Monday, November 18, 2013

150 years after Lincoln at Gettysburg… Can we maintain our resolve? Our Union?

Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, is a historian and author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.” In her recent article - 150 Years after the Gettysburg Address, Is government by the people in trouble? - Dr. Faust offers an eloquent and quite moving exploration of the context in which Abraham Lincoln transformed his earlier "hopeful" rhetoric into the more hardened sense of passion that spoke to his contemporaries' aching hearts about "dedication" and "resolve" -- a determination that something more must come out of all their shared sacrifice than mere preservation of a national union.
Seared by fire and blood, the newly emerging version of the United States of America would have to be something finer. In the spirit of a "new birth of freedom," it must forever aspire to be better, then better still.
lincoln_gettysburg_sepiaThat sense of resolution is currently at stake, as we confront the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address -- widely considered to be the most impactful speech -- (certainly on a per-word basis) -- in the last several centuries. Greatly noted and long remembered, it has been compared by some (including myself) to the inspiring "funeral oration" of the great Athenian leader, Pericles. (As conveyed to us by Thucydides.)
Only with this vital difference.  Both men died before completing their tasks.  But, unlike those who followed Pericles, we appear to have been ready, after Lincoln, to forge ahead in victory and determination. His words, burning in our hearts, continued making a difference at crucial moments for six succeeding generations, so that the Great Experiment thrived and survived every intervening crisis.
Across the succeeding four score and seventy years, each of those generations found itself disturbed, provoked, challenged not only by foreign dangers, domestic ructions or tsunamis of both immigration and seismic technological change, but also by torments of conscience, as each generational wave gradually matured enough to recognize what its parents could not…
Gettysburg-Address-Lincoln… such as the litany of crimes that had served as bloody mortar, sealing the nation's foundation in a gritty blend of both hope and sin.  Or the waste of human potential that (across more than 6000 years) had dogged and hampered every society that ever pre-judged vast numbers of distinct individuals, based on accidents of birth or gender, class or race.  Or how to deal with the alluring drug of empire, when Pax Americana faced the same temptations that turned earlier great powers into tyrants...
...a dilemma that we handled - if not perfectly - then less-horribly than any other nation that was ever so-tempted.  In part because of the moral ember that Abraham Lincoln sealed into our hearts, smoldering there to remind us that democracy and wealth and power and even freedom become meaningless, unless they accompany a fierce ambition. To aspire. To become better. Together.
That is my brief rumination upon this 150 year-old epochal masterpiece of sadness and solace, of courage and resolve, of dedication to our common project, our shared experiment, our unfinished work called America.
== Oh, but it is always in danger ==
Only there is more… there is always much, much more.  Such as how Lincoln's Gettysburg Address relates to this time. More than ever, it is pertinent to our present set of crises.
For, now we Americans are engaged in a new phase of civil war.  Not yet violent to any significant degree and we can pray to almighty providence that things will stay that way. But there is no question that forces are at work upon this continent, testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived, can long endure.
Look at the political map of our bitter, partisan divide, and just try telling yourself that it's not the very same struggle. Not over slavery or freedom or states' rights, which -- for all their importance -- were surface matters of dispute, symptoms of a fissure that plunges deeper than even those great matters. So deep, because America and Americans seem divided by differing, incompatible dreams.
One side of our national character hungers for change and tomorrow. To treat the future - the range of possible futures -- as ambition-attracting terra incognita, across which our children will explore and stride, better than we are in every way, even if that means repudiating many of our now-unclear assumptions and errors! Preparing those much-better generations for a boundless future is our dedicated proposition. Our mission.
But there is an opposing passion -- the temptation to wallow in nostalgia, romanticism, sanctimony, authority and the comforting rigidity-of-caste that dominated nearly every other civilization, across 6000 years.  It was called feudalism and humanity's greatest heroes fought to liberate us from that beastly, limiting and dismally stupid way of life.
