Socialism again triumphs in France and Greece: Is America next?

Socialism trumps austerity in Greece, and France, is America next?

“Socialist Francois Hollande elected in France”

So, in both France and Greece, voters rejected the backers of austerity measures—Surprise, Surprise! This is no doubt the thought that most Americans had as they saw this headline in their morning paper.  For some the next question may be, “Is America going to be next?”

The two headed snake

America faces two major problems that could lead us to a French or Grecian style disaster. One is that we have the same problem in our economy; albeit we have been able to forestall, some say cover up, the problem since 1972. The second issue is we are deviating from the basic premises and rules our founding fathers established to preserve the American Republic and our engine of prosperity—capitalism.

Economic Collapse

America is very likely already at risk.  Our economic issues, the rapid unaccountable increase in currency since 1972, have caused a significant “hidden” inflation.  We have been able to avoid dealing with the fiscal realities because once we were off the gold standard and as a result of being the world’s benchmark currency most countries have had a vested interest in not calling us on the carpet.  While we have increased the amount of money in circulation from $500 Billion in 1972 to over $16 Trillion today, by most accounts an increase of over thirty-five times, no one believes that we have at the same time really increased the tangible net worth of the U.S. economy thirty-five times. Even accounting for the gains driven by technology, most would project only a $5 – 7 trillion economy at this point.

Constitutional Erosion

We were formed as a constitutional republic, specifically not as a democracy.  While early in General Washington’s first term as President of the new republic, a schism opened between John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and other “Federalists” who believed in a strong central government structure vs. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other “Democrats” who believed strongly in resting much of the power in the hands of the states; none of these protagonists were advocates for a change in the U.S. Constitution to that of a democracy.  All of the founding fathers knew that democracies simply did not survive.  They realized that while the idea of democratic principles had a place in government to preserve the voices of, and provide protection for, the people; only a republic, backed by a constitution could provide the pragmatic offset to self-serving rules benefiting the masses at the long term expense of the republic itself.  They knew from history that democracies had a way of falling into revolution on the one hand and anarchy, socialism, or communism on the other.

While it can be said that the U.S. Constitution has served us well and that the strength of the republic carried us though many international crises since our founding, it has not protected us against ourselves and our own instincts to seek an easier road to survival or a weakening of our requirements for personal responsibility.  Beginning in the early 1900’s the so called progressive movement attempted to re-frame our nation as a democracy.  Slowly, our own view of our role as Americans has shifted from what we can do for our country, to what we expect to have our country provide for us.  This shift became so dramatically clear after World War II, that on January 20th, 1961, then President John, F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech felt it necessary to try to remind America’s youth that there was a higher ideal they should aspire to. He said clearly, to all Americans, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you— ask what you can do for your country.”

Many scholars now believe that there has been a steady erosion of the constitutional basis for our republic as a result of many historical actions to affect short term problems.  Conspiracy theorists believe there has been a conscious effort to change us from a republic to a democracy by those in the Democratic Party.   Conspiracy theories are hard to fathom because it would need to attribute way more intellect and forethought to human beings that experience and evidence suggests.  History simply shows us that a series of decisions and events, each made for short term pragmatic reasons, have culminated in an ever increasing loss of core values.  You see core values are hard, they require sacrifice, they require risk, they require adherence to principals larger than us. It is by their very difficult nature that we define these values as part of one’s character, and it is this reason that we innately want to find ways to rationalize away these very responsibilities.

For about 100 years, we have been rationalizing away these values.  We have softened our education system and stopped teaching the detail of what it means to be a republic or an American.  Ask any American, under the age of sixty, what form of government we have and more often than not you will hear that we are a democracy.  If you press the point and ask what being a democracy means, they will say that the majority is supposed to rule. Interesting is it not that an ideal that brought unanimous approval to the Constitution of the United States by the founding fathers is now a tenant of which most of us are woefully unaware!

