To protect the people and secure their rights

Liberty and Democracy are not opposing ideas. The political center is where all change is made. Let's embrace reason and civility.



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Secular Conservatism and the Modern Age


Anti-Greed, Anti-Trust, Anti-Life
These are the section headings from Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, a book with enormous influence over modern conservative thinking since the early 50s and the foundation of the "libertarian" movement.
Rand's objective was to present a "moral argument for capitalism" bereft of empathy or compassion. She advocated the "morality of greed", the morality of private monopoly, and that the only moral function of government is, not to protect life, but to protect property.
In spite of her focus on creating a "moral code", Rand was an atheist, which put her opposite of traditional Christian conservatives at the time. This is why I use the term "secular conservative" to describe the libertarian movement today.
Rand set up two very large strawmen as the cause of humanity's moral decay: collectivism, and altruism. She wrote extensively about returning to a gold standard, the aggregate effects of free market capitalism, and the implicit evils of democratic governance.
In my youth, I was mesmerized by this ideology, which offered me an "individualist" moral code. I realized early on, however, that her followers were very much a collective, that a "cult of individualism"" was an oxymoron, and that "enlightened self-interest" was an ineffective dodge for real feelings of empathy and compassion that I had toward others, especially friends and family.
Rand's contribution to our modern discourse is seen all around us. GOP Senators and Congressmen adore her. The Koch Brothers revere her and see themselves as the romantic heroes of her novels. Anarcho-capitalists don't believe that Rand was moral enough, that all government and citizenship, our Constitution, has no value to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Fact is that monopoly is bad. It is authoritarian. It relies on the compassion and empathy of the Aristocracy that Rand claimed was corrupted by altruism. In a word, it's just Calvinism updated for the industrial age.
Liberty and democracy are not opposing ideas. They are essential to each other, like two sides of the same (fiat) coin. The "golden age of capitalism" was the period from FDR through JFK, a period when we left the gold standard domestically and invested in public infrastructure and jobs.
Democratic capitalism is much better than the authoritarian, monopolistic capitalism that hails back to the dark ages, when religious conservatism ruled over Europe. We should return to demand-side federal deficits, and dispense with the supply-side deficit strategy of the past half-century.
Life is more than property. It is the whole reason for human society. A peaceful, growing industrial society requires a vibrant public infrastructure, which includes citizen benefits to pensions, medical insurance and education.

It took me a lifetime to figure this out. Hopefully those who read Ayn Rand don't take as long as I did.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Age of Democracy

The "Golden Age of Capitalism", born in the Great Depression and ending with the Reagan Revolution, is often referred to as "an excess of democracy", a period where the rights of American citizens expanded and the nation prospered.

Allied victory in World War 2 spread democracies throughout the world. The golden age of capitalism was also the age of world democracy. The United Nations was formed by international treaty as a world senate, establishing a confederacy of independent nations committed to world peace and human rights.

As a nation, we are no longer in that golden age, and haven't been since the early 1970s. The 60s rebellion had been diffused, and a new age of Monetarism, rooted to Austrian economics (and legacy), emerged. It's populist face is anti-democracy, authoritarian,  led by the same sentiment that caused the US to reject the League of Nations and  the deep, ideological hatred we see toward the UN.

This monetarist regime has led to a situation that causes us to question what is meant by "moral hazard". Our nation is hit by cyclical recessions that contract the economy and pump wealth to the top. Bank deregulation has put us all at great risk, and as responsible citizens I think we should do something about it.

The 70s was also the beginning of the end for truly civil society. Civic groups were common, and formed the basis for all politics. The days of FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK and LBJ were stopped, and a new order came to rule US fiscal policy.

As the floating exchange rate was imposed by the "Nixon shock" for international settlements between central banks (basically a market for competing currencies, called the "fx market"), federal deficits were poured into the economy on the supply side, using upper-end tax cuts and direct subsidies to the financial sector.

Enormous deficits were incurred under GOP presidencies from Reagan onward, followed by periods of austerity (deficit reduction) under DP presidencies from Carter to the present. Wage-productivity has flatlined throughout, marking the passing of our golden age when public infrastructure was a national priority.

