San Diego –– Today is July 4th, a day we celebrate the founding of our country and its independence from European domination. So it seemed like a good time to do some historical/political review and see what that all may mean to us come election time. What may really be at stake?
To answer that, lets take a rapid ride through history. Since Plato’s “Republic” down through Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” serious discussions on forms of government and leadership abounded but there was little coalescence of concepts into relatively opposing, definable camps. In some ways it is easy to understand; after all, regardless of various personalities in rulers, ancient countries and city-states, including Greece and Rome, were all slave economies and except for concerns about the whims of the leaders the undercurrent was pretty stable and accepted.
The Babylon of Hammurabio, the Thebes of Ramses, the Athens of Pericles and the Rome of Caesar provided wondrous examples of literature and art but could not have existed without a heavy base of slaves propping it all up. Even Rome’s pre-Caesar senates contented themselves with topics that need not address issues of personal growth or accountability because, basically, there was none. The empire (or the city-state) and its survival was all that mattered and as in Confuscian China the State was far more important than individual humans.
Marcus Aurelius could wax poetic about the philosophy of the human condition but he was the Roman Emperor and did nothing to actually change it so arguing for stoicism and the acceptance of things made perfect sense. Everyone was born into a station and died there with rare exceptions, and everyone accepted that simply as the way it was and had always been and would be far happier if not engaged in the foolish notion that one could escape that caste.
But by the 18th and 19th century two very opposing views of government and of the human nature that made them work — or not — began to emerge and find their underlying cogent forms. On one hand was born Rousseau’s concepts flowing from the “noble savage” ideas coming from a growing knowledge of primitive tribes around the previously unknown areas of the world, most especially the American natives and the Pacific Islanders. The fact that on their tribal and band level of existence, largely as evolved hunter-gatherers, they profited from a communal style of interaction and a “big man” style of governance that Rousseau and followers viewed as a positive model that modern man needed to both relearn and, more importantly, re-adapt.
By the time Godwin was holding his famous parlor get-togethers and discussion groups this view was becoming widely popular because it painted a world where the downtrodden were cared for and systemic, government-created agencies would take us back to that delightful day of communal bliss. Ignoring for a moment that it represented a deep ignorance and misunderstanding of the actual, on-the-ground realities of such tribal societies, it did sound great and humane and enlightening. They reckoned that the main mass of people were basically good but stupid and needed the brilliance of an enlightened leader which the masses would readily follow since that would relieve them of the necessity of making hard decision and of the consequences for making bad ones.
That core view was picked up on by Marx as he saw the world of history as the story of constant class warfare between bourgeoisie and proletariat and argued for enlightened leaders to rally the proletariat to destroy the bourgeoisie and then all would work on their own initiative based on common acceptance of the ecponomic philosophy of “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.” Of course it depended on truly altruistic enlightened “leaders” and we all know how that worked out in reality. Can we spell Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, or Hitler or Mussolini, or Mao?
This view was only slightly modified but with its core philosophy still intact when it found its way into American Politics with a vengeance around the turn of the 20th century first with Wilson then with FDR, who it must be pointed out had not run into any of those bloody autocrats or, as in the case of Stalin and FDR, had a chance to observe their purges. Now with the liberal and progressive views of the left all of whom believe that they represent the enlightened ones to help the pitiful masses out of their place of horror and degradation and into the light of a utopian communal society where government’s role is basically to take care of everyone by removing from them the burden of choices and consequences and daily survival. Remember, “It Takes a Village”? One must be unburdened by a knowledge of reality and history to buy into that and its logical conclusions but to avoid that requires top notch education.
It also requires a very strong core ethic and moral view concerning personal responsibility because that progressive view and its modern variants have an incredibly strong appeal to all who would very much like to see both an end to consequences for choices, and an end to the necessity to take care of themselves. That requirement is no longer readily available and now more and more of the adherents to that social philosophy are willing to accept a vastly reduced standard of life in order to remove the specter of failure from it as well.
It is OK with them if the playing field is leveled by bringing the top down instead of trying to bring the bottom up. Being level is all that matters. Equality of misery is to be preferred over any inequality of status. Intellectuals such as Bertrand Russell promoted the idea extensively but then he and they considered themselves to be the enlightened to whom the restrictions would not really apply and who would get to set the rules du jour as their own brilliance dictated.
Of course the self-described enlightened, who give themselves the approval to be leaders of the community of entitled followers have no intention of accepting for themselves the status they have convinced their followers is proper FOR THEM. Nor, in every instance in recorded history where this type of system has been attempted, did they see coming the negative effect of imposed mediocrity on the growth and motivation for people to make their lives, and by extension their environment, better since there was no reward or acknowledgements for it. Their view of humanity and human nature did not account for any such need.
This group largely sees the world in flux and changing so that in order to meet the requirements of holding power over the people and the state as culture changes, no founding document should exist that is not easily modified to suit the needs or wants of the executive. A Recitation of Principles, acceptable at the moment, was all that was needed.
