Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Constitution Doesn't Need to Change, We Need to Change the Way We Select Candidates

This was from a debate sponsored by the Washington County Tea Party. The subject is whether or not now is the time for an article V amendments convention. Here I argue that the constitution does not need to change so much as the way we select candidates needs to change. We should dump the Unitary Party System where the same private political club elects candidates for state as well as federal office, for the Legislative branch as well as the Executive branch. This unitary party system serves to undermine the system of checks and balances the Founders put in place to protect us from an over-reaching government.

This position is in accord with the Third Pillar of Localism, that politics should move from national labels to local or state labels to decentralize political power. It is what we are trying to do at http://www.arneighbors.org 

I am not saying that we could not benefit from some changes to the constitution - Localism, a philosophy of government suggests several possible changes. Rather I am saying that until we change the way those ruling us are selected we can't trust them to meddle with the constitution.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ruling Class Buys Time by Throwing Middle Class into Debt-fueled Shredder

For every debtor with a liability there is a creditor with an "asset" which consists of the likely income stream from the payment of that debt.  Much of the wealth of our richest individuals and largest institutions consists of claims that others owe them money. Creditors who have such assets, rather than simply waiting for the debts to be repaid, tend to use them for collateral to get money to purchase other assets.   Such collateral is often treated as an "asset" by the lender to acquire the cash to obtain even more assets (this is called rehypothecation). This process can go on and on.

One can see from the above example that when one link in the chain goes bad, one investment does not work out, that it causes tremors for everyone else along the chain.  When people's wealth consists of a chain of debtors repaying their debts, when one does not pay it can affect the ability of the others to repay, leading to a series of cascading defaults.  Of course, if relative small fry default on their debts, the creditor can absorb the loss and move on.  It is only when a big player fails that a catastrophic system-wide failure is induced.  This is what was about to happen in 2008.  It is what is meant by the phrase "too big to fail."

No politician wants a catastrophic system failure on their watch, especially one which takes down their party's top donors.  So the political system, Republicans and Democrats alike, bailed out the "too big to fail" banks, foreign and domestic. As Thomas Jefferson noted, "Merchants have no country".   

Nor it appears, do the politicians they purchase. If the super-rich had taken the hit and had to write off their bad debts, maybe we would be out of our economic malaise by now, perhaps with a different set of people in the "super-rich" category.  But the present super-rich were not about to give up that status just because they made poor decisions.  They own the government now, and they have used their pull, plus the threat of Mutual Destruction for the present Political Class, to do whatever it takes to sustain an unsustainable system built on ever increasing debt and centralization of wealth (and therefore political power).

When the "too big to fail" banks made poor investments, the government bought them or accepted them as collateral for loans so that the banks could purchase sound investments instead.  The Big Banks keep all of their winning bets, their bad bets are transferred to the taxpayer's books.  Not so when a little or medium sized person or company fails.  They go under and their assets are acquired at bargain basement prices, usually these days by the same Big Players who got bailed out when they made poor investments.  It is easy to see that in a game where when the Big Players trip the government helps pick them up at our expense but when we trip we go bankrupt, that over time the Big Players are going to own virtually everything.

The ruling class has one goal, staying the ruling class.  They don't want to hyper-inflate the dollar, because that would cause the basis of much of their wealth (claims to the debt payments of others) to vanish.  They want the dollar strong and dear, but they also want to issue lots of money to bail themselves out, form the basis of much of their wealth and buy off the lower classes with welfare. With heavy debt loads, debtors groan under a strong dollar. When there was dollar inflation debtors could pay loans back in cheaper dollars.  Now that the dollar is (artificially) stronger debtors are having to repay in dollars which are more expensive and it is pushing many into default.  If enough of them default, the system of wealth based on ownership of others' debts collapses, so they don't want that either.

