Third Party & Independents Archives

We are NOT a Democracy

We are a Republic. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, move on to the next paragraph. For everyone else, I’ll explain. A genuine Democracy requires us all to vote, on every topic, every day. That means we’d spend about 98% of our waking hours reading, discussing and voting on everything from budget issues, tax relief, international treaties, grants, immigration, highway projects, etc. etc. etc. But we do not do that. We vote for representatives (congressmen, senators, aldermen, etc.) whose job it is to write laws and vote on those laws, which by definition is a Republic. To be more accurate - we are a Republic with Democratic tendencies since there are indeed some issues that ONLY the people can vote on.

The point is we Americans are so easily manipulated by marketing or political spin. Most of us are comfortable with calling ourselves a Democracy even though we aren't one. In the same way we are comfortable with unemployment benefits from the government - just as long as it isn't called Socialism (although that's what it is). We are okay with labor unions representing us, just as long as it isn't called Communism. We're okay with a rigid command structure of a military or corporation - just as long as it isn't called a dictatorship. In each example, a different structure is required and/or desired in order to provide efficiencies. In the military for example - we don't have time for public debate on when to attack and when to retreat. It has to come from one person (or a small contingent of experienced people). A labor union doesn't negotiate for individual workers like a sports agent negotiates for a star basketball forward. Labor Unions negotiate for the entire labor force - a communal effort - because it is too difficult and time consuming to negotiate a separate contract for each and every individual particularly since some would get a better contract (for better work) than others get. The whole point of the labor union is to leverage the entire force to improve pay for all.

Why then is it so hard for us to believe that other forms of government have benefits just as our capitalist Republic does? Our society richly rewards those who work hard and make the necessary sacrifices. It allows for innovation, quick action and quick decisions on the part of the People. Those are good things. We also suffer from poverty - something that is unimaginable for others looking at us as the most prosperous and wealthiest nation on earth. How on earth can it be that such a nation should have starving children? How can it be that so many of us have no-health care insurance or means to afford medicine? The answer of course - we are a capitalist Republic. The keyword "capitalist" meaning there is simply no profit in serving the poor.

Communism - such as that practiced in China and Cuba - has the advantage of providing ALL citizens with health care. You also don't hear stories like Columbine or Virginia Tech where some disturbed person shoots and kills a bunch of people just because they want to (true, their media would suppress such stories, but still, it doesn't happen). China and Cuba have almost no mafia activity and as a consequence don't suffer from the drug wars now plaguing Mexico and parts of the USA. Yes, I know - they don't allow personal freedoms we Americans enjoy, but stay focused here. There ARE benefits to Communism and drawbacks.

The same point can be made about Socialism and governments based on Sharia Law (Islam). We value our freedom and our right to choose the direction of our nation. We may fight among ourselves about the details, but in the end we vigorously defend our way of life, our government, and our freedoms. Yet, we won't allow other countries to choose their own destiny. Heaven forbid if Iraq or Afghanistan chooses something OTHER than a democracy or republic. We'll pull all support if the People of Iraq or Afghanistan chose Communism, Fascism, or Socialism. The nations we are building aren't ours to build. We can HELP, but we cannot dictate. How would we like it if China came to our "rescue" and demanded we adopt a Communist government? We wouldn't, so why are we doing the same to Iraq and Afghanistan?

So lay off Afghanistan. If the people want harsh punishments, let them have it. Do not judge a people we do not understand based upon our personal or national prejudices, especially since we are not all that more evolved than they are. We simply have different priorities based on personal freedom and far more comfortable with high crime rates, drug use, poverty and other vices that come with those freedoms.

Posted by Christopher Tracy at April 12, 2009 7:36 AM
Comments
Comment #280041

Christopher,
Excellent explaination on why My Peers put up with having Democratic and Republican Elected Civil, Political, and Religious Leaders. However, I look at “We simply have different priorities based on personal freedom and far more comfortable with high crime rates, drug use, poverty and other vices that come with those freedoms.” As being more like My Community Elders and Peers haven’t figured out a Proper Solution to the Issues facing the Human Race.

Yet, standing on the edge of becoming Energy Independent I can only imagine what is going to happen when the Powers-that-Be find out once more that they are behind the same 8 ball.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at April 12, 2009 9:38 AM
Comment #280042

I think you need to be careful in comparing theory and reality. You are cutting the distinctions way too precisely. In practical terms there is no such thing as socialism, capitalism etc. The most effective systems apply appropriate responses AND are willing to change course.

The big divide between democratic free market-based societies and other is the free part. And that is what is lacking in some of the systems you mention. Broadly speaking, freedom correlates with freedom, i.e. a countries like Denmark, U.S. or New Zealand provide a fair amount of both, while those like Cuba, Zimbabwe or Venezuela provide little of either.

So the key to success is not what you call your system but how much it distributes decision making. And this is the problem with judging governments. If he people chose to live under Sharia Law, authoritarian rule etc, it would be acceptable, but they don’t get to choose. Leaders usually say things like their people are happy or that they don’t really want freedom, but this is a type of tautology. Slave owners argued that they were doing what was best for their slaves and visitors to plantations often commented on how joyful they seemed.

Cuba etc have a health care system that provides a low level of care for everybody. It is a standard inferior to what an indigent American would get at a County hospital. We lower our standards when we look at Cuba.

Even in advanced democratic places like Europe, you don’t really have the advertised benefits. I spent a lot of time in Europe. I have been in hospitals there and so have members of my family. Care is good and adequate, but not as good as most Americans demand. The advantage of these systems is that they cover all (as you note) but the bigger advantage is that they impose a lifestyle to a greater extent.

