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Crisis upon Crisis:

May 29th, 2017 // 4:01 pm @

Comey’s Firing, Trump and Russia, Hillary’s Emails, Obama and Surveillance, a Special Counsel,
Spying on Americans, etc., etc., etc…

WHAT WE REALLY NEED RIGHT NOW

If the newly appointed Special Counsel investigates only President Trump and collusion with Russia, or obstruction of justice with James Comey, and doesn’t investigate and find the facts about alleged impropriety with Clinton’s emails, possible illegal acts of the Clinton Foundation, alleged Obama surveillance of political opponents, unlawful unmasking, and illegal leaks from government employees, we’ll know without a doubt that the entire operation is an elite liberal witch hunt. If the Special Counsel only investigates the Clinton and Obama teams, in contrast, we’ll know it’s conservative McCarthyism.

This is the good news. Put bluntly: As these investigations proceed, we’ll know clearly if we have a fair and open government, or if our nation is truly controlled by a small group of elites. It’s that cut and dried.

Part I

Before we get to the bad news, however, let’s back up and see how we got to this point. In the current news about the Justice Department, special counsel investigations, interference from the White House in investigations, etc., one word keeps popping up: “constitutional.” In reality, this word is out of place in such conversations. Of course the White House, Justice Department and other government entities should work within the Constitution. But for most Americans, especially those who have actually read the U.S. Constitution, how all this fits into the seven Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Preamble, Amendments or checks and balances is pretty fuzzy.

Talking heads tell us that one leader (Trump) isn’t following the Constitution, while other pundits say the other party was the problem (Obama, Clinton, etc.). Anyone who consults the Constitution will find that it doesn’t contain the answer. Why? Because when most experts use the word “constitutional” while discussing these topics, they mean something different than following the Constitution as written.

This cuts to the heart of one our biggest modern challenges. There are two main meanings of the word “Constitutional.” On the one hand, “constitutional” means “as contained and outlined in the words of the Constitution.” This is what the American Framers and Founders meant by “constitutional.” The second meaning is more complex, and includes numerous decisions, commentaries and traditions from the Supreme Court, cases and interpretations from various lower courts, and even certain historical (before 1787) and international court decisions, writings, and traditions (before and since 1787). In this second definition, the regular citizen is left at the mercy of experts to know the truth—and the experts frequently disagree with each other on specifics and details.

Put simply, there are two competing traditions of what is “constitutional” versus “unconstitutional.” For the Framers, there were two ultimate categories of manmade law: Constitutional Law (rules written and ratified by the people telling a government what it can and cannot do; found in a constitution), and Governmental Law (rules established by a government telling the people what they cannot do). This is the first definition of Constitutional Law, what could easily be called the American Model of Law.

Another tradition, the Roman Model of Law, later known as Continental Law (the continent in question was Europe through most of the middle ages), held that constitutional law is whatever the government says—to the people, to itself or its branches and parts, and to anyone else. W. Cleon Skousen called this Ruler’s Law. In modern America, this second approach sees “Constitutional Law” as something determined by the Court, something everyone else is bound to follow—even when the Court differs with the actual words of the Constitution itself.

In the American Founding view of constitutions, the people created a Constitution as an ultimate check on government. This was a great power designed to keep the people free from rule by any dominant group of elites. According to the second, revisionist view, in contrast, the courts are supreme above the people, the government, and the document itself, though in the case of the document, the Court’s supremacy consists of the self-proclaimed power to tell everyone else what the document actually means. Thus the American Framers gave us a federal government with three branches and gave the people the power to read the Constitution and hold the government to the document’s specific words, while today’s legal theory is that the Court has the authority to read the Constitution, interpret it at will, and keep the other branches of government and the people in check. This is a very negative shift.

Most Americans today have been taught, bought into, or at least acquiesce to the second view. This constitutes perhaps the biggest threat the United States has ever faced to the original intent of the Framers and the future freedoms of the American people.

Let’s apply this directly to current events. When told that certain actions of, for example, the Justice Department are constitutional, or unconstitutional, a person from the Founding Fathers viewpoint would immediately want to ask: “Which part of the Constitution is the Department of Justice following? Or not following? Is it Article I? Article II? Article III? Which clause?”

In truth, the Justice Department is operating under the famous Article VIII of the U.S. Constitution. Go read the Constitution, and when you get to Article VIII, you’ll see what I mean.

Specifically: there is no Article VIII in the U.S. Constitution. The sad reality is that much of what the federal government now does comes under these same Article VIII powers—never written in the Constitution, never ratified by the people, never part of the document, but still very much a part of our government. To be clear: most of these things are by definition unconstitutional. But the Court calls them constitutional, so they are part of our system.

Part II

One of the biggest problems with this arrangement is that the Framers established the Constitution (and the people and states discussed, debated, and ratified it) based on a widely understood theory of government. This pattern or design is still occasionally taught in our schools, and if pressed many people still understand it. It goes something like this:

  • The Constitution establishes a federal government with three separate branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.
  • There are checks and balances between the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the federal government, and between the states and federal government. These checks and balances were designed to keep any level or branch of government from abusing its power or doing anything not explicitly allowed by the Constitution.
  • There are also private institutions in society, such as families, churches, businesses, schools, media organizations, etc.—they operate freely, as long as they don’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone in the society. Such private institutions do not have the power of force to arrest, imprison, kill or punish people. Only the government has such powers, given to it by the people; but no single branch of government has such powers on its own—it must receive the cooperation of other branches in order to imprison or punish its citizens.

This is all clearly outlined by the Framers. But what happens when a government entity doesn’t work for any one branch of the government? When it has two masters? Or perhaps just operates with its own agendas in mind? When this happens, the whole Constitutional arrangement breaks down—or, at the very least, is weakened.

Specifically, consider this question: Is the Justice Department part of the Executive Branch? Originally, this was the case. When the DOJ was established in 1870 (during the Ulysses S. Grant Administration), its main purpose was to expand the ability of the White House to prosecute the many cases it found itself dealing with in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Court couldn’t investigate or prosecute such cases—it had to remain impartial in order to adjudicate.

Before the Civil War, most cases were prosecuted within states. Only cases between states, or where one of the states was a party to the case, or dealing with issues on the high seas or international jurisdictions, needed the Supreme Court, along with certain cases that directly affected multiple states. These were manageable by the Court.

After the Civil War, however, the Court found itself dealing with numerous cases where no state courts were in operation—indeed where a number of state governments were defunct or even considered themselves foreign entities. The DOJ was wisely created to fill the void.

Even when all the states were back to full operation, many in Washington understandably felt little trust for state courts in the South, and over time the scope and size of the Justice Department grew. In the original act that created the Justice Department, it was called “an executive department” of the executive branch—meant to relieve the White House of domestic law enforcement. In all this, the DOJ was understood to operate as a part of the Executive, to be overseen by the President, appointed by the President (with Congressional approval), and removable by the President. In other words, it was an Article II agency of government, governed by Article II—meaning, by the President.

Today, the approach is different. The currently accepted perspective is that while all other members of the President’s Cabinet and ambassadors serve as advisors to the President, and entirely at the President’s pleasure, the Attorney General is a special case. This applies also to U.S. Attorneys and top officials at the FBI; they are selected by the President (many with Congressional approval) and he may remove them at will. But they are expected to have dual loyalty: to the President, and also to the Law.

