As we commemorate the founding of the United States of America on this Fourth of July, 2022, it’s important to remember that after the founders affixed their names to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they would face war against King George until the surrender at Yorktown in the fall of 1781. Even then, there was but a precarious peace until the Treaty of Paris was agreed by the British in 1783. Just a generation later, from 1812 to 1814, British troops were again at war with our nascent republic, laying siege to the new American capital in Washington and setting the White House afire, among other things.
Since then, and until just recently, the United States has been mostly the globe’s oasis of stability. We have been threatened, surely, by wars, including our disastrous Civil War, civil strife, protests, riots, and throughout the Cold War.
But we have largely remained a “safe haven” for global capital, especially in the 20th century, largely because we are perceived as a stable island in a world of nations that are sometimes in chaos.
We inherited the role of the British pound sterling as the world’s reserve currency as World War II ended. The dollar became the world’s reserve currency because the United States is perceived as a powerful, invulnerable, stable, and rule-of-law society, largely because our government is viewed as a moderate, predictable, tolerant, constitutional republic by governments abroad.
Americans do not make radical changes and we do not embrace sudden policy shifts. We do not have armed coups. Rules adopted over centuries by the House and Senate ensure that law making, while not agreed by national consensus, respect the rights and views of the minority and encourage moderating compromise, as opposed to the simple “majority rule” of a pure democracy that pushes the minority view aside.
But now, that “stable and moderate rule-of-law society” is under threat. And it cannot help but affect the markets.
His comments are correct. But unlike the several hours where the Capitol building was under siege, we now face threats to the very institutions and practices that have maintained the republic since its earliest days.
On Thursday, the president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, while on foreign soil at a NATO summit, undermined the integrity of the United States Supreme Court, the ultimate judicial body of this government, and the president’s equal in our system of government.
“The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States.”He went on to say,
“I believe we have to codify Roe vs. Wade in the law and the way to make that is that Congress [gets?] to do that and if the filibuster gets in the way, then we provide an exception to this, to require an exception to the filibuster for this action, to deal with the Supreme Court decision.The filibuster is a Senate rule to moderate legislation, encourage compromise, and respect the rights of the minority. It has been part of Senate procedure since 1806 when it was adopted to allow interminable debate on the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” While it has been abused, particularly in the Jim Crow era, it has, nevertheless, allowed for deliberative, thoughtful, debate and for the tempest of extremist politics to be ameliorated.
The Supreme Court is under other threats, as well. Some members of Congress urge that the court be “packed” by adding more justices beyond the current nine to obtain decisions more favorable to their views. Other extremists in Congress want to impeach justices whose decisions are opposed to their own views.
Last year, now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke so recklessly about Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that his comments drew a sharp rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.
“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”Schumer apologized thereafter. Nevertheless, an assassin attempted to murder Justice Kavanaugh early last month.
Benjamin Franklin, leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, is said to have been asked by a woman about the type of government the founders had bestowed upon the people. “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Our leaders and our citizenry should act in a fashion that will.
Happy Independence Day.