What if the Founders’ generation read the news as we do?

Summary: Each day the internet washes up piles of information for us. We have tech allowing us to sort out what we want to see — operationally useful information for work and politically pleasing information about politics. Today we discuss why the information superhighway of political news so seldom affects our action. Fortunately the Founders’ generation read the news with more engagement, or we’d be signing “God Bless the Queen” before watching cricket.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

This is a followup to What if Samuel Adams tried to start the Revolution by blogging?

Fool's Paradise

We appear to have entered the final stage of this political cycle. After decades of their slow growth in power — aggregating more and more of our wealth and income — the 1% have begun the equivalent of the third stage of battle: the pursuit of a broken enemy to crush the remnant of opposition and consolidate victory. Every day’s news brings more evidence, such as the shocking stories shown below from this weekend’s news.

These are of interest not as news in the conventional sense, since they tell us more about what we already know (pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter). That’s why I no longer write posts giving interesting links. There are so many other sites doing a better job providing such entertainment to the outer party.

These stories have value as indicators where we are in the evolution from Republic to plutocracy. I doubt they have any other utility, excerpt in a technical sense (e.g., to people professionally involved in these areas). But at the end are some conclusions you might find of interest.


"I love the 1%"

Government for the 1%, by the 1%, of the 1%

House quietly passes tax exemption for megadonors
By Kenneth P. Vogel & Hillary Flynn at Politico — Opening:

The House on Wednesday with little fanfare passed legislation that would protect major donors like the Koch brothers and Tom Steyer from having to pay gift taxes on huge donations to secret money political groups. The legislation, which now heads to the Senate, is seen by fundraising operatives as removing one of the few remaining potential obstacles to unfettered big-money spending by nonprofit groups registered under a section of the Tax Code — 501(c) — that allows them to shield their donors’ identities.

Deciding how to share the pie

Fools Paradise

Determining the optimal U.S. tax rate for higher earners“, by Nick Bunker at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Excerpt:

There are two constants in life: death and arguments about the optimal top marginal tax rate. The proper level of income taxation in the United States has been a hotly contested topic since the creation of the first federal income tax more than a century ago. The debate over the optimal tax rate has only intensified in recent years, as income and wealth inequality in the United States increases while taxes on the rich decline. Policymakers need an empirical answer to the question of the optimal level of taxation on top incomes.

… The results of this research also indicate that the rise in income inequality at the very top of the income spectrum was driven primarily by the decline in tax rates, which allowed top earners to get higher incomes without increasing the pace of economic growth. So the main take-away from latest research is clear: Tax rates in the United States on incomes at the very top could be much higher without affecting output growth and potentially boost wages for average workers.

The fight of the decade: the NSA & FBI vs. Citizens of America

NSA and FBI fight to retain spy powers as surveillance law nears expiration“, The Guardian — Excerpt:

On 1 June, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which permits US law enforcement and surveillance agencies to collect business records, expires. … representatives of the National Security Agency and the FBI are taking to Capitol Hill to convince legislators to preserve their sweeping spy powers.

That effort effectively re-inaugurates a surveillance debate in Congress that has spent much of 2015 behind closed doors. Within days, congressional sources tell the Guardian, the premiere NSA reform bill of the last Congress, known as the USA Freedom Act, is set for reintroduction – and this time, some former supporters fear the latest version of the bill will squander an opportunity for even broader surveillance reform.

… {It} passed the House in May 2014 before narrowly failing in November in the Senate. Belatedly, the White House endorsed it, after seeing it had a greater chance of passage than any pro-NSA alternative. Yet the House version lost substantial civil-libertarian support after the intelligence agencies and House leadership weakened its surveillance restrictions, including its central prohibition on the bulk collection of domestic phone records. … The revived bill would extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act for a still-undetermined number of years.

For a starker perspective see Mike Krieger’s “Congress is Attempting to Reauthorize Key Patriot Act Provisions by Sneaking it Into USA Freedom Act”.

The Boomers’ mystery, as Kennedy’s assassination was for the Greatest Generation

Fools Paradise

Who did the anthrax attack after 9/11? The government’s various stories have been totally discredited. The original designated “guilty” party, Steven Hatfill, not only proved his innocence but won a $4.6 million civil verdict from the Federal government. Bruce Ivins (the next designated “guilty” party) didn’t win any civil suits (although the case against him was ludicrously weak) because (like Lee Harvey Oswald) he died under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

All we know for sure is that the spores came from a US government lab, were beyond the ability of any non-state actor to produce, and that the anthrax attack played a large role in gaining approval for the Patriot Act,

The nature of the Federal government’s role remains hidden, but details continue to leak out — oddly with little public interest (nobody wants their world upended, their complacency shattered).