This creates “two masters,” as a Duke Law article put the issue using Biblical terms. Top DOJ officials are, in the current tradition, supposed to represent the President and also the Law, and if the two ever diverge, they must stand for the Law. This is by nature very complex. First, the Law isn’t a person, so the DOJ official or Special Counsel is left to determine his/her own view of how the Law applies in a given case. This is literally a power over facts and how they are interpreted and applied—something the Framers only gave the Court and juries the authority to decide. Second, the Framers considered it a breach of the entire “separation of powers with checks and balances” system to allow a direct inferior the power to investigate and/or charge a direct superior. Naturally, this could encourage an ambitious official to get rid of a boss and personally benefit from the action.

Third, the complexity is increased by the fact that in many cases it is up to the individual official to determine when a divergence occurs. Where one official doesn’t see a problem, another might. Or, if a problem arises, investigators who look into the situation at a later date may determine that the official should have seen and acted upon a divergence—even though the individual didn’t think so at the time. Or vice versa.

In other words, in contrast with all the other separations of powers and checks and balances outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the separations, checks and balances on top DOJ and FBI officials when investigating the White House, and top officials at the White House when interacting with such officials, is full of innuendo and complexity. When a Special Counsel is appointed and given the power of a U.S. Attorney, this moves to yet another level of complexity. The Special Counsel and the White House are supposed to apply special rules, and the Special Counsel must do so while simultaneously investigating and judging how others who were supposed to follow special complex rules did—even though different people in the relationships frequently understood things differently.

In short, it’s a mess, giving huge power to the discretion of unelected officials. This doesn’t follow the otherwise clear lines of separate powers, checks and balances that characterize the Constitution. To be clear, the mess arises from attempting to make a President’s advisors investigate and decide whether or not to legally charge their boss. This amounts to exactly what it is: a “band aid” on the original Constitution. Moreover, this model was never ratified by the people through Amendment. Some experts consider it part of the Constitution, but it simply isn’t. The Constitution is what it is. These rules are something else. Some good, some bad—but not actually part of the U.S. Constitution, except by mental construct. Some experts call it “constitutional,” others don’t. The Constitution itself says nothing on the topic, except that members of the Executive Branch work for the President via Article II.

The solution to this confusing and sloppy band aid that was patched onto the Constitution is simple: Let the states handle most of the legal issues in the nation and reduce what has become largely extra-constitutional federal involvement in litigating things Washington should leave alone. Moreover, have the Attorney General and anyone else working at the DOJ report directly to the President, just like any other Cabinet Secretary and all other Executive Branch employees. If a case arises where the President is the subject of investigation, Congress must run the investigation. That’s why the Framers put the entire impeachment process in the Constitution. Only another branch of government can correctly check the Commander in Chief. This was the Framers’ view of the Constitutional separation of powers.

Of course, this is not what is currently happening. But before we throw our hands in the air and give up, accepting that “Washington will be Washington,” and “that’s just politics,” or “what a mess our government is,” it is important to acknowledge that there is a better way. The American Framers understood it. Specifically: It is an inherent Constitutional conflict of interest for the President’s employees to have the duty to investigate him/her.

Such a check and balance is vitally important, and it is, according to the Constitution, the job of Congress. Again: The Framers gave us three branches of the federal government, with separations, checks and balances. Not three branches plus an Attorney General that sometimes works for the Commander in Chief and other times for the Law; and other times, when things gets hard, delegates to a Special Counsel.

We need to get back to the Constitution. Three branches. That’s freedom 101. And no matter what your political view, we should all see this alike: following the Constitution is the right approach. Anything else is inferior at best. If we decide as a nation that we need a non-Congressional way to carry out investigations of the president, there is a Constitutional way to approach this: by amendment. Anything else is a piecemeal end-run around the Constitution. In other words, it’s unconstitutional—meaning that it’s not what the Constitution says or what the Framers intended. This is true no matter what the Court says or allows. The people, the Founding Fathers clearly taught, are the final guardians of the Constitution. No government entity (including the Court) can usurp this role—not if we expect to maintain our freedom.

Part III

Although many of the investigations today are occurring in an unconstitutional manner with little hope for real change any time soon, there is still the chance of a good outcome. Here it is: If the Special Counsel does a truly honest and fair investigation he could still get things right. As far as I can see, there is only one way to do this. If such an investigation is necessary, then simply investigate the entire thing, impartially and thoroughly:

  • Russian interference in the campaign, if any
  • Trump collusion with Russia during or after the campaign, if any
  • Hillary’s emails and whether or not they broke national security laws
  • Obama Administration surveillance of the Trump campaign and any other political opponents (e.g. Rand Paul, etc.), if any
  • Improper unmasking of Americans by Obama officials, if any
  • Clinton Foundation impropriety with Russia or with anyone else, if any
  • Clinton Foundation “pay to play” incidents, if any
  • Improper influencing of the election by both sides, if any
  • Trump obstruction of justice in the investigations, if any
  • Obama Administration obstruction of justice in Hillary email investigations, if any
  • Illegal leaks from government officials
  • Illegal government spying on Americans (including big data) under Obama and also Trump, if any

Get to the truth, on all of it. Tell the American people what really happened.  And openly share the evidence so we know what actually occurred. If this is what happens, citizens can weigh the evidence and decide how to be good voters and take our nation in the right direction.

But the danger is very real. If this is all about a few elites getting Donald Trump out of office, or weakening his presidency, because they don’t think the voters made the right choice, then the Special Counsel will hurt the election process much more than Russia could or did. The only solution is that the American people must be let in on the whole truth. Don’t leave this to experts behind closed doors.

And, emphatically, don’t use “national security” as an excuse to keep American voters in the dark on anything related to this. Just tell us the truth. Having our decisions made for us behind closed doors by a few elite experts is much more dangerous to our nation and our security than openly sharing whatever “national security” truths are part of the story. Much more dangerous.

This bears repeating. Do a full investigation—of both sides, and of everyone involved. The Clintons, Obama, Trump, etc. And tell us openly and entirely what happened.

Anything less is either a government cover-up or a one-sided witch-hunt, or both.

By the time this investigation ends, those who watch this closely and carefully will know the clear truth about one thing: whether or not this is a government “by, for, and of” the people, or a government “by, for, and of” a few elites who quietly rule from behind the scenes.

Again: Investigate it all, on both sides, and tell the American electorate everything—transparently showing us all the evidence. No hidden agendas, no secretive backroom deals, no elite Establishment privileges to anyone—even if they are named Clinton, Obama, Trump, etc. Above all: no choosing to investigate and tear down one side while giving the other a free pass. Investigate it all, and openly show us what happened.

If the Special Counsel does this impartially and honestly, the American people can assess where we are, warts and all, and lead the nation where it needs to go. If the Special Counsel doesn’t do this genuinely, openly, honestly, and on both sides of the political aisle, we’re going to know, clearly and without equivocation, that we’ve lost our nation to a few powerful elites who control things regardless of what the voters choose.

