Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE—YEA OR NAY?

October 5, 2020

An article was forwarded to me by a friend predicting the low likelihood of major violence post election based on his research. Putting aside the evident but low-key political bias of the piece, it makes an attempt to inject some objectivity into something that is inherently speculative. I also think it’s wrong.

Predicting the future is a hazardous enterprise for anyone at any time (just look at the 2016 presidential election). That being said, it’s important to dig down below the superficial political animus to the values of the citizens if you want to get close to the mark. Analogies have been made to the unrest of the 1960s and the 1860s in attempting to extrapolate. Admittedly I’m influenced by the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe in The Fouth Turning and I view the 1960s as a period of Awakening and the 1860s as a more serious period similar to the present, a Crisis. Neither resulted in the dissolution of the Union. Neither accurately represents the present state of affairs, however.

It’s important to note that dynasties (the empires of Alexander, Ottoman, Rome, to name a few), even very stable ones, do not last forever, although those living within them at the time all share the illusion of permanence. What generally ends them is mismanagement born of a change in, or non-adherence to, the values that led them to succeed, causing them to disintegrate from within. In our case, the Founders, with unprecedented historical astuteness, developed a Constitution, designed to anticipate and ameliorate the forces constantly in play aiming to destroy the values upon which the country was based. As outlined in the Declaration of Independence, they are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The country was founded on the principle of rights granted by God, not government; they incorporated proscriptions to limit federal power over the states (it was also essential to getting it passed). Hence, they constructed a democratic republic and not a democracy. They recognized that tyranny of the majority was no better than tyranny of a monarchy.

Over the past few decades, the Left, via masterful commandeering of the educational system and the heretofore monolithic media have pushed the worn siren call of socialism effectively. A sizable portion of the country (we’re about to learn if it’s more than half) has accepted the notion of equality of outcome over equality of opportunity, and the concept of institutionalized racism as the founding principle and white privilege as its result. They’ve also moved from E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) to the concepts of diversity and intersectionality. These are divisive, not unifying principles; no country can survive widescale acceptance of these destructive doctrines.

Given the above, I predict the following with a Trump win: The protests and violence will continue and likely intensify, becoming more multicentric, requiring more police, military and National Guard intervention. Barring a shift in values, over the next decade or two we will start hearing state calls for secession. If Biden wins, a doubling down on the Leftist policies whose effects over time can be gauged by looking at the present state of the big cities will move the government more toward a socialist paradigm, the Constitution will be progressively weakened, the economy slowed by increased regulations, and the growth of the federal government accelerated. Democracy will be increased at the expense of republicanism in the political sense, with attacks on representative mechanisms such as the electoral college intensifying. Federal agencies and corporations with assail liberties such as free speech with cancellation, “diversity” training, and racial quotas with more alacrity, heightening the influence of the “mob.” An over-extended, indebted economy weakened by the pandemic will accelerate the malaise. A delayed result will be armed backlash by right-wing groups, at first those that are more extreme (including some execrable white supremacist groups) and, if pushed far enough, ordinary conservative Americans (possibly abetted by effective annulment of the 2nd Amendment by oppressive regulations). Alternatively, conservatives, who are less prone to demonstrate or initiate violence (remember the maligned Tea Party), will withdraw from Left-dominated tools and form their own schools, businesses, sports teams, and social media and we’ll be a divided country, ripe for secessions or outside attack. Disunity took decades to seed and grow; reunification. if it occurs, will likely take as long, barring assault from an external, mutual threat.

There is no Dumbledore or Hogwarts, and no magic wand that can be waved to unify us, no matter who inhabits the White House.

THE CURSE OF LIBERTY

September 18, 2020

In science, we’re always talking about sensitivity and specificity. As an example, consider the COVID-19 test: the more sensitive it is for detecting the disease, the more likely it will over-call it in some individuals; it’s a yin and yang thing. Now, as the tests improve, both sensitivity and specificity can too, but there’s always a trade-off. Liberty is something like that.

Everyone, including politicians, plays lip service to fealty to freedom. It seems a no-brainer. Then why, time after time, do people vote away their freedom? We’ve seen the Palestinians do it for Hamas, and the Venezuelans for socialism. These are just two of the dozens of examples that could be cited. It’s because the ying to freedom’s yang is law and order, or more broadly, security. It’s not that freedom is incompatible with law and order; we’ve admirably demonstrated this for over a couple of hundred years and have had remarkably peaceful transitions of power. It’s just that it takes constant effort and sacrifice. And the people have to decide if it’s worth the price.