Those who would restore the feudal yoke have always been with us, gathering forces, conniving, aiming persuasive dogma-incantations at both extremes of the vile "left-right political axis." These would-be lords (whether aristocrats or commissars) are spurred by deeply human impulses, arising largely out of male cojones. Impulses that whisper - "You could be a lord, build harems, dominate. Your wealth and power were all self-earned! They arose from inherent superiority! Never imagine that mere luck might have played a role. Or the coordinated creativity of a great nation, or the brilliance of a whole people and civilization. You owe nothing back. The sheep owe you everything."
Boringly predictable, heard in every ancient palace, this rationalization propels ingrate-lords who call themselves "job-creators" while creating few jobs, except for the propagandists that they hire en masse to rail against Abraham Lincoln's high aspiration. Or against scientists, teachers, professors, civil servants, journalists, economists, skilled laborers, law professionals, diplomats, medical doctors -- every profession of ambitious, forward-looking knowledge and skill.
But one core thing is under attack, more than any other. That is the very idea of shared endeavor, of joint action, of common projects that are mediated-by and consensus-chosen through the process of politics that we call "government"… this very idea is denounced as anathema, as repulsive, as inherently evil.
How far has this mania gone? So far that even members of the United States military officer corps  are experiencing real fear for the republic that they love. To which they dedicated their full measure of devotion.
== The passing generation of heroes ==
As happened in 1861, a major fraction of our countrymen have been talked into suckling nostalgic future-rejection and caste-romanticism. Enraged, they'll fight for New Confederacy lords whose "plantations" now span Wall Street, cyberspace and ten million secret accounts in foreign private-banking havens.
How ironic, for this coincides with the passing of the Greatest Generation -- men and women who fought down the curse of Hitlerism, who overcame the First Great Depression, who embraced the plan of Marshall, Truman, Acheson and Eisenhower to contain communism peacefully until its fever broke… without nuclear annihilation. All so that their unique nation might live.
A generation that created the mighty American middle class, amid a burst of entrepreneurial productivity so fantastic that their children could afford to take on ancient evils that all others had taken for granted, like racism, sexism and environmental blindness.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled in those mighty causes shared one trait more common than any other.  The Greatest Generation adored Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- once compared lovingly and in all ways to Lincoln -- but who now one third of our fellow citizens have been talked into equating with Satan Incarnate.
How long until the same thing is done to Honest Abe?
This ongoing struggle is not (despite propaganda) about 'left-versus-right.'  Not when entrepreneurship, small business, federal fiscal responsibility and the middle class always do far better under democrats than under the Republican Party. We could fill page after page with clear evidence that the father of capitalism and the "First Liberal" -- Adam Smith -- would today be a democrat.
RhetoricNo.  When the rhetoric has devolved into a universal and blanket spite toward all government, in principle, and when the greatest sin  -- as perceived by one third of our fellow citizens -- is to even speak of compromise, negotiation, deliberation or an agile freedom from constraining dogma, then we have come full circle.
== For we, the living… ==
One hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln urged our predecessors to advance the unfinished work which the heroes of Gettysburg so nobly advanced, we should read his words again, letting them roll in our heads and off our tongues. And then we must rise to our feet, in similar, steely resolve that the epochal achievements of those who came before us shall not have been in vain.
Oh, this phase of the American Civil War will end as the others did, with victory for Union and moderation and freedom, plus continuation of our ambition to forge ahead.  Mostly as individuals and families and self-formed teams…
GettysburgAddressLincolnGovernment...but also with great projects that we choose by "governmental" processes that -- even when filthy-political -- still often launch us forward.  To conquer polio and build internets. To educate one and all. To create the world's finest universities. To span the continent with highways and dams and electricity… then to preserve much of the rest for future generations. To probe ahead, with the tools of science, for mistakes to catch and solve in the nick of time. To keep the world's longest and greatest peace. To step onto the surface of the Moon.  To aim for the stars.
But first, it will take resolve -- stopping those who would end the Experiment amid dogma and rage. We intend to welcome them back, with charity for all, when this latest fever breaks!  Abe Lincoln showed us how.
But till then, it must simply be stopped.  The oligarchy-financed attempted putsch. And the nostalgic-romantic lunacy that makes so many citizens of a great and free republic screech their hateful vow --
-- that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall perish from the earth.