What is even more illustrative of the change to our national values and psyche, is the fact that Jefferson, Madison, and others, who were the foundation of the original Democratic Party, were strong advocates for a weak central government and felt that governing power needed to be as close to the people as possible thereby vested in each state. Also, I find it fascinating that the term “progressive”, now used as an invective by republicans as a cudgel to hammer democrats was originally an outgrowth of the republican ideals of the early 1900s. How is it that the party personalities can have so radically changed yet we remain blissfully unaware that the way we encapsulate ourselves is so transient?

Is America next?

While many of the same people who today believe we are a democracy—and believe that democrats stand for big government, that republicans want to hurt the middle class for the benefit of the rich and have no interest in helping the poor—also believe that there is no way that America will suffer the same fate as Greece, or France, or many other countries. Maybe it is time we asked ourselves some hard questions:

  • Have so weakened our own understanding of who we are, what our country is founded on, and what it is that protects us from such a declination that we no longer know how wrong we are about our own base assumptions?
  • Have we allowed this gradual debasement of personal responsibility, in favor of government entitlement and forced corporate reallocation of wealth, to go so far that a fundamental shift away from the principals of our own constitutional republican form of government is unrecognizable?
  • Are we electing leaders that are doing what is in the best long term interest of America, or are they simply willing to do whatever will get them the votes to be re-elected?
  • Do we really believe that a safety net for the helpless is the same as entitled services for all including the clueless and the worthless (fraudsters)? And do they believe that after years of hyperinflation of the currency we can continue to just print money out of thin air to pay for it or that the so called “rich” in America have enough to pay for everyone else?
  • Are we really immune to the fate of these other countries, or have we already suffered the economic collapse and have just been covering it up by printing more money and manipulating our economy to rationalize the perception of great gain?
  • When will this all come crashing down on us, or has it already started and we are just ignoring it? Is this why it is now so much fun to watch reality TV and revel in the catastrophes of other’s lives because it allows us to feel we are still better than them? Is it possible that is why the spectacle of the Coliseum in ancient Rome became so popular, because it helped hide their reality of the oncoming demise?

One last point to ponder!  If you think that we really have not lost a national understanding as to how our government functions, think of this.  No one can explain why we still have the election of the President of the United States conducted by an electoral college instead of by popular vote.  There are many who argue this is an anachronism, a relic of days before computers, and broadcast media but this is sophistry that would make the ancient Greek philosopher, Zeno, very proud. The electors have always had a duty to vote for the best candidate, not the most popular, and not the one that promised the most free-stuff.  The best candidate, the one that was best for all of America is the responsibility that rested in the elector’s hands. Now, many states have changed their laws to alter the rules for the electors to now only vote for the candidate that receives the majority of the popular vote—winner take all.  What happens if that candidate commits a heinous crime, or it is discovered that he is morally corrupt, or that he or she is conspiring to damage the country?  Are they still bound?  They did not used to be!

The final question is, “Are we about to become France, and Greece, or have we already suffered the same fate, and all that is left is the counting?”

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What is wrong with politics?

Constitutional Republic

People that know me well know that I read.  I read a lot.  I read incessantly, I read everything and anything. I read everywhere, written by anyone, left, right or middle—it does not matter.

I long ago came to the conclusion that whether or not I agree with the points made by an author, this should not be the guiding principal of what I choose to read.  I find that, in fact, I learn the most when I read things I do not innately agree with.  In reading the contrasting opinions of others, and for the most part with the intent of maintain an open mind, I can try to compare their journey of understanding, expressed in their logic, if it exists, and either validate, or repudiate, parts of my own logic. Hopefully, coming to a better understanding and opinion myself.

Whats the problem?

I am not so sure that this is what people really do anymore!  It seems to me more and more people are only interested in letting someone else tell them what to think!

Recently, I have seen a series of articles, from both sides, trying to answer the question of what is wrong with our political system.   Each side is spending lots of effort, and ink (or electronic bits), explaining how the system is not working because the other side is conspiring to subvert the system to harm something or someone, or to benefit something or someone at our expense.  They often formulate the basic justification as this is clear because we are not getting what we want from the system.

