Five steps to fixing America

Summary:  How can we reclaim and reform America?  Here is a five-step program.  All it requires is time and effort.  This is a content-free path.  I do not know where this will take us.  Only that if widely followed America will become what we wish it to be.  No matter what the outcome, we will meet the future as citizens.  Not sheep.

“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

To reform America requires nothing more — or less — than that we re-take responsibility for the Republic.  One person at a time.  Then we re-take the Democratic and Republican Parties.  Here are actions that could start the process.  They are undemanding, after one has taken the initial leap of faith.  None of these things are new; such methods have worked before for America — and can work again.

(1)  We must have clarity about our goal.  This is the most important step, and has two parts.

  • Start by reading the Constitution.  Don’t skim the parts you don’t like.  Those are the important ones.
  • Look in the mirror and swear that “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  Protect and defend the full Constitution, even the parts you don’t like.  The Republic is not like some Christian-lite church (Only six Commandments – You pick ’em!).

(2)  Vote in every election and primary.  To win you must first show up.

(3)  In every major election year (at least every other year) contribute time and money to at least one candidate or political party (special interest groups do not court for this).  Even if your donation is just a widow’s mite, it matters.  From Luke 21: 1-4:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

(4)  Donate at least 12 hours per year of your time to the campaign of a candidate or political party (special interest groups do not count for this).

(5)  Attend one political meeting every month, with a diverse group of people.  Neighbors are great candidates.  Not just people like you, so that all re-enforce and cheer each other’s beliefs (that way lies social strife and fanaticism).  Best would be a small group meeting to discuss US domestic or foreign policy, ideally led by somebody acknowledged by both groups as some form of leader.  Some precepts:

  • Make your goal to listen and learn, not to preach.
  • Search for common values, the starting point for politics.
  • Focus on facts.  A generation of intensive propaganda will make this difficult; these shackles are welded tight on us (breaking them is a task for our children).  Debate is futile; looks for areas of agreement!
  • Find common goals.
  • Update (per Pluto’s comment):  stay cool; whenever possible applaud those with whom you disagree.  It’s about us winning, not you winning.
  • Then and only then discuss policies.
  • Avoid the search for enemies.  To divide the people is the age-old tool of elites, and designating heretics and apostates is the first step.

Expect no miracles or fast cures.  We have sapped the foundation of the Republic.  Rebuilding will take time and work.

For more information

For a full list of articles see the FM Reference Page America – How Can We Reform It?

Some solutions, ways to reform America:

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  2. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  3. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008 — Part One.
  4. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008 — Part Two.
  5. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008 — Part Three.
  6. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  7. The first step on the road to America’s reform, 29 May 2009
  8. Correction to my previous posts – not all citizen activism is good…, 16 October 2009
  9. The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
  10. Question of the Day, about reforming America, 12 March 2010
  11. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  12. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
  13. The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010

31 thoughts on “Five steps to fixing America

  1. I really like your list. I came up with a similar list of actions for myself and am trying to persuade myself to actually start doing all of them.

    The only caveat/additions I would make are to #5. Be careful when you are attending your monthly political meeting to avoid causing emotion-based confrontations. If you engage people’s intellect and show them the logical consequences of their beliefs you can lead them to change themselves. If you engage their emotions you will only cause them to further entrench themselves regardless of the validity (or more frequently, lack of validity) of their positions.

    The other thing that helps a great deal is to admit when somebody else has a better argument than you do. I can’t count the number of times I’ve finished a political discussion by admitting that the other person (not opponent!) was right on one issues and then getting them to admit that I’m right on the next four issues. Humility, honesty, and intellectual rigor are far more important than who won an argument.

  2. How about add dont vote for a candidate just because he/she supports “family values” cause most of the time they are lying through their teeth about that.

  3. More dead-end “Politics”, as usual.

    Another veiled attempt to “blame the citizens” for what we have (that is FM’s usual answer)…which, in itself, is consciously designed to end discussion of what to do individually and as a Nation and force the indiviual into a nihilistic corner.

    Those days are over (In case you missed it)……just watch; you will not like what you will see but just “blame yourself” for not reading the Constitution and not going to your caucus. Unbelievable.

    1. (1) This just in: the Citizens of a Republic have the ultimate responsibility for its deeds. It’s our’s. We cannot blame Mommy or Daddy for our boo-boos. There is nobody else to blame.

      (2) “consciously designed to end discussion of what to do individually”

      That’s quite obviously false, since this IS a discussion about what to do individually. I recommended some simple first steps for mass organizing. Unlike your incomprehension, Pluto understood that — giving both a correction (noted) and additional ideas.