Finally, just because there is a Special Counsel doesn’t remove Congress’ responsibility to do this right. Ultimately, the Congress must fulfill its Constitutionally mandated job and investigate this all. It can’t rely on a Special Counsel without shirking its own Constitutional duty. And it must decide what is right in this matter and take action—regardless of what the Special Counsel does or says, even if the truth ends up flying in the face of Special Counsel actions. The Framers gave this duty to Congress.

If there is one thing we desperately need right now in the United States, it is for Congress to get serious and active about fulfilling its Constitutional duties—not kowtowing to the media, executive agencies or bureaucracies, special interests, or anyone else. This is especially true of the majority party in Congress.

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How to Get the Real News

April 27th, 2017 // 8:39 am @

“Wait!” she said. “Where did you hear that? That’s the opposite of what the news is telling people.”

“Of course it is. I didn’t get this from the news. Or social media.”

Long pause…

“Where did you get it?”

Part I: Conclusion

For many years I’ve recommended that people get their news in a special way: read 2-3 liberal publications, and also 2-3 conservative ones. Pay close attention, and note how both sides spin things. Watch for their assumptions and media agendas. Think about what you read, and draw your own conclusions.

But in the Trump era, it’s no longer this simple. The media has become so biased, so angrily bent on waging war against the current Administration, that even the conservative press frequently joins the mainstream media in its attacks—or in fighting them.

Objectivity in media reports is almost extinct. Manipulative spin is now the one constant in our national–and much of the local–media.

So, where should today’s concerned citizen get the news? The answer to this question is enlightening. In the new era of media—what could arguably be called the post-journalistic era—it’s not just about where you get the news. It’s more about how you read the news. Those who read it the right way will learn what’s really going on. Those who don’t, won’t….

Part II: Example

I open the magazine and read the first article. It’s a liberal magazine, and, like always, I’m enjoying it. Reading what people who disagree with me have to say about the current state of the world is invigorating.

When I was younger, it sometimes made me angry. A decade later it made me want to argue. Nowadays, I find myself laughing a lot. Or, once in a while, surprised by a new idea that deserves serious consideration.

For example, the first magazine I read begins with a long editorial about how the economy is “on the rise.” Markets are getting more good news than they have since 2008, and not the “media-spin economic upturn news” that Washington loved during the Obama years, but that always turned out to be false. This time it’s about a real upturn it seems.

Still, the editorial warns, the danger is that people are going to think that things like Brexit and actions of the Trump Administration are responsible for the good economic news. These are all coincidences, apparently, according to the article. Any intelligent person, the magazine seems to be communicating, will clearly realize that there is little or no correlation between Obama/European Union policies and the economic malaise that accompanied them, and the a significant economic upsurge following Brexit/Trump.

My grin turns to laughter. Are they serious? No correlation? Funny. Ironic, but humorous. The same magazine issue has the following question on the front cover: “Is the pope Catholic?” Note that the word “pope” isn’t capitalized. The article takes this question seriously—analyzing the ways the current Pope is rehashing many ideas long considered sacrosanct at the Vatican. This part isn’t funny. Interesting, and important. But I’m pondering, not laughing.

Another article proclaims: “From deprivation to daffodils… All around the world, the economy is picking up.” The cause of this, we are assured once again, has nothing to do with Brexit or conservative policies. In fact, we’re told, these things caused “jitters” and kept the economy from improving sooner.

In the same magazine, we are warned about populist uprisings from the Netherlands, Mexico, and Scotland—all part of a “dangerous” trend. (In fairness, if you favor the elite classes and a system that benefits elites above all others, it actually is a dangerous trend.)

I finish this magazine and pick up the next one. Its purpose, apparently, is to find clever and original ways to criticize Donald Trump and anyone who didn’t happily vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. A very popular hobby these days.

But this publication does it in such cerebral language that it’s really fun to read—as if reading it, just soaking it all in, must mean you are one of the smart people, the enlightened, the few, the wise. I do enjoy the creative, engaging writing, even as I find myself disagreeing with much of the content.

I start laughing again. After all, the articles work so hard to sound impartial, journalistic, even erudite. But their frustration and anger with the last election, and the current Administration, shows through on nearly every page.

For example, I read paragraph after paragraph of seemingly objective, unbiased prose (“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…”), then I run into words like “vengeful,” “binge,” “vindictive.” The reader is being swayed by largely journalistic writing peppered with emotional triggers. I like it. I mean, it’s interesting, and funny. Besides, the American people are smart enough to see right through this kind of bias, whatever elites think of them. Still, this kind of spin is an art, and the articles I’m reading are skillfully crafted to sway their reader—just like most of the television media.

Pundits on the Right try to do this as well as those on the Left, but the Left has more true artists—masters of this process. Good for them.  Seriously. I’m genuinely impressed. Conservatives really do need more effective artists, and more appreciation for well-crafted symbolism.

The End of the Expert

On the less artistic, more direct side of things, one article calls President Trump: “an untruthful, vain, vindictive, alarmingly erratic President.” My first thought is that this is mean-spirited. But wait. I re-read the list of criticisms more carefully. Actually, I tell myself, most of this is fairly accurate, with one exception: What liberals call “untruthful” in Trump is often more a case of inarticulate.

President Trump frequently uses imprecise language, to the point of confusing. It’s a wonderful blessing for his opponents. But I don’t think he knowingly lies as much as the media claims (not in the way career politicians so frequently lie: “If you like your health care provider, you can keep your health care provider” or “insurance premiums will go down,” or “the Benghazi attack was caused by a video made in California,” or “I did not have sex with that woman.”)

But the other things on the list are fair game. Vain. Vindictive. Erratic. The President has exhibited all of these traits at times. I’m laughing again as I ponder this twist—because the real joke is on elites. Seriously: Why did the American people elect someone who is so openly vain and vindictive at times?

This is pretty funny, when you think about it. Liberals want these things to convince Americans that he shouldn’t be president. But those who elected him don’t really care about these things.

In short, liberals seem to want a president they can look up to, hold up as a role model, even canonize (e.g. FDR, Obama). Like medieval courtiers at the palace, they want to put their king on a pedestal. “He’s such a good and great man. She’s such a good and great woman.” They want Josiah Bartlett back in the White House. Or at least Michael Douglass. Or, better still, Kevin Klein’s “Dave”.

Conservatives aren’t thinking of anything so lofty. They don’t need a prophet or a saint in the Oval Office. They just want a president who will reboot the economy and make us safer in the world. Even if he acts like a jerk sometimes.

Liberals don’t seem to get the joke. It’s funny. Think about it: the voters in a majority of states preferred someone who is sometimes vain and vindictive over the elite’s favorite choice—a lifetime politician who checked off all the boxes and did everything the Establishment considers necessary to be in the Oval Office. The voters wanted the exact opposite. The irony is rich.

I finish the second magazine and take a long, deep breath before picking up the next one. But something I just saw keeps nagging me, so I go back to the magazine and look for a certain ad.

Ah…there it is. A promotion for online courses from Julliard. Open to all. “Learn from the Julliard faculty,” the ad proclaims, “classes include…Music Theory 101, Sharpen Your Piano Artistry…. No audition required.” I can hardly believe it. Doesn’t this fly in the face of the elite prime directive: “Rule By Experts—In All Things”? Do we really live in an age where MIT, Harvard and Julliard offer open enrollment classes to everyone? What happened to rule “of the experts, by the experts, and for the experts”? Elites are using technology to promote the appearance of democracy while still focusing on elite rule in every sector.

