Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a book that is to be “chewed and digested,” as Sir Francis Bacon wrote of classic works. So when in the course of slowly perusing what the distinguished French statesman had to say of the perils impending in America, should our populace opt for government centralization, it bears taking notice.
Rainbow Six Patriots is an action game generating some buzz for its plotline of opposing a counter-terrorism task force and a violent terrorist organization comprised of American citizens. Though the terrorists in the game are distinctly fighting for the class warfare cause, it can be imagined that the terrorists are right-wing militia or “tea baggers.”
What the left wants is for us to concentrate on each other instead of on the government. If a game comes out where the right can fantasize about stopping OWS terrorists, and the OWSers can fantasize about taking out extremist “tea baggers,” then the government wins.
The real problem is the U.S. government spending trillions in money we don’t have. Sensible Americans have lived in terror for the last three years, thanks to the non-stop spending binge of Washington, unmanageable debt, rampant unemployment, more undeclared aggressive wars, and infringements on our civil liberties. We need to worry more about the Feds, the Dems, and the RINOs than the street rabble.
Enjoy the game, but don’t get too absorbed with the concept of shooting fellow American citizens who may be confused about the current political situation.
A century into the progressive domination of politics, and the slow creep of statism has led to a massive government promising its citizens everything from subsidized childcare and medical care to free education and retirement pensions. Of course, these benefits of simply being born in this country are being financed by productive citizens, while liberals accrue all the credit by merely waving their hands from the lofty seats of government.
Many conservatives grumble about this state of affairs but accept as a way of life the perquisites, which allow progressives to act like all good comes from the state’s magical money tree.
But contrary to common belief, there is so such a thing as an opportunity cost. We cannot continue to have freedom and fiat, economic dependency and social license, mediocrity and prosperity. Americans appear to believe that society can be rearranged like modular furniture, and liberty and tyranny can coexist side by side. But these are antitheses – eventually one will win out.
American politicians today seem to think themselves invincible sovereigns who can toy with the fates of three hundred million people and there is nothing the latter can do about it. They blow the taxpayers’ money with no regard for the country’s future, endlessly meddle with the economy, and brazenly flaunt The Constitution that grants them any power to begin with. The same hubris that causes politicians to ignore the laws of economics leads them to ignore political history. This is not just to the nation’s peril, but to their own.
While reading an academic article constructively criticizing Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” I encountered an extended section on John Locke and his contributions to solving problems of sovereignty, political order, and legitimacy. The implications of the passage are worth noting because Locke’s principles are foundational in their influence on The American Constitution. (Along with Montesquieu’s principles of divided powers.)
Democracy in its purer forms is not the glorious system of government advertised in today’s popular culture, especially if encompassing a broad, populous, and diverse political community. Factions tend to arise and seek to seize government to achieve narrow ends in disregard of the impact on the broader political community. As John Adams succinctly wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Because of the unstable nature of democracy, a political system especially unsuitable for such a vast and diverse nation, our founders instituted a governmental system of divided powers and checks and balances, so as to pit interest against interest. A federal government, and not a national one, was established; nonetheless, many “anti-federalists,” who were ironically enough the true federalists, perceived flaws in the Constitutional framework that they believed would lead to the rise of a dominant central government.
Nonetheless, it was the founders’ hope and intention that the kind of power hungry elites who tended to be attracted to centralized government would be so pre-occupied with struggling for power against one another that they would be unable to impose tyranny on the masses. But should ruling elites find it more expedient and beneficial to conspire together to entrench their own power at the expense of the people, the system would be gradually undermined, and eventually, made obsolete.
One “anti-federalist” who made strong and articulate objections to The Constitution, because of what he saw as its weakness to check unscrupulous power-seekers, and its initially feeble articulation of the federal government’s duty to preserve the rights of the people, was George Mason. As the prescient Mason summarized, “This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other. ”
What we are witnessing in this country is the coming to pass of Mason’s prediction. The nation is being destabilized and brought to crisis by a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” looting the general wealth of the nation to dispense to interest group factions in order to entrench its own political power. One such faction, the left-wing coalition, seeks to do away with the electoral college, which would remove yet another institutional barrier to the ruling elites’ power.
