Political Kool Aid and Pisa

There’s no “good news” in politics today.

Doesn’t matter where one looks, or reads, or listens, the social and news media can only comment on strife and division. They only see life through political eyeglasses.

And the “deliverables” from the American political process are tainted or adulterated or poisoned. Legislation is full of favors and gifts and each is poisonous to the US budget and deficit.

And as for politicians, poisonous accusations abound. There is haint with the taint. (The word haint was historically used in African-American vernacular to refer to a witch-like creature seeking to chase victims to their death by exhaustion.[4][5] The accusations are exhausting!)

There is poison in the political Kool Aid. How much will you drink when you are told to drink from the glass, shut your mouth, and look the other way?

Do you drink Red Kool Aid or Blue Kool Aid? Do you lean left or right?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans both ways depending upon where you stand. America leans in the same way. Depending upon where one stands, America is left-leaning or right-leaning. Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa built on soft land, America was built on the soft land of people rather than the hard land of history. The Constitution is a heavy monument to the best in humankind. Unfortunately, soft people have settled over the past two hundred and fifty years and the Constitution now leans.

People wonder why the Constitution has not already toppled. Two political parties intend to bend American government to fit their agenda. The tilt of the Constitution increases relative to the observers but in no way does it straighten itself.

To prevent the Constitution from toppling, engineers are needed to strengthen it . It can never be completely upright again but the lean (from both perspectives) must stop or it will topple.

Where are the engineers and who will let them be about the business of shoring up the Constitution to offset the settling of the people?

Wherever they are, don’t let them drink the Kool Aid.

Social Hypochondria

I admit I still have a vestige of social hypochondria. COVID, Trump, Red vs Blue, robots, budget deficits, police brutality, Children of the Corn (hehehe), zombie vaccinations, etc.

Slate Magazine: Social hypochondria: “As a society, we always seem to be obsessing about some problem like teen-age drinking or child abuse or immigration or cloning, convinced that it will destroy the country or the world unless it is eliminated. The hypochondria analogy isn’t perfect: These diseases tend to be real, not wholly imagined. But a) their perils are exaggerated—at least until they are put aside to make room for other perils; and b) the hope of ever curing them is also exaggerated.”

There is no cure. But how do we discourage decent people from believing all the social media things they encounter?

Truth helps but it is always a complicated truth and, frankly, not everyone is cut out to ferret truth from lies. There are experts out there who find a hot button issue and begin to infect society with an exaggerrated fear. How can a regular person decide if “global warming” deserves all the hyperbole written about it? Or police brutality? Or Aliens in the Arctic?

And yet, ignoring threats isn’t wise either.

Open to your thoughts…

Ethical Individualism

I apologize for stealing this section from this article. But I think that this is important to be read as written rather than re-interpreted. You can find the whole article here. You will find this section begins on page 392. This is about James M. Buchanan, an economist who won the Nobel prize in 1986 . “Buchanan’s work initiated research on how politicians’ and bureaucrats’ self-interest, utility maximization, and other non-wealth-maximizing considerations affect their decision-making.

