A Revolution of Values
It was natural for a boy raised in the 1920's to
catch the idea and to believe it: that all problems
facing the country would be solved by the time he grew up,
and his help would not be much needed.
He might think that the field of politics and
civic obligations was crowded.
In fact, citizen activity had always been minuscular.
Throughout history, and regardless of the extent of the franchise,
probably about 2% of the population was slightly active or more,
the figure rising to 3% with the advent of women's suffrage. But in
the post-World War II period this proportion appeared to be
dropping to 2% of the population, and even
less as the century closed.
By "active" is meant simply voting regularly, keeping
moderately well informed about political issues, discussing
them with friends and trying to persuade them sometimes, and
belonging to one or more associations having
something to do with politics. In itself,
activity presumes no larger virtues or rightness,
but is a prerequisite to practicing public virtues.
Feeble formal steps were sometimes taken
to increase civic activity. Compulsory voting, it was thought,
would make the stupid and shiftless count for more
than they deserved. Furthermore election
days were embarrassingly frequent. Moreover,
populist candidates would gain and be encouraged. And some said
reasonably that not-to-vote was a vote against
the system (of course, this "vote" would also be noted,
if the elector had to show up, but
avoided voting for anyone.)
Congress pushed the states in 1994
to let persons register their right to vote
at many government offices and at motor vehicle
registration bureaus. Still, the National Voter
Registration Act, although it increased
substantially the percentage of those qualified to vote,
did not succeed in getting these same persons
out to vote on election day.
Perhaps the plethora of amusements diverted people
from politics. Perhaps it was the scattering of people
into the suburbs. Perhaps it was the increase in the unremovable and rather
unmovable civil servants -local, state, and national -
as opposed to those whose government jobs were temporary.
Probably the intense interest that immigrants
once had in political organizations that could help them
survive was no longer present among the new immigrants
who now dealt with career clerks
in employment offices.
Perhaps the disappearance of small farmers and t
he decline in small businesses cut back on
the number of independent voices; meanwhile
large corporations professionalized their
voices through money, advertising, and lobbyists.
And then there was the great beast, television:
on the average, Americans spent 40%
of their free time with eyes on the screen, and the habit
probably affected civic activity; newspaper
readers participated in civic groups much more,
76% more, according to one study.
The Democratic Party was especially weakened by the apathy of
immigrants and minorities, which reached a climax, after developing
for a political generation, with the elections of 1994, when a direct
threat and promise to deprive them of benefits were insufficient to
bring them out in large numbers to register and vote. The Republicans
had found a tactic that worked exceedingly well:
without admitting to it, they would make appeals and select policies
that would label the Democratic Party as the party of the Blacks and
minorities, effectively then alienating from the Party voters who
were racially prejudiced or affected by issues that were tied to race,
such as affirmative action.
Republican strategy failed in 1998,
in the so-called "off-year" elections, when the President was not running.
For, instead of increasing their majority in Congress,
Republicans were held to their same majority in the Senate,
and lost a few seats of their majority in the House.
Not since the twenties had some such event occurred.
Apparently they had disgusted a great many moderates
by their roasting President Clinton for his sexual
peccadillos and denial of them under oath.
Too, the many millions of poor were unusually
agitated by the Republican truncation of benefits,
and voted, particularly Blacks, in unusually large numbers.
There is reason to forgive the typical politician
some of his sins. The politician's life
has not changed since the end of constitutional
whiggery in America, and it has been a difficult and painful
existence. He has been continuously in financial difficulties, with
more demands on his personal and campaign funds than
he could afford. He has always been thrown into the evil
company of bribers, favor-seekers, lunatics, lobbyists, and
dreadfully ignorant interviewers. The press
has hounded him and tried to catch him off-guard
in every embarrassing way. He has ingested bad food,
alcohol, stale coffee (because he always arrives late).
He has had far too many faces and names thrust upon
his memory. He has endured personal abuse and
harassment, long hours, and eternal haste.
Unless a politician were honest, impartial,
careful and stern, he would end up with more crooks than reasonable
idealists in his entourage. The number of active
people upon whom the politician came to depend
for his election and career seldom exceeded one in
one hundred voters and one in five hundred persons.
If an electorate consisted potentially of 150,000
(with a population of 300,000), and
50,000 of these usually cast a vote
for his particular office, and if his vote
amounted to about 50% of the vote cast, the
activists around him would number about 200 persons.
In a small city of a quarter-million,
such was commonly true of the office of mayor or
municipal court judge. However, the ratios and numbers
varied widely with the particular election, the tradition
in the city, the fame of the candidates, the heat generated over
issues, the conspicuousness of the office, the money
spent on electioneering and advertising, and the
mood of the electorate at the time.
Although time after time they voted against a
party that professed specific positions on issues,
large numbers of the active public complained about
the resulting vapidity of parties.
As the century ended, most of the poorer half
of the people were apolitical. Political participation
(hence influence), like wealth and skills, behaved
schismatically as the century passed, dividing
the educated rich from the poor semi-literate public.
General disgust against the political parties for
saying and doing little of importance prompted
continually the question: Why not a third party?
Phrased more generally, why did the United States,
with minor aberrations, and despite numerous social,
economic, geographic, and ethnic differences,
continue along the lines of a two-party system?
Why were American voters denied a chance
to express themselves to, and join a party of definite
program, even if the result were several parties?
