Category: Political Science

What Karl Marx got right

| February 19, 2014 | Reply

To this point, Karl Marx offered a system of government that has not worked well anywhere that it has been tried, at least so far. I took a college course on Marx many years ago, and I was impressed with many of his criticisms of capitalism. Some of those criticisms of capitalism are becoming apparent to most of us, as set forth in this article by Sean McElwee of Rolling Stone. Here are the headings:

1. The Great Recession (Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature)
2. The iPhone 5S (Imaginary Appetites)
3. The IMF (The Globalization of Capitalism)
4. Walmart (Monopoly)
5. Low Wages, Big Profits (The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor)

McElwee’s conclusion:

Marx was wrong about many things. Most of his writing focuses on a critique of capitalism rather than a proposal of what to replace it with – which left it open to misinterpretation by madmen like Stalin in the 20th century. But his work still shapes our world in a positive way as well. When he argued for a progressive income tax in the Communist Manifesto, no country had one. Now, there is scarcely a country without a progressive income tax, and it’s one small way that the U.S. tries to fight income inequality.

Here’s a related article by Jesse Myerson of Salon: “Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism).” Here are the misconceptions:

1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.
2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.
3. Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession.
4. Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.
5. 21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.
6. Communism fosters uniformity.
7. Capitalism fosters individuality.

Myerson’s conclusion regarding misconception 7:

As a matter of fact, most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.

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What happens when everything is a commodity

| February 12, 2014 | Reply

Chris Hedges discusses America’s warmongering, the war that the military is waging on journalism, the rise of hyper-masculinity, the fact that most problems are now seen as invitations to apply violence, and the fact that most things have become valuable only insofar as they are commodities. Hedges is not a defeatist, though. He states, “You can’t talk about hope if you don’t resist. Once we give up, we’re finished. . . . We have a moral duty to fight against forces of evil even if it seems certain that those forces will triumph.”

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Media reluctance to expose and criticize Barack Obama’s many constitutional violations

| September 2, 2012 | Reply

Obama Administration’s is waging a war on the Constitution, but you’ll barely hear anything about it in the mass media. At Truthout, John Cusack of Truthout recently interviewed law professor Jonathan Turley. It’s an extended interview that raises many serious points. They explore at depth the moral quandary many voters SHOULD feel, but won’t, when enter the voting booth. In a related matter, they suggest that many Obama supporters are followers of a personality cult. And repeatedly, the mass media is going Obama license to do more of the same, despite the lies, despite the trashing of the U.S. Constitution. Here are two excerpts from the long interview:

CUSACK: I hate to speak too much to motivation, but why do you think MSNBC and other so-called centrist or left outlets won’t bring up any of these things? These issues were broadcast and reported on nightly when John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez and Bush were in office.
TURLEY: Well, there is no question that some at MSNBC have backed away from these issues, although occasionally you’ll see people talk about –

CUSACK: I think that’s being kind, don’t you? More like “abandoned.”

TURLEY: Yeah. The civil liberties perspective is rarely given more than a passing reference while national security concerns are explored in depth. Fox is viewed as protective of Bush while MSNBC is viewed as protective of Obama. But both presidents are guilty of the same violations. There are relatively few journalists willing to pursue these questions aggressively and objectively, particularly on television. And so the result is that the public is hearing a script written by the government that downplays these principles. They don’t hear the word “torture.”

They hear “enhanced interrogation.” They don’t hear much about the treaties. They don’t hear about the international condemnation of the United States. Most Americans are unaware of how far we have moved away from Nuremberg and core principles of international law.

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Coming GOP Meltdown

| March 1, 2012 | 8 Replies
Coming GOP Meltdown

I considered writing something about the recent primaries in Michigan and Arizona, in advance of Super Tuesday, but things have become so mind-numbingly bizarre I’m not sure I’d have anything relevant to say, at least not about this particular election cycle.  As a personal observation, I’d like to say that any of the Republican candidates […]

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Test your knowledge of American civics and history

| December 27, 2011 | 11 Replies
Test your knowledge of American civics and history

