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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.

Comments

banshea
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...)
darkcryst
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...