Sunday, July 31, 2011

This is Just WRONG

"Consider what the towel-snapping Tea Party crazies have already accomplished. They’ve changed the entire discussion. They’ve neutralized the White House. They’ve whipped their leadership into submission. They’ve taken taxes and revenues off the table. They’ve withered the stock and bond markets. They’ve made journalists speak to them as though they’re John Calhoun and Alexander Hamilton.

"Obama and John Boehner have been completely outplayed by the “hobbits,” as The Wall Street Journal and John McCain called them.

"What if this is all a cruel joke on us? What if the people who hate government are good at it and the people who love government are bad at it?"

The above is from Maureen Dowd's column on Sunday, July 31, in the NY Times. I believe it might be about as wrong as is possible. But, note well, that Dowd does two things here that are interesting. First, she disparages the Tea Partiers as extremist crazies who have no interest in governing, even though they are, apparently, interested in re-election. And, second, she lays the blame for the dysfunctional character of our political system on the Tea Party by, among other things, attributing to them so much power that they are controlling the political system right now. Of course, she does this without so much as one piece of evidence, other than her own assertions, that this power exists. And, as a result, she makes it seem as if Obama, especially Obama, is being manhandled by these "hobbits" and not playing his own game. The same could be said of Boehner as well. So it is the insurgents, not the establishment types in the two parties, who are like the Mafia, holding a gun to our "heads" and demanding payment, say, payment in lieu of taxes.

Let me just say that I am, at the very least, skeptical of this analysis. Dowd is, apparently, unaware that in the past there have been insurgencies that have threatened the power of the powers that be in the two political parties. And in the past, in almost every instance, the powers that be have prevailed. Usually they have prevailed by making the insurgents look like the extremists Dowd thinks the Tea Partiers are, and by making their politics look extremist and, hence, dangerous to the common good. Apparently, Dowd has forgotten that when Newt Gingrich led an insurgency in 1996, the powers that be allowed the government to "shut down" and, eventually, Newt's "revolution" was history, as was Newt himself.

I believe that this is what is going on now: The powers that be in the two parties are not afraid of "a default" and are especially not afraid of one that can be laid at the doorstep of the Tea Party types. Why? Well, because (a) they know that "default" is larging a chimera and (b) a default or even a near default [that is, one avoided by the action of the "moderates"] attributed to the Tea Partiers will fortify their power and lead to the punishment of the insurgents, thereby restoring the status quo. And, of course, everyone will breath a sigh of relief and forget that the status quo is less than desirable. And soon we will all wonder again why it is that our political system seems unable to respond responsibly to pressing issues.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The "Crisis" Continued

"In the broadest terms, the Tea Party freshmen have been victorious in changing the national conversation into an almost singular discussion of debt, and creating a consensus that America must do more to live within its means. But it is still not clear whether they will translate their passion into long-term legislative and political accomplishments — or overreach and undercut their credibility and influence.

"“Zealots are great on the campaign trail,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, “but a huge problem when it comes to governance. They often don’t believe in the art of a deal, even with their allies. If they are not tamed, they can eat their own party alive.”"
From the NY Times, July 30, 2011

According to this "the Tea Party freshman have been victorious" at least with regard to "the national conversation" but it is unclear that this "victory" will "translate" into successful governance. And according to Professor Zelizer this reveals the limitations of "zealots" who, apparently, don't know "the art of a deal."

Now, I would like to make a suggestion: Rather than focus on the limitations of the alleged zealots, the Tea Partiers, focus on the limitations of those who are the powers that be within the "two" parties, those allegedly moderate types like Boehner and Obama who, apparently, know "the art of a deal." It just could be that those being labelled here "zealots" are just those who are more concerned with the fate of their country than those "non-zealots" who are more concerned with their perpetuating their own power than with governing in a responsible fashion. Or, to put this differently, maybe those labelled "zealots" are actually more interested in responsible governing than the "moderates."

And this would make for an interesting conversation.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More on the "Crisis"

"Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences.

"But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!"
New York Times, July 29, 2011

First, yesterday's post on why Boehner would pass something in the House that had no chance of becoming law needs, I think, some revision insofar as Boehner cancelled that vote. Now the question is, Why did he cancel the vote? And it could be about gamesmanship. Any suggestions? I need help here.

