The missing but essential key to building a better America

Summary:  Today we have an interruption in our series of posts about the project to reform America, to reflect on its goals and methods. Comments show many readers remain unclear about these things.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom -— go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”
— Samuel Adams’ speech to the Philadelphia State House on 1 August 1776

Chess or Go?
By XKCD

“The problem is choice.”
— Neo in The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Hundreds of posts on the FM website have documented the political crisis of the Second Republic (founded on the Constitution), a sliver of the work done on this great issue by others. The Republic burns, with a New America under construction right now on its ruins. Scores of posts discuss solutions. Goals, strategy, tactics.  All in vain.

Our wealthy opponents have a simpler task, rebuilding the America of the Gilded Age. They seek power, order, and control. The ways and means of plutocracy have been polished over millenia. Their capstone tool is propaganda, scientifically perfected during the 20th century.

Against this we have fragments of ideas about reform, a powerful inheritance from the Founders, and centuries of political theory of proven effectiveness. Yet we cannot assemble these pieces together into an effective whole. I see these with the same feeling of despair as I had opening the box late Christmas evening and finding dozens of pieces, all of which must be assembled before dawn into a shiny toy — but no  instructions. I know it can be done, but lack a vision of the process. With that perspective the task become possible, requiring only skill and effort.

Why has the Second Republic fallen so? What changed? How can we fix or replace it? We tell ourselves a thousand simple stories answering these questions, stories like those in Kipling’s Just So Stories (1902). “How the camel got his hump”. These represent a creative process, but one as yet without useful result.

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“We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.”
— The Oracle in The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

I believe the cause of this lies how we see our condition. We live on the game board, and so do not see the game. Like ants wandering across the black and white squares, seeing the giant pieces looming over us, we cannot determine the nature of the game, its rules, or how we can win. If we can find the right perspective then the answers to the key questions will become obvious, and we can clearly explain both the problem and solution to our fellow Americans. That’s the goal of these posts.  The comments show, correctly, that I have made little progress.

“{T}his was the object of the Declaration of Independence. not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [were] compelled to take.”
— Letter by Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 8 May 1825

Of course, a clear course of action does not mean that victory will be cheap or easy.

“A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. … This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

— Ernest E. Evans (Commander, USN), captain of the destroyer USS Johnston, on 25 October 1944 at that victorious Battle off Samar, for which he was posthumously awarded the Metal of Honor

Clear vision
Clear vision is power

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For More Information

(a) Reference pages about American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. How can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
  4. Posts about reforming America

(b) Other posts about learning:

(c) Steps to fixing America:

  1. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step
  2. Five steps to fixing America
  3. A third try: The First Step to reforming America
  4. The second step to reforming America
  5. The third step to reforming America, with music
  6. How to recruit people to the cause of reforming America

(d)  Other posts about reforming America:

  1. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
  2. The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  3. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
  4. The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
  5. Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
  6. We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
  7. The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
  8. Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
  9. In “Network”, Howard Beale asks us to get mad and do something. He’s still waiting., 19 October 2013

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45 thoughts on “The missing but essential key to building a better America

    1. Why not a better Toledo, or a better Dayton?

      The difficulty seems to be that we are the pieces on the board rather than the player who sees the whole board from the outside.

      We do need to step outside the box to observe. Would most of us see things the same?

      If we still all have different perceptions, can we come together to work for a common goal?

      Unfortunately, I keep coming back to Jefferson’s words when he responded to a letter informing him of Shay’s Rebellion. Some thing about patriots, tyrants, blood, liberty and a tree. I hope we do not have to resort to that.

    2. Doug: Toledo is hopeless :)

      FM: The same argument can be made with respect to any other unit, including the United States.

      Why not a better world? A better Western Civilization? North America? etc. etc. Your fixation on the United States is arbitrary and restricts us from considering effective actions based on other frameworks.

    3. Duncan,

      “The same argument can be made with respect to any other unit, including the United States.”

      I assume you are kidding. It is daft to imagine that there is any international political unit with influence on Ohio comparable to that of the Federal government.

