Third Party & Independents Archives

I Feel So Cheap

They won’t respect us in the morning. After tomorrow it will all be over, for better or worse. And the prospects are overwhelming that it will be worse, no matter who wins. But it will be over. And many of us will feel the inexplicable need for a long hot shower.

We’ll need to be figuratively coaxed from the near-boiling steam by our significant others, or by compassionate strangers, who’ll murmur kind words at us, their gentle hands beckoning. “Yes…yes,” they will say. “It was real. It really did happen. Not just a bad dream, sorry. But now you have to move on. Pick up the pieces. Put your life together. Etc.”

Why do we feel so cheap?

Politicians don’t rise to the presidency in modern day America—they crawl. This is not hyperbole. The Democrat candidate tells us that the economy is bad because pure capitalism hasn’t been regulated enough. The Republican candidate counters with metaphoric stories about a plumber. Both these people went to college. They married well. They can probably manage a checkbook… keep a neat wallet. So we know that neither of them is really that ignorant or obtuse. Thus, we fret that both might think it’s us who are that stupid, maybe because we act that way. Are all of us—collectively—really so unintelligent that the issues of the day must be pulverized into an infantile pap?

Consider: spreading the wealth.

Although American politicians have been spreading the wealth for the last 200 years, and for a large part among themselves, they have nonetheless felt compelled to pay lip service to the sanctity of property rights—except maybe for the socialists, communists, and some other “ists” who come and go amongst us. This is because the notion of redistributing wealth is anathematic to the U.S. Constitution. And Americans have historically understood that property rights are the most important ones with which they’re naturally endowed.

Without property rights there is no freedom of the press, because there is no right to own a printing press. There is no religious freedom if the government doesn’t let you own a church in which to worship your peculiar angry and vengeful god. There is no freedom of speech when government tosses you from the public square and there’s no private property to which to retreat and from which to orate. There is no right to conduct business or industry if you’re not allowed to own buildings, machines, and other capital. There’s no right to own a house if you can’t own the land beneath it.

In sum, populations are condemned to poverty and serfdom to the extent that their countries ignore property rights—most of Africa being a sad and salient case in point.

Rhetoric about “sharing the wealth” is a fundamental assault on property rights in the most literal sense, and therefore on every subordinate Constitutional right we enjoy. The Democrat candidate doesn’t seem to appreciate that. (And if he does, he’s a veritable cancer.)

The Republican candidate probably sees the danger, but warns of it only in pragmatic terms, probably in fear of "losing us," or maybe in deference to the national attention span. He provides a fable about a plumber who’d be better off if only he were allowed to keep what he owns, and dispense of it as he sees fit. Good moral there. But America already has Thidwick the Moose for their consideration. What needs explaining is how expropriating from others what is theirs—for whatever purpose—is not only grievously unconstitutional and morally wrong but inimical to everything we associate with America.

Are Americans capable of understanding this, or have we really sunk that low? Maybe there’s some collective evidence to that effect: when performances on Saturday Night Live or Letterman can be more important than a gig on Meet The Press. When the voting public confuses things that Sarah Palin actually said with words that Tina Fey put in her mouth. But on an individual basis, I know too many totally unremarkable people who are nonetheless competent to understand the issues of the day. And I’m depending on them.

Maybe not tomorrow - but there’s always next time.

Posted by Stephen G. Barone at November 3, 2008 4:38 PM
Comments
Comment #269324

Well said Stephen. The battle may be lost this time but not the war with those who would destroy our constitutional rights.

Posted by: Jim M at November 3, 2008 6:29 PM
Comment #269333

Silly stuff. Property rights are not “natural rights.” There could hardly be a more articifical and obviously manufactured ‘right’ than a property right. It makes no sense to view the ownership of property as natural. Objects and imaginary lines are not inherent part of human beings. The Creator does not allot proprerty or possessions according to contractual rights. None of us are kings, and there is no divine right of kings.

For example, let’s take the right of free speech. Having the right of free speech does not mean it is necessary to own the printing press. The right is natural and inherent. The object- in this case, a printing press- is artificial and manufactured. One can have the right to free speech, but as for the tools, they can be owned collectively or individually or not owned by anyone at all, without impinging upon the natural right.

We can create property rights, but that does not mean such rights are natural. We can regonize public property and private property as convenient ways to organize the distribution of assets, but again, that’s merely an agreement made into law for the sake of convenience- NOT because it is a natural right which humans are endowed with.

