Category Archives: Politics

Enought analysis! America is broken. Here are some ways to fix it.

Summary: So many posts on the FM website have discussed our problems in depressing detail. Today’s let’s discuss solutions. How can we reform American’s politics? This post summarizes my dozens of posts on the subject. {1st of 2 posts today}

“Everything is very simple in politics, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen politics.”
— Chapter VII of On War by Clausewitz, slightly paraphrased.

Fire of the Soul

Contents

  1. Our problem
  2. The path to a better America
  3. Where we are today
  4. The road ahead
  5. Building an organization
  6. When do we get to do protests?
  7. For More Information

(1) Our problem

Strictly speaking, there is no problem with America’s political regime. The American people have the right to choose how they are governed. If we choose to be passive, allowing power to pass into the hands of the 1%, that’s our inalienable right.

So our challenge is to reawaken our fellow citizens. We want rights and liberty, but lack a willingness to work for it — and to carry the burdens of self-government that accompany rights and liberty. For more about this see How can we arouse a passion to reform America in the hearts of our neighbors? and Can we reignite the spirit of America?

(2)  The path to a better America

My series about America has sparked many comments, mostly elaborate reasons why surrender and apathy are our best options (see some examples). My opinion is simple about ways to reform America is simple. The formula is deliberately non-partisan. Left or Right, I believe more citizen activism will put us back on our true path.

  • We are in this together.  America is a ship; we are its crew (not passengers).
  • Individually we are weak.  Collectively we are strong.
  • Our reluctance to take personal responsibility for the Republic is our greatest problem.
  • What are the odds of success at fixing American?  It does not matter; nobody cares about the odds. Our forefathers didn’t. Our descendants won’t listen to our excuses.

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America slides to the right, faster. Why? What you can do about it!

Summary: Today’s post gives excerpts from some of the best political analysis of the year, concluding with suggestions for those people who care to do something about it.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

El Reagan: viva revolucion

Contents

  1. The best political analysis of the year.
  2. Excerpt #1: The Problem.
  3. Excerpt #2: The real problem, part one.
  4. Excerpt #3: The real problem, part two.
  5. What you can do about all this.
  6. For More Information.

 

(1)  The best political analysis you’ll read this year

A slow-mo revolution has been running in America since 1980. We have entered the steep part of the “S” curve, when laboriously built political machinery of the Right reaches maturity and exerts its full power.

There have been hundreds of articles about this. Pulling all this together is “No Cost for Extremism” in The American Prospect — “Why the GOP hasn’t (yet) paid for its march to the right.” The authors are professors of political science: Jacob Hacker at Yale, Paul Pierson at Berkeley. If not stopped it will shape a new America for the 21st century. I recommend that you read it in full.

On the other hand, why bother unless you’ll do something about it? See the last section for some ideas.

(2)  Excerpt #1: The Problem

According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.”

There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center. … based on voting records, the current Republican majority in the Senate is far more conservative than the last Republican majority in the 2000s. Meanwhile, the incoming House majority is unquestionably the most conservative in modern history, continuing the virtually uninterrupted 40-year march of the House Republican caucus to the hard right.

The GOP’s great right migration is the biggest story in American politics of the past 40 years. And it’s not just limited to Congress: GOP presidents have gotten steadily more conservative, too; conservative Republicans increasingly dominate state politics; and the current Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are among the most conservative in the Court’s modern history.

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Will we be better off ruled by the 1%?

Summary: This post asks if the project to reform America is not just futile but misguided. Yesterday’s post explained how American’s political system has become dysfunctional from the conflict for control between the upper middle class (the professional and managerial classes I call the “outer party”) and the 1% and its allies (especially the wealthy and leadership classes I call the “inner party”). Today we follow this reasoning to its surprising but logical conclusions. Leave your reaction in the comments. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. … The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

— Peter Thiel (Silicon Valley billionaire) in “The Education of a Libertarian“, CATO Unbound, 13 April 2009. You’ll seldom here the voice of the 1% more clearly.

We are the future

(1)  What happens if the 1% wins?

The great challenge of the 1% will be maintaining social cohesion under their rule. We must feel that their rule is legitimate even if runs against our interests. Medieval kings did this with the support of the Church, convincing the people of the divine right of kings.

I suspect they will rely on two pillars of popular support. The social conservatives are the equivalent of the European right-wing parties’ “throne and altar” alliance, who give their support in exchange for mostly symbolic support. Libertarians provide a second pillar, who will cheer as the 1% strip mine America and social mobility declines from its already low level — and give their support to the 1% in exchange for almost nothing.

Life will continue under their rule, with few changes. It will be more difficult and insecure for us; it will be more fun for the 1% (i.e., they’ll have more power). We of the outer party will still read the news, cheering our tribe and booing the others — staying well-informed, although eventually we’ll no longer remember why we bother.

They will eliminate much of the regulations on people’s behavior, for good or ill, because they don’t care what the masses do. Their rule could be stable for a long term.

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We’re strong and adaptable, but have a problem that might sink America.

Summary:  Today’s post gives a different perspective on the challenge of reforming America. Before we can fix our political machinery we must understand what’s wrong. This post gives a possible explanation.

This blasted itself out of my keyboard late last night. After it went up I divided it into 2 smaller and more focused posts. Tomorrow’s part 2 examines the implications of this diagnosis, and discusses two solutions.

“Stability is in unity.”
— Mencius (372 – 292 BC), Chinese philosopher, a follower of Confucius.

American Reform Party logo

Contents

  1. America’s strengths, & a weakness.
  2. Symptoms of political rigidity.
  3. The cause of our problems.
  4. For More Information.