The solution they seem to have hit upon is to bail out the Big Players when they make poor decisions, but let the little guys descend into the lower class when they slip up.  They have found a way to keep the money circulating tightly between Washington and Wall Street, with little of it trickling down to Main Street.  If a Big Player gets caught in a situation where their investments go south and so they can't pay their debts, bail them out. When a little guy has investments that go south, they are liquidated and lose middle-class or upper middle-class status and become members of the lower class.  As debt-fueled deflation takes hold, this is happening to more and more people. To keep the swelling lower classes from rioting against the government whose corrupt policies helped make them lower class, the government has "bought off" this group with welfare programs, paid for with more debt.

The only end of this course of action is the utter destruction of the Middle Class.  The ruling class makes money off of the debt used to pay for the welfare programs and servicing government contracts so they "get back" the share of the bill which goes to them.  Only the middle class in the private sector does not and that is why they are being squeezed.  It ends with the population divided into "people connected to the system" and "poor people" subsisting on welfare.  

Actually, that is not quite the end. At that point, once the last of the middle class whose hard work and wealth have been used to fuel the economy have been thrown into the debt-shredder, this thing implodes anyway.  The system failed in 2008.  Ever since the ruling class has been buying time with policies hastening the destruction of the middle class, making their losses our losses.

The good news in this rather depressing story is that there are ways to organize society so that our posterity is never again subjected to the deprevations which we now face. There are ways to engage the political system more effectively than we have been doing it. We did not get into this mess overnight and it won't be fixed overnight, but it can be fixed.  That is what Localism, a philosophy of government is about.



 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Divine Right of Government

From the time of the first central states in Babylon through the age of the Roman Empire, kings took upon themselves the mantle of the divine.   In the first states there was no "separation between church and state", for the priests served the king.  Religion was at the service of the state, and the rulers often presented themselves as descendents of the gods, if not gods themselves.   The great mass of humanity existed to elevate the state, which was personified in the form of the King or Emperor.

The main exception to the rule was a collection of tribes in the Levant who for 360 years elected their own local leaders, had a fixed law, a travelling judiciary, and no national executive at all except for brief periods of national emergency.   When they finally decided to have a king, the priesthood was already established, and for a time maintained its independence from the state.   Over time this independence broke down, but so did the expression of the faith through a priesthood.  Prophets rose up and were the main movers and shakers of the faith, challenging both Kings and Priests.

In the Jewish tradition Kings were not gods whose will was law.  There was a Higher Law, established by the One True God, and to that law both King and commoner were equally bound.  Indeed King and Priest were to remain separate offices, only to be united in the person of Messiah, who alone was worthy to be both King and High Priest.   The Messiah was the King of Kings, to whom all earthly Kings would be obligated to submit.  Kings had a king- the King of Kings.  They did not dictate the will of heaven to the masses, for kings were just as subject to it as they were.

As Christianity spread into Europe so did these ideas, for Christianity is not so much a separate religion from Judaism as it is Judaism fulfilled.   Like all powerful people not used to, or happy with, restraints on their behavior, Kings attempted to use the parts of Christian scripture and tradition which were favorable to civil authorities to their best advantage. This took the form of the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings."  Romans 12 and other places in scripture suggest that civil authorities exist by God's permission. That is, they are in charge because God ordained it so.

The kings most favorable to this doctrine tended to forget that any divine right that kings had was balanced by divine responsibilities that kings had.   Should a king fail to exercise their "rights" responsibly, their subjects reasoned, then the king himself was in rebellion against the Divine order.

After all, didn't the same passages of scripture which taught that rulers were established by God also teach that those same rulers, wittingly or unwittingly, were Ministers of God?  And didn't the same passage (Romans 13) describe this ministry as "honoring those who do good" and "bringing wrath on evil doers"? What if a ruler failed to do this?  What if they did the opposite of this?  It was thinking along this line, starting from the basis that religion was above state and not a function of state, which established what we know today as "the right of rebellion".   From this it was deduced that a just government required "the consent of the governed" to its claim of a divine mandate.  The people being governed had to agree that those doing the governing were doing so in a legitimate manner.

