Third Party & Independents Archives

Ignorant Blood Will Water The Tree Of Liberty

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to William Smith in 1787 regarding a rebellion led by a farmer named Shays. In dismissing the motives of the rebels as “founded in ignorance, not wickedness” he admits the “people cannot be all, & always well informed” and this must be remedied by setting “them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them.” Jefferson then shrugs off the deaths of a few rebels with a now famous quote.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”

If you read Jefferson’s letter yourself, you too will come away with an entirely different impression of the meaning of the famous quote above. You may want to read the full letter to grasp how unimportant this farmer’s rebellion was in the eyes of Jefferson. This wasn’t an impassioned plea, but merely an aside in a missive he admits was “in want of facts worth communicating” and ended with him joking that we “must be contented to amuse, when we cannot inform.”

Some will find parts of this letter to be amazingly predictive of our country’s current situation, such as “The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.” Eerie, isn’t it. Others will at least have to admit that Jefferson’s reference to those watering the tree of liberty was not as flattering as they thought. It sounds like he really knew the American people well, but it’s a little surprising that this rich globetrotting slave owning/loving revolutionary celebrity of a founding father expressed the same sentiment as someone like Bill Maher. This letter is Jefferson saying the American people are capable of intense stupidity, but that’s better than complete political apathy, of which we are equally capable.

It’s worth noting the US electorate previously suffered accusations of such apathy until now when we find ourselves at the other end of the spectrum with AR-15s slung outside presidential events. I guess the point of this post is aimed at them. People who understand what Timothy McVeigh did and think it was just great. He had that “Tree of Liberty” shirt on when arrested and the strength he ignorantly drew from those words only warped him further along a massively destructive path. I think it should be understood by all that the gun totting “Patriots” we see on the news today are on the same path. Some are dilettantes displaying unrest for the first time in their lives, but others imagine themselves hardcore revolutionaries surmounting the biggest challenge in American history. Taking their country back from the dangerously liberal multi-ethnic city dwellers seems like the only choice to such diehards and the most psychotic extremists of them all will set their crosshairs on the first black US president. It’s starting to sound like Jefferson couldn’t have been more correct.

The only problem these assault rifle gripping camo-clad avengers will face is the second amendment itself. I believe in the second amendment and respect anybody else who does as well, but most responsible gun owners like me would agree that taking a loaded fire arm to a presidential event along with a sign calling for cyclical bloodshed in the name of a misquoted founding father is incredibly unpatriotic & irresponsible. The problem starts with all of us responsible gun owners who aren’t comfortable with these impressionable misinformed violence seekers showing off their shiny egos around our President. Their problems begin when they start their “rebellion” and realize they’re not the only Americans with guns.

Posted by Frederick S. Friedman at August 21, 2009 6:02 PM
Comments
Comment #286738

Great article. I love how so many people love to quote our founding fathers but usually do so in a warped, completely misinterpreted fashion. This is often seen on the right, by self professed “real Americans”; the sort of guy who stands up at a town hall meeting about health care reform and proudly displays, and points out to the president that he is a proud member of the NRA.

People quote the founding fathers and have very little knowledge of what they meant by anything they said. How many of our politicians, and how many “real Americans” have ever even read the Federalist papers, or the founding fathers’ letters and correspondences? I’m sure the number is quite low.

These buffoons who bring assault weapons to public meetings intended to strengthen and foster our democracy are doing nothing but showing their complete lack of understanding of what America stands for.

I have no doubt our founding fathers, having been dragged through time to the present day, would say they should never have bothered!

Posted by: Mike Falino at August 21, 2009 6:23 PM
Comment #286739

Thanks. It’s also worth noting that the constitution these people are so fanatical about came AFTER Jefferson’s letter. A fear of ignorant misguided rebellions such as Shays’ brought us away from the state dominated Articles of Confederation towards a centralized federal government and today’s constitution.

They know not of what they speak.

Posted by: Fred at August 21, 2009 7:00 PM
Comment #286740

From Maher on Huffington;

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/inew-rulei-no-shame-in-be_b_264695.html

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 21, 2009 8:06 PM
Comment #286742

BTW, I should warn you that some of the language in the article is a bit rough.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 21, 2009 8:24 PM
Comment #286745

August 26, 1789

“12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.”

from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp

September 25, 1789
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html

Posted by: ohrealy at August 21, 2009 9:33 PM
Comment #286748

“People who understand what Timothy McVeigh did and think it was just great.”

I don’t think anybody reading or writing here falls into the category. It is dishonest to make that association. Let’s take your guilt by association to the other side.

We are now hearing a lot about the anniversary of Woodstock. During the 1960s, there were lots of radical weirdos who advocated lots of terrible things. Do you believe that anyone who shares some of their “hippie” values is associated with bombing the math building at U or Wisconsin or Charles Manson’s murder spree? Or is anybody who associates with Bill Ayers automatically in favor of the terrorism advocated by the “Weathermen.”

Posted by: Christine at August 21, 2009 10:05 PM
Comment #286750

Here is a link to a copy of the letter from Jefferson to William Smith;

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/96oct/obrien/blood.htm

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 21, 2009 10:24 PM
Comment #286751

Fred,

Sorry I missed the link in your original text. I would guess that I’m not up to the game tonight so I’ll just sit on the sidelines and read.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 21, 2009 10:26 PM
Comment #286754

Christine,

Who said I was talking about anybody reading or writing here? Did you even read the word conservative or republican at all let alone being associated in my article? You have the most predictable intellectual reaction every time you comment. You point a finger and call others dishonest, disingenuous or any other word in that part of your thesaurus when you really don’t like what is being said, but you can’t dispute it. I would appreciate a little more intellectual effort on your part.

You’re boring me really badly Christine!

I am talking about the extremists calling for the tree of liberty to be watered with blood today. Who gives a damn about forty years ago and pointing fingers? Your arguments are never really arguments, they just amount to “I know you are, but what am I!” Do you have a solution to satisfy or pacify these nuts?

If you don’t want to admit these nuts with guns at presidential events are a problem worth writing about then explain why. Don’t fall back on this dull excuse for political discourse you always trot out.

Convince me these maniacs are no big deal, Christine.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 12:10 AM
Comment #286755

Christine,

Here are some other words for your blame game argument series.

I know you’ve used Mendacious, but here is the thesaurus’ list; crooked, cunning, deceitful, designing, dishonest, duplicitous, false, feigned, foxy, guileful, indirect, insidious, mendacious, oblique, shifty, sly, tricky, two-faced, uncandid, underhanded, unfair, unfrank, wily.

Now you have fodder for weeks of comments! Rejoice!

Still awaiting your argument for ignoring violent extremism in the blogosphere. Why is it dishonest to write about these people?

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 12:17 AM
Comment #286756

I was an NRA member for a couple years. Then I began reading their newsletters and listening to some of their membership. I was embarrassed to have ever joined that organization afterward.

Their stated Constitutional objective is laudable. However, their leadership long ago realized their base contained true domestic terrorists and incredibly ignorant and undereducated members. And what did they do when this dawned on their leadership? Took full advantage of it to increase that racist, secessionist, violence prone, neo-nazi element into their membership.

I have to wonder how many other normal well adjusted and educated Americans join the NRA without ever critically reading the content of the hateful, bigoted, paranoid, and secessionist or civil conflict promoting speech of their fellow NRA members?

But, ignore these people at the peril of the nation. Another group of people very similar to these tried to secede from this union and engage in civil war in the name of subjugating other human beings, racism, and fear, and it cost America mightily in blood, treasure, and human depravity.

