Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)

This blog discusses geo-politics, from an American’s perspective.  Today that means discussing threats and dangers, resulting largely from years of mismanaged public policy.  We need not fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon.  This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity.  We differ from almost every other nation.  The difference consists of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation.  In this we are like Athens more than our neighbors, as explained in this excerpt from Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (the book I most strongly recommend reading):

For the ancients 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.  Rational choice on the part of citizens who were statesmen was understood to be the center of its regime.  … Pericles {in his Funeral Oration, as given by Thucydides} says nothing about the gods, or the poetry, history, sculpture or philosophy of which we think.  He praises Athens’ regime and finds beauty in its political achievement…

This is even more true of America, unlike Athens not famous for its philosophy, art, or culture.  The Americans who sat through the long hours of the Lincoln-Douglas debates would, I believe, have understood this.  When this is again true of America we will, I believe, find that the many threats we face no longer seem so dangerous.

It seems we have abandoned this tradition.  To see where this leads, read Christian Meier’s biography Caesar.  He describes how the Roman people grew tired of governing themselves, perhaps finding the burden too great to bear.  Inevitably, strong men came forward to take this load from the people’s backs.  People who will not govern themselves have no right to complain about the decisions of the elites who rule them.

I urge everyone to take action now.  Work for candidates — local, state, national, it does not matter.  All are important.  If you can afford to do so, contribute to a candidate’s election fund.  Write to your local newspapers or on the Internet.  History is being made today.  If we do not make it, others will do so for us.

 There is another element to America’s strength:  our ability to work together.  To see this in action visit your local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers.  They collect money and goods to support our troops, with great success.  At their work days you will see a wide range of people side by side.  Different races and creeds.  Moms and Dads.  Liberals and Conservatives.  Old and young.  Boy Scouts and Hells Angels.  This is America at its best, a nation well able to weather the storms that lie ahead.

For more on this subject

Posts about good news

  1. Good news: The Singularity is coming (again)  (8 December 2007) — History tends to look better over longer time horizons.
  2. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)  (21 December 2007)
  3. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)
  4. A crisis at the beginning of the American experiment  (27 December 2008) — Looking at the problems looming before us, it is easy to forget those of equal or greater danger that we have surmounted in the past.  
  5. An important thing to remember as we start a New Year  (29 December 2007) — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list…
  6. Is America’s decline inevitable? No.  (21 January 2008)
  7. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead  (10 February 2008) — Need we fear the future?
  8. A happy ending to the current economic recession  (12 February 2008)
  9. Fears of flying into the future  (25 February 2008)
  10. Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future  (2 May 2008) — Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasinly fearful public. Both sides feed this process. It need not be so, as most trends contain the seeds of good and bad futures. This post considers two examples.
  11. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off  (8 May 2008)
  12. Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters  (9 May 2008)
  13. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America (8 June 2008) — There are ways to support our troops, actions more effective than a bumper sticker on your car.
  14. There is no “peak water” crisis  (19 June 2008)

Click here for all posts discussing good news about America’s future.

14 thoughts on “Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)

  1. Fabius — Exactly! In the end, grand strategy — what we do to pump up our own morale and attract the uncommitted to our cause — trumps pretty much everything else. A simple action people could take is to send their elected reps and favorite candidates the “I am not afraid” pledge that Bruce Schneier has posted on his blog.

  2. I agree, it’s almost never too late to turn things around, almost. The axis of WW-2 would be an example of having gone too far, and behond the point of no-return, in that case it was too late.

    What will make or break the United States at this point, maybe upto individual Americans, who by in large are decent, honest, forgiving, and generous people. At the very least start paying ATTENTION ! If
    not getting engaged and involved as you suggest.

    It’s funny, the next time you take a trip on public conveyace, do a quiet little survey, I’ll bet you’ll be fairly hard pressed to find very many who readily admit to voting for Bush/Cheney, the last time particuarly, and yet, a lot obviously did. However, that’s a beutifull example of how Americans skirt and deny thier responsibility for the outcome of thier own decisions, and actions. This almost has to be re-taught. GSA. MaXimillian

  3. one wants so much to feel optimistic and go in the direction of your recommendations… the problem is those pesky facts. we live in the most propagandized era of human history, unprecedented in its breadth and sophistication. the institutions that should have led us in the right direction from the beginning are now part of the problem… the government, the media, the corporations, the educational system… as they all drown us in propaganda and tell us about everything other than that, to serve their own short term ends.

    given the core problem of our British roots, in that we have attempted to graft democracy atop a greed-based, imperialist elitist system, it’s no surprise things have come to this. royalty has essentially reasserted itself on all levels. all our institutions are discredited, having lied and failed and articulating no clear solutions to anything.

    what to do about this? one thing would be to reassert our control of the airwaves we license to the craven moneychangers. but most important, i think would be to rethink our concept of how freedom and the consitution are connected.

    that is, only voters should be entitled to the liberty our system offers. something like a tax for not voting, or denial of public services for not doing so, a fine for not doing so, money withheld and then refunded when one votes.