      (3) “force the indiviual into a nihilistic corner”

      I don’t believe that word (nihilistic) means what you think it means. This post expresses the *opposite* of a nihilistic worldview.

      (4) “just ‘blame yourself’ for not reading the Constitution”

      That statement has no clear meaning that I can see. It looks like a non sequitur.

      (5) “not going to your caucus”

      Like so much political terminology in modern America, that word (caucus) has been stripped of meaning. But classically it meant meetings of a political organization. The Tea Party had caucus-like meetings — and those may qualify as the meetings in #5. The Occupy Wall Street protests do not, at least as yet. They skipped the dreary but necessary step of organizing and thinking — going to the fun step of holding the demostration. Unfortunately the former gives meaning to the latter.

      Nobody has mentioned it in this thread, but the Tea Party movement followed this plan to some degree, which accounts for its formidable political success. They skipped parts of the formula, which accounts for the ease with which they were coopted into becoming shock troops for the Republican Party. For example, a movement starting in opposition to bank bailouts was coopted into supporting officials who are direct tools of the banks.

      So this can be seen as a proposal for a Tea Party II. I’ll write more about this another day.

      (6) “Those days are over”

      Your comments read like they’re written by God. Or someone in an asylum with severe delusions. Knowledge of future events (other than the physical world’s patterns) is not given to mortals. Certainty about such things is a sign of weak thinking.

  4. An important lesson I learned from my horse, in the process of teaching him how to be a good horse: rewards are meaningless unless you can make a cause/effect relationship in the horse’s mind. “If you do this, you get a carrot.” Punishments are always less effective than rewards but also are completely ineffective unless you can make the cause/effect relationship. “If you buck going into the canter, you will wind up with a fist-print on the upper back of your skull” Reward and punishment must be consistent and accompanied by communication.

    For example, Obama is not going to get my vote again, no matter what. I will be sending a letter to the white house and the democrats explaining that it is because he did not keep his promise about closing gitmo and bringing those who committed torture in my name to justice. That’s the whack on the head. I am not sure yet who I will vote for but I will make it clear that those are my “issues” I’ll be deciding on and if they renege on a promise I will be their permanent enemy, as I am now Obama’s enemy.

    Once again I am faced with an electoral process that I know will not offer my candidate I can vote for, but I’m sure I know who I can vote against and I will make every effort to communicate why.

    1. I’m in the same boat, Marcus.

      In 2000 I voted for the “Natural Selection Party ” candidate for President because the field was so weak that a physicist with no policy experience was the best candidate running for the job.

      I’m feeling the same way going into 2012. I can’t reward Obama for his national security actions but I haven’t yet found another candidate that doesn’t show serious signs of dementia.

      Although I strongly support FM’s efforts to fix America, our current rate of decay makes me wonder if the 2016 election will be held.

    2. The election will be held. Why wouldn’t our leaders hold the election? How much of a difference was there between Obama and McCain’s policies with respect to the key areas of economics and geopolitics? Elections allow the public to feel involved and allow for impartial resolution of intra-elite differences.

    3. FM, what you’re saying is perfectly logical but the speed with which we are burying the Constitution is absolutely breath-taking and in a few years the elites may not care whether the public feels involved and may find another way to their settle their differences thus obliviating the need to run for election.

      As you’ve noted before, the elites are very confident in their ability to manage their sheep-citizens and by 2016 they may well find a way to get people to believe that it is unpatriotic to vote.

    4. Rome’s Emperiors kept the trappings of the Republic for centuries. Changing the ourward forms is unnecessary and unsettles the peons, which is why such things are so seldom done.

      But I agree, the changes are coming with a speed beyond my worst nightmare. It’s Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium at work in political evolution (instead of biological evolution). The Republic was stable for so long we assumed that it was enduring, build on stone.

      I strongly recommend reading Stefan Zweig’s book World of Yesterday. The A-H Empire had endured for a thousand years (in some form), and it went away in moment, as history goes. Along with all the structures that supported its civilization. We can learn much from that experience, and better understand our peril.

    5. FM: “We can learn much from that experience, and better understand our peril.”

      Well said, FM. I’ll read the book, thanks.

    1. FM, your comment is accurate, as usual, but aren’t you advocating more or less the same actions in your article that Mikyo advocates in his comment?

    2. The assertion was that change only comes from the people, not that it can come from the people. In fact change often comes from a society’s elites. My guess is that change most often comes from the elites.