You mention that China would suppress a story like Columbine but then jump to the conclusion that it doesn’t happen there. I have read stories about workplace murders in China. We know about wholesale school massacres in Russia. At least 334 were killed in Breslan. Many countries with Islamic tradtions are prone to wicked unrest and communal violence. You read about massacres of Christians in places like Indonesia or Pakistan, but journalists tend to dismiss them. It would take thousands of Columbines to add up to the number of children murdered in Darfur. Because it tends to happen in a political or ethnic context, we put it in a different mental category.

I suppose a better question to ask would be about the chances a child has of living to old age w/o being killed by violence, but this varies greatly even within particular systems. In the U.S., for example, violence is common in some subcultures, but most kids can go through their entire lives w/o seeing any. That is why Columbine is such big news.

One of the safest places to live is Finland, but they just had a big school massacre last September where ten people were killed. Or the sixteen dead in Germany in last March’s school shooting there.

The grass always seems greener on the other side, but, all systems produce violence and oppression because they are human systems. We do best when we maximize freedom. The idea of a strong leader or a government that makes just rules is beguiling, but tends to end badly. We just cannot leave the decisions to others and we cannot trust any leaders with too much power.

Posted by: Christine at April 12, 2009 9:51 AM
Comment #280044

Christine,
Would you rather put your faith in your Democratic and Republican Elected Officials Self-Ability to be hear all sides of the debate or the Individual Human with to much power making the decissions.

Granted it seems that currently they are going through a rough patch, but all in all I have to say My Peers have done a fair job at keeping Our Leaders and Citizens from blowing up the World. Now, what are the Children of the 21st Century going to do to keep the Individual from trying the same thing. For IMHO, America could use some Adults in Charge instead of the Love Feasts of the 60’s.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at April 12, 2009 10:14 AM
Comment #280045

Christine, this is by far the most poignant, refreshing, and compelling article I have encountered on Watchblog. It says exactly what I would like to say. I wish I could write like that. It’s like we are a lost nation. The meaning of words, terms, and phrases have been blurred by time. Democrats used to be Republicans and Republicans, Democrats. Just a few minutes ago I was watching this fellow on cspan who is very educated and presenting his book on how the left and the right has hijacked our ‘democracy’. Often I think this is intentional in trying to push us away from our Founders and into the globalzied world. It seems a Republic doesn’t fit in with the world order. It’s too messy because it can’t be changed and manipulated like a democracy. If you don’t like something then just keep voting on it until you get the result you want. I’m not sure this amnesty thing is a good example but I would use it to make a point. And, how did this Republic come to the point of being a Corpocracy or Oligarchy? Before corporations we were a government of the people, for the people, and so on. Then, in the 1800’s the railroad barons were able, through fraudulent court proceedings, to gain corporations the rights of individuals through law known as Corporate Personhood. In the following century, in order to buy p9litical favor legally, corporations worked to pass a law legalizing large donations to election campaigns known as ‘Money is Free Speech’. From that point forward we have evolved from being a Republic wrapped in democratic principles to a corporate state. We just debated, in the next thread down, about how Congress is so impotent that they must create a Commission to tackle the healthcare issue. I would still like to know what Cheny and the oil patch gang discussed in their White House eneregy meeting before the Iraq war. Is there someone out there who believes something other than the Iraq war was sanctioned to gain access to their oil? Is there someone out there who believes something other than NAFTA and the globalized economy is anything more than a means to streamline and simplify trade law to the benefit of big business and to hell with the Constitution, sovereign rights and the Republic? Create an NAU, make the largest communist country the worlds provider of goods. Why do we beat up on Cuba for the political gain of a few votes from S. Florida while at the same time putting this country severely in debt to a communist country that murders people by the hundreds for political discontent or trashes neighboring countries just because they can? We are not even a Democracy. We are a Corpocracy. Fed a constant diet of Glass-Stegale’s and Commodities Futures Modernization Acts by the likes of Phil Gram, Barney Franks and Chris Dodd’s.
Why will the middle class vote for a Corpocracy while at the same time they are being destroyed by the Corpocracy they bring to power? I believe it is a lack of knowledge in the public at large. This needs to change and one of the first things we need to learn is, ‘We Weren’t Meant To Be A Democracy’. Thank you Christine for your wonderful, inciteful article. And Easter blessing to me.


Here is an old post from Gary Wood, moderator at www.hearmythunder.org that I find both educational and inspirational.

The what you say? We hear it everyday from someone, “We need to help spread the cause of freedom and democracy around the world,” or, “We support the aiding of democracy wherever, whenever, and however possible.” This misguided or misdirected rhetoric helps the citizens of this country forget one very important historical concept the United States was founded upon, we were not to be democratic thanks to the history lessons our founding fathers learned. Not only was democracy not their goal, a republic, a monarchy, dictatorship, and hereditary aristocracy were also to be avoided.

Hey, if we aren’t to be a republic why are we then labeling the form of government founded by the U.S. Constitution as a Federalist Republic? Where does this federalist theme come in? Actually, we were not to be a pure federalist system, nor were we to be a pure nationalist system. Although some wanted federalism and some wanted nationalism to firmly set the roots in, either of these types of soil would have alienated entire groups of representatives from the different States. A Federalist Republic actually indicates both the system of interaction between the government and the states as well as the system of ruling or operating the system as a whole between the governing and the governed.

STOP!! What a bowl of noodles that all is…and you will see, it really is and there in rests the concept that what the Constitution of the United States produced was a form of government “…unprecedented under the sun,” according to Historian Forrest MacDonald. Just how, then, do we unwind these noodles to see what is in this bowl? Hold on to your hats, here we go.

First thing is separating the two main noodles, the Federalist noodle on the left, and the Republic noodle on the rightt. The debate over how much authority the States should have in this new nation created two camps of philosophy between a system founded on federalism vs. a system founded on nationalism. So, those two will be compared to attempt to discover what ingredients went into the making of that Federalist noodle. The debate over how to rule the country, as a whole, is where the debate raged over creating a Democracy, Monarchy (yes, some thought it best…being British and all), or Republic. Serious consideration was never given to a socialistic dictatorship but we will peek at those as well. Everyone set on that so far? It does get confusing but if you press forward I think it will become clearer, not clear mind you, but clearer.

