Money is Speech

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constituted the Bill of Rights: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Amendment as actually implemented on April 2, 2014, to promote the intolerant, righteous rich and their interests, and to advance greed and self-interest over civic responsibility and the public interest:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion other than Christianity; or prohibiting the intolerance of the righteous; or abridging the freedom of distribution of money to encourage the corruption of elected and appointed government officials.

In America today, corporations are people and money is speech. Perhaps the five supremes are influenced more by ideology or theory than pragmatism or realism. Could the supremes be right? May be eroding these parts of the system will be inconsequential, that is, money will not decide who wins or looses, and large sums from a small proportion of the population will not corrupt officials or influence policy. Right, sure. Today’s inequality is a symptom of a failure of the governing system to address the ‘success to the successful’ feedback loop (also know as the ‘rich get richer’). Who is getting what? The very rich are getting richer as our government has reduced the feedback loop. The rich believe in a trickle down theory because it promotes their short-term interests, and it was just a coincidence that our government passed laws to enact policies that favored the greedy.  

Tomorrow in America, corporations will vote and only the excessively greedy will be allowed to influence the Government for additional preferential, unjust, and unequal treatment. God bless America?

Political Instability

[300 word Letter to the Net]

We are experiencing political instability. This at a time with social inequality that is worse than some third-world countries; poor economic resiliency due to large private and public debt; bank executives taking risks at public expense; and diminishing natural resources. Today’s politicians won’t work together to solve these problems. Sometimes people in power have no clear plan on how to govern. The clue is when they rely mostly on ideology and simple, but often wrong, dogma. Ideologue politicians are ever present; however, political instability is rare. Numerous intelligent people have forwarded reasons for this instability.

First, the baby boom generations through their selfishness, irresponsibility, and sheer size are straining the country. From the time they entered school, they’ve pushed systems for their benefit and ambitions often with little regard for others. They can’t be fully blamed, as many have diminished cognitive abilities due to leaded gasoline poisoning and high drug use.

Second, journalism has diminished. For example, he who watches Fox News is less informed than he who watches nothing. Third, our primary election system promotes partisans over leaders that would govern for the common good. Primary election voters are generally more politically active and radical than the general population; therefore, partisans generally win in this system.

Any solutions? The baby boomer generations will fade with time. Albert Camus, a journalist and philosopher, said, “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.” Thus the solution on degraded journalism falls to us. We need to recognize that “news” is something that those in power want suppressed – the rest might be propaganda. Finally, establish an open primary system where the top two candidates, regardless of party, go to the general election. This approach appears to have reduced partisanship elsewhere.

Kakistocracy, Kleptocracy, or Plutocracy

[300 word Letter to the Net]

Society is actively debating the size of government. People on both sides of this debate often fail to mention the role of government. Our constitution limits the role of government on personal and economic matters, with the presumption of liberty. However, a small government doesn’t translate into a limited government.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves, in their separate, and individual capacities.” Lincoln also said, “The best framed and best administered governments are necessarily expensive; while by errors in frame and maladministration most of them are more onerous than they need be, and some of them very oppressive.” Lincoln was right, it’s not the cost or size of government that is most important, it’s the scope of government that is paramount. A competent and effective government can be more expensive than an inept government, but an inept government has a higher cost. An inept government allows our personal liberties to be trampled by the rich and powerful.

Reagan may have been a good president. It’s troubling that some have misused his rhetoric to disparage government. Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” It is certainly true that an inept government is the problem, and government is necessary. Who among us wishes to live without government services? Anti-government fakes and pompous fools are first to claim such a life.

I prefer to live in a community with limited and effective government. I’m looking for political leaders that understand the value and role of government consistent with our constitution and needs (not political hacks on a ‘no-tax increase’ holy war or zealous ‘do-gooders’). 

Equality and Justice

[300 word Letter to the Net]

Our society has become more unequal. As citizens, we need to address fairness and justice. This requires addressing the ‘success to the successful’ feedback loop (also know as the ‘rich get richer’). Instead of politicians leveling the playing field, many have increased the advantage of the strongest. Friends say that action to mitigate the ‘success to the successful’ loop can degenerate into socialism, and this is true. It is also true that the failure to address inequality produces corruption and traps some citizens in less productive pursuits. Inequality in life should be expected and we should not whine about it; however, excessive inequality is destructive to a society.

A hardworking person should receive a livable wage. People should expect and receive equal treatment from their government. Contributing to a politician’s campaign should help the candidate, not the donor. Lobbying should result in better laws, rather than laws that favor the well to do. Today these things are not always true. I’m looking for political leaders that understand these issues and that can work to recreate reasonable, balanced adjustments in our policies.

What of justice? Our country’s ideals includes treating all people the same. Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, said, “When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt”. Interesting that Pirsig observed that fanaticism was the result of reservations of the zealot. Today’s examples may include political extremism that has repackaged the flawed trickle-down economic theory and the zealous protection of those that need no help. One wonders about government inaction on fraudulent Wall Street activities. And on the recognition of same-sex marriage, one wonders what the zealous opponents are insecure about.