But here we have the words of Krugman from the Times today, July 29th, and they struck me as interesting insofar as Krugman focuses on the alleged "balance" requirement of the news media. But it seems to me that more interesting story is Obama and why he "staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences." And along the same lines, why does Krugman not find this interesting, at least interesting enough to speculate about why Obama has done this. He does say that Obama has leaned "so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over" but he does not wonder why. Again, I am not at all sure why Obama has done this but I will offer one explanation that has the advantage of simplicity: This is what Obama thinks should be done and it is what Obama wants to do.

The only other possibility I can think of is that this serves some parochial or partisan interest Obama has, which of course means that Obama is not primarily concerned with governing or its requirements at this point. And if so this would make the story that is most interesting not about "balance" but rather about the fact that neither party is actually or primarily interested in governing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


"The House began debate and a vote was expected early this evening, with Republican leaders confident of winning over enough holdouts to pass their plan, which would make $900 billion in cuts, raise the debt ceiling for a few months, and come back for more of the same later. But Senate Democratic leaders said that if that happened they would waste no time rejecting the legislation.

"Leaders of both parties and in both chambers said that it was essential to avoid a default on the federal debt, but that was practically all they agreed on." From the NY Times, today, July 28, 2011.

So the question is why does Boehner want to pass a debt ceiling package that will not pass the Senate? Or to put this differently, why pass such a package when he knows it will not do anything and cannot do anything to get a deal done? Or, still differently, why is Boehner not interested in actually governing, but is content to "play games" or engage in gamesmanship?

And if you say this is strategy on Boehner's part, what is that strategy? What is to be gained as a result of this action?

And although I cannot answer these questions to my own satisfaction, I will say that the answers one provides depends upon how one understands the actions of our politicians. That is, if you think that Boehner's primary concern is actually governing according to a set of principles he deems fundamental, then his "strategy" is really no strategy at all. Rather, it is merely an action, known in advance to be futile, that is meant to endorse these principles, even though this endorsement will do nothing or have little or no consequences. However, if you consider the possibility that Boehner has over concerns, say, more parochial concerns, then it is possible to see this as a "strategy" that is meant achieve certain results. What results could Boehner want to achieve, if we exclude legislative consequences? Does he want to try to showup the President or the Senate, that is, the Democrats in the Senate by forcing them to vote this option down? That has a certain plausibility to it. But it should be asked, What does this achieve? Does this make it more likely that the Republicans will gain as a result of a Senate or presidential veto? At the present moment, the answer to this question would seem to be "No," because most the American people seem to want some kind of settlement, almost any kind of settlement, because they sense that this situation could be resolved rather easily if politicians would stop "playing politics."

So, it remains, at least to me, to be seen what Boehner is about, what his objectives are. And I would just point out that our commonly accepted understandings of how our politicians behave do not provide very persuasive explanations at this point. So, it would seem that whatever is going in D.C. right now, we don't really understand. And this in itself is interesting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Power of Business

"The tension highlights the distance between the pro-business stalwarts of the traditional Republican Party and the populism of its newer representatives, many of whom seem to view Wall Street and Washington with equal suspicion.

“I think they’re very pleased with the anti-government inclinations of the Tea Party Republicans when it comes to taxes and regulation,” said David Axelrod, one of the president’s chief political advisers. “But now we have a situation where the integrity of the economy and the U.S. financial system is at stake, and they’re being hoisted on their own petards.”"

This is from an article in today's NY Times [July 27, 2011] highlighting that "business," meaning some businesses like the Chamber of Commerce, are trying to get Republicans or some of them to support increasing the debt limit but are not having as much success as they would like. This illustrates, of course, the great power that "business" has over those it makes contributions to because these businesses, as the article points out, gave a lot of money to these Republicans. So why can't they just dictate to these Republicans and get their way? Good question. Perhaps we have overestimated the power of those who give money to politicians. Perhaps we even have the relationship wrong, viz., that these businesses are hit up for money and pay not because they want to but because they are expected too. A kind of "payment in lieu of taxes" if you will. They, the businesses, are not buying influence; they are buying protection.

A Question: What the Heck Is Going On?

"The [Boehner] plan was met with skepticism — and in many cases outright rejection — by several conservative House members who said its savings did not go far enough. President Obama and most Congressional Democrats also have rejected the proposal, saying it is only a short-term solution and could lead to market uncertainty and instability."

Here is a question to which I don't have an answer or, at least, don't seem to have an answer: Why would Boehner and Cantor - the Republican Party leaders and powers that be - propose "a plan" that was, from the outset, unacceptable both to members of Republican Party who need to be placated and to Obama who holds the veto power? How do you make sense of this?