It is important that they be allowed to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, and to join the NRA which has to report their membership to the authorities, or invite covert surveillance by the authorities. These are safeguards against driving them underground where their activities and plans cannot be monitored and defended against.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 12:19 AM
Comment #286757

David,

Unfortunately, you make a very important point. It’s no fun thinking about these people like this, but I want to know where these fools are at all times.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 12:28 AM
Comment #286759

David,

C-span had an author of a book about the NRA; lobbyist Richard Feldman

The fact that DC lobbying has become a major industry is something he points to as the new direction and corruption of these interest groups that has happened.

Self perpetuation and lining the pockets of the leaders seems to be the central theme.

Posted by: gergle at August 22, 2009 12:49 AM
Comment #286760

Christine, equating the peaceful loving folks at Woodstock under some difficult environmental conditions, with Charlie Manson or the SDS, is ignorant of the chasm between them.

I was one of the reportedly few ‘hippies’ who didn’t attend Woodstock, but, wish I had. I deplored violence then, as I do today, except in imminent situations of harmful threat to my person, family, or fellow Americans. There is a gulf wide as the Grand Canyon between the hippies at Woodstock, and the tortured psyche of Charles Manson, or the tortured logic of the Students for a Democratic Society, or Weatherman.

Rather ironic that you say to Fred, “It is dishonest to make that association.”, and turn right around and make the association you did between Woodstock hippies and the likes of Manson.

Those who co-opted the peace, love movement for power over others and corrupt personal and violent ends, are not to be equated with the peace, love hippy movement. May I remind you that peace and harmony were aspirations and ideals in the founding papers of this great nation. And peace and love hippies from the Communes in Oregon to the coffee houses of Boston, were simply trying to lead the way toward those national ideals. There is a world of difference between these and the likes of the Uni-bomber.

Long hair and bell bottom pants do not a hippy make.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 1:02 AM
Comment #286761

gergle said: “The fact that DC lobbying has become a major industry is something he points to as the new direction and corruption of these interest groups that has happened.”

He is very astute in his observation, gergle. Thanks for bringing that to this discussion. That is one of several reasons why VOID refuses to lobby those in D.C., but, the American voters, instead.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 1:08 AM
Comment #286762

Thanks for that comment David because it affords me an opportunity to clarify things.

I believe there is also a wide gulf between most conservative Americans who love their country and the camo wearing machine gun freaks crawling around in America’s forests.

I think there is plenty of daylight between all shades of homegrown violent extremists and peace loving Americans who would rather vote.

In the case of any rebellion, it’ll be liberal, conservative and independent minded members of our armed forces that’ll be the real “Patriots” when they defend the constitution of this evolving union.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 2:19 AM
Comment #286763

Frederick,

Good article, btw. As any psychologist or psychiatrist knows, a quotation can and will mean many different things to many different people, precisely because it has no context. An standard interview question to help determine if a person was in need of help was to ask the person what the following quote means: “A rolling stone gathers no moss”.

The response does not require familiarity with the quote to determine its meaning. It has no context of anykind. If the response is, “Mick Jagger is still alive and therefore moss is not yet growing on his body.”, the person may be deemed on the basis of that one response only, as functional, because it is an entirely logical and consistent reality based answer.

On the other hand, if the response is: “A stone rolling on its axis in space exists in an environment in which Venusian Moss cannot live, and therefore, that stone has no mass to support moss”, the person giving such a response may indeed need professional help.

Likewise, in a society where murder is to be condemned and those conspiring to commit murders are to be removed from the public arena for public safety reasons via due process, their interpretation of Jefferson’s quote as justification for murderous acts for the sake of their personal liberty, are persons in need of help, and/or removal from society for public safety reasons in accordance with due process.

The term ‘nut cases’ applied to such folks, may not be misapplied. Constitutionally however, there is and should be a stark line drawn between the speech and the intent of the speech. To simply quote Jefferson with this particular quote should not be a crime nor cause for legal or psychiatric action, though monitoring may be called for. On the other hand, to quote Jefferson in this regard as motive to murder while providing the means to violence, can constitute a conspiracy to commit murder, and it matters not whether the intent of the conspiracy is liberty or not, legally speaking.

Violent Revolution against perceived tyranny however, imposes a particular requirement, namely, that the society at large either actively or, passively supports such a revolution. Failing that test, the laws of the society against violence will be imposed upon the revolutionaries, regardless of their motive. Which no doubt accounts for the many potential revolutionaries never inciting a violent revolution attempt, being fully aware of the legal consequences should the attempt fail to garner the support of the majority in that society.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 2:32 AM
Comment #286765

You’re right, the stars have to align enough for someone to have motive, expressed intent, and the means for violence at hand.

Then we are dealing with a threat to the nation, unless the nation joins that schism, which is hardly the case today.

The best example is Barney Frank talking to the lady claiming Obama was carrying out Nazi policies.

Words to the effect; “…if you are trying to equate President Obama’s efforts to provide health care reform for America’s uninsured to Nazism then … I have to ask, what planet are you from?”

Barney don’t mince words.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 2:57 AM
Comment #286766

Barney handled that lady VERY APPROPRIATELY !

He stopped her cold in her tracks, and with a question? Most appropriate when confronting disseminators of malignant, false, and distorted information, regardless of their intentions. A question can be a most disarming tool in trained hands.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 4:16 AM
Comment #286768

David
“Christine, equating the peaceful loving folks at Woodstock under some difficult environmental conditions, with Charlie Manson or the SDS, is ignorant of the chasm between them.”

I wrote my post exactly to elicit this response. Thank you. The same goes for the analogy of opponent of health care reform to Timothy McVeigh. To paraphrase you, T-shirts do not the terrorist make.

Fred

We all hate terrorists. Great! We all agree. I am sorry if I mistakenly thought you were implying that these demonstrators were associated with conservatives in general, rather than your evidently laudable support for law enforcement.
So let’s get specific.

• What do you suggest we DO about disruptive demonstrators?
• How do we define disruptive?
• What do we DO when someone is holding up a sign that COULD be interpreted as a threat?
• What do we DO when we find demonstrators organizing who we have reason to believe will become violent, but have not yet done anything?
• DO we have the right or duty to keep potentially violent demonstrators under surveillance?
• Can we justifiably monitor their communications?

PS – sorry about my choice of words. I will try to use simpler ones and greater variety. I try to use the simplest applicable word.

BTW laudable means praiseworthy, but I liked laudable better. I also used the phrase “under surveillance” instead of the simpler watch because it gives it a more official sound. The same goes for my use of the word monitor. And I chose to work disruptive a couple of times instead of the simpler phase “making trouble” because it was shorter. I see David used the word chasm. He could have used gap, which is simpler, but chasm implies something deeper and harder to cross, as in the old saying that you cannot hop a chasm in two hops.

Posted by: Christine at August 22, 2009 10:55 AM
Comment #286769

Christine said: “I wrote my post exactly to elicit this response. Thank you. The same goes for the analogy of opponent of health care reform to Timothy McVeigh.”

Agreed. Exactly the same contorted and twisted thinking process.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 11:49 AM
Comment #286771

Christine,

When I was young and stupid in the late ’60s I spent quite a bit of my time hitch hiking around America. I met a lot of these “hippies” that some people love to disparage.
The people that I met were all about revolution, but a revolution of the mind. It was about changing the way that people thought, and not by scaring the crap out of them either.
Virtually all of the hippies I came across were more “Christlike” than the “Christians” I had met either before or even since. The picture of the dope addled morons portrayed by the media wasn’t even remotely what being a hippie was all about.

As David pointed out, the 2 groups you cite, the Weathermen, and the Manson Family were not hippies, they were criminals.

Fred,

What I find curious about all this quoting of Jefferson, etc…, is that people like Glenn Beck, and others only use the portions of these founders writings that make them appear to agree with their own personal agenda.

And, nothing could be further from the truth.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 22, 2009 1:13 PM
Comment #286774

Christine,

Just so we’re clear, I was pointing out your habit of calling everyone dishonest when you don’t agree with them. That’s why I provided the thesaurus list of different words for you to use in your banal comments. Just so we’re crystal clear.

