Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Ambitions, Urgent Focus - Optimism And Realism

I have for months now intended to turn a corner on my Blog from political campaigning and commenting, and broaden it to include general philosophical perspectives. I haven’t luminous credentials in either politics or philosophy: I consider myself a studied amateur in both. I have observed politics most all of my life and participated in the process of political conventions. I studied philosophy in college and graduate school, finishing a couple of years before taking to work and marriage without finishing a thesis and securing a graduate degree to flaunt. However, I had determined to discuss my experience with multiple sclerosis and how that experience and study has illuminated my existing perspectives. I may not have a graduate degree or a political office, but I have a certifiable diagnosis of and 16+ years of experience with multiple sclerosis. The course of the disease varies in victims, from occasional disturbances to a gradual or possibly more precipitous decline. On such a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably around a 5: many facilities are weakened, but none are entirely devastated. I walk a hundred yards or so, slowly with a walker. My vision is diminished somewhat, as is the tactical perception of my fingertips, my fine motor coordination, and some other ordinary physical facilities. But, my convictions seem to get only more sharpened, and my enthusiasm for discussing them is still keen.

I intended to direct my Blog in this ambitiously broad direction, and have written (but not posted) a post to announce having turned this corner. However, pulling it all together in one direction was an imposing project, and as time passes, the enormity and urgency of discussing the social prospects look ever stronger. I will still appeal to these other matters, and I AM positive that, as much as American politics provoke me. It is certainly not the most important thing in life. In fact, we as Americans are spoiled by what we have had. Most of the history of human life on earth has had to engage the challenge to be joyful with infinitely less in terms of both wealth and freedom. It’s probably the provision of both in America that highlights the grief of watching this dismantling of the values that produced it. For weeks now, I have wondered how America might surmount the massive folly of government usurping of authority and resources, extinguishing of innovation and production, and creating an almost unfathomable and certainly inhibiting debt. While I have listened to many conservatives who have reconciled their ambitions to recovery and even are confident of coming political victories, I have not grasped an answer to my question and am not so sanguine; the record in history of reversing the sort decisive changes that Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress intend and have already wrought is very poor and looks unlikely short of some dramatic upheaval. Achieving such a revolution absent violence would be an extraordinary accomplishment.

Speaking of overreach and subsequent reform, last Thursday, Glenn Beck had judge Andrew Napolitano on his program: Napolitano on Beck: Montana 2nd Amendment and States Rights Part 1 (5-7-09)(obviously, there’s a Part 2) They discussed a state measure in Montana that would reject federal attempts to regulate firearms that were manufactured and remained in Montana that would supposedly fall outside the federal justification of “regulating interstate commerce,” which over time has come to cover most any measure that the federal government wants to impose. State representatives from Utah and Texas who are posing similar measures joined them. Napolitano said he thought that the Supreme Court as comprised today, might affirm such measures, and Beck got a little excited about the idea that the interstate commerce justification might be undermined. I sat there thinking that would be great but he shouldn't get his hopes up: basically, that it isn’t going to happen. By Monday, Beck had a writer on who said he didn’t think The Supreme Court would buy it; that the laws needed to be more tightly defined.

But, even that writer isn’t considering the real problem, that once power is exercised, people don’t kindly give it up, whether in politics, in business, churches or anywhere else. It’s human nature. Let me give you a few examples from my own experience, and they are only examples of what is all but universal. I have a friend in Texas that I first met during the campaign preceding the 1996 election. He’s a fellow conservative who in the early '90’s served on The Republican Party of Texas rules committee and was a state parliamentarian. He’s a rules guy and changed some rules in the state party during that period…until the party caught on that the rules changes would make party officials more accountable to the state arty platform and devolve power from the central party apparatus to the state executive committee chosen from around the state and more accountable to the people: basically constraining the maneuvering and bargaining power of the central party officials. Henceforward, the party has put a sock in his mouth via parliamentary contrivance and personal ridicule. Even to today, he soldiers on with what would be worthy rules change proposals.

Until my uneven health made it difficult, I served for a while on the board of an extraordinarily connected and active pro-life organization. Much focus was of course, put toward the effort of pressing alterations in the law. At one point, with a case before The Supreme Court, our legal counsel expressed optimism about submitting a brief with an argument that he thought would undermine Roe v. Wade. A friend and I thought such optimism was ill founded and of course, it was.

In both of these cases the main problem is not the rules or the argument. The main point is that when it came right down to it, neither of those things mattered. While the other side will do what it can with argument and finagling, if it is ultimately necessary, they will deceive and cheat, which is what happened in the face of rules changes at that 1996 convention. The issue isn’t rules or argument or laws. The issue is that power once held, will be retained if at all possible, by hook or by crook. So it is with Beck’s dreams of obviating the commerce clause justification for federal regulation, which would be about as easy to execute as removing Congress’ huge power to manipulate the tax code. Federally, I support The Fair Tax, which would do just that. But, I know that it would never be put in place short of an unprecedented social upheaval. And The Fair Tax itself doesn’t even directly address the problem of over-taxation and government waste. It just changes how the current level of taxation is collected, but returns control to the people, who determine the level of their taxation through the level of their spending.

As of today, reviving state sovereignty seems a more urgent project.

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