One answer was, that, given the extremely loose
conditions of party membership, there had been
in reality many Democratic and many
Republican parties, differing from county to county and
state to state. The Democratic Party
of an Alabama county was likely to differ
more in leadership and operating program from an Oregon
county Democratic Party than the Christian Democratic
Party of Düsseldorf from the Social Democratic Party
of Augsburg in Germany, although several national
parties were in contention in these places.
Also, within the same party in the same locality,
there could exist various factions, none of which might
be removed if it insisted upon remaining in the party.
There grew to be various handicaps of a third party
in many jurisdictions in America: for instance
more and more onerous requirements of petitions and
legal formalities for one's name to be placed on the ballot.
Often this occurred in the face of the Progressive era's
moves toward removing the candidates' party
designation on the ballot. A non-partisan election
of the best candidate was hoped for. But the
attempt usually failed, because a major party endorsement
of one candidate would be widely publicized.
Perhaps the largest explanation was obscure:
Americans longed to belong to a majority -
not to one of several minorities - and were themselves
characteristically blunt and unconfigured,
hence impatient with the subtler promises of third and minor parties,
even when these were parties of a single issue - like the
Greenback Party and the Prohibition Party.
They sought the thrill of being part of a majority
to which they might impute whatever stand
on issues they preferred. They would even have preferred
a unanimous American People's Party except
that this would immediately crack under its own weight,
as did the Federalist Party, for it would provide
no excitement of "ins against outs" and
no new majority a-coming.
The results of the two-party tendency were conservative.
The top of the party hierarchy carried on the show regularly.
Once in a while enough consensus would develop from
the multitudinous local elements to proclaim and wage
a national campaign upon a new issue.
More likely, an old issue would be pulled out of the files -
be it saying prayers in the public schools or a
national 55-mile per hour speed limit or
higher tariffs or lower taxes, or welfare cheating, or
crime and drugs or excessive spending, or getting troops out of
country X, or stopping illegal immigration, or
another of a menu of no more than a score of dishes.
The standard issues on the list were unsolvable,
whether because they made no sense in the first place, or
because they could not be fundamentally addressed.
The Constitution did not mention or contemplate parties,
nor instruct officers of government to present a public program.
Congress might legislate parties out of existence,
bypassing the rights of citizens to assemble and to petition the
government -- were it not that the Supreme Court
would view the parties as children of these rights.
The addresses of the President at the beginning of each year
on the State of the Nation, prescribed by the Constitution,
were nearly always received as a comfort in themselves,
no matter if controversial and useless in predicting
what might be the course of events during the year.
More and more they became mere lists of promises.
A so-called contract that the Republican Party declared
itself to be making with the American voters in the 1994
election campaigns for Congress was not the kind of
contract that one would wish for in buying a car.
(Some 20% of the possible electorate "ratified" it by
voting Republican, of whom no more than half -
10% -realized they were doing so. But the sponsors
of the "contract" and the press made much of it, until,
after keeping score feverishly for a while,
they drowsed off.)
From time to time in late years, as with
President Eisenhower, the idea of a set
of national goals would surface, the list would be dutifully
compiled, and then entombed. A Committee on Recent
Social Trends, intelligently set up
by President Herbert Hoover, offered the nation
one example of what the newly developing
empirical social sciences could do in
depicting social conditions.
The New Deal created a National Resources Planning Board that
lived for a few years and projected trends and suggested
items for attention, all very nicely, until it was
killed by conservative enemies under the cover
of the War effort and War news. "Think-tanks,"
privately established institutions of applied
scientific research that were privately or publicly
financed - or both - grew rapidly after World War II.
Whether privately or governmentally sponsored,
most such projects tended to be
dilettante, cursory, and conventional.
The historical record has exposed various disabilities of the
Constitution and governments of nation and states:
the two-thirds Senate majority required for treaties,
the ability of the Presidential office to cheat and lie
with impunity and immunity, the piling up of
activities without seeming to be able to get rid
of their equivalents, the perpetually imbalanced budget and
high debt charges, the irresponsibility
of the large corporations for what happened to anything
or anybody at home or abroad except their special market
share, and the difficulty of conducting an informed
and balanced governmental and political discussion
under the buffeting of greedy, crass, distorting,
incomplete, unbalanced, personalizing
television and printed media.
Many another difficulty has been pointed out,
from the closing of the Philadelphia Convention onwards in time,
whether arising directly or indirectly from the document, or
destined to arise no matter what had been created on paper.
The economy of the nation was figured according to a system of
keeping national accounts that was developed by
Wassily Leontief and Simon Kuznets, two Soviet
semi-refugees. The two famous children of their work, the
Gross National Product and the Gross Domestic Product,
emerged in due course and were embraced by government officials.
Myriad derivative statistics were regularly spewed over the
policy makers' landscape, depriving public discourse
and fiscal decisioning of realism and ethics.
Defined simply, both are accounting systems
of the dollar prices paid for all the goods and
services that were bought and sold over the year.
As the total GNP or GDP changed,
elites watched, cheering when they rose and glooming
when they fell. Stock markets, political candidates, and government
budgets followed the signals, like the Three Wise Men
traipsed after the shining star that was presumed to be above
the cradle of Christ the Savior.
That the accounts were amoral engendered immoral effects,
for it did not matter whether a product made and sold
was useful, good, well-made, or socially desirable.