Stefan Jones said...

What I hate worst about anti-government rhetoric:

The powerful people who promulgate the message want an effective government as long as it serves their needs.

They want prisons, armies, street police, copyright police . . . all of the tools required to maintain monopolies and a grip on power.

Society as a whole needs government to counterbalance the power that wealth brings.

* * *

Dave, have you heard about "The Knights of the Golden Circle?" Ante-bellum slave-holder empire-building wankery, picturing a commercial empire built on slavery stretching across the whole hemisphere.

It is what the slaveholders had in mind for the future.

They got off easy.

david.j.mercer said...

Ok, I'm going to take your advice, hold my nose, and register as the party that has gerrymandered the local districts in their favor so that I can vote in the Primaries, as they are indeed all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Harvard President Drew Faust is a woman.

Dana said...

I've been writing about this crisis at my blog since 2005 (check the political philosophy section) and the fact that you only identify one-third as enemies of Lincoln's ideals represents immense progress. It had been half, give or take, and that half dominated our politics.

What we're seeing now is the blowing off of that excess, in my view.

shaun said...

Thank you for this incisive overview, David. I've posted it on my wall, and shared with a friend who I think will appreciate it and also share it.

As for the Gettysburg Address itself, I was immediately struck by the irony that the world* appears to have much noted, and long remembered what was said by Lincoln, while giving all appearance that what was done there indeed has been largely forgotten.

*or maybe just the USA

A lot to dwell upon. Again, thank you for your keen insights.

LarryHart said...

Under the previous post...
Alfred Differ:

Amendment #14.

They can repeal it if they want to try.

The 14h ammendment declares that anyone born in the United States is a citizen. It does not (nor does the constitution at large) define the very specific term "Natural born citizen".

To me, anyone who is a citizen from birth (for whatever reason) is a "natural born citizen", but that might not be self-evident. The haggling is over that phrase which seems to appear ONLY in the requirements for the presidency.

Certainly, the SPIRIT of the restriction seems to be that the president should have no foreign ties dividing his loyalty. The requirement is for a stronger tie to the country than mere naturalization.

"Have you or would you install that toilet that does a urinalysis with every use?"

I would. You betchya. Kidney disease sucks. 8)

I guess it depends whether the information would be for your benefit (to help get diagnosed and treated) or for your insurance company (to drop or limit your coverage before you cost them money).

Cafe said...

Well spoken David Brin.

When I moved to this country from Australia a few years back I was astounded by the division displayed in the supposedly "United States". Especially between the people and their government.

I remember being told that the reason that there was such a vibrant gun culture was that it was in case the people needed to take on the government. What!?

Was this the same group of people that got a human to the moon?

The divisions seem to be finely played by the powers that be to keep the people divided. Initially I thought this division was merely the world's greatest democracy at work. I soon realized the division was grinding the wheels of government to a halt. Issues were black or white, winner takes all and political discussions short and sloganized.

Where was the compromise that makes democracy work? Where was the exploration of the grey zone and the grace and humility required to navigate the space between beliefs?

On the other hand I have watched as huge social issues, such as LGBT rights have moved surprisingly quickly over the short period of time I have lived here. This does give me heart that there could be movement on other even more substantial issues in the scientific, social, economic and ecological spheres. But the anti-rational BS needs to be swept away before some of these even get talked about seriously.

I appreciate David Brin's work on this blog in keeping in sight the wonders of our age, even as we struggle to deal with the real issues facing us all. My choice to be a realistic optimist is given greater motivation by our offspring who will need to deal with our decisions, long after we are gone.

LarryHart said...


I remember being told that the reason that there was such a vibrant gun culture was that it was in case the people needed to take on the government. What!?