This corrupt oppressive aristocracy is apparently so concerned with personal enrichment and the petty trappings of power that they are concomitantly allowing the rise of a strong and potentially oppressive executive. We should point out here that the political systems of a “monarchy” and a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” are not necessarily mutually exclusive; monarchy is in many ways not an actually existing form of government, because executive-dominated governments de facto require some kind of aristocracy in order to function.
While the government in some ways represents the political opposition of different forms of government, the executive being the monarchical, the Senate being the oligarchical, the House being the democratic, and the judicial assuming the role of arbitrator between the three institutions, there is the possibility of politicians within the government orchestrating a joint imposition of power and control over the people to personally enrich themselves, secure their privileged places in society, and to acquire in their minds some temporary and fleeting form of glory.
The real matter thus consists in where the power lay: in the oligarchy of government or in the people as individuals. The Constitutional system was meant to broker the relations between both and to prevent the rise of extremes from oligarchic imposition from above and democratic mob rule from below. It was thus established to unite the states in common cause, soothe internal political instability, prevent civil war, and protect the citizens from oppression coming from above. The politicians’ undermining of the Constitution has largely come by eroding institutional checks to federal government power by enacting popular measures, and then passing unpopular measures in defiance of the public, which now finds itself frustratingly prostrate to oppose the elites by legal means.
How democracy leads to oligarchy through revolution was formulated by the philosopher and Constitutional scholar Aristotle: “In democracies, revolutions are due mainly to demagogic attacks on wealth, leading the wealthy of combine, and they result in the establishment of an oligarchy or of a tyranny, a ‘popular’ military chief seizing the power for himself; or sometimes in replacing a moderate by an extreme democracy.”
It is crucial that those who misunderstand the unstable nature of democracy, and how it can lead to aristocracy and tyranny, become acquainted with basic political theory so as to not be fooled by the self-serving rhetoric of politicians. What allows for freedom in a nation is not democracy, but the empowerment of the individual to live his own life.
As Wisconsin’s law eliminating collective bargaining hangs in legislative limbo, a similar law is in the process of being passed in Ohio. This follows several Republican governors’ call for a Balanced Budget Amendment that would limit how much the federal government could seize in taxes on a yearly basis. The state governments could provide some much needed course correction to offset a federal government (including both parties) that refuses to seriously curb spending.
This country was meant to have a truly federal structure of government with divided powers and checks and balances so New Yorkers could be New Yorkers and Iowans could be Iowans. This entails each people’s representative governments would be forced to live within their means and to pursue successful policies or suffer the consequences. What subverts this natural feedback process is two-fold: the creation and dispensation of imaginary money from the federal government, allowing people to live at the expense of the future; and the extension of socialistic principles from the individual to the state governmental level.
Under a socialistic government, not only are people forced to live at the expense of everyone else, but governments likewise. Under the Soviet regime, national economies were highly specialized and trade was coordinated through Moscow. This prevented each state from becoming autarkic enough (especially in such fields as energy) to easily break away and to become economically self-reliant and thus politically independent. But at least the USSR can be credited with desiring to strengthen local economies, in theory; the current United States government appears to be on an anti-capitalistic tear, particularly in the energy, manufacturing, banking, medical and housing sectors, which is damaging America’s ability to correct its economic situation.
Capitalism is no less than a feedback mechanism using currency that ensures that the goods and services being rendered are actually desired. Subverting capitalism breaks this feedback mechanism and places arbitrary fiat in its stead. Voluntary labor and trade is replaced with cajoling and even flat compulsion.