I just finished taking this test of United States government civics and history.  I correctly answered 32 out of 33 questions, having guessed at a couple of them.  I believe that most of these questions are fairly worded and that they concern important topics of which American voters should be familiar.  I assume that I scored highly because I work as a lawyer, because I read quite a bit, and I actually lived through some of the events mentioned in the questions.  I would think that Americans who choose to vote should be able to answer more of these questions correctly than incorrectly. In fact, it is my opinion that people who do terribly (those who answer more incorrectly than correctly) should voluntarily refrain from voting in national elections because they lack a basic foundation of knowledge on which to base political decision-making.    Now consider this:

More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33 question test on civic literacy and 71% of them received an average score of 49% or an “F.” The quiz reveals that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

As discussed by the linked article, even significant numbers of elected officials who took this test displayed ignorance regarding basic topics. This is highly discouraging, of course (and see here).

It is difficult to argue that the People of this country should self-govern when so many of them are so ignorant of the basic information they need in order to cast meaningful votes.   It’s time to break the silence and to admit to each other that in order to self-govern, the citizens will need to be much more selective in how they spend their free time. They apparently need to be much more selective in their television viewing and book choices (25% of Americans did not read any books last year).  Better education is the answer, but how can we educate the many millions of people who have already graduated from school?  How can we pry them, at least once in a while, from the addictive fare offered by the Entertainment Industries?

I would love to make all candidates currently running for President take a comparable test. I would suspect that at least several of them would fail even this simple multiple choice test.   Actually, I believe that Presidential candidates should be required to take a much more difficult and detailed test under supervised conditions to demonstrate whether they are well-versed in American politics and history.  Their scores should then be published (along with the questions and their answers) for voters to consider.

These test results indicate that these are dangerous times for our country. It’s frustrations like these that lead me to advocate dramatic measures, such as passing a Constitutional Amendment to get money out of politics. Such an amendment would be a start, and only then might we have meaningful conversations about what needs to be done to fix the country. We cannot have such conversations while we have ignorant voters and corrupted politicians.  If we can’t depend on the People of this country and if we can depend on our elected officials, on whom can we depend?

Maybe, after passing a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics, we could have some chance to break up big banks and big media, we maybe then we could start weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels and we could start investing in better quality civics and history education for our children.

Or maybe my proposed first step is a pipe dream.    Based on many conversations I’ve been having with people I respect, I’m increasingly worried that we don’t have what it takes to pull out of our current nose dive.

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Ostracized no more: America’s disenfranchised 99% begin to form their own group.

| October 23, 2011 | Reply
Ostracized no more: America’s disenfranchised 99% begin to form their own group.

Two years ago, I was excited to see Barack Obama elected President because I had listened closely to his campaign speeches and I assumed that I would now have a meaningful voice in how my government was being run. I assumed that we would see an immediate decrease to America’s warmongering, domestic spying and fossil-fuel dependence, for example. Since that election, though, I’ve witnessed Mr. Obama cave-in to right wing demands on numerous major issues. I’ve seen Wall Street “reform” that allows bigger “banks” than ever. I’ve seen health care “reform” that shoved single payer under the table and consisted of a sell-out to for-profit monopolistic insurers, without any meaningful price controls. Government spying and secrecy are more prevalent than ever. I’ve seen big business spend more money more flagrantly than ever to purchase politicians, including Barack Obama.

As all of this has transpired, I keep being reminded of George Carlin’s words, (at the two-minute mark) that there is a “big club . . . and ain’t in it. . . . You and I are not in the big club.”

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The failure of progressive ideas in America

| August 27, 2011 | 2 Replies
The failure of progressive ideas in America

At Slate, Mandy Van Deven offers this explanation for why the ideas of the left aren’t taking root in modern America:

The left’s success in the 1930s was based on a lot of preparation that went back to the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era when corporations were seen as malefactors of great wealth. When the Great Depression hit there was immediate support for ideas that people on the left had been talking about, like that corporations are selfish and exploit their workers or that the wealth should be more evenly spread out. For the past 35 years, conservative notions about Big Government rather than liberal ones about Big Business have been dominant. When the economic crisis hit in the 2008, Americans were already primed to believe the government couldn’t do anything right because it hasn’t been doing anything right for years. Ironically, the conservatives were proved right when the stimulus didn’t do what the Obama administration hoped it would do, and clearly the Tea Party has been able to grow on that policy mistake. The reaction depends on what people think when an economic crisis hits, not what people say to make their case after it has happened.

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