Political Philosophy for a New Year
Forgive me if I frequently reframe the frame, but I just watched yesterday's Ron Paul interview on Meet the Press (thank you youtube), and it got me thinking about the basics of political philosophy. Don't take my (or anyone's) word for it, go watch the vids, but Ron Paul looks good up there: his no-BS approach had Russert and backpedaling over his own "gotcha" questions. And there is a certain eloquence to Paul's answers to things: Israel is just welfare mother we've allowed to become too dependent; Vietnam shows what would happen if we left Korea alone; the Dept of Education is a money-sucking bureaucracy that can logically be lumped in with the Pentagon when it comes to spending-slashing; living in a tax-free economy is just a matter of "spending less."
I, of course, agree with none of this. Israel isn't a welfare mother -- it's a thug on payroll. Korea and Vietnam are two completely different countries with different histories, cultures, and fates. The Department of Education was built in response to a need that simply returns when the dept. goes away (or is weakened to ineffectualness). Taxing income is bullshit and I hate it, but there's no such thing as a free lunch: in a democracy, the government is US, and WE need to have money or WE will have no power. So tell me you're going to tax property or tell me you're going to tax carbon emissions, but don't tell me you're going to make the vehicle of my political power in this world into a volunteer fire brigade that uses borrowed buckets.
Not that I don't want to change the world too: after buying it a coke and taking it back to my place for a little "singing," I'd like to increase the say I have in things -- and your say too! -- by removing money from the political process, by making the vote, not the dollar, the unit of power and influence, and by convincing the populi that participation is not optional in a democracy -- perhaps through High School civics classes -- let's get the Dept. of Education on that. Ron Paul says Fascism is taking over America, and does the extra service of calling Fascism by it's (he says "softer") I say "more descriptive" name Corporatism. I couldn't agree more. But when the threat is rich, massive corporations, and the "force" we have to fight this threat is a "people's democratic collective" known as "our government," explain to me how disempowering that body makes things better instead of worse?
I'd like to point out here that I like Paul because his speech actually opens the door to these kinds of conversations. I disagree with him and respect him. But the only good thing about a Paul presidency, as far as I can see, is that he's probably the only candidate who could be relied upon to abdicate the great powers bu$h has gathered for the executive office. That said, his vision could only lead to disaster. Right now corporations are corrupting and weakening the power of the people -- but one doesn't shoot one's daughter because she got the flu, or "iaciet baby cum bathwater," as it's known. But I prefer the sick daughter metaphor, because the idea should be to make the girl stronger, and better, so that she will expel the virus and emerge from the experience stronger and more resistant in the future.
For the majority of human history, most people have lived under tyranny. Tyranny seems to be the default. Through great cleverness, a people might get together and design a way for themselves to tyrannize themselves, and thereby be free from the whims of kings. This is a great idea. But it's never been a perfect idea. American democracy in practice has always fallen a little short of the ideal. From the plantations to the rail barons to the oil kings to today's consortium elite, powerful people have always twisted things to their benefit. And yet, at the same time, things have, over the long-haul, gotten progressively better for people: emancipation, suffrage, and so on, not to mention the internet (don't underestimate the internet!).
And in every case when things have gotten better for people, it was through the collective democratic force that is the federal government -- not through individual action. The cure for our ills is not to try to go back to a time when people were less free, but to imagine and enact a future in which people are more free, and in which that freedom is protected by themselves acting in concert to protect their means, through unions and through a strong people-run federal government.
The cure for our ills is actually deceptively simple: we all need to take the democracy out of the hands of corporations and hold it firmly in our own. Then we need to beat the shit out of those corporations with regulations, to make them serve us, as our bitches, instead of the other way around.