The natural feedback mechanism compelling state governments to respect scarcity and to live within their citizens’ means will be further distorted if the immense regulatory headache of Obamacare is imposed. An economy is literally not “sustainable” when it moves from an economy based on the free and willing employment of labor to the coercive schemes of central planners. Planners cannot know what people want on a moment-to-moment basis, and thus cannot fulfill their happiness. Imposed equality, or even bureaucratic nepotism and cronyism, does not and cannot make people happy. People are happiest when they maximize their efforts and willingly suffer to attempt the attainment of personal greatness according to their own standards. This is why the American Dream attracted immigrants from around the globe. Have Americans forgotten their shining past so quickly under the radically transformative regime of Barack Obama? We will find out in 2012.
But if Obama is re-elected, a real possibility, there is still some hope in that both the Congress and the Supreme Court will possess some elements of sanity. And the greatest balancers of all may be the state governments. As long as there are good men, there is hope for good government. Americans, slow to rile, are being compelled to impose their will on the governments. This is a healthy thing, and could bode well in the long-term if we are long-suffering and continually vigilant as a people.
The United States’ economic system has unsustainable national deficits and monetary inflation. The massive government bureaucracy is an unwieldy morass, spending is untethered to any consideration about debt repayment, and the American people keep conjuring up “rights,” for example, that man is born with a right for others to provide him with healthcare.
Sometimes when a system is unraveling it is best to get back to basics. What are the fundamentals of the system? What are the core assumptions?
It is really quite simple. For an economic system to work, men’s lives must be sustained. Contrary to Harry Truman‘s assertion about “freedom from want,” what actually drives men to sustain and add value to their lives and those around them is want: Want of success, want of glory, want of luxury. This is not evil in and of itself. It is how these things are attained that can be determined as good or evil.
Taking what one did not earn and is able to work for is wrong. This is no different than forcing one to labor on your behalf, whether personally or through the agency of government.
To dispel an illusion that is being created by the entitlement mentality, our heavy service sector worklives, massive make-work bureaucracy, ho-hum union jobs, and insane and unprecedented amounts of personal and government debt, economics is not just about outputs, it is about inputs. There cannot be one without the other, because Nature does not automatically provide for our wants. We must fulfill them ourselves. If we do not fulfill them ourselves, someone else is doing it for us.
There is an ethical way to fulfill our own wants, and that is to work and to trade value for value. Pushing a broom has value, but not as much value as performing neurosurgery. The scarcity of a good or service and how much people desire it or need it determines its value. How widespread something is wanted indicates opportunity for more production, and more gain. This provokes mass production, lowering prices, and tending towards the affordability range for most people who work and add value to the economic system.
What denominates value is currency. When a currency is stable, men know the relative value of the goods or services being effectively traded, by proxy of currency. When the central bank manipulates the currency, grave distortions can occur in the economy, and ripple throughout society.
Intentional inflation, the policy pursued by the Federal Reserve, and interrupted only for brief periods in its existence, dilutes the currency. This means, in effect, that those with savings lose value, and those with debt gain value. Those in the know can benefit wildly from this phenomenon through careful buying and selling; the rich truly get richer, and the poor get poorer.
And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. — Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, Monticello, 28 May 1816.
Bank-paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs. — Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, Monticello, 24 June 1813.
The word “public” is driving me nuts. There is no “public.” This is a weasel word that implies that whatever government funds is in the “public” interest.
Ezra Klein wrote a column yesterday arguing essentially that the distinction between “private” sector unions and “public” unions is false. His cafe latte-totalitarian reasoning? How could the “public” be pitted against the “public”? I wanted to rhetorically change his diaper, but thought better of it, considering the WaPo board’s reputation for verbal diarrhea.
But it boils down to this: The left delusionally believes that the solution to our political and economic problems is more “democracy,” meaning, the “people’s” ownership of the government. (And NOT freedom!)