Wrong Premise

The problem for me, as I see it, is the entire premise is wrong!  By starting with the logic that something is wrong because we (pick either side in the argument) are not getting what we want, may be logical but it is not accurate on two levels.  First, the assumption that the system is designed to give us something that we want in the first place, is not a correct assumption.  Second, the idea that the system is designed so that whatever the majority wants is to be provided to us by the government, is also not true.

System is working fine

The reality is that our political system is still, for the most part, working as it was designed despite the slow erosion of some of the original checks and balances over the past seventy-five years.  If you doubt this premise, read any of the biographies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, or Franklin and it will quickly become quite obvious that this was the design.

No, the system is still working just as it was intended.  The problem is not the system. Although, if we do not begin to understand the impact of the gradual changes we have made, soon this may not be the case.  The problem with the system is we are now starting to get what we want, and compounding this problem we have been for the last fifty or sixty years.  We are, in every corner, probably right or wrong, getting too much.  No, it is not the system that is the problem it is:

  1. The changes we have allowed to be made to the original system have weakened the checks and balances on our own greed and avarice
  2. What we expect that we are due from the system has grown exponentially as we have gained more from the system

The system is being changed

Our system was designed to be based on part-time citizen politicians directly subject to the impact of the laws and policies they create, not a ruling elite political class exempt for their communities day to day trials and tribulations.  At the very beginning of the implementation of our new form of government, in April of 1789, the grand design of our form of government showed the promise of its innate slow and difficult process to sort out where power and responsibility resides and to make difficult the ability of the federal government to pass laws that affect us.  Rapidly, the two competing philosophies, which I believe are inherent in mankind, congealed into two political parties.  The federalists, who advocated a strong federal government authority to foment consistency, rapid growth, and strength, became one pole, and the republicans, who were concerned about the rise of a tyrannical aristocracy or hereditary monarchy developing a predatory system reducing the rights and prosperity of citizens through taxes and needless, unwanted, regulations who advocated for government controls closer to the people at the state level.

While for over sixty years our education system has taught more, and more, that we are a democracy, and that we are by nature a nation where it is the majority that rules, this was specifically and unequivocally not the government that the founders created.  We were, and to some extent remain, a constitutional republic.  The difference is; in a democracy people have a direct control through their vote, and in a constitutional republic the control is indirect through the election of officials who are supposed to weigh the will of the people against what is best for the country and consistent with the constitutional republican principals of our government as they make law and policy.

System is still fine—For Now!

Today we are clearly migrating away from some of these fundamental principals in two areas:

  1. We now, as a people, no longer understand the benefits of the constitutional republic and many, if not most, simply believe we are a democracy, and
  2. We have inadvertently allowed the creation of a stronger federal control by stimulating the creation of a full-time professional political class—potentially, just the kind of tyrannical aristocracy that Jefferson and Madison were so worried about at the beginning of America.

The question we all need to answer is, “Is this what we agree we truly need?”  If so, then we will have to accept the consequences of a pandering democratic machine continually taking prosperity from the individuals and granting it to the majority in exchange for the continuation of their livelihood as a full-time professional politician, and the continual erosion of the original system of government and its checks and balances on them and us.

If this is not what we agree we need, then there are some very hard choices and changes we will need to consider to recover the checks and balances.  Only then can we once again return to the constitutional republican form of government we had. If this is still what we want!  You see that is the question!

Still up to us to define our system for a while longer

The good thing is it is still up to us for a bit longer.  The more we continue the erosion of the checks and balances inherent in our original constitutional republic, the more we become a democracy.  At some point we will slip over the edge and soon, perhaps, there will be no going back short of another costly and divisive civil war.  If our leaders can develop a true process to decide this fundamental issue we may avoid a destructive conflict.

And the answer is?

So the answer to the question that headlines this article, “What is wrong with Politics?” is nothing at the moment, but stay tuned!