Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I've been scanning reports, and listening to interviews with the Occupy movement.

As with many things, there is some meat in there I do agree with.

It's not corporate and political corruption I have a specific problem with, as is most often stated by and about the Occupy movement.

Corporate rights and power are definitely an issue with me. Our nation does and should exist for the citizens, not for corporations. The Supreme Court made its biggest and most fundamental error, in my opinion, when it started granting rights and personhood to corporations.

In this, limited, specific idea that corporations are a problem, I agree with the Occupy movement. How and why corporations are a problem I don't think we agree on.

We certainly do not agree whatsoever in politics. The Occupy movement wants to replace representative democracy with mass "consensus" democracy. Pure, undiluted, addictive, mob rule.

Their answer to our current political system isn't to look at what is broken and what has worked for so long, but to chuck the whole thing. In listening to interviews, I have gathered evidence of reasons that vary from a complete lack of knowledge on what our political system is, a refusal to play on a gameboard where individual X doesn't get to make the rules. And, most damning, a Harrison Bergeron styled insistence on forceful inclusion of anyone deemed under-represented by specific social goals, sociological theories, or census.

Many of the most basic points and goals are covered simply in becoming active in local politics- and moving to reverse the Nixon era changes that catapulted NATIONAL level parties to prominence.

Of course, in suggesting this, I have run into the seemingly endless stream of rationalizations. "local parties don't matter" - "local parties won't listen to us" - "we can't compromise with politicians" and so on.

And so, the answer- throw away our current system, from the municipal to the federal level, and play by their rules.

One poor girl stated "this is new, no one knows how big it can grow. Nothing like this direct concensus democracy has ever bee tried before." (she's an organizer of one of Nevada's Occupy movements).

I suggest a reading of history. mid 19th through late 20th, centered in Europe, while incomplete, should suffice to educate.

Will the Patriotic primary candidate please stand up?

An open letter to the primary candidates- incidentally to our sitting President, as well.

We have some issues here to focus on in this election cycle. Jobs, regulation versus environmental protection, the economy. The role of government in creating jobs or commanding the economy. The role of corporations in job creation and commanding the economy (sorry, guys, but that's even worse than the government- corporate "persons" have neither patriotic, nor philanthropic reasons to do anything for the US citizenry as such.)

We're Americans, we can, have, and will argue endlessly on these issues.

But all of you have lost me on one crucial topic.

So I ask you, each and every one-

What is patriotism? How would you answer that in an interview?

How can you demonstrate your own patriotism, civic virtue, and sense of duty to the nation?

What is civic nationalism? Why is it important and how does it differ from ethnocentrism or "national party" versions?

Why do you feel it is your own patriotic duty to stand for election to the office of President of the United States?

I'll be down at the local VFW post 1002 in Fallon, Nevada when you want to come talk about it.

I'm nobody. I don't think the candidates will see this. I certainly don't expect an answer. I'm a knifemaker, a father, a veteran, and a patriot. That's all I am. I'd like to see and hear you - those who do see this- asking these questions, though.

I will tell what I think- my answers.

Patriotism is defined simply by a dictionary as "
devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty." (dictionary.com)

Mirriam Webster states that the synonym for patriotism is nationalism. (this is wrong)

Samuel Johnson, in probably his most famous quote, stated
"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." (He was referring to a false- and loud- psuedo-patriotism which translates to "what I want is patriotic. If you are patriotic, you must agree with me.")

George William Curtis wrote: "A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. "

And, because it's sort of the opposite of Godwin's law to bring up The Man- George Washington stated: "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. "

Patriotism- possibly only in the US, but certainly in the US- is more than a sense of loyalty to a nation. It is a sense of loyalty to our principles, beliefs, and methods of increasing liberty. With that loyalty comes the civic virtues of responsibility and duty to promote, defend, and enhance these principles.

Nationalism is, perhaps, related. But it is certainly distinct and is commonly used negatively. I believe this is due to a lumping of things like ethnocentrism, fascist Party nationalism, and such with the American civic nationalism.

In the United States, nationalism traditionally has not been state-centric. That is to say, our nationalism doesn't tend to promote the State over the Citizen.

Nor is our variety of nationalism limited to a particular ethnic group or specific religious flavor.

Our nationalism, our particular civic variety, rests on the idea that we, as citizens of a nation that we own- or run- share a common identity as a beacon of liberty.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the leading documents defining civic nationalism.

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states...."

The representatives, with the authority of the people.

Our "statism"- our nationalism- is based on this simple premise. The authority of the citizens.

I can't answer why it is anyone's patriotic duty to seek a presidential nomination- I have no desire to seek such a thing, myself. But if the desire is not flowering out of the basic sense of civic virtue, then we need to worry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The General Welfare

A friend of mine brought out a quote from Madison the other day:

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." — James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, 1792

In response, I wrote a little something about what, exactly, the general Welfare means- and which form of it Madison may have been referring to in his letter.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Welfare, or "the general Welfare" - doesn't in the terms of the Preamble refer to what we commonly call Welfare in current times.

In the case of the Preamble, it refers to the need to structure the government around protection of rights, liberties, and opportunities- welfare- of everyone, instead of selecting narrow or special groups. Think "commonwealth" instead of Reagan's "welfare queen".

Now, when you get to the clause in the Constitution where the general welfare is mentioned for the second, and only other time:

(Article One, Section 8)

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States"

Here you get into territory where different interpretations can be made.

Specifically relating this to the Preamble, it becomes clear that providing for the general welfare could- should- mean defending liberties against transgression or limiting by special interests.