While this view has some distance from prior notions, notice that even the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings" was less totalitarian than the old pagan view.  The old pagan view was that the state was the dignitary of the gods on earth and that the will of the king was the will of heaven. In contrast, Kings who had a Divine Right to rule can be in error and offend the Divine.  Kings which are divine themselves cannot, their word is absolute, they are accountable only to themselves.   When heaven and king are separated this way, certain things were rightly beyond the reach of even the King.  Not so when King and the will of Heaven are viewed as one and the same.

From this idea of separation of King from the Divine it was but a short leap to the idea that the common people could be their own kings as it were, sharing power in a Republican form of government.   The Creator was still viewed as the source of rights (as noted for example in the Declaration of Independence), but He didn't just give the governing authorities a Divine Legitimacy to govern, He also gave individual persons legitimate claims against governments which exceeded their Divine mandate.  

In other words, individuals had rights.   The idea that there lives a King of Kings translated into the idea that there were just limits on the power of the state. The earthly King or ruler was not the Master of the people, rather they were ministers acting on behalf of God, the true Master of both King and Commoner.   This idea held even in a nation where the People themselves were the king.

The same God which gave rulers the authority to rule placed boundaries on that authority for the sake of the individual, which was actually the point of government.  Not like the Pharaohs, who considered the purpose of his subject's lives was to glorify the state and his own royal person by slaving away at constructing elaborate tombs.  Rather, government existed for the purpose of upholding justice. Glorification of the state was not the point of government, but rather the state existed to serve the individual by providing justice.  As it is recorded in scripture, in the Kingdom of Heaven to "rule" is to "serve".    This view of government was a wellspring of human liberty.  It was the basis on which the Democracies and Republics of the West were established.

For much of this period most education was conducted by the church or by local communities.  It is not surprising then that during that time educated persons were trained to understand that the state was not absolute, that even the king (or Parliament) is but a minister of God and is duty-bound to rule justly, and that individuals could claim rights even against the mighty state.   This policy carried over unto America, where the people as a whole were supposed to rule.   That is, a Bill of Rights was recognized which constituted areas of life beyond the just reach of the state and therefore not subject to majority vote.  

As the state itself began to take over education this doctrine of government was first de-emphasized, then ignored, and now suppressed.   In its place the post-modern state is not devising a new system, but re-incarnating an old one.   A neo-pagan view of government is now emerging which claims that there is no Divine Will separate from and above the state, or if there is it is mandatory that the state disregard it.    The Collective Man will become the new god, and some new Ceasar claiming to speak "for the people" will represent this "god's" will on earth.

The current crop of "progressives" is not bringing humankind progress at all, but rather regression to an oppressive period of human history where the desires of the state triumphed over the will of the individual without limitation.   In Roman times the Emperors made themselves out to be gods and used the state as their instruments to enforce their "divine" whim.  In the new order a vast collective called "The People" will insert itself into the role of the Divine, using the state to enforce its whims.  The voice of the people will be considered the voice of God.
 
 In this view "rights" can only be mere grants of the state, not something the individual is entitled to by a power above it.   They are thereby transformed from restrictions on the state to political tools of the state.  They become the means by which groups favored by the state are granted new privileges at the expense of the disfavored group's freedom. At that point the substance of individual rights, as claims by individuals against the state, will vanish. The word may persist without substance for some time, but only to be used by whatever small group is really running things as a fig-leaf to cover the state's trampling over some groups in favor of others.

Our only hope of sustaining liberty is for us to revert to the view of government which produced it.  Should we fail to do so the result will not be a government without god, but rather the false god of humanity collectively deifying itself under a new "divine" ruler.   Only a government with a true divine right to govern can have divine limitations on its governance.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Current Ruling Class as a Corporate Commodus

Most of us have seen the movie "Gladiator" in which Joaquin Phoenix chillingly portrays the deeply disturbed Roman Emperor Commodus. The movie fictionalizes Marcus Aurelius character concerning the events surrounding who should succeed him, but what a great movie for what it says about real life.   Let's take a case in point. Here is an excerpt from the original script for the movie "Gladiator" by David Franzoni and John Logan:

GAIUS
  And what pays for it?  These games
  are costing a fortune and yet we
  have no new taxes.