I open the third periodical in the pile. The lead article picks up right where the other magazine left off: “How Americans Turned Against Experts.” I study this article closely, taking notes in the margins, and then I read a half-dozen others. Apparently, the people just aren’t all that impressed with rule by the experts anymore. (“What have all those experts done for us?” millions are asking. “And why can’t they fix our national problems? What’s taking so long? In fact, why do things keep getting worse in so many ways? If these Ivy-trained experts with all their lofty titles and salaries are so good for America, why don’t they fix things?”)

Cause and Effect?

Finally, I pick up the last magazine in today’s stack. Several of the articles are intriguing. For example, I read: “Poverty has profound effects on the size, shape and functioning of a young child’s brain. Would a cash payment to parents prevent harm from the experience of being poor?” At first blush, it is sad that economic struggles have negative effects on early childhood. It is also not surprising that progressives think passing out money would fix this problem—easily and effectively.

But there’s more to this than initially meets the eye. I’m reminded of the economic idea of “helicoptering”: if the economy is struggling, dump cash from helicopters to poor families. They’ll spend it, and this will provide increased demand, supply, more jobs, and an improved economy. Of course, economists don’t suggest literally throwing cash out of helicopters (like turkeys on WKRP in Cincinnati), but rather depositing money directly into the accounts of people below a certain income level.

Conservatives tend to reflexively balk at such proposals, because they believe in the law of unintended consequences. In other words, paying people without asking them to work for it makes more people want to do nothing, and more citizens become increasingly dependent on government handouts—leaving the productive people to fund it all. Not good for society.

On the flip side, I like to point out to conservative friends that one of the early proponents of such financial “helicoptering” was Milton Friedman. Why? In truth, the direct cost of giving money to poor parents is far less than the amount currently spent by governments to provide all the services they and their children receive.

If we’re going to offer a lot of socialist programs, let’s at least be efficient.

The real answer is to get rid of socialism altogether. Besides, in the long term, there’s a deeper problem. The idea of giving cash to poor parents in order to help their kids either assumes that the parents will spend it in ways that actually address the problem, or assumes that the government will monitor such spending and force parents to use it “effectively” (an escalation from helicopter parenting to “helicopter government”).

Reading the article even more closely, it becomes clear that there “are dramatic differences from person to person.” Meaning: Some people raised in poverty have normal or even above-average brains, but on average they are smaller, less developed. I’m not laughing anymore. This is deep, and important. The biggest challenge seems to occur where single parents are forced to work so much to pay the bills that there is little time for interaction with young children. The negative consequences last for generations.

Surely our society can find ways to deal with this. Sadly, in our modern world, any talk of real problems seems to turn into demands for more government programs–as if government is the only way to fix anything.

We’re all at fault here: liberals tend to want government to solve everything, and conservatives often fail to provide non-governmental solutions to real challenges that should be addressed by the private sector. Both sides just end up pointing fingers and criticizing, while the problems remain (or grow).

The article provides a lot of interesting details and proposals. I don’t agree with everything I read, but it makes me think outside the box. I finish the magazine and lean back in my chair.

The New News

We have a major problem today with media, but it’s not what most people think. The biggest issue is the fact that few of us are reading enough news. Forget the electronic news. And forget newspapers. Both are too trapped in today’s 24-hour news cycle—and the race for ratings. We need to read bigger ideas, and from a variety of sources.

Readers of quality news magazines and journals are less easily manipulated than those who get their news from TV or social media. Such readers can more adroitly identify spin or media agendas and see right through them—then grin, or laugh, or decide to study more about a certain topic.

If you’re getting most of your news from TV, newspapers, online headlines, or social media—consider moving on. Start reading longer articles, in publications or posts that treat things more deeply, like Foreign Affairs, The Economist, The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vital Speeches of the Day, and issue-oriented online sites and articles.

Read things that make you think, really ponder and analyze. And read a mix of conservative, independent, and mainstream sources.

If you do decide that you prefer to get your news from TV or online news sites, go to the business news. Where the regular news tends to focus on network political agendas, thereby frequently skewing the day’s news stories, the business news will tell you how the economy is actually doing and how today’s events impact it; this is nearly always a more accurate indication of whether to be worried or optimistic about the news of the day. The business news usually tells the story more directly, with less partisan slant.

Whatever your political views, knowing how to get the real news, to see through the media and understand what’s really happening in world events, is part of being an informed and good citizen. All of us benefit from people who do media right.

These two simple changes (1-Reading deeper issue-oriented articles rather than watching or reading the daily event-focused articles, and 2-Going to the business media rather than the political media for a clearer understanding of the news) will drastically increase how well each person understands the news and knows what’s actually happening in the world.

If you stick with the daily TV news or newspaper (or online equivalents), you are always in danger of being another one of those people who actually believe what they hear on the nightly news. In other words…grossly misinformed.

*****

(For further helps on where and how to get the real news, check out my Current Events Course at The Leadership Education Store.  This will help you significantly upgrade your ability to see through media spin and know what’s really happening in the world.)

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How is the Trump Administration Doing?

April 11th, 2017 // 10:40 am @

“No business plan survives
first contact with the customer.”
—Steve Blank

Party and Purpose

Alexis de Tocqueville famously taught that all governments and societies are divided into two major parties—the party of aristocracy and the party of the people. Another way to describe this reality is that one party is always the party of elite governance, while the other is the party of democracy.

The first, run by elites, seeks to keep things the same, consistently increasing its own power little by little. The second sees the current government and system as overreaching, corrupt, and untrustworthy, and wants to shake things up in order to give more power and economic opportunity to the masses.

This battle is constantly in motion. Sometimes it fights openly, while at other times it simmers and strategizes below the surface. But it is always there, the elite side strategizing ways to gain an edge, move ahead, and increase its influence over the regular people.

Most people see national political party divisions in literal terms—the Tories vs. Patriots, Federalists pitted against Anti-Federalists, Democratic Republicans against the Whigs, Republicans vs. Democrats. But the real battle—between those angling for elites to obtain more power, and those seeking more power for the people via a reduction of elite influence—is seldom the same thing as a clean divide between official parties.

The Five-Headed Monster

Today the Democratic Party is divided between the elitists (e.g. Obama, Clinton, Schumer, etc.) and the revolutionaries (e.g. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, etc.). Likewise, Republicans face a similar divide: elitists such as Bush, McCain, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell versus revolutionaries like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Newt Gingrich.

Moreover, because revolutionaries are…well…revolutionary, they care less about teamwork and more about principles and goals. This means they are constantly pointing out the differences between themselves and others, picking fights not just with the other party but with members of their own party as well. Indeed, Rand Paul or members of the Freedom Caucus often have more in common (in some ways) with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than with institutionalists (and fellow Republicans) like Paul Ryan or John McCain.