The best face one can put on that is that they picture themselves as the defenders of Lexington and Concord in 1775, able to stand up to the British army because they were armed.

The not-as-best, as Dr Brin often points out, envision themselves riding with Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

Was this the same group of people that got a human to the moon?

No. Something happened between the 1960s and the 1980s that makes the cultures on either side of that wall completely alien to each other. I was born in the very early 1960s, and only have a child's memory of the decade, but WWII seems closer and more relevant to me than does the present age.

Tony Fisk said...

I apologise in advance for the rant, but the events I cover occur in the space of two months, and I guess I have to get a few things off my chest.

The problem is not restricted to the US. I don't think there is a single conservative political party (in the English speaking countries, at least) that hasn't ingested the Kool-Aid served up by Rupert.

Australia has certainly seen this in the last few months, as Abbott moves to put his true agendas into play with feverish pace. His ascendency has more to do with some spectacularly awful acts of self-destruction by the ALP and biased reporting by the Murdoch Press than any grass roots support for LNP policies. As a result, there is a strong groundswell of push-back activism that has caused his government to trip over its shoelaces on several occasions. Long may it continue!

First hint of the new direction came with the announcement of the new cabinet which, for the second time since federation, lacked a science minister (not many women there, either).
As a first act, the environment minister moved to abolish the Climate Commission, which advised the govt on the impact of climate change. He was left looking very foolish when public donations allowed the Commission to be reformed as the Climate Council. In the meantime (not to be outdone in new broom zealotry) the Finance Minister instructed another organisation set up to act as a bank for funding renewable energy companies to cease trading pending its abolition. He was politely told that, until abolished by act of parliament, the organisation was required by law to continue operating, and was not subject to ministerial edicts.

Abbott, to his personal credit, took up a long standing role as a volunteer fire fighter in the recent NSW bushfires, but poo-pooed any notion that they were a symptom of climate change. Fires have always been part of the Australian scene, he said. Indeed, but they are becoming a part of the Australian scene with strikingly increased frequency: fifty year gaps between wildfires have reduced to two.

Abbott claims (naturally) that his election win gives him a mandate to . In the first week of parliament Abbott was using that claim to justify the introduction of legislation to repeal the carbon tax. Last weekend, over 60,000 people came out to disagree with that assertion. At < 1% of the voting population, that hardly constitutes a mandate either. However I very much doubt, on previous form, that the tax axing lobby could raise even a tenth of that number.

This raises a hopeful point though: while the malaise that the US is currently suffering from is evident here it is not as virulent.

A final bit of farce was that this new gov't, having preached economic austerity (ie cut expenditures as required) then moved to have the borrowing limit lifted to $500b. Hmm! Says the opposition, we'll allow $400b, but we'd like to know why you need it raising so much? Unacceptable! is the screeched response. You need to allow the limit to be raised *now* or gov't will shut down in December.

(Oh Puh-leez! These guys can't even brew their own original crises!?)

I pointed out the ramifications of the TPP a few days ago. This comes across as an oligarchical fantasy to impose a global regime of authority by and for the corporation, with national sovereignty being overruled. At one level that is frankly terrifying. At another... I don't think so.

Acacia H. said...

The Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War, and Watergate happened. Those three things polarized and ripped apart the country. When you add in the anti-science movement, you almost can buy Dr. Brin's conspiracy beliefs concerning oligarchy and attempts to tear apart the nation. Because Apollo and the Lunar Landing helped unify our country during that one shining moment even with the wars and conflict.

If we had a thriving space program instead of the faltering hesitant thing that is so scared of its own shadow, and had a project that just ignited the passions of our nation once more (and yes, Dr. Brin, I know you rail against the Moon and feel it is a trap... but it is visible to us as more than just a dot of light and has inspired so much of humanity - a new Lunar Program building a base on the Moon and a permanent scientific settlement on the edge of the Moon so we can send people and rovers (and a radio telescope) into the Far Side...) and make people PROUD to be Americans and proud to be part of this united nation.

