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Some Musings on the State of the Union

The US political system intrigues me, but not for the reasons you might think.

For a start: it's not the system itself - one that is basically the same as the UK system, but with an elected monarch* and a less powerful head of the house - but rather it is the way the reactions to the system can be used to look at the people and mindset of the country itself.

For example, from the late 1700s:

"... thousands of Americans had acquired a horror of 'strong government.' Some among them feared that any strong government might end in a monarchy or that it would mean, in any case, big armies, big navies, heavy taxes, mountainous debts, and interference with personal liberty, in the style of the British government."
- A Basic History of the United States, C. & M. Beard. (1944)
The people they are talking about are not only the so called founding fathers, but also the populous. It's an attitude that has actually hammered itself into the American psyche so strongly that it comes up all the time. Switch on the nightly news in the US and there will be something (especially on Fox) that talks about big government in a scary fashion.

But wait.. lets examine the reality here:
  • Big armies. Arguably the largest army in the world, certainly the one with the most funds. Note - this doesn't mean best quality.
  • Big navies. Ditto the above.
  • Heavy Taxes. Here the US is weird - it has taxes are almost as high as the UK (except for Gas, gas is cheap as hell here), but the cost of living is lower.. as long as you don't include health care and related things (vision, dental, etc) into it. So... call it even.
  • Mountainous Debts. Do I even need to talk about the record debt the USA has now? How it's ridiculously high even compared to GDP? How the US is basically owned by Japan, China, the UK and the middle east?
  • Interference with personal liberty. Again, where to start. Loss of Habus Corpus? Wiretapping? The list goes on...
So the reality doesn't match up with what is professed to be wanted, and yet it continues largely unchallenged.** The founders wanted a new system... but largely cloned the old one.

It's an interesting observation (to me) to see that the US wanted then what it did now, and that it really isn't actually that much closer to getting it. In fact it seems to be having the same problems its always had.

I don't have any solutions, though changing the rule regime couldn't hurt (and I'm not just talking about Bush here), as well as a sensible spending policy (how about Clinton's old "pay as you go" system? If you cut taxes you must also cut spending? Worked pretty well). However it would seem to indicate there there are some larger scale social and psychological obstacles to overcomes as well...

... thoughts?

* Seriously, that's the only difference I can see between Lizzie and Dubya. Disagree? Tell me more...
** Blog posts don't count, the revolution is in the streets and the corridors of power, not pissed of bloggers. The writing isn't inspiring anyone to do anything... sad but apparently true.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
8th May, 2007 07:12 (UTC)
Something that I've struggled with since childhood is the apparent double standards that exist all over our culture. We constantly and blatantly lie about our expectations -- "No harm in asking" is what we say, but in actual practice you can offend people with a presumptive question. We say, "honesty is the best policy" but then the people who get furthest in life are the ones who tell the biggest lies. Generally, the words we use to describe our values are pretty much the exact opposite of what we actually do. This was the bane of my existance as a kid -- I'd ask questions that I'd promptly be yelled at for having that kind of audacity, I'd be told that I was smart and my opinion mattered only to be completely ignored (and deeply hurt) when it was promptly ignored.

I'd assumed that this kind of thing was endemic to Western culture and possibly the human condition, but maybe it's only an American thing? (Then again, I think Machiavelli could make a good case for the former...)
8th May, 2007 15:19 (UTC)
No that happens in the UK too, I think it has a little more room to foster and grow here right now, but that might be a passing phase.

People (as a group) are selfish a greedy, and that goes for intellectual matters too...
8th May, 2007 07:26 (UTC)
Pay as you go? I remember no such implementation.

To return to your main point, I am against a large central government. I prefer to devolve the power, as much as possible, to the lowest level.

The biggest problem I see with the political system, as regards parties, is that we really only have the two. (Yes, there are others, but they pretty much are pissing in the wind, especially with regard to the presidential elections.) That means that everyone, all 300 million Americans, have to chose one or the other.

Without putting too much of my personal political views out there, I firmly believe in some of the Republican views AND the Democratic ones. But, I can't go in and vote and say 'Well, I like fiscal conservatism, but I really want rights for homosexuals.'

The last election basically gave a chose of bad vs. bad. It made me want to pull my hair out. Hopefully, this time one of the candidates will stand up for something that I do as well.

But somehow? I doubt it.
8th May, 2007 09:32 (UTC)
We've just had precisely this in France. Being an immigrant to this country allows me to view the proceedings with a slightly different viewpoint than the French (even though the outcome does affect me and I'd sure as hell vote if they'd let me).

We're seeing this shift from a lot of "voices" to two or three all over the world - Britain, Australia, France, Germany... it's not just the US which is seeing a polarisation of its political system. And interestingly, while there is this polarisation, more and more the two poles are coming closer together and what you find is that traditionally left or right wing parties are becoming more and more centrist.

I think we will continue to see the epidemic of bad vs. bad choices and voting will become more about voting for the devil you know, rather than voting for something you truly believe in.
8th May, 2007 18:41 (UTC)
Yeah, two political parties doesn't help. Everything becomes a Us or Them type discussion. Not particularly productive when that happens. Not sure how, at this point, someone would create a new party. It would need to have a large group of known individuals being members of it...

It doesn't help that both political parties are right of center, and this divisive attitude is getting worse world wide.

As for pay as you go - it's the policy that was widely credited with dropping the national debt to its lowest level in years.
8th May, 2007 14:04 (UTC)
My opinion? The majority of the people in this country have no spine and rely on the government to solve there every problem no matter how small.

This is why I get so many stupid calls to the police department about things that have nothing to do with the police department and likely nothing to do with the government. The police department is the most visible and easily accessible part of the government.

I had a guy call because he wanted the police to come and talk to his son because he got bad grades and was having an attitude about it. This, sadly, is not uncommon. "Come parent my children."

That's only the tip of the iceberg.

You probably don't want to get me started on everything I think is wrong with the citizens of this country that allowed everything that is wrong with the government to happen (because, the way it was originally set up, we HAD to allow it.)

No, we aren't supposed to have a standing army. However, at this point, the majority of the citizens are so afraid of guns (and, yes, we have a high rate of gun ownership, but we gun owners are in no way in the majority) that we couldn't have a militia if our lives depended on it (and you never know--they may some day.) At least, not an effective one.

We're a bunch of soft, whiny crybabies. I fully admit that I'm a LOT softer than those who founded this country and went on to set up shop in the entire land mass after we became a nation. One of the designs for Oklahoma's quarter (well, more than one) had a replica of the statue of the Pioneer Woman that stands near Marland Mansion in Ponca City. That woman could kick my ass all the way to Sunday and back. But, I'd get some good digs in whereas most of this country would just curl up in a little ball and cry for mommy to come help them.

And it pisses me off.

At least I know that I CAN survive--maybe with a little help from my hunting friends--without a cushy home and a job and a vehicle and grocery stores. Most people wouldn't have a clue what to do.

You ever read The Stand by Stephen King? It's lucky for most of the people that they died from that Super Flu, because the way things ended up, they would have been like Shannon at the beginning of Lost--standing there screaming or crying with their spoiled asses not knowing what to do.

By the way, none of this anger is directed at you. It just really upsets me to see the direction the people of this country have taken. Plus, I have a headache and am a little grumpy knowing that as of midnight I can't even drink water. heh
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )