How can we arouse a passion to reform America in the hearts of our neighbors?

Summary:   People usually focus on the details of reform, such as the specific policies that if enacted will reform America. But that’s the easy part of the process, and several steps down the road. Instead we should focus on the first steps, such as how to arouse Americans and motivate them to work for reform. Today we try for a different perspective on this task: how to rekindle America’s passionate love of liberty.

Anger

“We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

… Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason.

— David Hume in A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)

.

Scores of posts on the FM website provide analysis of the Republic’s ills, its decline and the rise of a New America on its ruins. Just like the articles in scores of hundreds of other websites. I see the problem as our mysteriously broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop). More specifically, our lack of clear sight, our gullibility, our inability to choose strong leaders, to formulate goals and plans to achieve them. these render us ineffectual. We are no longer the unruly, skeptical people that maintained the Republic for its first two centuries.

The comments to these posts prove my analysis to be a dead end, similar to the results of others (e.g., Naked a Capitalism, to name one of hundreds or thousands). We producing entertainment, like News at 11.

Why so little effect? As a people we are indifferent to logic (a commonplace in history). More importantly, and a decline from previous generations, we now lack the motivation to change, let alone undertake the great effort required to rebuild the Second Republic — or create a Third. Restoring that motivation is perhaps the first task for those seeking to reform America. No plan, no organization, no goals can succeed without people committed to the project.

.

Fire of the Soul

“Perhaps you should forget logic and devote yourself to motivations of passion or gain. Those are reasons for mass political action.”
— Advice of Shras (Andorian Ambassador to the Federation) to Spock in “Journey to Babel”, slightly paraphrased

Both Hume and Shras both agree that we must find this spur or inspiration in our passions, not our minds. Action might come from contempt at what we have become, anger at our leaders, and love of liberty.

I have tried to do this, with little success. Still, it seems the most promising course. We must find a formula that arouses our hearts, a button to push in Americans’ minds that sparks us to action. The Tea Party Movement successfully accomplished this, but failed to accomplish its original goals from lack of organization and leadership (its members wanted neither). Climate activists attempted to ignite a popular movement based on fear, but failed to gain more than passive support.

If we had the funding, this would make an exciting contract for a Madison Avenue marketing firm. Since gaining funding results from a base of supporters, we must do this ourselves. Post your ideas in the comments.

For More Information

(a)  Posts about anger:

  1. Now is the time for America to get angry, 24 March 2009
  2. Re-envisioning the FM website, becoming soldiers in the war for American’s future, 21 December 2009
  3. Vital reading for America: two stories that might help arouse us to action, 17 January 2013
  4. The Idiocies of “Oversight” and “Accountability”, 9 February 2013
  5. In “Network”, Howard Beale asks us to get mad and do something. He’s still waiting., 19 October 2013
  6. A simple thing you can do to start the reform of America: get angry, 11 December 2013

(b)  The problem:

  1. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 15 September 2010
  2. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  3. Understand our problem before you prescribe a cure for America. We’ve gone mad., 17 September 2013

(c)  Solutions:

  1. Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America, 1 December 2012
  2. Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance., 29 October 2013
  3. Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America, 24 November 2013

(d)  Steps to reforming America:

  1. The sure route to reforming America
  2. A third try: The First Step to reforming America
  3. The second step to reforming America
  4. The third step to reforming America, with music
  5. How to recruit people to the cause of reforming America
  6. Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America

(e)  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. Understand our problem before you prescribe a cure for America. We’ve gone mad., 17 September 2013
  10. In “Network”, Howard Beale asks us to get mad and do something. He’s still waiting., 19 October 2013
  11. The missing but essential key to building a better America, 21 November 2013

(f)  Posts about music and revitalizing America:

  1. A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009 — About the Man in the Mirror
  2. The New America needs a new national anthem! Here’s my nomination., 24 November 2012
  3. Listen to hear the state of America (and its cure) explained in song, 8 February 2013
  4. The third step to reforming America, with music, 3 September 2013

.

Never give up

.

59 thoughts on “How can we arouse a passion to reform America in the hearts of our neighbors?

  1. Not sure if you wish for more effective rhetoric or more effective PR. I have a feeling it’s rhetoric but i’ll just talk throw out some observations on PR, since I don’t know anything about rhetoric. (nor PR either, but I feel like I experience good PR more often than good rhetoric so here we go). Not that any of this is new…

    Publish “best-of” blog posts in book form. (the publication itself can be crowd-funded (kickstarter?), FM would be following other blogs in doing this). Give away freebies to other bloggers / talk radio hosts etc. merchandise! (I think it’s now possible to get ttry.shirts, bumper stickers, fridge magnets, coffee mugs etc printed and sold entirely online).. Sometimes people who care enough to have a strong feeling in them but believe they are are too busy to do much else are happy to buy something as a token of their appreciation.

    Think about specific audience… is there a particular type of person you want to reach out to? Would this stuff even “sell” well to the partisan “rage-read” audience?

    Maybe focusing on a specific injustice, and a specific proposed solution, could be useful??

    Mail free merchandise to media folk, musicians, etc, who are popular with your audience.

    PR stunts! interns! total lack of shame! Celebrities.

    hijack existing movements!

    more interns! (Wanted: Enthusiastic person. Positive attitude. Must be willing to make improvements to country. Unpaid position, flexible hours!)

    facebook, youtube. etc.

    how do other “pro blogger-pundit-commentators” raise money?

    Also, maybe there are certain times of year for this sort of thing…

    Draw on strengths… FM has compiled some great research, and organized it neatly into categories. Could be useful to a lot of people– publicize this more? FM also has an interesting personality, unusual combination of conservative (for lack of a better word) and anti-conservative (for lack of a better word). Could be a good thing…

    1. asdf,

      “Not sure if you wish for more effective rhetoric or more effective PR. ”

      Neither. Perhaps both.

      What is the message that will excite Americans? The button in our minds that excites our passions. To what do we appeal that reaches their hopes, fears, and dreams as citizens?

      The Tea Party Movement did this successfully, so it can be done. Although I wonder how much of that resulted from their support from the 1%, which we lack. Many things become possible with money and organizational support.