But NASA is a bureaucratic mess that works from budget to budget despite needing five-year plans with pre-made budgets that can't be cut by politicians looking for a quick "readjustment" of revenue. And the national science funding needs to be blanket, not cherry picking according to the "sensibilities" of certain "conservative" Senators and Representatives.

What Democrats need to do, but don't have the guts (or intelligence) to do is to start calling anti-science sentiments "anti-American." To say "if your anti-science views had been in place fifty years ago, we'd not have beaten the Russians to the Moon. Hell, we'd have had to surrender to the Russians because they'd have missiles and we wouldn't." You call anti-science sentiments treasonous. Anti-American. You point out all the things that American Science has brought about.

You can point at Tesla Motors, the first purely American automobile company in the U.S. in years... which made a viable and enjoyable electric automobile. You talk about how American fracking is, which has renewed the American plastics and polymers industry. You talk about advances in computers and communications. You talk about how American Taxpayer Dollars went into research to bring about discoveries that allow these devices we use.

You turn American Science into a thing of pride... and then say "and Republicans are trying to kill our American scientific achievements because they don't like what scientists are learning and would rather claim science is a lie than do something responsible as a result of these discoveries."

Well, I say "You" and I mean Democrats. But we all know they're too gutless to do this.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Actually, I tell folks outside America - "relax. Blue America is as sane as you are, and better, in some ways. It includes very few socialists and many entrepreneurs, so this is not about left-versus-right." It is about trying to move into the future with a paranoid brother clutching your leg (and biting it) while screaming "Nooooooooooo!!!!!!" "

Doug S. said...

This is a bit off-topic for this particular post, but a "henchman's prize" might actually be illegal.

If you offer someone money to break a non-disclosure agreement, then under the common law doctrine of Tortious interference of contract you're liable for any economic damages that may result. In other words, they can sue your ass off. "Whistleblower" protections can be notoriously narrow. For example, two reporters were fired for refusing to lie in a TV news report. They tried to claim whistleblower status and sued, but they lost the case when an appeals court ruled that there's no law against deliberately broadcasting false news.

Acacia H. said...

I don't know, Dr. Brin. I think the abject failure that is Obamacare is going to sink the Democrats. They're going to lose the Senate and more seats in the House in 2014, and then the Republicans will do everything to destroy things while blaming Obama and the Democrats so to win the White House in 2016.

And I think enough voters are stupid enough that they'll buy it, hook, line and sinker.

Don't forget the saying that Democracy is the government that people deserve. And not in a good way.

Rob H.

Cafe said...

I do see some folks caught up in a nostalgic past, ignoring what has been achieved in such a short time, especially in social development, science and technology.

As I get older, I wonder if this is just a longing for one's youth when things seemed so simple in comparison!?

I am not too sure about progress on the economic front. It seems that true free markets are being squeezed by vested interests and the middle class is slowly being squeezed back into a type of serfdom. Wealth inequality is astounding - beyond that of the French revolution period.

Is this a failure of regulation? Is it the inevitable end product of capital accumulation? Is it a warping of our democracy? Is it the media? Is it the disinterest of a divided population? Is it all those things and more?

So many interesting questions, which we need to find answers for and act upon if we are to continue the enlightenment program we started a little way back...

David Brin said...

Doug the Henchman's prize would have to be VERY carefully parsed. It would have to be for revelations that survive questions of legality. But there are ways.

Robert, we'll see. I'll bet you a nickel recent events have so lowered expectations for Obamacare that folks may be surprised… at which the gophers will cry "It was Gingrich-Romneycare all along!"

Cafe of course the Middle Class is being crushed! The question is whether radicalization and anger, as it rises, will channel into a revolution that is French-style… or 1933 Germany style…. or like the Jefforsonian mild reform-reset style we traditionally do, as when Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts or FDR MADE the middle class.