The sacrifice is obvious in obtaining liberty; it’s usually a war with casualties and death and a tremendous outlay of resources. Maintaining it is another matter. Liberty naturally fades, even in (one might say especially in) a democracy. Over time, in a successful society, people become acclimated to security. A free society, with equal access to opportunity, naturally favors those with greater talent who exhibit greater effort; those who have high levels of competence and conscientiousness, in the words of Jordan Peterson. This results in disparity of outcome. It does not mean that a rising tide doesn’t raise all boats, just that some boats are much larger and more opulent than others. Every good society with a conscience strives to help the small boats in danger of capsizing; this charity, or welfare, is a good thing. The problems begin when the people in the small boats begin to think those in the large boats are bad, and that the government needs to fix it. Then the charity moves to sanctioned theft. The argument about the point at which this occurs is the basis for politics and ideology. The bottom line is that democracy inevitably deteriorates into socialism which more quickly devolves into poverty and fascism. History proves this. Unequivocally. So the founders tried to create a democratic republic with checks and balances to slow the deterioration, recognizing that it could serve only a moral people.

As government and the welfare state has grown and crony capitalism inevitably along with it, the family has shrunk. Charity is slowly being replaced by government largess. One or two generations ago a check from the government was seen as failure and often shunned. Now it’s more common to see it as an entitlement and something to be sought after. Being taken care of is slowly becoming more important than liberty.

With liberty comes free speech with the downside of allowing “hate” speech. Law and order with the downside of more rogue agents misusing it with criminal intent. More reliance on self, family and friends, and the Church, and less on government. Clearly, some societies favor less freedom and more security.

The coming election is so important because it will demonstrate the net vector of America in terms of this preference. It will serve as a bellwether as to how much time remains in our current system of government, founded on the values of the Declaration of Independence and implemented in the Constitution. History tells us this. Unequivocally.

The curse of liberty is that it has in its seed the very essence of its own destruction.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERITOCRACY

April 22, 2013

Our Founding Fathers were almost right. They labored mightily to create a system as far removed from the aristocracy that had blighted their existence and driven them to a new world, and a new world order. Rule of the people. But how do you prevent the people from becoming the tyrant? Nix the democracy and make a democratic republic. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

It worked for over 200 years. They had hoped it would work forever.  They knew, however, that if the fragile underpinnings of morality collapsed, the system couldn’t stand. Slowly, like the tongue of a dying wave lapping at the base of a sand castle, the Judeo-Christian ethic buttressing the political engine began to crumble, and now the republic is morphing into the Mr. Hyde they feared–unbridled democracy. Taxes rising, productivity falling,  and more and more citizens sucking at the teat of the welfare state. The people choosing to vote as the have-nots against the haves. It’s the Hatfields and the McCoys, writ large; the American twist on tribal warfare.

The Sunnis have the Shias to hate. The Pakistanis have the Indians. And they all hate the Jews. In this country we suffer the inconvenience of relative homogeneity, having achieved more than a modicum of a national identity, so we have to vent by means of various shades of racism and classism. True, the former has become a bit more of a struggle as institutionalized racism has dramatically declined  over the past few decades, but there’s enough hatred in people’s hearts, especially in some parts of the land, to provide fuel for the hyperbole that makes many of the minority leaders rich and powerful. And maybe that hyperbole is a good thing. There are few things as ugly as bigotry. Stealing a person’s dignity and robbing them of opportunity simply because of the way they were born, whether it be defined by color or status, is an abomination. It’s a form of rape that differs little in kind from what a dictator like Kim Jung-un does on a mass scale to a whole people (identical ethnicity notwithstanding). The operative word here is opportunity. Equality of opportunity is the cornerstone of a stable nation and a peaceful world. Liberals, in their well-intentioned but muddied thinking have confused this with equality of outcome. It leads to distorted perceptions that attempt to justify perversions such as reverse-racism that takes the form of misguided affirmative action and claims for reparations, rather than seeking true color-blindness based on recognition of merit.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter: What made this country exceptional was never democracy at all–it was meritocracy. The idea that anyone, black, white, red, yellow, or brown, born with privilege or in the streets, with hard work and ingenuity could become a success. Try to achieve that in a country that defines your limits from cradle to grave by, say, the caste you’re born to.