A book of gibberish was as welcome as Shakespeare.
When Kobe, Japan, was struck by a devastating earthquake,
the financial editors of the world whooped it up as a sure
contributor to the GDP of Japan, which was drooping at the time.
The Grotesque Domestic Product, incorporating a fascination with
Growth, counts every cancer, literally, as a positive contribution to the
national welfare. The higher the costs of health care,
the better off the nation. Too, every
traffic jam becomes a benefit, every flood and cyclone
contribute to the good; every woman who leaves
home for a wage gives her pay to the plus column, and
so does her baby-sitter contribute to the statistic.
If every wife charged her husband for her sexual
services, the GDP would be flush; if husbands
responded with a cash charge on their own account,
the annual GDP would leap up
by fifty billion dollars.
Failure to disassemble the fantastically expanded
military machine, when granted the golden opportunity
to do so by the Soviet collapse, was an enormous charge
on the current and future economy. The expense
of every gun, tank, warplane, and service-person
enhanced the GDP; unfortunately,
there was no index that allocated the charge,
as should occur, to the future budgets that would be
paying for them. At any given time,
Congress had already passed into law a huge
piece of the budget for each of the next thirty years.
Every debt forestalled a future choice.
If what made life worth living, and what made for the
greatest happiness of the greatest number, were separated
from the things that made life not so worthwhile,
the Good Domestic Product has been exceeded
by the inferior Grotesque Domestic Product.
Mankind has been an exploiter, not a saver.
Historiography has helped people to exploit and forget.
Most likely the next doubling of the GDP
from $6 trillion to $12 trillion will portray
such dreadful effects that it will be tabooed.
The quality of life in America was declining in more
regards than not, in the biological generation
1975-95, and there was
no sign of an upturn thereafter. The GDP did not
register the quality of life or the happiness of the people, but,
like a deus otiosus, looked indifferently
upon billions of transactions.
The national accounts did not tell how much of
the environment was steadily diminishing in value,
nor how much more of the people's energy
was occupied with making fewer and fewer ultimate
goods possible: that is, how rapidly was growing
the ratio of unpleasant means-costs to pleasant goal-costs.
No one painstakingly dissected the totality
of goods and services according to their social beneficence.
Nor were aids or injuries to people's minds distinguished.
The institution of the GNP and GDP was
an invention, very much like any other invention,
coming into play after World War II.
It was not a natural thing pulled down from the sky,
but a set of accounts set up by economists.
There was and is no reason why the other great values,
the respect they paid to others, their affection for others,
their learning, and their portions of influence and power could not
have been quantified annually, as well as economic processes -
their pleasure in life, yes, their happiness as a sum.
H = R+A+L+I +E, defined properly and
measured among the people by methods possibly
more sophisticated than those employed by the economists,
could put the GDP, after it was cleaned up,
in its limited place as a picture of the
state of the nation.
Most economists and political scientists who espoused an
unregulated marketplace forgot to remember Jeremy Bentham, an
old liberal, who yet insisted upon the happiness of the greatest number
as the object of government, whose Fragment on Government
was published in the same year, 1776, as
Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and the Declaration of Independence.
Constitutional historians relegated the Preamble
to the Constitution to the realm of fair sentiments,
whereas there is reason to believe that some of the Framers and
their supporters wanted "the pursuit of happiness" to figure
into the justification of government activity.
Come Republicans, come Democrats, solutions
to America's basic problems were not forthcoming.
Politicians and legislatures were forever
messing about with hype, myth, and cosmetics;
so were political scientists and especially
economists, these who were supposed to address
the fundamentals of public policy and to impress
wisdom upon the politicians and public.
But there was no chance of definitive improvement in
American society without radical changes.
Reductions in deficits and even a balanced budget
in 1999, in effect began to deprive the
disadvantaged third or more of the American people.
Budget-cutting, owing to the power of the managing and
owning elite, would always be in disfavor of the poor.
In keeping with tradition, welfare programs would be
defamed before being lynched.
Reducing taxes in any way that was politically
feasible resulted in the further deprivation
of the disadvantaged third. Again, seek
to imagine a tax law that will not have this effect.
After the Reagan administration experience,
no honest and clear-sighted person could do so. Reagan
hornswoggled the Congress and country into a tax reduction
biased for the rich, claiming that savings and investments
would increase and the economy benefitted; neither happened, and
the country's fortunes declined.
The only ways of reducing the national debt,
which in the nineties was mounting above five
trillion dollars, might be by default or severe
inflation or a booming economy,
both of which would increase tax collections.
Increasing taxes to reduce the debt was infeasible.
Inflation seemed to be inevitable, sooner or later,
boom or bust. The Federal Reserve Bank Board,
like the proverbial Dutch boy, might stick its finger
in the leaking dike, but no friendly rescuers would arrive.
By inflation the nation would be fiscally purged and
begin a new era of (hopefully) rational policy and budgets;
more likely, a new cycle of credit extension would begin.
Look to world history and contemporary experience to confirm this.
No nation in the history of government indebtedness has
paid a national debt of the size (per capita) of the
debt of the United States in non-inflated currency.
Contrariwise, many instances occur
of governments that ran up debts and then failed to repay them.
