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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Triumph of The Cyclop’s Values Over Democratic Citizenship

{The first essay in this series introduced a model I created to explain the cycle of corruption that plagues US politics. This essay looks into the roots of this corruption. It takes a long time to get to the payoff. Further, the conclusion is somewhat ex nihilo if you have not read the first essay. This said, for those who dare, I hope you find it worth the read.}
polyphemus2-3717

Polyphemos the cyclops would have eaten Odysseus, if his survival was dependent on the moral virtues of Silenus’s satyrs. Fortunately for Odysseus, and Silenus and his lot, Odysseus could depend on his fellow citizens. If Polyphemos had the majority of America’s elected representatives depending on him for their survival in his cave, the way that they are presently beholden to lobbyists’ money for their electoral survival, he could have had a ready supply of citizens for his daily meals.

Cyclopean virtues regularly triumph over the virtues of democratic citizenship in the political landscape of the United States. Given that the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit and principles that ground the virtues of democratic citizenship, why is it that cyclopes, who eat humans, win the day in America? Answering this question requires that we journey back to Attic Greece and her proto-democratic foundations. Continue reading

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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Cycle of Corruption

MarkTwain_arts Mark Twain, in “Cannibalism in the Cars,” suggested that cannibalism of the body politic is a logical outcome of the practice of the political values of the elected representatives of the United States, in dire circumstances. What would occur, if such dire circumstances did not require a natural disaster, but became a systemic feature of the political landscape?

doncamp

The current economic crisis and America’s abject failure to provide economically-efficient, affordable healthcare are two examples of dire circumstances that are systemic features of America’s political landscape. Both crises are the results of bad governance. Both circumstances are direct products of the growth of influence of en-corporated political interests (encorps) in the system of governance of the United States. Bad governance, in both cases, involves a betrayal of the public trust that is manifested in not regulating the encorps in a way that protects the public’s interests, especially with respect to not meaningfully regulating the encorps ability to influence government officials.

The United States was born wary of the power of vested interests to influence public policy. Alexander Hamilton’s comments in the Federalist Papers are an example of this concern. .

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.

Unfortunately, keeping the vested interests out is not a simple matter. How can it be when parties themselves are collective expressions of a set of weighted interests? Frankly, it is sensible for people of like purpose to strive together to achieve their aims, and there is nothing necessarily insidious about the practise. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of Democracy and civil society.

It is also, however, the entry way for corruption because the crux of the matter is not that people have differing and competing interests: it’s that they differ so greatly in terms of their power to realize those interests. When the power to realize those interests is used to unjustly deny the interests of less powerful, but equally or more deserving citizens, through a donation that is traded for a piece of unjust legislation, then it can be said that a positive feedback loop of corruption has been initiated.
The overly simple analysis that follows attempts to describe the basic workings of this system.
Continue reading

Why is single payer not being served at President Obama’s table?

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Why is single payer not at the President’s table?

76% of Americans want single payer health care. President Obama, judged by his actions, is staunchly against giving this 76% what they want. He did not invite one advocate of single payer to his advisory panel. The majority of the U.S.’s elected representatives are also staunchly against representing the taxation wishes of the majority of their constituents. When elected representatives refuse to allocate tax dollars based on the wishes of the majority of their constituents, then the elected representatives are practicing a type of taxation without representation. Why are the POTUS, the Democrats, and the Republicans so strongly in favor of taxation without representation on the issue of health care? What would it take to make single payer healthcare a reality in the U.S.?

Rather than repeat or add to the mass of research that suggests U.S. citizens are systematically denied the fruits of their constitution and their nation by the corrupt relationship that exists between the Presidency, the Senate, Congress, and numerous powerful blocks of lobbyists, I will take a different tack. (This is not to say that the corruption is not a significant part of the problem or even the most significant part of the problem, however, it is merely to point towards another piece of the “why not single payer” healthcare puzzle.)

I suggest that one reason the majority of America’s elected representatives refuse to represent the wishes of their constituents on the issue of healthcare is because the U.S. does not have a left wing, it only has a right wing and a center. The Republicans are the right. The Democrats are the center. The left lacks a serious representative party.

Quibblers will rightfully point out that the left end of the center is America’s left, but that misses the point, which is to say that single payer healthcare was a policy of the European and Canadian left. It only became adopted by the center because single payer healthcare was so rational, moral, and desirable to the electorate, that going against the policy, or not going for the policy, caused the center and the right to lose electoral support to the left, and in some cases, so much that the left formed the government. The first province that got single payer healthcare in Canada did so by electing a socialist government.

President Obama did not invite one advocate of single payer healthcare to his advisory group, even though 76% of U.S. citizens want it, because neither he, nor the anti-single payer Democrats, are afraid of citizen backlash. They are not afraid of citizen backlash because, without a perceived viable party on the left, citizens do not have an effective way to punish them at the ballot box. The point to take here is that the only thing that either party respects about the citizens is the ability of the citizens to hurt them at the ballot box.

Given the history of the U.S., it’s unlikely that a viable left will materialize anytime soon, so does this mean getting single payer is dead?

Not necessarily, but it will be difficult and take hard work. Because 76% of Americans favor single payer, its wide base of support, necessarily including Republicans, makes it a potential wedge issue, which means that anti-single payer candidates can be targeted at the ballot box. This seems possible, when one considers it’s high level of support, despite the flood of anti-single payer propaganda and the willful attempts at distortion using  a “public option.” The power of single payer as a wedge issue is further enhanced by President Obama’s confidence-based betrayal of the progressive movement, which should turn them towards the Nader/Green left or independent status and make Democrats more susceptible to the wishes of their constituents.

Nothwithstanding, single payer healthcare can only become a wedge issue, if single payer supporters act as single payer advocates by letting the Republican and Democrat candidates in their area know that being anti-single payer makes them a non-starter. Many people writing two letters or making two phone calls can trump bagfulls of lobbyist donations.  Doing so is a potential good step in the direction of “A Republic, if you can keep it” and The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” After all, and as noted in “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen“, sometimes the enemy is inside the gates.

There is no shortage of stories about politicians receiving policy revelation when their political futures are in jeopardy. Barack Obama(h/t to John at LR), for example, converted from single payer to anti-single payer when faced with losing access to the funding from the healthcare lobby. If citizens who support single payer can find a meaningful way to punish their elected representatives at the ballot box for not supporting single payer, then it might be possible to create a circumstance where President Obama will roll out the video from 2003 and read from his teleprompter, “I’ve always supported single payer healthcare.”

This is an open thread.  Have a great Friday night!

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