Ok, let’s tackle the left noodle first, Federalist. In the most basic of definitions federalism and nationalism were the two areas of debate which would ultimately determine the role of the States. To look at each in my view (I encourage you to research more deeply for your interpretation);

Federalism – A unity of States joined together through a centralized Federal Government. Sovereignty is maintained by the States and control of activities within the State borders are the responsibility of the State and those citizens living within the State. The Federal Government is limited in its responsibilities to such matters which impact or affect more than one of the States within the union. States appoint representatives to aid in governing at the Federal level. Citizenship is within the State rather than the Federal level.

Nationalism – A National Government directly governing all citizens living within the nation. The nation is of the utmost importance over any other, outside national interest. The National Government is responsible for all matters within its borders. Within a pure form of National Government different townships and cities will be formed but there is no recognition of a State legislative body or Statehood. All citizens of the nation impact the decisions of the government and the governing oversight is selected directly by the people.

The form of government that was created in Philadelphia in 1787 was neither a pure federalism approach nor a pure nationalism approach. Alexander Hamilton invested the entire body of Federalist Paper No. 39 to outlining how the different areas were influenced either from a federalist approach or a nationalist approach. “The proposed Constitution, therefore, even when tested by the rules laid down by its antagonists, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.”5

Thus was born the raging debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalist during the three year period it took to sell the proposed Constitution to the different States for ratification. The collection of speeches used by both sides has become known as The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers. The Federalists had the distinct advantage of being able to point out there were combinations of both nationalism and federalism within their proposal. Cries of potential tyrannous opportunities against the people came loud from the opposing camp. The major argument won by the Anti-Federalist camp was the lack of a Bill of Rights. Later 12 amendments would be proposed and 10 of those would be ratified. Oddly, many of the warnings and concerns of tyranny not corrected in the Bill of Rights can be seen attacking the country today.

Even though the Constitution is not pure federalism the left noodle is called Federalist solely based on the fact we are a United States or a nation built from individual States joined in union to a Federal Government. Thus, we have the first term used in describing the experiment born in 1776, Federalist. There now, don’t you feel better?

Ok, let’s get this right noodle, Republic, figured out. There are many general names used to describe how countries are ruled. Without turning this into a book of its own we are going to briefly look at a monarchy and hereditary aristocracy, dictatorship, socialism (confused with a system of rule), democracy, and republics. Over the centuries there has been a grand mixture of these varying philosophies which go well beyond the scope of this writing yet it is the mixture of democracy and republicanism which causes such confusion in the U.S. today. This mixture is why it is so easy for the politicians to tout how we support democracy around the world and the citizens merely cheer in support as well since it sounds right to our ears.

Monarchy - ruled over by a single king or queen. Holding dominion over the 13 colonies prior to the founding events of the United States was the British Monarch King George III. In a monarchy power usually changes through heredity with no public input into who would rule over them as the people’s king or queen. Citizens are referred more often as subjects since they are subject to the laws of their monarch. However, through nationalist pride the subjects are often extremely loyal to their monarch and their land. This loyalty breaks down if the monarchy imposes too many oppressive laws. Although the country is ruled by the monarch it is well beyond the ability of a single person to control the whole of a country or empire, as was the case of the British Empire, so the king required assistants. This assistance was generally appointed by the monarch and carried a variety of titles such as lord or duke, etc. Once appointed to such a noble position these individuals became a part of an aristocracy within the country. The titles, rights and responsibilities were generally expected to be passed on from generation to generation which is how we obtain hereditary aristocracy as part of the ruling class of a country or empire. Quite! (A bit of a side note, if there is no monarch and the rule is by the hereditary aristocracy then it is known as an Oligarchy)

Dictatorship – in the hopes of not having too many professors of history slap their foreheads in further discuss this form of governing is going to be summed up real simply. A dictator is as powerful as a monarch but there is simply a decision not to use the title of king or queen. A dictatorially ruled country is controlled by a single person and generally rule is enforced with an iron fist. Citizens obey the laws either through nationalistic admiration for their country and ruler or by force from the usually strong policing arm of the dictator. The dictator appoints advisors and officers within his cabinet or ministry to aide in the running of affairs. The voice of the people is of no concern. It is an extremely authoritarian means of rule.

Socialism – often connected in our minds with a dictatorial ruler or the communist approach to government there is a good reason we have this connection. The rule over a socialistic country usually is extremely authoritative, especially if the economic conditions of the citizens becomes heavily depressed which is a common effect in socialist societies. With a socialist society the citizens are basically provided their needs as property and the distribution of wealth are handled by the government, or community. The entire concept was not really a philosophy of consideration during the founding of the United States as its chief voice came in the late 1800s due to the disillusionment of a capitalistic, private ownership approach to economy. We think of socialism as a form of government for whatever reasons however it really is more accurately an economic system. Just as capitalism and private property ownership are part of economics so to is socialism so we need to separate it as such. The confusion is part of the reason many U.S. citizens cannot grasp the fact we are becoming more and more socialistic due to the government control and distribution of a large percentage of personal income earned by the people. Yet if someone were to say we are becoming socialistic, which we are, most are in denial due to the connection with a dictatorial form of government, which we are not becoming. To say we are more a socialistic democracy today than a federalist republic would be a true and accurate statement but many will call a person’s patriotism into question if they dare declare it to be.