The age of monetarism is also the age of privatization. This is supported ideologically by both the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics.  The libertarian movement, in all its forms, has advocated for the privatization of basically everything.  

It's a bad idea.  There is nothing to prevent this "aristocracy of greed", as Ayn Rand called it, from consuming our entire democracy, and the world.

Yet that is precisely the direction humanity is heading now-- the private, corporate state.  America had it's golden age, and it's been downhill ever since. Time for some new perspective, maybe look at this democracy thing again, rather than surrendering to another dark age.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Suburban Democracy

I'd like to coin a phrase here: Suburban Democracy

A lot of focus in what I want to do is designed around public relations in local communities. The "suburban paradise system", as I used to call it, was effectively the American Dream, the post-war promise of the New Deal.

Eventually we were supposed to all have houses and jobs, just like in FDR's Second Bill of Rights. And yes, we were promised hover cars.

The civil rights movement was supported by suburban communities who believed in American democracy.  Progressives campaigned publicly, house to house, supporting candidates who supported civil rights, and even supported directly with time and money.

In the suburbia of the 70s, there were still ethnic gangs, but there was a general peace with little violence. We had county patrolmen that served more as ambassadors of government and were respected by the community.

You could pass literature door to door, easily move house to house to canvass for your organization or candidate. There was no fear of violence. If democracy means "votes, not bullets", that's how politics was in 70s suburbia.

Whatever I do in the future, I will rely on this model of democracy, this approach to political recruitment.

Reasonable, centralist policy of course. People don't want riots and revolution, they just want a better life. If anything is our "right" as citizens, it's the American dream.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Democracy and the Competitive Economy


Federal debt got you down?

Simply allow the USG to overdraft its account at the Fed, and stop selling securities on the open market.  No more federal "debt".

You're welcome
---
Conservative leaders are more than willing to deficit spend "at the top". Reagan, Bush, they all incurred massive deficits in the name of war.. They just don't want the benefits to help you in any way whatsoever, because frankly they could care less about your problems.

It's the basis of Monetarism, a policy built on private debt and treasury bills. We've been working under that policy for 40 years. Think that might have something to do with all the economics graphs of that period?

Deficit spending at the bottom is high velocity money that filters upwards through a competitive economy. Yes, eventually to the "top", but at the same time providing upward mobility and the benefits of real competition.

The last thing these "job creators" want is competition. Stop paying interest on money that just sits there, stop taxing poor people, and guarantee pensions, medical insurance and education for every citizen.


That would be a competitive economy.

That's the promise of American democracy, the one we were promised in WW2. This sustained effort to privatize everything and end democracy has to stop. If we lose our democracy, we lose our liberty as well

Monday, January 13, 2014

Single Payer is Good for Business

The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") attempts to provide universal health insurance through the private insurance industry, subsidizing premiums where necessary to cover as many people as possible with "affordable" private insurance. A much better plan called "single payer" wasn't even discussed when the health care debate began in 2009, the President himself declaring that single payer was "off the table".

Single payer simply means that the Federal government provides basic health insurance to all citizens. Another term for single payer is "medicare for all", easily enacted into law by changing the age of eligibility from 65 years of age to zero. Payroll taxes are completely unnecessary to fund it, just as health insurance premiums themselves would be unnecessary for most citizens under a single payer system.

The direct benefit of single payer is obvious, but the advantages to the private economy aren't as well understood. The fact is that single payer is good for business, good for everybody, and it's an easy solution to settle this health care issue once and for all.

Consider the advantages that a single payer system offers to the private, small- business environment:

First of all, health insurance would cease to be a factor in hiring and staffing decisions. You won't have to worry about what an employee's future health problems might cost the company, or what additional health insurance overhead might do to your labor costs when hiring new employees. They're already covered.

Second, other heavy insurance costs could be reduced or even eliminated. This includes the large portion of automotive insurance, general liability insurance in case somebody sues you for slipping on the sidewalk, workman's compensation insurance, and even product liability insurance, all of which would be greatly diminished or rendered unnecessary.

In effect, we can remove the burden of health care from business and workers alike under a single payer plan. America would go about its business without the fear of medical costs impacting their future. If you get hurt or contract an illness, you go to a doctor and you're covered. It's that simple.