I'd prefer the latter and I am looking for a Roosevelt.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, we'll make it a drink (probably a cup of hot cocoa in my case). If you're ever at the science fiction convention Arisia, then after that election if you're right, I'll buy you a drink and we'll toast your prescience. If I'm correct we'll toast the youth vote and hope that they don't allow the politics of despair to keep them from the polls in the future.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

Problem with pointing to Tesla Motors as a triumph of American science is that there seems to be an attempt to recast it as a failure. There have, after all, been three whole car fires involving Tesla Model S. Sure, in each case the driver had to run into or over something first, and in each case the vehicle politely warned the driver that something catastrophic was about to happen, giving them time to pull over and get out safely (which is a lot more than either of the cars I experienced fires in could do), but still, news reports this morning are characterizing these incidents as a "string" of car fires, and are written with the hidden implication that electric cars aren't all that safe after all...

matthew said...

David, conservatives have been painting "Honest Abe" as Satan for a long time.
I am sure that you have spoken to someone about the civil war that was raised in a former Confederate State. Have you listened to the hatred of Lincoln that is still being taught to elementary children 150 years after he suspended Habeas Corpus? Have you seen what passes for a history textbook in Texas?
The class-elites hatred for FDR has an exact match in the nostalgic-white-privilege, fake-rights-waving states'-sovereignty nuts hatred of Lincoln. And all too often the two groups overlap.
Americans are being taught at a very young age that their two greatest Presidents were not just wrong, but evil to try to change things for the better. To try to hold together our nation.
This attack on FDR and Lincoln both is not a coincidence. It is the work of those that really truly deep down inside hate what America has become.

Cafe said...

So what you are saying, David Brin, is that we need a strong leader to take on the big end of town? Your search may be in vain - I do not see any likely candidates in the two major parties.

The political selection process here and the huge funding required to support it would seem to be antithetical in producing a candidate that can turn his or her back on the machine that got them to the point of becoming the President.

Are you then talking about a third party or even a soft revolution by some form of benevolent political leader? One that inspires at the grass roots level both those trapped in right and left wing revolving door as well as the broader moderate group?

In my limited experience of this country I don't see that happening. I do see a lot of suppressed anger and disenchantment with government, politicians and fellow citizens. I also see a heavily armed population.

Is the current polarized political and societal mood likely to flip? What are the historical precedents for such a re-direction? I do see remarkable changes happening here sometimes that seem to indicate a change of this nature is possible. I certainly hope so. Perhaps you are correct, the right sort of leader is required to lead through such change. Or perhaps the societal zeitgeist needs to reach a point of correction?

David Brin said...

Cafe all we need is for the Smithian logic of opposition to take hold. If enough of the "new" billionaires get fed up and scared for the middle class society that made them and provided their opportunities, they can provide money to counter the Bad Money. Some are tepidly trying. Do you think things were any different for Teddy Roosevelt or FDR?

Cafe said...

I will need to read more on Teddy Roosevelt as I am not that familiar with his presidency.

My understanding was that FDR, while part of the elite establishment, was concerned about the power of the socialist and even communist elements taking hold in the American society. It was only the danger of the lower classes coalescing into a viable opposition (perhaps even revolutionary opposition) that gave him the power to strong arm his peers into accepting large taxes and the offering of a new deal to general populace.

While on the left and right (Tea Party, neo-libertarians) and elsewhere (Occupy) there seems to be outbursts of opposition, there is no unified front. Moreover a lot of the opposition is directed at the government and is missing the mark so to speak.

I am heartened by the Buffetesque nouveau rich who see the danger signs and are willing to meet the middle class half way. They are the sensible ones, who are prepared to give some in order to nourish and maintain the society that allowed them to rise to the riches they enjoy. Is it enough though to offset the long term war on the new deal?

David Brin said...

Well said, Cafe.

locumranch said...

By invoking Honest Abe, the Gettysburg Address, WW2, the Great Society, the Greatest Generation, the Magnificent Middle Class & Pax Americana, David falls prey to the very affectation that he cautions us against: The temptation to wallow in nostalgia, romanticism, sanctimony, authority and the comforting rigidity-of-caste.