    the theory, and to me this is utterly valid, would simply be that if the authority of the government derives from the just consent of the government, you have no right to anything from the government if you refuse to participate, period. this is not fascistic or unconstitutional, because it does not compel voting for any particular candidate or party, just participating in the process. the ‘none of the above’ choice could be required on all ballots, in case that would help people realize the fairness of this.

    the point being that freedom should not include a free ride in terms of being able to not even exercise the most rudimentary act of choice and still receive the benefits. if people want the rights our consitution guarantees then, regardless of their political opinions or who they choose to vote for or against, their options should be these: vote, pay or leave. no more free lunch for deadbeat citizens. certainly this could not make our electoral results any worse than they have been…

  4. “the problem is those pesky facts. we live in the most propagandized era of human history, unprecedented in its breadth and sophistication.” gpanfile

    Agreed, and God knows I spend a lot of time hanging around a TV network news room, and I see how it works. In the media’s case, they’re simply not anywhere smart enough to do things maliciously, they simply parrot what thier told, and take the path of least resistance. Therein lies a big problem in repeting the news without critical analysis.

    Having said that though, I’m curious what makes you, or I specical that we see past most of it ? And why not for the average Schumck ? MaX

  5. The strength of America is embodied in Schumpeter’s of creative destruction – that anyone can do anything. The other side that coin is the ability to tolerate failure – entrenched interests are allowed to fail in order for innovation to succeed.

    In Europe the dream of an engineer is to get a good job with Siemens. In America the dream of an engineer is to start another Google. In order for Google to succeed the old giants must be allowed to fail and that’s where much of the rest of the world fails.

    Unfortunately, the recent changes in the tax code under Bush II is tilting power to the current holders of capital and thus entrenching the established interests. At the margin, these changes and others (e.g. making it much more difficult for foreign students to get visas) are eroding American competitiveness.

    If allowed to continue, America will wake up one day and realize that its glory will have passed.

  6. I haven’t read the book Caesar – but there is one difference between late Republican Rome and present America that presently strikes me: Julius Caesar went off to Gaul (which was divided into three parts) and successfully conquered it. George Bush went off to Iraq (which, interestingly, also is divided into three parts) , but has had his but kicked. A non-trivial distinction, I submit. I question how well things would have gone for Julius had, when he crossed the Rubicon, he come back with his tail drooping between his legs.

  7. dckinder: That’s an interesting parallel. But I think this is a trivial distinction. The Republic was long dead when Caesar crossed the Rubicon. By then they were fighting over who would run its replacement.

    hunblestudentofthemarkets: the data I have seen shows little impact of the tax code on the distribution of income — and far less on that of wealth. The data does suggest (by itself it is not complete enough to prove) increasing concentration of income in the US. But the causes of this are disputed; I know of no expert saying that tax code changes are a major driver of this. Tax changes might reduce this, although history suggests this is more likely in theory than practice.

    In reply to some of the above comments: if you do not believe in the American people, there is no point believing in Democracy. Also, no people have ever had access to uncontrolled information as do present Americans. “Increased propaganda” as a factor is very difficult for me to believe.

    And even if this were true, so what? Ignorance and apathy are choices, both incompatible with freedom.

  8. I dunno. All this optimism is a little too much to bear :-)

    I agree with you that the era of the rational voter seems to have passed, but I also wonder if it ever really was there. I mean, Presidential candidates and political parties were far more vicious to each other in the 19th century; if anything, we’re too tame, if you can believe it.

  9. “The rational voter, was it ever really there?” Yes! I enter in evidence the text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, compared to which our Presidential debates are children drawing stick figures on the sidewalk.

    “Elections were more vicious in the 19th C.” Agreed! As in this little ditty about Grover Cleveland’s illegitmate child.

    Moma, moma, where’s my pa?
    Gone to Washington, ha, ha, ha.

    This ditty shows how we have changed. Cleveland may have accepted responsibliity for another’s baby — despite the damage to his career — because the other possible fathers were married. In today’s scandal, John Edwards *might* have had a married associate accept responsibility to avoid damage to his (Edward’s) career.

    Also: I recommed reading Foust’s website, The Conjecturer.

  10. Yes, but the US has tremendous reserves of talent. Can the US rebuild manuafacturing (in all senses) and compete with other countries and provide a decent standard of living for its workers, sure it can. Germany can, Japan can, et al. And these are all high salary countries (and in the German case, much longer holidays and shorter hours).

    Take cars. US workers seem to be able to build Japanese cars just as well as anyone else can. I don’t see Toyota, Honda, etc shutting down their plants. Its only the US owned companies that are failing. This gives a clue to the future turning around of the US, the scientists are amongst the greatest in the world, the engineers equal to the best in the world, the workers easily as good as anyone else.

    So, why is the management so miserable. Some areas of the economy seem to able to consistently produce good management (Google, Appple, the commercial parts of Boeing, etc). Why not other areas? Why is the top levels in the US in Govt, military, finanace, health and much of manufacturing so bad? The answer to that question and the strategies to change it will be the key for the future.

