A Republic if you can keep it

Following my post on “cashless communism“, I’d like to address why democracy doesn’t work, either.

There’s a story (and I blatantly paraphrase) of Ben Franklin being asked what form of government had came out the Constitutional convention, to which he replied “A Republic if you can keep it.”. This sentiment was strong amongst the Founding Fathers, that a democracy was sure to fail, but republicanism had more stability.

There’s a great article on the website of the journal The New American that catalogs this belief far better than I ever could. I won’t expound on this topic like I did cashless communism, but in a nutshell democracy unrestrained is mob rule. The article mentions this quote, but it’s worth reiterating own its own:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.” – Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee

There is debate as to whether Lord Woodhouselee actually made the statement attributed to him, but the basis of the statement is fairly sound. We’ve seen this in history, and we have seen the West attempt proselytise democracy across the Middle East for the past decade or so. The Arab Spring was based on a premise of spreading democracy. We may have opportunity to possibly test this theory as current political affairs unravel, at least in the deprecation from democracy into dictatorship.

So is this also the fate of the United States? We’re a republic and not a democracy, right? I’m sure the U.S. will cease to exist as we know it at some point. Not too many governments can stand the test of time. The name of a nation may stand, but its underlying political structure changes. The Roman Republic fell with the ascendency of Julius Gaius Julius Cæsar. A couple hundred years later the whole empire collapsed. Great Britain is today by no means the same type of monarchy that was established by William the Conqueror (also known by another name by those who weren’t fond of him) when he unseated the last Anglo-Saxon kings. The Magna Carta saw Britain’s nobles force the Angevin king John Lackland to capitulate some of the powers of the throne. Parliament, and particularly the House of Commons, grew in power over the centuries under the premise of representing the people. History repeats itself, so we must understand what the possible outcomes are. A Nation with that kind of insight can guide itself into calm waters.

To me this all goes back a basic belief expressed in my post on Secession and the Christian:

13 [This is] the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Cashless communism

I watch the keywords that lead people to this site, and one from this week caught my attention. Somehow through the magic of search engines, someone looking for the phrase “cashless communism” was directed here. I’m not sure how that happened, but I thought I would expound on the topic for fun.

Definitions

So first, lets define the two words in question. Per the Macmillan Dictionary cashless is defined simply as “done without any exchange of cash“, and communism is “a political and economic system in which individual people cannot own property or industries and in which people of all social classes are treated equally“.  That sounds like a great concept, and I can think of an excellent example of where we can see this principle implemented today: a graveyard. I can’t think of any other examples of where this has ever existed. There have been cashless societies that were not made up of equals, and there have been communist societies that have always had a method of exchange.

Concepts

Cashless. There have been a few societies in history that have came close to this concept, but even then there was always a method of bartering. Hunter-gatherers don’t have a lot of need for cash, but I don’t see how cultures agrarian and onward can function without money. If you don’t have a direct one-to-one transfer of goods, then there has to be some medium of exchange. I do not consider myself to be even a novice economist, so at this point, I will direct you to the Ludwig von Mises Institute for a proper education in sound economics. Their approach may sound a little contrarian at first glance, but doesn’t simple truth usually run contrary to popular wisdom anyway?

Communism. I am unaware of any pure communist state that has ever succeeded.  As I stated above, a great concept, but unfortunately, humanity gets in the way of all that equality. Take the Soviet Union for example. Everyone was equally poor except for the oligarchs driving the state apparatus.  Equality is an idea that can only be met by the lowest common denominator. Those who want to excel will not be interested in holding themselves back for the betterment of their fellow man. I’ve heard of a concept of Christian communism that is purported to have existed in the 1st century Church. Proponents of this concept usually quote Acts 2:44-47:

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

First, note that while they had all things in common, they did not sell all their possessions and goods, and the did not divide them equally amongst all, they divided the goods based on need. Now note that they still broke bread from house to house. It is fair to assume that they were still working and buying bread. I think the rest of the book of Acts will bear that out. Also look at the account of Ananias and Saphira from Acts 5:

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 and kept back [part] of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? 4 While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came upon all that heard it. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him round, and they carried him out and buried him.

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much. And she said, Yea, for so much.9 But Peter [said] unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to try the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out. 10 And she fell down immediately at his feet, and gave up the ghost: and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.

I do not think that the concept that early Christianity was communist stands of its own accord when honestly analysed. But back to the concept of communism itself, I would direct you to the Marxist Internet Archive for a more in-depth study. Caveat emptor: I have not spent much time on this site, so don’t count this link as an endorsement of anything contained on it.

So how would a cashless communist state operate? 

First, it would have to be robust enough to sustain itself without any external commerce. All production would have to be accomplished internally. There would have to be a rigid division of labor. One could not be free to fulfil his own ambitions that might be contrary to the role that society needed him to play. This strict control would only be able to be maintained by a central authority and dissenters would have to be dealt with harshly. Those controlling the apparatus would of necessity not be producers: you can’t work the farm and run the country. King Saul tried this early in his career, but was pulled in full time shortly thereafter. This then gets into one of my favorite Orwellian quotes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others“.