Confusing the past with the future, he tells folks outside America to "relax" because (he believes that) the "Blue America is as sane as you are, and BETTER (than you), in some ways", as if the US is 'as good once as it ever was'.

Now, this is both sad & pathetic, like a washed up footballer bragging about his glory days as if those gallant games long past can somehow excuse his present as a drunken derelict.

Poor Abe was executed for his honesty more than 6 generations ago; WW2 has been old news for almost 75 yrs; the Greatest Generation is mostly dead; the Magnificent Middle Class is politically impotent & practically extinct; and Pax Americana has been an expensive joke for years.

Similarly, all this sanctimony about 'Competitiveness' is an Appeal to Authority, amounting to little more than Smithian Hero Worship because neither Competitiveness nor Oligarchy exists in isolation. They balance each other in dynamic equilibrium. One (competitiveness) creates resources while the other (oligarchy) focuses & husbands those resources. NASA (also extinct) is a perfect example of this duality.

Perhaps it's time to discard our old dreams of manifest destiny & empire, and let sleeping Abes lie. Without renewal, the USA is due for the Old Folks Home.


David Brin said...

Ah, locus's back, poking this time with ALMOST actual logic. Alas, his riff that: "Ccompetitiveness) creates resources while the other (oligarchy) focuses & husbands those resources." is absurd.

Something that so uniformly crushed freedom and creative markets for 6000 years, while delivering abysmal statecraft, is something we can do without.

locumranch said...

My riff on "Competitiveness creates resources while the other (oligarchy) focuses & husbands those resources" is absurd, is it?

Who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, Chernobyl, the US Space Program & Virgin Galactic?

Oligarchs, Royalists & their respective loyalists all.

Can you imagine the creation of any of these great (?) works if it wasn't for the hierarchical presence of some sort of oppressive centralised authority, overriding individual will in favour of of some greater abstract good?

Lord, yes, let's build those Pyramids over the petty objections of those antisocial Israelites, construct the Great Wall on the bones of our Cooley citizen laborers, expend a huge proportion of our limited national resources in order to beat those pesky Russkies to the Moon, protect our exclusive beachfront properties by stopping Climate Change and, while we're at it, ban large soft drinks, trans-fats, personal liberty & firearms.

After all, it's for the greater glory of Pharaoh, the best interests of humanity AND the betterment of all Mankind, assuming (of course) that our increasingly powerful political leaders keep the best interests of humanity in mind.

Fat Chance.


Tim H. said...

Locumranch, you got a problem with a balanced society? To regain balance will not be a step backwards, it'll be profiting from the experience of past generations, building on that. The oligarchs won't miss meals if the 99.9% improve their lives, Wall $treet excels at providing service for profit to those who create physical wealth. The Golden Gate bridge, Hoover dam and the Manhattan project all were built in or completed during the New Deal era, a time loathed by oligarchs, and where are the Reagan-era rivals to them? All I'm saying is "Hey! This worked, let's try this again.".

jsn said...

Very similar ideas with a post-nationalist framing:

David Brin said...

Utterly absurd conflation of "oligarchs" with consensus-driven, politically mediated, tax-paid joint effort. The former did build pyramids, so?

The latter built the Athenian empire which was bungled but was on its way to taking over the mediterrannean. The latter built freaking Rome! Both were flawed, but got their dynamism from citizenship.

I will put up the US Interstate Highway system and Voyager space probes against the Great Wall any day of the week and it is vastly more visible from space.

Yes, a Randian Ayndroid would call both systems "coercive theft." But the American Revolution was against "taxation without REPRESENTATION," not against all taxation.

Oligarchy by definition neuters representation.

SOrry, Locum, you are 100% wrong.


Onward -- follow to next post

Carolyn Meinel said...

See also David Marash's take on Gettysburg and class warfare worldwide. As an Emmy-awarded TV newsman (Nightline), he has reported on some of these abuses worldwide as the upper class works to drag us into the feudal past.