And don't let people tell you that this is "socialized medicine". It's not. This plan relies completely on the private sector to provide medical services. Private insurance companies would remain to provide other types of insurance as well as vanity or supplemental health insurance to those who can afford it.

It's time to bring the single payer argument back into public debate. The idea has broad support from medical professionals, small businesses and the American public. Single payer is good for business and good for America. Let's get it done.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saving American Democracy through Congressional District Organization

VIDEO:  (in production)


This video isn't about policy, it's about how to achieve policy. In my last video, I ended by saying that "government isn't the problem, corruption is the problem". I still believe this. It is my contention that if you want to "get the money out of politics", then we should take the money out of OUR politics.

I am proposing a national, independent, bi-partisan organization that can compete successfully in the Congressional primary and general elections. This national membership would be organized into CDO's (congressional district organizations) focused on recruiting and supporting district candidates.

Candidates with similar platforms could compete in the primaries of both parties within one district. In the event that both candidates won their primaries, then the voters would have an honest decision to make about who is the best speaker for them on the House floor. If only one candidate wins, then inroads have already been made into the other party to help swing votes in the general election.

We will require a national charter, some virtual infrastructure, and a declaration of principles to get us started. What those documents say, and what this virtual interface accomplishes for us, needs to be agreed upon by everone. The charter needs to define and secure Rights for all its members, and the influence of money in OUR politics needs to be removed.

Why the US Congressional District though? Why not state legislatures or even local governments?

America is the most powerful nation in the world, and the US Congress represents our nation. We are a democracy. We believe that political competition should be done with votes and not bullets. And exerting influence in the US House of Representatives makes policy relevant not only to America but to the world.

Congressional districs are highly gerrymandered into Blue, Red and "battleground" districts based on voter affiliation. In many districts like mine, there's at least a 2:1 ratio of one party to another.

Incumbent candidates have millions already in their campaign treasuries, and access to many millions more in "outside money". People don't have money, but the do have spare time, and that's what needs to be mobilized.

Democracy is a call for public participation. Active members need to form an organization they can trust to secure their own interests as members. Rather than spend millions on broadcasting and advertising, we reach out to neighbors, businesses and the community and get them organized. That's the plan.

Congressional districts consist of less than a million souls with about 500k registered to vote. A general election will draw between 250k and 350k votes total, and are won on margins of less than 10% or about 10k households. Most voters aren't directly involved in politics, but they do support the democratic process by voting and they are interested in the results.

Candidates are generally chosen in Primary Elections for both parties. The rules are set. We play by the rules of the game. Talk about alternative voting theory is fine, but it's fantasy and not politics. And it is the Primary where all the real fighting takes place anyway, where corruption really takes effect. (eg. Tea Party)

A CDO should be able to mobilize 100 active members supported by 1000 nominal members. Think about what 100 active members of a CDO could accomplish in just 2-3 hours on a weekend:

     10k fliers distributed in 2 hours
     1k signs put out or retrieved
     1k verified petition signatures for ballot access collected in 2 hours
     100 minimum attendence at a district convention or field event
     100 new voters registered
         ...along with 1000 houses receiving a business card with the national URL
     10 area meetings held support of candidates for state and local office

"Will it be enough?" I think so, based on certain sociological principles I've picked up over the years.

First, there's the 10% principle that a population will adopt a new idea if it can be accepted past this 10% "tipping point". This is half of the 20% ratio that Chomsky referred to as the "political class", so it seems like a good number, say 50k votes.

We need half this number of votes to swing a primary election, and half again in the general election to cross party lines. We of course need to rely on our campaign effectiveness, and really only need 20% of these voters to be directly organized.

That's ten thousand voters. Organized in tiers of 10, that's 1000 nominal (national) members, 100 active district leaders, and 10 candidates and staff. And if we can do this in one district, we can do it in every district in the country.

Anyway, that's the outline of my political strategy. I'll do policy videos and stuff later.

Whatever policy we agree upon, hopefully we'll take action to achieve that policy-- to call for public participation as voters, members, leaders and candidates. We can bring the voice of Liberty and Democracy back to Congress, to our Nation, and to the world. Together, we can save America.

