Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breaking News! Senators Did their Jobs

There's an aphorism about politics that I haven't seen cited often the last few decades in regard to Politics, Umurikin Style; that "politics is the art of compromise." That's a trend that I've seen mirrored in Canadian politics. Well, whether it was in regard to the "fierce urgency of now" as communicated by Obama's televised ass-kicking, or whether it was due to the overwhelming lack of support for Republican threats to have a temper tantrum and hold their breath until they turned blue - nonetheless, apparently sanity prevailed, and the Senate passed the Stimulus bill.

That is to say, they did their job in a timely manner, after properly debating the issues. Well, they debated the issues as they saw them; what snippets I've seen showed me that our leadership doesn't have much of a grasp of economics. Much of the Republican rhetoric reminded me of the late and unlamented William Proxmyer - I honestly don't know which party he belonged to - who made his career on ridiculing programs he did not understand, and pretending to not understand programs he didn't like.

Of course, there's stupid things to be found in any budget - but the bleating often was about things that actually made some sense, if you believe that government has a proper role in society, in regards to investigation and regulation. For instance, some idiot was wittering on about the horror of giving the Social Security Administration money for new computers. Well, you know, it's getting hard to find Cobol programmers these days, and they just don't make parts for those keypunch machines any more.

Yep, I just ridiculed the critic with about the same information level as the senator in question. It's pretty easy. OTOH, he has a staff and gets paid a couple hundred thousand a year to have a duly deliberated viewpoint. I'm a blogger sitting in my living room. I don't feel that he should be living up to the standards generally expected of "Pajamas Media" bloggers.

Anyway, sanity prevailed, without a complete split along partisan lines. Perhaps it was due to the loud hint that if they got with the program, the economy might rebound in time for the 2010 elections. Perhaps it was due to howls of outrage communicated by phone, email, fax and paper to republicans threatening to obstruct the bill. If so, it only penetrated three skulls - but that was enough, and what are elections for.

But I was struck by the "breaking news" that Congress had done it's job.

Meanwhile, like the first tender shoots of spring, like the rays of a new dawn, I'm starting to notice Liberals and Progressives actually speaking Liberally and Progressively. In other words, they are now able to start advocating the batshit things that they want to see, as opposed to pointing out the bullshit we have all been wading through.

William Kunstler
has been reliable and adept at pointing out the wrongs of neoconservatism and the evils of predatory supply side, trickle down, unregulated kleptocracy. But his visions of positive change do not comfort me, or strike me as being (thank god) particularly likely.

If this nation wants to survive without an intense political convulsion, there's a lot we can do, but none of it is being voiced in any corner of Washington at this time. We have to get off of petro-agriculture and grow our food locally, at a smaller scale, with more people working on it and fewer machines. This is an enormous project, which implies change in everything from property allocation to farming methods to new social relations. But if we don't focus on it right away, a lot of Americans will end up starving, and rather soon. We have to rebuild the railroad system in the US, and electrify it, and make it every bit as good as the system we once had that was the envy of the world. If we don't get started on this right away, we're screwed. We will have tremendous trouble moving people and goods around this continent-sized nation. We have to reactivate our small towns and cities because the metroplexes are going to fail at their current scale of operation. We have to prepare for manufacturing at a much smaller (and local) scale than the scale represented by General Motors.
Actually - I should temper this with a loud caveat; I'm making the assumption here that he sees this return to Mayberry as being an inherent good, and sees no potential issues with people being forced of necessity to live in contained, localized political units, where they must go along to get along.

I've noticed that the main difference between conservatives and liberals in terms of public and social policy is what parts of my life they wish to interfere with, what particular liberties they wish to restrict; nobody speaks for the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, we could trust people to mind their own business for the most part, on the stunningly obvious basis of fact - mostly they do, and mostly they manage well enough.

They tend to manage better when mechanisms and resources exist with the aim of helping people make better choices, they tend to manage a lot less well when politics interferes with natural rights and common sense - the War on Drugs and the proliferation of private prisons speaks volumes about that. In other words, we have enslaved a vast number of human beings for reasons that strike me, and many others, as extremely dubious, and at horrendous price to the taxpayer in terms of economic impact and in terms of coarsening our culture.

We DO need to encourage all of the things Kunstler advocates. But we cannot afford to simply accept that the necessity for a new system of economics mandates a socialist form of authoritarianism to replace the current crop of self-anointed authorities.

We need to embrace and encourage the ideal of individual responsiblity. And by that, I mean, equipping people while they are very young to be able to think for themselves. Without that, the idea of "individual responsibility" is simply code for "you are responsible for doing what I tell you to do," the sense in which we have become accustomed to hearing it.

But in fact and in practice, while all the above Kunstler refers to will come about, they will come about as much from preference as of necessity. Just as no-body likes being forced to stay in one place, neither do they particularly long to be forced to commute. Further, there are technical solutions coming down the pike which will add MORE choices to our lives - not fewer choices.

You see, I prefer sourcing Leftist thinkers for their ability to see and articulate what is wrong with a status quo, and to an extent, trust them to point out a sheaf of choices. But it's wise to remember that the Lefts and Rights have an overriding common faith in their own suitability to tell people what to do, they tend to be Authoritarians to one degree or another; President Obama being no exception to that.

I'm an anti-authoritarian, politically. I call myself a "libertarian," but my primary issues are ethics and authority abuse. I hope for and see a future in which the necessity for authoritarian structures is reduced - simply one of many viable ways of organizing like-minded people in tasks of common value.

What I see is the obvious necessity and inevitability of political and social structure decentralizing itself - as Koestler seems to be implying - but also becoming even more connective. In other words, a world in which small groups of people are connected robustly into a vast, world wide web.

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