    There is hope in the existing and coming challanges (disasters?). Periods of high stress means that competent people come to the fore, though it may take time and there are dangers to this process. Darwinianism means that survival will depend on people that can deliver, not politic. As Stafford Beer once said “you can be acceptable or competent, not both”.

    This is the strength of free societies. The SOB’s that rattle the status quo and are barely tolerated when things are going well are usually the same people who save the day when it all turns to custard. The Soviets jailed or killed all their talented people, so that they finally lost the adaptive capacity to survive as a system.

    The greatest danger to the US now is if it becomes oppressive and moves towards a semi-totalitarian State, locking into power the clowns that got the place into the mess it is in now and locking up the very people with the talent, drive and vision to fix things. If this happens regeneration could take decades or even generations, rather than the (at most) 10 years it only really needs to rebuild. With good leadership hard times will bring out the best in people (and the converse is true as well).

    Take a thought experiment: this being a military related site, with long discussions about the poor quality of the US military (and at DI, CDI, et al). Many discussions abound on how to fix it, none seem to work. There is a simple solution, fire every current General, cut the budget by 75%, pull out of retirement some proven people (e.g. Van Piper), trawl through the organisation for the radicals and promote them, get back the radicals who have given up and left, then let Darwinianism do the rest. In 10 years you will have one of the best militaries in the world.

  11. Many great points, oldskeptic. However, I do not understand your thought experiment. It seems to rely on some external force (God?), who initiates, powers, and steers the changes in this “simple” solution. Unfortunately, I suspect that you are correct that the necessary changes are conceptually simple — but the implementation has so far proved impossible. Probably for structural reasons.

    This is the theme of my series on Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW.
    Part I: describing the different types of solutions
    Part II: about 4GW analysts

  12. A wonderful case study of how an organisation can turn around and rebuild itself is Rolls Royce’s bankruptcy in 1971. How new top managment and recalling a bunch of retirees from WW2 days back into service, turned it around into the biggest commercial jet engine manufacturer in the world today.

    So it can be done, even at death’s door organisations can come back from the brink and onto success.

    The concept behind the military change is that, in some sunny day in the future, an administration has the competence and guts to really tackle the issue. Rather than be prescriptive on the changes necessary, just clear out the deadwood, put in a good number of competent people (and I’d recall good retirees as well) and then place the organisation under extreme stress. It will rebuild itself better than before. This is using an organic approach, rather than an engineering one.

  13. “dckinder: That’s an interesting parallel. But I think this is a trivial distinction. The Republic was long dead when Caesar crossed the Rubicon. By then they were fighting over who would run its replacement.”

    I’ll agree that the Repubic, at least in its capacity as hegemon of the Mediterranean world, was dead. But query whether Rome could have continued as hegemon when faced with not only internal political discord but external military defeat. This sort of setback not only would have demoralized Rome itself but also emboldened the East.

    Ceasar was able to leverage a continuing Roman military expansion into an empire. Minus that sort of leverage, I suggest perhaps disintegration would have ensued. I cannot tell whether the Republic, in some serious sense, would have survived this implosion; but that would have been material only for central Italy. The rest of the Mediterranean wuold have proceeded elsewhere.

  14. Persons interested in a novel approach to the problem posed by this thread might consider reading Marlowe’s Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood

    I have yet to read this book, but its blurb states:

    Marlowe’s Counterfeit Profession presents the first comprehensive reading of the Marlowe canon in over a generation. The occasion for Patrick Cheney’s rereading is a primary discovery: Marlowe organized his canon around an “Ovidian” career model, or cursus, which turns from amatory poetry to tragedy to epic. Ovid had advertised this cursus only in his inaugural poem, the Amores, where its purpose was to counter the Virgilian cursus of pastoral, georgic, and epic. Marlowe was the first writer to translate the Amores, and thus the first to make the Ovidian cursus literally his own.

    Marlowe inscribes this cursus not simply to participate in the Renaissance recovery of classical authors, but in particular to contest the national authority of the ‘Virgil of England,’ Edmund Spenser. Using an Ovidian cursus to contest Spenser’s Virgilian cursus, Marlowe enters the generational project of writing English nationhood. Unlike Spenser, however, Marlowe writes a ‘counter-nationhood’ – a nonpatriotic form of nationhood that subverts royal power with what Ovid calls libertas.

    By discovering the original project organizing an otherwise fragmentary canon, Cheney aims to change the most basic lens through which critics have viewed Marlowe: ‘Shakespearean drama’. This lens cannot account for two of the most striking features of Marlowe’s canon: his scholarly use of translation and his writing of epic. Cheney proposes that a theatrical, Shakespearean model has prevented critics from discovering the original context within which Marlowe produced his art: a multimedia, multi-genre Spenserian model of Ovidian counter-nationhood.

    I have yet to read this book, but its blurb suggests that it concerns an individual’s reaction against a rising imperium, be it Rome or England.

    While Marlowe was a fascinating character in his own right ( too fascinating for me to discuss right now ), the image of Ovid as standing against Imperial tyranny appears to be most apt to our present discussion.

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