Add President Trump to the mix, with his blend of generalized idealism and big-idea pragmatism, and his inner team is far removed from the other four groups:

1) the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/John McCain wing (Republican, elite)

2) the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz/Freedom Caucus wing (Republican, revolutionary)

3) the Warren/Sanders wing (Democratic, revolutionary)

4) the Schumer/Pelosi/Obama/Clinton wing (Democratic, elite)

This fifth group, the Trumpites (Republican, revolutionary), share neither philosophy nor methodology with the Ryan/McConnell group, nor philosophy, methodology, or even the ability to be civil with the Pelosi/Schumer/NBC/CNN group. On the other hand, they share a revolutionary “power to the people” approach—but almost nothing else—with the Paul/Freedom Caucus and Warren/Sanders groups.

Our government is now a five-headed monster, with constant battles between these five factions. Indeed, one of the biggest ironies of our time is that all four of the other groups battle against the Trump Administration—in differing ways, to be sure—without working together or agreeing with each other. There is, apparently, no coordination between the four groups; they largely despise each other. They seem to like Trump even less.

Even More Factions

A sixth group consists mostly of long-term bureaucrats who fill various government positions and make up the large bulk of federal employees—and do the lion’s share of the actual day-to-day work, in all three branches of government. Some of these are aligned with one of the other five groups, but many are more focused on their own agendas and aggressively (or, when it suits them, passive-aggressively) pursue their own interests. This is known by revolutionaries as “the deep state.”

There is, in fact, a seventh group with yet more conflicting agendas: the various special interests, lobbying organizations, agents of corporations and numerous non-profits, and others who keep K Street and its offshoots busily attempting to sway the government this way and that. The combined numbers of this many-tiered faction (in personnel and budgets) rival and in some things outpace that of the federal government. Add the national media from all sides, with myriad projects and agendas, to make an eighth powerful influencing faction.

The resources and expenditures that go into all eight groups and their efforts are astronomical. This is clearly the kind of “booming, buzzing confusion” that establishment thinkers in the 1970s predicted would allow the elite classes to rule the nation—quietly, firmly, from behind the scenes. The reason all eight groups (and the many splinters and sub-groups) consider such Herculean effort and expense worth pursuing is that the spoils—federal dollars and global power—are even more excessive.

Eisenhower called the 1950s iterations of this kind of governance “The Military Industrial Complex”, what Emerson had earlier referred to simply as The Establishment. It has grown exponentially since these phrases were coined. More recently, Donald Trump referred to it as “The Swamp”, and promised to “drain” it.

But we’ve heard such promises before. Reagan assured us that he’d do the same thing, but instead the size and scope of government greatly increased during his tenure. This is a recurring theme. Candidates have frequently promised to prune the national debt and the out-of-control federal Leviathan back to more manageable levels, but once elected they have been unable to stem the tide of growing government.

Bill Clinton even claimed that the “era of big government” was “over”, just at the time he presided over a huge expansion of Washington’s Byzantine federal bureaucracy, debt, and reach. Both parties have exacerbated this problem. So far no party or leader—in the White House or on Capital Hill—has reversed or even noticeably slowed the growth of government overreach or the national debt.

How to Evaluate a President

How is President Trump doing? Forget how the media—liberal or conservative—answer this question. The truth is that our leaders can only be truly measured against this one great national imperative: get a handle on the out-of-control expansion of debt, bureaucracy, and big government. It is in this context that President Trump, Republicans in Congress, and all who lead the federal agencies and state governments must be judged.

No presidential administration or Congressional tenure since the 1920s has effectively scaled back the federal government or its mounting debt. During the Obama era, we more than doubled our troubling national debt. Before that, the Bush years had a similar disappointing record (much of this was hidden by keeping around $3 trillion of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan officially “off budget”; add this number and all other “off budget” expenses to any national debt figures provided by Washington).

In short, the elites are winning the war for the future of our nation. If they get their way, the government will continue to grow, continue to increase our debt, and elites will keep consolidating their influence and power over the masses. Indeed, most people don’t clearly understand the reality: The government taxes the middle class to pay its debts—most of the money is owed and paid to members of the elite classes (both in the U.S. and abroad).

For elites, in other words, a growing national debt is their personal asset, an IOU from the American middle class and our children and grandchildren.

The mainstream media generally ignores this real story, instead preferring to issue reports such as the following:

  • “Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in free fall” (The Washington Post)
  • “After 10 weeks, Trump teeters on the brink” (CNN)
  • “Trump’s outlook going from bad to worse” (CNBC)

More conservative outlets, such as Fox News, who first pointed out the three headlines listed above as a growing trend, show a more balanced view, but the other networks and publications aren’t convinced. Listen to mainstream media reports and you’d think the Trump Administration is facing a full implosion.

But this simply isn’t true. The White House reports are very different, and conservative media reports are the opposite. For example, a Fox report, citing Pew Research, noted that 58 percent of Americans now think the current economic situation is good, while only 40 percent see it as bad. This marks the “best economic assessment since 2007” and “manufacturing optimism is at the highest level in twenty years.” (Fox) Why doesn’t the mainstream media report this openly? It’s some of the best news that’s occurred in a decade. Apparently only Fox and other conservative media are even interested in what’s actually happening on this front.

For many years I have recommended that people get their news from both liberal and conservative outlets, carefully comparing the differences in tone, what is reported as fact, and what is left out of the news. Now such an approach is essential. Those who only listen to the mainstream media only hear a selectively chosen portion of reality.

But the worst problem in all of this is the inability of Washington to tackle and solve big challenges. Why are the eight groups listed above unable or unwilling to come together and fix things? Why, when anyone sincerely attempts to solve our problems and get things going in the right direction, do so many block the path and refuse to allow real change?

The answer is, as one senator put it long ago in response to Andrew Jackson’s election win: “To the victor belongs the spoils.” Indeed, as long as the elite classes and their professional/expert/media collaborators enjoy wealth, status, influence and power from the current system, the less interested they are in change. They like the current system—in this system they rule and the masses unwittingly serve them.

Roadblocks and Bridges

Anyone (Left or Right) who effectively attempts to change this will face the full wrath of elite power: media, money, litigation, vilification, etc. The elite power machine is now in full swing. Indeed, it has been for a long time, consistently increasing elite power and influence, moving always toward higher levels of elite rule over the regular people.

If the masses knew what was happening to them, some say, they wouldn’t stand for it. But the people have their own struggles in today’s world. Specifically, a large majority of the people want the government to scale back and end government overreach, but they don’t agree on what budgets and programs should be cut. Nearly everyone wants major changes in our government, but almost no individual voter supports a reduction or termination of any government program that directly benefits him/her personally. Thus, no deal gets done, not in any big or lasting way.

