Why Identity Politics Doesn’t Help

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Identity politics refers to political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify. Identity politics includes the ways in which people’s politics are shaped by aspects of their identity through loosely correlated social organizations. Examples include social organizations based on age, religion, social class, culture, dialect, disability, education, ethnicity, language, sex, gender, generation, race, political party and sexual orientation. In essence, one’s identity becomes the lenses she looks through and which colors how she views polity and expression. At best, it gives a powerful voice to minority groups who feel poorly represented or suppressed. At worse, it emboldens tribalism and pits social groups against one another, as each group demands that their identity get the recognition it deserves. Given its nascent rise in in the civic sphere, it is an issue that needs to be considered thoughtfully and rationally. My approach will be to offer a better strategy than what identity politics proffers and then lay out 6 arguments that shed light on its futility.

My contention is that we ought to, instead, build our arguments for freedom and liberty based on our collective identity as American citizens. As a collective whole, our ability to articulate a cohesive national identity is the only way for us to make progress and pass laws that ensure our freedom. Citizenship, the central concept of democratic politics, is a bond linking all members of a political society over time, regardless of our individual characteristics, giving us both rights and duties. We are enfranchised with unalienable rights that secure our opportunity to participate in the democratic process. We enjoy freedom of speech, religion, and the right to vote. But we also procure obligations within the democratic process to pay taxes, respect the rights of people, and respect property, all with the goal of a creating a freer and better society. And the only way to keep progressing is through movements that are mobilized by unified large groups of people who argue from a position of shared humanity as American citizens.

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If we want to continue to extend and expand our freedoms in this country, it will take large swaths of our population banding together for what is just and right. This is evidenced by the civil rights movement and the early feminist movements. Identity politics makes this impossible because it divides the country into a thousand different identities and voices. Gone are the days of a homogeneous voice that articulates a vision of America as a unified whole. Perhaps identity politics is not the best strategy.

Before I lay out my arguments, allow me to give one real life example of what identity politics looks like when it’s fully played out. On March 21, 2017, millions of people gathered in solidarity for women’s rights. Below the surface, however, tribal tensions lurked. The original name of the march was set to be, “Million Women March,” which was the name of the 1997 protest for black women’s unity. Black women quickly accused the organizations of appropriation, and then black women began protesting against a women’s rally for women’s rights. Not only did black women break off, but then you had the Left pushing pro-life issues which excluded the more Conservative women. The tribal tribalism resulted in the women on the Left not allowing the female religious pro-lifers to participate in the march. Thus, what was supposed to promote solidarity quickly escalated into a war of differing tribes based on different identities. In the end, women’s rights was forgotten as differing and opposing differentiated identities bolted ahead to the forefront of the conversation. The question remains: Why does identity politics fail to unite the country and procure legislation that expands our rights and liberties?

#1 Identity Politics Divides

First, identity politics cannot unify the country and bring reconciliation because it perpetually fractionates groups into sup-groups and those sub-groups into other sub-groups. I won’t belabor this point because I believe the example of the Women’s March debacle highlights this very premise. But what we see today are groups fragmented among groups based on who has been oppressed the most. Talk of the collective whole today and solidarity is silenced when every group and sub-group in this country is pitted against each other in a war over who has suffered the most. This point also shares qualities with my next argument.

gytvuyg#2 Identity Politics is a Zero-Sum Competition

Identity politics results in a zero-sum competition. Simply ask yourself, who gets the rights and recognition their demanding with identity politics? Answer: no one. No one wins when ‘The Oppressed’ is trying to out-oppress the last ‘Oppressed’. Thus, everyone becomes the victim in a kind of ‘Oppression Olympics’ resulting in groups crying wolf while everyone else simply rolls their eyes. During a Black Lives Matter protest at the DNC held in Philadelphia in July 2016, a protest leader announced that “this is a black and brown resistance march”, asking white allies to “appropriately take [their] place in the back of this march (Amy Chua, Identity Politics).” As you can imagine, the white people simply left the protest. Again, no one wins.

hbuhj#3 Identity Politics Fosters Narcissism

Instead of heeding John F. Kennedy’s call of solidarity when he affirmed, “What can I do for my country?”, identity politics demands, “what does my country owe me by virtue of my identity?” Today, the focus of attention is now less on the relation between our identification with the United States as democratic citizens than our identification with different social groups within it. If we look back in history, the civil rights movement had more in common with the struggles of earlier religious and ethnic minority groups, which were about have their equality and dignity as citizens recognized. As I mentioned earlier, the civil rights movement and the first and second wave of feminism were movements that had to do with having their equality and dignity as citizens recognized with the collective whole. As Mark Lilla points out, during the 1970s and 1980s a shift began. The focus of attention is now less on the relation between our identification with the United States as democratic citizens and our identification with different social groups. Citizenship has dropped out of the picture. “People now speak instead of their personal identities in terms of their inner homunculus, a unique little thing composed of parts tinted by race, sex, and gender (Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal).” The only meaningful question now is  a deeply personal one: what does my country owe me by virtue of my identity?