One thing is that, obviously, this "plan" is really not a plan at all. It is something else, although I cannot say what it might be. But if human beings offer "a plan" that is bound to fail - and they know it is going to fail - then it must be something like a Trojan horse. And if we add into the equation that Boehner and Cantor probably don't want to lose their power - because what politicians actually do things that in the long run cost them power? - then we need to ask: How does this plan preserve that power? How could rejection of the "plan" actually help Boehner and Cantor, in the long run?

I have these questions but not the answers. But then, apparently, others, like the NY Times, don't even have the questions as they seem to take the position that Boehner and Cantor don't know what they are doing or are merely looking for a way to satisfy these freshmen Tea Party types, as if they, Boehner and Cantor, did not know what these freshmen wanted. But if we know, simply from reading the paper, how could Boehner and Cantor not know? This doesn't seem very plausible, at least not to me. So, again, we come back to the question: What the heck is going on here?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Game

"Scores of the House’s most conservative members pored over the details presented by the Republican leaders and concluded they did not like what they saw.

"In a Tuesday morning meeting, Representative Eric Cantor, the chamber’s majority leader, told fellow Republicans to “stop grumbling and whining and to come together as conservatives and rally behind” the House speaker John Boehner’s plan. But many lawmakers complained that it lacked sufficient spending cuts. As a further blow to its prospects, the Club for Growth, which scores members on their fiscally conservative votes, came out against the plan."

The game plan is clear to me now. The Tea Partiers are being set up by Boehner and Cantor to take the fall for this "crisis," which of course is no real crisis at all. It is manufactured crisis and its purpose or one of its purposes to allow the establishment Republicans to discipline the Tea Party Republicans by making them look like extremists. Now, the Tea Party are guilty, according to Cantor, of "grumbling and whining" and of not being loyal to the Republican Party cause, here called the "conservative" cause. So, standing on principle is "grumbling and whining." Sounds like something you would hear on Oprah, if there.

The "Crisis"

Obama warns of a "crisis." Holy cow, whatever are we to do? We have a crisis, another crisis. Well, hold on to your wallets because usually when we have crises, we end up paying for it. We do, the politicians don't. In fact, they seem to profit, especially in terms of power. And, I wonder, will anyone dispute Obama's claim? I doubt the Republicans will because the two parties collude to keep their power and both profit in terms of power when we are in "crisis." I believe there is a psychological modus operandi in which some people can only "function" in a "crisis." I wonder if our political system isn't the same way. Anyway, the "crisis" is upon us and so we must become good little cogs cooperating for the sake of the nation.....Ain't life grand?

"The government is using the usual scare tactics to strong-arm the people into going along with more spending. Remember the rhetoric surrounding the big bailout of October 2008? We were told, not that this would be calamitous for the banks, but for the people, who would continue to experience massive job losses and foreclosures. We were told that the economy would sink into a deep recession if this money was not handed out to too-big-to-fail corporate cronies. So, after much hand-wringing, leaders from both parties, against unprecedented public outcry, agreed to shower money on the banks and increase the debt. The banks learned nothing, except that Washington will come to their rescue, no matter what. The people, however, continued to lose their jobs and houses anyway, and here we are, still in a deep recession."

Guess who authored this quote.....Answer will appear soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ideas to Take Note Of

Here are some words that are worth remembering, taken from Walter Karp's book, "Indispensable Enemies," which may be one of the best texts on American government and politics ever published.

"Indeed, were a political community ruled exclusively by bureaucratic means, politics itself would disappear, since whatever happened would appear the results of providential processes, a truth wonderfully re-created by Franz Kafka, who, for this reason, gave divinity the attributes of a bureaucracy and bureaucracy the attributes of divinity." [p. 228]

"Perhaps the most important example of the politics of bureaucracy is the oligarchs' creation of major Federal bureaucracies - the regulatory agencies and commissions, the Federal Reserve Board and the like - to...maintain...the central myth of Big Business, namely that the economy we have was self-created and, in consequence, is self-sustaining." [pp. 228-229]

This is based on the phenomenon that "Whenever the results of [political] deeds are divorced from the deeds themselves, they lose their political character and appear to be the results of happenstance, of larger social forces and historic trends, or even the providence of God. Although they are the consequence of political action, they will appear beyond reach of political action, since what men do not appear to have done they appear incapable of doing. To those who wield irresponsible political power, the advantage of hiding deeds is obvious and profound." [pp. 225-226]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Charter Schools: A Political View

What are charter schools really about? That is, other than the smokescreen that consists of arguments that these schools will educate better than public schools, what power interests do they serve? Here is a possibility.