      But the price for that was failure of the TP Movement as an independent entity. I’ll talk about that in a future post. It’s a remake of “Meet John Doe” (1941).

    2. “What is the message that will excite Americans? The button in our minds that excites our passions. To what do we appeal that reaches their hopes, fears, and dreams as citizens?”

      Yeah… I hope you find an answer! Hannity/Rush and their Democrat talk radio counterparts do it every day of the week and make it look easy. But I find that style repulsive. I guess they just cry out in pain, telling listeners that “our team is losing, the other guy isn’t fighting fair, and here are 50 reasons those socialist / racist / ghetto / redneck / rich / gay / union / stuck-up / trashy / corporate / foreign / jingo / city-boy / un-cool / feminist / ivory-tower / uneducated / blaspheming / hollywood / country / hypocrite Scum, are not like us”.

    3. Asdf,

      “Hannity/Rush and their Democrat talk radio counterparts do it every day of the week and make it look easy.”

      The point here is how to motivate people to act.

      As you note, and has been shown here in scores of posts, influencing Americans’ opinions is easy. Like docile sheep, we go to our pens and chant “two legs good, four legs bad” on command.

      Getting us to act like citizens requires a far higher level of motivation. Hanity, Rush, the climate doomsters entertain their flocks with lurid tales that shape their flocks’ opinions. These are entertainment with commercials, structurally no different than other TV and radio shows.
      If at the end I want to vote for Bob or buy Big Blue soap — mission accomplished!

      Using these media to change people’s way of like (be skeptical!) and to take action is a larger program. Perhaps more akin to the anti-smoking campaigns, or religious missionary efforts. Broadcast media can help, but probably not a major lever.

  2. I’ve been wondering lately if you see too much potential for control over the complex, chaotic system that is our society. What’s more, as you describe in your posts, we have arrived in our current state not through one huge leap of change, but through many incremental changes, the cumulative result of which are clear only in hindsight.

    Please don’t see this as an insult, but while I have agreed with most if not all of your assessments of our problems, it is the answer to “now what?” that makes all the difference. Useful passions are not stirred by identifying problems, they are stirred by identifying solutions. Dr. Hansen (finally) accepted this difference between analysis and activism earlier this year.

    To try to wrap up my rambling: perhaps you have the question twisted around. Instead, how about “How can we reform America, arousing passion in our neighbors’ hearts?” I certainly don’t have the answers to that, but you must begin with the right question.

    1. I agree, Buzz. Although most of what Fabius Maximus puts on his website here is correct, insightful, thought-provoking, etc, it still seems to fall flat in the area of inspiring an actual reform movement. I think this is because the content here mostly focuses on problems, attitudes, and feelings, rather than solutions and action.
      In fact, I would say that same disconnect – the assumption that good intentions by themselves will create results – has doomed many political movements to impotence and mediocrity.

    2. Todd,

      “I think this is because the content here mostly focuses on problems, attitudes, and feelings, rather than solutions and action.”

      (1) I think that is because readers ignore the posts giving solutions. You see these posts clearly listed in the For More Information section. Have you commented on those posts?

      These posts get few hits. Others writing about reform report the same thing.

      Everybody like to read about problems. Readers will smart and entertained. Mention solutions and people feel the need to act — and they don’t want to act. Close the book! Erase the words from your memory.

      (2) I focus on motivation because it is IMO clearly the missing link. Reform proposals are a dime a dozen. Most of these probably would work. Nobody cares. It’s like telling people to stop smoking, lose weight, and exercise. How often does that produce results?

    3. Buzz,

      Thank you for your detailed comments. I disagree with most of them, but these things are beyond knowledge. We can only speculate, each person then acting as they see best.

      Here are my guesses.

      (1) “I’ve been wondering lately if you see too much potential for control over the complex, chaotic system that is our society.”

      I do not understand what you mean by “control”? We’re talking about reform movements, of a type with a rich history. Independence from Britain, emancipation of slaves in both US and UK, rights for women, rights for African-Americans, progressive-era reforms, workers rights through unionization, rights for gays, etc.

      Would you have told them that they “see too much potential for control”?

      (2) “it is the answer to “now what?” that makes all the difference. … Useful passions are not stirred by identifying problems, they are stirred by identifying solutions.”

      Historically false. None of those started with “now what”, but with problem identification and comittment to change. People are not fools; once people understand problems they see a path to change.

      “Mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve.”
      — Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (1859)

      Reform proposals are a dime a dozen. I have given several. They’re ignored by readers, just like everybody else’s reform proposals.

      Probably most of these proposals will work at some level. But imo nothing will happen until people see the need for change in a way that spurs their commitment to action.

      (3) “Dr. Hansen (finally) accepted this difference between analysis and activism earlier this year.”

      Hansen and his crank movement? Getting arrested in protests with other boomers looking to relive the 1960s? Report back when he gets any success.

      The development of fracking — and the resulting increase in natural gas production and drastic drop in its cost of production — did more to reduce the future role of coal consumption than Hansen and his ilk could in a century of protests.

      On the other hand, the media’s attention to his confident forecasts of warming far outside the consensus of climate scientists (e.g., the IPCCs) might significantly reduce public confidence in science if (as some scientists expect) the pause continues for another decade or more. The consequences of that might be horrific.

    4. @ Editor of the Fabius Maximus website:
      “You see these posts clearly listed in the For More Information section. Have you commented on those posts?”

      I did read those posts, and I did comment on some of them.
      Let me summarize, if I can, those ‘solutions’:
      Step 1: Convince Americans that something is wrong with their country
      Step 2: Someone should form some kind of an organization, preferably one with high credibility and preferably one with no specific policy goals.
      Step 3: Write a song about it
      I think that covers most of it, but maybe I missed something? Either way, I’m not surprised that people didn’t express much interest. Frankly, I find those solutions so much lacking in specifics as to be little more than ‘feel-good’ exercises. I think the suggestion to use music is simply ridiculous, akin to someone deciding he will host a bake sale in order to overcome a significant financial hardship.
      I’m only offering my opinion on this, which may or may not be shared by your other readers, so please take my words for what they’re worth, and please know that I never intend for my criticisms to be anything less than constructive.
      Maybe you’re right that it isn’t really important what specific road people choose to take, as long as they each make the choice for themselves. Even if that’s the case, I think it’s too romantic and philosophical of an ideal to carry itself well as a political platform. I think most people prefer to stay grounded, thinking in concrete terms like “How does this affect me personally now?” If a person asks you that concrete question, and you can only answer in abstract or hypothetical terms, then you’ve already lost them.