Does the American system always work? Of course not. As long as there are bad people trying to game it, and there always will be, it will from time to time stumble. But it works better here than anywhere else. We need to protect it with our hearts, our minds, and, sadly, at times with our lives. Our Founding Fathers  would have been appalled by the fascination Americans display for the Royal Family, whose claim to wealth and fame is nothing more  than the womb from which they slid, and a womb that represented oppression of the very people it governed.

We don’t need more Democrats or Republicans. Let’s bring on the Ameritocrats.

WHAT AM I WORTH?

April 9, 2013

Recently, mimimum wage workers in NYC went on strike for a higher salaries. They’re arguing that the current wage floor is incompatible with a sustainable economic existence. And arguments can be made that it has not kept pace with inflation. The larger and more appropriate questions we should be asking are, what should anyone’s wage be, who should decide, and based on what?

I’m in favor of a law that doubles my salary. And so are you. Heck, let’s double everyone’s salary. With the increased buyiing power we can pay off the debt, rev up the economy and have money to spare. OK, you see the absurdity of it. But I’m not trying to trivialize the plight of the low income earner, just point out the hazards of economics by decree. We can try to shift the balance by legislation, but where do we draw the line, and who gets to do  it?

Government interference creates odd inequities that we’ve come to accept as a way of life. While we all see the value of having everyone working at greater than subsistence wages, the government, in its meddlesome ways, does much more than that. Let me give an example from my personal experience: Recently, I fielded three after-hours calls over a short period of time. I generated zero income from this, as the government, through Medicare, has kept costs down by deciding this over-the-telephone work is not reimbursable; this has extended to other insurers and has become the standard. Howerve, if you were to get on the phone with your accountant or tax lawyer, the meter would be running, and you would receive a bill for a not insubstantial hourly rate. Their time is, apparently, infinitely more valuable than mine. Ironically, their jobs are artificial, existing only because of, you guessed it, government meddling. If we didn’t have the arcane and ridiculously complex tax code our ruling class spends much of its time tweaking and finessing to assuage special interests and to give the appearance of actual work, rather than doing something they were hired to (like making a budget), there would be no tax lawyers or accountants. Now, I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, nor is that the purpose of this rant, only to illustrate the hazards of government legislation when it comes to the marketplace.

So what should I be paid? How should my worth be detemined? And yours for that matter? In a socialist system the government decides by fiat. We all know how well that works. In a true democracy, the people decide. Of course, the largest number of people are making less than the fewest wealthy, so they run the risk of succumbing to the temptation of taking what isn’t theirs (often using altruistic slogans as cover) and degenerating into socialism (as aptly illustrated by the old saw that democracy is two wolves and a sheep meeting to decide what’s for lunch). Our Founding Fathers tried to navigate their way around this pool of quagmire by devising a democratic republic. But they recognized it would only work for as long as morality held sway over avarice. So, if not government, and not the people, then who? I submit: The marketplace. The value of goods and services can only be fairly determined there. The more we meddle with it, the more distorted and absurd it becomes.

Ultimately, the question of the right minimum wage falls into the same nebulous territory as how  much welfare and unemployment we should grant. Liberals will argue that more defines us as compassionate and libertarians will argue that the law of unintended consequences mandates a hands-off policy, with conservatives somewhere in the middle. I like to park in the middle.

Keep the safety net low, the playing field clean, and let the marketplace do its thing. Its can be a harsh taskmaster, but ultimately it’s the only umpire I trust.

A MENAGERIE OF THOUGHTS

November 19, 2012

Now that the election’s behind us we know that the net ideology of the voting public has changed. The pundits tell us it’s a demographic shift, and they are probably right. To me it was truly astonishing that more than half the country’s electorate looks at the same abysmal economic performance and is convinced that no change in leadership is needed. Considering Romney’s clearly superior credentials in the area we’re most in dire need of fixing—the economy—it surprised me even more.

In speaking to my liberal friends (yes, I do have them) they paint a picture of a Republican party that is frighteningly Neanderthal with respect to social issues. That belief, in association with a woeful lack of understanding of the seriousness of the economy’s failings (in my opinion) led them to reenlist Obama. But I believe that another, less cerebral motivation brought many others to the polls—the addiction to government handouts. I don’t think that the majority that reelected the once and future president are laggards; there are now just enough to move us from a net center-right to a center-left nation. The old saw about democracy being two wolves and a sheep meeting to decide what’s for dinner is coming to pass.

