Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Dark Knight of Political Philosophies


I have come to realize that Localism is the Dark Knight of political philosophies. It may not be the philosophy of government that most people want, especially people interested in public policy, but its the one they need.

 The first "Dark Knight" Batman movie explored the idea that there was a difference between the hero that people wanted and the hero that people needed. The good people of Gotham wanted an optimistic camera-friendly champion to work within the system that they were comfortable with. They wanted to believe their problems were not because the system itself was flawed, rather the answer was simply to change the identity of the person running it and that will fix things.

Except it didn't fix things. While its true that the right person can keep a soundly-built ship from running aground, if the ship has a structural flaw then a storm can expose it no matter who the Captain is. It is the storm which exposes the design flaw. At that point changing Captains won't help. One must go to port and do a re-fit, however much trouble it may be. In the movie, the emergence of The Joker represented that storm. He had an evil gift of finding and exploiting the ugliness of people, combined with an understanding of how to leverage the complex, interconnected, yet predictable form of the system against itself. When this gift was used against people in the system it was revealed that all of them had something they wanted more than justice.

Batman did not work within their system. He did not need the approval of the general public. He was not subject to media manipulation, or The Joker's manipulation. He did not lean on orders from headquarters, or the permission of people who knew less about the situation than he did. He just acted. Only one thing about him was predictable, that he would follow his own law and refuse to kill.

Harvey Dent and the good people of Gotham felt everything was basically fine, they just needed the right central figure to lead the system. The Joker knew that the system itself was flawed and those flaws would be amplified by exploiting the flawed humans which operated the system at all levels. In this sense, the size and complexity of the system simply offered The Joker more targets, more ways to aggravate stress points.

The Joker represents anarchy, the other extreme from Dent. I don't say that anarchists want to hurt people just to make a point like the Joker did, but that character would represent anarchists in this analogy. They have no illusions about the system and would like nothing more than the whole thing to burn to the ground. But he went too far in believing that everything was ugly, everything was dirty. It didn't all need to go, but it did need intervention from outside itself in order to function in a way that would produce any lasting good.

Batman was the hero that showed Gothamites that their system was not able to maintain itself without external correction. Batman showed The Joker that not all external corrective forces were hypocrites. The Joker's quest to prove that there was no difference between the respectable and the contemptible, that all heroes and authorities were at core just as amoral as he was, failed against The Dark Knight.

People who are attracted to politics tend to have strong feelings about using political power. Generally they are motivated by one of two things: either they like to rule others or they hate to be ruled by others. For those who like to rule, there is the present extremism of the central state. They think we can "make America great again" by picking the right hero to be our strongman. They have no patience for the thought that our problems may run deeper than that, and may in fact be systemic. People who love the Central State are interested in making other people do what they want. They have no desire for localism. Localism is for people who can sleep well at night even when people they have never met in a city where they have never been are doing things they would not approve of.

For the opposite group, those who hate to be ruled, Localism does not go far enough. They are drawn to philosophies of government which confirm their rejection of all authority. They want some of the more extreme flavors of Libertarian ideas, such as anarchism. Any state is too much state for them. The very concept must be discredited. They marshal some manner of intellectual arguments against the necessity of the state, but not so much as to withstand real scrutiny. Most of the second book about localism was devoted to showing why much of the  underpinnings of anarchist thought are uncompelling.

Unfortunately the human tendency is to start with our emotions and afterwards make some attempt at formulating a logic which supports our previous emotional conclusions. For one who wishes to see power exercised over others, even people too distant to have any serious affect on their own lives, some rationalization for the central state will be constructed, no matter how flimsy. In the same way, if one's emotions lead one to rebel against all authority, unprovable premises will be adopted which allow for a philosophy which justifies it. It is the rare and healthy person who can dispassionately take a look at other ideas, especially those which begin outside of their emotional comfort zone.