Our founding fathers had a great deal of suspicion and experience around this topic, and structured early corporate law, citizenship, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights specifically to prevent the rise of oligarchal forms. (*cough*)

The Hamiltonian interpretation, which I believe is what Madison was arguing against the letter you quoted, is that the Congress has the right to tax and then spend the money to provide supports- what has evolved into modern welfare entitlements.

In terms of Federalism, the quote from Madison isn't a stand against the third of the four basic core elements of the Preamble, then. The idea that congress can tax, and then spend to support certain groups of persons through subsidy to ensure the "general welfare" does, hoever, seemt o bug him a bit.


Madisonian Federalism relies on 3 factors to maintain a balance- separation of powers within the federal government, the existence of state constitutions, and representative (as opposed to direct) democracy.

The first of these is commonly discussed, especially when it comes to items like a push to put congressional oversight onto the Supreme court, or when a President "deems" legislation into law.

Or the creation of law-enacting and enforcing agencies that are non elective and answer not at all to the populace of voters. (Such as the FCC, FDSA, USDA, etc)

We're all, over here on the blog, pretty familiar with the need for a separation of powers within the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.

The second two legs, though, are a bit less thought of.

The second one- state consitutions standing alongside (and sometimes opposed to) the federal Consitution- this is often covered a bit under the much bandied topic of States' Rights.

But it's more than that. Insofar as the federal US Constitution does state in the Tenth amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." - The states have a whole selection of duties and responsibilities. The federal government has increasingly encroached on these, in my opinion.

To use a basic example, education is a state responsiblity, or a local one (depending on the relevant state constitution) and thus not a federal responsibility.

The third leg is often the most overlooked. A completely direct democracy is a tyranny of the masses.

The Madisonian idea here is that in a direct democracy, the majority has no controls on behavior and can become very "rude" (deadly). A small group or selection of lone symbols can and will be used in a pure democracy as targets- and this is the surest way to develop a majority of minorities when a clear majority is not present.

While representative democracy- republicanism- will "refine and enlarge the public views" through the acto f election to a council or congress. More space and effort will be given to working with other representatives, and this form is less likely to devolve into a messianic mob. (The contrast with this is evident in several European nations throughout the last several hundred years.)

One of the keys to progressivism in general is a desire to switch to more direct democracy when things don't go their way. The idea is that the individual will somehow have more power by voting directly for a president and federal legislation than he will if he votes for a representative. This is great for California, but really SUCKS for a small population state such as Nevada or Montana. The more direct the democracy gets, the less protections you have against rule by density. Take that either way.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

in reply to a comment on my previous post

Because for some reason right now I cannot make a comment on my blog....

We have shifted from a freeholder/farming/production society to a service and consumer oriented society.

I didn't really try to skirt around it, but I didn't make all of my points very clearly.

Some services are wealth creation, some aren't. We could take the examples of a barber and a landscaper for a starting point, and leave the walmart greeter for later.

You can, and in the past most often have- had a stake in a barbershop by working there. At one point the most common mode was to rent the chair from the barber or stylist who owned the shop. You pretty much "own" your clientele and own your equipment. As it is a job where your clientele numbers and quality directly drive your earnings, the stakeholding factor is pretty high.

Similarly with a landscaper- who may employ any number of people. The service in this case actually can result in wealth creation through the biological health of the property, which is difficult to argue of
a barber.

But the core idea of stakeholding holds better with landscaping than with hair cutting at this point as a lot of the hair industry has been franshised or corporatized. (not all of it, but it's become a major

With a common landscaper, the employees may or may not have a stakehold, but they certainly can. Bonuses for speed and quality directly impact the business owner's success, so that can be used.

I have worked in the field, and there are plenty of options for increasing your stake. Though as a general rule it requires what I'd term a sense of fairness, a desire to improve the lot of your fellow man, and some... well, civic virtue on the part of the owner.

There's nothing at all wrong with hiring someone to do that which you don't want to do. but as a basis for an economy, it's a shell game. At some level, someone has to be producing something- and we definitely do still produce a lot as a nation, it's just not done nearly as much as it needs to be by owner/workers.

Land ownership, privatization of schools, and small businesses:

Well, as far as land ownership goes- I do think it's a key element in fixing things. I have yet to see a "socialized" housing solution work at all. I'd rather live in a ford pinto (which I have done!) than involve myself in public housing.

I won't claim I have some brilliant idea on how to fix land ownership, nor do I think all land should be private (quite the opposite, actually). But ownership of- or similar rights to your living spaces is
pretty fundamental.

I'm not sure privatization of schools is actually an issue. The Prussian model system is very, very broken- but that's not the only public system possible. The point is the type of education, and the Prussian model is, very much is, a large part of WHY our society
devalues originality, intelligent thought, empathy, and hard work.

That's pretty key- our society is, unfortunately, largely molded by our school system.

With regard to small business- I do actually think it's a huge fix. I think independent businesseses of relatively modest size with a high ratio of ownership to employee can make an immediate and dramatic change in valuing work, originality, intelligence, and social empathy.

But I think that you have to begin to replace the "employee" or "worker" idea with stakeholding and smaller, more limited ventures.

I don't want single payer health care. I don't want a profiteering basis for healthcare, either. There is another set of answers to that- because as long as a group of people, a council, a senate, a board of governors, controls the dispensing of funds on a national scale, there will be badness. Quite a lot of it.

I don't want to be taxed more, but I'm willing to be taxed fairly. I happen to think the government is getting more than enough money right now and that - in light of my views that government providing "jobs"
is a negative- that we need to fix our spending above all.

A society provided safety net is certainly something I approve of. Once again, I have problems with a large governmental control of such structures. Several problems.

It is certainly true that we are advanced enough as a technological civilization that it should not be necessary for anyone to die or even suffer extreme privation due to lack of resources.

And that's definitely a social responsibility. But I'm not clear on how that is a government responsibility.

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