In the 1980's one poor country after another
threatened to cease its debt payments, only to have the
rich governments and their banks provide a refinancing of the
debt and a set of requirements making life in the poor country more miserable
for everyone except those rare individuals who had stolen public
monies or earned private fortunes and cached them away in Swiss or
other secret bank accounts in Liechtenstein and elsewhere. Only a
potent world government could reach into Swiss bank accounts,
which helps to explain the proud neutralism of Switzerland.
Some $240 billions in U.S. hundred-dollar bills, two-thirds of all
American currency, were floating around the world.
Debt by definition is the passing of a burden to the future.
Inflation today pays the debt of tomorrow. It is
puke-making to hear experts and others keen
over the sad future of our dear children,
while disbursing the children's resources according to present-day
ignorance, and enforcing this patrimonial destruction by denouncing
the slightest inflation as hurtful to the present generation.
Improvement of the American life style after World War II,
incomplete as it was, came on the back of the future
in the form of public and private debt. Either such
long-term debt must be forgiven, defaulted or dispersed
by inflation, or else future Americans would become
severely deprived. They would retrogress
economically, and have to forego goods of life.
The poor would surely be hurt worse than the well-to-do.
Again, default and/or inflation
prepossessed the future.
Ever more clear it became that consumption and destruction of
natural resources were a form of credit, taking
from the nation's or the world's Real Bank, with less and less
possibility of replacement of the resources.
The monetary equivalent is easy to figure, but the calculations
are rarely done. The Japanese "miracle," the Brazilian
"miracle" and all the other rapid increases in
per capita production and income of nations have occurred
in part from purloining world resources.
This situation cannot but become worse.
If to environmental destruction were to be added
a charge for eliminating an animal or plant species,
the apparent increase in world per capita GNP
would perhaps disappear. Assessing the cost of losing
a species cannot but be within large arbitrary limits.
Would an acceptable charge on the books for exterminating
the American passenger pigeon, that flew overhead
in annual migrations of billions only several generations
ago, be ten billion dollars per year plus an invested
natural capital of a trillion dollars?
Fortunately, affection and much of knowledge and basic
skills are fairly independent of money; the recent and
present generations will have been unable to deprive
the future generation of some of these goods. And it is
indeed touching to pass along the poorest streets
of the world, in Bombay or Rio de Janeiro, say, and
notice in the little clusters of family, friends, and
playmates there how greatly important is the value
of affection around the world, by observing it
in these places where there is so little of the other values
of life - a kind of social experiment, holding constant the
other variables in order to measure better the
independent variable, here, love.
Affection is a highly complex variable; still,
a Japanese worldwide comparative survey of many
nations in the 1990's discovered the state
of affection between spouses in the United States to be well
above the world average. The index of compatibility was a
combination of responses on issues of sex,
politics, religion and ethics. Japan, where the family
was famed for its strength, ran lowest on the survey;
apparently the building blocks of Japanese family
integrity were low expectations, patience, and shame.
The opposites of these qualities gave the American
inter-sex relationship less of the look of the strong family,
but more of what was more desirable in affectionate relations,
at least to a great many Americans. Generalized
generous feelings of affection had always characterized
a majority of Americans, in this respect
comparable to the Italians.
Adultery was in the experience of one in three American
women and over half the men, even though
still on the law-books of 27 states as a crime.
Education became easily attainable in some basic sense and
in some applied skills that were useful to the rich and the government;
however, public and also private education
on all levels suffered severely when budgets were pinched,
as they were in the 1980's and 1990's
under conservative and Republican pressures. Contrary to
media and political claims, the greatest proportion
of relatively moderate increases in school spending
in America over a social generation went into
fringe activities and education for handicapped children.
In 1996 a federal study found that
$112 billions were needed to renovate
schools and build new ones. If present practices were
to continue, people would have to pick up their loves and
labor, and flee with them from the system.
Americans, like all humans, lived for affection,
respect, free sharing of power, for learning about
the wide world, for developing skills, for caring for
the welfare of themselves and others. Basically, when they
became Americans, they assumed a responsibility
(or so this author opines) for seeing that all
who were let to be Americans by birth or
arrival (and hopefully the whole world would be one day
in this sense America) would have a
decent minimum of these goods.
The continual political rhetoric over taxes, deficits and
public debt that discolored the twentieth century was
buncombe and delusion. The nation's ten thousand top
leaders never got down to the job of discussing
how to limit the population charitably, and
how to provide decent minimums of the above
goods of life to everyone.
It would have been simple.
China's George Washington, Sun Yat-Sen, once said it:
"To understand is difficult, but to achieve is easy."
Indeed, perhaps enough Americans had the necessary
intellectual comprehension and commanded
a ready organizational technology. And yet
the so-called elites of politics, economics, business
and the media could not "get down to brass tacks,"
as one used to say before the revolution in
fasteners, from paper clips to Velcro.
Several realistic and radical moves would have sufficed
to turn the nation around. However, they, or
equivalent measures, were rendered impossible by the miasmic
stupidities of politics. Therefore, ironically, beneficial
proposals likely to work were employed merely
as theoretical and heuristic exercises.
In their stead, ridiculous and insanely greedy
proposals were made, such as the flat tax proposal
that agitated national politics in 1996.
The "too-good-to-be-true" and "too-effective-to-be-possible"
types of proposals included the following:
First, adopt a total governmental budget
for all units of government - national, state and local.