Second, we’ll now stick with whimsy and assume that everyone’s labor will be rewarded equally. To do this, only products that yield consistently and in great quantity can be produced. That rules out the consumption of meat for the most part. It is inefficient to produce, consumes other usable resources, and output is variable. That leaves only the most robust and bland foodstuffs for consumption. Storage would have to be a concern, so only foods that can be stored long-term at ambient temperatures can be utilized. Man cannot live by bread alone, but grains and root crops would be the staple foods of such a society. Much entertainment would not exist, it doesn’t have a value add in such a society. Religion, a core tenet of humanity would either exist in the form of a state religion, or no religion, which is not a-theist, but the god is the state.

Third is how goods are distributed in this cashless society. The central authority would have to track everyone’s output to determine distribution. There would have to be 100% accountability of all citizens/serfs/miserable wretches in this culture. What would stop those controlling distribution from skewing allocations? How can you have checks and balances in favor of the workers when the oligarchs are the only ones in overhead positions? It is in their interests to serve themselves first. How would the workers mandate an accurate audit of records? I don’t know. NB: I’m a little biased against communism, as you may have ascertained.

What might work?

There is a way that this could work possibly, but it involves devolving to the most stable (in my humble estimation) form of government: small scale tribalism. It won’t work in “advanced” societies. Things just don’t scale that well. With tribalism, you revert back to extended family groups in small geographic areas that can be self sustaining. Everyone does have a vested interest in being their brother’s (or cousin’s) keeper. Those who have experienced life the most (elders) are given opportunity to lead. Honor holds ambition in check (See Brett McKay’s great series on this topic). Those who shun honor are cast out. Tribalism is the closest to a functioning cashless communism that I can perceive.

Secession and the Christian

With the caveat that I endeavor to keep political commentary far from this blog, I want to digress for a moment to address a political issue from a perspective of faith.

The issue at hand is the right of a state to secede from the United States of America. Currently, there are petitions on the White House website for nearly every state, individually, to secede from the United States (Here is the petition for sweet home Alabama).

I’m not going to get into the historic facts of attempts to secede that have occurred in the past, but I will quote the Declaration of Independence, and the particular phrase that gives everyone cause for the argument of leaving the Union:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

A particular quandary with the current petition approach is this line from the Declaration:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

If the signers of this current wave of petitions believe the current President a reincarnate of King George III, why would they expect a different outcome than the one received by their colonial forebears? We know the course of action that was taken when petitioning failed. There is a theory that history is cyclical.

Are we at that point in this Nation? It is not for me to say.  As a Christian I am compelled to obey the laws of the land, and to render unto Caesar what is his. I think the following passage from the letter written to the Romans sums it up pretty well:

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another; 11 in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; 13 communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality.

14 Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath [of God]: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. 20 But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

And while we don’t have a king in the United States, but an elected President, the words of Peter are still applicable:

13 Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14 or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:16 as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

 Thus the command to honor the king is applicable to the President, whether we agree with his policies or not. Likewise, we are citizens and not servants, but this command is still applicable:

22Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord: 23 whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; 24 knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. (Colossians 3:22-25)

So what is my point in all this? Petitioning the White House for the right to secede is futile. It flags one as a dissenter and could be construed as treasonous. Does one really wish to potentially mark himself as an enemy of the state? I’ll not travel down that path myself. I’ll heed the sage advice of Joshua:

14 Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah. (Joshua 24:14-15)

It reminds me of the first verse of a song by Albert E. Brumley, This World is Not My Home:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

 In closing, in looking toward eternity, the grievances of this world really don’t matter that much. For perspective, we must remember the words of the Preacher:

13 [This is] the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) 

The moral right to lands lost in conquest

I’ll not get into an academic discussion of the issue of whether or not various Native American tribes truly own the land their ancestors once occupied. The article below more than sufficiently deals with that, but I’d like to approach it from a layman’s perspective.

‘Do Indians Rightfully Own America?’:
By Walter Olson

Bryan Caplan at Econlog revisits an old libertarian chestnut about land ownership, and following the lead of Murray Rothbard analyzes it in a priori fashion with little attention to the devices that Anglo-American law long ago evolved to adjudicate claims of ancient title, such as statutes of limitations and repose, laches, and adverse possession. But in fact we don’t need to consider these questions in a historical and empirical vacuum. Not only has Indian title been the subject of an extensive legal literature since the very start of the American experiment — much of it written by scholars and reformers highly sympathetic toward Native Americans and their plight — but Indian land claims resurged in the 1970s to become the subject of a substantial volume of litigation in American courts, casting into doubt (at least for a time) the rightful ownership of many millions of acres, until the past few years, when the U.S. Supreme Court finally brought down the curtain on most such claims.