Communism – the system U.S. citizens faced off against for much of the time after WWII until the eventual collapse of the U.S.S.R. was believed to be communism. Just as discussed with socialism, communism is actually an economic system where pure control of all assets of the community are equally controlled and distributed by the community. It is a sort of utopian world envisioned by Karl Marx. The means of reaching this nirvana was to be through a shift from capitalism to socialism based on the dictatorial control of the ‘proletariat’ or working class. The path to communism, therefore, is routed through socialism by a dictatorship form of rule. Most of us remember that the U.S.S.R. was the Soviet Union. The actual name of the union was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This union never reached the ultimate end of the evolution of their society, as Marx believed, that of pure communism living equally, happily sharing in all fruits of each citizen’s labors with no private property entanglements or capitalistic greed. It was not reached by the U.S.S.R. nor has it ever been obtained in history, to date.

Once we can accept the fact both socialism and communism belong linked with capitalism as economic systems we can then more easily understand the remaining methods of rule. A final note, the U.S.S.R. was a union so it could be considered federalist and the individual States or countries were termed to be Republics so we could say the Soviet Union was a Federalist Republic. This is where all this mixing of a few different ingredients produces entirely different dishes. Lenin and Stalin (among others) mixed together dictatorship and socialism to produce their version of a Federalist Republic known as the Soviet Union. Jefferson and Hamilton (among others) mixed together democracy and capitalism for our version known as the United States of America. The Soviet Union version lasted 69 years while the USA version lasted 133 years (go ahead, pick your chin up off the floor, you are thinking we still have the USA version but wait until you read the book, 1913: Death of the Federalist Republic: Who Dare Revive the Dead?) All right, enough straying away from the kitchen, lets get back to that right noodle.

Democracy – in its pure form is government rule by those being ruled. Jefferson described it this way. “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” He must have been thinking about the Greek origin with the roots of demos, “people,” “the mob, the many,” and kratos, “rule.” History traces democracy as far back as Mesopotamia but the best historical reference of democracy was found in Athens, Greece. To truly describe democracy now is like playing the game where you whisper in your neighbor’s ear and then your message is passed from person to person until the last person has a completely different message but they could still say it originated from you. Even the North Korean constitution claims democracy yet there is little doubt of the totalitarian dictatorship in control of that country.

Democracy is a majority rule philosophy of government. Within a democracy factions can rise to majority status and gain control over the minority. As Jefferson said, this can be as little as a 2% difference, 51% to 49% but in a democracy the 49% would have to follow the rules of the 51%. In a civil society of 100,000 citizens, organized under pure democracy, 49,000 may be quite unhappy while 51,000 tell them to suck it up. This simple fact led the Federalists to observe the following. “Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”6 Clearly, history had taught the founders if the United States was to survive in peace and prosperity, if inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was to have a chance the United States could not be founded as a democracy.

That being said, we humanoids like to rule over ourselves, the ideals of liberty and freedom rally our hearts and passions. This is why you can no longer clearly define democracy and this is why there are so very many variations on the theme today. This is also why you find it woven into the methods selected for electing representatives, although it was never to be the method of electing all representatives as we are so close to doing today in the United States.

Republicanism – is a method of governing through a division of powers into branches of government, as developed in Rome during the time of the Roman Empire. The initial scheme was based on the creation of a legislative branch, the senate. Senators were prominent citizens who served in the senate for life. The senate selected two of its members to serve as the executive branch for a period of one year, after which they returned to the senate. It was devised after the citizens of Rome deposed their monarchy. After failing to survive in Rome it disappeared for centuries. There were some 16th century philosophers, among them Machiavelli who authored The Prince, yet most applied the form to small city states rather than nations. As we have seen with other forms of government the variations really started to morph the concept of a Republic with many sound aspects being hailed while many of the tyrannical possibilities being assailed as too dangerous to implement.

Modern republic states desired to tie in the philosophy of the people’s rights which the Philosopher of Liberty, John Locke, wrote extensively about in the 17th Century and his philosophies would be among the most influential in the minds of the founding fathers. In order to actually maintain a nation under a republican form of government many factors were considered essential. One was the establishment of openly known and accepted laws, commonly referred to as the rule of law. Second was the need for citizens to actively participate, oppose corruption and live their lives with civic virtue. If these factors could be sustained then a Republic was thought to have a good chance to not only survive but to thrive.

With this in mind those representatives attending the Constitutional Convention, behind locked doors, put together a system that dared to bring all the positive elements of federalism, nationalism, democracy and republicanism into one. It may be easier to now understand why this is often called an experiment and why it was, and is, considered unprecedented and unlike anything under the sun.

The United States was meant to be a Federalist Republic that was unified federally and decentralized politically. “The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures,” is how Hamilton explained it. There cannot be enough emphasis on how fragile the balance was to keep things level. All aspects have to be maintained, all ingredients must be mixed properly, if the experiment is to succeed. If a baker is making a pumpkin cheesecake and substitutes the cheesecake with more pumpkin does it not then become pumpkin pie instead, no matter what he calls it?

Because we have moved away from the experiment of the Constitution we are seeing the polarizing effects which history has taught and we are moving toward teaching the same lesson again. We are more democratic today; we altered the ingredient of how each branch of the federal government was elected turning us into more of a democracy, still called a Federalist Republic but look at us. We altered how we funded the Federal government and demanded the Federal government do more for us in our daily lives balancing out the inequality of capitalism, moving us closer to socialism, still called a Federalist Republic but look at us. How violent will the U.S. be in its death if we keep marching on our path toward this new bowl of noodles more accurately described as a Socialist Democracy?

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 12, 2009 10:35 AM
Comment #280048

Christopher,
Well said.

Roy,
Remember, the experiment of the Constitituion took a long time to fulfill its promise for a majority of Americans. Blacks were considered property for the first half of the nation’s existence. American Indians were deprived of their life, land, and culture by the millions. Women were second class citizens, and could not vote.

In the 1870’s coporations were given the status of legal entities under the 14th amendment, with some of the same rights as individuals. This certainly did not match up with any Consititutional vision. It has turned the country into a corporatist monster, with corruption and greed embraced, with politicians for sale, with companies in the financial sector “too big to fail” privatizing profits and socializing losses, while labor unions are tagged with pejoratives like ‘communist.’