     LUCILLA
  The future.  The future pays for
  it...

A beat.  She looks at them.

     LUCILLA
  He's started selling the grain
  reserves.   

     GAIUS
  No.

     MARCELLUS
  That can't be true...

     LUCILLA
  He's selling Rome's reserves of
  grain.  The people will be starving
  in two years.  I hope they are
  enjoying the spectacles because soon
  enough they will be dead because of
  them.

The Senators, representatives of the Patrician class in Rome, are shocked when they hear that Commodus is selling the future just to keep the masses happy now.   As viewers watch the movie, they too are supposed to be shocked and sympathetic towards the group as they plot a coup against the madman who has taken over their government.

It is too bad that more of those same movie viewers fail to notice that what madman Commodus is doing in the movie is extremely similar to what today's ruling class in both parties is doing to us right now.   They are expanding government rapidly even though it is clear that we don't have the money to pay for the government we have now.  Like the insane Commodus, they are doing it by selling the future, in this case by using debt to pay for all the goodies they deign to dispense to the masses, after their friends take a large cut of course.

For many years Americans trusted the experts to run the country for us while we pursued the American Dream.  It turns out they ran the country for their own benefit and stole the American dream from our children.  Only the hollowed out remains of an economy shackled by debt remains.  If we don't quit out-sourcing the job of protecting our liberties to two D.C. based political clubs which have ruined our children's future to enrich their global cronies then nothing but debt-serfdom remains for our progeny.    

It is not just inefficient welfare programs at home that our government squanders money on. That money is just to bribe the lower classes into supporting the current system in which the ruling class systematically loots the middle and upper middle classes.   Do you realize that the United States has already budgeted more money, even after adjusting for inflation, to rebuilding Afghanistan than it spent rebuilding 16 European nations after WWII with the Marshall Plan?    That is because its not really about rebuilding Afghanistan.  It is about enriching the defense contractors and international construction firms who profit by our insane policy of blowing up bridges with million dollar cruse missiles and then re-building them again until the next time we blow them up.

It is shocking how much money the United States government borrows on our credit and then spends overseas.   Not only is the debt overhang hurting our economy, but the fact that those dollars leave our shores and are sucked out of our economy also hurts.  These studies of which states get back more from the federal government than they pay in never seem to account for the borrowing.   That is, a state may pay in less in taxes than it gets in federal income, but such accounting does not consider that FEDGOV is borrowing forty three cents for every dollar it spends.   

When you factor that in you will discover that we don't have a situation where half the states are better off with our current FEDGOV and half the states are worse.  Instead you will realize that almost all states in the union are worse off because of FEDGOV's mad policies of borrowing mind-boggling amounts of money on our credit from the rest of the world and then spending that money stimulating other economies overseas, after their friends make a hefty profit of course.

Like the Senators in the movie, responsible people in our nation must come to grips with the stark reality that our present ruling class is corrupt or insane or possibly both.    Asking the institutions which they control, such as the Republican or Democratic parties, to fix it, is useless as well as delusional. They are not going to fix it.  They caused it and the interests which fund them profit from it.   One of their primary functions is to weed out candidates who are sincere in their efforts to fix it, which is why any candidate who is serious about ending these abuses is attacked viciously by the opposing party as well as by the establishment of their own party, as well as by the media.  You have some good people in the state legislature, and a handful in Congress, but it is the scoundrels who will get the real party backing.

What is the solution to this predicament?   Revert to self-government.   Is that a lot of work?  Sure.  That's why we outsourced the job of protecting our interests to these D.C. based organizations in the first place.  We were trying to get out of work, so we wanted to believe that people who don't know us in a city we rarely or never visit would look out for us.   Now we see that was an unreasonable, even foolish, expectation.    