The short answer to the question “Do Indians Rightfully Own America” is, “No, they don’t.” Last year I told a part of that story in Chapter 10 of my book Schools for Misrule, focusing on the modern litigation and its origins among advocates in law reviews, legal services groups and liberal foundations, while UCLA law professor Stuart Banner lays out a much richer and more comprehensive story, concentrating on events before the present day, in his excellent 2007 book How the Indians Lost Their Land.
I’m grateful to Richard Reinsch of Liberty Fund’s Liberty Law Blog for crafting a response to Caplan that draws at some length on my arguments in Schools for Misrule. The history may surprise you: it helps explain, on the one hand, how Indian casinos came to dot the land, and, on the other, how land claims by American tribes have emerged as a flashpoint for the assertion of human-rights claims against the United States by United Nations agencies. You can read Reinsch’s account here.

‘Do Indians Rightfully Own America?’ is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

Throughout history, force has been the method of establishing the laws of the land, whether good or ill. The white Europeans and their descendants, often though force[1], displaced the native populations of the Americas. Incidents like the Trail of Tears show what depths of evil were conducted against the Native Americans in order to take their lands. This resulted in a near-genocide of the Cherokees. These are dark periods in American history.

I do not however, believe that the descendants of those indians who were wronged have a right to the land that their ancestors possessed. This is an especially painful conclusion considering that I claim Cherokee ancestry[2]. In my mind, the Native Americans have no more claim over the lands lost to them than the Welsh[3] and Cornish have for the lands their ancestors lost in the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Too much time has passed to return the land to what might be considered its rightful owners. Whether it is moral or not, might most often makes right, and both indigenous groups lost due to the overwhelming might of the invaders[4].

There is a happy story to tell of one group of Native Americans who were able to game the system in their favor. After the removal of the Cherokee from their native lands, some of them were able to hide out in the Great Smoky Mountains and evade the fate that waited them. Their story can be found elsewhere[5], so I’ll not diminish it by retelling it here. For me the best part of the story is how, through the ingenuity of chief William Holland Thomas[6] (the ‘adopted’ white son of Yonaguska), they were able to buy the land that would become the Qualla Boundary, and thus securing the homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokees. While other tribes were fighting to maintain land they held under precarious treaties, the Eastern Cherokees owned their land outright, and generations before their western counterparts, they were U.S. citizens entitled to the same rights and privileges as their white neighbors.