    5. Todd,

      These posts describe how movements form. They do not result from rainbows shining out of unicorns’ butts.

      Success results from success on mundane but vital factors: how to attract and recruit people, how to motivate and organize them, financing, how to market the program (e.g., protest, music, slogans).

      Talk to any high-level marketing progressional (e.g. fund-raising for charities) or political campaign manager. These are the details that determine success. What is the visceral message, the nature of the emotional appeal, how to use various media. Political campaigns treat policy details as a relatively minor matter.

      If the Occupy Wall Street or Tea Party Movements had spent more time on these foundational issues, they might have fulfilled their goals.

      I will address one specific you give, representative of how wildly unrealistic your expectations and understanding are:

      “I think the suggestion to use music is simply ridiculous”

      Read the post, or talk to anyone involved in marketing (commercial or political). You will find that nobody agrees with you. They will explain that music is a very powerful tool to influence people, and has been recognized as such for millenia (back to ancient Greece).

  3. I can’t help you with ideas for action, but I can give you a very old name for the problem.
    It’s called idolatry.

    That means worshipping an image instead of the real thing.
    For America it is the worshipping of the image of America,
    the image of democracy and all what America used to stand for.
    The forms (the image) are still there, but it is not functioning anymore as it should be.
    But one still worships this image.

    I am not religeous, but in the bible worshipping of images is forbidden.
    They actually give a reason:
    If one worships an image (statue), one becomes like a statue:
    one has eyes, but cannot see
    one has ears, but cannot hear
    one has a mouth, but cannot speak.
    In short you become like a zombie.

    My guess is that the jews encountered, the same problem you see.
    Probably they could not convince Egyptians (or Babyloneans) to take some obviously needed action.
    Furthermore, they must have been shocked by it, otherwise the prohibition would not have entered the bible.

    In my opinion, this implies also that it will be almost impossible to get the people to act in a meaningful way.

    kind regards,

    an dadaist observer.

    1. dada,

      “the image of democracy and all what America used to stand for.
      The forms (the image) are still there, but it is not functioning anymore as it should be.”

      Accurate diagnosis greatly increases the odds of a cure. What caused America to no longer function as it once did?

    2. As an answer to:
      Accurate diagnosis greatly increases the odds of a cure. What caused America to no longer function as it once did?

      I would say the following:
      It is essentially the natural evolution of a political system.
      The politicians have learned how to skillfully manipulate the people.
      (The powerful and rich have probably always known how to influence and manipulate the politicians.)
      The people can still vote.
      But the politicians have learned how to ignore the wishes of the voters.
      For this they are using propaganda, divide and conquer, and other techniques.

      The population has not learned to see the manipulation.
      They only spend a minor part of their time on politics.
      Moreover, the process is a slow process.
      Ordinary people have to work for a living; they were and still are distracted.
      So they think voting is all that is needed for democracy.
      It used to work fine in the old days.
      (Even though there were then many acts of civil disobedience needed
      to get the politicians really to listen to the people.)

      They still believe in the American democracy, even though it has become an empty shell.
      American society has become dysfunctional, but the public relations appearance of it looks still great. In fact this holds for most (maybe all) western democracies.

      To bring this back to the concept of idolatry.
      I think the same happened in ancient times.
      Priests became skillful at manipulating the population.
      If serious political or economic problems occured,
      they managed to placate the people by erecting an extra statue
      or building a new pyramid.
      Since it always had worked, the people were satisfied.
      (This is how civilisations collapse, in my opinion.)

      kind regards,
      dadaist observer.

  4. “You can’t logically talk a person out of a position that they didn’t logically get into.”

    I have seen this succinct observation attributed to Mark Twain but have never been able to confirm it.

    Propaganda is therefore aimed at our beliefs or emotions, not our logic.

    1. KAWeit,

      That is an interesting question. I have from early 2008 wondered what Obama intended to accomplish. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that he wanted to BE President rather than DO anything.

      “Reign rather than rule” is the usual formula historians use.

      I look forward to reading the tell-all books afterwards.

    2. This is just a thought I am going to float out into the void. Does it seem like most of the people running for office these days turn to Presidency as a last resort? Meaning when they can not succeed at other pursuits they simply throw in the towel and make the declaration “looks like I will be running for president”?

    3. KAWeit,

      “Does it seem like most of the people running for office these days turn to Presidency as a last resort?”

      What is the evidence for this? I know little about our Presidents, but that does not seem correct.

      JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Obama, Kerry, McCain — professional politicians.

      Carter- peanut farmer

      Bush Sr & Jr, Romney — rich guys

  5. Like I said just tossing that into the void, trying to discover why my thoughts are geared toward that line of thinking. When people toss something back…

    “What is the evidence for this? I know little about our Presidents, but that does not seem correct.

    JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Obama, Kerry, McCain — professional politicians.

    Carter- peanut farmer

    Bush Sr & Jr, Romney — rich guys”

    …it gives me something new to think about. So no evidence, just a tickle at the back of my brain. I am not a big fan of evidence for it seems just as soon as you gain certainty about something, new evidence arrives to prove you wrong.

  6. The Passion to reform America, eh? Your post made me think of Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Book 3, and Locke’s Treatise of Civil Government. Hume, although undeniably brilliant, and a fine representative of the ‘Scottish Common Sense’ school of philosophy, that’s often credited as the grandfather of American Pragmatism, died in 1776 and I’ve always wondered if, like Burke, he had lived to see both the American AND French revolutions and the Republics they gave birth to, he might not have revisited his views.