Posted by: phx8 at November 3, 2008 7:49 PM
Comment #269337

I’ll say this about that. It’s not to late to support a 3rd party. Saw Ralph on cspan a day or so ago and he sounds way more presidential than the lot of them. But, it’s true. People seem to support the guy with the best hair, best dressed, etc. Rock stars/guitars seem to be out this year. As for Worker Joe, well, the politicians feel they have to get down to the level of the man on street so they can have a dialogue, something in common to talk about. Richard Shenkman has a book out, “Just How Stupid Are We”. He notes that one in three of us don’t know that there are three branches of government. Blames our lack of political knowledge on education, like taking civics out of the classroom in the 60’s. I tend to agree. People seem to eat, sleep, work and watch some sports. Most could care less as long as they get that paycheck. To many folks politics is taboo at work, home or anywhere else. Not cool and could be dangerous to discuss. Not sure about the property rights thing. You might want to check with some Texan’s about that. Their government is working to take 500,000 acres of mostly farmland by Eminent Domain for the Super Highway to get them cheap Chinese goods in here. Yeah, you might want to think about a 3rd party.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at November 3, 2008 9:03 PM
Comment #269338

Stephen G. Barone:

First, let me say welcome as I don’t believe I’ve seen any other articles by you posted here in the past. Please, correct me if I’m wrong about that.

I would like to address your point regarding redistribution of wealth, if I may. You said:

Rhetoric about “sharing the wealth” is a fundamental assault on property rights in the most literal sense, and therefore on every subordinate Constitutional right we enjoy. The Democrat candidate doesn’t seem to appreciate that. (And if he does, he’s a veritable cancer.)

Perhaps you would care to explain in greater detail how “sharing the wealth” is an assault on property rights?

I do understand your reasoning, I believe… you see wealth distribution in terms of Robin Hood, unless I miss my guess? Robbing from the rich to give to the poor?

Seen from this standpoint, I agree. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor is fundamentally an assault on property rights, as any form of theft would be. This is self-evident.

But is that actually the case with “sharing the wealth”? I would argue that it is not, and I would base my argument upon two parts of the Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

[The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net]

Amendment 5 - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

[The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net]

In the first excerpt, the Congress is explicitly granted the power to tax. The Fifteenth Amendment explicitly adds income tax as its own class, but right here in the Article One, Section 8 we see the very first power granted to Congress is the power to tax.

In the second expert, from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, we are told that the government may not take private property for public use unless it provides just compensation. This implies that it can take private property for public use if it does provide just compensation, and forms the basis of eminent domain under our legal system.

According to your previous logic, taxation was theft, as it involved the taking of private property in the form of money. Yet, we see that it was the very first power granted to the Congress. So it appears that our founding fathers did not view it as theft. Either that, or perhaps they thought that just compensation was provided, as would be required under the Fifth Amendment? I would argue the latter, and I would further argue that they felt that citizens would be compensated for their taxes by the paying of Debts and providing for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States that the Congress is empowered to do using those taxes.

Having established the general principle that taxes themselves are not theft, I would move on to address the specific: taxes that redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. In order for these to represent theft, it would need to be the case that the rich do not receive just compensation for their taxes. At first, this may seem to be manifestly the case: the poor are getting the benefit. What then, are the rich getting?

For one thing, customers. While the rich may provide jobs, they are almost universally reliant on the poor and middle class to act in the role of consumers. The poor and middle class represent the majority of demand for products, while the rich represent the majority of supply. While, for the rich, an extra 20,000 a year might let them hire one more worker, that worker will have very little to do if there is not enough additional demand to justify his or her employment. It is far more likely, in the absence of such demand, that the difference would be pocketed by the rich as profit rather than hiring an additional worker to do work for which there is no additional demand. And even if that person was hired, the salary would be so low that they would have little discretionary money to spend as a consumer. On the other hand, if that 20,000 a year is distributed among 200 middle class americans, they would each have 100 extra dollars that they could likely spend in a discretionary manner, thus increasing demand for products produced and sold by the rich. This increase in demand in turn would keep people in jobs producing the goods to be sold. This would manifestly benefit the rich by increasing their consumer base. And that’s not even getting into the other benefits that society provides that the rich profit from, such as the federally funded interstate system.

Because the benefits to the rich are clear, I think I’ve shown that it is a misnomer to label all efforts to share the wealth as assaults on property rights.

Posted by: Jarandhel at November 3, 2008 9:21 PM
Comment #269339

As one final note to what I have already said, I am presently facing being laid off from my job. The reason for this is not high taxes; I work for a nonprofit which is exempt from taxation. The reason that I and many of my coworkers are being laid off is that revenue has dropped dramatically. The average person in America simply does not have enough discretionary funds to donate to a charity. We are presently facing a massive budgetary shortfall because of this. If more money were in the hands of the poor and middle class, organizations like mine would be seeing much larger donations as we have in the past, and that would in turn support jobs.

Posted by: Jarandhel at November 3, 2008 9:27 PM
Comment #269340

Jarandhel,

Sorry to hear about the job in jeopardy. Perhaps if things go correctly tomorrow, you’ll get it back sooner.

Viva, Obama!

Posted by: Marysdude at November 3, 2008 9:44 PM
Comment #269341

Sorry to hear it, Jarandehl. Best wishes-

Posted by: phx8 at November 3, 2008 9:55 PM
Comment #269342

Marysdude:

Thank you, but unfortunately as things stand now I will be laid off at the end of December, before Obama takes office even presuming he does win the election. I believe it is extremely unlikely that the economy will recover enough before then for the nonprofit I work at to make up the difference in revenue to retain me or the other workers who are being let go. We’ve just passed the season for our biggest money-making events, and are about to go into what has traditionally been an off season for us. But I’m fairly confident that I will be able to find a new job in the time I have remaining with them.