Nor did they seem to understand that a socialistic “entitlement” state was expensive to maintain and the workers on the lowered but leveled fields could not provide the revenues in tribute that could sustain both the entitlements to keep them docile and the perks to keep the leaders happy. So as living standards are reduced and taxes are raised it goes from bad to worse. So, history clearly shows that they all – ALL – ultimately failed as workable states though some continue to exist (think North Korea) only because of the sheer power of nearly mad rulers to maintain control or as in the case of Cuba, because it was initially propped up by Soviet money or now help from other communist regimes or those, like Iran, who simply see value in doing anything to tweak the United States.
Meantime, while the warm and fuzzy socialist ideals were flourishing among academics and many intellectuals, there were a few who saw things quite differently. For them history, especially the history of nations and people told a different story of how people evolved, thought, responded to stimuli, and best governed…themselves. With the writings of Locke, Burke, Madison, Jefferson, down to the anthropological reinforcements from Marvin Harris and Robert Ardrey, came a view that held that humans were inquisitive, acquisitive, and territorial; that social and societal growth came through innovation in the face of need and want and that without that motivation we would stagnate in progress just like the other primates.
We were not seen as good or bad but with enough intelligence to understand the long view that “enlightened” self-interest obviously would tell us, if we would let it, that to have growth for ourselves we must create an environment in which ALL can grow.
The “Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” approach was diametrically opposed to the concept of leveling the field by chopping off the mountains. Government to them was to build not upon individual enlightenment since that was too capricious, but upon the systemic wisdom of the ages that when fostered and encouraged would rise above the babble of those whose sense of self interest was but narrowly focused and who could not see the value in helping the other to succeed in order to help yourself. But government was never seen as the vehicle to mandate success or failure, only to work to provide an environment in which those who wished to could succeed and those who did not could fail and suffer the consequences. But the consequences were important because without them there was no motivation to succeed.
Unlike, and in contradiction to the left, this group (now called the “right” based on the seating arrangement by party in the U.S. Congress) agreed with Plato that a true democracy quickly devolved into the “rule of fools” as the tyranny of the majority took hold, especially as a society was reduced to dependence on entitlements. Instead they believed that the best and safest form or government was a representative republic in which leadership was constrained by a strong constitution based on, to them, unalienable, universal, and timeless human needs, traits, nature, and rights. To them while changing the Constitution was possible and it contained the steps to do it, it should not be easy nor should adherence or non-adherence to it be subject to executive or even congressional whim.
Above all they believed in a government limited to specified powers and that is was there to facilitate but not encumber a people. It’s core “right” was based on property and the responsibility entailed in it. Individual freedom was paid for with individual responsibility and accountability. But most importantly there was a freedom little mentioned but upon it hinged all of the most powerful motivation for success; and that was the freedom to fail… and live with the consequences.
I personally adhere to the ideal of a Jeffersonian, Constitutional Republic. I believe that so strongly I am opposed to all efforts to institute a true technical democracy, now possible in the information age, and am opposed for the same reasons to referenda imposed by citizens upon the congress as it creates yet another arm of government that destroys the representative concepts and, from a practical standpoint, creates and imposes laws and governmental liabilities without the need to address how such mandates will be paid for. This state (California) is in such dire straits precisely because of liabilities it has accepted without having the ability to properly fund them nor the will to properly prioritize them. Without proper debate the ripple effects are never presented or understood yet they come back to haunt us, usually in a negative economic way.
I think our founders would be saddened by and disgusted with what we have done with the country they gave us. Those were fire-breathing men who understood risk and took it for something they believed in. They understood the nature of Americans specifically as the ex-highwaymen of Europe who chafed under the leash of capricious monarchs; they understood and encouraged the fire in their bellies by creating a place where risk and effort could be rewarded grandly, and where a disincentive to sloth was provided by the costs of the consequences of bad choices.
Morality is simply a system in which there are consequences for choices and behaviors. In our first 100 years a morality based on a work ethic flowing from the freedom to strive and succeed as well as the freedom to fail and pay the consequences, pushed us to become a world leader in nearly every way from education to scientific achievement.
Our last hundred years, however, has seen a systematic and systemic effort to destroy that view of morality, and push us away from the ideals of Jefferson and closer to the ideals of Marx. That would require a fundamental transformation of our culture and our country. Finally we have a leader bold enough to come right out and say that is what he wants to do and then set it in motion. That will require the transition of power base more to the executive and away from congress exactly as Roman Emperors treated the figurehead senate.
But bringing down a country with the success and inertia as America would not be a walk in the park. The lynchpin in that effort was, following the advice of Keynes, to debauch the currency, and let it float so that it was no longer backed by any valuable commodity. It was only through failed economics that this country could be so degraded as to fail and then be rebuilt following a different model.
But to do that it would have to be done “behind the scenes” and to do that we had to first degrade education so that no one would notice. The REAL key is education and unfortunately it turned out that degrading the educational system was easy: you use professors and teachers to revise history and soft sciences to support your views to malleable young minds, create a top-heavy bureaucracy to keep the money out of the classroom, give priorities to fluff feel good pabulum instead of hard classes leading to vocational success, you systemically provide instruction to celebrate differences and ignore similarities instead of celebrating what makes us alike and respecting differences except where they are counterproductive in our society, convince people they are victims and entitled rather than challenge them to overcome, and then stand back.