Charter schools are another part of an attempt to undermine the idea and the practice of citizenship in the U.S., and this is a cause that all oligarchs support. This agenda is nothing new to the U.S. as vocational schools were created in part to convince young people to think of themselves as "workers," not as citizens, and to teach them in a way that they would not and could not learn those lessons that free citizens need to learn, e.g., the ways of tyranny. Of course, this task continues today and has been advanced by the prevalence of "vocational" majors, like accounting, business, or even human services, in colleges and universities. The charter school movement is part of this "movement" and it works as follows.

If we replace public schools with charter schools, we will remove one of the strongest incentives that bring human beings into the public arena where they learn, willy nilly, to act like citizens. Public schools in this way actually generate or create citizens and, of course, force people to think of themselves as citizens and, thereby, to take politics seriously. Now, if we get rid of public schools, replacing them with charter/private schools, this incentive to be or act like citizens disappears. People will become "clients" or, better yet, "consumers" of educational products, including schools. So the charter school movement is yet another part of the attempt to turn us into "consumers," to encourage us to think of ourselves not as citizens but as those who are purchasing a service, which in this case is called "education."

And one question is: What happens to us as human beings if we no longer think of ourselves as citizens,that is, we no longer think of ourselves as being responsible for acting in the public arena for the purpose of influencing or even controlling government? The prospect does not seem good. A further question: What happens to a government that is able to do as it wishes because those it governs no longer think of themselves as playing a role in their own governing? Again, the prospect does not seem good. And what happens to a people who think it is futile to try to influence "their" government, or think of political activity as futile and, hence, retreat into entertainment to watch "reality shows" [because they all know that political activity by unelected human beings is not "real"] or into a virtual world to play games and even pretend to be "connected" to hundreds if not thousands of "friends"? Again, the prospect does not seem good.

And yet, there it is: A charter school movement supported even by those who claim to be the advocates of a renewed sense of citizenship, a reinvigorated patriotism or public spiritedness. This is, to my mind, much stranger than fiction.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two Parties? Not So Much

"Democrats often complained about increases in the debt limit sought by President George W. Bush
"As a senator in 2006, Joseph R. Biden Jr. lamented 'the tsunami of debt created by the policies' of the Bush administration, including big tax cuts. Now, as vice president, Mr. Biden is trying to persuade Republicans to support a much bigger increase in the debt limit.
"In a scrap over the debt limit in 2004, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said, 'The immoral, intellectually bankrupt fiscal policies that we have been pursuing for the last four years resulted in this request for a gargantuan increase in the debt.'
"The increase then was $800 billion. The White House is now seeking an increase of at least $2.4 trillion. That would lift the limit to at least $16.7 trillion, about twice the level set in 2004."
From the New York Times, July 17, 2011

Well, this gives "the game" away, does it not? The only difference, which is no difference at all, between the Republicans and Democrats is who controls the White House. Both parties talk the same way, say the same things, and do the same things, so why is it that we talk of having "two parties?" Obviously, we have one ruling class, composed of those who pretend to be different, to have different political principles, when in fact their "differences" are illusionary. And, it follows of course, that those who take these differences seriously are delusional. And recognize that the result here is that it does not actually matter which party controls the government because the results are pretty much the same. Yes, there is some heated rhetoric about "gays and lesbians," about "socialists" and "capitalists," about "liberals" and "conservatives." But, bottom line, this rhetoric is used to mask reality and that reality is that there is one ruling class in the United States and it is not about to give up its power voluntarily.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

At least someone is paying attention

"Nothing good is going to come from these ludicrously protracted negotiations over laughably meaningless accounting sleights-of-hand scheduled to kick in circa 2020. All the charade does is confirm to prudent analysts around the world that the depraved ruling class of the United States cannot self-correct, and, indeed, has no desire to."

This is from, of all places, the National Review on Line, written by Mark Steyn. At least, he seems to get the absurdity of what is going on or, actually, not going on in Washington, D.C. these days. And he has it just about right: "the depraved ruling class [which includes for Mark properly both Republicans and Democrats] of the United States cannot self-correct, and, indeed, has no desire to."