The latest revelations come from Richard Lambert, the FBI agent who ran the investigation. The New York Times reports the story but typically buries the lede: “Former F.B.I. Agent Sues, Claiming Retaliation Over Misgivings in Anthrax Case“. Fox runs a more accurate headline: “Former FBI director alleges agency concealing evidence in anthrax case“. For the real story go to Washington’s blog: “HEAD of the FBI’s Anthrax Investigation Says the Whole Thing Was a SHAM“.


This is the question of our time! “Why” is a question about people’s behavior that defies answering other than by guessing. But to deduce the reason for behavior we can look at its effects. What if Americans were to see that the Republic is near death? It would mean acknowledging that we didn’t see the world accurately. We’d have the ugly choice between acting — fulfilling our duty as citizens by working, taking risks, making sacrifices as did previous generations of Americans — or acknowledging our irresponsibility by doing nothing.

This would produce cognitive dissonance of the severest kind. We avoid this by closing our eyes. Simple. Effective. Eventually events will force us to acknowledge the New America. Probably too late for effective action — giving us a good reason for passivity.

Meanwhile we read about events. We keep well-informed. We cheer! and boo! giving us catharsis. It’s a fool’s paradise.

Other posts in this series

  1. What if Samuel Adams tried to start the Revolution by blogging?
  2. What if the Founders’ generation read the news as we do?
  3. Samuel Adams started the Revolution because he didn’t have Twitter.

For More Information

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14 thoughts on “What if the Founders’ generation read the news as we do?”

    1. Salient,

      “the post mentioned the FBI”

      Well, OK. That seems an extreme form of topic drift, but each to his own.

      “who defines what is related to you”

      What? I asked you to explain the relevance of your comment to the post. I didn’t ask God for a ruling on the matter.

  1. Editor,
    I didnt say ““who defines what is related to you?” but “who defines what is related to what?” read carefully

    1. Flooding a comments thread with increasingly hostile comments seems to be an odd way to win adherents to one’s cause; particularly when there would seem to be a favorable audience initially.

      1. gzuckier,

        It’s classic troll behavior. Especially posting rapid-fire short weird irrelevant comments (e.g., posting poetry, links to music videos). This one also follows the standard pattern of creating new identities and posting again.

        It’s a mystery why trolls do these things. They’re the vandals of the internet. Like bugs, one just has to keep squishing them until they’re gone (until another attack).

  2. “Why do some have a good bs detector, but most just buy what’s fed to them?”
    “What if Americans were to see that the Republic is near death? It would mean acknowledging that we didn’t see the world accurately.”

    I haven’t watched TV news in at least five years, but I do occasionally click on some network links. I think Bernie Sanders gives an accurate view of America’s situation in this interview(notice the reporter’s “horse-race” framing wastes half the time and his constant interrupting of and obvious lack on interest in the substance). Could Sam Adams get his message through media like this?


    1. Gloucon,

      “Could Sam Adams get his message through media like this?”

      Sam Adams would laugh at that. The colonial press did not operate under Freedom of the Press, a concept that lie in the future. The revolutionary movement was a small minority in the beginning, and never achieved a majority until after victory.

  3. Anyway; reasons for know-nothingism amongst the American public;

    wishful thinking, the knowledge that to accept the information would mean having to do something about it, the desire to go day to day with our comfortable existence rather than make a break in our routine and start an unpleasant struggle which is not very likely to be successful, certainly not totally successful, inexperience and confusion about what to do given that we haven’t had to deal with this stuff for a while, the hope that things won’t really hit the fan until after we’re dead, the business (and busyness) of our 21st century day to day tactical activities keeping us from strategic thinking and deeds, the liberal (in the political philosophy sense) paradigm of wanting to help the underclass, but not at the cost of our own privileged and comfortable lifestyle, the ginned up intergroup hostility (divide and conquer) diffusing the total energy for remediation into dozens of different, often competitive channels, the redefinition of “citizen” into consumer (of infotainment as much as anything else) rather than producer or actor….

    Values aside, it’s evolution in its most basic and general form. If a system is unstable, it will morph into a different system, and so on, until if finally lands on a configuration where, for whatever reasons, the factors add up to a stable situation; and there it will sit, until something big enough comes along to kick it back into play.

    But it is most definitely the question of our time, along with its corollary: what then must we do? Or more precisely, what then must I do?

    1. gzuckier,

      “But it is most definitely the question of our time, along with its corollary: what then must we do? Or more precisely, what then must I do?”

      Perhaps it’s the question of our time. But its certainly a question few ask. I see few people writing about it, a sure indicator of low demand (most people are more sensible in their content than I). My 50 posts about this get fewer than usual hits. And few comments.

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