Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnWhere the Buck Really Stopsrn”The question is,” Humpty Dumptyrntells Alice in Through the Looking Glass,rn”which is to be master—that’s all.” Asrnoverused as the quotation may be, it neverthelessrncommunicates a perennialrntruth that most people forget when itrncomes to understanding not only the answerrnbut also the question itself, a truthrnthat explains much of the unpleasantnessrnthat speckles human history. In therndiscussion of national sovereignty, thernquestion is in fact the only releant questionrnto ask at all.rnSovereignty, by definition, concernsrnthe issue of who is to be master in arnsociety, whether it has to do either withrninternal autonomy or with its externalrnindependence. The two senses ofrnsovereignty, of course, are closely related,rnsince an internal sovereign—king, people,rnparliament, the states, the federalrngovernment—cannot claim to be the finalrnarbiter of affairs if an external force inrnthe form of another power is able to backrnup its own claim to that position. Muchrnof American history has revolved aroundrnthe question of who was to be masterrnwithin the union, a dispute ostensiblyrnsetried by military power in the 1860’s,rnand more recently, with which head ofrnthe federal master that emerged fromrnthe Ciil War was to dominate the others.rnIn the mid-20th century and since,rnthe presidency has made a pretty strongrnclaim to sovereignty, and the cute littlernsign that Harry Truman kept on his deskrnthat read “The buck stops here” was inrnfact little more than a not-very-subtlernpretense that the Chief Executive isrnreally the monarch of the United States.rnSome, but by no means all, bucks stop atrnthe President’s desk, and it is a claim thatrnhas not the slightest shadow of constitutionalrnor historical validity, but it is inrnpart because i4r. Truman reall)- belie’edrnit and tried to act on it and in part becausernof the coarseness of his personalityrnthat today is celebrated as his most endearingrntrait, that he was perhaps aboutrnas close an imitation of II Duce as thisrncountry has ever produced.rnIn the 1990’s, the question of who isrnto be master in the American house is reviving,rnwith presidential candidates andrngovernors invoking the 10th Amendmentrnand a healthy antigovernmentrnpopular resistance bubbling merrily inrnthe boondocks. It is probably not an accidentrnthat the resurrection of thernsovereigntv debate within the nation isrnoccurring at the ‘erv same time that thernquestion of external sovereignty is alsornemerging. The appearance of both issuesrnought to tell us that at the presentrntime, no one can provide a clear answer.rnThere is no clear answer simply becausernno one today holds enough power to sustainrnan answer against rivals. Power relations,rnboth within American society andrnbetween the United States and the externalrnforces that are causing its nationalrnsovereigntv to dwindle, are in flux, andrnonly when those relations are stabilizedrnby the rise of a master force on whoserndesk the buck really does stop will therernbe a clear answer to the question.rnInternall)-, the conflict over sovereigntyrnis clearly linked to the continuingrnstruggle for political and cultural powerrnbetween Middle American populismrnand the incumbent elites that currentlyrnhave a grip on power. The elites arerndeeply entrenched in and aligned withrnthe federal leviathan and make use ofrnit to stay in power and to define thernpublic order to reflect their interests.rnHence, the popular rebellion againstrnthe leviathan, manifested in the 10thrnAmendment movement, the anti-immigrationrnmovement, the tax rebellion, thernresistance to the economic destructionrnof the middle class through free tradernand economic globalization, the militiarnmovement and Second Amendmentrncoalition, etc., can be understood as a rebellionrnof the American middle classrnagainst the elites. Although the rebellionrnremains so far undefined and spontaneousrnand lacks a coherent strategy orrnleadership, the obvious goal emergingrnwithin it is the dismantlement of thernleviathan and the restoration of state andrnlocal sovereignty, coupled with the socialrnand cultural preeminence of MiddlernAmerica as the publicly defining core ofrnthe national order. The elites, whetherrndirectly lodged in the central state orrnmerely affiliated with and dependent onrnit through subsidies, tax policies, legalrnprivileges, and ideological identificationrnwith the tendencies of the megastate, arernright to perceive the rebellion as theirrnenemy.rnBut the same social division betweenrnthe elites and Middle America undediesrnthe conflict over the issue of externalrnsovereignty as well. While multinationalrnbusiness, the national/global securityrnbureaucracy and its academic and thinktankrnallies, and transnational institutionsrnlike the IMF, the United Nations, NAFTArnand GATT, etc., have developed arncommon interest in the erosion ofrnsovereignty and the effective thoughrngradual transfer of power to agencies beyondrnthe control of the United Statesrngovernment or the American people, therndefense of national sovereignty remainsrnrooted in the American middle class.rnThe conspiratorial mythology of “blackrnhelicopters” and U.N. troops occupyingrnthe country that circulates among thernmilitias, themselves largely middle class,rnis direct evidence of this, though the incoherencernand banality of much of thernmythology suggests that those who arernattracted by it possess only the mostrnopaque comprehension of the attack onrnnational sovereignty. Nevertheless, howeverrndim the perception of the real threatrnto national identity or coherence, thernverv existence and widespread popularityrnof the mythology suggests that NhddlernAmericans increasingly recognize thatrnthe national canopy under which theyrnhae lived and worked since the foundingrnof the nation is beginning to vanishrnand that its disappearance is not merelyrnthe product of irresistible and anonymousrn”historical forces” but rather thernresult of deliberate efforts. The sinisterrngoals that the mythology assigns to thernconspiracy against sovereignty betray thernprofound alienation from the dominantrnelites that Middle Americans are beginningrnto feel.rnThe correlation of the Middle Americanrnrebellion with resistance to the contrivedrndestruction of American nationhoodrnshould hardly be surprising. Thernlate Christopher Lasch noted the longrnhistorical connection between nationalismrnand the middle class, dating fromrnthe 16th century.rnA large part of the appeal of nationalismrn[to the middle class] layrnin the state’s ability to establish arn8/CHRONICLESrnrnrn