To which I would "add," that it has no desire to because to do so would cost this ruling class the power it now possesses and wishes to go one possessing into the foreseeable future. Democrats and Republicans working together, not to deal with the nation's ills, but to perpetuate their power - that is, the power of the Establishment types in each party. Two parties colluding in ways that serves to perpetuate the status quo, of course, while pretending to want to "reform" for the sake of the people.

It is all smoke and mirrors, I tell you, all smoke and mirrors.

More on Reagan and American Politics

"The idea that Reagan changed America's mind about taxes and the role of government is false

"Political scientist James Stimson, author of Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings, has constructed an index of economic liberalism based on hundreds of public opinion questions asked repeatedly over the years. This index reached a low-point in 1980 and rose dramatically for the next seven years, reaching a plateau at levels not seen since Nixon's first term, as if Reagan's rhetoric were convincing more and more people of the exactly the opposite of what he was saying.

"This rise was reflected, for example, in four questions asked in the General Social Survey, the most-cited data source for social scientists after the US Census. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of people saying the government was spending "too little" nationally increased 27.4 per cent on health care, 32.9 per cent on education, 67.8 per cent on welfare and 46.7 per cent on the environment. The questions all reminded people that increased taxes might be required if more was spent.

"What's more, 20 years after Reagan's election, in 2000, federal tax receipts as a percent of GDP were up 8.4 per cent over what they had been the year Reagan was elected, indisputable proof that government's role had ultimately not decreased across that time-span."

This information on Reagan is interesting, especially the last paragraph with regard to how little has changed in the U.S. since Reagan, the paragon of "conservatives" for some, was president and allegedly conducted the "Reagan Revolution." My bet is that after whatever "budget deal" is struck in D.C. that our politics and our government will change very little. And my bet is also that whatever deal is struck will make the re-election of Obama more rather than less likely. And, finally, my bet is that the insurgents in the Republican Party will be compromised as a result of the forthcoming "deal." Hey, I know: Let's make a deal!

Friday, July 15, 2011

"The endgame in the fight to increase the nation’s debt limit has only begun, but intense exchanges this week between the two parties have made it clear that this is not so much a negotiation over dollars and cents as a broader clash between the two parties over the size and role of government."

This excerpt is from the New York Times, today, July 15, 2011. I have to say that I am skeptical that the battles going on in D.C. are really about "the size and role of government." This article also refers to Ronald Reagan and his administration some 30 years ago and how Reagan is the hero of many of the insurgents in the Republican Party today. But it is worth asking: How different did government look and act after Reagan's presidency than it did before that presidency? There were changes in the tax code and, perhaps, in our collective mindset or public rhetoric, but how did the government itself change? Was it smaller? I don't think so. In fact, I think some political scientists argue, persuasively, that the government actually got larger in terms of the number of employees. I can't say that is true but what I will say is that I have not noticed any great changes in our government, especially in terms of its institutions. And, in the modern world, the bureaucratic world in which we live, change in the institutional arrangements are crucial for guaranteeing real or deep change in government. So here is my hunch: Whatever the outcome of the current budget battles, our government will not be much different both in terms of its size and its scope. It will still be humongous and it will be pervasively powerful. Check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

"But with House Republicans showing little to no appetite for Mr. McConnell’s plan, top lawmakers in both parties were looking for ways to sweeten the deal, perhaps by adding required spending cuts or somehow forcing consideration of a deficit-reduction package. Mr. McConnell portrayed his proposal as a last-stand way to spare Republicans from being blamed for a default if no alternative plan could be approved.

"Recounting how the 1995 government shutdown helped President Bill Clinton win re-election the following year, Mr. McConnell said any impasse that drove down the nation’s credit rating and led to government checks being delayed could have the same result for Mr. Obama.

“He will say Republicans are making the economy worse,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It is an argument that he could have a good chance of winning, and all of the sudden we have co-ownership of the economy. That is a very bad position going into the election.”
NY Times, July 14, 2011