Now, all the questions you posed in your last comment reflect your beginning to think about the subject I raised instead of more partisan finger pointing. This is the third party independent column, I don’t care what the score is between your red team and their blue team.

The questions you raised probably reflect the most recent secret service tactical sessions over what they’re gonna do about these maniacs and kudos to you on that. How do you handle domestic terrorists?

We have experience with this, let’s use it. The US government has been spying on dangerous extremist groups from the left through to the right for a long time now and we’re not out of practice. From Clinton to Bush to Obama, we have maintained these programs in the FBI, ATF, and NSA.

In the past decade, the United States has gained mountains of hard won experience in dealing with terrorism in general. The one thing we’ve learned is not to ignore it. We should watch all potentially violent domestic residents. Muslim or Christian or Jew; whatever color; whatever party affiliation, the overriding parameter here is violence or the expressed willingness to embrace violence as a continuation of their policies through other means.

These are unfortunate times and we’re seeing this is not just an economic phenomenon.

I pray it ain’t so, but it seems the change these times are bringing about is just a little too much cognitive dissonance for some folks to handle peacefully.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 2:12 PM
Comment #286775

Rocky

Please see what David said and what I said to David. I was pointing out the absurdity of comparing conservatives in general to the Oklahoma City bombing, by the similarly absurd the analogy of comparing general hippies with Manson or the Weathermen.

Fred evidently did not mean to imply such a comparison, and was talking in general about the need for law enforcement using “blood of patriots…” weirdos as an example, so I was wrong about that.

So it seems we all agree on these things.

Speaking of Jefferson - He is one of my personal heroes, but we have to remember that he was just a man. Some of his ideas about revolution were stupid. He favored the French Revolution long after it was clear that it had gone rotten. But he is an excellent example of why we need true diversity of opinion.

We had Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams & Washington. Each one had his share of really bad ideas and significant faults to go with their outstanding virtues. They fought it out - hard. They didn’t look for the pleasant consensus or pretend politically correct respect. None of them got what they really wanted but the result of their struggle was perhaps the best sustained political system in the history of the world.

All this trouble & noise around health care will probably produce a better solution than we would have achieved if everybody had gone quietly along with the original proposals.

Maybe we should also learn what Jefferson did not from the French Revolution - radical revolutions suck. Iterative change works best.

Posted by: Christine at August 22, 2009 2:12 PM
Comment #286776

Rocky,

Dudes like Glenn Beck, Rush, and O’Reilly don’t realize they walk down a path blazed by Goebbels.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 2:22 PM
Comment #286778

Christine said “We had Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams & Washington. Each one had his share of really bad ideas and significant faults to go with their outstanding virtues. They fought it out - hard. They didn’t look for the pleasant consensus or pretend politically correct respect. None of them got what they really wanted but the result of their struggle was perhaps the best sustained political system in the history of the world.”

Well put! I too hope this same process will give us a better result with health care reform.

That is what makes America great and is also a wonderful argument for another political party in the mix here.

We don’t have the diversity of opinion and strength of conviction those men had back then.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 2:28 PM
Comment #286779

Fred,

“Dudes like Glenn Beck, Rush, and O’Reilly don’t realize they walk down a path blazed by Goebbels.”

I disagree totally. I think these guys know all too well which path they walk down.
Their shtick is controversy, the more outrageous the better. Each shades their own personal version of baloney with just enough truth to make it palatable for their sycophantic masses, and each makes a damn good living doing it.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 22, 2009 2:39 PM
Comment #286780

I’d say the problem is, you have people who self appoint themselves guardians of freedom and liberty, but seem to think large portions of the constitution are optional for that purpose, as if its some set of naive ideals that can be tossed out in emergencies.

Well, the problem is, you get this permanent emergency mentality during the Cold War, and now the War on Terrorism, where people keep their sense of emergency expedience high all the time.

And there’s where Democracy really begins to take a beating.

Look at what’s happening in the Senate: 40 people are deciding what sixty people can pass. Why? Because for political or ideological reasons, they think they’re justified in discarding the constitutional majority rules sensibility. Yep, we can can ignore what most of the people want in a Democratically run republic, because we know better than the lot of them.

Have they considered what happens when the tables are turned, and they want to be the powerful majority?

You can’t just serve your own power in a government where power changes hands so easily, and expect that your self-serving policies won’t serve somebody else’s ends one day.

The minority groups in this count, by which I mean those who don’t have majority support politically, have a right to be heard. But the majority has a right to rule, to pass legislation, to manifest their ideas, in place of those who did not receive majority support.

The irony is, the definitions of that majority would be so much more flexible, their voices more likely to be heard on one occasion or another, if they weren’t party to a cynical strategy that is all about starving a young majority and a young administration of acheivements.

The Republican’s strategy makes it absolutely useless to bargain with them. There’s nothing of value to be gained. So, the interests of Conservatives, in what does get passed, will be considerably diluted.

I just have to point this out: if Republicans would let Democrats pass legislation, the same groups that are in doubt for breaking the filibuster could help Republicans put compromises, in the interests of their constituents, in their bills.

This really isn’t serving those who elected the Republicans. It’s hardening a Democratic Party majority that’s going to remain in power for at least the next four years, and the most likely losers in the process are going to be the Democrats in more Republican states. Which means, that they’re creating selective pressures that discourage conservatism among the Democrats.

Their strategy is trading long term strength in negotiation for short term recovery in their politic strength. But what will they have to do next to maintain that strength? The mind boggles. And if things don’t turn out as badly as they want things to turn out? It won’t be pretty.

How to lose friends and alienate people. That seems to be the Republican strategy. They forget that ultimately, your ability to gain and keep power depends on the very people you’re ticking off.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 22, 2009 2:46 PM
Comment #286781

Fred

When you mention Goebbels you have to recall that the Germans of those days pioneered many of the media techniques used today by politicians and community organizers of all kinds. They were good at what they did.

Consider that they went from a dozen outcast, unconnected weirdos in a beer hall to a revolutionary movement that took over one of the most important and powerful countries in the world. They radically Germany and changed the world and were seen by many as the wave of the future. As I wrote re the French revolution - radical revolutions suck.

We were lucky to stop them.

I don’t think they could have conquered the U.S. but a few decisions or battles that went the other way could have meant a long cold war with them instead of the Soviets, and I suspect they would have been a more dangerous adversary.

Re the founding fathers - I think we have as much diversity of opinion today.If we have lost anything, I think it is the sense of personal honor and their wide experience. Today we have too many professional politicians with staffs of experts who follow public opinions and use focus groups to tell them what to think.

Posted by: Christine at August 22, 2009 2:53 PM
Comment #286783

Rocky,

Touche, really.

Christine,

Yes, Goebbels and his people pioneered a lot of things a lot of people use. Michael Moore is as apt a student as any. Point taken.

Also, I agree. It was the conviction of the founding fathers that made things happen, but they were renegades of their time, whereas today we face an explosion of information and opinion we don’t yet know how to filter.

The real point here is how much potential violence is one person or a small cadre of individuals capable of laying down on the American public in retaliation against the tyranny of the majority. This is the bane of our existence these days.

A military history professor I had years ago described the balance of technological violence between the state and the individual as the key. Hundreds of years ago, radical violent technology came in the form of a peasant with one day of training on a crossbow that scared the hell out of knights who’d trained their entire lives.

Today, a couple of serious fanatics have the technological resources at hand to carry out a Mumbai style operation or an IED attack, a truck bombing, dirty bomb, chemical attack, nuclear attack. All of this is possible at the hands of a small group of people.

This military professor was talking about an upset in the balance of violent technology between the state and the individual. We are witnessing this imbalance and the only option is to regain that balance. Political compromise will never satisfy all and today it only takes a couple of disgruntled people with the right resources to do almost anything.