We see the pathetic spectacle of Americans seriously bemoaning “entitlement” programs for the people, even as the United States spends more taxpayer dollars on ‘defense’ than the rest of the world combined, and arms the world with a flood of weaponry.

By now it should be glaringly obvious that socialist democracy, for all of its failings, is far more consistent with the ideas of the Consititution and a Republic, and concepts like freedom and liberty than what we have experienced recently.

Posted by: phx8 at April 12, 2009 2:24 PM
Comment #280050

Phx8

Defense spending is beside the point. Entitlements made up around 1/3 of the Federal budget in the 1960s. Today they make up around 2/3. Within 20 years if nothing is done they will make up more than 100% of what the entire Federal budget today, even adjusted for inflation.

That means that even if defense spending fell to zero, we would still have a address entitlements. If we spend Federal money on nothing BUT entitlements, we would not be able to sustain it.

So you can call for cuts in defense spending. That might make sense. You can decry the waste in government bureaucracy and you would be right. You can justifiably complain about the bloated Federal government. But unless you address entitlements nothing else makes any difference.

Just so that we are both talking about the same things, I am curious re your definition of a socialist democracy. Which modern countries fit more or less into your definition. We should know what we are striving to achieve.

Also if we go back to the 1870s (as you mention) which countries at that time were doing significantly better in protecting their people than the U.S.?

Posted by: Christine at April 12, 2009 2:36 PM
Comment #280051

Ooops! I adressed my post above to Christine when it should have been Christopher. Sorry for any confusion.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 12, 2009 2:55 PM
Comment #280052

“Also if we go back to the 1870s (as you mention) which countries at that time were doing significantly better in protecting their people than the U.S.?”

Well, virtually any country that was not engaged in a wholesale robbery and slaughter of their indigenous populations could be said to be doing “better” at protecting their people than America at the time- but if your definition of “people” is limited to white American males, then we were doing very nicely in the 1870’s.

Did you know that even into the early 1900’s, American Indians were hunted in northern California? Look into the story of Ishi.

Why would you not want most of the federal budget spend on “entitlements”? Health care and social programs and infrastructure seem like the very definition of what the government of “We the people” should be doing with the people’s money, in order to “promote the general welfare.” Of course, some funds will go to paying interest and national defense. Nevertheless, there is no reason not to reform and socialize health care (the costliest entitlement). And to your concern, there is no reason that reform cannot address escalating costs, which are driven by by many items, but primarily the costs of insurance.

Privatized health care with my former provider went up 37% last year. It has sustained large increases over the past years, and these are not even included in the inflation rate, nor are they included in the declining wages experienced by 80% of the population in recent years. This is a problem that can be fixed by cutting the insurance companies out of the business of health care.

Most modern industrialized countries meet the definition of socialist democracy. Even the US could be shoehorned into the term. One of the nice things about Christopher’s article is the way it avoids the temptation to slip into labels for the purpose of demonizing political and economic systems, in order to score political points. Ideological purity does not work in practice. I would argue it does more harm than good in practice, since such purity can result in violations of simple common sense; in other words, the perfect is the enemy of the good.


Posted by: phx8 at April 12, 2009 3:05 PM
Comment #280053

We are not a Republic. We ARE a Democratic Republic. One cannot ignore universal suffrage and the popular election of the Senate, as significant democratic changes to the initial Republic with its token democratic principle installed for the election of the House of Representatives by white, male, landowners, only.

A Republic installs an elite to govern, and the elite install rules and laws that insure the elite get what they want before any others, regardless of the citizenry’s needs, wants, or collective wisdom or threat to the Republic. The empire of Rome was the greatest of all Republics. It failed. The elite made decisions which proved to be wrong for preserving their Empire. The Barbarians, you know, the non-elite, brought the empire down with the help of the elite’s decisions to bribe away their threat to the empire.

Democracy provides something a Republic never can. Shared responsibility for the burdens of society. A Republic is doomed by design to be overrun by the masses when, without a voice or say, the masses are forced to suffer the burdens of the decisions of the elite. Democratic elections and democratic vote decision making processes, insures every citizen shares partially the responsibility for the outcomes of national policy. A democratic republic is the best insurance against revolution and civil war.

One need look no further than China today to recognize the preference of shared responsibility for government as vastly more stable than an elite governed structure for government. Mao’s China was doomed to perpetual revolution and instability. Precisely because it was authoritarian by design.

All Republics, regardless of how non-authoritarian they are created, will become authoritarian, as the elites pass laws to protect and defend their elite status against the demands and needs of the population at large.

America’s Republic, even with its democratic nature, is feeling these same pressures and tensions as public approval ratings of Congress remain in the toilet year after year after insufferable year.

American voter’s however, the polls show, are far more optimistic about their choice of Obama as president. When people have a choice in who their leaders are, they share the responsibility and burdens of those choices.

Gerrymandering and politics and propaganda issued forth by Congress persons deprive the nation of Congressional leaders by collective choice. Hence, the public vilifies Congress, even though small percentages of the national public elected or re-elected them.

The collective national public no longer feels Congress was their elective choice. Polls and research support this view by revealing that the public believes their own representatives are not the problem, but most of the rest of Congress’ representatives are the problem.

We are not a Republic. We would not have lasted this long as a nation had we continued as a Republic through the Civil Rights era and Viet Nam War. We became a democratic republic with universal suffrage and direct election of the Senate, and despite the electoral college, generally a perceived popular election of the president. And that democratic part of our Republic sustained the integrity of our nation through the Civil Rights era and Viet Nam war, and the GW Bush administration, without revolution or civil war.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 12, 2009 3:07 PM
Comment #280055

I agree with Gary Wood’s understanding in that “the Constitutional Convention, behind locked doors, put together a system that dared to bring all the positive elements of federalism, nationalism, democracy and republicanism into one.” And he noted that it was a precarious balancing act : “There cannot be enough emphasis on how fragile the balance was to keep things level. All aspects have to be maintained, all ingredients must be mixed properly, if the experiment is to succeed.”
It seems correct to state that we have gone from a Federalist Republic to a Democratic Republic and are now fast approaching a Social Democracy. Be that as it may, when you look at the numbers we are broke(n). The fix, IMO, is to regain something of the balance between federalism and democracy. To wit:

Abolish Corporate Personhood and Money is Free Speech law to take the money influence out of politics and return government to the people.