A national executive-legislative commission for this purpose,
using the Intergovernmental Relations Commission's
history as a help, should suffice to prepare such an
Include in the All-Points Budget a "Life Account"
for every American, with eligibility
that begins with conception and ends with death and burial.
Restrict births and immigration to a net
increment of zero. Every baby would be
"welfare baby," all parents "welfare queens."
A person's Life Account would be drawn upon from birth
to death for child care, education, useful and
emergency purposes; it would be paid back from earnings,
so that people would usually die with their accounts squared.
Earnings would be quite high and the work-week short,
because unneeded workers could take care of themselves and
millions of jobs would be abandoned in the vastly more efficient
social system. Instead of a hundred million workers,
twenty million workers properly organized,
also on short work weeks, would give the whole nation
the needed goods of the present,
with a better life style for all besides.
The old and still prevailing ideology of the job and full
employment is wrong. A society giving the most civilized and
ample living to its people with the fewest among them
employed at distasteful jobs would in the past and
in the future be deemed the superior society. Dedication
of the past and present to "full employment," were it
ever to be fulfilled, would reward excessive and
dysfunctional production, and brand the society a failure.
It would, too, shortly exhaust the environment
that is worth many legions of workers.
Revenues would come from two sources:
a single equal tax, levied upon all persons in the society,
derived from an assembled budget of all governments
divided by the population's size, and
a total reassignment of all inheritances except for
minimal living stipends and
All government financing would be based upon
the Equal Head Tax, and all governmental spending
would be paid for by the single equal poll tax.
Government spending, directly and indirectly accounted for
nearly half of all spending as the century closed.
Actually, contrary to economic myth, progressive
taxes and even proportional taxes have tended to be absorbed
by subsequent extra-legal adjustments and maneuvers
benefitting upper income groups. The rich have
both formal and hidden powers to raise their
incomes. How else to account for the fact that the real
incomes and net worth of the rich increased at a faster
rate than ordinary Americans'?) Let each
pay to his tax account what he can, debiting
his Life Account for any balance owed; no more
people will die broke or in debt to the government
than do so now.
Half the people leaving great inheritances either have abused
their presumed heirs or dislike them; the rich give their
estates to their kin like zombies. Love and mutual respect
between parents and children are disturbed by the
money nexus; but much money does not mean
much love; the correlation is absent.
Many other arguments have been made against
large inheritances, not only by ordinary
thinkers and radicals, but by great leaders such as
Jefferson, even great businessmen
like Carnegie and Giannini. Thomas S. Monaghan
sold his Domino Pizza firm in 1998
in order better to give to his good causes
the billion dollars brought by the sale, saying,
"I don't want to take my money with me when I go,
and I don't want to leave it for others.
I want to die broke."
Profound changes in thought, and law, and economics, and
government, and family relations, and social customs,
have rendered large inheritances anachronistic and
made these men exemplary.
No limits would be set upon life incomes; but all
accumulations would in life or upon death
be donated to groups and companies - but not
governments - thus transferring in every political
generation trillions of dollars into beneficial works
and enterprises without increasing bureaucratization,
that is, the centralized power - of society. Let
individuals earn and gain and give and
spend freely, but equalize opportunity
from one generation to the next by having them bequeath
all but minimal estates to voluntary and independent
institutions (not to the government), either
during their lifetime or by last will and testament.
Relative equality of wealth is of great importance to a nation.
The concentration of inherited wealth in America
became unconscionable. It was three times the
British inequality and the worst of the Western world.
Over half of the wealth - seven trillions - was
owned by one out of three hundred people.
Half of the total value of stock markets
belonged to 5% of the households. Meanwhile,
the bottom half of all households owned less than 5%.
A person who dissipates more than several
million dollars in a lifetime is likely perverted.
No family can enjoy more than several millions,
which might be earned in a single lifetime.
What descends by inheritance to the family and intimates
should not exceed a modest stipend for their lifetime.
Large inheritances should be phased out over a few
years' time, at the rate in each case, say, of a fifth of
the total fortune per year.
The money ought not go to the government, but
should be donated to any number of other
worthwhile enterprises, commercial or philanthropic
(a good commercial business is as beneficial as a
foundation). Since much of the money is already at work
in the economy, it would stay in place or circulate at a moderate
rate, all to the good for competition.
It is likely, when the chips are down, that very large
sums would go to supporting education and mastering
problems of poverty and ignorance. One notes the effect
here: the rich are turned into philanthropists,
not into socialists.
Enforce total environmental responsibility and
accountability as a normal part of all transactions.
Environmental responsibility has been
becoming and should be made to become fully
an obligation of individuals, government
agencies, and business. Business owners will pay
much of the costs, and the people naturally the rest,
plus a piece of the owners' costs, as owners are
always in a position to pass along costs.
The ownership of industry itself should be shared by the workers
in a simple ratio to time spent and the value
of one's work contribution. The squawks of financiers,
who have watered stock all their professional lives,
should not be let to interrupt the liquefying process
of cutting in on business deals the rights of
its workers and lower-level management.
Most important of all for the total welfare
of society is the assignment of functional priorities -
materials, energy, production, facilities.
What is to be produced for whom? We cannot avoid
taking up the responsibility for making these
determinations according to a philosophy of justice and
fair distribution that deems all people to deserve
entitlements for a decent existence.