My point in all of this is that we cannot undo the past. We can’t depend on courts to make things right, either. We have to, like the Eastern Cherokee, work within whatever system system we find ourselves bound to be able to create the future we desire.

~~~

[1] Not always through force, though. The dilemma of individuals selling lands that were held to be tribal possessions was such an issue that the Cherokee Nation enacted a blood law, where those found selling lands within the Cherokee Nation were sentenced to death.

[2] I suppose my claim to Cherokee heritage can be seen as similar to Elizabeth Warren’s (see here, here, here, and here), but I do not claim to be Cherokee. I am “American by birth, and Southern by the grace of God“. Also, I am not a proponent of white people playing indian. I wore “regalia” while volunteering at the Native American pavilion of the Panoply Arts Festival several years ago, and it was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. I’m just too pale to pull it off, and I don’t have an emotional connection to a Cherokee heritage that (if genuine) has been lost to my family for generations.

(You can read more on the topic of wannabees/undocumented Cherokees here. Note the link to the statement by Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith is broken. A good link for it is here. See also a paper published by the Cherokee Nation titled Stealing Sovereignty. The three federally recognized Cherokee tribes seem to treat Cherokee-ness as a brand that they have exclusive rights to. Maybe they do, but state departments like the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission would conclude otherwise.)

[3] I have Welsh ancestors as well, but it doesn’t draw the ire of the Cymry when I claim that heritage.

[4] An argument could be made that the same culture (Anglo-Saxon/English) decimated both the Native Americans and the native Britons, but I’ll not poke that hornet’s nest here.

[5] If you ever have the opportunity to visit Cherokee, NC, I recommend seeing Unto these Hills, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Oconaluftee Indian Village , and buying something from the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.

[6] He may have been the only chief that did not have any Cherokee blood, but he was by no means the only chief of the Cherokee or the rest of the Five Civilized Tribes that had more european than native blood coursing through his veins. See also John Ross(Guwisguwi), William McIntosh(Tunstunuggee Hutkee), and William Weatherford(Lamochattee).

Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia

Most people are familiar with the institution of Kentucky Colonels through the most famous Kentucky Colonel, Colonel Harland Sanders. Another famous Colonel is worth mentioning is Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager. He received his commission from the Governor of Louisiana in 1948. He proudly bore the moniker for the rest of his life. Kentucky Colonels even have a non-profit organization for benevolent activities and to promote the Commonwealth of Kentucky. What many people may not know, however is that many states, especially in the South, also maintain similar, but less high-profile traditions of Honorary Colonels.

I have recently had the privilege of being commissioned an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia. There was no fanfare nor trip to the State Capitol for this recognition, but I am very proud to be amongst such an elite cadre. I received a certificate from Governor Robert Bentley’s office that stated the following:

Jeremy B. Blevins, having been deemed of meritorious character, is hereby commissioned as an Honorary Colonel in the Militia of the State of Alabama. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of the office to which he is appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama, or of the General or other Superior Officers set over him, according to the laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia.

So what is an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia?

Composition and Administration of the State Militia Generally

To determine what an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia is, how one is appointed, and what one’s duties are, the reader must dissect the sections of the Alabama Code pertaining to the militia in general. The “laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia” are cataloged in Title 31 of the Alabama Code: “Military Affairs and Civil Defense”. § 31-2 is the military code for the State of Alabama. § 31-2-2 states:

The militia of this state shall consist of all able-bodied male citizens, and all other able-bodied males who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 17 and 45, and who are residents of the state, and of such other persons, male and female, as may upon their own application, be enlisted or commissioned therein pursuant to any provisions of this chapter, subject, however, to such exceptions and exemptions as are now, or may hereafter be created by the laws of the United States, or by the Legislature of this state, it being specifically provided that, in the event federal laws or rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto authorize and permit service in units or organizations of the organized militia, as defined in this chapter, by persons of more than 45 years of age, such persons are hereby authorized to continue to serve in the organized militia for so long as may be allowed by such laws, rules or regulations, all other conditions, qualifications or requirements as to eligibility for service being complied with. All affairs pertaining to the state military forces shall be administered by the State Military Department, which shall be headed by the Adjutant General, who shall be responsible to the Governor as Commander in Chief.
(Acts 1957, No. 591, p. 828, §1; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §2.)

This provides a basis for the well regulated Militia as mentioned in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution within the context of the citizenry of the State of Alabama.  § 31-2-3 further defines this well regulated militia into organized and unorganized components:

The militia of the state shall be divided into the organized militia, the retired list and the unorganized militia, which together shall constitute the state military forces. The organized militia shall be composed of: an army national guard and an air national guard which forces, together with an inactive national guard, shall comprise the Alabama National Guard; the Alabama Naval Militia; and the Alabama State Guard, whenever any such force is organized by the Governor pursuant to existing laws. The National Guard, army or air, shall consist of such organizations and units as the commander in chief may from time to time authorize to be formed, all to be organized in accordance with the laws of the United States affecting the National Guard, army and air, and the regulations issued by the appropriate Secretary of the Department of Defense.
(Acts 1957, No. 592, p. 829, §2; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §3.)

Note that the Alabama State Guard (the Alabama State Defense Force, “ASDF”) is included in the organized militia. There is no additional definition of the unorganized militia here, but § 31-2-5 more clearly defines the opening sentence of  § 31-2-2:

The unorganized militia shall consist of all able-bodied male resident citizens of the state and all able-bodied resident males who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 17 and 45, and of such other persons, male and female, as may, upon their own application, be enlisted or commissioned therein, subject to any existing law, who are not serving in any force of the organized militia and who are not on the state retired list.