    Discourses on Livy, book 3, ch 9:

    “…Everybody knows that Fabius Maximus proceeded with his army with consideration and caution, far removed from all impetuosity and all Roman audacity, and his good fortune was that his method well suited the times. For Hannibal having come into Italy a young man and with his fortunes fresh, and having already twice overcome the Roman People, and that Republic being almost deprived of her good troops and discouraged, could not have experienced better fortune than to have a Captain who, with his slowness and caution, had kept the enemy at bay.

    Nor could Fabius also have found times more suitable to his methods, from which his glory resulted. And that Fabius had done this from his nature, and not by choice, is seen when Scipio wanting to pass into Africa with those armies to put an end to the war, Fabius contradicted this so greatly, as one who could not break away from his methods and his customs. So that, if he had been (master), Hannibal would still be in Italy, as he (Fabius) could not see that the times had changed.

    But being born in a Republic where Citizens and dispositions were different, as was Fabius, who was excellent in the times needed to protract the war, and as was Scipio in the times suited to win it. From this it happens that a Republic has a greater vitality and a longer good fortune than a Principality, for it can accommodate itself better to the differences of the times, because of the diversity of its Citizens, than can a Principality. For a man who is accustomed to proceed in one manner, will never change, as has been said, and it happens of necessity that, when times change in a way not in accordance with his manner, he is ruined….”

    I’d correct Machiavelli in the above in that Fabius was replaced at dictator for a time, and upon the abandonment of his strategy Rome suffered a great defeat, which resulted in Fabius being made dictator once more.

    Moreover, Machiavelli is incorrect to claim Fabius’ stratagem was a product of his nature, and not by choice, for Fabius’ faction was given power only after Rome had suffered successive defeats in open battle with Hannibal, so that it’s more accurate to say that Fabius’ genius was in his ability to go AGAINST his own prejudices and customs and to convince his peers to do likewise, despite knowing that to do so was unpopular and would allow his opponents to label him a coward.

    Lastly, Machiavelli doesn’t distinguish between the Scipio who defeated Hannibal at Zuma, and his father, who was also Scipio (and yet a third Scipio who, fifty years later, finally leveled Carthage and actually ended the Punic Wars).

    My point, aside from not being able to resist the Fabius Maximus reference as apropos to this blog, is to wonder if a desire to reform “America” in it’s entirety is desirable, and even plausible in a top-down sense.

    The great virtue of the Tea Party movement is its passionate, grass roots membership and localized leadership, but this also hinders it’s effectiveness in areas like forming a disciplined National leadership structure, and presenting itself and its core positions adequately in National forums or against either of the two National Party establishments declared platform dogmas. I’d suggest that rather than despairing at their slow pace, one could point to the venom spouted at the movement from both Democratic AND Republican leaders as a sign that they’ve graduated to the ‘enemies lists’ in both the establishment factions political calculus.

    To return to Machiavelli’s Discourses, those whom take the statist and short term approach to political and social reform, rarely succeed, and those few who do so seldom engender change that is lasting (which is probably why it’s said any given revolution lives or dies based on it’s second generation, not it’s first). As much as it pains me to write this, if honesty, skepticism, and integrity were traits common to average Americans, we wouldn’t consider them virtues, would we?

    Sincerely,

    A. Scott Crawford

    1. ASC,

      Thank you for your detailed comment. I’ve reformatted it for easier reading, adding blockquotes and more paragraph breaks.

      You raise many interest points. I have time for one brief note.

      “The great virtue of the Tea Party movement is its passionate, grass roots membership and localized leadership, but this also hinders it’s effectiveness in areas like forming a disciplined National leadership structure, and presenting itself and its core positions adequately”

      As you note, these were deeply held choices: no leadership, no plans, decentralized structure. The results were inevitable to anybody with experience with large organizations or campaigns. Many of us pointed our their folly at the time.

      “against either of the two National Party establishments declared platform dogmas.”

      Research overwhelmingly shows that the Tea Party movement was composed large of straight-party-line voting Republicans. It was supported, perhaps outright created, by Republican-affiliated institutions. That they became GOP shock troops was probably the plan from the start of GOP leaders. Party leaders always like useful idiots.

      “I’d suggest that rather than despairing at their slow pace, one could point to the venom spouted at the movement from both Democratic AND Republican leaders as a sign that they’ve graduated to the ‘enemies lists’ in both the establishment factions political calculus.”

      It’s not accurate to say the Tea Party movement is opposed by “GOP leaders”. It represents an insurgent group in the GOP, one backed by powerful faction of GOP leaders and backers. Much like the Goldwater revolution that seized control of the GOP in the 1960s, eventually taking complete control in the Reagan era.

      As extremists, advancing many policies supported by only a minority, they have of course become unpopular with the majority of Americans. As shock troops for the far right, of course the Democrats oppose them.

    2. Fabius,

      There’s justice in what you write, but I’d add a couple caveats.

      First, here’s a link to the GOP leadership criticism I was thinking of:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/boehner-escalates-feud-with-conservative-groups-as-vote-on-budget-bill-looms/2013/12/12/3986871c-634f-11e3-91b3-f2bb96304e34_story.html

      Second, as a long time Libertarian, what seems to old time republicans like disorganization and political chaos amongst the Tea Party movement, seems pretty mild compared to Libertarian efforts (which is akin to herding cats). It’s also been my understanding that a lot of key figures in the Tea Party movement are Reform Party veterans, and the experience of having a very well organized central process taken over and subverted as a cynical political tactic left many with the belief that if they weren’t careful, the establishment GOP would repeat the tactics that squashed the Reform Party.

      Lastly, I agree that most of the Tea Party platform is taken from the ‘small government’ faction of the GOP. But it was exactly the abandonment of those ‘small government’ ideals during the Bush II admin, and purge of Libertarians and small government conservatives in Bush’s second term midterms that both allowed the Democrats to briefly take the House, and convinced many that the Beltway GOP was ALWAYS just paying lip service to fiscal responsibility and a reduction of the Federal bureaucracies. Personally I think it’s fair to say that the Tea Party is much more serious about the Goldwaterian ideals, than any long sitting self-styled “conservative” in the house…

      Best,

      A. Scott Crawford

    3. A Scott Crawford,

      I defer to you in your knowledge of these details.