Localism is a philosophy of government for emotionally and mentally healthy people. It is for those who feel no compulsion to rule over distant strangers yet accept the necessity of some kind of government for themselves. It accepts that we are not always the best judge of the nobility of our own actions- be we ruler or ruled. It answers the old question of "if man must be governed himself then how can he rule others?" by saying that both the governed and the governing must check and balance one another. Neither can be trusted with absolute freedom of action, either over themselves or others. Those few of us who do manage to break ourselves free of all restraint most often do so to their own destruction, whether individual or government. At the same time we acknowledge the present central state does not really restrain government, and presents only the illusion of freedom and accountability and not freedom or accountability itself.

Ultimately the Philosophy of Government we need is one that reflects the truth about us. About Mankind. Though statism and anarchism seem like polar opposites, they actually originate from the same mistaken assumption about man. Both the philosophy of the Central State and that of Anarchy start with the idea that we are basically good. The one says "our sort can rule others without corruption" and the other says "we can live unrestrained by external rules without corruption". They are both built on the ethereal foundation of our own purported goodness. For anarchists, this goodness extends to the common man. Adherents of the central state may think that only those of their viewpoint are so righteous as to be able to manifest this incorruptible and innate goodness. Each asks for unaccountable power- one over everyone and the other against everyone - on the same false basis.

Localism presents a more classical, and honest, assessment of humankind. Mankind is not good by nature. Mankind is sinful by nature, and being able to cover that up and put on a good show is just part of the sin. Further, few things bring out the inherent badness of man like a lack of accountability whether it be in the form of escaping all external authority over themselves, or the unchecked ability to impose such authority over others. This is not what we want to hear about ourselves, even if it is true. We don't wish to hear it even if it was the classical western view of man for over a thousand years, and that view produced a very great deal of human liberty. Perhaps it worked, but its not what we want to hear just now. From this classical and blunt assessment of human nature springs the political philosophy of Localism.  The Dark Knight of its kind. The one we need, even if it fails to flatter us.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

NOW the Establishment Wants a Kind of Run-Off


A "Brokered Convention" is kind of like a run-off election. If there is no clear winner on the first round of voting, you have a second round. It differs from a run-off election in that the people casting the votes in the second round are not the whole body of people who voted the first round, but a select group of delegates much more tied to the system which engineered the election to begin with.

For many cycles the Republican establishment in particular manipulated the process against outsider candidates who really wanted to limit government. They did this by encouraging a bevy of candidates who claimed such positions (usually without much basis in fact) into entering the race. The nationalist/traditionalist/limited government vote was divided many ways. The establishment Republican vote was divided few ways because the power brokers got together in advance to pick their candidate. I heard about George W. Bush as a candidate from a Republican county chair while we we still engaged in the previous election cycle.

They still tried to rig the process by getting all of the southern states, save Jeb Bush's Florida, into having their primaries early while the vote was decided on a proportional basis and many candidates would be in the race. Then Jeb Bush or some other globalist big government Republican could clean up by winning 35% of the vote and getting all of the delegates in "winner take all" primaries like Florida and Ohio.

They totally misjudged how fed up the country was with their policies, and the Bush family which has become the personification of it. They did hedge a little bit, in that they let an ambitious young Marco Rubio convince them to use him as a back-up plan if indeed people were tired of the Bushes. When Bush floundered they went to the back-up plan and pushed him relentlessly. But Rubio proved to be "not ready for prime time." Between that and a regional (at best) establishment (Kasich) candidate staying in the race, it was actually the establishment vote that has been divided.

The third thing that they did not plan on was Ted Cruz peeling off just enough of the establishment to raise some serious money while still keeping a substantial amount of the conservative anti-establishment grassroots in his camp. Normally by this time, the conservative challenger is out of cash and has not laid the groundwork for a rapid series of contests in large states.