The only moral path is the difficult one of governing ourselves.  For those of us who don't know how to do that, it involves building our own decentralized means of getting candidates to the ballot without vetting them through a national party.  In other words, by practicing the precepts in the Third Pillar of Localism.  In my state we have taken the first steps toward doing this with Neighbors of Arkansas,    We are challenging ballot access laws for independents and helping the few good independent candidates where we can.  It's no way to pick a President, but its the best way to pick a legislature.  And if legislatures are selected outside the current party system, its going to matter a lot less who the President is.   A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.   I urge you to take that first step by working toward something similar where you live.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dissent and Progress


Dissent is rapidly becoming both criminalized by the government and demonized by the media. That includes the media which is ostensibly informational, such as news,  and that which is ostensibly entertainment, such as pop culture and sports media.  In the era of the Total State and the Great Collective, all media is indoctrinational, regardless of what purpose the viewer thinks is being served by it.   

It is not surprising that government and media are now moving in the same direction since both are increasingly owned by the same entities.   Mankind has had little enough experience with true self-government, and only a small slice of that has been in conjunction with mass media concentrated in an ever-smaller set of hands.   It may be that actual self-government for the citizens of any nation is simply not possible when the overwhelming majority of its mass media is owned by a few global entities.    The illusion of self-government might be preserved for a while in such circumstances long after the essence of the thing is gone.

In the past, tyrants who tried to lecture their populations on what values to have were often undermined by the popular culture- singers, comedians, and artists of all types.  Increasingly, government and the big media are working together to convince the population to look here and not there.   They are teaching them to feel and not to think. 

The people are repeatedly shown some graphic instances of evil in some foreign land until they demand their government intervene there- which was of course what those running the government wanted all along.   Meanwhile equally insidious evils are happening all around them, maybe even being perpetrated by that same government, but they are not shown that.  Our policy is formed based on what we see, and unless one makes a determined effort all one will ever see is what they wish you to be shown.  No question is asked what right we have to impose our judgement of what ought to be done on foreign lands of which we know next to nothing.   No question is asked whether our intervention will fix it any better than our previous twenty years of interventions, nor how the cost for it all will be paid.

Increasingly, thoughtful dissent from the conventional wisdom is viewed not as a right, but as a disease which undermines our unity and makes us weaker.   This is the collectivist view of dissent.   But if it is true, how did the United States ever become the greatest nation on earth, and why is it that the harder we are pressed into collectivist conformity the more we become mired in mediocrity?

During the time when America was growing economically, artistically, and technologically one of our defining features was our diversity.  Not the superficial diversity of race or sex mind you, but of thought.  This was true, maybe even especially true, of the most controversial questions.  Whereas European nations had some state-approved Church, in America groups of people who would be killing each other over their differences in the Old Country were living and working side by side. We did not all agree on how we should be ruled, or on any other issue.  We resolved these disputes through reason and compromise, not a demand for uniformity.

The Rugged Individualist is an American Archetype.   The term "Yankee Ingenuity" connotes a way of solving problems never thought of before, much less approved of, by the community.   When one uses the head and looks at the evidence of history rather than making decisions based on the emotions generated from exposure to a limited number of heart-wrenching images the conclusion is clear: dissent is not what is holding America back.  Our past respect for it is what permitted America to move forward.   Our accelerating march toward uniformity of thought and action has not made us better.   Its making us worse.  Dissent is not the disease, collectivism is.

Collectivism suffers from an inability to absorb feedback from reality.   Whether we are talking about economic reality, moral reality, or any other sort.   The individual members of the herd are not using their minds to gather information from reality, but rather dedicate their intelligence to detecting which way the leadership of the herd wishes to go.    Most of the herd simply quits thinking for itself.  It quits responding to other stimuli from reality, because acting on them is punished by the heard, while unthinking conformity is rewarded.   

Nations where the ruling class forces conformity, such as Islamic nations or nations such as North Korea where there is a long-entrenched totalitarian state, are backward countries. They are miserable places whose people suffer greatly for their inability to conform to reality.   They simply can't compete with societies where people are free to think for themselves and speak and act on what they discover. 