      The fact remains, however, that the Tea Party was born in opposition to bank bailouts — and was co-opted be become GOP shock troops electing the most bank-friendly representatives since the 1920s.

      Plus, as I and so many others have documented, the beliefs and recommendations of the various Tea Party groups ranged from ignorant thru outright madness. My favorite is the belief of many in the TP movement that the US government spends over 1/5 of the budget on foreign aid — when the correct figure is <1% (the largest part of that to Israel, and to buying Egypt's peace with Israel).

      People being rationalizing creatures, I am confident they can explain these things away. The general public (mirrored in opinion polls), however, imo has a more accurate assessment — hence its low and falling reputation.

    4. Fabius,

      Well… I was pretty hot over the Bush admin’s handling of the Banking crises myself (although it’s noteworthy to recall that I was careful also to lay the blame on the House and Senate majority leadership at the time, which hasn’t changed, and is certainly to blame for the failure to address the underlying structural issues still plaguing the Banking sector… such as the LIBOR scandal.)

      It’s good, I think, for a blog that deals with asymmetric warfare to convey to it’s more traditional military readers that a County’s financial system is a perfect example of a 4GW ‘attack vector’… not to imply that the 2007 crises was owning other than to domestic political incompetence and corporate cynicism. Navies and Air Forces and Armies are expensive! And the more they rely on high tech gee whiz equipment, the greater the vulnerability of their supply lines/chain (which the first National Counter Intelligence Executive, a former IG from the NSA made one of his top two priorities).

      As to the wing nut problem within the Tea Party… I think I already mentioned I’m a Libertarian, so I think it’s safe to say I know something about wing nuts! heh.

      But often with wing nuts, the crazy notions they’ve convinced themselves of have some basis in truth, which has merely been misunderstood or exaggerated. For example, while it’s completely crazy to imagine 20% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, it IS worth pointing out that more than half of the tens of billions of foreign aid disbursed annually, is utterly unaccounted for… it disappears, and there’s no legal way for the Comptroller General or any of the Executive Branch OIG’s to audit the programs/departments that are the largest culprits. This has been going on since the end of the Cold War, so if one considers just ONE federal department distributing monies abroad, USAID (which is currently under the complete control of the DoS), since 1993 they’ve had around an annual budget of $9 billion, half of which can’t be accounted for… (I’ll dig up the GAO reports for those who want to be really depressed before Christmas). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Department of State takeover of USAID early in the Bush admin has only resulted in even LESS transparency.

      I remember back before the Oil for Food Scandal broke, which military readers will appreciate signified the death of the ‘Containment’, Soft Power strategy we’d been taking with the Iraqi Baathists, and forced those who’d advocated that policy to concede that military force was the only realistic remaining option (I heard this from Sec. M. Albright’s own mouth at a lecture in 2000) short of unilateralist withdrawal. As I played a role in the investigation, it might or might not surprise readers to learn that senior Democratic Senators had explicit, undeniable documentary evidence (HOARDS of it) that sat on their desks for two years before Sen. Coleman forced the issue to break. The Oil for Food scandal, at the time, was THE LARGEST FRAUD in US government history, and should have resulted in many, many more Americans getting indicted (which to my understanding at the time was the real reason why the FBI representative on the investigative committee resigned his position…).

      How does this relate to military strategy, or rather, why should military orientated thinkers start paying more attention to these traditionally Soft Power issues as related to the success or failure of their own endeavors? Simple, as at it’s most basic the 4GW view doesn’t delegate Soft Power attack vectors as outside the bounds of military consideration. To take the COIN strategy as an example, one of it’s philosophic pillars is the implementation of demonstrable and effective reconstruction and infrastructure development… contrary to what the Psy-Ops bunch seem to believe, local populations can’t be “IO’d” or hypnotized into believing their living conditions and future prospects are improving when confronted by evidence to the contrary year in and year out. To locals in marginal and/or contested areas, either they HAVE the clean water and electric lamps/heaters America has promised them, or they don’t. Amongst those urbanites who’d ideally form the small business/middle class support, either they HAVE adequate commercial banking, or they don’t. And etc. on down the line… If these aspects of the COIN implementation fail, the insurgency will win. Yet because the DoD has spent the last decade in denial, and thrown obnoxious amounts of money to a bizarre rogues gallery of ‘experts’, it has yet to learn a lesson understood by just about every USMC Pfc. after a single patrol…

      Frankly, if the Pentagon is determined to continue losing every peace, so to speak, then I’m wholeheartedly in agreement with those who question the merit of engaging in military conflict in the first place… as there’s no point to winning war after war, if we’re just going to lose peace after peace.

      A. Scott Crawford

  7. Does the Left Have a Future?” An interview with John Stauber (investigative journalist, author, founder of Center for Media and Democracy, self-professed agitator) in CounterPunch, 25 December 2013 — Excerpt:

    A. All the big issues are inter-linked, and they are all about democracy versus concentrated wealth, power and propaganda.

    The best way for people to make a difference is to personally work in organizations at the grassroots level around the critical local issues that most affect them, where corporate power and political disdain are most running roughshod over people in a precinct, city, county or state. “Don’t mourn, organize,” but organize for real, grassroots power.

    And reach out to the whole populace, not just the people already in your own comfort zone and echo chamber.

    Americans look for the savior to come along and fix problems to make America that great democracy we were before. Believe that, and you are just going to keep being played for a sucker every two years. The creation of democratic, powerful, grassroots-based movements and organizatons that unite from the ground up, and that target the powerful to break up concentrated wealth and power, is always the most important work.

    1. Steve,

      “best way for people to make a difference is to personally work in organizations at the grassroots level around the critical local issues that most affect them”

      Total malarky, on several levels.

      (1). The critical issues that mostly affect people are decided at the State and Federal levels.

      (2). Local organizations cannot easily appear without national sponsorship of some sort. The Tea Party movement shows how nationally organizations can spark and facilitate grassroots organizations.