What they don’t consider is the Iron Law of Oligarchy, which implies that the concentrated power that defines government (including power to “manage” the economy or to redistribute wealth) both attracts the power-hungry and corrupts those with otherwise good intentions over time. (And when you have some corrupt politicians in office, they want to be surrounded by other corrupt politicians. This is why corruption is like a cancer that grows in the body politic.)
In other words, the “public” sector is actually the government-funded sector, and more precisely, the economy that grows out of the misuse of political power.
This brings us to another weasel word of the day: Investment. The left loves to talk about “investment”; investment for high-speed rail, investment for infrastructure, investment for alternative energies. But this is not “investment” – this is forcible redistribution of wealth.
There is already a way for people to “invest” in what they believe in: It’s called investment! You actually work, take your wages, and INVEST it in shares of a company! Amazing, huh?
And if you are right, that a product or service is better, cheaper, smarter – then guess what, it succeeds! “The public” wants it! It really wants it!
If it is really worse, more expensive, dumber – it loses. And you lose. And that’s the way it should be.
The effect of the left’s mindset is a total lack of accountability in government and the economy. This is a direct result of the lack of standards in their own pseudo-philosophy.
But government can never lose with its “investments.” We always lose, because we are forced to pay for them whether we really want it or not. That’s not very “democratic,” if you ask me.
But what causes excessive and unjust wealth concentration to begin with?
Fed policy and selective regulation lead to unjust wealth concentration, not free market operations.
When money enters the market, it is worth more. New money is worth more than old money because inflation is not instantaneous. It requires “communication,” which occurs as currency circulates throughout the economy.
Our monetary system unjustly benefits the banks on the inside track with the Fed. Our system is especially cruel because the Federal Reserve precisely benefits the rich, and disproportionately harms the middle class and the poor.
Government is responsible for unethical behavior vis-a-vis businesses, and not vice versa.
Government does not go crawling to corporations for money, corporations go crawling to government because that is where the power is.
Government can finance its operations with debt and fiat currency. It does not need corporate cooperation. It can simply tax corporations, which is exactly what government does and at a high rate.
The government has the army and the police powers, corporations do not.
Corporations buy off politicians not just because businessmen are greedy (and politicians are power-hungry and corrupt), but because they seek protection from government.
Greed is irrelevant in a free market system with individual rights, private property, and contract rights.
“Gouging” by companies with large market shares nearly always opens them up to eroding market shares. Selling inferior goods and services or charging too high prices leads to profit incentives for competitors to enter the market. Government cooperation with businesses leads more often to monopolies than would otherwise occur in a free market.
The solution to our economic and political problems is not to outlaw free enterprise, but to constrain government by making private property rights, sound currency, and individual rights the cornerstone of our economy.
Belgium has gone over 250 days without a government, and yet somehow continues to exist.
Most ironic line:
“On a more serious note, tens of thousands of Belgians marched through Brussels last month to protest their lawmakers’ inability to do what they’ve been elected to do: run the country.”
Now imagine if they just worked instead of protesting naked?
Not content to have nearly complete control of education – including early education, pre-school, headstart, K-12, undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities – the Democrats and their union friends have their cultural marxist sites set on the newest institution to stand outside of their utopia-tarian aims: The Internet.
You see, there must be no place for people’s minds to escape the all-encompassing tyranny of the state-media complex. Like Mussolini said: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
But what’s the problem? The UN digs it. British ministers dig it. Heck, even the newly mandated socialist dictator Hugo Chavez digs it. So what if the FCC digs it? Wouldn’t regulating the Internet promote the “public good”?
The justifications for Internet “regulation” are legion.
Do it for safety. “Are you some kind of cyber-criminal? Do you want the criminals to win?”
Do it for security. “Are you some kind of terrorist? Do you want the terrorists to win?”
Do it for the children. “Are you some kind of pedophile? Do you want the child pornographers to win?”