3. Ethical individualism: a society of equals and unequals. Buchanan believed that the intellectual starting point of the constitutional mentality was recognition of the moral equality of all persons. Buchanan (1975a, pp. 3–4) began The Limits of Liberty with a statement of ethical individualism: “the individualist is forced to acknowledge the mutual existence of fellow men, who also have values, and he violates his precepts at the outset when and if he begins to assign men differential weights…. Each man counts for one, and that is that”. Similarly, in The Reason of Rules, Brennan and Buchanan (1985, p. 26) explained that their approach to constitutional political economy “requires that all persons be treated as moral equivalents, as individuals equally capable of expressing evaluations among relevant options”. Importantly, given the accusations of white supremacism recently levelled against Buchanan, he always was unequivocal that all persons were morally equal and that no second class of persons counted for less than others (Buchanan 1971, 1975a, pp. 3–4, 1989a).Buchanan’s conception of consensual politics followed from the conviction that it always was wrong to impose ends, outcomes, or costs on another person without that person’s consenteven if it was thought to be for his or her own benefit. That concept meant that unanimity was an essential component of constitutional agreement because an individual could not enter into a contract involuntarily, “there is no place for majority rule or, indeed, for any rule short of unanimity” (Buchanan 1986b, p. 220; emphasis in original. See also Brennan and Buchanan 1985, Chapter 1; Buchanan 1975a, Chapter 1).The American Founding was built upon a similar belief in the moral equality of persons. The revolution was a revolt against a monarchical, undemocratic government that ruled on the basis of the inequality of persons—that some people were born to rule and other, lesser people were born to be ruled. As such, colonial governments ruled along lines of patronage and ties of privilege that went back across the Atlantic Ocean to the British monarch. The revolution was a rejection of those ideas and destruction of those relationships. The revo-lutionaries dismissed the age-old principle of aristocracy by birth and replaced it with the principle of equality—that all men were fundamentally, morally equal. As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. Men were deemed to be equal in their moral worth and equal in their capacity for self-government (Bailyn 1967; Pole 1978; Wood 1992).It has been argued that those words ring hollow given that the Founders did not consider African-Americans to be equal to white Americans of European descent (Magnis 1999; Mills 1997; Pateman and Mills 2007). It is important to recognize and acknowledge the exclusion of African-Americans from the society of equals envisaged by the Founders, but, 393Public Choice (2020) 183:389–403 1 3as Douglass (1852) argued powerfully, the fault was not in the principle of equality the Founders espoused, but in their failure of extend(ing) it to all Americans.The Founders’ (partially applied) belief in equality reflected the teachings of the leading Enlightenment scholars that traditional hierarchies were not natural and ordained by God, but were man-made and artificial. Wood (1992, pp. 236–40) has described the widespread belief in Lockean sensationalism during the revolutionary period—the belief that all peo-ple were born intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally identical and the differences that emerged came from the influences of their different experiences. Perhaps the most famous example was Adam Smith’s (1776, pp. 28–29) claim, published in the same year as the Declaration of Independence, that the differences between a philosopher and a street porter, “arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom and education”, so that no difference existed between the two at birth, little in infancy, but great differences gradually developed over time as they were exposed to different experiences. Not all the American revolutionaries subscribed to such a strong account of the individual as a clean slate, but its extensive currency nevertheless reflected the widely held belief in the enormous scope for human improvement if only society could be organized to the benefit of all, not just a privileged minority (Bailyn 1967; Pole 1978; Wood 1992).Buchanan (1975a, pp. 15–17), however, counselled that the belief in the moral equality of persons should not disguise the fact that people were unequal in important, non-trivial respects. Indeed, the unique moral value of each individual flowed from their differences. Buchanan (1971, p. 237) wrote that people, “differ in capacities; even at some defined point in time, inequality in endowments (human and nonhuman) is characteristic of the real world”. Furthermore, in the real world, people also differed in their possessions of property and wealth and those differences had to be taken seriously in any process of institutional design.Buchanan (1975a, p. 17) argued that the opening words of the Declaration of Independ-ence had allowed confusion to enter our understanding of the kind of equality imagined by the Founders and that Jefferson should have written, “to their creator, all men are equal”, to describe more accurately the Founders’ vision of equality. A constitutional agreement must be founded on moral equality, but must also recognize the reality of personal and mate-rial inequalities. Buchanan’s constitutional political economy required recognition of both natural equality and natural inequality (Levy and Peart 2018).Buchanan and the Founders derived very different understandings of rights from their similar conceptions of moral equality. The Declaration of Independence was a classic statement of natural rights—the belief that people possess basic human rights qua people, irrespective of whether other people or institutions recognize those rights. That conclu-sion reflects the views of the key Enlightenment thinkers who inspired the revolutionaries, notably Locke (1689), who articulated influential arguments in favor of natural rights. By contrast, Buchanan (1975a) and Brennan and Buchanan (1985, Chapter 2), rejected natural rights because their existence would imply a source of values external to individual men and women. For Buchanan (1977a, b, p. 244), “the basic Kantian notion that individual human beings are the ultimate ethical units, that persons are to be treated strictly as ends and never as means”, meant “that there are no transcendental, suprapersonal norms” —such as universal human rights. Accordingly, rights existed only when people agreed to assign rights to one another and mutually to respect those rights. The mutual assignment of rights was the process by which people left the state of nature and entered political society (Buchanan 1975a, Chapter 4; Meadowcroft 2011, pp. 50–51).While Buchanan (1971, 1975a, Chapter 1, 1979a) rejected the idea that individuals were human putty who could be moulded into perfect beings by a benevolent ruler, he 394Public Choice (2020) 183:389–4031 3nevertheless contended that the desire for self-improvement, even self-transformation, was a defining human characteristic. It was this ability to conceive the possibility that one could live a different life that drove purposeful economic and political behavior. Buchanan’s (1979a, p. 259; emphasis in original) project was driven by the idea that, “Man wants lib-erty to become the man he wants to become”. Liberty was the freedom to imagine and ulti-mately pursue different, possible alternative lives. Political and economic theories assum-ing that individual preferences were given and fixed and could be captured accurately by external agents were inimical to liberty and the ideals of self-governance and self-transfor-mation (Buchanan 1979a).Buchanan’s constitutional political economy reflected his belief that people sought to create rules to enable the pursuit of their personal, and potentially transformative, conceptions of the good life. Constitutional order freed individuals from ends imposed by others. Like the American Founders, Buchanan believed that a constitution could unleash people’s dynamic potential to change themselves and their world.