      (3). Locally based organizations cannot easily unite to form effective national organizations. There are examples, but quite rare.

      (4) As the 1% grow in power, organizations in America respond by centralizing — depowering the grassroots. Examples: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. This will be a difficult trend to fight. I have tried in my community, and utterly failed.

    2. Mr. Stauber,

      For the most part, I agree with you, at least in terms of the American political system. Moreover, I think if you look more closely at the Machiavelli link I posted earlier, you’ll find Machiavelli agrees with you as well (although he substitutes “Prince” for ‘concentrated wealth and power’…. heh.), and explains his reasons for this belief at great detail.

      Best,

      A. Scott Crawford

  8. As I’ve said before, the FM blog is not suited to the task. (wrong leadership personality type, sorry!)

    Corporate plutocracy is the problem (or is FM’s formulation, the people’s lack of resistance to it). As per Habermas, authentic culture, the generation of meaning and purpose via shared value commitments and local wisdom (“lifeworld”) has been “colonized by systems” (power, money). But we already know that. What we do not know is how to start a war, or a viable reform movement, against such “colonization”.

    But there is ferment, and a sharpening of focus about exactly has gone wrong. Anarchist sentiment is starting to converge with new age sentiment.

    That said, what if the USA was great not because it was virtuous, but because it was lucky?

    1. vast natural resources
    2. a form of culture and social organization that was adaptive to new requirements, if not obsessed by reinvention.
    3. european empires collapsed
    4. the USA became the British Empire II. (Walter Russell Mead’s “God and Gold”)

    In Ronfeldt’s TIMN model of forms of social organization, modern market structures first spread informally around the edges of the old, formal hierarchical institutions (church, Manorial aristocracy), eventually penetrating their weak lines and then usurping them at the center and becoming formalized. Real libertarianism probably only existed in pirate and frontier communities (decentralized), which were brought under control by central institutions within a few generations. Europe had frontier conditions, for instance as the Moors withdrew from Spain.

    The older practices of “liberty” and free trade in medieval europe were based on a decentralized model and religious reform movements (peasants’ rights, mutual aid societies), prior to the adoption of the “divine right of kings” and Absolutism (recentralization).

    Another possibility is that the system will simply drift into a form of quasi-despotism for the top 20-30% for some time and become increasingly oppressive (disadvantaging) for everyone else. Hispanics tolerated such conditions for at least 100 years, and are “used to it”, from what they tell me. It seems like many asian cultures are similar.

    I already see many suburban cultural practices being rapidly adapted to such conditions. One example is that upper middle class parents are willing to pay for and support highly organized semi-professional versions of community sports for their children. Kids soccer leagues are turning into big business ($2000 or more per season for child). Entry onto elite or semi-elite teams is seen as part of the ritual of college admissions to the “good schools”. Again, the USA is adapting to a European model of the maintenance of privilege and status for the top 20-30%.

    The Tea Party is at least partly the groaning, albeit mainly delusional, of the remnants of agrarian populism and small business classes that were not aligned with the corporate plutocracy, and are desperately holding on by clinging to the whip of their master so they don’t fall into the abyss.

    As always, please make corrections as appropriate/needed.

  9. new title suggestion: waiting for superman?

    My personal opinion is that a decentralized form of social organization best matches how humans evolved to be tribal animals. What is needed is a paradigm shift beyond postmodernism to a holistic framework that reintegrates rationalism and spirituality. Then, as Joe Corbett says in one of his articles, a new system of meaning and purpose (ritual practices, ethics) can be developed that will be able to replace the nasty features of predatory capitalism with a culture of justice and individual self-realization. instead of self-absorption, ego gratification, greed and techno-economic progress.

    In previous generations, people were willing to die for their beliefs, or at least their way of life.

    There is no reform movement now that is able to inspire such sentiment. The ideas are absent. Nothing on the FM website is any different.

    In the postmodern/green meme form of culture, the best that can be expected is that protestors might be willing to lay down in front of the tanks. Then, everyone notices that when the tank runs over the protestor, nothing changesm at least not for the better. Post-traumatic politics syndrome sets in, hopelessness and cynicism deepen, and people accept self disempowerment.

    True radicals would be saying things that are currently unimaginable to the green memers as well as those comfortable with the status quo. For instance, what if tomorrow morning, the US military began to bomb and decimate corporations and the partisan political apparatus and tea party strongholds (and whatever other “bad guys” are wrecking the USA), and install a new, perhaps temporary, constitution that bans corporate personhood and all the other nasty elements of legalized corporate mendacity and partisan hackery? What if a new constitutional convention was held to partition the country into more manageable parts, along regional lines?

    My point is not to advocate for such, but to point out that the drastic measures that are probably needed or not being discussed, at least not openly. And, everything else just seems like “waiting for superman”.

    1. touche.

      but there still isn’t much substance. that is the (sarcastic) point. you have said nothing that would inspire anyone to die for a revolution or other social change movement. as such, there is nothing to do but “wait for superman”, (to steal the movie title)

      (which translates into desperate attempts by poor parents to get their children into the very small number of charter schools that offer a glimmer of hope for upward social mobility in a horribly broken system)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waiting_for_%22Superman%22

      “Synopsis

      Geoffrey Canada describes his journey as an educator and his surprise when he realizes upon entering adulthood that Superman is a fictional character and that no one is powerful enough to save us all.”

      Note that it isn’t “some” but “us all”.

    2. Eric,

      “you have said nothing that would inspire anyone to die for a revolution or other social change movement. ”

      My guess is that you would make the same comment upon reading the letters of the Committees of Correspondence (from which IMO you could learn much, more so than the loftily head-in-the-cloud abstractions you prefer).

      Your comments suggest near-zero understanding of what motivates people, or of how successful political movements are organized and operate.

    3. Eric,

      (1). Try reading about the Committees. You will see the similarities in content (but not in effect).

      (2). “I don’t recall you ever saying the CC’s are a model worth studying”

      No surprise, since your comments show no evidence that you have read anything on the FM website.