    4. As long as the plutocrats are able to provide sufficient bread and circuses to the people, it will not come to that. But they almost lost control in 2008. Their own propaganda, it seems, was so effective it left even them entirely unprepared for the sudden rise in oil prices and complementary financial collapse.

      The collapse in turn spawned two “revolutionary” movements. But, with speedy and extreme corrective action, our rulers managed to stop the slide, and the movements were swiftly coopted, or petered out, directionless. Since 2010 or so it seems we are stuck in a no-man’s-land, a stasis. Things are not getting much better, but they are not getting much worse.

      For those observers who are paying attention, this seems perhaps something like the old adage about trench warfare – interminable boredom punctuated by moments of terror. Right now we are in the “boredom” phase, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The question is not whether it will fall, but when and how. As FM would say, much depends on the answer. In any case, I doubt any real change is possible until we are already in freefall. In the meantime, it is difficult to do anything but watch and wait in quiet frustration, or perhaps trepidation.

    5. Nnoks,

      “But they almost lost control in 2008. … The collapse in turn spawned two “revolutionary” movements.”

      I have read anything so funny in weeks!

      Nothing in 2008 USA was anywhere even remotely revolutionary, let alone the tiniest slightest threat to the political order. Nothing even close in magnitude to the assassinations and race riots of the1960s-1970s, or the small-scale local wars of the late 19th century (about race, unions, and fights over open land).

      As I said, one problem we have is an inability to see clearly.

    6. Duncan,

      My point is that most of us can not see beyond our daily lives. Had nothing specific to do with Toledo, Dayton or any other city. It is our own local situation that concerns most individuals.

      To the extent that local conditions are affected by the rest of the world we should certainly be interested in influencing how that happens.

    7. FM – reading fail. You’ve misinterpreted and your selective quotation mixes up what I actually said. The near loss of control in 2008 was near loss of control of the economic system as a result of the crisis itself, not because of any political movements. The movements came later, not in 2008, but as a result of the 2008 crisis, as is clearly stated in my post. Where did I say the movements were any threat at all to the system? Again, the threat was the financial crisis, not the movements.

      Please read again what I said about those movements. Why did I put the word “revolutionary” in quotation marks? What is usually implied by such a use of quotation marks? See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony_punctuation. What I in fact said was that the movements were “swiftly coopted, or petered out, directionless.” Does that sound like a threat to the system? Or does it perhaps give a clue as to the manner in which the quotation marks are being used? Please read my comments with more care and dismiss them based on something they actually say, if you are going to dismiss them.

    8. Nnoxks,

      Your comment was quite clear.

      (1). “The near loss of control in 2008 was near loss of control of the economic system as a result of the crisis itself”

      While the economic shock was large, what signs imply that the government (or whatever) was losing control?

      The standard fiscal and monetary tools worked well to quickly stabilize the economy. The magnitude of the crisis was no greater — smaller by many metrics — than 1980 – 1982 or 1873 – 1879.

      (2). “The movements came later, not in 2008, but as a result of the 2008 crisis, as is clearly stated in my post.”

      Yes, that was clear. By “2008” I meant 2008 -plus. Sloppy writing by me.

      (3). “Where did I say the movements were any threat at all to the system?”

      I said not “even remotely revolutionary”, which was your phrase.

      You did not say they were a threat to the political order; that was my incorrect inference from “revolutionary” (i.e., saying they were revolutionary does NOT imply a serious threat).

      (4). As for the quotation marks, you are correct. That was my reading FAIL.

    9. Fair enough. There is little point in debating how bad the 2008 crisis was compared to other crises. It was certainly bad enough that its effect on global political stability was and still is a serious concern.

      As for signs of losing control, oil hitting $147 a barrel was one such sign. The ensuing crash in oil prices bought some time to ramp up alternative sources of production, but it sure looked touch-and-go for a while there. And while the threat of unaffordable oil may have receded for the time being thanks to fracking, it is not at all clear how long the current “bumpy plateau” will hold. Certainly that is one of those shoes that may soon drop.

    10. Nnoxks,

      (1). “There is little point in debating how bad the 2008 crisis was compared to other crises. It was certainly bad enough that its effect on global political stability was and still is a serious concern.”