(These words are written at the lowest point in history for the
advocate of the planned society. The collapse of full socialist
systems everywhere brings an awful onus to bear upon
Nevertheless, at least some principal determinations must be made;
our forbears have dipped into our purses. The best of them
have opened our eyes and hearts to the needs and desires
of all people. So we are forced either to fight
a losing battle against the disintegration and
impoverishment of the world, or to plan and execute
a campaign to bring a decent subsistence and way
of life to a world population of limited numbers.
Proposals such as these could be rationalized as Constitutional,
if not by a Supreme Court before which their implementation
is protested, then by a Supreme Court that has been increased
in number by appropriate legislation, and changed
in conviction by appropriate appointments,
by "packing the Court," in a word.
It has long been in order, but rarely considered, to amend or
rewrite the Constitution (most of whose provisions are
now esoteric codes, or fuzzy, or defunct).
Mainly needed would be provisions for a different set and
type of political managers, and a different way
for the people to have a say in governing. It would probably be easier
to obtain a new Constitution than to amend the old
profusely, just as it was with the Articles of Confederation.
Still, this would be practically impossible.
As with the American and French, and other revolutions,
first comes the revolution, then the constitution of the new order.
This is true even of conservative revolutions.
Rapid far-reaching changes, which is all that we mean
by revolution, are not to be achieved through the revision
of existing constitutions, invariably a difficult process.
The Constitution has been amended by regular processes only a
dozen times, and of these amendments only a half-dozen had
significant effects. We exclude, to begin with, the Bill of Rights,
generally recognized to be intended for the original Constitution,
and the three post-Civil War Reconstruction amendments
as being forced on Southern states who would
otherwise have rejected them.
The Eleventh Amendment was bad to begin with, was corrected
in time by Supreme Court nationalists, and in the last years of the
twentieth century began to turn bad again.
That was the one produced when persons from out-of-state and
from Britain were denied payment of obligations by Georgia and sued
in a Federal Court for redress, obtaining it. So the states and
Congress combined to stop such carriages of justice
by forbidding cases by out-of-state residents to be heard
by federal courts against the wish of the "sovereign" state.
All very well for the "sovereigns" until Congress
began to vote money and other goodies for states
only on the condition that they let themselves be sued
in federal courts. As the twentieth century waned,
actions in federal courts on matters of the environment
stank to state officials who wanted to evade
accountability for loathsome environmental practices.
To their aid came the Reagan-Bush-loaded Supreme Court, and a
certain panic ensued among federal agencies
in the environmental and welfare fields, which had depended
upon the vitiation of the original Eleventh Amendment
for bringing an effective discipline to state officials.
However, other parts of the Constitution, such as the
Fourteenth Amendment, had been nationalizing the country
in various regards for some time, and could be swung
into the breach - even were the castrated
Eleventh Amendment to undergo restoration.
After - just after - World War I, the Eighteenth Amendment was
passed, then a long decade later repealed by the Twenty-first,
alcohol first prohibited and then allowed,
and the former was probably approved only because a great many
men were absent in uniform or displaced on war jobs, and
therefore did not vote.
The women's suffrage Amendment, the Nineteenth, would have
been unnecessary had the Supreme Court seen
the future and allowed that the Constitution, by the word
"person" meant women, too.
Similarly the Supreme Court acted arbitrarily
to block an income tax, when it might just as well have
let Congress and the President have their way,
for there soon came an Amendment.
Several modest structural changes corrected
the Constitution, so to speak - spelling out the Electoral College
procedure so that President and Vice-President would be of the same party,
another so that one would know who followed
the President and Vice President were these to be disabled,
still another to shorten the interval between the November
elections and the assumption of office by the President and
the members of Congress.
This last, the "Lame Duck" amendment, should have been
passed as soon as the railroads were handy to get to Washington,
four political generations earlier, because it was
always obvious that a congressional session convening
in January following an election and composed of members,
some of whom who had been defeated or were resigning,
could engage in a variety of mischief before the November-elected
Congress convened for the first time in March.
Forcing the election of U.S. Senators to be
by direct popular vote rather than by state legislatures
was a victory for Progressive forces, although the States
were coming around to it in their own good time, but,
in the light of two generations' experience, it seems
to have weakened the needed hard political connection
between state government and national government. Soon,
an aspirant or a candidate for the Senate, so long as he had
the advertising resources, could act on his own
behalf from start to end, bothering less with the
politicians of the state government.
Another Amendment limited the President to two terms,
as a reaction against Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
violation of the tradition of two terms with his four terms,
the tradition set by Washington. One slightly
longer term of five years would have been better than
two terms of four years. The habit of voting
for the person in office repeatedly is so easy to acquire that
this is an important amendment for impeding a potential
dictator or leaving the same tired mediocrities
in charge indefinitely.
We are left with the amendment reducing the minimal voting age
for federal officers to eighteen years. The presumption was that a
person old enough to be drafted into the armed forces
should be old enough to vote - an appealing
non sequitur: voting, after all, is supposed to be
for a choice of officers to decide many issues,
not alone whether to draft oneself into military service.
Since the old were increasing in numbers relative
to the young, one could argue that this new voting age
helped maintain an equilibrium between
old and young. More nonsense.
The only important principled reasons for giving
the younger group the vote - and it should be extended
to fifteen-year olds - are to encourage more citizens to pay
more attention to politics and pari passu to influence
politicians to think of pleasing a larger
spectrum of the people.