All campaign donations to be from the individual to the IRS using special forms. IRS transfers donations to FEC for distribution to parties/candidates. No audit trails.

No taxation on Corporations.

Adopt a flat tax with a rate of 17% on solely income. and abolish all perks, deductions, depreciations, etc..

Adopt a new monetary policy and/or place the FedRsv under the Treasury Dept headed by Gov staffer.

Adopt a fair trade policy vs a free trade policy.

enforce immigration law.

Emphasize states rights, less federal mandates on the states.

Implementing such reform would go a long way toward righting the ship of state.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 12, 2009 6:16 PM
Comment #280061

Phx8

Please be more specific. Virtually every country in the 19th Century was engaged in some sort of mayhem. Those that were not were simply unable. Indigenous people were not particularly kind to each other, BTW. About that time the Blackfeet were terrorizing the Assiniboine and Flathead. Their habit was to raid villages, kill men and kidnap women. The Sioux were pushing out the Crow off their lands, which is why the Crow volunteered to scout for Custer. The Comanche were knocking off everybody nearby, white, red, Mexican or American. The Japanese were busy exterminating the Ainu and doing such a good job that there are almost none left today. The Chinese were just done with the Taiping rebellion that killed more than a million. The Bantu had driven the Khosian people into the deserts and Shaka Zulu had recently conquered his neighbors. The Russians were expanding in Siberia. The Turks were bashing Balkan babies against trees.

It sucked to be on the losing side, but this was no different from the historical trend. It had been the case since the Sumerian, through the Romans, Mongols, and Aztecs and into modern times. In fact, Western civilization was different in that they developed some empathy with the losers.

Our history studies have been Western centric, which made us think that we were unique in our aggressiveness. The more we study others, the less we seem exceptional. Many other cultures were much better at exterminating enemies, given their levels of technologies.

Entitlements are transfer payments. We would want some of those, of course, but if you start getting most of the Federal budget in entitlements it is a bit out of whack.

As for health care, we already spend more on health care than anybody else. Europeans sometimes achieve good results in health care, but they do that by rationing care. I am okay with that. Most Americans are not.

Critics like Michael Moore should look in the mirror if they want to see a big reason why health care is getting so expensive. Obesity is the biggest problem we have for public health these days.

If we take your definition of western industrial societies, we perfectly agree. The key to success is the amount of freedom and choice available. If we look at the Index of Economic Freedom, we find the U.S., Denmark, New Zealand etc on one end and Zimbabwe, Venezuela & Cuba on the other. I don’t think there is much doubt which is better.

Posted by: Christine at April 12, 2009 8:02 PM
Comment #280065

History is filled with examples of a technologically superior culture overcoming a technologically inferior one. In most cases, the outcomes of conflicts are not determined by the political superiority of one culture over another, but by factors related to technology and geography.

Is America more or less violent than other cultures? Is there such a thing as American exceptionalism, and is it the result of words such as ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’? Can it be traced back to the Constitutional vision?

I think it can be argued we are not exceptional in fact, but that we can be exceptional in vision and in the pursuit of ideals.

Fear has been the hallmark of our foreign policy in recent years, and greed the hallmark of our domestic policy. It’s always been a part of human nature and any national character, fear and greed, but unfortunately 9/11 brought out the very worst in America… We’re coming out of it, but the damage has cut deep…

Posted by: phx8 at April 12, 2009 11:00 PM
Comment #280066

David,

Funny…..I’ve always thought it was MY Congressmen that were the problem:)

Posted by: gergle at April 12, 2009 11:06 PM
Comment #280069

CT

Wait a minute now. A country does not have to be a communist dictatorship to provide health care to its citizens. The US is the only advanced country that does not. These countries ,Canada, Sweden, France etc. are also capitalist countries with vibrant private sectors. Their people also enjoy most of the same rights as Americans,speech, religion etc. I agree with your general thrust but not with your argument regarding health care.
The Talaban are dangerious monsters and Sharia law is repulsive in its subjugation of women. That being said, they are NOT corrupt. This could cost us the war. The puppet regime we have installed in Afganistan is corrupt and losing the support of the people because of it. The only legitamet reason we have to be there is to prevent basing of future attacks on the US or our interest,period.
There is an exception to to your idea of letting other countries decide what form of government they choose. That is genocide. As a great power we have an obligation to work with other great powers to prevent it. If that means changing governments,so be it.

Christine
You are incorrect. Cubans recieve much better health care than indigent Americans. Part of the reason for this is that with better access they do not have to wait until an illness has progressed. A good indicator is infant mortality rates. Cuba’s is better than the US in that regard. So is Canada and nearly all European countries. The US is about on a par with Latvia.
I am living in Asia these days. One way to keep on top of things is BBC international. They had a story on about a young black kid that died in some big US city,I forget which, from A TOOTHACHE!. His mother did not have the money to have his tooth pulled although there is some measure of public assistance there is usually no coverage for dental care. The BBC reporter was appalled that the wealthiest country in the world would let that happen. So was I. I didn’t feel too proud that day.