Then of course there is the Deus Ex Machina Black Swan event that is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is now turning their own plans on their heads. He does not have anywhere near a majority of delegates. He barely has 100 more than Cruz. But until now delegates have been allotted more or less proportionally. We are about to enter a phase where the delegates are awarded by a procedure that the media has been calling "winner take all."

Now Trump is in a position to do what the establishment candidates did to the conservative candidates when McCain and Romney were running: Rack up tremendous delegate leads by winning 100% of the delegates by winning less that 50% (in some cases far less) of the vote. What they are trying to do now is arrange things so that no one gets over half of the delegates. Then it would go to a brokered convention where, if a few more rules get changed, they can get someone more to their liking in there.

This is not as impossible as it sounds. We are far along the process and although Trump has the most delegates of any candidate, he does not have close to half of the delegates. The remaining states are mostly "winner take all" but they also tend to be "closed" events. That is, only registered Republicans can participate. That eliminates the motivated independents that have been bolstering Trump's numbers. Trump comes off as an east coast authoritarian, and that does not play well in Western states. Indeed, except for atypical Nevada, Trump has not won out west. Cruz is stronger once you get away from states that are east of the Mississippi. The "border" states that have one border on the west side of the Mississippi are basically a tie. Trump wins east of that line and Cruz wins west of it.

I started out by saying that brokered convention is a type of run-off election. This gets to the real point I want you to see from this. The establishment media calls states that award all of their delegates to the one with the most votes, even if its not a majority of votes, "winner take all" states. In the general election they call it the "first past the post" method. Same method, different names. In each case the candidate who gets the most votes, even if its not the majority of votes, gets everything at stake, whether its a pile of delegates or a public office. And that's a problem. We should have run-off elections for every office on the ballot, preferably using instant run-off voting.

Why does the establishment want a brokered convention, a sort of run-off albeit one decided by those closer to the system, for itself but expect everyone else to be stuck with a "winner take all" a.k.a. "first past the post" method of determining who wins general elections in November? Any state legislature could change the election laws anytime they wanted. They just don't want to. It is in the interest of the two dominant parties to leave the "first past the post" a.k.a. "winner takes all" system in place in November because it is easier for them to game that system. They can scare people out of choosing a third party out of fear of "splitting the vote" and throwing the election to their least preferred option. They like it because it frightens people into line instead of helping them to vote their conscience. That they have not given us run-offs yet is dishonorable at any time, but never moreso than now, when the establishment of one of the major parties wants a sort of run-off for itself- in particular a run-off where only those most connected to the system get to vote on the second round.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What is "The Establishment" of a Political Party?

To answer that question you must first answer the question of what a party is supposed to do. This video explains why, if the goal is to limit government, a unitary national party system is exactly the wrong vehicle.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Republican "Leadership" Kills 10th Amendment Bills? What Did You Expect?


I noticed that the Tenth Amendment Center had an article complaining that the Indiana Republican Legislative "Leadership" killed a dozen nullification bills in the state legislature, mostly without even allowing a hearing on them.

The second pillar of Localism supports the concept of nullification when states believe that a law or regulation of the central government violates the compact between them (in the case of the United States, that would be the Constitution). If agents of the central government are the only ones who get to determine the extent of their own authority, one should not be surprised if over time they determine that they have vast powers, and that the states have few. For the contract which binds the states to the central authority to have any lasting legitimacy, both parties to the contract must have some say-so in how it is to be interpreted.

As the first localism book points out, I doubt anyone reading this article would be so foolish as to sign an important contract with another under the condition that only the other party may determine what the terms mean! Nor were the states so foolish as to have their representatives sign the constitution under those terms. Nullification was, at first, on the table. Like any power, it can be abused, but unless states have that power then central government power will almost certainly be abused.

What short circuits the process is what Localism calls the "unitary party system". That is to say, the citizens trust the same nation-wide political club to vet candidates for both state offices and national offices. Those state legislative "leaders" who killed those bills without a hearing are part of the same political club that the federal legislators are in. It's a club headquartered in D.C. and funded largely by global interests. It is simply not reasonable to expect people representing that club, vetted by that club, and led by that club, to stand up to the other members of their club in Washington.

