.

You seem to fall into the trap of believing that a city of 1,000,000 people is really a single coherent entity. There's that old statist-speak and ideology leaking in. Let me assure you that I interact with way fewer than Dunbar's number of human beings, as do most folks. All these little egalitarian groups overlap and interact with each other, and from the outside this set of clumps, numbering 1,000,000, seems to be an unwieldy large group of humans called a city. But it is not. Your insistence that each group of 150 people must be physically separated from each and every other such group in order to form a bunch of egalitarian societies doesn't compute with me. The fact that you ignore the thousands and thousands and thousands of very real benefits (aids to human comfort and survival) that are the result of the division of labor and voluntary hierarchical systems in large cooperative societies is also a bit strange. I get the "untroubled life of the free man in nature" thing, but there is something to be said for not really having to worry about starving, freezing, or being eaten by a tiger.

I am perhaps naive enough to believe that human societies are in the process of evolving toward the time when we can actually live together in large societies without government, and arguments about their lack of existence, present or past, is irrelevant. And if most of the current ideas about land ownership are flawed or downright unjust—and I agree with you that this is probably the case—why do you insist that there is no possible solution?

The moment a man decides to harvest seeds from a plant and place them into the Earth to create more plants, all is lost? Stop yourself.

If you reject the idea of "enslaving" plants and animals and "raping" the Earth by purposely putting seeds in the ground in an orderly fashion instead of letting them fall naturally, then that's fine. Elevating non-humans to human status, as if they were moral agents, is not much of an argument IMO. Yer gonna eat 'em one way or another, so consistency cannot be part of your position here.

WhiteIndian's picture

There is no voluntaryist agriculture. It's well-established in the field of anthropology and archeology that domestication (proto-agriculture) greatly increases violence.

Richard Manning sums it up accurately: "Agriculture creates government."

The very first sentence in anthropologists Stanley Diamond's book In search of the primitive: a critique of civilization is: "Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home."

A voluntaryist agricultural civilization is as realistic as a voluntaryist Soviet communism. In fact, much of what you believe is rather like the Marxists, as is noted in Marxism of the Right by Robert Locke. I think you're as capable of inventing a voluntary civilization as the communists, who promised much the same, and ignored much of the same evidence against such ever happening.

- "...not really having to worry about starving, freezing, or being eaten by a tiger..."

Still parroting the Hobbesian mythology that is an apology for Statism? Really, that makes you a blatant liar.

It's untrue. It's been debunked by the empirical data gleaned from anthropology, ethnology, evolutionary biology, archeology.

The agricultural revolution shortened man's life by half. Now there are a multitude of Diseases of Civilization never seen before agricutural city-Statism.

I'd say there is something to be said for not really having to worry about being sick or dying from famine. (Yeah, foragers rarely have famine, agriculturalists frequently so.)

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
Jared Diamond, UCLA School of Medicine
Discover Magazine, May 1, 1987. Pages 64-66.

- "...live together in large societies without government..."

So unlikely, I say Impossible. Never has been done, and it's as likely as conjuring an animated corpse. You know why too: span-of-control and Dunbar's Number, as covered in attorney Jeff Well's book "A Theory of Power." http://www.jeffvail.net/2005/03/theory-of-power-online.html

- "...their lack of existence, present or past, is irrelevant."

Sure. Just like the absence of animated corpses is irrelevant in your Wishing for a Zombie. Maybe you can do it with enough Cargo-Cult techno-fetishism! Right after power too cheap to meter.

- "Elevating non-humans to human status..."

You can congratulate yourself for sounding exactly like a Freeper Fundamentalist. (or an Austrian economist; the differences in agricultural city-Statist political flavors is greatly exaggerated amongst them.)

You still swallow, at least in part, the monotheistic hierarchy myth civilization invented (even if a secularized version) as an apologetic for domination.

WOMAN (submits to husband)
ANIMALS (submits to husbandry)
NATURE (valuable only if used by the hierarchy)

Fact: humans are animals.

Fact: other animals also demonstrate morality.

See "Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals" by Frans B. M. de Waal, Harvard University Press.

Evan's picture

I'd just like to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying watching these epic debates between proponents of anarcho-primitivism and market anarchism, and I hope they continue indefinitely.

I think such dialogue is particularly appropriate for a site with Thoreau in the masthead.

Paul's picture

"Agriculture creates government."