      Understanding the severity of the rash is central to seeing the efficacy of the tools that mitigated its effects.

      (2). “As for signs of losing control, oil hitting $147 a barrel was one such sign.”

      Commodity prices have always had large fluctuations, for deep structural reasons. It is daft to see them as somebody “losing control”.

      (3). “The ensuing crash in oil prices bought some time to ramp up alternative sources of production, but it sure looked touch-and-go for a while there.”

      No. As the ancient saying goes, high prices are the cure for high prices. I wrote many posts in early 2008 — contra the doomsters — saying that the usual automatic responses would occur. New supplies and conservation, although prices would not return to their previous levels (I.e., the $30 average, as so many cornicopians expected).

      (4). “And while the threat of unaffordable oil may have receded for the time being thanks to fracking, it is not at all clear how long the current “bumpy plateau” will hold. Certainly that is one of those shoes that may soon drop.”

      Yes, but probably not soon. The fracking revolution is still a US revolution, and it will go global.

    11. (1) Certainly it is important to understand the severity of the crash. But debating specifically whether it was better or worse than 1980, let alone 1872, would take more research than I want to put in right now. The efficacy of the mitigating tools remains an open question, it seems to me.

      (2) I disagree that it is daft. One point the doomers have right: oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization. I guarantee you that price spike scared even the plutocrats, as is evident from reading the professional energy literature at the time.

      (3) Your prediction was correct; nicely done. But it did look touch-and-go for a while, as is evident from reading the professional energy literature at the time.

      (4) True, but then again, there are many factors at play that may limit the world’s ability to maintain production. Interesting times are ahead no matter what. Onwards!

    12. Nnoxks,

      (1). “The efficacy of the mitigating tools remains an open question, it seems to me.”

      We had a crash similar or worse than 1929-30, applied the textbook measures, and saw the world economy stabilize in months — followed by slow recovery. If that does not convince you, I suspect you are wearing ideological dark glasses.

      (2) “One point the doomers have right: oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization.”

      That is daft. To say they are right implies someone has it wrong. Who disagrees?

      (3). “I guarantee you that price spike scared even the plutocrats …”

      You are just making stuff up.

      (4) “as is evident from reading the professional energy literature at the time.”

      That is incorrect. The IEA and EIA reports from that era are online. Find something that suggests they were “scared”. Ditto for the major energy consulting firms and oil production companies.

  1. Nor need our approach be constrained by geography. Consider, for example,k Sterling Seagrave’s _Lords of the Rim 2010_, which is the story of the overseas Chinese.

    Blurb:

    “For 2,000 years, China’s merchants and adventurers have fled tyrannical dynasties to make their fortunes in other countries. Seagrave reveals for the first time the invisible empire of the Overseas Chinese, how it controls some adopted countries, and how it is tightly knit by a web of dialects, secret societies, triads, and financial networks worth over $2-trillion. Seagrave shows how the tide has reversed and rich Overseas Chinese have helped create China’s boom making it now the world’s No.1 economic power, while the West struggles to stay afloat. The result is a Chinese renaissance that has put a friendly smile on the face of the dragon in the Chinese century.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Lords-Rim-2010-Invisible-Overseas/dp/1451571542/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385062088&sr=1-1&keywords=lords+rim+2010

    Something like the Hanseatic League or the early modern Italian banking networks might also resemble this.

    1. Another approach might be how the Levantine cities, Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut, functioned during the late Ottoman Empire:

      http://www.amazon.com/Levant-Philip-Mansel-ebook/dp/B00574LV6G/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385062584&sr=1-2&keywords=levant+splendor

      Blurb: “Levant is a book of cities. It describes three former centers of great wealth, pleasure, and freedom—Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut—cities of the Levant region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. In these key ports at the crossroads of East and West, against all expectations, cosmopolitanism and nationalism flourished simultaneously. People freely switched identities and languages, released from the prisons of religion and nationality. Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived and worshipped as neighbors.

      Distinguished historian Philip Mansel is the first to recount the colorful, contradictory histories of Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut in the modern age. He begins in the early days of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and continues through the cities’ mid-twentieth-century fates: Smyrna burned; Alexandria Egyptianized; Beirut lacerated by civil war.