Why is the "leadership" of a party the leadership if they keep doing things the grassroots dislike? Its because the top of the hierarchy in D.C. has a large say in who becomes the "leadership." So long as state legislatures are stuffed full of Republicans and Democrats you can expect that this is what will happen to nullification bills because these legislators owe their place to this national club.

The only way to fix this problem, this end-run around the Founding Father's intent that the state legislatures serve as a check and a balance on the Federal system, is for the people in those states to break up the unitary party system. We should seek separate representation in the state government from that which staffs the federal. This would involve running people for state offices as independents, or as members of a single-state political party. This is discussed in more detail in the third pillar of Localism.

We have a systemic problem: the unitary party system undermines the Founder's intent of states serving as a check and balance to FEDGOV. This results in a policy problem: FEDGOV constantly exceeds its constitutional authority and meddles in people's lives. People get exercised about the problem that they see, but they try to fix it without first correcting the systemic problem which is at the root of the policy problem.

People keep marching into the unitary party system because it seems "easier" to them to effect change through an existing political structure than to start anew. In my life I have seen countless hours of effort squandered taking this "easy" path to political action. If only a tithe of the same effort and energy had been expended on a solution which addressed the underlying systemic problem (the unitary party system) then we would already have state legislatures willing to stand up to Washington when necessary. It would be the default setting instead of something that happens on exceptional occasions, only to return to the rule of fraternity over representation.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Canadian Minister says Canadians Can Do Better than "First Past the Post"

Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef says that advanced Democracies like Canada can do better than the "First Past the Post" method of determining the winner. The system is used by the United States and Canada, but few other long-time democratic or Republican forms of government. This chart shows the nations that still use it, but even many of them have run-off elections should none of the candidates get a majority of votes on the first round. The U.S. is one of the few democratic republics in the world that has a "first past the post" method to determine the election winner without a run-off election (except, oddly, for the most local offices where we do have them).

Because Canada is so big, remote, and diverse, and because the Chief Executive is elected through a coalition in the legislative branch, Canada has more than two viable political parties. But Monsef said that was not enough, and that while first-past-the-post might be OK for fledgling democracies like Afghanistan, Canada can do better. A move by Canada to instant run-off or ranked-choice voting (advocated in Localism) would leave the United States even farther behind. Monsef said that, and other ideas, are on the table.

The first past the post method, most especially in the US, artificially restricts voters to two choices for fear of "splitting the vote" and electing their least-preferred alternative. Notice how the Presidential primary is being affected- people are calling for all but three candidates to drop out because they don't want the vote splitting among candidates in their faction to cost delegates. Ranked choice/instant runoff voting in delegate allocation would help that too- not that I care how private political clubs organize their nomination process. My concern is improving representative government by providing more choice- including the choice of a group of citizens outside of any formal party being able to seriously challenge a congressman by a true grassroots effort.

The parties don't even use "first past the post" to determine the winner for their other primary races. Nor do they do so for the selection of their own party officials. They use run offs. They use something like ranked-choice. If its good enough for them, why have they made the rules so that it is unavailable to the rest of us in general elections for all but the most local offices?

Not every problem in America today is a systemic problem. But even if the other factors were in place, our system is still a problem. It would not even require a constitutional amendment to change it. Election law is made largely at the state level.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Where Capital Is Best Treated in Localism

I see from an article on Zero Hedge that the 62 richest people control more capital wealth than does half of the human race. Further, the "top 1%" control more wealth than the rest of the human race put together. Many people see these statistics and feel that there is no justification for this state of affairs, others consider that there is no need for them to be justified. It is just the way things are.