The Passing of Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh died the other day. He was excoriated by the liberal press and revered by the conservative press.

Some say he defined the modern Republican Party with his views about women (Feminazis), Gays, liberals, female sexual freedom, and the dirty, sinful, socialism of the Democrats versus the shining Republicans on the hill. You know them, the ones who live Christian lives as examples for the rest of us to follow.

Rush Limbaugh was at the crest of societal change in America and he didn’t like any part of it. He told millions of viewers every day , in mocking self-righteous tones, of the hypocrisy between what liberals and Democrats say and what they do. The disaffected and suspicious-of-change Conservatives listened to his radio program every day to hear more examples of outrageous behaviors on the part of liberals who believed in improving humanity through others but not through themselves.

He was funny and he poked the bear with outrageous quotes and comparisons.

But something changed in Rush Limbaugh in the early 2000’s. He was no longer funny. He became mean. I don’t know if he realized he was losing his war on the culture changes in America or if he started to throw himself into propaganda for ratings and money.But change he did. He became the voice of right-wing ideology, obtained a following, and fueled partisan politics in ways no one had previously had done.

Connecting the dots between conservatives who lived by self-actuating,nuclear family, individual rights and biblical memes, with a solid Republican, fiscally responsible, minimal government, and political perspective, Rush Limbaugh developed a cult. He fed the cult and the cult echo-chamber replied.

Becoming more mean, Rush began to denigrate people by name rather than by poking fun at their ideology. He created a monster that hides under YOUR bed or in the dark corners ready to take YOUR soul if you let it. He taught people to fear Hilary because she was a feminazi, fear Obama because he was angry and black, fear gays because they want you to accept their biblical perversions, and fear sexual freedom for the collapse of shameful behaviors in Society. This is who Rush Limbaugh became for the past 15 years.

But now, Rush is dead. So,too, is the old society that Rush tried to salvage from the forge that was creating a new American mettle. The new American mettle? Women became competitors to men, even among truckdrivers, construction workers, bank CEOs, Wall Street financiers, scientists, plumbers, elcetricians, politicians, and engineers. Gays are competitors to straight men and are accepted in society without being considered biblically perverted. American blacks of both sexes are now competitors to white men and have broken more ceilings and become a larger part of society than ever in American history. And sexual freedom is found everywhere. Even among the gun-toting, single white female moms living in the Bible Belt working in sex chat rooms.

Rush Limbaugh found, identified, and held up for our inspection, the societal changes that were occurring around us. No longer isolated by two oceans, America was becoming part of the global community whether Rush Limbaugh wanted it or not. And now, America has changed and it knows it has changed. It cannot return to the paternalistic People of The Book Christian ideology that it once exemplified.

The death of Rush Limbaugh, the expulsion of Donald Trump, and the new American mettle, each heralds a greater American future.

I mourn the loss of my enemy. I mourn the passing of my past. The King is dead. Long live the king.

“It’s all about the Base…”

Here are my early take-a-ways on impeachment proceedings:

I watched a little of the trial at lunch and the Republicans are following the same strategies they always do:

1) Can we show that Democrats are hypocrites? Say one thing and do another? If so, then people in glass houses should not throw stones and no one should listen to the Democrats.