(Acts 1957, No. 592, p. 829, §3; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §5.)

Given that the text of the commission never uses the words “State Guard” or “State Defense Force” it is understood that the title of Honorary Colonel exists within the context of the unorganized Militia, and does not automatically place one in the organized ranks of the ASDF. The cadre of the ASDF muster at regular intervals, train, and have a rank structure patterned after the United States Army.

Uniforms and Decorations

§ 31-2-17 – 21 deal with the issue of the wearing of a uniform, which summarized says that an individual is not to wear  a uniform of the United States armed forces if they are not entitled to, and when off-duty, under specific circumstances. Note should also be made with reference to State Defense Forces and the requirement that their uniforms meet a criteria that they “shall include the distinctive mark or insignia prescribed by the Secretary of Defense to distinguish such uniform from the uniform of the United States armed forces” (§ 31-2-17). Were the unorganized militia to be ordered up, they would fall under the ASDF and then be subject to § 31-2-17.

Further down in the code, § 31-2-77 : “Service Medals and Decorations Authorized for Wear with National Guard and Naval Militia Uniforms” defines the wear of decorations on the uniforms of the National Guard and the Naval Militia. The ASDF has its own regulations (ASDF 670-1) as to the wear of decorations that follows Department of Defense Instruction 1334.01 “Wearing of the Uniform”, as well as service-specific manuals such as Army Regulation 670–1 “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia”. One would assume that if a uniform is allowed for Honorary Colonels, that it would follow this regulation as well. As a veteran of the Alabama Army National Guard, I have both federal and state decorations that I would be proud to wear on an authorized Honorary Colonel uniform, but the wear of awarded decorations is authorized on civilian clothes per AR 670-1 §30-1b:

For civilian attire, individuals may wear only those awards, decorations, or insignia authorized by this regulation for wear on civilian clothing, in the same manner and approximate location as the equivalent military uniform.

Also AR 670-1 § 30-6:

Retired personnel and former members of the Army (as described above) may wear all categories of medals described in this regulation on appropriate civilian clothing. This includes clothes designed for veteran and patriotic organizations on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Armed Forces Day, as well as at formal occasions of ceremony and social functions of a military nature. Personnel may wear either full-size or miniature medals. Personnel who wear medals on civilian clothes should place the medals on the clothing in approximately the same location and in the same manner as for the Army uniform, so they look similar to medals worn on the Army uniform.

I am not certain what the guiding regulation is for other branches of service, but I am confident in saying that they are surely similar. Military decorations can look outstanding on a tailcoat for an white tie event. The Department of Veterans Affairs has also encouraged veterans to wear their decorations on Memorial Day. This practice is carried out frequently by organizations such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who wear decorations and other patriotic emblems on the sides military-style head gear.

I am aware of other states’ Honorary Colonels having official dress uniforms, which bear some resemblance to a mess dress uniform as worn by the Army. I understand that some Kentucky Colonels wear such a uniform to the Kentucky Derby. Stephen Lautens is a Kentucky Colonel sporting such a uniform. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels mentions uniforms on their site.

In relation to uniforms, § 31-2-78 protects the private military property of an individual:

The personally owned uniforms, arms and equipment, required by laws or regulations of every commissioned, warrant and noncommissioned officer, musician and enlisted man of the armed forces of the state, shall be exempt from sale under any execution or other process for debt or taxes.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §105; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §79.)

Commissions and the holding of Public Office

The next section to deal with the unorganized militia, though indirectly is §31-2-36:

Any citizen of this state may accept and hold a commission or warrant or enlisted membership in the armed forces of the state and reserve components of the United States without vacating any civil office, position or commission held by him. The acceptance or holding of any such military or naval commission or membership and the receipt of pay therefrom shall not constitute such holding of an office of privilege and trust under the government of this state and of the United States as shall be incompatible with holding of any civil office, executive, legislative or judicial, or position or commission under the government of this state.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §37; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §37.)

Most states, if not all, have a similar provision. One can look to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to see this. According to his Senate web site: “Graham continues to serve his country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is one of only three U.S. Senators currently serving in the Guard or Reserves. He is a colonel and is assigned as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.“. By the definition of the unorganized militia in § 31-2-2, it is clear that §31-2-36 applies to there as well.

The unorganized militia in active service

The next portion of the Code to deal with the unorganized militia is § 31-2-46, which states:

The commander in chief may at any time, in order to execute the law, suppress riots or insurrections, or to repel invasion, or for the purpose of aid and relief of citizens in disaster, in addition to the active National Guard, the inactive National Guard and the Naval Militia, order out the whole or any part of the unorganized militia. When the armed forces of the state, or a part thereof, are called to duty under the Constitution and laws of the United States or the Constitution and laws of this state, the Governor shall first order out for service the National Guard or Naval Militia, or such part thereof as may be necessary, and, if the number available be insufficient, he may then order out such part of the unorganized militia, as he may deem necessary.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §54; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §47.)

§ 31-2-47 continues defining the use of the unorganized militia for active service:

Whenever any part of the unorganized militia is ordered out for active military service, or other service which may be necessary in the discretion of the Governor, it shall be governed by the same rules and regulations, and be subject to the same penalties, as the National Guard or Naval Militia. The Governor, in his discretion, may appoint and commission emergency officers in the state militia at any time. Such commissions shall expire at the end of five years from the effective date thereof.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Acts 1939, No. 509, p. 774; Code 1940, T. 35, §53; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §48.)

The verbiage in the commission for an Honorary Colonel has no time limitations, this commission is clearly different in that it has a five year expiration.

§ 31-2-48 deals with the creation of units and appointment of officers if the unorganized militia is ordered out:

The Governor shall, when ordering out the unorganized militia, designate the number. He may order them out either by call for volunteers or draft. The unorganized militia may be attached to the several organizations of the National Guard or Naval Militia, or organized into separate divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, companies or detachments as the Governor may deem best for service. He shall appoint the commissioned officers and warrant officers in the same manner as provided in this chapter for the appointment of officers and warrant officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §55; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §49.)

With regards to Honorary Colonels, there are two issues to address here. One is that this deals with appointing officers after the unorganized militia has been ordered up, and the second is that the Governor will appoint officers in the same manner as he would officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia. That process is defined in § 31-2-69: 

Officers of the armed forces of the state, including the Adjutant General, shall be appointed, and shall be subject to suspension, discharge, removal or compulsory retirement as such solely on the basis of military proficiency, character and service, as determined by Department of Defense regulations and the military usages sanctioned by the military laws of the United States. The qualifications of personnel of the federally recognized National Guard shall be as prescribed in pertinent regulations and policies of the United States Department of Defense.
(Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §70.)

Given that National Guard officers are commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps or Officer Candidate School, § 31-2-48 does clearly does not apply to Honorary Colonels. It might be within the prerogative of the President, Governor, or a field grade officer to conduct a field commission of an individual, but for the past several decades, such a practice has fallen out of precedent.  Next, § 31-2-49 states:

If the unorganized militia is ordered out by draft, the Governor shall designate the persons in each county or city who are to make the draft and prescribe rules and regulations for conducting the same, which shall conform as nearly as possible to the selective service machinery that is now or may hereafter be provided for by the government of the United States in a national crisis.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §56; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §50.)

Given the advent of the Department of Homeland Security, this function of the unorganized militia would appear to be superseded.What FEMA cannot handle alone, the National Guard most assuredly could handle.

§ 31-2-50 penalizes those who would refuse duty in the circumstances outlined above:

Every member of the militia ordered out for duty or who shall volunteer or be drafted, who does not appear at the time and place ordered, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §57; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §51.)

§ 31-2-79 protects members of the militia while in active service:

Members of the militia in the active armed forces of the state shall not be arrested on any process issued by or from any civil officer or court, except in the case of a felony or a breach of the peace, while going to, remaining at or returning from any place at which he may be required to attend for military or naval duty; nor in any case whatsoever while actually engaged in the performance of his military or naval duties, treason and murder excepted, unless with the consent of his commanding officer.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §106; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §80.)

If § 31-2-79 protects, then § 31-2-83 allows for punishment:

Whenever any portion of the militia shall be called into the active service of the state to execute the law, suppress a riot or insurrection, repel invasion, protect lives and property or in aid and relief of citizens in disaster, the law, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the acts of Congress and rules and regulations of the Department of Defense and the regulations prescribed for the United States armed forces shall be enforced and regarded as a part of this chapter until said forces shall be duly relieved from such duty. As to offenses committed when such laws are so in force, courts-martial shall possess, in addition to the jurisdiction and power of sentence and punishment vested in them by this chapter, all additional jurisdiction and power of sentence and punishment exercised by like courts under such laws, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice and acts of Congress and rules and regulations of the Department of Defense and the regulations or laws governing the United States armed forces or the customs and usages thereof; but no punishment under such rules and regulations authorizing the taking of life shall in any case be inflicted except in time of war, invasion or insurrection, declared by a proclamation of the Governor to exist, and then only after approval by the Governor of the sentence inflicting such punishment. Imprisonment other than in a guardhouse shall be executed in county or city jails or other prisons designated by the Governor for that purpose.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §113; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §84.)

There are many other sections of the Code that deal with the ordering out of soldiers, with most oriented toward the National Guard. Bear in mind that all discussion of active service with regards to active service and Honorary Colonels is purely academic. Honorary Colonels, having their commission in the unorganized militia, upon being ordered up, would become organized militia, and thus would receive a commission as an officer of the ASDF. They would not forfeit their honorary commission, but hold two, much as was the case in the wars prior to World War I.

Role of the Governor as the State’s Commander in Chief

§ 31-2-51 states:

The Governor of Alabama, or any other person lawfully administering the duties of the Office of the Governor of the state, shall be commander in chief of all the military and naval forces of the state, except when they shall be called or ordered into the service of the United States, and he shall have the power to embody the militia to repel invasion, suppress insurrection and enforce the execution of the laws, but shall not command personally in the field unless advised to do so by resolution of the Legislature.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §58; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §52.)

The Governor, as Commander in Chief of the militia forces of the state leads in the same capacity that the President does as Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces, as a civilian who empowers his Generals to execute his commands. The Governor’s duties with this regard are defined in § 31-2-52, which states:

(a) The Governor of Alabama, as Commander in Chief, shall have power and is hereby authorized and directed to alter, increase, divide, annex, consolidate, disband, organize or reorganize any organization, department or unit, so as to conform as far as practicable to any organization, system, drill, instruction, type of uniform or equipment, or period of enlistment now or hereafter prescribed by the laws of the United States and rules and regulations promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of Defense for the organization, armament, training and discipline of the militia or national guard, or by the Secretary of the Navy for the organization, armament, training and discipline of the Naval Militia. For that purpose, the number of officers, warrant officers and enlisted men of any grade in any organization, corps, detachment, headquarters or staff may be increased or diminished and the grade and number of such officers, warrant officers and enlisted men may be altered to the extent necessary to secure, as far as practicable, such conformity.