      Mansel looks back to discern what these remarkable Levantine cities were like, how they differed from other cities, why they shone forth as cultural beacons. He also embarks on a quest: to discover whether, as often claimed, these cities were truly cosmopolitan, possessing the elixir of coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews for which the world yearns. Or, below the glittering surface, were they volcanoes waiting to erupt, as the catastrophes of the twentieth century suggest? In the pages of the past, Mansel finds important messages for the fractured world of today.”

      Of course, with respect to the Overseas Chinese, the Levantine cities resemble in many ways colonial-era Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

    2. Seagrave, _Lords of the Rim_ p. 104:

      “When Europeans first arrived in Asian Waters, they were intent on conquest and armed trade, and failed to see that they were blundering into a great cobweb of Chinese commercial networks….Much of what went on in Southeast Asia was kept out of sight…. Unknown to the colonials, these syndicates had long ago divided Southeast Asia into commercial territories and were engaged in a perpetual, often vicious struggle to wrest control from one another….

    3. Interesting approach, Kinder, and good that you are reading widely, but Bernard Lewis has consistently pointed out that Moslem world was at a distinct disadvantage with the West by the end of the 16th century and never recovered the ascendency it had in earlier times because of the set of ideas that they lived by.

      We aren’t going to find our answer with them, then, as interesting as those cities were.

      Popper talks about a few awakenings that have happened in the West, that are “Open societies”: Periclean Athens and the founding of the US, to name two.

    4. Remind me how Periclean Athens worked out? Hopefully we can avoid a similar fate, but we seem well on our way down the same road.

    5. Marc,

      I do not see the similarity with as Athens.

      What would have been similar is the Cold War with China and the USSR turning hotter under Nixon, instead of — as actually happened — fading: détente with the USR and the opening to China. A long, draining, destabilizing large war wrecked Greece, and could have done so to us.

      Imagine if WW1 had run from 1914 to 1945, without the 20 year intermission. That’s what ended the Hellenic Golden Age.

    6. Marc,

      Followup to your comment about historical analogies. That is a great line of thought! Democracies of any flavor are rate in history, so I do not see many useful analogies.

      Except for the same one the Founders saw, for good and ill: the Roman Republic. They used it in a loose sense as a model, but worried that we might come to the same fate.

      And my guess is that we are drifting to the same end. The roman people tired of the burden of self-government, so the late Republic’s wars were about who would takeover.

    7. Marc:

      For starters, the three cities discussed in the Levant book, while sited in the old Ottoman Empire, were transnational and heavily westernized. They bore much the same relationship to Islamic culture that, say, Hong Kong or Shanghai bore to Chinese.

      Therefore, even if we adopt Lewis’ general viewpoint of Islam, it does not apply.

    8. FM:

      I am point to alternative polities to the nation state that may be better adapted to 21st century realities. BTW: that is the conclusion of the Levant book, that many contemporary cities are, in spirit, Levantine.

  2. Fabius:

    This was a wonderful post.

    You stated: “…I know it can be done, but lack a vision of the process.”

    You also stated: “I believe the cause of this lies in our perception. We are on the game board and so do not see the game…we cannot determine the nature of the game, the rules or how we can win.”

    “I believe we suffer from a perceptual challenge.”

    You, in part, concluded that: “If we can find the right perspective then the answers to the key questions will become obvious, and we can clearly explain the problem and solution to our fellow Americans. That’s the goal of these posts.”

    Lets, for a moment, go with your key assumption “I believe we suffer from a perceptual problem and consequently lack a vision of the process.”

    You assumption, to me implies a vision of a process, in its broadest terms, that starts on the individual/cultural level (issues of perception and observation) and then moves to changes in structural arrangements.

    Most of the time our vision of the process starts on a policy level(for example changing the monetary/fiscal mix) or on a structural/economic/ political level (attacking the concentration of wealth, privilege, revolving door, crony capitalism , class conflict etc.)–and the cultural is not taken into consideration or largely skipped over.

    But if, in fact, your are correct in your assumption that we suffer, at the foundation, from a perceptual problem then we must dive into cultural issues if we are to overcome this perceptual challenge.