Given all this, here’s what we now know about the Trump years, even though we’re only a couple of months into his presidency:

  • The intense media war against anything and everything Trump is just warming up. It will last a long time. Indeed, those fueling it will never give up. The truth is, the intensity is going to drastically escalate in the months and years ahead. If you think it’s been bad so far, just wait.
  • The good news in all this is that more and more citizens, on all sides of the political aisle, are realizing just how untrustworthy much of the media actually is. The mainstream media is losing its once-solid monopoly over the way most people think about important issues. This is a win for the people.
  • The battle between those who want to increase elite power and those who want to increase the power and economic opportunity of the masses is the real issue, and it is much bigger (though not nearly as open or vocal) as the conflict between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the partisan battles and skirmishes are largely a smokescreen, a distraction meant to keep the American people from focusing on the real problem and the real goal: to bring more power back to the people.
  • Both of the major political parties are dominated by elites, who support elite goals and don’t want the system to change very much. The Establishment is strong and growing stronger.
  • The Establishment is, in fact, much stronger than candidate Trump realized, or at least more than he let on. His promise to bring real change to Washington is going to be monumentally difficult. Candidate Obama also once promised real change, and assured us that “Yes We Can.” But the problems, debts, and divisions in Washington got much worse during his presidency. The same happened to Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson…

To Fix or Not To Fix

To get different results, the Trump Administration will have to do something different. Probably, to be realistic, it will need to do something drastically different. It is unclear what this will be, or if they’ll figure it out. But this is the only thing that will make the years just ahead any different in substance than the last four decades. According to the media, nearly everything about the Trump era is different. But according to the size of the federal government and our national debt, things are still headed in the same direction. The real Trump legacy will depend on whether or not the President can actually reduce the debt and downsize Washington.

To start this process, for example, it is likely that the new Administration will now seek friends and allies in surprising places. The first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare showed the White House that there is more going on beneath the surface in Washington than the obvious division between Democrats and Republicans.

Much more. And as long as those who want to reduce elite power and give more power and opportunity to the people do things the same old way, they’ll get the same old results. The glaring truth: Elites in the GOP are as much the enemy of needed change as Democratic elites.

Again, to really bring change, something very different will be required.

The question is, has the new President and his team figured this out yet? And do they know what to do? Truly out-of-the-box originality is needed if they are to actually deliver on their promises. We don’t know how President Trump is doing so far, because we don’t know if the President and his team have made this transition yet—or if they ever will.

Real Change?

I think it’s possible that they are trying. They showed a penchant for surprising innovation and inventiveness during the election—bringing a win that shocked the old-way establishment. But bringing real change, and making it actually work, with so much stacked against them, so much leaning in the other direction, is going to take a miracle.

So, am I hoping the new Administration pulls it off and reduces the size of government and the national debt? Absolutely, yes. First, because our nation desperately needs it to happen—whoever leads it. I would have been thrilled if Obama, Bush, Clinton, or anyone else did it. It simply must be done. Our future literally depends on it.

But there’s a second reason I hope the Trump Administration succeeds and makes it happen. Regardless of how anyone feels about Donald Trump, a lot of people voted for him as a last ditch effort to bring real change. In specific terms, this means reversing the debt and decreasing the size and overreach of government.

If this doesn’t happen, a lot of voters are going to entirely give up. If and when the regular people in America lose hope and decide they’ll never get the kind of government they want, we’ll see the full implementation of elite rule. If this happens, we’ll be an aristocracy, in law as well as culture, within a few short years. Such a development will spell the end of the American Founders’ dream, and the end of many of our freedoms.

 

(For more on this topic, see book The Coming Aristocracy, by Oliver DeMille. Available here)

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Good News: The Republican Health Care Bill Failed

April 5th, 2017 // 7:42 am @

“Regular people were cheering me on.
Elites were shouting me down.
I knew I was on to something.”
—Daniel Pink

The Plan vs the Goal

Obamacare is a disaster. Rising premiums, decreasing quality of care, overreaching regulatory coercion, major expense increases to taxpayers, government red tape that is hurting the economy—and will do even more damage when new mandates kick in this fall. None of these are helpful.

But as problematic as Obamacare is, the last thing we need right now is another bad health care law, one steeped in government regulations, confusing, and hastily thrown together—leaving executive branch bureaucrats to fill in the blanks.

The Freedom Caucus was right. We don’t need another bad healthcare law. Such a result would be a disaster for conservatism, and a disaster for the entire nation and our economy.

The new healthcare proposal was significantly better than Obamacare. But this shouldn’t be our standard for something so important. Yes, Republicans promised to fix healthcare, but doing so piecemeal and hurriedly—mainly to score political points—isn’t the right approach. The goal should be an effective, well-conceived healthcare system that really works.

The Freedom Path

Leaving so many things out of the bill, to be later decided by the implementing agencies, means that when the other party wins an election, it can significantly restructure the whole healthcare sector without any say from Congress. This approach creates uncertainty, meaning that health/insurance companies and businesses won’t fully invest in lasting solutions. Not a good start to important legislation.

We need to get this right. And that means the legislative branch should do what it does best: think through every conceivable possibility, argue the varying sides of the issue, and draft a plan that has broad and deep support. Ramming something through more quickly might impress the voters, but that only lasts if the product is effective and sustainable.

Congress has time. Not a lot, but enough. It needs to work on this vigorously until it gets done—but do it right.

On an even larger scale, the initial failure of this bill to even come up for a vote may indicate of a larger victory for the American people: the rebirth of the House of Representatives.

For years the House has played bush-league ball, afraid to take on the major league challenge of the White House–or ineffective when it tried. The media has repeatedly put pressure on the House any time it attempted to use the purse strings (it’s most important Constitutional check on the Executive Branch), and, all too often, the House has caved.

But this time, when the opponent wasn’t the media but rather the White House and the House leadership, the supporters of freedom held firm and refused to allow a bill that would have failed to truly fix the problem. That’s a victory, no matter how the media or the White House spins it.

Purpose and Leadership

It raises serious concerns, such as 1) Why can the House stand against the President, but not against the media or the Court?, and 2) Why is the House leadership so determined to fight against real change?

But even with these problems, it’s nice to see the House reasserting itself in national leadership. Remember: the framers made the House the true arm of the people on the federal level. When the House doesn’t stand up against usurpations by the Executive Branch (as well as against the Senate, the Court, and in the face of an antagonistic media), the whole nation is drastically weakened.

That said, this is only a small victory. It remains to be seen whether this spark of House leadership will be fleeting or something more permanent. It is also unclear whether the House will now continue to lead on the issue of Health Care; it defeated one bad plan, but will it go on to effectively pass a good plan? That’s the real test.

If it does, we may be at the cusp of a new era of leadership from the House. If not, it will emerge from this year’s failures weaker than ever.

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Understanding Trump’s Election, Part Two

March 23rd, 2017 // 11:35 am @

Why Did the American People Give Donald Trump the Presidency?

(If you haven’t read Part One of this article, do so here. This installment is a continuation of that article.)

The Big Question

Now that you’ve read Part One of this article, let’s dig deeper into why the American people elected Donald Trump, and what they expect of him in office. Michael Polanyi brings us to bedrock with another key question: What is freedom for? In other words, what is the true purpose of freedom? We can only understand the differences between the masses and elites (or translate between them) if we know how the two groups answer this profound query.

Is freedom for prosperity of the masses? Or the wealth of a few? Is the purpose of freedom to give power to the few? Or power to the masses?  Is freedom for the protection of the people from every challenge or difficulty that might arise? Or for protecting the inalienable rights of all? What is freedom for?

Is its purpose the improvement of the world? Answer: Yes. But how?

This is a deep question. One of our most pressing modern challenges is that elites and the masses answer it very differently. In other words, they see the purpose of freedom very differently. The American founding fathers knew this, and they gave the masses the voting power specifically to ensure that the masses won this conflict. They believed—based on history—that if elites ever won the tug-of-war between the elites and masses, freedom would drastically decline.