This little history helps illuminate the character of the American political order which only requires one recognize that in 1995, the Republicans who shut down the government knew it would help Clinton win the election in 1996 and they did it anyway. Perhaps, although almost no one would agree with this, that is what the Republicans wanted - or at least some Republicans, the Establishment Republicans including the Bush II Republicans. They did not want Bob Dole to be president and preferred Clinton to Dole. Why? Because Dole was not controllable whereas Clinton was and, of course, they were aiming at 2000 and a victory with Shrub [little Bush]. And if I remember my history, Clinton and the Republicans managed to work together after the '96 elections. ["Impeachment?" you ask. Never serious as the Republicans certainly didn't want Gore running as an incumbent in 2000 and for the next two terms. And, of course, Bill Clinton, "Mr. Politics," knew this.] The Tea Party types, those newly elected conservative Republicans in the House, had better watch out: They are being set up for defeat in the 2012 elections.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stranger than Fiction

Here is a thought I had recently. It is based on an exchange between Jon Stewart and Bill Kristol on Stewart's TV show recently. Stewart began the interview by asking Kristol whether he was willing to admit that he, Kristol, had been wrong to recommend and support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kristol said no. "Of course," I thought and shut off the TV.

Now, here is my thought. First, Kristol was telling truth and, second, when we see this, we can also see that, at least from his perspective, Kristol was correct: He was not wrong.

Why was Kristol telling the truth? Because he, Kristol, did not recommend and support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan based on a calculation that we would prevail or win and do so without too much loss, both of Americans and Iraqis and Afghanis. No, Kristol recommended and supported wars in those places because he, Kristol, thinks that waging war, in and of itself, is worthwhile. Of course, he wanted the US to achieve its "objectives" provided one keeps in mind that one of those objectives was, put simply, "to wage war." Because by waging war, we can show, we can demonstrate our greatness as a nation. And when one sees this, one can also see that even in "losing" those wars, we still can demonstrate our greatness. So, in fact, in a weird but logical way, the outcome of these wars doesn't not matter to Kristol or, if the outcome does matter, it is not of decisive importance. For Kristol and others who embrace a politics of greatness, success lies in demonstrating that greatness - and this means, very often, waging war, perhaps even in a "losing" cause. The Athenians went to Syracuse and the Americans went to Vietnam, not despite but rather because of the "long odds."

Stewart's shortcoming here is that he does not understand this about Kristol and others like him. These types actually like war and they like waging war because it demonstrates the greatness of this nation - and, of course, of those who are manly enough to recommend and support war [even while not fighting in them]. In order to take Kristol on successfully or persuasively, one has to challenge his understanding of politics and political activity as serving the cause of greatness. That is, you would have to challenge Kristol's embrace of a politics of greatness. Unless this is done, it will prove impossible to shake Kristol's "confidence" or his argument. Any facts that Stewart could muster would fall on deaf ears because of one fact: Waging war is a way of demonstrating a nation's greatness and this is what Kristol and many others are all about. [As a brief aside: Hence, the tendency of those like Kristol to call those who disagree with him/them "wimps."]

Now this little bit of light makes this a good day for me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Politics Reconsidered

"The polis presents itself as exalted far above the household and the individual. Yet this does not necessarily mean that Socrates recognized the claim of the polis to be the highest simply, or, which amounts to the same thing, to be the authoritative interpreter of the highest simply....The judgment on the status of the political will depend on the result of the analysis of the political." [p. 143, Classical Political Rationalism]

As it turns out, the political is most exalted only if and when the wisest human beings rule. "The man of highest political wisdom is a seeing law, whereas every law proper is blind to some extent. The justice of the true ruler cannot consist, then, in law-abidingness or in legal justice. He must be guided by translegal justice, by the habit of benefiting human beings, the habit of helping them to become as good as possible and to live as happily as possible." [p.144, ibid]

Hence, the polis, the political is most exalted only when and to the extent that the wise rule. And this helps to explain why all those rule or seek to rule must claim to be wise. Of course, they all cannot be wise and one can wonder whether anyone who seeks out rule is motivated by wisdom, as opposed say to pride or the "love of fame." It would also explain why those who are driven by a desire for wealth or see the desire for wealth as close to the height of virtue identify the wealthy with the wise.

And this would also help explain why "the ancients" taught that all actual political orders are, necessarily and always, defective: "it is equally impossible, considering the numerical relation of the wise and the unwise, that the wise should rule the unwise by force...." [p. 146, ibid] And because it is impossible for the wise to persuade the unwise to accept their rule, "one has to be satisfied with the very indirect rule of the wise." [p. 146]

Bottom line: There is no political solution to the problem of civilization. Or as Twain might put it: It is necessary for the most thoughtful of people, the most sensitive of people, people like Huck Finn but not like Tom Sawyer, "to light out for the territories" in order to be happy. To be happy, one should become an "outlaw."