Posted by: bills at April 13, 2009 12:02 AM
Comment #280080

From another perspective: we are where we are, busted with a Corporatists government, due to several mitigating factors, such as: the gap between the wealthy and poor has become a serious problem for middle class and poor. As this gap increases the folks on the low end of the spectrum are pushed further into poverty, unable to purchase resources such as homes, healthcare, education, and more demanding on social services to stay afloat. This problem is exacerbated by a Corporatists government working to flood the US with cheap labor through immigration. A win-win for the wealthy but a killer for the rest of us. Left to run its course we will become a country similar to China or India or any impoverished and underdeveloped country. This is the result of a thirty year effort to globalize the economy, bring parity to the countries of the world. The middle class must be deflated wealthwise in order to compete in the new world economy. So, the rich get richer, as they have been asked to give up nothing, and the poor get poorer as they have been relegated to give up their wealth. The common denominator of this new world economy is the cost of labor. Good business for the Corporatists but pain and misery for the working class.

How might we start to fix this situation? Work to raise the living standard from the bottom. Work to stabilize or reduce our population thereby reducing the pressure on ever more limited resources.

Implement a civics course for high schoolers that teach the principles of citizenship and good government.

Implement a health course. I remember taking health and civics courses in my school days.

Mandate that retired professionals in the math and science fields participate (voluntary or paid part time) in the HS curriculum. Maybe share the class one or two days a week, solo one day a week, etc.

Stop all immigration (temp and illegal workers).

Adopt a flat tax with no deductions. (population control)

Close the border to drugs. A fence. Also, run double and triple (or blind) inspections on border crossings to weed out those corrupt officials allowing drugs to cross.

No foreign students accepted until all US applicants have been exhausted.

Operate all HSs as college preparatory schools. The weaker get ‘D’s, no dropouts allowed.

Establish a strong, mandatory program for those who don’t attend college. Provide funds and training for all skills. Include prison inmates. Invest big bucks in the well being of those at the low rung of the ladder.

Provide for a nationwide job placement program.

These reform measures would go a long way toward righting the ship of state. The emphasis need not be on wealth distribution or setting pay scales. Just invest in the folks at the bottom for a few years and that will work to narrow the wealth gap and ensure we don’t become a third world country.

Only one catch here. You won’t get any of these reforms through your Corporatists government. Has to be done through a third party with a different attitude. www.republicsentry.com for example.

Otherwise, we have the government we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 13, 2009 11:31 AM
Comment #280086

Roy Ellis,

..Close the border to drugs. A fence. Also, run double and triple (or blind) inspections on border crossings to weed out those corrupt officials allowing drugs to cross…

Sorry but I couldn’t help laughing at the “weeding out the corrupt officials over border drugs” obvious pun.

Posted by: gergle at April 13, 2009 12:44 PM
Comment #280087

Capitalism is somewhat feudal and dictatorial in it’s structure, which is a point I think you missed.

As to being critical of Afghans harsh punishment, I agree. It’s their business. Except, we should not be in the business of ignoring abuse, when we have opted to engage in nation building. Little things like servitude, slavery and corruption tend to have blowback effects down the road. Nation building is very expensive and complicated.

Posted by: gergle at April 13, 2009 12:51 PM
Comment #280090

gergle, no pun intended. I think we should do whatever is necessary to stop drugs from entering. That’s something between 25-50B dollars being retained in this country that can be put to better use.

Posted by: ellis999@peoplepc.com at April 13, 2009 1:17 PM
Comment #280114

Phx8


We are leaving the realm of today’s politics, but I think we have an interesting tangent.


Technologically superior cultures usually dominate technologically inferior ones, but only when the gap is very significant, as it was with European culture in the 19th Century.


Before that time, it was political organization or political will that made the difference. The Romans were technologically inferior to the Greeks. The technologically inferior Persians conquered the Babylonians. The Mongols conquered everybody from China to Poland and almost everybody was technologically superior to them. The Arabs conquered the Persians and most of the Byzantine Empire. In fact, when the Portuguese and Dutch first showed up in East Asia, they were technologically inferior to the Chinese or Japanese. Of course, sometimes all that matters is a particular type of military technology or organization.

After the conquerors take over, they learn the technology and get better at it, so we think of successful empires as technologically more advanced, but it is the effect, not the cause.

BillS

The Cubans have a good medical outreach made possible by their system of social control. That works and we can give them credit. Cuban hospitals are terrible. And an indigent American, on average, will get better care than an average Cuban once he gets to the hospital. I take your point about the total system. The problem with indigent Americans is disorder in their lives. A totalitarian system like Cuba’s is better able to order its people. That is one advantage of a control system. You can watch people and make them do things. Still, I believe if we would have no trouble at all finding examples of the Cuban system making serious errors, like the ones we highlight in the U.S.

After the Mariel boatlift a lot of Cubans came to the city where I was going to school. Many of them had significant health problems and very poor dental health. Overall, they were less healthy than the average poor person in town and these guys were not the poorest of the Cubans. I don’t know what kind of system they claim to have, but when you look at the results it is not too impressive.

Posted by: Christine at April 13, 2009 9:16 PM
Comment #280124

Christine, my dear, I want you on my team!

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 13, 2009 10:16 PM
Comment #280129

Christine
“The problem with indigent Americans is disorder in their lives.”
Blame the victum again ? The disorder in people’s live ,caused by drugs and alcohol,mental illness etc. IS a health problem that we should be addressing. This will entail, not some dark system of social control, but doing the right thing by our fellow citizens.Also bear in mind, that there are somewhere between 40-50 million Americans without health coverage. These people can hardly be describes as indigent,most are working. Dismissing Cuba’s health delivery as an” outreach” Is there something wrong with an outreach? Their system is also much improved since boatlift days,BTW.

Posted by: bills at April 13, 2009 11:12 PM
Comment #280140

bills,

Dead on target, sir! Let’s stop blaming victims, but not make victims heroes or villains. Let’s begin to deal with reality.

Roy Ellis,

..That’s something between 25-50B dollars being retained in this country that can be put to better use.


umm, want to explain that one for me? We haven’t been able to stop drug flow from the get go. Unless we build an iron curtain with machine gun posts, we aren’t likely to, either. Even then, I doubt it would stop. Insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. Russia has a drug problem, too. They didn’t have an open society. If they couldn’t succeed, then why do you think this will?