The states have amended their constitutions by various
means, and on approximately six thousand occasions.
These might as well have been six thousand ordinary laws,
for all that they effected that was extraordinary.
Changes brought on by economic and social forces,
incorporated in decisions of thousands of groups and millions
of persons, have affected America far more than
amendments to the basic law.
Supreme Court decisions have probably been more potent
than the Amendments to the Constitution. Frequent turns and twists
have made of most clauses and amendments
"conversation pieces" of the Court, mere starting points.
Passing judgement on two centuries of Court
actions and inactions is bound to leave out many exceptions,
whether the judgement is positive or negative.
Here a generally negative view is held.
I speak now pragmatically, in terms of effects and results,
not of "legality," "historicity," "right" or "reason."
Assuming the power to declare laws, orders, and rules,
of Congress, President and all other officials of the
government null and void for being unconstitutional
has simply added a considerable delay and confusion to the
conduct of government, and is a frail raft for many
good causes to depend upon, in the absence of
solid support from the legislature and presidency.
Jefferson justifiably had a caneption fit over
Marshall, C.J.'s decision in Marbury vs. Madison.
Taney's Dred Scott decision not only infuriated
Northern abolitionists, but made Southern slaver opinion cocky.
Scores of Court judgements can be mentioned,
all tending to show that the Supreme Court has made more
than its shares of mistakes, has been as political
as the corporate body of Congress, has boosted
government by lawyers and secretive young staffs,
worming and squirming in the mazes of stare decisis,
and has handed down with absurd pomp
more bad decisions than good ones in realms of cases
involving women, race relations, ethnic relations ,
labor-employer relations, rich versus poor conflicts,
censorship, protection of powerful media interests,
the suffrage and apportionment, and Indian rights.
A more professionalized court would have done better
(acknowledging that there were few well-trained judges
and lawyers in the beginning, and legal education
has been a sorry set of courses and procedures since then),
and furthermore Congress and the Presidency would have conducted
themselves more responsibly without the contamination of
legalistics, and the continual impediment to
execution of the laws that court review has compelled.
Every presidency has had its scandals,
more or less suppressed in most cases,
but often, even where not obviously important,
such as those of President Bill Clinton,
raising a public furor, abetted on all sides by
the media, fed by the high paranoiac constant
of the American people, and turning the concern of
both people and politicians away from the
more important problems of the day -
never mind the basic problems of the system as a whole.
Popular ambivalence to the President
has always been dangerously high, and is
inherent in the job, as the decline and demise of the
Electoral College have both evidenced and served to bring about.
Further, as the presidency has increased in power,
the position itself has mounted a rocking horse,
one moment threatening to become imperial and the
dominant power of the Republic, the next moment being
assailed from all sides and seemingly without defenses
against Congress, courts, media, and hostile partisanship,
even of his own party. As the power of the presidency has
increased, the insecurity of, opposition to, and paranoia
surrounding the President have also increased.
Given the well-nigh universal hysteria and
paranoia of the media and much of the opposition,
the President has a most difficult time maintaining
calm and balance.
The scandal and turmoil centered upon the
brief, pitiful sexual adventures of Bill Clinton
lowered the always low efficiency of politics
and government, wasting almost everyone's
civic quotient in worthless gape-osis.
Led by an indefatigable snoop as independent counsel,
Republicans were convinced that they had chance to bring down
the top Democrat in disgrace. How could they suspect that
their conduct would arouse disgust and reaction?
The House voted to impeach the President on tenuous
grounds of obstruction of justice and perjury,
for having probably lied to a grand jury about
his sexual relations and using his official position to
thwart investigators. The Senate, reading
finally the handwriting on the wall, acquitted him,
55 to 45 and 50 to 50, nowhere near two-thirds.
Throughout, public opinion polls had expressed
strong opposition to impeachment and conviction,
and in the elections held during the controversy the
Republicans lost ground. The President, who had kept
his cool throughout the siege, was stronger after the
fracas than beforehand. There was a charisma and
psychic identification with the high-focused office
- monarchical in spirit - that ordinarily would
turn a defeat into victory. Congressional leaders
certainly showed how strong was their branch,
but also how it could be humiliated.
A large section of the populace thought that
they were making much ado about little.
They were not helped when their newly elected majority
leader abruptly resigned after confessing adultery.
Boasting about the American way of getting rid of
the chief of
government is not in order.
A Congress that, for whatever reasons (x),
did not like a President, could impeach and convict him
for whatever reasons (y), given that it used
the language of the Constitution (though no super-agency
would be entitled to require such language), thus removing him.
Political science tells us to expect this.
It was demonstrated in the case of Andrew Johnson,
when the Senate fell one vote short of the
needed to convict him. Nixon
facing the likelihood of
impeachment and conviction.
Nixon and Johnson
were typical politicians, but
the actions of
Johnson and the intentions of Nixon were seriously
consequential. Clinton was typical, too,
but his offenses were politically trivial.
Getting rid of a top leader has always been
the bane of applied political science.
shocking late case of Milosovi,
Serbia, is apropos.
The Presidential nominating system was bad,
entrancing inept and insipid characters and
testing them by the few votes of several early
primary elections staged by inconsequential states.
