Thursday, May 15, 2014
Sunday, September 04, 2011
I just finished re-reading Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” I don’t want to critique the book, but I do want to share some thoughts I have as a result of reading it.
The basic idea of the book, as I interpret it, goes something like this: The blue collar working class of America consistently votes against its own economic interests by voting for Republican politicians who promote legislation that empowers corporations to decrease wages, outsource, and monopolize small businessmen out of business because those Republican politicians focus their campaigns on morality issues near and dear to the blue collar working class’s hearts. They promise to end abortion, stop gay marriage, and thwart any attempt to remove God from modern day society, but once they get into office, they don’t do any of these things; instead focusing on helping out the groups and companies who funded their campaigns in the first place. These “Conservative Republicans” vilify the “liberal elite” and convince blue collar America that they are to blame for the demoralization of America, and pit people against people in age old unwinnable arguments.
There are five main groups that Frank highlights – The Conservative Republicans, the Moderate Republicans, the Democrats, the crackpots, and the Liberal Media.
The Conservative Republicans are Frank’s bad guys. They are the two-faced snake oil salesmen; promising to bring morality back to the country while stealing money out of the working man’s pockets.
The Moderate Republicans are held mostly blameless, other than their failure to stand up against the Conservative Republicans for fear of being called traitors to the party and thus lose the favor of the voters. They are the ones who truly want to see the free market work as it was supposed to, and the ones who want to do what the Republican Party was established to do; minimize government control. This is in contrast to the Conservative Republicans, who actually want to bend the government’s control in favor of big business.
The Democrats are blamed for their abandoning of the American people in favor of corporate America; pandering to business interest in an effort to get into office.
Frank doesn’t specifically talk about the crackpots as a group, but instead highlights many of the extreme religious and moral players in the game; who are exploited by the Conservative Republicans to gain voters. They give them a voice to orate on the evils of the liberals, and are standing beside them to encourage their audience to vote Republican.
The Liberal Media, or Hollywood, presents an easy target. The Conservative Republicans refer to the things presented in films, TV, music, and print as though they represent the views of your average liberal American. This is a false representation, because Hollywood does not serve the liberals; it serves the bottom dollar, and presents whatever will sell.
This is the basic theme the book presents; a world where Democrats and Moderate Conservatives have become virtually identical, and a political system where the campaigns and platforms bear no resemblance to the actual motives and agendas of the politicians who present them.
When thinking about the current political structure in our country, I am tempted to throw my hands up and say, “The system is so corrupted that there is no reason to even try and come up with an explanation of why or to look for solutions.” But it seems to me a worthwhile thing to attempt nonetheless. So here goes.
I am first brought to the question of what government is truly supposed to do for we the average Americans. Let’s play the definition game.
Wikipedia (which I am unashamed to cite whenever it suits me) says government “refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized. Government is the means by which state policy is enforced, as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state.” Notice it says nothing about what these policies are supposed to cover. If you go to look at the full page, you will see that it does not specify what the nature of laws are supposed to be.
Merriam-Webster has quite a few definitions for government:
- the act or process of governing; specifically: authoritative direction or control
- obsolete: moral conduct or behavior : discretion
- the office, authority, or function of governing
- obsolete: the term during which a governing official holds office
- the continuous exercise of authority over and the performance of functions for a political unit : rule
- the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usually classified according to the distribution of power within it b: the complex of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out
- the body of persons that constitutes the governing authority of a political unit or organization: as a: the officials comprising the governing body of a political unit and constituting the organization as an active agency
- capitalized: the executive branch of the United States federal government
- capitalized: a small group of persons holding simultaneously the principal political executive offices of a nation or other political unit and being responsible for the direction and supervision of public affairs: (1): such a group in a parliamentary system constituted by the cabinet or by the ministry (2): administration 4b
Notice definition #2, considered obsolete. It is the only place so far where “moral conduct” is mentioned.
Let’s try “law.”
Wikipedia (numbering added by me):
“Law is a system of rules and guidelines, usually enforced through a set of institutions.
- Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on derivatives markets.
- Property law defines rights and obligations related to the transfer and title of personal and real property.
- Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security, while
- tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's rights or property are harmed.
- If the harm is criminalized in legislation or case law, criminal law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator.
- Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives.
- Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies, while
- international law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military action.
“Legal systems elaborate rights and responsibilities in a variety of ways. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, which codify their laws, and common law systems, where judge made law is not consolidated. In some countries, religion informs the law. Law provides a rich source of scholarly inquiry, into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis or sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice.”
In the highlighted sentence above, we see the first reference to religion. Although I am at a loss as for what that exactly means. How does religion “inform” the law?
- “a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority
- the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules
- common law: the body of law developed in England primarily from judicial decisions based on custom and precedent, unwritten in statute or code, and constituting the basis of the English legal system and of the system in all of the United States except Louisiana
- the control brought about by the existence or enforcement of such law
- the action of laws considered as a means of redressing wrongs; also: litigation
- the agency of or an agent of established law
- a rule or order that it is advisable or obligatory to observe
- something compatible with or enforceable by established law
- control, authority
- often capitalized: the revelation of the will of God set forth in the Old Testament
- capitalized: the first part of the Jewish scriptures : pentateuch, torah
- a rule of construction or procedure <the laws of poetry>
- the whole body of laws relating to one subject
- the legal profession
- law as a department of knowledge : jurisprudence
- legal knowledge
- a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions
- a general relation proved or assumed to hold between mathematical or logical expressions”
In this list of definitions, we seem to find three main kinds of law:
- Laws enforced by government
- Religious Law
- Scientific Law
So, what’s the difference between the three? What kinds of things is it appropriate for the government to govern? What kinds of laws are the jurisdiction of the government?
At the risk of oversimplifying, I think this is the very heart of the matter. What is the responsibility of the government, what is the responsibility of religion, and what is the responsibility of science?
In my next installment, I wish to discuss the separation of church and state. The question is this; can we separate what a governing body has authority over and what our religious leaders do? Is it possible to separate what God and what The Man have the right to dictate to us?
Monday, June 13, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Phrase Is:
“the most amazing video ever”
Umm… did someone change the meaning of the word “amazing” and not tell me?
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
- Are we really so stupid that we have to be told that a page doesn’t have anything on it? Or is it the paranoia factor? Is this statement designed to comfort those of us who will fear a printer glitch or an electronic hiccup?
- You cannot print “This Page Intentionally Left Blank” without actually negating the statement. It is like printing “This sentence is not really printed here.” I fear that excessive use of this publishing convention may actually lead to a paradox that will untwist the very Twizzler of reality.
- In a society narcissisticly obsessed with “going green,” isn’t this a real step backwards? Might as well print, “So what if we totally just wasted a piece of paper? Suck it.” (And yeah, I did just make up the word “narcissisticly.” Start using it everywhere. I want to get it into Webster,s. Team Phronemophobia Go!)
- When I get around to writing another book, it will be entitled, “This Page Intentionally Left Blank.” Doesn’t matter what the book is about. That is what will be on the cover. In Times New Roman Eighteen Point, charcoal black on an ivory background. And my name penned in red in my handwriting below it. I am starting a new trend where I create the book jacket first, then decide what the binding will look like, what page layout will be used internally, how many drafts it should go through before completion, what electronic media will be used to type and store it, the final first draft, the character maps and notes, the treatment, the outline, the brainstorming sessions, and then, finally, the actual subject of the book. I fully expect an international bestseller.