      During the past three years I have often referred to the CC’s as a useful model. The first mention I see in a post was on 8 December 2010:

      http://fabiusmaximus.com/2010/12/08/23804/

      “Rebuilding will require a long effort to build public participation. We’re where the Founders were when they formed the Committees of Correspondence in 1772. Years of organizing lie ahead.”

    4. (To clarify: I’m going to assume that you are not discussing the overthrow of the current government of the UK.)

      Unless there is something wrong with the content of the wiki on CCs, I don’t see anything (other than consciousness raising and exploring ideas which you generally do an exceptional job of) that what you are doing that has anything in common with the practical actions of the CC “shadow governments” in the 1770s.

      But please correct me if wrong. Explain what is wrong with the Wiki entry. Or post a link to the specific work, or even just a mention of the existence of, a “shadow government” that you are involved in, or know of.

      If there is such a (revolutionary) shadow government, how is it avoiding the scrutiny of the national security apparatus?

      If there is no such current equivalent to the CCs, but you think they should exist, or are in the planning stages, why aren’t you directly (or otherwise) asking people to support such a movement in specific, pragmatic ways?

    5. Eric,

      My posts have discussed all this in some length. Your previous comment showed that you have not read these posts, since mention of the CC’s is a frequently mentioned — and high-profile — theme.

      Your comments give no sign of listening to anything I say in reply to your comments.

      So there is no point in giving you a special lesson. You appear to be a broadcast-only radio, with no receiver.

    6. If the modern equivalent of CCs is so crucial to what you are trying to convey, why haven’t you done a specific blog entry? Or even done a brief summary here? Do you seriously expect your audience to memorize thousands of posts? The 2010 blog entry is as vague as all the other stuff I can recall reading from you on the topic. I have a general recollection that you are nostalgic about the events and processes of the american revolution, and that you apparently feel a need to constantly insult your audience by pointing out their unwillingness to engage in a similar revolutionary movement against corporate plutocracy/etc.

      The complaint is that you provide no evidence that you are any different than the people in your audience when it comes to offering a practical course of action. You failed to answer my specific questions about what practical revolutionary actions people can participate in. That is a fundamental leadership FAIL. The case can be made that you are abusing your audience. In fact, that is exactly what a lady did a few years ago, and you made a pathetic spectacle of yourself begging her to come back. Which she did not. You admitted to having sociopathic tendencies several months ago. You have admitted and apologized for similar abuse several other times, apparently to little effect. Again, there are uses for sociopaths, but not in attempting to build a community or movement. That takes a vision and forms of bonding that you to not seem to be capable of or really understand.

      But none of that matters if you have something concrete and practical to offer in the way of doing something other than blabbing endlessly and repetitively about the problem on your blog and abusing your audience when they bother to express annoyance.

    1. Eric,

      Thanks for posting that. It’s a fine example of the futile thinking that has brought the Left in America to its present nadir.

      Note that none of these 25 points are components of a “plan”. The authors appear unaware of the history and theory of reform/revolutionary political movements — or even of the meaning of “plan”.

      Plan: a detailed proposal for doing something; a decision about what one is going to do.

      Quite sad, really.

    2. There is extensive historical analysis of revolutionary movements on the ATS web site. This is an “alt.right” site.

      http://attackthesystem.com/statement-of-purpose/

      Excerpts:

      Statement of Purpose

      WHY WE FIGHT

      AttacktheSystem.Com is maintained by American Revolutionary Vanguard, a dissident tendency within North American anarchism. It is our contention that the mainstream of the anarchist movement has become unduly focused on left-wing cultural politics, countercultural lifestyle matters, and liberal pet causes. Consequently, the mainstream of contemporary anarchism has abandoned the central focus of the historic anarchist movement: overthrowing states, ruling classes, and empires. We aim to restore anarchism to the position it held during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, that of the premier revolutionary movement in the empire’s mother countries of the Western world, and in the global anti-imperialist struggle.

      …The most strategically feasible anarchist movement for contemporary North America would be an anarchist-led, pan-secessionist action emphasizing the principles of radical decentralization and appealing to the legacy of the American Revolution. Its primary class foundations would be the lumpenproletariat, petite bourgeosie, lower proletariat, sinking middle, neo-peasantry and declasse` sectors, within the context of a broader populist framework. A struggle rooted in these classes would necessitate a political re-alignment of the populist right, radical center, independent left, and others outside the center-left/center-right paradigm of the existing state and ruling class.

      We reject the “culture wars” of mainstream American politics as a rivalry within the upper-middle class which is irrelevant to our revolutionary struggle. Anarchist participation in the “culture wars” is an unnecessary distraction from the struggle at hand.

    3. Eric,

      Perhaps so. But their “25 points” suggests that they have read little about the history or theory of change — or read but didn’t understand it.

      Ditto for “Why we fight”. Typical Leftist drivel, of the sort such people have been writing for centuries — to near-zero effect. By now I suspect (guess) that they’rea ritualistic or formal art form, like a High Mass. Most participants enjoy them without actually believing in the content.

      The astonishing aspect is that there are people, like you, who treat such material seriously. Sad, really. You would be better off reading Harlequin romance novels (I was snowed in for four days at a Girl Scout Camp. Hundreds of these, but no girls. Many were quite fun to read.)

    4. I’m glad you were able to dig out of the snow.

      If the Left has had no effect, why did you write a whole blog entry about Anarchists and Al Qaeda? In which you praised at least a few things that the Left has accomplished, such as the labor wars from 1890 to 1915 in the USA. And similar in Europe.

      As far a ATS goes, I cited it as an example of one group that I’m researching that has a specific plan. I never said I agree with everything that ATS says. They do make some compelling arguments for decentralization and the libertarian-socialist form of anarchism. They have in depth discussions of political philosophy that many people learn from that far exceed your interests/inclinations as far as I can tell.

      But again, what this discussion demonstrates is a failure to connect with people of at least partially similar interests. And a tendency to make thoughtless personal remarks that impede useful discussion.

    5. Eric,

      “If the Left has had no effect, why did you write a whole blog entry about Anarchists and Al Qaeda?”