No, I’m not any of these things. That’s why I oppose the total regulation of society, including Internet society, even if the justification for doing so is that someone might commit a crime. It’s not only lazy police work, it’s potentially freedom-crushing.
The Internet is a place for liberty-lovers to assemble and to pursue the truth. And that is what is most threatening to the elites. There is a danger that the plebes might see through their web of lies. As Orwell put it: “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” That ever-lingering danger makes corrupt politicians – uneasy.
At stake in the Internet debate is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, not only two revered rights, but two persistent threats to the state. The elites hate the Constitution not because they disagree with its animating philosophy, it’s much more shallow than that; but because it limits their power to control the sheeple and their ability to lie to them – two virtually inseparable aims.
The Internet must remain open not because it has been open, but for the same reason all institutions in a free society should be open, including schools, the media, and the halls of government itself: It is the only way to preserve and maintain a people’s civil liberties.
As Jefferson put it, “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” And the government definitely fears the Internet.
Aristotle, in Book II chapter 1 and 2 of The Politics, seems to be speaking of the modern left’s incessant drive for unity, not only at the national level (that is far too unambitious) but also at the supra-national or international level:
Our purpose is to consider what form of political community is best of all for those who are most able to realize their ideal of life. We must therefore examine not only this but other constitutions, both such as actually exist in well-governed states, and any theoretical forms which are held in esteem; that what is good and useful may be brought to light. And let no one suppose that in seeking for something beyond them we are anxious to make a sophistical display at any cost; we only undertake this inquiry because all the constitutions with which we are acquainted are faulty.
We will begin with the natural beginning of the subject. Three alternatives are conceivable: The members of a state must either have (1) all things or (2) nothing in common, or (3) some things in common and some not. That they should have nothing in common is clearly impossible, for the constitution is a community, and must at any rate have a common place — one city will be in one place, and the citizens are those who share in that one city. But should a well ordered state have all things, as far as may be, in common, or some only and not others? For the citizens might conceivably have wives and children and property in common, as Socrates proposes in the Republic of Plato. Which is better, our present condition, or the proposed new order of society?
There are many difficulties in the community of women [possibly a poor translation]. And the principle on which Socrates rests the necessity of such an institution evidently is not established by his arguments. Further, as a means to the end which he ascribes to the state, the scheme, taken literally is impracticable, and how we are to interpret it is nowhere precisely stated. I am speaking of the premise from which the argument of Socrates proceeds, ‘that the greater the unity of the state the better.’ Is it not obvious that a state may at length attain such a degree of unity as to be no longer a state? since the nature of a state is to be a plurality, and in tending to greater unity, from being a state, it becomes a family, and from being a family, an individual; for the family may be said to be more than the state, and the individual than the family. So that we ought not to attain this greatest unity even if we could, for it would be the destruction of the state. Again, a state is not made up only of so many men, but of different kinds of men; for similars do not constitute a state. It is not like a military alliance The usefulness of the latter depends upon its quantity even where there is no difference in quality (for mutual protection is the end aimed at), just as a greater weight of anything is more useful than a less (in like manner, a state differs from a nation, when the nation has not its population organized in villages, but lives an Arcadian sort of life); but the elements out of which a unity is to be formed differ in kind. Wherefore the principle of compensation, as I have already remarked in the Ethics [rough synopsis], is the salvation of states. Even among freemen and equals this is a principle which must be maintained, for they cannot an rule together, but must change at the end of a year or some other period of time or in some order of succession. The result is that upon this plan they all govern… And since it is better that this should be so in politics… is clear that while there should be continuance of the same persons in power where this is possible, yet where this is not possible by reason of the natural equality of the citizens, and at the same time it is just that they should share in the government (whether to govern be a good thing or a bad), an approximation to this is that equals should in turn retire from office and should, apart from official position, be treated alike. Thus the one party rule and the others are ruled in turn, as if they were no longer the same persons. In like manner when they hold office there is a variety in the offices held. Hence it is evident that a city is not by nature one in that sense which some persons affirm; and that what is said to be the greatest good of cities [or the nation – ed.] is in reality their destruction; but surely the good of things must be that which preserves them. Again, in another point of view, this extreme unification of the state is clearly not good; for a family is more self-sufficing than an individual, and a city than a family, and a city only comes into being when the community is large enough to be self-sufficing. If then self-sufficiency is to be desired, the lesser degree of unity is more desirable than the greater.