  5. Let us suppose that a website has more than one interest, and more than only one author, and that several of them use the same nickname? Err, no wait, nevermind. Uh, i didnt say that. :P

  6. Fixing America does not come from authoring instructions. Who in this day and age, where we are all over-informed, will listen to anyone? Our President garners very little respect as a figurehead of leadership, coming in second to last in my mind to his predecessor. It is tragic that the government is considered by many to be ‘owned’ by monied interests. Is it really that easy to buy a Senator?

    I do not doubt that corruption is a high level, but not much higher than standard. There must be something else at play here. Not just paralysis in the Congress, lack of regulation or too much regulation. Something more is failing our American spirit, something inherently illogical. We have become Godless, as our European forefathers have. Our family structure is melting down and our sense of community is lost. We do not belong to America, we believe it belongs to us. We think that just because we live here and are free that it will just continue.

    It will not. Nothing stays the same in the vast complexity of the human condition. America is about succeeding despite difficulties placed in the path of a society yearning for peaceful freedom. We are for the most part, those whose parents are baby boomers, are children of prosperity. We grew up in the 70s and 80s. A period littered with mini-conflicts that were tidied up nicely. We were coaxed into believing we did not have to work hard for America. Fact is that we believed, and still believe that America works hard for us.

    We are the citizens, there are no others. The small number of men and women in national, state and local government are us, they are people just like us, even if they all seem like multimillionaire lawyers. Why can’t a plumber become a Senator, even for just one term and then return to his shop?

    It is our duty, yes DUTY to look hard into the mirror and make our OWN LIST. It does not have to be itemized like above, however, those are organized and intelligent thoughts Fabius and others. One simply needs to look long and hard enough to change his or her mind.

    1. ” Why can’t a plumber become a Senator, even for just one term and then return to his shop?”

      For the exact same reason a senator cannot become a plumber for few years then return to Congress. It requires training and experience to become a plumber. It is crazy to imagine that is not true for a legislator of a large nation.

      One reason America is so poorly governed is that, in our arrogance and ignorance, we do not see this. So we send to Washington grossly unqualified people to govern us. Look at the Republican debates. How many of those people have the experience to become President? We treat it as an internship, a four year on-the-job training opportunity — and wonder at the poor results.

  7. I’ve done everything Fabius recommended. I volunteered extensively for Obama’s campaign, not only manning the phones but going door-to-door. I’ve attended political meetings locally. I’ve voted in every election. For my time and effort I got…

    …A president who extended the tax cuts for the rich;

    …A president who orders the murder of American citizens without charging him with a crime or even arraigning him, much less giving him a trial;

    …A president who proposes new rounds of cuts to social security and medicare so that we can give an 8% budget increase to a U.S. military wired in endless unwinnable wars in third-world hellholes.

    …A congress that utterly failed to fix the financial system which remains unstable and continues to build up for an American financial meltdown worse than the one in 2008.

    …An endless ever-increasing War on Drugs that continues to expand without limit.

    …A limitlessly growing prison-industrial complex that relentlessly criminalizes bizarre non-crimes like importing orchids without the proper license, or making cheese at home.

    …a surveillance state that has torn up the constitution and wiped its ass with it, and now grows out of control from a DHS headquarters that is currently the largest office building in the world (even larger than the Pentagon) to the point where local school doors have break-in alarms wired up to the Department of Homeland Security.

    …cartels and monopolies run amok without limit, to the point where in almost every good or service an American wants to buy, they have a choice of at most two duopoly provides or perhaps as many as three triopoly providers, all offering crappy services/products with grotesquely overpriced shoddy products not even worth buying.

    …A Ponziconomy (as economist Umair Haque puts it) where business in America is now based on lies and scams and any good or service you buy is likely to come with acres of fine print contract that explain why the product/service won’t actually do anything, is grossly defective, and how you will endlessly raped for unlimited fines and fees and charges without actually getting the product/service that was promised.

    …A college system now designed entirely as a three-card-monte scam to leech vast amounts out of money out of young people, then, when they can’t find a job, triple or quadruple their debt with fines and fees when they go into default that puts them into debt for life with debt that can never be legally discharged (even if you become homeless and go insane and must rely on Section 8 social security payments to live, your social security payments will be garnished to pay back your college loan. See “Elephant in the room: rising, unpayable student debt”. Also see: “Student loan default rates rise sharply in the past year,” New York Times, 12 September 2011.)

    …A congress that has set the constitution on fire by continuing the pass the USA Treason Act every time it comes up for renewal (misnamed the USA Patriot Act, an unconstitutional piece of legislation which violates most of the Bill of Rights of the constitution) to the point where the president now announces a secret unaccountable panel that will U.S. citizens to be assassinated without evidence or a trial, and everyone merely yawns. Google the phrase “star chamber” to see the historical results of this kind of barbarism in Merrie Olde England.