(1) America’s strengths, and a weakness

Nations thrive over long periods not by luck (or not just luck), but by being adaptive, innovative, and intelligent in their public policy. What nations best deserve that description today? Singapore and the Nordic nations, certainly. Germany, Korea, and China, probably.

Does this describe the USA?  Our business sector has all of these qualities, as does our society with its incredible vitality. This was also true of our political regime — in the past. But somehow, sometime since WWII, our political institutions have become rigid, even stupid.

That’s bad news, since America has a different foundation than most nations. America is its political regime. We’re not defined by ethnicity, religion, economic ideology, or even geography (although many Americans confuse these things with the nation and feel alienated when they change).  We’re like Athens, but more so.

… the soul of the city was the regime, the arrangements of and participation in offices, deliberation about the just and the common good, choices about war and peace, the making of laws. … {Pericles’ famous funeral oration} says nothing about the gods, or the poetry, history, sculpture or philosophy of Athens. He praises its regime and finds beauty in its political achievement …  {From Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind}

It has been the basis for America’s resiliency and power. But it’s a single point of failure: When our political regime weakens, the entire nation weakens.

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Samuel Adams started the Revolution because he didn’t have Twitter

Summary: We don’t eat kippers for breakfast because Samuel Adams didn’t have the temptation of running the Revolution by Twitter instead by snail mail. Social media are a powerful tool for organizations, but no substitute for them. The delusion of a self-organizing crowd appeals to people seeking easy low-commitment ways to reform America. Perhaps repeated failures will eventually teach us this. This is the 3rd in this series.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. High-tech failed revolutions.
  2. Why social media isn’t a magic bullet for politics.
  3. Organizations: a key to successful reform.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

 

(1)  High-tech failed revolutions

Contrast this with the color revolutions which began with such promise — easy, fast revolts using Twitter! — but most of which ended with such disappointment. Techies hoped that social media facilitated self-organizing networks that would reach critical mass, somehow producing complex political change.

Consider the Orange Revolution in Ukraine: protestors overthrew an elected government (the vote certified as fair by domestic and foreign observers) with the aid of western intelligence agencies (working through various NGOs), resulting in a rise of neo-Nazi groups and civil war. It’s a story as common as dirt.

Social media can effectively mobilize public support, but that’s a snare. Not only do movements created by social media lack a leadership structure, their flat communications networks tend to suppress the rise of leaders. Social media networks center on nodes: people with connections to many other people. The skills needed to become a node are not those of leaders. Most of all a node is an individual, a leader is one who assumes some personal responsibility for the movement (that is the sine qua non of leadership).

Except when used by an organization, social media excels at creating mobs (especially flash mobs). As we saw with Occupy, mobs are easily misled into folly. As we saw with the Tea Party, they’re easily led to aims quite different to those they intended (born in opposition to bank bailouts, they helped elect the most bank-friendly Congress since 1932 (as Chairman Bachus explained).

What have we to show for the movements of the past decade? How many of the “Twitter revolutions” on the the following map accomplished much?

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What if the Founders’ generation read the news as we do?

Summary: Each day the internet washes up piles of information for us. We have tech allowing us to sort out what we want to see — operationally useful information for work and politically pleasing information about politics. Today we discuss why the information superhighway of political news so seldom affects our action. Fortunately the Founders’ generation read the news with more engagement, or we’d be signing “God Bless the Queen” before watching cricket.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

This is a followup to What if Samuel Adams tried to start the Revolution by blogging?

Fool's Paradise

We appear to have entered the final stage of this political cycle. After decades of their slow growth in power — aggregating more and more of our wealth and income — the 1% have begun the equivalent of the third stage of battle: the pursuit of a broken enemy to crush the remnant of opposition and consolidate victory. Every day’s news brings more evidence, such as the shocking stories shown below from this weekend’s news.

These are of interest not as news in the conventional sense, since they tell us more about what we already know (pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter). That’s why I no longer write posts giving interesting links. There are so many other sites doing a better job providing such entertainment to the outer party.

These stories have value as indicators where we are in the evolution from Republic to plutocracy. I doubt they have any other utility, excerpt in a technical sense (e.g., to people professionally involved in these areas). But at the end are some conclusions you might find of interest.

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What if Samuel Adams tried to start the Revolution by blogging?

Summary: What is the point of individuals publishing about politics and geopolitics on the internet? These writings — seen as a collective project — tell us much about the current state of the Republic. This post looks at the internet (of which the FM website project is a microcosm) as a mirror of America and draws some useful conclusions. This concludes with the question in the title.

Samuel Adams

Contents

  1. Surveying the scene.
  2. An alternative path to reform.
  3. Results so far.
  4. Reflections on failure.
  5. Other posts on this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Surveying the scene

Some, like Mish (Mike Shedlock) at Global Economic Trends and Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism have built profitable websites providing information to communities on the Right and Left respectively.  Perhaps the most successful of these is law professor Glenn Reynolds, who has built a mass audience as the Instapundit. Some bloggers have transition to successful careers, building  their audiences into businessess (e.g, Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein). Many academics (e.g., economist Brad Delong and attorney Eugene Volokh) write as a natural extension of their professional work. There are thousands of other websites doing variations of these on a smaller scale.

These are tremendous accomplishments. However, what is the service they provide? They provide entertainment and catharsis for the outer party plus self-expression for the authors. The outer party is politically impotent, but likes to believe themselves otherwise. So they write posts or comments, consume information (becoming well-informed). In effect they become fans cheering and booing political actors.

These websites — posts and comments — seldom point to ways for direct political action, beyond voting or (rarely) contacting elected officials. It’s no longer in many (most?) American’s world view that we have responsibility for the actions of our government, which would mandate our involvement — or even that we have the power to run America, which would imply political action as a personal priority for each of us.

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