Maybe so, maybe so. At any rate, agriculture creates lots of people, and concentrations of people appear to result in government. At least so far.

I'm just wondering what WhiteIndian proposes to do with all the extra people who can't be supported by his pre-agricultural society. And with all the people who don't want to wear animal skins and live in 6x6 foot huts with dirt floors.

WhiteIndian's picture

Agriculture does create lots of people, on purpose, because a large population is needed for cannon-fodder and a labor pool for the nobility and capitalists to use.

The hierarchy-bribed cornucopian Julian Simon ironically called you "The Ultimate Resource."

Smile and say "moo," human resource #6,981,526,096. Hope ya live close enough to the center of empire to not starve if they don't find you useful.

Paul's picture

Embarrassing question expertly dodged. I guess you don't have an answer, eh? Not too surprising, actually. Bombast is a lot easier than finding truth. When you decide what is to be done with us 6 billion "human resources" that won't quite fit into your pre-agricultural society, let us know...

WhiteIndian's picture

A question was never asked. They end with a "?" last I heard.

Humans are in overshoot, biologically speaking. I have no idea "what to do" with the "Ultimate Resource" that has been deliberately bred and fed for the emergent elite's labor pool and canon-fodder stock.

But others have decent ideas. Especially the permaculturalists have good ideas.

John Jeavons http://www.johnjeavons.info/ of whom I highly respect, has a proven system whereby one may grow all their food in a very small area, and improve the soil besides.

How about this? It's been around longer than the White Man's Ghost Dance. (That's the piece of paper people worship called the Constitution.)
300 Year Old Food Forest in Vietnam

It's not the Original Affluent Society (Sahlins, 1972.) It's intensive horticulture, and prone to all the violence correlated with domestication. But it's better than working for Lumbergh in Office Space.

WhiteIndian's picture

Libertarian Utilitarianism: "The Needs of the Many (6 billion) outweigh the Freedoms of the Few to live a Non-State society lifeway" is the essential argument behind agricultural city-Statism.

painkilleraz's picture

I guess I dont understand what this has to do with now?

Unless we violate the NAP how would we ever get back to our aboriginal ancestry, and besides, why would anyone willingly or gladly embrace that idea? Its not easy living completely off the land, having done it in small portions over much of my life thanks to a paranoid prepper father and other influences I can say that if I can avoid it I will.

Ridding ourselves of the false notions encompassed and espoused by the supporters of the Constitution and our current Government does not automatically mean we will go back to pre-speaking society, in fact I would expect that we would have a relatively small "hitch" in our progress forward, which would increase rapidly.

Regardless thanks for the comments, though again I have no idea what they have to do with the article.

WhiteIndian's picture

Gambol Lockdown already violates the Non-Aggression Principle.

Privation property, or big-government Land enTITLEment from the Land Office (or county recorder these days,) is nothing more than a totalitarian regulatory program to restrict the free movement of Non-State societies and to violently disestablish Non-State people from their lifeways.

It took an 8000 year long Trail of Tears to establish global Gambol Lockdown, and daily threats of violence to enforce Gambol Lockdown.

Most libertarians whitewash such aggression and threats thereof by calling it their "right."

As Dr. Ralph Borsodi states in his 1929 volume This Ugly Civilization:

"Our system of private property in land FORCES landless men to work for others; to work in factories, stores, and offices, whether they like it or not. wherever access to land is free, men work only to provide what they actually need or desire. Wherever the white man has come in contact with savage cultures this fact becomes apparent. There is for savages in their native state no such sharp distinction between "work" and "not working" as clocks and factory whistles have accustomed the white man to accept. They cannot be made to work regularly at repetitive tasks in which they have no direct interest except by some sort of duress. Disestablishment from land, like slavery, is a form of DURESS. The white man, where slavery cannot be practiced, has found that he must first disestablish the savages from their land before he can force them to work steadily for him. Once they are disestablished, they are IN EFFECT STARVED into working for him and into working as he directs."

Daniel Quinn notes too how people are forced by starvation into working for the system. "You’ll know you’re among the people of your culture if the food is all owned, if it’s all under lock and key. But food was once no more owned than the air or the sunshine are owned. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key—and putting it there is the cornerstone of your economy, because if the food wasn’t under lock and key, who would work?"

