May 19, 2010

Chinese menu approach to politics

Liberals, who now call themselves progressives because they were cowed into shaming themselves by Right Wing attacks, are an endangered species in American life, which will do them no good because the EPA itself is under merciless assault. I don't know if there is much to be done about it. My own political belief system might be called Jeffersonian liberalism; I am not a "Big Government" fan, per se, but I think it's unrealistic to think that modern Big Business can be regulated and controlled by a weak central government, and I'm certainly not a Free Market Purist of the Ayn Rand persuasion. That, to me, is the nuttiest approach of all. A completely unregulated business world leads to environmental and economic collapse of any complex modern society. These very days we are seeing the handiwork of unregulated Big Business, and it's not a pretty picture. The Gulf oil spill, which will probably turn into the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the world when its full extent is known and calculated, can be seen as the end result of believing that business, when left to its own cost-cutting devices, will take environmental effects into account. Ha ha. To save a few million in "mud pumping," British Petroleum has destroyed an entire eco-region.

Jefferson was suspicious of the power of government to oppress the individual. Such a wise political thinker. He feared the "tyranny of the majority," which is what the Bill of Rights is designed to prevent. The full power of the central government can crush any individual unless certain procedural rules are put into place to give him/her a fighting chance. It is surprising to me that the present Presidential incumbent is so indifferent to this concept, but that's the way the political winds are blowing. Jefferson (and Benjamin Franklin, another political genius) thought that society should risk some of its precious "security" to avoid tyranny, but if you are witnessing the craven capitulation of Obama and Holder to the calls for "restricting" Fifth Amendment rights of certain classes of criminal suspects, you can see that these particular Democrats do not belong in that Jefferson-Franklin tradition. They prefer pandering to the scaredy-cats. Ironically, once you begin down that path (as Franklin presciently tried to warn us), the central government itself becomes the most serious threat to personal liberty. Hitler, for example, once he consolidated power through "legitimate" means, used incarceration and execution of political dissidents to make sure no one got in his way. All tyrannies, in fact, operate this way. So while Obama nonchalantly allows (or tells) his Attorney General to use this "forum" or that (federal civil courts this week, military commissions the next) depending on how politically popular the move is, you can be assured that such a process, if it goes on long enough, will not be confined to just "Arab" terrorists of foreign citizenship. It will get to the (probably apocryphal) level of Pontius Pilate asking the mob which defendant ought to be executed today, and which set free.

Some of the Tea Party people seem, dimly, to be aware of such ideas, but of course you never get everything you want (or even close to what you want) from a Tea Party "platform." The victory of Rand Paul in Kentucky is illustrative. There are certain things he says with which I wholeheartedly agree; for example, on the necessity of declaring war if the country is going to war. That's what the Constitution says, conferring the power on the Congress and the Congress alone. So how does the United State fight war after war with no formal Declarations since December, 1941? And if the answer is, "the War Powers Act," how can this reassignment to the Executive Branch be Constitutional without an amendment? So Rand Paul is right: it gives everything a completely different feel if we require the President to seek, for example, a Formal Declaration of War between the United States and Iraq. Imagine that, a Congressional Declaration announcing that "a State of War Exists Between the United States of America and Iraq." It looks absurd, doesn't it? Iraq sitting over there in 2003, run by a tinpot dictator with no weapons to threaten anyone with, but we want the oil his country lies atop. So Congress, that mighty deliberative body, convenes and Declares War on Iraq. That means the President must carry out an invasion and wage war, because he's sworn to faithfully execute the laws. I don't think it ever would have happened. But if Congress can simply "Authorize" war, and leave it up to President Bush to decide whether or not to use his "Authorization," then Congress, Pilate-like, can wash its hands of the whole business and claim that the President thought that invasion was best. A slight difference with huge consequences.

I also agree with Rand Paul that the banks should have been allowed to fail in 2007-2008 without bailouts. If one says, arguing contra, that such a course would have caused an economic crisis, then please tell me what we're in right now if not an economic crisis, and moreover one in which the biggest banks have consolidated their power and the public debt has skyrocketed.

On the other hand, Rand is named after Ayn. That's more than just a spooky reference point; he's a dyed-in-the-wool, cradle-to-present Free Market Fundamentalist.

Mick Jagger told us we can't always get what we want, and especially these days. Anyone you can vote for, who's electable, comes with all kinds of baggage you also don't want. You wind up saying stuff like, "I'm for his position on the bailouts, while I recognize that his desire to consign homosexuals to labor camps is regrettable. So on balance..."

It's really a mess, sort of like the country this political scene is part of. November is shaping up to be a real freak show.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud1:21 PM

    Good article. As one who was in the military for 32 years, I agree with the need for war to be waged only when Congress declares it. Laws haven't seemed to mean much to our leaders for some time now. "Workarounds," such as the "Authorization of war" you mention, can be conceived; or, as with the border situation, the law can be ignored. Our leaders just do what they want. Things like the Constitution are turning out to be nothing more than irritants. The "I agree on this but don't agree on that" (positions of Rand Paul) at least includes some theoretical positives. With my beliefs and values, I see nothing positive at the top anymore. From my perspective, Rand Paul types can only improve things.