Posted by: Jarandhel at November 3, 2008 9:57 PM
Comment #269343

phx8:

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Posted by: Jarandhel at November 3, 2008 9:59 PM
Comment #269347

Jarandhel,

A cogent and reasoned response. Bravo. Good luck on the job hunt.

Posted by: googlumpugus at November 3, 2008 10:26 PM
Comment #269354

Jarandhel
Join the ranks — I was laid off last month. —May times improve and your glass remain full.
— have had my rant for the evening so will postpone more than a scan here tonight.
Savage

Posted by: A Savage at November 3, 2008 10:57 PM
Comment #269358

Barone, I believe you contradict yourself. The fact that American still enjoy freedom of speech, property rights, freedom of worship, etc., despite 200 years of redistributing wealth, contradicts the entire thesis of your article.

Redistributing wealth as currently discussed in politics is not a discussion about taking all wealth and redistributing. It is about taxes which require by law a very small percentage of one’s income and or assets be contributed to support the myriad functions of government and demands of the people upon that government.

Get rid of the people, and you can get rid of the demands on government, and then you can get rid of the government, and then the nation without people will have its wealth taken by outsiders moving in to take up the vacancy. Your logic goes nowhere anyone else wants to go, ultimately.

The Democratic candidate I hope will prove to be a pragmatist in addressing the pressing and onerous issues facing his daughters, and the rest of us and our children. His rhetoric speaks to that intention. Time will tell if he is willing and capable of living up to that rhetoric.

The other candidate has proven time and again that while his end goals are sound, he himself lacks the judgment and capacity to formulate the action plan to take the people there, willingly.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 4, 2008 12:14 AM
Comment #269362

Jarandhel and A Savage…. to you both, best wishes and good luck.
Stay in touch and keep us informed. And as already mentioned, if our hopes are rewarded tomorrow, so may be your efforts to return to work soon.

Posted by: janedoe at November 4, 2008 1:27 AM
Comment #269372

A Savage:

Thank you, and may times improve for you as well. And hopefully for us all.

janedoe:

Thank you. I will. :)

Posted by: Jarandhel at November 4, 2008 8:45 AM
Comment #269380

Good Luck Jaradhel and A Savage, The Rights of property are quite clear in our Constitution, As property owner’s we enjoy much greater protections than most of the rest of the world, the use of Eminent domain is defined quite clear, I must admit Ny state has some quarky laws about mineral rights and such but in perspective i also like the fact that in NY state the sale of the property was done by a real estate agent, after that all legal matters and the whole process are done through a Attorney and my experience and the process and the information and guidance giving to me was vastly better than say California , off subject in NY state the amount of people underwater in there loans are one of the lowest in the country.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 4, 2008 10:20 AM
Comment #269405

Stephen acts as though he is intellectually above the political discourse, yet has bit hook, line, and sinker on the socialist smear from the right.

If you want to see a real example of sharing the wealth, look at Alaska’s state government.

Posted by: Schwamp at November 4, 2008 1:05 PM
Comment #269671

Let’s operate from the premise that the technicals of the Constitution are well understood. And like Stephen B. said, sharing the wealth has been going on for 200 years. What people should rightly be concerned about is the decision making process behind the wealth sharing. If our government was this pristine democracy that fairly debated every issue, considered all source opinions, weighed the facts as to who will get hurt and who will get helped and make a decision based on that kind of give and take I would think few would have a problem with that. What we have is government being sold to highest bidder. Business interest is bought by the CofC and Big Oil. I heard last evening where Labor has dumped 200-300M into the fight for a bigger share of the pie. The problem lies with government making decisions based on the biggest donors to the most powerful legislators. The REAL problem lies with reform of government. Like Corporate Personhood and Money is Free Speech. Or, like the powerful moneyed interest driving the Super Highway or the taking of land by eminent domain in secrecy with no debate in Congress and no public input. A government of the highest bidder making winners and losers. It is ludicrous to think the government will reform itself. Change – yes, but reform – no. The only way reform can be achieved peacefully is through new third parties with a different attitude about politics. These third parties would provide their members with oversight of other members who become elected or appointed to state or federal positions. A fourth branch if you will, with the power of the vote to reject a member from the Party for failing to follow the Party’s agenda. Check out www.demreps.com to see a real reform agenda and how such a party might function.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at November 6, 2008 9:38 AM
Comment #269740

Dont’ we have the “pursuit of happiness” instead of property rights, courtesy of Messrs Jefferson and Madison?

Unemployed persons should consider doing volunteer work while looking for a job, so that there are no gaps in their resume. I just finished my weekday work, and have about a day off before starting weekend work, but I also volunteer as much as I can at a nursing home and the library. This can provide you with additional references which are very helpful.

Posted by: ohrealy at November 6, 2008 5:06 PM
Post a comment