Differing Goals

Elites naturally view the world in one of two ways:

(1) the superiority of the upper classes; or

(2) the superiority of the upper classes combined with the concept of noblesse oblige.

In the first of these, elites see themselves as better than the masses—in other words, they believe that as the more educated, wealthy, and sophisticated group, they know what is best for the rest of the nation. Some elites add to this the view of noblesse oblige, meaning that they feel they have a responsibility to take care of, protect, guide, and help provide for the rest of the people—those they consider their inferiors in this world.

Thus Elite Group 1 believes that the purpose of freedom is to allow the fittest to thrive, the richest to get richer, the more powerful to exert their will on the world. In contrast, Elite Group 2 sees the purpose of freedom as the powerful and wealthy taking care of the rest of us, making sure we treat each other well, ensuring that the poor are financially supported by the middle class. Group 1 could hardly care less what the masses do, they are instead focused on getting more power and wealth for themselves. Group 2 are the opposite: like helicopter parents, they want to exert power in every aspect of our lives, using the authority of government to ensure that they are taking good care of us in ways they “know” we need—ways they believe we are too ignorant or confused to take care of ourselves.

The masses are also split into two major groups: (A) the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the masses, who are against Elite Group 1 but seek the support and leadership of Elite Group 2. (B) The other wing of the masses, most of whom supported Donald Trump in the last election, are adamantly against both Elite Groups.

This is the biggest divide in modern American politics and society. Note that the mainstream media is overwhelmingly in support of Elite Group 2. They sincerely believe they know what is best for the masses, and they consider any other view unenlightened, lacking, even dangerous.

The irony purported by such elites is palpable. For example, as recently pointed out by various commentators, on the one hand they decry a wall on the southern border as “racist,” “non-inclusive,” and “uncaring”, while on the other hand many of these same people live in restricted, elite, gated communities. They aren’t against walls per se. Indeed they surround themselves with walls—to keep out the unwanted from their homes and yards.

Likewise, many of those who adamantly call for increased gun control and restrictions on firearms are personally surrounded by well-armed bodyguards, and their estates and homes have the latest security measures and teams of gun-wielding security teams.

Another example: some rail on anyone who supports school choice or wants regular people to be able to send their kids to private schools, as if public school is the only good choice, and then they send their own children to prestigious private schools or hire expensive personal tutors. Apparently private school is great for them, but not for regular Americans. There are many other examples of such hypocrisy in Elite Group 2.

Keys and Locks

In all this, many elites seem to sincerely believe that while they, with all their “superiority” and “entitlement”, deserve such protection (walls, private school, and guns galore), the regular people are racist and intolerant to seek the same thing. Do they actually believe that because of their wealth and status they deserve the special tax breaks and tax shelters they use each year, while the regular people are required to just ante up and pay their full share? Really? This is precisely the attitude and aristocratic smugness the framers wanted to avoid when they refused to let elites choose our elected officials.

Again, the specific reason the American Framers gave the voting power to the masses is to give them power over the elites. This is exactly what elites find most objectionable about the Constitution, the main reason they want to use Supreme Court decisions and treaties (both of which thrive on the kind of fine print that most of the masses never read) and any other means they can discover to change and circumvent the Constitution.

Note also that in modern times large majority of experts—in various fields—have joined the elite classes, both in term of attitudes and values. More national mainstream media experts have become elites than perhaps any other field.

What They Want

But back to the key question: What is freedom for? To elites, the purpose of freedom is almost universally to increase their station. For the masses, in contrast, it is to pursue their happiness—in whatever ways they choose. Once again, these two groups are opposed. To increase their station, elites need the masses to remain below them on the socio-economic scale. To pursue happiness, the masses need the freedom to reach whatever status they seek. Some care about status, others don’t, but the freedom to pursue it, and whatever else they want (as long as they don’t violate the inalienable rights of others) is closely governed by elites in our world. To this end elites have erected numerous systems (including the rules of education, career, promotion, investing, starting businesses, the courts, etc.) that make it easier for their own offspring to attain status, and more difficult for the masses and their children to do the same.

All of this has a direct influence on what the American people now expect of President Trump. The elite classes want him to tack back to the center, meaning they want him to moderate his attacks on things the elites cherish (such as the mainstream media, bigger and bigger government, and national reliance on experts in every walk of life), to talk and act more like elites (they call this “appropriate”, “decorum”, or “presidential”). They want him to get little done in actual policy, to blame Congress or K Street for not really accomplishing what he promised during the election. To be clear, the more the Trump Administration delivers what it promised, the more the power of elites is dismantled. Whether you personally like or dislike president Trump, know this: Elites don’t want to be diminished, so they’ll fight Trump at every turn—and in whatever ways they think might work.

Those who elected Trump—not just his adamant supporters but many others who voted for him, or anyone else besides Hillary Clinton, because they saw a Hillary presidency as true disaster—want him to take on our biggest current national problem: too much elite influence in our society. Elites now control most media, most of academia, most of our leading cultural institutions (e.g. Hollywood, television, pop music, etc.), most government agencies, and a lot of finance and business. The power of elites in the federal government has become stifling, and threatens our Constitutional way of life. Moreover, as we’ve already discussed, they use their power to rig the systems of education, career, investment, etc. in ways that benefit their own children and increase the difficulties of the masses and their children trying to live the American Dream. More and more people now realize, or at least suspect, that the system is rigged against them.

Using Skepticism

The voters want Trump to reduce elite power over government and give it back to the people. Or, failing this, to at the very least reduce elite power over government. To do something that effectively gets rid of the rigged system. If he does this, the elite media will become even more extreme and increasingly vicious in its attempts to stop him.

Note that the elite classes argue for something similar. They want to use American institutions to equalize the American masses with regular people all around the world. This would leave them—the elites—in charge, but put all the masses of the globe on the same footing.

Few Americans who understand this situation support this elite agenda. Trump at least says that he’s trying to put regular Americans on the same footing as elites, not put them on the same footing as the masses around the world—with the elites in charge of us all. This is the great battle.

The media, or course, as a key arm of elites, doesn’t clearly tell the American people that this is occurring. But it is, and it presents a clear and present danger to our society.

The elite classes, including mainstream media, operate using what Polanyi called “the chisel of skepticism driven by the hammer of social passion.” This is a powerful way to see elite and media actions for what they really are. The social passion they cherish is that elites must take care of the rest of us, that they know better than the rest of us, that they—as our superiors—have the training, wisdom, status and wealth to do what we really need, and as their inferiors we should be happy to follow their lead and grateful that they care for us and are guiding us along.

Anyone who sees this kind of smug arrogance for what it really is (…smug arrogance…) is immediately branded “angry” and “ignorant”. Those who persist on this path can expect to be called bigoted, racist, narrow-minded, and eventually evil. This is the social passion of today’s elites, including much of the elite media.

But note: The way elites implement this is to use as much skepticism as possible. Skepticism is often confused with objectivity or journalistic fairness, so even a mainstream media that has long since lost much of its objectivity is able to appear removed and analytical simply by remaining deeply skeptical. This is, in fact, how many in the media are trained. They ask tough questions, but with a skeptical tone, and respond to the answers with even more skepticism. To their audience, this frequently appears to be good journalism.