__

follow up article based on my previous blog post:
       
http://libertyamerica.blogspot.com/2011/10/occupy-your-precinct.html

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Third Party Option: Pros and Cons

There are practical reasons for either joining or rejecting the third party option as a venue for political action. Having been in a third party all my life, I can tell you that they cannot succeed in winning even one US Congressional district. It has nothing to do with the message. It's just an issue of simple math.

Following is a list I've made of Pros and Cons for your consideration:

PROS

  1. Third Parties are Platform Driven. The R/D platforms are irrelevant to major party candidates. Their platforms are a reflection of the deals each party has made to the many factions they represent. A third party uses its platform to recruit leaders and direct their candidates toward a common goal.

  2. Decentralized Authority. The by-laws and charters of Third Parties are usually designed to minimize central authority beyond a reverence for the platform. If outside investors "take" the party, they only get title and not the membership.

  3. Leadership Training. Running for office is good experience for local citizens, and a third party is fine for that.

  4. Ballot Positioning. In PA (and other states I'm sure), third parties are not part of the primary process and have their own rules for ballot access. This can be a major advantage for getting members elected and serving in local office. (Most third parties, however, have no focus at all on local government, rather toward national issues). The major parties will not cover all races with a candidate, allowing third parties to pick and choose their races after the primaries, and leading to 1:1 or even unopposed races.

CONS

  1. Ballot Access. This will consume the majority of the campaign season and resources. Each state has its own BA requirements. Pennsylvania is one of the more draconian states, and the R/D parties routinely challenge petitions, personally threatening the candidates with legal fees of over $150k. 50-state BA is nearly impossible.

  2. Media Access. Most newspapers will be nice to you and give you a write-up or even an editorial comment, but the press is motivated by advertising. National television will black out third party races and televised debates will generally not include you.

  3. Straight-party voting. Where voters can simply vote Party, as many as 30% of votes cast will go R/D leaving your candidate to pull 50% from the remaining 70%. This makes victory a mathematical improbability. I've seen one candidate get close in a 1:1 race with 44%, which was overwhelming support from the community, but the straight party vote was simply too large a hurdle.

  4. Limited Resources. A third party generally doesn't raise money from lobbies or civic groups, and has to rely on member donations. My US Congressman had 2 million in his war chest before the race even started, here in a district of a half-million souls. If 5000 people contributed $20, that would be incredible right? But that's only $100k, peanuts when it comes to media saturation campaigns.

  5. Resistant to Growth. As a third party is platform-driven, so an inner circle will develop to contain the platform and keep the party "pure" as it grows. The party seeks true believers and concentrates on internal education. Conventions usually degenerate over factionalism, and disgruntled activists will be disruptive. They demand a "controlled growth". I tried to remedy this in the LPPA with a brief statement of 10 principles that would have no public objection and would allow candidates to set their own personal platforms, but the old guard radicals went ape and we spent the next three years fighting instead of three years growing. Now the radicals control the party again, and it's dead here in PA.

  6. Vulnerable to Hostile Takeover. Every third party has a charter of by-laws defining what is necessary to take that party over. The old guard is able to keep the party from growing (big fish in little pond), but this is its weakness should a concerted effort be mounted to seize title of the party. Recruiting 50 people to attend a state convention as delegates is a small affair given adequate cash and time.

  7. Infiltration. This is another concern, and I'm not saying this to be paranoid, just to be practical. Operatives from the R/D leadership will look at your party the same as they look at non-political civic groups, and will establish a contact within your organization. I don't know that this is necessarily a "con", but it is something to consider.
So the third party option really comes down to what you expect to accomplish with your own efforts.  If your focus is on feeling good about a platform and having some friends to talk about it all day, then the third party is fine.  It's almost like collaborative science fiction writing, because there is zero possibility of you or your party ever influencing the US Congress.

If, on the other hand, you want to push our federal government in one direction or the other, then begin by "occupying your precinct" and focus on the Primary elections.  Find candidates you can support and help them build confidence in the community.  Yes, the R/D parties are corrupt to the core, but that doesn't mean YOU have to be, nor does it mean that your candidates have to be either.