Once the U.S. Constitution was signed and sent to the various states for consideration in 1787, a passionate and sometimes heated debate immediately began. Writing together under the pseudonym “Publius,” the arguments advanced by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were widely published and later compiled into “The Federalist.” This group is well known, especially since their opinions ultimately carried the day, and their writings are considered by many to be an indispensable exposition of the Constitution.
Not as well known are the opposing arguments of the loosely connected group known as the “Anti-Federalists,” who similarly penned essays to persuade the public, but in opposition to the proposed Constitution. Despite having not achieved their goal, they are often given much credit and praise for having demanded the Bill of Rights that was passed soon after the Constitution’s ratification.
One of the more prominent Anti-Federalists, also writing under a pseudonym (and whose identity is unknown), was “Federal Farmer.” He was acknowledged by his intellectual opponents as the “most plausible” Anti-Federalist, and two centuries now having passed since his advocacy against the Constitution, he appears nearly prophetic in the warnings he offered.
Federal Farmer’s primary argument was that the general government created under the Constitution would ultimately erode the sovereignty of the states, gradually replacing their autonomy with its increasingly centralized control. Two centuries later, that’s an extremely accurate prediction.
He further argued in his writings that this centralization of power would prove destructive to the liberties of each individual, who would be subjected to the tyrannical mandates of a distant executive authority. Again, another accurate prediction.
Ironically, a compelling example of the very things Federal Farmer warned his contemporaries would inevitably occur comes in the form of other federal farmers. These are not the intellectual statesmen fighting for individual liberty, but rather actual farmers. Why federal, then?
Many of today’s farmers are directly dependent upon the federal government, receiving taxpayer dollars simply to be farmers – a situation not authorized in any way by the Constitution.
The Farm Service Agency, part of the USDA and thus a part of the federal government, has given out 15,000 loans to beginning farmers and ranchers, totaling roughly $1.5 billion per year. This agency offers a variety of financial and educational resources to new farmers, enticing them to try their hand at growing a crop, while having the reassuring security of federal loan guarantees, subsidies, and other financial assistance to make it worth their while.
But whose money is used to shell out billions of dollars to these farmers? Yours and mine.
And with what constitutional authority does the federal government engage in this wealth redistribution program? None. In pursuit of this program, then, a powerful federal government taxes some of us to offer programs and benefits to others, despite not having been constitutionally authorized to do so.
The very things that Federal Farmer warned would happen, while readily evident in a variety of circumstances and settings today, are exemplified in the federal government’s attempt to create new farmers.
One might reasonably conclude that the Federal Farmer of yesteryear would not look so favorably upon today’s “federal farmers” who are dependent upon the government which he warned would become as large, oppressive, and unrestrained as it now has.
Connor Boyack is the director of the Utah Tenth Amendment Center and author of Latter-day Liberty: A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics. He blogs at www.connorboyack.com, is a frequent guest on radio shows, and regularly publishes opinion pieces in a variety of newspapers and websites. A California native and Brigham Young University graduate, Connor currently resides in Lehi, Utah, with his wife and two children.