One of the dilemmas of our time.

Posted by: Fred at August 22, 2009 3:25 PM
Comment #286785

We agree about the danger of a determined weirdo or a small group of agitators.

You say that political compromise will never satisfy all.

I think that one of the best arguments for limited government related to this. Pluralism is an alternative to compromise. Let people alone to the extent possible so that nobody has to compromise anything.

We can do that today. In the recent past, we had to regiment society to a much greater extent. We mass produced goods and required masses of workers to produce them in the same ways.

Today we have the technologies and prosperity to allow many individuals to do as they please. We need less regimentation and less government. It is mass customization in business and we need to allow it also in government choice. This means making as few decisions as possible collectively and maximizing choice for individuals who obey a limited set of laws.

Many dangerous weirdos can become harmless and productive members of society if control on them is loose enough. Our own American system has been proving this for many years. Major crimes of more centralized states included things like smuggling otherwise legal goods, selling products for something other than a fixed price, or even just doing business w/o monopoly or “patent” from the government. This whole class of “criminals” are called entrepreneurs in our context.

If you make enough rules, you will provoke responses. I am not defending violence. Let me be clear. But much of the trouble we in any time of governmental change stems from the perception that government will impose new rules or obligations on something people think as non of government’s business.

Posted by: Christine at August 22, 2009 3:53 PM
Comment #286786


They know where not to step to. They don’t actually advocate armed rebellion, they insinuate it.

I believe this could be far more serious and dangerous than many here believe.

When we announced our independence from England, the British weren’t meet with a sea of humanity driving them back into the ocean. The larger majority stayed home, didn’t get involved unless they were forced to give shelter or service to the waring factions, waited the outcome.

The people who would resort to violent confrontation might be a fringe element in society but, in a nation of a few hundred million, a fringe element can number in the few millions.

Posted by: jlw at August 22, 2009 4:30 PM
Comment #286787

Christine said:

I think that one of the best arguments for limited government related to this. Pluralism is an alternative to compromise. Let people alone to the extent possible so that nobody has to compromise anything.

We can do that today. In the recent past, we had to regiment society to a much greater extent. We mass produced goods and required masses of workers to produce them in the same ways.

I view this as an enormously naive perspective, completely ignoring human nature as it is. The time for limited government was more than a century ago, when the population was small, spread out, and local governments and local consumers could oversee predominantly local trade and local producers.

This is a globalized economy we are engaged with, and more than 300 million people all raised in a culture where lying and deception are accepted as common-place. Our politicians lie, advertisers lie, and most of us even know some friends and family who will lie to avoid the responsibility for their actions. Add to these realities the perceived American right to demand services of our needs from the government in exchange for taxation regardless of how large or small, and the age of large government is not only upon us, but, inescapable.

The only course of action now is to demand greater efficiency and less waste of the tax dollars we vote to pay with every incumbent reelection. That, or as a people, adopt an anti-incumbent default position on election day unless and until, we as voters can approve of the results of our government.

Ideology, of necessity, rejects and ignores realities, in order to preserve its static nature in changing times. The perspective you proffer, Christine, is an ideology of more than a century ago, before the advent of the technological age and the concurrent population explosion in the 20th century.

Reality Check: Life expectancy is rising dramatically, far faster than the wealth accumulation gap will permit the majority of citizens to independently save and provide for themselves to the reaches of these years of life. The people have nowhere to turn in addressing this reality than their government. You can wish this were not the case. You can blah, blah, blah about how people should change their human nature and right quick at that. But, this is nothing more than burying one’s head in the sand to the realities.

One of the single most ameliorating actions our nation can take, today in addressing this reality is invest heavily in secular education universally. The better educated the population, the healthier their lifestyles, the greater their earnings, the more competitive the society in the global marketplace, and the more prosperous the nation to fund individually and collectively the demographic growth demand in health care. All of which will to some extent, lower the demands made upon government.

But this very prescription will require big government to fund, oversee, and standardize in terms of quality and benchmarks. The real world demands adaptability and innovation to changing circumstances, and sclerotic ideologies of past centuries are simply incapable of addressing such needs. Conservative and liberal ideologies are no longer appropriate to meet the challenges of today. We can neither return to small government nor can we chart a course forward toward government providing all, for all.

Our government, if it is to succeed in overcoming the threats and challenges before it, must invest in developing the population’s ability to better fend for themselves going forward. Failure will surely result in economic collapse and civil disorder on a massive scale, which is precisely why health care reform is finally and appropriately the foremost issue facing the nation. Failure to pass effective health care reform will result in deficits for many, many decades to come. And we don’t have the economic resources to survive such deficits, nor the social integrity to survive our government turning its back on an aging population’s health care availability issues, after they paid into a system to insure that availability.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 5:22 PM
Comment #286788

Stephen D. said: “Yep, we can can ignore what most of the people want in a Democratically run republic, because we know better than the lot of them.”

No. Our government can ignore what most of the people want because most of the people will reelect them despite the people NOT getting what they want. Just exactly what the Republican and Democratic parties have designed and successfully put in place to preserve their exclusive right to power in this country. A billion dollars in a presidential election year is spent to insure the people vote their incumbents back into office precisely because the people are dissatisfied with that government.

It takes that much money today to launch such monumental propaganda and attention diversion campaigns by the D & R parties, to dissuade the public from exercising their common sense vote for a challenger, instead of the incumbent who is part and parcel of the disappointment felt by voters in their government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2009 5:29 PM
Comment #286789


Christine, correct me if I’m wrong but, you seem to be saying that the majority should not do things that they believe will make society better if the miniority does not believe the changes will make society better.

There is a small element in this country that doesn’t believe we should have a standing army, the majority thinks differently.

There was a large vocal and violent minority, some might even say a majority, of people who thought that civil rights and integration was a horrible idea. I think you would agree that we as a society did the right thing. It hasn’t been easy, we are still struggling with it but, we are making progress and the children of the future will think of it as the norm.

Many people don’t like change, it’s often frightning. They resist it, struggle against it until it becomes the norm and then they don’t want to change it.


Posted by: jlw at August 22, 2009 5:56 PM
Comment #286790


Stephen D., The ability of a minority to influence government policy is usually determined by the minority’s wealth and the amounts of that wealth that ends up in the coffers of incumbents.

Posted by: jlw at August 22, 2009 6:38 PM
Comment #286791

David, thanks for allowing me to say ‘dito’ on 286787. Education is key to preventing a total colaspe of the middle class. We have a large number of folks who are deemed ‘unemployable’ amongst us. Felons who have served their time should be allowed to vote. A concerted effort should be made to train low income folks in the electro/mechanical, iron worker, steel rigging, boiler making, ship building, etc. Training should lead to certification and followed up with job placement. And, many middle class workers, while competitive, needs remedial or contining education. Also, need to put retired professionals in the classrooms on a part time volunteer basis. High schools should function to serve as college preparatory schools. This is spelled out in the Republic Sentry Vision for USA (agenda) page.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 22, 2009 7:30 PM
Comment #286794

David

I think the scenario I proffer is POST – industrial I know it might seem counter intuitive, to those of us who grew up in the machine-age with models of increasing regimentation. But think about your choices compared to your father’s. It is true that he could take off into more open spaces. But you have greater choices of lifestyle & profession and you can travel more freely around the country.

Think about the concept of mass customization. Henry Ford famously said that his customers could have their cars in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. The computer I am using was not made until I ordered it and it was made to my specifications.

A short time ago, we had to choose from a limited menu or products because the costs of variation were prohibitive. As workers we were also regimented to the needs of the machines. Big government came with this system. The Europeans got Communism and Fascism, which were macro-manifestations of this big machine age. Our factories and lives were also run along the lines of scientific management. You are probably familiar with Fredrick Taylor. It worked very well, but created the threat of dehumanized machine environment we all feared.