    …A nation hopelessly addicted to oil and the automobile that cannot manage to do anything about its addiction, except to buy bigger more wasteful SUVs and engage in longer more wasteful commutes on its white-elephant superhighway system.

    …A middle class relentlessly shrinking under the pressure of global wages falling worldwide for the bottom 80% of the population, to the point where tax revenues are now shrinking so drastically that America cannot even provide basic services like streetlights or fire departments (San Diego has now privatized its fire department, privatized its garbage collection services, and privatized police for rural areas. Other cities have followed suit.).

    …A medical-industrial complex riddled with corruption and fraud and self-dealing, run by a cartel (the AMA) with artificially restricts entry into medical schools to insure that American doctors make salaries more than twice what doctors in other first-world countries make, while medical-devicemakers and doctors and hospitals and health insurers engage in endless bribery and sweetheart contracts and nondisclosure agreements to make sure their insanely overpriced services face no competition and always increase in cost far faster than the rate of inflation. (See “Experts warn of medical industry cartels’ power,” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 February 2010, Carolyn Lochhead and Victoria Colliver; also see “The Fix Is In: The hidden public-private cartel that sets health care prices,” By Darshak Sanghavi, Slate, 2 Sept. 2009; also see “Journal of the American Medical Association says doctors should stop accepting bribes from drug companies“, Natural News, 1 March 2006.

    I’ve done everything Fabius suggests, and things have gotten worse. In fact, they’ve gotten exponentially worse. When I look around, I see an America collapsing so fast that this article no longer seems unusual: “Faced with police budget cuts, Topeka City Kansas legalizes wife-beating.”

    1. I don’t know what “change political parties” means.

      I do know that both parties belong to us. That a small group of rich, powerful people have taken control. And that we should get them back.

      If someone comes and takes my home, I don’t polish the furnature and leave — finding a nice shack to live it.

    2. Obama got the nomination because Hillary was vulnerable to scandal: Bill Clinton had not been able to keep his zipper up after leaving office, and the Republicans presumably were going to make noise about how embarassing it would be to have a “First Husband” who was likely to continue having affairs.

      It was Obvious to me from my first few contacts with Obama’s campaign that something Very Empty was going on. No actual authenticity, just lip service and pandering to “feel good” stuff.

      Any reform movement that lacks an understanding of the need for transpartisanship, and a holistic/integral paradigm shift, will just end up being falsely appropriated by the corrupt elements currently in control of the right and left.

      I. Conservatives locate evil in a lack of personal responsibility. This is easily exploited, and has been (e.g., Koch bros and Tea Party). Conservatives will never participate in any real reform, their politics are PURELY about defending BACKWARD THINKING even when doing so stops the rest of the world from progressing and evolving toward “something better”.

      II. Liberals locate evil in social structures.

      Liberals have failed to maintain populist appeal, particularly populist reform in the face of rising plutocracy. Liberals (with a few, marginalized exceptions like ww.tikkun.com) have failed to see how the failures of postmodern culture provided VAST opportunities to the far right, including the religious far right.

      Liberals have to take responsibility for seeing how their paradigm has failed, and they need to move on to a transpartisan/holistic/integral paradigm.

      Stop clinging to ways that do not, and can not, work anymore. excerpt:

      “The twelve leverage points to intervene in a system were proposed by Donella Meadows, a scientist and system analyst focused on environmental limits to economic growth. The leverage points, first published in 1997, were inspired by her attendance at a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) meeting in the early 1990s where she realized that a very large new system was being proposed but the mechanisms to manage it were ineffective. …

      1. Power to transcend paradigms”

      The mising part of FM’s otherwise excellent analysis is a lack of understanding of the problems with postmodern culture and the responses from within the counterculture elites (Esalen, Noetic, Naropa, etc.).

      Maybe people subconsciously believe that they should be able to download a “democracy app” for their smartphone, and spend all day clicking something to create social justice?

  8. Mclaren, I don’t understand. That sounds like a complaint, the sort of thing we’d hear from someone expecting Immediate and easy gratification.

    In 1764 Samuel Adams took his first steps to end British. The Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. At a cost of 50 thousand dead and wounded.

    In 1774, Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded America’s first anti- slavery society. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868. 140 thousand killed in action, 365 thousand total dead — the cost of ending slavery (not counting the dead among those fighting to maintain slavery).

    Big things often take time. Big things are often expensive.

    1. Bad news for you: yes. Not even demons always lie. Everything in life comes only with work. Every breath we take requires work. Every calorie of food we eat comes only with work.