The term democracy has been bandied about so much that people forget we’re supposed to be a democratic republic. It was not our Founding Fathers’ intention to create a democracy—they recognized that democracy slowly morphs into socialism which, history has taught us (or has tried to), slowly morphs into nonexistence. Producers will only work harder for non-producers for a finite period.

Most liberals are neither lazy nor of evil intent, just as most conservatives are not really heartless Neanderthal money-mongers. And now the left has another four years of a standard-bearer who will continue to make promises and raise taxes in an earnest but ineffectual quest to “give everyone a fair chance.” But the land of opportunity wasn’t built on a foundation of equality of outcome, only equality of opportunity.

I hope we don’t strangle the goose lays the golden egg in a noose of good intentions.

TEOTWAWKI

February 20, 2012

I’ve been watching a few episodes of a new series, a semi-documentary called “Doomsday Preppers,” about people preparing for “the end of the world as we know it.” It depresses me. Not the idea of the end as we know it (a downer if ever there was one), but the reminder of how ill-prepared I am. Experts rate the preppers on the various areas of preparedness and the majority fare pretty well. It’s not surprising, since some of them spend most of their waking hours dedicated to the task and have thousands of dollars of stored foodstuffs, much of which they’ve raised/canned themselves, enough to feed as much as a dozen hungry mouths for over five years. I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Saran wrap in the freezer.

All right, we’ve put away a small stash of canned goods and emergency water. We’re not off the grid and, at this time, not on the fast track to getting there. I started reading James Wesley Rawles’ How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It and after getting though about fifteen percent of the book, demoralized by my lack of preparation and skills, filed it under “reference.” As if a digital book and a Kindle will be of any use at the end of the world as we know it. You can see what I’m up against.

But I’m not alone. Although a growing number of us recognize the wisdom of preparedness, most people still regard preppers as a fringe element. Until a couple of years ago I was among them. A few things changed my mind. Foremost, as anyone who has read my prior rants knows, is the sorry state of the economy. While this plays big in the motivation of some of the TV preppers, others cite fears of global oil shortage, an electromagnetic pulse from the sun destroying the world’s electrical grids, or even the sudden reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles and its attendant tectonic shifts (an every 500,000 year event).

Regardless of the motivation, some attention to emergency preparedness seems to me to be a no-brainer. There is precedent for this line of reasoning: With limited evidence for global warming that has created a hypothesis that is widely regarded as fact (in the 1970s it was global cooling), people are willing to accept this as an impetus to change our behavior. Even if the evidence is flawed, the move toward a less polluted environment is laudable (except when used as a smokescreen for a (usually socialist) political agenda). The same can be said of preparing for TEOTWAWKI. In the event of an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or massive conflagraton, assistance and law enforcement may be sidelined for days, or weeks. The more global natural disasters referenced above are admittedly less likely, but taken together may be worth a nod as well. Economic collapse, on the other hand, may have up to a fifty percent chance of realization. Why do I say this? If we’re five to ten years behind Greece, as some experts think, and we fail to change our debt-first, common sense last approach to financial management, who will be there to bail us out? The supply lines in the cities are fragile, and most wealth is digital, a scenario ripe for disaster. A failing European economy and fragile oil pipeline in the Middle East due to political instability could theoretically trigger a slide even sooner. Or a war instigated by Iran. This, to me, seems to be a more imminent threat than global warming.

The truth is, it’s easier for the political class to decry global warming because it’s more distant, seemingly more manageable, and carries with it an aura of nobility. Focusing on the more proximate threat of global bankruptcy highlights their greed, incompetence, and impotence. From the standpoint of the American people, it’s a topic that is perhaps too alarming to face head on.

Is financial Armageddon inevitable? I think we have a window of several years to turn it around. I don’t know if we have the will. I believe the upcoming election is a barometer of that will. If more than half the country feels that leaving the current leadership in place is the answer, it speaks to the ascendancy of an ideology based on equality and parity of ownership (read: wealth redistribution), and to the decline of the principles on which this nation was founded: freedom and parity of opportunity. We’ll have moved from a democratic republic to a democracy, one that has elected social justice over liberty. This will not be self-sustaining.

If the current “management” is thrown out, there is no guarantee of success (spouting an ideology of reduced spending and small government while doing the opposite is the hypocrisy of the right). However, if the majority votes for change and doubles down on it, there is at least a chance it can become reality.

That’s TEOTWAWKI I can live with.