And the funny thing is, divinely-derived Lockesian property rights (have you read his On Property?) are about as valid as the divine right of kings. They rely on the following make-believe hierarchy, even if modern day libertarianism waters it down to a more secular version, and attenuated the sexism:

GOD ("...those grants God made of the world to Adam..." ~John Locke)
MAN (everything else below is property)
WOMAN (submits to husband)
ANIMALS (submit to husbandry)
NATURE (valuable only if used-up by the hierarchy)

I suppose now you're going to give me the "mixed labor" and "homestead" arguments, but before the plow came the sword (they're both closely related tools of domination.) Every time agriculture invades and occupies, there is another trail of tears and a mountain of skulls.

And the taking is still today enforced by the sword, no matter if you call it a property right, and intone all kinds of Austrian word magic to whitewash the aggression.

painkilleraz's picture

Nope I dont understand those arguments, I understand what I write about and learn as I go regarding the other things. Much of my life is spent training, educating myself and pushing to be a better (blank blank) than others. AS a result I honestly do not often really delve into the minutia that is the argument between one form of something and another. :)

AtlasAikido's picture

China’s Black Market City
Welcome to Wenzhou, where the mountains are high, the emperor is far away, and people are busy creating their own economic miracle.

The Wenzhou Model

Foreign businessmen, politicians, and journalists who fly into Beijing or Shanghai often get the impression that the Chinese government is the main driver behind the jaw-dropping development of what was until recently one of the worst large economies in the world. In Shanghai you fly to a state-built airport, ride on a state-built maglev train through the Pudong district, and behold a city of skyscrapers that appeared out of nowhere a little more than a decade ago with the help of generous government subsidies and investment from state-owned enterprises. Whatever local company you’re interested in, chances are the government is interested in it as well.

In southern China, things look rather different. The Chinese say that in this region “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away”—in other words, the government isn’t paying much attention. Companies are mainly small or medium-sized enterprises, government services are slight, and laws are routinely ignored. According to official statistics, the three southern coastal provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian have the first, second, and fourth wealthiest citizens, respectively, in the country. They are the center of China’s export sector and the primary destination for China’s millions of internal economic migrants. Here is where the real Chinese miracle is happening.

The city and region of Wenzhou play an important role in this story. The Wenzhounese have a reputation for both an uncanny sense of business and an almost pathological disregard for the government. The mountains here are no metaphor: Seventy-eight percent of the Wenzhou prefecture is covered by mountains, a fact that proved pivotal to the area’s early development and the central government’s response to it.

In 1978, when China’s economic reforms were just being launched, Wenzhou was extremely poor, about 90 percent rural, with smaller land allocations than other areas and poor connections to larger markets. Even today, the vast majority of local entrepreneurs have less than eight years of formal education, and the current population of foreigners is estimated at only a couple of hundred. The Wenzhounese government received directives from Beijing but found that without accompanying support they lacked resources to run the economy by diktat. Fortunately, a central government that wasn’t offering much support also wasn’t paying much attention.

So private citizens quietly took over many of the services that elsewhere are either provided or heavily regulated by the state. Local authorities, lacking other options, didn’t try to stop them. The most important development in those early days was the city’s flourishing underground financial system, which according to the local branch of the People’s Bank of China (China’s central bank) currently is used by 89 percent of Wenzhounese private citizens and 57 percent of local companies.

More dramatically, private citizens were the first to connect Wenzhou to neighboring regions by building roads, bridges, and highways, as well as the city’s airports and substantial portions of the dock. Even today the city is scattered with infrastructure investment firms through which groups of businessmen pool money to build the transport routes they all need to get their goods from factory to the point of sale. The result is not pretty. Aside from the confusion faced even by residents driving into the city, it is not uncommon to see sidewalks torn up to insert piping, with seemingly no intention of replacing the concrete. Nevertheless, the system is crudely efficient, merchants can all easily access factories, and the factories in this geographically isolated city now have sales networks that span the globe.

The government’s indifference didn’t last forever. But when the authorities got around to paying attention, they decided not to mess with a good thing.


WhiteIndian's picture

Here's what an economic miracle looks like:

October 14, 2009, the 30th annual awards ceremony of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund took place at the Asia Society in New York City. Lu Guang (卢广) from People’s Republic of China won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project “Pollution in China"...

Amazing Pictures, Pollution in China
October 21st, 2009

AtlasAikido's picture

"Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value --- zero."
Voltaire (1694-1778)

And so...The Best Bitcoin radio ad yet--

So too will follow economic solutions to other pollutions..