Our wealth has also multiplied. Even the poor among us now almost always own televisions, dishwashers & cars. A majority of Americans own stocks and all but the poorest have bank accounts. This was not the case a half century ago. Most of us are not a close to subsistence as our grandfathers were.

In other words, we have choices that our parents didn’t have. They depended a lot more on direct government help. To mix a metaphor, for us the government can be more like the watchmaker who sets up the system and then mostly leaves it alone.
It is also true that the world has become more complicated, too complicated for government to micro-mange. Government managers and politicians cannot keep up with changes in technologies and techniques.

Think of how the technologies have impacted governments ability to plan. The large centralized computers, so expensive that few could afford them, gave power to large institutions. (The Soviets thought this would save their planning.) Today you and I have more computing power than Gosplan had when we were young.

Changes in society and technology have decentralized knowledge and power. We no longer need to be told what to do by the central authorities. And we no longer have to accept the analysis done by the government planners. We can check ourselves.

Our government will work best when it takes advantage of imagination, innovation and individual decisions of its intelligent citizens. At least that is my vision of what it should be if we can keep the controlling bureaucrats and politicians off our backs and in their proper roles.

Jlw

See above for details.

I believe that the majority should rule and respect the rights of the minority. Some of the majority in one situation will somebody be the minority in another, so it is in everyone’s best interest not to lord it over others during their temporary ascendancy.

Choice and freedom are important. There are many things outside the legitimate scope of government, no matter how many people vote for them. On the extreme level, slavery and genocide are wrong, even if the majority is eager to impose these things on the minority. Our Constitution lists rights that specifically limit what the majority can do.

So yes, I believe that there are many cases where, as you say “majority should not do things that they believe will make society better if the minority does not believe the changes will make society better.” I suspect you do too, if you think about it.

Posted by: Christine at August 22, 2009 7:52 PM
Comment #286802

Christine, you are talking about the maturity of capitalist enterprise and marketing and advertising, in the midst of an enormous growing middle class.

What has any of that to do with the size of government or the ideology previously discussed? All the developments you mention were concurrent with tremendous growth in the size of government. It appears as though you are now arguing against your previous statements regarding smaller government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 10:29 AM
Comment #286805

David

The government has been growing because of the growth of transfer payments and entitlements, which now make up around 2/3 of the expenses (up from around 1/3 a generation ago).

This is indeed a serious problem. We largely put these things on autopilot during the 1970s w/o thinking about the costs. Entitlements are an artifact of the older centralized system. In many ways this part of government is now an independent growth. It is not really doing anything in the policy field, but rather does things like take money from young people and give it to old people, i.e. transfer.

As I said, it is a very serious problem that we have avoided and need to address. This may indeed bankrupt us as a country, but I am optimistic about the rest of the government.Let me explain.

The size and scope of what government needs to do and what government can do is shaped by the society around it. In a poor or simple society, government needs to made investments and take charge in ways it doesn’t need to do as conditions improve and people can make their own choices.

In the early 20th Century we faced the nightmare of a regimented society with government (communist, fascist or socialist) to go with it. This was not only a result of ideology but also pushed by industrial processes that benefited from and even required centralized decision making.

In the U.S., government had to respond to big business by becoming bigger itself. Even a conservative like Theodore Roosevelt became a strong proponent of a counterbalancing government power.

More importantly, government COULD regulate big business precisely because it was big. It could keep track of the limited numbers of centralized large firms, even if it couldn’t always control them.

The society you and I grew up in seemed to be drifting inexorably toward more centralized control. But by the time John Kenneth Galbraith wrote his book about the new industrial state, claiming that big firms like GM so effectively controlled their markets that they could never be assailed and so become de-facto socialized, the system was changing.

New technologies decentralized decision making and empowered small firms and individuals. Big firms started to be replaced by more nimble competitors. The only one of the original DOW companies to remain on that list is General Electric, BTW).

The power of the centralized organizations of all kinds (government and private) began to drain away. Regulation is hopelessly complicated when you are trying to set the rules for thousands of firms that do not currently exist that will be using techniques and technologies not yet developed. Government is faced with the tough decision of whether to slow innovation enough to regulate it in detail or loosen regulations and let the people innovate. Fortunately, government has chosen the latter option in things like Internet, media, nanotechnologies and many other innovations. It was bipartisan, BTW.

We should have as much government as we need, not more or less. And we have to recognize the limits of not only government but of any human endeavor. We cannot achieve perfection. In fact we would not even be able to come up with a common definition of perfection among the contributors to this blog. We need government … in its proper role. But (as my significant other always says) the American nation is much greater than the American government.

Posted by: Christine at August 23, 2009 12:25 PM
Comment #286809


Christine, yes there are times when a majority in Government have passed things that perhaps they shouldn’t.

Our whole concept of majority is fouled up anyway. No man in history has been elected president with a majority of the American people voting for him.

In the last few decades most major legislation has been passed by and for a small but very influencial minority against the will of a provable majority.

The retoric of both political parties has, more often than not, been forgotten when they are in power and producing legislation.

The government became much larger when both Reagan and Bush were in office and both were big advocates of smaller government.

The government is as good as we want it to be and it is bad because we can’t agree on what we want it to do.

Posted by: jlw at August 23, 2009 1:38 PM
Comment #286810

jlw

Government power corrupts everybody. I don’t mean they become dishonest (although many do) but rather they succumb to the hubris that they should and CAN solve all sorts of problems for people. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Lawyers say that hard cases make bad law. The same is true of good politicians faced with hard problems. As human beings, they want to help. And they employ expedients that work for some and for a time while imposing unforeseen costs on others and long term costs on the system as a whole. All the while creating a web of dependency and corruption.

We will never be able to stop this. But if we stop resisting it will get that much worse.

Posted by: Christine at August 23, 2009 2:03 PM
Comment #286811

Christine & jlw, Don’t see how you can expect to have an unbiased debate on the subjects you are debating. There is this huge conflict of interest that has saddled the government since the late 1800’s, Corporate Personhood. Leaves one unable to debate about the ‘government’ in the correct sense. To debate correctly you must debate about the Corpocracy.
jlw wrote – “Our whole concept of majority is fouled up anyway. No man in history has been elected president with a majority of the American people voting for him.
In the last few decades most major legislation has been passed by and for a small but very influential minority against the will of a provable majority.” And,
The government is as good as we want it to be and it is bad because we can’t agree on what we want it to do.”

I would clarify your comments by stating that few men have stood for President outside those made eligible by the Corpocracy. And we do have the minority in control of the majority when it comes to passing legislation. That minority is cemented in place by the Corpocracy. IMO, nothing political can be properly discussed without including the influence of the Corpocracy relative to the issue at hand.
When people say they can’t agree on how to improve government I think they are assigning a certain apathy to their expectations of government based on their silent realization that they are really talking about the Corpocracy rather than government. IMO, this country should back up and correct some things before attempting to move forward Instead of stopping every half hour to pump up a tire why not fix the flat? You’d get home a lot faster.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve!

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 23, 2009 2:14 PM
Comment #286812

Christine said: “The government has been growing because of the growth of transfer payments and entitlements, which now make up around 2/3 of the expenses (up from around 1/3 a generation ago).”

YA! So? The people make demands on their government to provide things which the private sector would not, or could not, provide. That is one of the many purposes of a democratically elected government.

Read your history, Christine. The private sector failed the public sector horribly in 1929 with the stock market crash and massive bank foreclosures, wiping out the public’s savings, causing millions to lose their their jobs and homes and whatever security they saved up in the private sector for their retirement years. The people demanded security for their savings and retirement years. The private sector could not and would not act in a manner as to secure the public’s savings and provide for their retirement years.

