Sunday, August 7, 2011


I'm sending this in, directly.  Posting it here first.  ;  )

Remember American Exceptionalism?  What happened?  America was going to be different, right?  Exceptional.  The first to try a radical experiment in self-government.  Who better to govern a people than the people themselves? 

The old way was the few rule and the many serve.  The few owned the land, the many worked it.  The few had plenty, the many sometimes starved.   The many paid taxes so the few could live in luxury.  The many fought wars so the few might increase their wealth.

Enlightenment thought said that all are equal, with equal rights to life, liberty and happiness.  Conservative reaction was to protect the old ways.  But ideas don’t die easily and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson articulated these in the new world and said, let’s do this!  And a new nation was born, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” 

The Preamble claims that we form our government to “establish Justice … (and to) promote the general Welfare.”  The idea that people could ever be motivated solely by interest in the common good is beyond naïve.  But equally far-fetched is the notion that we can have a true society by pursuing narrow self-interest. 

Consider tax policy.  It’s in everyone’s individual interest to pay as little as possible.  But the over-all good suffers.  As taxes on upper incomes drop, disparity rises.  Is this “good” for the community?  How?  As more wealth has accrued to the few the “misery index” has risen.  As the middle class has shrunk the prison population has more than doubled.  Coincidence?   

We need the wealth of the nation to be equitably distributed.  Not that anybody should be “given” anything but rather, let us recognize that wealth isn’t solely a product of entrepreneurship or “ownership.”  Many factors contribute including labor and materials.  Perhaps Earth’s resources can be most efficiently brought to market by the private sector but it does not follow that all wealth thereby created must go to the few.  The “owners” of production deciding who gets how much is not so much “fair” as it is leverage.   In Plato’s Republic Thrasymachus argues that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.  Socrates points out that the many are stronger than the few, so the many can leverage the few in the common interest.  In a democracy the good of the many is about as close as we can likely ever come to advancing the common good.  We don’t want wage mandates so the only lever we have is tax policy.  We should return to the higher marginal rates of the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Higher marginal rates accomplish two good things: more revenue (balance those budgets), and more reinvestment in the American economy as the wealthy avoid taxes by deferring income.

I don’t expect multi-national corporations to respond to an appeal to patriotism and “do what’s right for America.”  But can’t we expect our policy makers to respond to such an appeal?  Or is patriotism only something the have-nots are supposed to show during wartime? 

Do we want to be exceptional or don’t we?                     


  1. Yes we do. Many in other places do as well. The school is open, but so far, few here are reading the lessons.
    The Arab spring is about demanding opportunity at a piece of the plutocracy owned pie and a roll of the dice that what ever comes after will be less oppressive and corrupt than the governments chased out. Of course we don't have that last set of troubles. But the feudal system of tyrants and overlords is creeping in on us both financially and in our civil/consumer rights against employers & corporations many of whom are not even US in the true sense.
    A few days ago 300,000 Israelies took to the streets. The jews have had it with the flow of wealth into the hands of a few, and the influence of businesses on government. They are demanding a new government, higher tax on the rich, restricting lobbyist, more social safety nets. Could it be the Jewish state the far right Christian zealots give to in hope of spawning the end of times wars is turning left?
    Certainly, your writing Kevin and logic here is interesting and moving. My examples are a bit off subject perhaps. My point was, aside from some motivated people in Wisconsin, the youth of America have done nothing like the youth of the 60's to usher in civil rights, women's rights, and help shut down a war started on the weakest of premise. The youth of he middle east however are not obese and dying of entertainment. Just as we are ceding financial and manufacturing lead to Asia, we are ceding activism to the middle east, and hopefully to a few exceptional people in Wisconsin.

  2. There r the less fortunate. And there is the unfortunate. One makes it so. While the other had no say so. Know saying that. Trying to distribute which one gets the help "Deserved" it the question. Did I make any sense.

  3. Not off subject and I agree. It's not "bad enough" here, yet, to motivate a sufficient number of people.

  4. Look, Just make friggin certain that you get your ass out to vote in the Wisconsin recall elections. As to the post- Kevin, your ass is a radical and bides close damned watchin...


  5. Anonymous Joe, I'm not really talking about the poor here, I'm talking about the working middle class. We want our New Deal back!

    In return for not attempting to throw down the rich and take their land we were promised jobs and a chance to participate in a vibrant economy. "They" are not coming through with their end of things. They have decided it's all about them and their "needs." If it's revolution they want they are on the right track. Just keep pushing us. ; )

  6. Sarge, my state Senator isn't facing recall, or I'd be out there. And yes, I bear watching. ; )

  7. notacynic:

    A nation in which 1% of the population controls 40% of the wealth while over 50 million of its citizens do not have health insurance cannot be exceptional.

  8. Agreed, Whit. Certainly not by MY definition.