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Non-Rule in America

- Abstract

THE FIRST great issue in American history was whether we were to have a federal government at all; its final resolution took about a hundred years. The second great issue of American history-which remains unresolved after another hundred years-is whether the federal government, now that we have it, is ever going to be allowed to govern.

There are two major and two minor exceptions to this formula for our history. To wage war and conduct some of the other foreign relations has always been the function of the national power. Without the pressure proceeding from these imperatives, the national government, once it had completed its second major function-namely, to assist in collecting and disbursing the lands of the continent-would probably have become purely ceremonial. As for the two minor exceptions, the first has been to contribute to the managing of the liberties and welfare of the population, while the second-and potentially most important-has been the role of the national government, inherited from the bankers in the Great Depression, in averting the domestic economic disaster which lies just beyond a conventional slowdown of production.

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