But those reporting the news get to choose what questions to ask anyone they interview, and as long as they retain a skeptical tone, many listeners don’t realize that people who agree with the reporters are asked easier questions while those with a differing view are asked questions designed to entrap or frustrate. A nod or frown allows media members to sway the audience, yet media skepticism convinces many listeners that the media is treating everyone the same. The same skeptical tone frequently masks the art of spin, even deception. Note also that even media anger sells well as long as it comes in the tone of skepticism.

Skeptical tone allows the mainstream media to continually claim that their focus is truth and justice. Fairness and objectivity, they claim, are their driving purpose. But their definitions of fairness, objectivity, and justice are skewed. The old American Founding view of freedom (to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t take away the inalienable rights of anyone else) is minimized by the ploy of skepticism. The new definition is to just quit thinking and instead follow the lead of our “betters”—the elite and their paid staffers (most of the experts).

Plans and Purposes

Despite all this, in the last election a majority of people in a majority of states saw through media spin and supported the candidate they considered most likely to oppose and decrease elite power—either Bernie or Trump. And here is the deep reality: if the Trump era boasts a major economic upturn, bringing more financial power to the masses, he will likely maintain such support. If not, it will dwindle or crash. The American masses want reduced power of elites, but they measure this largely in terms of increased economic power in their own personal lives.

These two things, above all, are what his supporters expect from a Trump presidency—or anyone they lift to office: (1) a reduction of elite power, and (2) increased economic well-being for the masses.

Two More

There is a third desire, and a fourth. As Polanyi put it: “The ideal of a free society is in the first place to be a good society.” Once again, elites and the masses define this very differently. Elites see good society as one that follows their ideas of what is good, including letting them (as superiors) rule, and letting them redistribute wealth as they see fit (meaning from the middle class to the lower classes, but leaving elite wealth largely—and conveniently—in the hands of themselves).

The masses, in contrast, see good society as one where they (the masses) rule, so they can keep elites from dominating, a society that benefits everyone and maintains freedom and true opportunity for all. Indeed, throughout history elites have used their rule to keep the masses from wealth and power. The masses see good society as one where people, communities, and groups voluntarily (not by forced government) take care of others and help those in need. The masses also believe that a good society gives them the opportunity to pursue improvement—personal or economic—as they will, as long they don’t violate the rights of others.

When the masses rule, through election that puts in leaders who do what they promised, and the people take care of others and love others voluntarily, and each individual has the freedom to pursue his or her goals without government or class hurdles, the masses see this as freedom. They also see it as good society.

If elites have too much power, the government intervenes in too many things, or the government or elites block our moral pursuit of improvement and advancement (using regulations and requirements, all of which are designed to benefit the elite classes), the masses see this as a loss of freedom and less-than-good society.  This, by the way, is where the majority of people in the majority of states see our nation today.

Finally, the masses want safety. They want national security to be effective and consistent. They don’t want to wonder about who our allies and enemies are, or feel confused about the gap between the White House’s words and its actions regarding national security.

Answers Through Asking

Note that on this topic, the flyover states (and back-road locales that have more electoral college votes than liberals want them to) have also provided more than their share of the military personnel for the nation. When soldiers serve and pay the ultimate price for our freedoms, these flyover parts of the nation and their families provide much of the giving and suffering.

Such people are willing to die, or let family members die, to keep our nation free. Again, the framers knew what they were doing when they established the electoral college—keeping these people relevant in electing the commander in chief.

Contrast this to what the elites seek: to maintain and increase elite power and wealth, and to patronizingly take care of the rest of us. The framers got it right. They gave the masses—not in sheer numbers, but a majority of people in the majority of states through the electoral college—the final election power. They did this on purpose. They did it to keep elites—any group of elites—from getting too much power. This is what elections are for! This is precisely what “democracy” requires. Any arrangement that doesn’t put the regular people in charge of elections is some brand of aristocracy or other elite rule.

The Real Question

What then, can be done between elections to give more power to the masses, less to elites? The answer to this question brings up difficult and disturbing realities. Let’s put this in very simple terms:

  • Are our most important institutions in society supporting the increase of elite power or the increase of power to the people?
  • Specifically: Are we teaching (schools), raising (families), inspiring (parents, churches, entertainment, media), and training the next generation to be independent and wise thinkers (power to the people), or rather to focus on the twin goals of (1) fitting into the system, and (2) getting ahead in the system (more power to elites)?
  • Are we teaching, raising, inspiring, and training them to question and improve the world (more power to the people), or simply to accept the world as it is and try to rise in status and promotion within it (more power to elites)?
  • Do we mostly pass on the values elites want the masses to hold: seeking status and prestige (as doled out by elites), the government as the answer to most problems, the main life goal of being an employee, risk avoidance, trying to impress our “superiors”, and “this is just the way the world is”?
  • Or do we effectively pass on the values of the American framers and modern freedom: service, independent thinking, moral purpose, “your mission in life is the key to your career”, entrepreneurialism, acquisitiveness, innovation, ingenuity, tenacity, and personal sacrifice for God, family and country?
  • Do we most vigorously promote institutions (power to the elites), or principles of truth (power to the people)?
  • Do we believe mostly in experts (power to elites) or the common sense of the people (power to the people)?
  • Do we trust the mainstream media (power to elites), or do we generally distrust the media—just like the American founders did (power to the people)?

This entire question can be summed up by how we educate:

  • Do we educate our young surrounded by the system established by elites for the education of the masses, focused on textbooks, reliance on experts, grades (designed to sort the masses based on their potential usefulness to elites), lectures, grade levels, pressure to fit in and conform both socially and intellectually, and controlled by bureaucracies?Is our educational emphasis mainly what Toffler called the real curriculum of most modern schools: rote memorization, training rather than education, obedience to superiors, and being on time to work?

    Let’s be clear. This is a system designed to increase the power of elites.  (However, ironically, almost none of the elite class educate their own children this way.)

  • Or do we choose the kind of education that has always created nations and generations of leaders, using great books, great ideas, original sources, focus on principles, individual mentors, personalized learning, and lots of discussion and depth? Is our goal to educate young adults who are deep thinking, independent minded, creative, innovative, entrepreneurial, and effective leaders in their chosen work and lives? This is what brings power to the people—those who get such an education.

Indeed, this is the very type of education the elite classes provide for their own children.

What Next?

What do we want for our future?

On the one hand:

Rote education for the masses, and at the same time quality Leadership education for the children of elites?

Or, on the other hand:

Leadership education for all?

This is the true dividing point.

This is our fork in the road for America today.

Which path will we choose? This choice is the deeper reality than what goes on in elections, or in Washington.

This is also the pivotal question of our individual power—are we using it to build the rule of elites, or the rule of the people? The reason elites have repeatedly won this battle throughout most of history is simple: they convinced many of the masses to join them, to focus not on making a better system for all, but rather to focus on trying to seek promotion and status in the education-career-governmental system set up of elites, by elites, and for elites.

Which side are you building and strengthening each day?

Regardless of how you feel about the last presidential election or the current administration, this is the great question of our time. It is vitally important right now, today, because how we answer this question will determine the future for our families and our nation.

 

 

(For more on this great current battle for freedom, and how to help the right side win, see The Coming Aristocracy by Oliver DeMille. You can purchase it HERE>>)

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