When Medicare began on July 1, 1966, there were 19.1 million persons enrolled in the program. Here again, there was the great growth in the middle class of our population, whose wages in mines, steel mills, factories, and small businesses allowed them to enter that great middle class, but, medical emergencies and failing health of parents and grandparents threatened to wipe out their savings and bump them right back out of the middle class.

The Early 1960s recession, also called theRecession of 1960, was yet another chapter in the modern economic cycle that has shown its ugly side so many times to the U.S., as well as to the world. This recession was characterized by, once again, astronomically high unemployment rates, incredibly high inflation, and a bad Gross National Product rating.

These all worked together to cause consumer confidence in the system to plummet, and caused a downward spiral to develop that swallowed many businesses. This in turn caused unemployment to rise, and so the cycle began again.

What ended the recession was the call President Kennedy made on January 30 of 1961 to increase government spending to improve the Gross National Product. This helped reduce unemployment, helped bring back confidence in the economy, helped out many businesses, and helped the recession to come to an end that very year.

The public in the few following years recognized that the private sector health care system in America could not, and would not, provide for their and their children’s needs in times of recession unemployment through no fault of workers in the middle class.

You are right, in 2003, there were over 41 million people enrolled in Medicare/Medicaid and that is now posing a serious economic dilemma as these payers into the system retire and their contributions cease and their draw upon the system begins.

When you say, “We largely put these things on autopilot during the 1970s w/o thinking about the costs.”, your comment entirely ignores the actual historical context and rationale. In addition, your comment presumes that visionaries into the future of 50 years existed with any accuracy at all. Medicare and Medicaid are TO THIS DAY, still producing surplus revenues and shall for another few years.

It would have been ridiculous in the 1960’s to allow 50 years of American suffering and unnecessary death to occur among the population for the sake of your argument that SOME DAY, there MIGHT BE a demographic scenario in which the balance between retirees and workers paying into the system would go out of whack.

This is another example of your commentary’s ideology failing to take reality into account.

The problem ISN’T and wasn’t the establishment of these entitlement programs. The problem is, and has been, both the demographic unforeseen in the 1930’s and 1960’s when these programs were established, and incumbent politicians refusing to take any political risks in properly managing and adjusting these programs to insure their continued solvency. Hence the name: “Third Rail” of politics, attributed.

There was nothing inherently wrong with these programs and well over 100 million Americans have been well served by these programs in the intervening years, preserving their dignity and sense of hope in times of great financial and health care challenges.

The problem today with these programs is our politicians and the two party system that serves only ONE master, the reelection options of their Party. To hell with appropriate reforms and management of these programs if any political risk attends such reforms or policy adjustments.

I for one, out of objective analysis, have to give credit to the Democrats for finally taking the political risk of addressing these reforms and adjustments, that must be made. Risks Republicans would not even consider in any practical way that would have sustained these programs for the benefit of the American public.

GW Bush’s attempt to privatize Soc. Sec. was simply unacceptable to the American public, and its transition would have bankrupted millions of Americans if the transition were abrupt, or run deficits for decades until a privatized system was fully in replacement of the Soc. Sec. system.

Considering the enormous preservation of dignity and support for middle class lifestyle which these programs have provided for Americans for decades, the Republicans today are very simply on the wrong side of these issues due to their rigid ideology which fails to encompass and allow for the realities of history and current circumstances. As a result, they are no entirely out of power as well. As they should be by their actions in Iraq, treatment of Constitutional protections, and intentions to take Medicare and Social Security away from the American people trying to assure them they will be better off without these programs when the next recession puts them out of work and income.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 3:06 PM
Comment #286813

Roy

Government always represents current power structures. This is a tautology. Experience shows that those most interested in regulations are those who would be regulated. They have a right to protect themselves from rapacious government officials. But they also come to see regulations as a way to put the power of government on their side. Established interests come to control the regulators and begin to use them to prevent entry by new providers or generally stifle competition

Experience shows this happens everywhere and always has. Government and powerful interests merge. In fact, until a couple hundred years ago, there were no free markets at all. Everybody had to get a monopoly or a patent from a government authority. The big “corporations” of the past were essentially arms of or de-facto government. Think of the British East India Company, the VOC or the Haneasic League.

The only way to prevent your “corpocracy” from using the sharp weapons of the state is not to have those weapons available to them, hence the need to limit the scope of government.

You will always have a corpocracy. The only question is how much reach you want to give it.

Posted by: Christine at August 23, 2009 3:07 PM
Comment #286814

David

I would be very happy to give everybody a nice middle class lifestyle. I think the phase used to be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. But I do worry about paying for things I think would be good to have.

The government got into the transfer payment business in a big way in the 1960s, as you mention. The people want it. They just cannot have them much longer. Entitlements today take up 2/3 of the total Federal Budget. The accounting fiction that SS etc are running surpluses doesn’t change the macro number. And they are growing rapidly.

Other parts of government (discretionary spending) have not been growing that fast or at all. As a % of GDP, discretionary spending is significantly lower today than in was forty years ago (1969) and, BTW, TOTAL defense spending last year was 4.7% of GDP, only a little more than half of what it was in 1969.

So unless you want to pay higher taxes and have your Federal government do nothing except transfer money from the young to the old and from the working to the non-working parts of the population, we have to address this fantastic growth of entitlements.

I am old enough that by the time the full weight of this problem lands on our chests, I will be among the subsidized part of the population. But I don’t think it is fair for the young people to work so hard to keep me in extra comfort. Maybe we disagree.

BTW - Read your own history about the Panic of 1907 and the recovery and then about the crash of 1929 and the long depression and especially about the role of the money supply. The government has the monopoly on the printing of money. It is its duty to pump liquidity, as it has done well under the Fed in recent months. Very few people oppose this role for government, although many ordinary people are probably mostly unaware of it.

Posted by: Christine at August 23, 2009 3:28 PM
Comment #286815

Christine, You type: “we have to address this fantastic growth of entitlements.”, but, what I hear in those words is the implication that they have to end or be curtailed in order to bring looming deficits under control.

There are options. Several are now on the table, to address the Medicare deficits in the long term without denying Americans dignity and their life savings as a result of a health care emergency, which may never have occurred if they had health insurance in the first place.

Is is it save to assume you oppose any such option which does not put the onus of individual health care completely on the individual regardless of a recession putting them out of work, or their employer not able to provide them health insurance and stay in business?

The Public option gives businesses in America who provide health insurance to employees, the option of remaining in business if, in addition to operating costs and recession arrested sales, their employee benefits threatened bankruptcy.

They can with clear conscience, end employee health care, remain in business and become more competitive with foreign businesses who don’t have the burden of employee health care, knowing that their employees will continue to have health care insurance under the public option reforms now in play. In turn, their remaining in business stimulates the economy, and their wages paid shores up consumerism, and consumers consuming represents 70% of America’s entire GDP activity.

The plans in play, were it not for Democrats proposing them, actually meet some of the objectives of conservatives and Republicans in allowing American businesses to become more competitive in the global marketplace.

But, all this is moot. Republicans cannot allow health care reform to pass if they can help it, regardless of what shape it takes, as long as Democrats will be credited with grappling with the third rail and passing health care reform that addresses the needs of the people and the looming Medicare/Medicaid deficits in the long term.

That, Christine, is the long and short of the political debate on the Republican and conservative side of the equation.

The policy debate is taking place amongst the various committees competing to design a more optimal reform plan in terms of universality of coverage and taking down health care deficits for the government and putting a halt to the private sector’s spiraling health care inflation. 160 Republican amendments have been adopted by the 5 competing reform plans in development.

Rather odd, don’t you think, in light of right wing claims that the Republicans are being shut out of the process with no voice on the issue? Poppycock. Just political slander as usual.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 4:11 PM
Comment #286816

Christine,

“As a % of GDP, discretionary spending is significantly lower today than in was forty years ago (1969) and, BTW, TOTAL defense spending last year was 4.7% of GDP, only a little more than half of what it was in 1969.”