2) Can we show that Democrats do the same as us? Then our Republican Strategy is “What about-ism?”  “Why didn’t Democrats do this to their people? If they didn’t, then this is just political theater.”

3) “We will just deny, deny, deny that Republicans did this and that Democrats cheated and made this up.”

Those are the three approaches the Republicans use and they are very good at it.  It gins up their base and undermines any argument that Democrats believe in equality for Republicans.

The Democrats’ strategy is:

1) The Appalled Offense: make it sound worse than it really was and express a sense of how appalled everyone is.

2) Craft a long litany of Republican behaviors to show this has been going on a long time and nobody held Republicans accountable until now.

3) Craft a story of approaching doom if nothing is done to curb the Republican problem in front of everyone’s nose.

The Dems are just as good by getting their base to shake their heads and cluck their tongue about Republican behavior that will never, ever be held accountable.

Did you see anything that I missed?

Applying the same standards

Tongue-in-cheek:

If people have the ability to simply declare the gender they identify with, shouldn’t that same standard of self-declaration be applied to former Presidents?

If Donald Trump identifies himself as having won the election, shouldn’t the Democrats label him as such? In this way, the impeachment AND the trial are required by the Constitution and, if convicted, Trump can be removed from office by ordinary means.

If Trump is not convicted, then the Republican Party has to tell him the truth that he really isn’t President anymore.

This is a very appealing idea.

What now?

Now that everyone has had their thirty-days of emotional response to:

(Choose one or more)

a) police brutality

b) the Confederacy that was defeated 150 years ago

c) slavery that was legal and existed in America from 1492 until Juneteenth 1865

d) the lack of government tools to deal with public mental health

e) wearing face masks

f) monument and property destruction

f) all of the above

..perhaps we can go back to being adults again. Hopefully, better adults this time around.

Politicians and social leaders took up the causes of protesters AND tolerated the protest misbehaviors for the most part. While plenty of people decried the violence, the protesters who respected the laws (and the traditional American convention of social protest) were not tarred and feathered with the Anarchists.

Even the rantings of the President of the United States to gin up an authoritarian response were ignored by local politicians. Thank God.

So here we are cleaning up the destruction of property, the leavings of human garbage, the bruising of community relationships, and the re-examination of law-and-order in our political infrastructure.

What happens next?

Will we change our meme as a nation?

Will the restraint demonstrated by local authorities continue?

Will battle lines be re-drawn?

Will we finally defeat our past?

One image, many interpretations

The President sees the looting and mob actions.

The Media see the abuse of the innocent by the Authorities.

The Democrats see the outcome of rich versus poor politics.

The Republicans see the outcome of poor choices made by individuals.

The Communists see an opportunity to de-stabilize Americans from their government.

The Fascists see an opportunity to demonstrate the Force of Law.

The Antifa see an opportunity to rebel against Authority.

Law Enforcement sees civil disobedience.

The emotionally sensitive see the pain of others.

The emotionally insensitive see the weakness of others.

And what about you? What do you see?

Trump Lies, McConnell Fies

It’s barely noteworthy.  This President lies.

Today he implied that Joe Scarborough killed a 28-year-old intern. Which Republicans will condemn him for this false accusation? None.

Mitch McConnell is far too busy telling former President Obama to stop criticizing President Trump for his mistakes. You remember Majority Leader Mitch right? The one that saved President Trump from impeachment? Of course, you do. He is the one that prevented the Senate from hearing testimony from people who work for Trump. McConnell worships President Trump.

Watching President Trump fumble his way through these COVID press conferences is nauseating. Watching journalists treat the President of the United States with contempt is disgusting.

It makes you want a new Congress, a new President, and a new set of good behaviors.  The two corporations that run the American government could use some free market politics right about now. Do you remember the idea behind free markets?  If there are enough competitors in the market place, the quality will be high and the cost will be low. That is what Free Trade is all about…letting the buyer choose among several alternatives produces the highest quality and the lowest cost. Free Politics is about reducing the barriers that prevent a new political party from rising.

Maybe we should create Equal Opportunity policies for federal elections to encourage the advancement and development of political parties in America. Free Party Politics sounds like a winner to me.