    This dynamic seems to involve struggling with and exploring some of the following issues:

    Developing clear and concise definitions of the nature of contemporary American culture. For example have we moved from a culture of impulse control to a culture of impulse release or to a culture which tends to demand less and permit more?

    If this cultural generalization is accurate, have we (as individuals and as a culture) developed a whole series of bad habits (for example from impulse/emotional control issues to continually confused and muddled thoughts often leading to paralysis and inertia).

    Are there specific routines/practices/disciplines of training that can be clearly articulated that can overcome or gradually modify such bad habits?

    In other words can we also create a cultural agenda as part of a vision which in the words of Jefferson “tends to place before mankind the common sense of the subject in terms so plain and firms as to command their assent and to justify ourselves in the independent stance we were compelled to take”

  3. “Scores of posts discuss solutions. Goals, strategy, tactics.”

    “If we can find the right perspective then the answers to the key questions will become obvious, and we can clearly explain both the problem and solution to our fellow Americans.”

    “{T}his was the object of the Declaration of Independence […] to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent…”

    Though the bulk of the Declaration of Independence consisted of the list of wrongs done to the colonies by the King of England, these are the 111 words we remember best:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    My sense is that we must start with a “mission statement”—something that clarifies our aspirations as affirmatives. The world overflows with people who are disgusted with the way things are. The hard part is not getting people to loathe what is; the hard part is coming up with a vision of what could be that is compelling enough to make them willing to risk real losses in its pursuit.

    1. I should add that the even harder part is that behind that vision must be a plan for how to get there from here than has at least some reasonable chance of working.

  4. Coises stated: “The hard part is not getting people to loath what is, the hard part is coming up with a vision of what could be that is compelling…”

    What becomes compelling is possibly the practices/repetitions that could be embedded in such statements.

    My guess would be that if a significant and growing number of individuals were to directly involve themselves in the possibility of changing, say, some bad habit into a good habit—through, for example, the development of the mental discipline to become aware of and perhaps partially disable a compulsion—such an experience would be extremely compelling.

    It would be compelling because the social practice or repetitions involved in the interruption of a particular compulsion might then illuminate the potential freedom each of us possess— the capacity to make choices that can actually influence our behavior—which would mean that despite the power of Big Capital, Big State and Big Bank we may have the power to change Big Culture.

  5. FM wins this threat with his first answer to Duncan Kinder. I wish more of our politicians, either Democratic or Republican, understood that our strength lies in cooperation and teamwork.

    Alas, American society in the early 21st century seems fatally obsessed with the myth of the lone superhero. In the real world, lone outsiders who work beyond the law are known as stalkers and typically get taken down fast by police and citizens cooperating together.

    This is also one of FM’s all-time best posts, in my humble opinion.

    1. “I wish more of our politicians, either Democratic or Republican, understood that our strength lies in cooperation and teamwork.”

      What makes you think they don’t understand?

      Making “us” stronger is rarely on any politician’s list of things to do.

    2. Coises,

      “Making “us” stronger is rarely on any politician’s list of things to do.”

      I believe that overstated our history quite a bit. Seeing the US as a big boat, not a zero-sum game has been the norm in our history. Lots of exceptions, and areas of division. But not to the extent you imply.

      Now, however, a large fraction of our elites appear to see America as a zero-sum game. They must be correct, since they are winning.

      Note my post showing the game board. Chess or Go? One side is wrong.

    3. I agree with your sentiment that one of the factors underlying the current state of affairs is the myth of the rugged individual who acts alone (and who is therefore, rather conveniently, excused from sharing the credit or rewards of his efforts with anyone else). Americans have become isolated from each other to the point that we communicate with each other — text messages, chat rooms, etc. — from the comfort of our own cozy little cocoons (metaphorical as well as literal ones).