My fear is that such societies are becoming increasingly rare as a global elite senses that imposing a global collective is now, for the first time in history, within their grasp.   They may be able to control what is perceived as reality for almost all people in the West.   What they can't do is control actual reality. Frighteningly, I am not even sure they believe in a reality beyond human perception.  Further, by demonizing dissent and imposing a collective viewpoint, they eliminate the vital feedback mechanism by which a population's perception of reality is corrected by input from actual reality.

Following the herd requires a lot less thinking than acting as an individual.   It provides the illusion of an escape from both the hard work of independent thought and the sometimes heavy burden of individual responsibility.  This makes it an alluring trap for us all, but it is a trap nevertheless.  The reality is that humans are made to be social animals, but not herd animals.  We can only become herd animals rather than social ones by abandoning our moral free agency- by renouncing a part of what we really are.   By choosing, subconsciously perhaps, to become a herd animal we renounce a key part of what makes us human. 

I exhort you dear reader, to cling to your humanity.  To cherish it, and to offer it up to no collective on earth, be it a national government, a corporation, a political party, or what have you.  The collective says that dissent is the disease, but dissent is what permits a culture to stay connected to reality.  And the consequences for ignoring reality, for both individuals, groups, and nations, is painful and often fatal.   Collectivism is the true disease, and the freedom to dissent is the cure.






Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beyond Ron Paul on Secession



Ron Paul wrote an article yesterday in which he found encouragement in the recent vote on succession in Scotland and the growth of such movements in general.   The Good Doctor sees such movements as the key to making government smaller and more decentralized.   Of course Paul has always been a fan of making relationships, such as the one between a state and the central government, voluntary rather than compulsory.   There is nothing really new in his position.

I am not sure that much of the media covering Dr. Paul really understands his position, or is even interested in understanding it.   Does he want Texas to secede from the union?   I doubt it, but he does want the federal government to respect both the limits set for it in the constitution and the states which comprise the union.   Right now, it respects neither.   And the reason it respects neither is because there are no consequences for it when FEDGOV disrespects them.   FEDGOV takes the position that its own employees (federal judges) are the final arbiters of the limits of the power of their employers.   Rather than find Dr. Paul's position radical, a fair and unbiased media might give more examination to the radical position assumed by our own federal government.

Without consequences for trampling on the constitution, FEDGOV will in time trample on the constitution.  Without consequences for treating the states with disrespect, FEDGOV will in time treat the states with disrespect.    Secession is not the first option.  It is not something desired of itself.  Its like a safety valve, something created in the hopes that it will never have to be used.   A safety valve is not a part of the primary function of a system, but it helps keep the system within workable parameters.   Its is not there to destroy the system, but rather by its presence prevent the system from destroying itself.   That is how the right to secede would function.

That is how it just did function in Scotland. Dr. Paul rejoices that Britain granted Scotland more local control as part of the effort to induce them to stay in Great Britain.   Brining control closer to the individual, making relationships voluntary instead of compulsory.   Those are the things Dr. Paul was celebrating.

I myself have no interest in secession.   I think America is much better together than apart, but by "America" I mean the people of the nation, not the federal government.  At this point, we would be better off with a central government so much smaller and less intrusive that it would not be recognizable by any of the ruling class in Washington.  Secession would only be in desirable as a safety valve.  It would only be a last resort if Washington insisted on continuing with implacable ruthlessness its policies which gather all power unto itself.

The second of the seven pillars of localism is that there must be remedies by smaller governments against more central governments when they violate the compact which bound them together.  I think Dr. Paul is overly optimistic when he says that breaking into smaller and smaller states alone would bring more liberty and variety of currency.   To stop power from recentralizing each of the seven pillars of localism must be attended to.   Small states can fall prey to large ones.  We need a system of government which combines the protections and advantages of being large with a way to ensure political power is and stays decentralized and in reach of the individual.  Localism is that system.

In the end, it is either going to be localism or globalism.   The reason is simple: other less complete philosophies of government cannot protect their citizens from the various means by which centralizers consolidate power.   Secession is an important component of this process of decentralizing power, but as a safety valve, not a primary function.