The Federal Reserve gave its recommendation today to keep interest rates at zero, while buying over $600 billion dollars in long-term bonds by the end of the second quarter 2011. This the Fed refers to as QE2 “quantitative easing.”
The Fed’s argument is very easy to cut to shreds.
Banks are sitting on over a trillion dollars that they will not lend due to the high levels of risk in the economy.
Businesses are sitting on over a trillion dollars that they would invest if the market were not so uncertain.
Adding liquidity to the economy will not lead to more lending, or a multiplier effect that will spur productivity and job creation.
Since our manufacturing base is being gutted through environmental regulations and excessive taxes, such as the second highest corporate taxes in the world, more “quantitative easing” will actually lead to more dollars in a dwindling pot of added GNP, therefore inflation will be inevitable.
If the dollar devaluation becomes too serious, foreign countries may dump their dollar holdings and call in their bonds.
This will further exacerbate inflation, and through dollar devaluation, may usher in the collapse of the dollar.
Just because these people are “bankers” doesn’t mean they are for free markets. Marx thought that a reckless central bank was a great way to destroy a capitalist economic system. Keynes, quoting Lenin, agreed.
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans for a new global restructuring and to determine the strategy for the procurement of ever-lasting service from the people and the establishment of a World standard of living more inflated even than any Washington politician or Hollywood actor might currently enjoy.
We brothers in poverty and equality cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living that we imagine may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-tenth or one five hundredth or one ten thousandth or one three millionth — is independent, self-reliant, unappreciative, and resistant to change.
This Social Democracy had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain government-granted political privileges—among them the privilege of non-offensive speech, a heel-licking press, home-sequestered worship, trial by consensus, and the security that comes from non-stop surveillance, random searches, and confiscatory seizures. These were our privileges of servitude and obeisance.
As our nation has declined in pride and vigor, however—as our hollowed-out economy imploded—these political privileges proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of unimaginable prosperity.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true social freedom cannot exist without dependence and government empowerment. Independent men are not free men. People who are hungry for freedom and seek a job outside of the bounds of government are the stuff of which fascist dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a Third Bill of Rights under which a new basis of service and security can be established for all—regardless of station, race, creed, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, girth, skin tone, or transgender status.
Among these are:
The right to an unproductive job in one of the departments or services or offices or bureaus or agencies of the government;
The right to earn enough to eat take-out Chinese every night, to buy an expensive overcoat, and to spend 95% of one’s time being entertained;
The right of every bureaucrat to monitor and to regulate at a rate that will give him or her or it and the community an unbelievably fantastic existence;
The right of every policeman, large and small, to live in freedom from resistance;
The right of every community to enlist every child in the service of the greater good;
The right of doctors and nurses to provide medical care to anyone with any illness or perceived illness, from heart attacks to hangnails, regardless of nationality, without rationing and without respect to cost in terms of time, manpower, and technology;
The right to adequate insurance from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, unemployment, and death;
The right to an education adequate enough to be informed of one’s self-interest.
All of these rights spell happiness. And after this war is won, and all the casualties of human opposition removed from our eyes and the history books, we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of servitude and sacrifice.
We must be prepared to give up our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor, and even our country itself, to ascend to our rightful station as firsts among equals; and to realize the honor the world for whom we sacrifice has prepared for us, to join the ranks of the dependent and the unbothered, to march every forward, in harmony with the all-knowing and all-good State, to the very end of history.