      The Founders who gave us this country lived in a time when people had a far better understanding of community (and its underlying principle, cooperation) than we do today…largely because back then, cooperation was critical to survival. Back then, people helped each other in the spirit of interdependence (rather than dependence or independence) because they knew they needed each other and could (usually) count on each other. The Founders knew the value and virtue of the sentiment “United we stand, divided we fall”…and this principle helped them succeed in winning their independence from what was then one of the world’s economic and military superpowers. The concept of community was part of what made them willing to risk their own lives in the fight for this nation’s independence from the British — they weren’t just fighting for themselves, but for the others in their community. Unfortunately, that’s something that the majority of Americans are not willing to do today — the prevailing (indeed, the overwhelming) sentiment in this country today appears to be “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Not only are most Americans not willing to risk life and limb for their fellows, many are not even willing to compromise on the smallest point if it means risking any of their creature comforts.

      There’s very little doubt in my mind that the Powers That Be are aware of this and are exploiting it for all it’s worth. Divide And Conquer…it’s one of the oldest strategies in the book. There’s a truly savage irony in this…the more that the American people stubbornly refuse to work together for the benefit of all, the more they will probably lose of the creature comforts which they insist on clinging to. To paraphrase what FM has said several times recently, if people insist on behaving like sheep, then the only thing they can expect is that they will be treated like sheep…fattened up, shorn, and sold to the slaughterhouse.

  6. Reading all of this it occurs to me that, in important ways we are standing on a new frontier.

    First, the historical coupling between geography and individual reality, both perceived and experienced are increasingly breaking down. Just as the expat Chinese became the tail wagging the Chinese dog, I believe we are seeing the formation of web enabled communities consisting of like minded participants. Mostly inchoate echo chambers and snark fests now, but they are still evolving and maturing.

    Still missing are the practical infrastructure to allow members of these hyper communities to transact economically, to establish reliable identities, reputations, responsibilities, and so, culture writ large, functioning on the web.

    But the first baby steps are being taken. Bit coin for transactions, blogs for staking claims on identity, beliefs, values, and responsibilities. It’s a process not a fait accompli. It gives me hope though because these developments are pervasive enough yet imperceptible enough they lie outside the purview of keepers of the status quo.

    Perhaps the transition will take the form of a sequence of work arounds enabling web based communities to function outside the old confines if geography, nation states, and the top down power structures these preordain. The revolution will not be televised.

  7. Well I hate to muddy the waters, but one of the comments above jumped out at me:

    “Why should I want to build a better America and not, for example, a better Ohio?”
    “I assume you are kidding. It is daft to imagine that there is any international political unit with influence on Ohio comparable to that of the Federal government.”

    1. Does it follow from FM’s response, that the people of Ohio {should/do} care more about building a better America than a better Ohio?

    If not:

    1a. Could there be no contradiction? A better America is a necessary step to a better Ohio? The overall balance of local vs national is good enough, the system just lacks intelligence or responsiveness or stability or some other charecteristic.

    1b. Should one be concerned that someday, federal government’s #1 most-powerful-influence place might no longer benefit the people of Ohio? If they looked around internationally, could they find examples to support this unlikely possibility? That they might be better off as part of a non-dominant country, or a coutry wielding less power? Challenging the federal government’s #1 place is, of course, impossible for Ohio, but if I were concerned that the federal government’s power has passed its point of maximum benefit, it would have a big effect on which of the many possible reforms I would be willing to support? Or is that barking up the wrong tree?

    1c. Should one be concerned that someday, there may be a non-political power center whose influence over Ohio exceeds the federal government’s? In this case maybe the thing to do is make the local/state/federal government more powerful to counterbalance?

    1d. Should one be concerned that someday, there may be a non-political power center whose influence over the federal government exceeds Ohio’s, or even that of the local influence of all the states put together? In this case, maybe the thing to do is to try to regain control of the state/local/federal government, or to renegotiate Ohio’s or America’s relationship with this other power center, or to discover that this other power center can become even more successful if it makes the reforms I want to make (is there a convincing case for that?), or to mix up the boundary between this other power center and America until they are stuck together.

    2. Come to think of it, where do most people even stand on the local-first vs we-are-all-one-team question, or an us-vs-them attitude on some other level, like economic? Are there surveys on this? Has it changed in recent decades?

    [apologies for long comment]

    1. asdf,

      This “non-political power center” could be a business group, or religious group?
      Would wielding such power make it political?
      I’m not sure I understand.

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