(b) The Governor, as Commander in Chief, shall have the power in case of war, invasion, insurrection, riot, tumult, breach of peace, natural disaster or imminent danger thereof, to call or order all or any portion or class of the armed forces of the state into the active military or naval service of the state, to increase the land and naval forces of this state and to organize the same in accordance with the existing rules and regulations governing the armies of the United States, or in accordance with such other system as the Governor may consider the exigency to require, and such organization and increase may be either pursuant to, or in advance of, any call, draft or order of the President of the United States.

(c) The Governor may authorize all or any part of the National Guard or Naval Militia to participate in any drill, parade, review or other public exercise, or to engage in service for escort duty, and may prescribe all regulations and requirements therefor, and such expenses incidental thereto as he may authorize shall be paid as provided in this chapter for the militia in the active military or naval service of the state.

(d) The Governor of Alabama, as Commander in Chief, is hereby authorized and empowered to do and perform all acts, and to make and publish such rules and regulations, and to organize and maintain the National Guard and the Naval Militia of Alabama in every respect up to the standards required by the laws and regulations of the United States now existing or which may hereafter be enacted for the benefit of the National Guard and Naval Militia of the United States.

(e) The Governor, as Commander in Chief, is authorized to call out all or any such portion of the National Guard as he may deem advisable, upon his determination that a state of emergency exists.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §59; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §53; Acts 1980, No. 80-360, p. 480.)

Having established the powers and authorities of the Governor as Commander in Chief, § 31-2-53: provides the basis for commissioning Honorary Colonels:

The personal military staff of the Governor shall consist of one officer with the rank of colonel and as many other officers as the Governor may consider appropriate with the rank of lieutenant colonel or commander, all of whom shall be appointed and commissioned by the Governor and shall hold office at his pleasure. All such officers shall be commissioned in the State Militia as aides-de-camp to the Governor, but no such officer shall be barred, by reason of being a member of the staff, from holding an active commission in the Alabama National Guard or the Alabama State Guard or a reserve commission in the Armed Forces of the United States or any civil office or employment under this state or any agency or political subdivision thereof. No member of the staff shall by virtue of such membership exercise any command or control over any part of the Alabama National Guard.
(Acts 1939, No. 509, p. 774; Code 1940, T. 35, §61; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §54.)

While not using the term “Honorary Colonel”, this section states several things to lead to that conclusion. The personal military staff hold their office “at his pleasure”. They are not barred from holding an active commission in the National Guard, State Guard, or United States armed forces. And finally, they cannot exercise command over any part of the National Guard.

§ 31-2-69 delineates the appointment of officers per DoD regulations:

Officers of the armed forces of the state, including the Adjutant General, shall be appointed, and shall be subject to suspension, discharge, removal or compulsory retirement as such solely on the basis of military proficiency, character and service, as determined by Department of Defense regulations and the military usages sanctioned by the military laws of the United States. The qualifications of personnel of the federally recognized National Guard shall be as prescribed in pertinent regulations and policies of the United States Department of Defense.
(Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §70.)

This wording conflicts with the commissions “at his pleasure” in the section previously mentioned, thus clearly excluding individuals commissioned under § 31-2-53 from the provisions outlined in § 31-2-69.

Unauthorized Military Organizations

While not directly related to Honorary Colonels, pretender, or rump, militias are dealt with in § 31-2-125:

Any two or more persons, whether with or without uniform, who associate, assemble or congregate together by or under any name in a military capacity for the purpose of drilling, parading or marching at any time or place or otherwise take up or bear arms in any such capacity without authority of the Governor, must, on conviction, be fined not more than $1,000.00. This section does not apply to any school or college where military training and instruction is given under the provisions of state or federal laws, nor to the order of Knights of Templar, Knights of Pythias, Patriarchs Militant or Uniform Rank Woodmen of the World.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §176; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §126.)

There are some who debate the constitutionality of such a clause and that argument made is elsewhere. In the historical context, and given the definition of the unorganized militia previously stated, this section of the Code would seem to refer to groups intent on the overthrow of state or federal government. The leaders of these organizations, acting only in the capacity of private citizens, set up for themselves a private military structure. One can wonder why these individuals, if they want to serve, wouldn’t just join the federal armed forces, the National Guard, or their state’s State Defense Force (Note: not all states have a SDF)? 

Powers and Duties of Honorary Colonels

§ 31-2-70, in dealing with powers and duties of National Guard and Naval Militia officers, states:

In addition to the powers and duties prescribed in this chapter, all officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia of Alabama shall have the same powers and perform the same duties as officers of similar rank and position in the armed forces of the United States insofar as may be authorized by federal law. They are authorized to administer oaths in all matters connected with the service.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §82; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §71.)

This section clearly enumerates powers of National Guard and Naval Militia officers and does not appear applicable to other officers of the organized or unorganized militia. The next several sections of the Code are likewise inapplicable with regards to Honorary Colonels. There is nowhere in the Code that identifies the powers and duties of Honorary Colonels. As they personal military staff of the Governor, and his aides-de-camp, their powers and duties are whatever the Governor deems them to be. 

The greatest clue as to what these powers might be is in the name: “Honorary Colonel”. Just as an honorary doctorate does not mean that the individual has actually done doctorate-level research, an honorary colonelship does not mean the recipient has the years of service required to lead troops.

Conclusion

While never explicitly using the term “Honorary Colonel” in the Alabama Code, the office past and present has a clear place in the heritage of the great State of Alabama. The Governor’s prerogative to appoint such individuals is codified in § 31-2-53.

