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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.


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.