Basic defence spending, maybe, but if we include all of the things that aren’t included in the defence budget that are hidden in other departments budgets…..well.

From wikipedia;

“For the 2009 fiscal year, the base budget rose to $515.4 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending and supplemental spending brings the sum to $651.2 billion.[1] This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (about $9.3 billion, which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs (about $33.2 billion), interest on debt incurred in past wars, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, about $170 billion in 2007). As of 2009, the United States government is spending about $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes.”

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 23, 2009 4:12 PM
Comment #286817

Christine said: “But I don’t think it is fair for the young people to work so hard to keep me in extra comfort.”

That says it all, for me, regarding your position on the matter Christine. You consider health an extra comfort which only those whose personal wealth can afford it, should be entitled to.

Thank you very much for your candor on this. I reject your value system entirely, as representative of the GOP and its hardened ideology so out of touch with reality, and the needs of hard working Americans, who by virtue of their labor, SHOULD be able to afford health care for themselves and their family.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 4:15 PM
Comment #286819

IMO, I think this story and most of the comments to be quite naive and ignorant to the actuality of human behavior.

Everyone wants to argue the merrits of thier side, the consitution and what it means to them and what our ‘forefathers’ meant, but the truth is it has never meant a damn thing considering it excluded over half the population from the very rights they seemed to hold in such high regard.

Their motives were never about freedom for ALL, only their own freedom to control the people themselves. They wrapped it up in a big, shiny FREDOM bow then sent men off to die for it just like they do now, and from that sprung the cesspool of governemnt.

In nature, there will always be those who want to be in charge and beleive that their way is the only real ‘right’ way to live. Once in charge, those people will be more than willing to impose that way of life by gunpoiint if necessary. Then there are some who do it by way of bombing a federal building. There is no difference between the two except that it’s easier and feels much better to call the bomber a wack-job because unlike the good ole’ federal governemnt, he doesn’t have the power to decide how you can and can’t live your life down to even the most personal of choices.

And it seems to me that most people are always looking for someone to take care of them, to make all the hard decisions and be responsible for the catastrophies so we don’t have to be. Because of that, it’s so easy for those in power to scare and bully us into the path they choose.

This is the way of humanity, and until people stop looking for a way to bubble wrap life and shirk their own personal responsibilities, forsaking what is right for what is safe, it will always be this way.

Here’s a quote… since everyone seems to be a fan:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” -Frederick Douglass (August 4, 1857)

Posted by: JustMy2Cents at August 23, 2009 4:54 PM
Comment #286820

Christine, pardon me while I go away and bang my head against some rocks and trees in trying to work through your post on Corpocracy. ………… Ok, some relief in all that. Maybe if you gave me some words on Corporations being human or on Money is Free Speech. Or, what are your expectations of government, on a scale of 1 – 10, based on the Corpocracy we have? At one point in our history corporations were not allowed to donate to political campaigns. Would it be unwise if that were the case today?

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 23, 2009 5:08 PM
Comment #286822

roy

“At one point in our history corporations were not allowed to donate to political campaigns. Would it be unwise if that were the case today? “


not as long as the trial lawyers, and organized labor were also banned from political contributions.

Posted by: dbs at August 23, 2009 6:23 PM
Comment #286824

dbs, great point. Individual Americans have a legitimate right to contribute their own money up to a point short of buying elected power for themselves. But, corporations and labor unions SHOULD NOT have the right to contribute to campaigns of THEIR choosing while passing the cost of those contributions on to all consumers, organization members or, people serviced by their organization.

Don’t hold your breath for either of the duopoly parties to see it that way, however.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 7:12 PM
Comment #286825

JustMy, apropos’ two cents!

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2009 7:14 PM
Comment #286827

David

Entitlements in 2054 are projected to make up the same % of GDP that the whole Federal budget now encompasses, i.e. if the government did nothing else but transfer money from one set of citizens to another, we would enjoy the same level of spending as we do today. And they won’t stop growing even then. Whether we bring them in line through cuts, bending the cost curve down, cost controls or anything else doesn’t really matter. We have to bring them down.

You may believe that the primary task of government is to redistribute income, but surely you don’t see that as its only task.

I would go with the Scandinavian style health care program with universal coverage and significant de-facto rationing. This should make liberals happy, since it is a single payer. I don’t think it is great, but it is possible. But I am currently pessimistic. I am reasonably certain that the current proposals will fail, or more correctly will pay off the special interests but not address the problem of health care costs of coverage.

Re not wanting young people to pay for my comfort – I am speaking for myself. I think it will be very selfish of me if I make extraordinary demands on the youth of 2020 (the year I have to retire). Maybe it is indeed a conservative idea that I don’t want to be a burden on my children and that I don’t feel entitled to a big % of their income that I would rather they spend on my grandchildren.


Rocky

If you include in the accounting everything related to military you can push the total way up. Presumably the Dept of Energy research benefits others too. Pensions are a type of transfer payment. You can pay it that way or another. You also probably want the military and national guard to be on hand for emergencies. But I will go with the macro numbers. Entitlements make up 2/3 of the budget. Let’s pretend the military accounts for EVERYTHING besides that. Cutting military doesn’t solve the problem. If we cut EVERTHING besides entitlements, we still have to cut entitlements.

Roy

Let me boil it down - Government has the power of coercion and a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Corporations lack this power and can exercise it ONLY indirectly through government. This power attracts ambitious people. Over the long run (and most short ones) people in power WILL abuse their power. The only way to control it is to NOT concentrate too much power in any one place. Your best bet for maintaining your own freedom is to balance ambitions against ambition. I didn’t think this up, BTW.

We wisely do not let corporations contribute to political campaigns.

Roy & David – to clarify Corporations current are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.

http://www.fec.gov/law/feca/feca.pdf

Please take a look at Section 441B on page 77
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits direct corporate contributions to candidates. It also prohibits any use of corporate facilities, resources, or employees provided by the corporation to a campaign.

Posted by: Christine at August 23, 2009 9:14 PM
Comment #286829

Christine,

“Cutting military doesn’t solve the problem. If we cut EVERTHING besides entitlements, we still have to cut entitlements.”

Why don’t we do it this way?
We pay back everything that was supposed to actually go into the fund for the entitlements and it doesn’t get used for anything else, ever.
Kind of like Gore’s “lock-box”.

Or, even better.
There are those in this country that actually don’t need Medicare or SSI to live quite comfortably.
How about we reserve these “entitlements” for those that do actually have a need for them?

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 23, 2009 11:49 PM
Comment #286830

Rocky

You have proposed sensible but impossible solutions. You cannot actually pay back entitlements since the government borrowed the money from itself. We who paid payroll taxes paid less in other taxes but for the government it was a lot like writing a check to yourself. If I have $100 in the bank and then write a check to myself for $100, I don’t all of a sudden have $200. In the private world, they call that check kiting. Of course government makes up its own alternative rules, but even it still cannot spend the same money twice and/or spend it and still claim to have it.

The second idea you mention - means testing Medicare and SS goes against that whole trust fund myth so carefully constructed by FDR and nurtured for generations. In theory, we are getting what we paid in. This myth, BTW, is why some people accepted the “lockbox” myth. It also goes against the idea of equality.

President Bush floated an idea similar to yours in 2005 and you may remember the screaming. In other words, your idea makes too much sense to be acceptable politically.

Posted by: Christine at August 24, 2009 12:02 AM
Comment #286831

Technically and legally, you are right Christine. I appreciate your extra effort to help me understand your position but I don’t buy into your logic. It makes no sense to me to have money influence government especially to the degree we see today.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 24, 2009 12:08 AM
Comment #286861
You cannot actually pay back entitlements since the government borrowed the money from itself.

Which is why Dick Cheney and numerous economists say that deficits don’t matter.