Looking back at the Kentucky Colonels, the post is ceremonial and they serve as goodwill ambassadors for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Likewise, the Honorary Colonels in the Alabama State Militia are goodwill ambassadors for the State of Alabama. They are individuals that the Governor has determined to present this honor to. I am very proud to have received such an honor.

Update: 19 July 2012

Since I originally created this post, I have been contacted by several individuals interested in Alabama Colonelcy. Given the dearth of information on this subject that is available online, my discussion on the matter seems to draw some attention.

I’d like to share some information that I received from Kelley Lee, the the Governor’s Proclamations Officer, on the subject. With regards to who can receive the honor, the Proclamations Office “only supplies Honorary Colonel certificates to U.S. citizens, specifically Alabama citizens and residents. “. Following that, I asked if there were any authoritative resources on the topic, to which the reply was: “It is simply something that is done for ‘fun’. They hold no official title or authority, and will most certainly never be commissioned or called upon by the Governor.” I’m a little befuddled by the “never be commissioned” statement, given that the text of the certificate specifically refers to it as a commission. It is understood that this isn’t a military commission, yet it is an honorary commission nonetheless.

However, anyone expecting military command from an Honorary Colonelcy will be as disappointed as Lord Grantham was on Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham (aka Hugh Bonneville) was devastated to learn that his Honorary Colonelcy was just that, a symbolic gesture. He could raise no troops under his command, but he did get to wear a nifty uniform and attend some great dinners.

Update: 2 August 2012

I received a phone call from Ms. Lee pertaining to a letter I had written the Governor on Honorary Colonelcy, which I had actually mailed prior to the email from her referenced above. She reiterated that the commission is “just for fun” and added that it had “always” been just for fun. I am aware of individuals who had been commissioned by other governors who believe that there was a little more to it than just for fun when they received their honor. Ms. Lee also said that she has had communication with her peers in other states and that is their view of Honorary Colonelcies as well. I’ll have to take her word on that. I don’t want to antagonize her on the issue, but I would take issue that this has always been “for fun”. I will concede and throw out another broad assumption that “no one” believes that this is a military commission that imparts on them any military authority.

So let’s look at what some of Alabama’s neighbors require for their highest honors:

Update: 1 February 2013

I’ve noticed that this particular post consistently ranks as the first or second hit in a major search engine and at this juncture in time has been viewed over 500 times. Since our topic is “just for fun”, below are the Google trends for the search terms “honorary colonel”, “Alabama colonel”, and “Alabama state militia”: ~~~
[Note: all emphasis in quoted text was done so by the author of this post.]

Update: 17 February 2019

It’s been sometime since I last updated this post, but on 17 January 2019 the honor of Honorary Colonel was re-bestowed upon me by Governor Kay Ivey. While an appointment from successive Governors is not essential to maintain the honor, as evidenced in the phrase near the end of the commissioning statement “… as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama”, I am nonetheless honored to have in hand a commissioning certificate with Governor Ivey’s signature on it. In comparing it to the previous certificate, the text is slightly different.

Mr. Jeremy B. Blevins, having been deemed of meritorious character, is hereby commissioned as an Honorary Colonel in the Militia of the State of Alabama. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of the office to which he is appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as an officer of his grade and position. And he is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama, or of the General or other Superior Officers set over him, according to the laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia.

I’m curious to learn what precipitated the change in verbiage, and what the significance of the addition is.

When Companies Become Countries

Being a geek, I really enjoy reading Scott Adams’s Dilbert Blog almost as much as I enjoy the comic strip.  The post below piqued my interest:

When Companies Become Countries: I wonder when the first multinational company will form its own country to avoid wars, government red tape, and corporate taxes. It feels inevitable. I assume it will involve seasteading.

The current notion of seasteading involves floating cities that are outside the control of existing nations. That concept has its appeal, especially as a way to test new forms of government. But existing corporations already have their own form of government called management, and despite its warts, it generally works.
Imagine, for example, that one of the world’s beloved companies such as Apple or Facebook someday decides to start its own country on the sea. The company’s existing management structure would need to add several functions, such as education, healthcare, and police. The corporate government would look a lot like the Chinese government. In other words, it would be efficient in terms of profit, while giving up freedoms that employees are already accustomed to giving up. For example, company employees don’t have freedom of speech when it comes to criticizing management. Somehow we live with that restriction and it doesn’t seem too onerous.

There would be no taxes for permanent residents of the company country. Public services would be funded from corporate profits. Every paid service in the country, from banking, to insurance, to groceries, would be company-run. The accounting would be transparent and the profits would flow to public services.

The big worry with this model is the “company store” abuse that was common during the early days of the United States. In some cases, an employer would take advantage of its monopoly on goods and services to gouge its employees, turning them into virtual slaves. But I think that risk can be addressed by accounting transparency, and by capping the compensation of top management to a multiple of the average employee pay. It also helps if employees can choose to leave whenever they want. That keeps management in line.
Wages in the company country would be low while still attracting top talent, so long as the cost of living islow, taxes are non-existent, and the lifestyle is awesome. Employees could earn less while saving far more, especially if they own equity in the company.

This prediction assumes that traditional governments continue to bankrupt themselves and strangle their own industries with red tape. That feels like a safe bet. But the main reason a company might want to form its own country is to attract the best minds, and the lowest cost of labor, from all over the world without any immigration issues.
Do company countries seem inevitable or unlikely to you?


To answer his question, I see one company in particular who already has the power to do this very thing: Walmart, and I don’t think that it would take seasteading for Walmart to accomplish this.

Walmart already has the means to support itself: a powerful central infrastructure, security forces, medical facilities, banking facilities, etc.; all that it lacks is housing for its employees. There would be other issues to work around, but it is already it is already the largest non-government employer in North America (http://www.articlesdeluxe.com/walmart.html). It also has trade relations with both consumer and producer nations. Walmart seems to be to be in the best position to pull of sovereignty.