      “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
      “— Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775

      “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
      — Thomas Paine, 23 December 1776

      Those who wait for the Blue Fairy to liberate them, will wait long.

  9. I. Feudal/Medieval culture is based on mythic conformism and dependency. It is agrarian, even in its imperial forms (manorialism). In subsuming tribal cultures, imperial/manorial cultures created conformist myths that were partial truths raised to the level of full truths. Traditional forms of culture that are imbedded with modern/posmodern societies are highly problematic: “Liberalism and Religion – We Should Talk, Ken Wilber, Shambhala Sun, July 1999 — excerpts:

    The way it is now, the modern world really is divided into two major and warring camps, science and liberalism on the one hand, and religion and conservatism on the other. And the key to getting these two camps together is first, to get religion past science, and then second, to get religion past liberalism, because both science and liberalism are deeply anti-spiritual.
    … But one thing is absolutely certain: all the talk of a new spirituality in America is largely a waste of time unless those two central dialogues are engaged and answered. Unless spirituality can pass through the gate of science, then of liberalism, it will never be a significant force in the modern world, but will remain merely as the organizing power for the prerational levels of development around the world.

    II. Modernism, including the industrial revolution and democratic republics, is based on independence (which requires informed, civic participation) at the level of nationalism. excerpt:

    Modern values, on the other hand, tend to be egalitarian (not hierarchical), individualistic (not conformist), scientific (not mythic-fundamentalist), and place a premium on equality (not slavery).

    This shift from …from traditional values to modern values, was presaged in the salons or “small gatherings of moderns” (the word salon is French, but these gatherings were also occurring in England, Scotland, and Germany, among others), where the social practice of dialoging according to orange values was carefully exercised. That is, the practice of dialogue geared toward mutual understanding, reciprocal exchange, postconventional equality and freedom was practiced by small groups of leading-edge elites. This was a collective, communal, intersubjective, dialogical discourse at the orange wave of consciousness–a social practice, paradigm, or injunction of dialogical discourse within an elite subculture whose center of gravity was orange [modern] or higher.

    This new exemplar or social practice gave rise to a set of novel experiences, insights, data, illuminations, and interpersonal understandings, which new political theories then sought to capture. Most of these new theories of liberal democracy shared the idea that the only way to integrate individual and social is to have the individual feel that he or she is participating in the laws that govern his or her behavior. In the States this was popularly summarized by the phrase, “No taxation without representation,” and it essentially meant that a people have the right to be self-governing. This new practice of dialogical discourse and self-governance (generally called a “social contract”) was conceptualized in different ways by leading-edge individuals ranging from John Locke to Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine to Thomas Jefferson, Immanuel Kant to James Madison.

    This self-governance is not a felt requirement of blue (which will follow the law if it is part of tradition), and it is not felt requirement of red (which will follow the law if it issues from the power leader). Only at orange does interiority start to demand a hand in the laws that regulate its own behavior.

    Modernism’s rise and decline was based on absolutisms: partial truths (scientific rationalism) elevated to full truths. FM has previously invoked Classicism to cover the glaring hole in modernism: its inability to account for Spirit and Transcedence.

    III. Postmodernism is based on interdependence, including global interdependence.

    There is no global paradigm, much less one driving global political reform. some hints as to what may be possible however {URL}:

    Reforming a national democratic republic may be a futile effort unless it happens in the context of a global paradigm shift toward a higher, more enlightened form of culture that is holistic and integral, capable of embracing newly emergent/evolutionary qualities of culture (which are usually first noticed at the margin of mainstream culture, or at the interface to countercultures).

    FM’s perspective is based on looking in the rear-view mirror to revive modernism. It is a form of puritanism. For FM’s argument to hold, he must propose a method that (1) deals with the death grip that conservatives (20%) have on the political process, and (2) deals with the rampant paradigm of cynicism, despair and hopelessness common amongst non-conservatives.

    A holistic/integral paradigm addresses both those problems. The old values of the Republic do not. It is true that even with a new paradigm, people will still have to go out into the world and do the real work of social reform, which may include organizing resistance to a corrupt order.

  10. Spiritual science?

    Divide and Conquer: How the Essence of Mindfulness Parallels the Nuts and Bolts of Science>, Google Tech Talk, 28 Jnauary 2010:

  11. I think #5 does not have to be a physical meeting. We should engage on multiple blogs and provide comments with succinct, clear arguments for our point of view, stripped of the emotion and demagoguery typically inhabiting those spaces.

    1. Big Mac,

      Great point! My instincts are still those of an earlier technological era. Today these things can be done online, to some extent.

      I see websites like this as a form (or at least potentially) of the Founders’ Committees of Correspondence.

Leave a Reply