Californians, about one-tenth of all voters,
already suffered on occasion the humiliation of having
their vote counted only after the Presidential nomination
or election was decided, because the Eastern States
were closing their polls early They therefore pre-empted the
early date of March 7 for their presidential primary.
But others followed their example, so that in 2000
the public would suffer an exceedingly long campaign.
The race for the top office would begin closer and closer to its
last running. Politicians would shut the
narrow window of time for conducting the
serious business of government.)
With brilliant exceptions in the cases of Herbert Hoover and
Wendell Willkie, the major parties settled into
choosing candidates from among governors and senators.
That is a universe of 150 active persons
and some persons who had held such posts earlier,
but were now engaged otherwise.
More than enough to extract the best persons,
one might imagine, until one called up
all the other factors that tended to eliminate the
better citizens from these 150 jobs and
then to select not the best but the
mediocre from among these.
(By "best," let me interject, is meant
candidates of proven competence at bringing a
larger quantity and fairer distribution of the
major values of life to their constituencies.)
Rather than involving them and their representatives
in frequent struggles for silly legislative specifics, the
people could better be accommodated by sample surveys
regularly conducted on their needs and aspirations, and
by such polls, also, for electing officers.
The remedy for the public baby-talk and
mis-guidance provided by public opinion polls
was not, as so many claimed, to censor or ban or
ridicule the very idea of polls, but rather
to demand sophisticated surveys and publish
them in detail. Those of the people
who could understand would profit; those
who couldn't would be buffaloed.
Representatives might be functionally
qualified (with only as many lawyers as are
proportional to the justicially-involved population,
unless lawyers were otherwise qualified,
for America was far and away
the most lawyer-laden society in the world).
They might then present themselves as best they could,
basically on video-tapes and computer networks
such as Internet, available
everywhere at no cost to voters, and
then be voted for by a representative
sample of voters.
No more than 10,000 persons would be required in the sample
for any office, including the President.
(Any resultant statistical error would be ordinarily less than
the several true errors and the mal-presentation of the
electorate brought on by non-voting and
coerced voting. There is no problem with several candidates;
a majority can be obtained for the one of them
who is most liked and least hated through the Brams "Favorable
Consensus" method, whereby the elector votes once for every
candidate whom he deems acceptable, whereupon
the candidate with the greatest acceptability wins.
To forestall the imperial Presidency, the Chief Executive
might be replaced by a Presidency of three,
each elected for a single term of three years,
overlapping, one each year, the senior presiding
over the trio in action. The senior should be
general manager, the one next in line should be assistant,
and the third operating as ceremonial chief
for public and foreign display for a year.
Anyone who has been petitioned by a million persons
for the office might be on the ballot.
Again, the Brams system would be used to elect the
most favored candidate. Under such conditions, the
charisma and scare scenario, in which
past and present-day Presidents are chosen
and serve, would be replaced by a situation in
which the Presidents could take the subway to work.
They would, of course, need to show
a pass to get into their White House office.
Some such constitutional system is
needed to replace the present party system,
which flourishes upon vacuous hostilities.
Politics are far too important to be left to party politicians,
just as democracy is too important
to be left to the people.
A peculiar kind of mutually disabling intercourse has
long characterized the campaign process, with
the media of communications perversely whipping it up.
The growth of a profession of campaign managers at
all levels of government since World War II
(though with predecessors like Martin Van Buren
two hundred and Mark Hanna a hundred years earlier)
has been an unmitigated evil. A professional
political manager has practically an only wish,
to better his score of winning campaigns.
He has no interest in people except to manipulate their
minds in his direction. He will try
(and usually succeed) to squelch any lofty aims and
daring schemes of his candidates, for they are not
safe to bruit about and will surely win enemies, and
may even damn him for being an intellectual.
At first managers were committed to organizations, then to
persons of special beliefs, whose ideas they shared,
then to groups and persons regardless of principle,
hiring out to whoever paid most or
embellished their reputation. Thus the media
scandalized over President Clinton's most
successful adviser of 1996, whose other clients
included implacable opponents of the President,
such as Senator Jesse Helms - not on
this account, but because he had sought rest and
rehabilitation regularly in the arms of
a $200 per hour prostitute.
Politicians became more beauteous over the years -
both men and women. The cosmetic forces behind the
trend were movies and television. The decline of
political machines that could select Beast over Beauty,
and the slipperiness of issues abetted the process.
Politicians who could once have been blowsy, obese,
bald, and unkempt, fashioned themselves, with the support of an
irrepressible public, after Hollywood models,
with whom they had to compete for attention.
America needed a new leadership.
To get it would have required both an ideological
movement directed at the optimal future possible, and
structural changes that would bring to power a
new mix of leaders who were representative of
modern culture, able to use its technology,
and determined to redesign the whole.
The practice of the last mnemonic generation before the
new millennium was to squeeze out passage of a toothless
program, in the face of great deficits, and then to appoint
additional restrained and dilatory bureaucrats to
carry it out. The large problems of the country
could not be solved in this manner.
Only far-reaching changes in the structure and conditions of
leadership might engender a republic capable of carrying a
worthwhile civilization through the twenty-first century,
especially since the leadership would need to
lead the world into a federal union
before the century closed.
World government had to be construed and configured:
America's domestic and foreign troubles would multiply
without the present world government, bad as this is.
America could not move into its own reforms,
without at the same time helping to bind up
the world in consanguinity.