      It was a comparison of two terrorist campaigns, showing that the current one was smaller than the now-almost-forgotten one of the past. That was, I am sure, clear from the post. Your low reading comprehension is astonishing.

      “In which you praised at least a few things that the Left has accomplished, such as the labor wars from 1890 to 1915 in the USA. And similar in Europe.”

      The grassroots campaigns to organize workers for better safety and pay have little connection to the revolutionary Left under discussion. Not only was there only small overlap (e.g., IWW), but often outright opposition.

      Ditto for the Progressive movement, which produced most of the early 20th century reforms (e.g., food safety).

      Conflating these with the revolutionary and anarchist Left into one phenomenon is ahistorical. Also absurd.

    6. http://fabiusmaximus.com/2009/12/14/anarchists/

      excerpts:
      Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?
      14 December 2009
      tags: al qaeda, alexander cockburn, anarchism, islam, islamofascism, jihad, johann hari, matt carr, terrorism
      by Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

      Summary: Today’s violence from islamic extremists has many similarities to the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Using standard police and intelligence methods, Western governmens defeated the anarchists without massive restrictions on civil liberties and military operations. Post-9/11 history suggests that we can successfully cope with Islamic extremists using similar methods.

      A more accurate historical viewpoint is this comment by Stefan at Matthew Yglesias blog:

      Consider that over about a 20 year period, anarchists assassinated, among others, Russian Czar Alexander II (1881), French president Sadi Carnot (1894), Spanish prime minister Canovas (1897), Elizabeth of Bavaria (Empress Consort of Austria-Hungary) (1898), King Umberto I of Italy (1900), and US president William McKinley (1901). If Islamist terrorists had managed to murder an equivalent number of Western heads of state, we’d all be living under martial law by now.

      Police work and international coordination supressed the anarchist extremists.

      “For jihadist, read anarchist“, The Economist, 10 December 2009 — Opening:

      BOMBS, beards and backpacks: these are the distinguishing marks, at least in the popular imagination, of the terror-mongers who either incite or carry out the explosions that periodically rock the cities of the western world.

      A century or so ago it was not so different: bombs, beards and fizzing fuses. The worries generated by the 2 waves of terror, the responses to them and some of their other characteristics are also similar. The spasm of anarchist violence that was at its most convulsive in the 1880s and 1890s was felt, if indirectly, in every continent. It claimed hundreds of lives, including those of several heads of government, aroused widespread fear and prompted quantities of new laws and restrictions.

      “The World’s First ‘Terrorists’“, Johann Hari, Huffington Post, 11 October 2009 — Excerpt:

      From the 1920s on, the anarchist attacks began to dwindle, and by the late 1930s they were over. Why? What happened? Nobody is entirely sure — but most historians suggest a few factors. After the initial wave of state repression, civil liberties slowly advanced — undermining the anarchist claims. The indiscriminate attacks on ordinary civilians discredited anarchism in the eyes of the wider public: after a young man blew himself up in Greenwich Park in 1892, his coffin was stoned and attacked by working class people in the East End. The anarchists’ own cruelty and excess slowly deprived them of recruits.

      But, just as importantly, many of the anarchist grievances were addressed by steady reforms. Trade unions were finally legalized, and many of their demands were achieved one by one: an eight-hour working day, greater safety protections, compensation for the injured. Work was no longer so barbaric — so the violent rejection of it faded away. The changes were nowhere near as radical as those demanded by the anarchists, but it stripped them of followers step-by-step.

      —end excerpts—

      In consideration of your abusive and rude remarks, I will point out the irony of you chastising me for not remembering the details of your scattered statements about the 1770 CCs, but you failed to remember your own post detailing the accomplishments (?) of anarchists.

      Or perhaps you are not stating that the anarchist movement had any positive effect on getting labor reforms?

    7. Eric,

      “but you failed to remember your own post detailing the accomplishments (?) of anarchists.”

      (1). What are referring? When did I fail to remember what?

      (2) In what way are these articles “more accurate” than my posts? They appear to cover the same material.

    8. Eric,

      “I will point out the irony of you chastising me for not remembering the details of your scattered statements about the 1770 CCs”

      (1) I was responding to your incorrect assertion, not “chastising” you for “not remembering”.

      (2) Mentions of the CC’s were not “scattered”, but a core component of posts discussing reform.

    9. Eric

      “Or perhaps you are not stating that the anarchist movement had any positive effect on getting labor reforms?”

      Asserting that they had an effect is a contender for the dumbest thing you have said here. Nothing you cite implies that they had a positive effect of any kind.

    10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_socialism

      excerpt:

      Libertarian socialism

      Libertarian socialism (sometimes called social anarchism[1][2] or left-libertarianism)[3][4] is a group of political philosophies that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialists believe in converting present-day private productive property into common or public goods, while retaining respect for personal property.[5] Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor.[6] The term libertarian socialism is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism,[7][8] and by some as a synonym for anarchism.[1][2][9]

  10. Thanks for the clarifications. You say the Left has had zero effect, then admit that some elements of the Left did have effect (community organizing, progressives), parsing the issue in a silly manner, saying there is no connection between various parts of the Left, which seems absurd in the extreme. I note that you censor posts asking for specifics on how CCs are relevant to anything other than historical nostalgia about a colonial society of 13 relatively small states almost 250 years ago consisting of large numbers of pirates and frontiersmen, Yet another leadership and communication FAIL. This is why almost no one bothers to read your posts on the topic seriously, or comment. Waste of time. My assumption is that you have some other purpose, and will ignore these discussions as much as possible from now on like everyone else. have a nice day.

    1. Eric,

      Your comments are largely reading FAILS.

      “you say the Left has had zero effect,”

      I said nothing of the kind. I described the “Why we Fight” page on the Attack the System website as “Typical Leftist drivel, of the sort such people have been writing for centuries — to near-zero effect.”

      “This is why almost no one bothers to read your posts on the topic seriously, or comment. ”

      This website gets 50 to 100 thousand hits per month. However, you need not worry about commenting again. Good-bye.

Leave a Reply