My series about America has sparked much discussion, unusually intense (as it goes on the FM site). How can we reform America? Elections, with more and wider citizen involvement? Or has America become unreformable, our ruling elites too strong — so that revolt or passivity are the only practical options? This is IMO the most important of the many topics discussed on this site — perhaps the most important question of our time.
My opinion is simple (perhaps simplistic):
- We are in this together. Reality/nature/God enforces collectively responsibility.
- Individually we are weak. Collectively we are strong.
- Our reluctance to take personal responsibility for the Republic is our greatest problem. Ingenuity at producing excuses does not substitute for taking action.
- What are the odds of success at fixing American? It does not matter; nobody cares (not our forefathers, not our descendants).
Judging from the comments, this is a minority view. All of the comments disagree, most suggesting that passivity or outright revolt are our only effective options. This is the first in a series of posts showing the comments.
Please post your views in the comments — and especially any evidence or citations supporting your view. As always, comments should be brief, topical, and civil. My posts about America are listed at the end.
Diagnosis: what is most important problem with the American political regime?
gpanfile, 21 December 2007
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.…
Judasnoose, 1 March 2008
“In a democratic republic we are responsible for the actions of our government. Neither future historians nor our descendants will care for our excuses.”
Fabius, you have an over-developed sense of responsibility. The USA is not actually democratic. The votes don’t get counted honestly. Broadening the Inquiry into New Hampshire, Black Box Voting (28 February 2008).
Fabius Maximus replies: I am sure you do not believe this is a new phenomenon. Voting fraud was a major support for metro political machines in the 19th and 20th centuries. What’s missing is evidence about the size of modern voting fraud (that it exists does not mean that it is determinative). And it is easily prevented if enough people care. If we depend on Mommy to keep everything neat and tidy, then we cannot be a democracy because we are not citizens.
Judasnoose, 28 April 2008
“We elect our representatives, nor have their been widespread protests against the post-WWII expansion of the military-industrial complex. Nor can we complain that we have not been told. President Eisenhower’s warning was clear, and there have been countless stories in the mainstream media about this over the past few decades.
“If our response to these things is to blame others instead of our own fecklessness, then perhaps we are not capable of self-government.”
I don’t think you’re being fair to the American people, Fabius. Americans have voted, protested, written, and used every peaceful means to try to reform their government. They have not been entirely feckless and passive. They appear to have been outmaneuvered by those in power — that doesn’t mean they just sat around doing nothing.
Also, American voters do not elect their representatives. Diebold does, and exit polls make this abundantly obvious.
To be outmaneuvered by an oppresser is not the same thing as deserving to be oppressed.
Fabius Maximus replies: I believe this is overstated.
“Diebold does, and exit polls make this abundantly obvious.”
Diebold’s electronic voting machines are a new development — unlike the trends I discussed — and is used in only a fraction of America’s voting boths. Exit polls — like polling in general — has a long history of inaccurate results. Polls do not “prove” anything..
“Americans have voted, protested, written, and used every peaceful means to try to reform their government.”
Are you kidding? Did I miss the mass protests, the marches, the petitions, the widespread popular outrage?
Judasnoose, 8 July 2008
“The next step up is local organizing for political purposes. Recruiting, working the party system, donating cash and time.”
William S. Lind has gone on record as endorsing Ron Paul for President — but it appears that Ron Paul will not be entered as an actual candidate. I believe that this is due to corruption in the party system. They allow genuine reformers to go through the motions of running, but the puppetmasters will not permit real reformers the opportunity to get on the ballot.
Likewise I think it would have been sheer folly (or suicidal courage) for a German to say, in 1933, “If you don’t like this Chancellor, the next step is to organize a party and work within the legitimate party structures of the German state. Donate time and money! Make sure your neighbors vote!” At that point, Germany was beyond restoration to a functioning democracy, so going through the motions of organizing was simply counter-productive.
As for my union comparison, it is still entirely possible for a native-born American to get killed for trying to organize a union.
Fabius Maximus replies: I feared it would come to this point of absurdity, comparing political action in today’s America to 1933 Germany. Godwin’s Law prevents an adequate reply to this interesting excuse for our collective inaction, which is probably just as well.
“Ron Paul will not be entered as an actual candidate. I believe that this is due to corruption in the party system.”
Quite an statement. And the evidence for this? I have been an active Republican for almost 30 years, and know nobody who thought he could win the Republican vote. Even those I know who voted for him considered him a long-shot. (Republican humor: “Foreign wars, massive growth of government, large deficits — if we had elected a Republican President none of this would have happened.”)
“As for my union comparison, it is still entirely possible for a native-born American to get killed for trying to organize a union.”
It is possible to get killed going into the wrong restaurant in Philly (it happened to a friend of mine). But we do not declare eating out a dangerous activity, because the odds are quite favorable. Do you have any evidence that unionizing is a dangerous activity, relatively speaking?