Posted by: gergle at April 14, 2009 4:14 AM
Comment #280149

gergle, quite right. America has been trying to stop the opiate based trade in America for more than 100 years now. Add the cost up over those 100 years aimed at stopping the trade, and compare it to the vastly increasing numbers of Americans accessing opiate based drugs today, and objectively, the cost does not warrant the dismal results achieved through prohibition.

Actually, the hypocrisy and irony of federal and state governments now increasing their revenues on tobacco products for the public good, while prohibiting opiates which the vast majority would never participate in, even if legal, is the stuff Greek tragic-comedies were made of.

America has in many ways, lost common sense entirely on a range of issues. Amnesty without securing borders, and allowing turf protection and competition between national security agencies, are a couple others. Completely devoid of common sense, such policies and actions. Boggles the mind.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 14, 2009 8:41 AM
Comment #280150

gergle said: “Funny…..I’ve always thought it was MY Congressmen that were the problem:)”

Here, here, I say, from South Central Texas, homeland of Sen’s. Cornyn, Hutchison, and Rep. Lamar Smith. I see signs that Texas will not remain the Republican led state it has been these last several decades.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 14, 2009 8:48 AM
Comment #280164

We are not a Democracy, We are a Corpocracy! That is, all business is good business. Rather than fight moonshining just make it legal. Puts a lot of people to work and adds to the tax coffers. Gambling and prostitution. Don’t fight it, just legalize it and control it. Keep the violence to an acceptable level. Can you imagine the lobbyist money going into DC right now in hopes of restoring Cuba to America’s little whorehouse? Cuba was a major drug route and is likely to become so again.
The drug business rates in the top ten US businesses. Employs a lot of people. The Corpocracy would love to legalize and tax drugs. Right now they need to tamp down the violence to an acceptable level for the US public. But try to stop it? No way. Good business. Makes for good foreign policy to put drug patrols in foreign countries, work with their police and military. It’s where US military equipment, much of it new, goes to die. This border security thing is a real joke. The SEAL’s pop off three terrorist haplessly floating in a life boat with no engine and the Corpocracy gets rave revues. Graze the hiny of a drug smuggler on the border and get 10 years.
Since Vietnam the US has developed some high tech tunnel finders. I don’t recall a single case of a border tunnel being discovered using such equipment. Usually a tourist falls in the hole and breaks a leg. Once a year would be sufficient to drag a tunnel finder across the border to control that egress. I posted recently that a druggie reported that many border agents are on the take. They are known to the runners by a number and this way they know who is ‘on the gate’ at any hour of the day. How many gate keepers have you heard about being outed?
I agree we have a look good, feel good ongoing effort to stop drugs. But, the intent is not to stop drugs, just take the heat out of the business and maintain the status quo. The border has been open to drugs for some 40 years. That’s status quo big time.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 14, 2009 1:06 PM
Comment #280171

Roy,

Moonshiners are relatively few and far between these days. There is little violence associated with them.

There is much greater carnage with alcoholics, and legalizing drugs will increase intoxicated crazies for a time.

It also stop a lot of the current violence in Mexico and in US cities. Beginning to treat drug addicts as patients will reduce the carnage associated with addiction, and remove some of the stigma associated with illegal drug use. It will bring this problem from out of the underground where it exists now. Since the cost of illegal drugs will no longer be an issue for addicts, treatment can proceed for those seeking it, without fear of simply being warehoused in our county and federal prisons.

I’m only advocating doing something rational rather than simply demonizing “rum” like Carrie Nation once did.

Posted by: gergle at April 14, 2009 3:05 PM
Comment #280172

I’m also advocating doing something rational. Adopt a drug policy that will ‘stop’ drugs from entering this country. That means things like having Joe Arpaio manage work gangs where druggies break big rocks into smaller rocks for years on end….unless they want to earn a reduced sentence and come out of prison certified or degreed through some educational training program. If you do drugs you get two choices, the rock pile or education. Job placement across the nation will be available. You do drugs again and you get another year on the rock pile before being put back into the education program, etc. And, women can bust rocks to…now if they don’t want to they can stand there in the rain and look at them, hoping they will get smaller.
In other words, I don’t want to pay for rehabing druggies nor their social upkeep because they cant support themselves. i want them health, educated and working….whatever that takes. They can take up hubbly bubbly pipes or some thing like that for their extra-entertainment.

Otherwise, we have the government we deserve

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 14, 2009 3:30 PM
Comment #280491

Roy said: “I don’t want to pay for rehabing druggies nor their social upkeep because they cant support themselves.”

But you, your parents, and grandparents have been paying the costs of the war on drugs for almost a century now. Cha Ching, something over a trillion dollars historically. In today’s dollars, very much more.

The war on drugs fails, because it drives drug users underground, where the activities to support their drugs cost society a plenty, in addition to all that unproductive ferreting them out for nearly 100 years. Punishment will never drive certain categories of people away from drug usage.

You have to make a compelling case to young people why the State is telling them what they can eat or drink or smoke in a so called ‘free’ society, and for many, that case cannot be made. The State simply becomes a symbol of parentage which many young persons are disposed to contest and protest. Doing drugs becomes a badge of honor, and respect amongst rebellious peers.

And America was founded on rebellion.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 18, 2009 3:05 PM
Comment #280512

Yep, starts with teaching folks to take care of their bodies through religion and education. Put civics and health back in the classroom. At the same time start inspecting trucks crossing the border. If you dont look for it you won’t find it. Put offenders on the rock pile for a year and then offer them a choice. More rock pile or education. Certify and degree felons in unskilled, skilled and high tech and provide a national job placement program. If that doesn’t work, back to the starting point with more rock piles. Want take long.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 18, 2009 6:52 PM
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