It took a little while but now it has worked.
To further put into effect our destruction we also had to make opposing systems and cultures whose view of us was destructive somehow acceptable; we had to destroy the idea of discrimination as a word meaning the ability to tell good from bad, and turn tolerance into cowardice. And we have done all of that, cheerfully led by academia and the self-titled enlightened ones. It has worked so well that now more people see themselves as victims and want to be taken care of than are willing to risk taking care of themselves. More people have learned they can feed themselves from the public trough and with that realization has evolved their vulnerability to “leaders” who need their dependency to establish their power based.
We have made the softheaded results of our emasculated education system think that money is power and therefore those with it are evil. But that was never true. Money may occasionally be the by-product of having power, but power is the result of dependencies.
Think about it… If I make you dependent on me for something you want or need then I have power over you. To me, pure evil is anyone telling someone else that they NEED that person to succeed, that they must depend on that person or party to get what they want, and then to help the process, turn what started as a simple “want” into a “need” and finally into a “right.”
You hear a steady stream of very wealthy celebrities and some tycoons say how they ought to have to pay more to the government but have you seen one, just once, volunteer to do that themselves? Of course not; because it is YOU they want to sacrifice; the “enlightened” are sufficiently enlightened to not be willing to sacrifice themselves for Pete’s sake.
The result is I am opposed to the left of the political spectrum and see its current messiah as the most overt enforcer of dependencies via entitlements on us we have ever seen, and the slickest strategist for class warfare since Machiavelli himself.
But that does not mean I am automatically FOR his current presumptive opponent in whom I see little to recommend beyond the fact that he is at least, but only, slightly less politically opposed to my own philosophies than the president.
The problem for me is I fear the country is already lost, in the sense that the America of Jefferson, et al, is dying if not dead. The Obamas and Obama-lites from both parties have done their work brilliantly; the statists have played their hands with incredible skill. The old moralities have been trashed, the fire in the American Belly has been largely quenched at the trough of entitlement goodies and the removal of motivation. The sense of pride and exceptionalism that once drove us to the top of the world pile is now looked down on in order to reduce us to just another European-styled failure where a newly coifed and dressed “Big Man” can take over and keep us docile by providing more swill at the town pump which they feel is a “right.”
So to return to our opening question, “What is at stake in November?” Sadly, maybe nothing.
Maybe we have degraded so far that there is no turning back. One side may accelerate the degradation so we can be inexorably on the way to another attempt at social utopia while the other may simply slow it down a bit. My “friends” on Facebook all seem to want it accelerated and are in favor of that outcome and the transformation of America.
What may really be at stake is the question of whether it is too late to stop that social transformation that has already woven its way into so much of our national fabric like a terminal cancer. At this stage there is no way around this analogy and truth: If it is curable at all just like serious cancer, it will be only after the most horrible of regimens and we may no longer be a people tough enough to live through the cure.
It will be up to all of you to both determine what, for you, is at stake… if anything. I have a single vote and in this state it is nearly worthless. I can but publish my concerns and let the readers and the country make their choices. That choice is their right to make. That right was fought for and died for by people who would make very different choices themselves.
This day we celebrate the founding of a new country based on freedom and responsibility and paid for in blood. For 100 years we maintained it pretty well. For another half century we paid in even more American blood to maintain freedom while all the while, inside, there were those who wanted us to be something else, something we as a country were not created to be. And now, after the efforts of the last half century at last that desire is attainable. It is not here yet but it is very close.
So you all have to decide for yourselves.
Is there really anything at stake except a little time delay, or, with a major change in representation is it possible to stop the slide or even put the ship of state into a long turn about? Or do you want it to continue down its current path as it is now doing?
Whatever your final conclusion, please do not reach it because of the bumper sticker wisdom and cartoon cutesy stuff now inundating the Facebook pages. Don’t believe any of those clever charts purporting to tell the “truth” no matter what side they come from and don’t believe any figures based on a sliding “base line.” Don’t make a decision about the country and all of the complex issues we face both internally and externally on some personal single issue or pet need. Surely this is bigger. If you are willing to argue that some few need to sacrifice and compromise for the best needs of the many you cannot exempt yourself from that argument.
Whether you wish us to become like another European nation or to reclaim our old sense, surely on this day the country deserves from you the effort to do your homework. Read your histories from before they were revised to suit modern ideals, see the world from the eyes of those living it at the time.
Use the mathematical power of your computer to run the numbers yourself to see how it comes out and place all of that in its proper context. Read the ancillary topics that feed directly into issues of political and governmental attitudes about the citizenry such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. Make of yourselves what Jefferson and his friends felt was all that would save the country: an informed citizenry. But they envisioned one informed by solid information, not by cute cartoons or bumper stickers or sound bites out of context.
If you are not willing to do that then in my opinion, you do not deserve the country this day celebrates. But you will deserve, and your kids will pay for, the one you let come into being.