Plato’s Cave, 8 August 2008
I will propose, for the sake of argument, that Fabius’ suggestion that we just vote in the next election is hollow. Merely voting is about as meaningful as choosing which tv channel to watch. Or, as a friend says, it has the same effect on the outcome of the game as rooting for your home team.
Elections are a sham and a distraction in our current system. Both major parties agree on the essentials of foreign and national economic policy. No one gets to run for national office without being vetted by the party elders, and indebted to the corporate interests which finance his campaign. A US Senator like Feingold is a miracle in the US Congress.
My favorite blog, after Fabius’, is Stop Me Before I Vote Again, a site “devoted to the deconstruction of the Democratic party.” I hope there’s a similar one on the Rebublican side.
Fabius Maximus replies: Voting is just the beginning of citizenship, not the entirety of it. As I have said many times: Vote. Get involved. Donate your time and money. Write. Talk to friends and strangers (e.g., walk precincts).
How wonderful a world it would be if progress could be achieved by sitting on our couch while complaining about America and deciding if any of the candidates were worthy of exerting ourself to vote.
While widespread adoption of this attitude would mean rapid collapse of the Republic, it would be good preparation for life in the new regime. Each of could choose a viewpoint suitable for a subject: irony, detachment, or resignation. For those interested in philosophy or religion, there were the traditional choices of a Roman aristocrat under the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity.
FxConde, 8 August 2008
The problem is that the nation has turned self centered. Unable to make decisions beyond themselves they cannot see the benefit of doing bigger things. Sacrifice, discipline are alien and painful concepts to many Americans maybe even to a small majority. I am not talking about taxes or war, I am talking about their day to day lives.
Kipling’s “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” describes the slide and end result. Until the majority of people put there personal houses in order and vote accordingly the next step will some form despotism. I am at this point not very confident of the outcome.
But at least it’s Friday!
Judasnoose, 15 August 2008
Fabius Maximus replies:…”our leaders are just people like us. As a long-term average, probably no better than us, no worse.”
The USA’s political “leaders” mostly do not lead. There are lobbyist mouthpieces, whose jobs revolve around maintaining a sham democracy. There are hard-core sociopaths, who make decisions. Neither class is a “leader” in the sense that David Hackworth was a leader.
The US political class is almost entirely taken from the plutocrat class. Plutocrats are much more likely than average to be sociopaths. The political class *is* much more antisocial, much less moral, much more destructive than the average American.
I don’t have a good way to choose good leaders, but I have a good way to avoid bad ones. It is as follows: learn to diagnose sociopaths at a distance, and do whatever it takes to avoid having them as leaders.
Fabius Maximus replies: An interesting series of bold assertions. And your evidence for this is …? I trust it quite firm, considering the extraordinary nature of your allegations.
Also, what is your evidence that other nations’ leadership class are superior to ours in some way (this was the original point of the discussion)?
Judasnoose, 15 August 2008
… The USA is parasitized by plutocrats. The plutocrats make money from US social decay. Ergo, one must either get rid of the plutocrats or tolerate the social decay.
If one tries to rebuild neighborhoods, walk the precincts, get the vote out, and otherwise work within the system — the plutocrats will skim all the profits out of the system, and all your effort will merely serve to enrich your enemies.
Fabius Maximus replies: Interesting analysis.
“If one tries to rebuild neighborhoods, walk the precincts, get the vote out, and otherwise work within the system — the plutocrats will skim all the profits out of the system, and all your effort will merely serve to enrich your enemies.”
Is this said on the basis of extensive analysis by multi-disciplinary teams and extensive computer modeling? Revelation from God? Psychic powers? It must be something certain, to justify abandoning any civic responsibility. Nothing like certainty of failure to rationalize passivity.
Two more comment (as the proprietor, I get the last word).
First, many of the above statements about America’s ills are quite bold. If true, they leave us little alternative to resignation or revolt. But before giving up on our regime, I for one would like evidence that it is beyond reform. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.
Second, a quote from one of my comments.
The rulers of every regime demand flattery. Democracy is no different. We are the rulers, and demand that we be considered vituous. Hence all ills of society must be blamed on others. Evil, perhaps insane our traitorous, follow Americans (of the right or left, depending on our current mood). Or evil foreigners. Best of all, the “system” — through the wonder of abstraction avoiding the painful necessity of assigning responsibility.
In this view, our role as citizens is waiting for politicos to arrive that are worthy of us, for whom we can vote and begin a new age. Or, alternatively, these evils will grow until things collapse in a cleansing fire. On these ashes a new world will arise.
Perhaps so. I’ll bet that instead …
- The government continues more or less corrupt as are we ourselves.
- The government improves (or deteriorates) more or less proportionate to changes in our willingness to get involved in it.
Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
Other posts in this series about America, how we got here and how we can recover it
- Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
- Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
- A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 3 July 2008
- Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
- de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
- A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
- The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
- We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
- Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
- Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
- The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
For all posts on this subject see America – how can we reform it?.