As is usual, my position is somewhere in the middle of these two views. I don't have a problem with wealth inequality per se. It is a necessary consequence of freedom. Still, the radical concentration in the distribution of wealth is peculiar and at its face does not seem to reflect reality. That is, I find it doubtful that those 62 humans personally add more value to the world than the nearly four billion humans which comprise the lower half of humanity. I find it doubtful that those one out of one hundred humans provide more honest value than the next 99 put together. 

What I am suggesting is that our current world economy is not an honest one. Wealth is transferred to those closest to the state and the financial institutions which influence them. Fiat money is merely one example of how wealth is inequitably transferred. Bailouts to global banks while the rest of us must liquidate when we make financial mistakes, is another. So while I agree that economic inequality in itself is not unjust in the least, the means by which much of the present wealth inequality has been generated are unjust. And because the means have been unjust, the results produced by those means are unjust. 

One might answer, when looking at the original Zero Hedge article I referenced, that it makes no difference that wealth is being concentrated, even if by unfair means, if the overall pie is growing. That is to say, even the poor are seeing teeny increases in their "wealth" as the total amount of wealth the human race generates increases. It is just that 62 individuals are scooping up more of that new wealth than half the planet put together. So long as the pie is growing, so the thinking goes, people should not complain.

Such thinking is greatly flawed. Much of our "wealth increase" is not real. It is a result of the debt-based fiat money system which is among the prime drivers of wealth inequality. To be more particular- trillions of dollars worth of debt has been created in order to "stimulate" the economy. The money attached to that debt has found its way into certain connected hands, but the debt will be stuck with the population as a whole. Those who benefited from the money attached to the debt will arrange the rules so that they are not required to pay it back. Someone else will shoulder that burden. In the meantime, the money spent is counted as GDP "growth". Right now it only looks like the rest of us benefited from the spending because we have not yet paid for the debt which financed it. Once we do, once we get an accurate picture of the true growth in wealth minus the debt which artificially swells it, I think we will find that the rest of us are not getting better off. We are getting ripped off. 

If those at the very top paid off this debt in proportion to how much they benefited from its creation, then maybe it could be justified. What we have all seen is an intense rush to privatize profits and socialize costs. Those who benefited from the issuance of incredible amounts of public debt will make every effort to insure that the citizens at large will be stuck with most of the tab. This plan to borrow until every source of credit has been exhausted made the issue of who is benefited the most less important while the party was in progress. While everyone was getting a piece, even a tiny piece, no one wanted to stop the party. But now the debt party is ending and its time to divvy up the bill.

What we are about to see is just the sort of thing Localism is meant to protect people from. If one reads that book they will understand why restrictions on debt, restrictions on the state, restrictions on corporations, restrictions on banks, and restrictions on fiat money are necessary in order to preserve human freedom (if you think that the state itself is not necessary, then please see Localism Defended which argues the necessity of the state, as well as the necessity of its decentralization). Localism is a blue print for building a society in a way which avoids (to the which extent systems can, there is no substitute for popular virtue) exactly the sort of freedom-destroying centralization and systemic corruption the world is now experiencing.

But one may say, "capital goes where it is best treated. If you put such restrictions on capital as are suggested under the philosophy of localism then it will leave your nation and go to others."

Not quite. Debt masquerading as capital will leave localist nations and enter those where certain predatory practices, such as slave labor and bankster bailouts, are easier to pull off. What will stay in localist nations is capital itself. I agree that "capital goes where it is best treated." In localism, various regions within the nation will compete vigorously for capital. It will be treated best there because it will not be exchanged for mere paper promises from foreigners. If they want access to it, they will have to trade value for value. It will be treated best because it will be run by people who are connected to the nation in which the wealth is created. It will be treated best because it will be in the safest and stablest of all possible human societies- one in which there is no pressure-cooker from some suppressed regions or slivers of the population just waiting to spill over into violence because the central government insists on making all decisions and denying all avenues of peaceful resolutions to political differences.

In a localist nation real capital will be treated best in the nation in which it is created.