It’s what you use them for, and how, that matters.

Posted by: gergle at August 24, 2009 2:44 PM
Comment #286873

Justmy2cents,

Obviously you’re a super realist and we should all be honest about human behavior, but isn’t this just another in a long line of cop outs? In trying to form a more perfect union, things have changed as has human behavior, immensely. I appreciate the history lesson on what America really is, but no one here needs it, save our friends in the red column.

There are always two sides to any argument, but this one’s main attempt was to point out the misuse of a quote to further violence.

Aside from that, I don’t think we should give up that easily just on the premise “people will be people” and start passin’ the ammunition around.

Your quote at the end said it all. What percentage of this country do you think believes they are enduring tyranny right now? Honestly. Compared to Iran, North Korea, Burma, etc.

I think you may be a victim of America’s fear culture and your beginning to scare the rest of us.

Posted by: Fred at August 24, 2009 7:12 PM
Comment #286875

Roy

It is very hard to figure out the exact arrow of causality of money and power. Money creates power. Power gets money. Power maintains money. Money supports power. I am sure you understand.

Sometimes I worry MORE about people not very interested in money. There is no indication that people like Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao or bin Laden were in it for the money. Single minded true believers rarely are and they tend to be dangerous. But returning to our case…

Money flows to Washington to the extent Washington can reward or punish. On the defensive, a large business cannot ignore Washington, since competitors or adversaries may well influence laws and regulations that could put them out of business.

It MUST hire lobbyists. On the offensive, other firms and interest groups can harness the power of politics to increase their share of the pie, which in the world of politics means taking from someone else or even to attack their competitors using laws and regulation and power of the government.

You cannot stop this. It is like discovering gold on your property, then saying you are not going to use it AND expecting others to ignore it as well. It just won’t happen.

The only way to limit the “corpocracy” is to remove the temptation by limiting what they can get. If you decentralize power, individuals, firms and interest groups will spread out their efforts and since none will be able to score so big a win by leveraging politics, the interest in influencing and corrupting the system will diminish.

Posted by: Christine at August 24, 2009 8:38 PM
Comment #286878

Christine, if I could write like that I’d be running 3 or 4 successful third parties! But, hey, your on the right track, finally!! Or, maybe you just got down to my level??
You wrote: “On the defensive, a large business cannot ignore Washington, since competitors or adversaries may well influence laws and regulations that could put them out of business.
It MUST hire lobbyists.”
I agree. Firms should be allowed to lobby 24/7. I believe firms should not pay any taxes. I also believe that Corporations should not be allowed to INDIRECTLY or directly fund campaigns, junkets, provide transportation, entertainment and the like for the politicos. No bundling, PACs, and the hundreds of ways corporations and the AMA and the Lawyers Assoc, ad infinitum, find to shovel money to the politicos.

You wrote: “On the offensive, other firms and interest groups can harness the power of politics to increase their share of the pie, which in the world of politics means taking from someone else or even to attack their competitors using laws and regulation and power of the government.
You cannot stop this
I believe it can be stopped or severely limited. I believe that government has no business deciding the number of stitches on a baseball cover or making decisions, irregardless of their weight, while under the influence of the Corpocracy, or money. We have too much democracy; we need to roll back on democracy and practice more at being a Republic. Government needs to get out of managing the details of business and people’s lives. Both business and government are manipulated through the tax code, and so it goes. Business spends their working days, and a corporation has perpetuity, lobbying to put all the risk on the taxpayer, and so it goes. Politicians need to be left to make legislative decisions based on merit of the proposed legislation, free of the money influence from any quarter.
I believe it can be done, and through a third party with a different political attitude.
I believe we would first have to abolish, or perhaps modify Corporate Personhood law and abolish Money is Free Speech law.
Campaign Finance Reform: All donations to be given by the individual (human type). All donations are forwarded to the IRS for accounting. On some schedule the IRS passes bulk donation funds to the FEC. Now the audit trail for donated funds is broken. The FEC, on a scheduled basis, funds viable political parties based on some criteria such as the number of candidates standing for election in any given cycle. More complex than that for sure, but not an impossible feat to decide how to divvy up the funds.
With the influence of money removed the politicians are free to concentrate on legislation and their constituents as opposed to spending 3/4s of their time looking for campaign funds.

That’s a quick cut at it Christine! Your thoughts?

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve!

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 24, 2009 10:32 PM
Comment #286886

Seems I can never finish my thoughts in a post. Christine, you wrote: “The only way to limit the “corpocracy” is to remove the temptation by limiting what they can get. If you decentralize power, individuals, firms and interest groups will spread out their efforts and since none will be able to score so big a win by leveraging politics, the interest in influencing and corrupting the system will diminish.”
You would decentralize power by reinstating anti-trust law. Anybody over $50B in assets gets anti-trusted. The increase in competition is a good thing and it cuts down on the ‘too big to fail’ syndrome.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 25, 2009 8:48 AM
Comment #286999

Can anybody tell me the difference between the guys that have been disrupting the town hall meetings and Andrew Meyer?

You all remember Andrew Meyer, he was the University of Florida student that got “tazed” at a John Kerry “Town hall” in 2007.
Meyer was pilloried by Bill O’Reilly who said, “It’s not pleasant, but that idiot, he wanted this to happen. He wanted the cops to do it. He wanted to disrupt the forum. And to me, I think he should be prosecuted…Well, what about disrupting the peace? You know, this is what — look, the guy goes in there. He’s totally inappropriate in every way. There isn’t one appropriate thing the man did. He wants to disrupt the forum. Security has an obligation not to allow the forum to be disrupted.”

Sean Hannity chimed in with “This guy disrupted the event. He disturbed the peace.”

(thanks to the Rude Pundit for pointing all this out)

I would submit that these gun toting yahoos all want to water the “Tree of Liberty” all right, but the bodily fluid they are using isn’t blood.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 28, 2009 12:13 AM
Comment #287102

Rocky

The protesters today are indeed very similar, maybe some of the same people, who disrupted the Social Security meetings in 2005 and were involved with all the anti-war meetings.

In those days conservatives complained about them while liberals called dissent patriotic. Now conservatives think dissent is patriotic while liberals want to shut it down. It goes to show how politics trumps virtue on both sides.

Posted by: Christine at August 29, 2009 7:56 PM
Comment #287103

I think I’m beginning to suffer from post partisan depression.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 29, 2009 8:46 PM
Comment #287114

Interesting article though I am late to the discussion. Let me make a couple of points:

1. Watering the Tree of Liberty….
After reading a few posts one must realize that Fred is taking a literal position on Jefferson’s writings. While Jefferson’s words should be taken literally for his times when the ‘Revolution’ was still fresh in everyone’s mind, most ‘reasonable’ people today will take a more figurative meaning to his words - at least those with an average amount of (dare I say) common sense. It is unfortunate that those in charge of mainstream public education do not promote more unbiased intellectual discussion as it relates to how the words of the ‘founding fathers’ differ now from then. If that were so, I think there would much less misunderstand should quotes be taken ‘out of context’.

2.It is not fruitful to the discussion to demean and be condescending towards the commentators. This is a tactic too oft used by university professors who have contempt for their students - particularly if they disagree with the position put forward by said professor. That only serves to promote anger rather than to question with intelligence. ALL arguments have value of some kind even if it visceral rather than intellectual.

Posted by: Suzanne Boisvert at August 30, 2009 11:08 AM
Comment #287116

Roy,
Right on the mark. When the Legislature reformed election funding policy years ago they most certainly did not go far enough - that would go against self-interest. PAC’s and bundling is favored by powerful unions. Their membership too often has no say in who gets the $$$ - that’s a pretty neat trick. May I add term limits for the Congress and Senate? What do you think of 3 terms.

I do think the perhaps you should run on that platform. In this political climate you would win.

But we digress from the original train of thought.


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