#4 Identity Politics is Built on Romanticism Rather Than Political Realism

Identity politics is built on romanticism rather than political realism, which means emotions and feeling are elevated over facts. Romantics are known to place a higher value on feelings rather than facts. Romantics, like the political identitarians, see society itself as somewhat dubious, an imposed artifice that alienates the individual self from itself, drawing arbitrary lines, creating enclosures, and forcing us into costumes that are not of our own making. The Romantic wants the answers to the questions, “Who am I?” and “What are we?”, to have the same exact answers. The political identitarians take the Romantic notion a narcissistic step further when assuming her victimology will result in America singing kumbaya in unison. What she doesn’t realize, though, is that there are numerous other groups playing the same victim card.

Political realism, on the other hand, shows that many identities living among one another breeds distrust and chaos. Homogeneity is better for social cohesion. (*as a reference for this controversial claim, please see Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara, “Who Trusts Others?” in the Journal of Public Economics) The facts show that homogeneous cultures result in more solidarity and social cohesion for the betterment of the collective whole. Japan and South Korea are excellent examples of how one identity – a national one – can unite an entire population to the citizenship of that country. South Korea amazed every economics department in the world when it bounced back so quickly form the 2009 financial crisis. South Koreans banded together, donating jewelry and valuables in a collective effort to help their beloved country persevere through the crisis. This astonishing act of national pride would have been impossible if identity politics had fractioned the country into a plethora of identities each warring for recognition.

On a personal level, it can be advantageous to yearn for an inner search of meaning and identity as Romantics do. However, in the public domain, we need to be more pragmatic. Putting all our eggs in the basket of single issues like Black Lives Matters or LGBTQ misses the opportunity to speak about the collective rights that are deserved for each American citizen. Why can’t we argue for the rights of blacks, immigrants, women and whoever else by appealing to the fact that everyone American citizen is deserving of protection, freedom, and liberties under the Constitution? So yes, All Lives Matter.

.jknluihb#5 Identity Politics Gives Each Identity Their Own Epistemology

Identity politics gives everyone their own epistemology, whereby people can speak from their own privileged positions and the winner of the argument will be whoever has invoked the morally superior identity and displays the most outrage at being questioned. Side note, epistemology involves how one knows what they know. Identity politics, therefore, gives every identity their own personal ivory tower to speak their knowledge. Here is the disastrous logic: when person X is the only one who can speak on X-ness, then there is no room for dialogue; and if you question X, then it’s assumed that must hate X and X-ness. I hope you can see the inherent divisiveness of this logic. It sets up walls against questions, which, by definition, come from a non-X perspective. And it turns the encounter into a power relation.

,m nkjn#6 Identity Politics Does Not Appeal to Legislation

Identity politics is futile without an appeal to legislation, and to get legislation, you need a movement, not a thousand different voices each with its own demand. Martin Luther King Jr. was the greatest movement leader in American history. His efforts, however, would have been futile without those of the machine politician Lyndon Johnson, a seasoned congressional deal maker willing to sign any pact with the devil to get the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed. As I said earlier, the civil rights movement and the first two waves of the feminism changed laws because they appealed to legislation. Today’s protests do the exact opposite. The Occupy movement, Black Lives Matters, and women’s marches all fizzled out because there was never a concerted effort to sign laws for an extension of rights. Instead, these protests are better labeled as: inconvenient street parties.

A further point can be made that legislation will not be made when the voices demanding rights are coming from a thousand different groups of identities. The civil rights movement was a collective movement that didn’t focus on identity, rather, it focused on the rights deserved as American citizens. Martin Luther King Jr.  could have played the race card, but he didn’t. In his words, “My dream is of a country where you are judged not by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character.” Perhaps the best strategy for illuminating the ignorant is by transcending identity politics and showing how we are united under the common banner of citizens who are deserving of decency and basic human rights.

Closing Words

The goal of this essay is not to say that identity politics is wrong, rather, it is to say that it is a strategy that is not working. In my introduction, I attempted to propose a better solution by building our arguments for freedom and liberty based on our collective identity as American citizens. My concern is that our country is becoming more divisive with every new identity that sprouts up. With every voice crying wolf and demanding recognition it makes it almost impossible to unify as a country to address, for example, the 44 million citizens without adequate healthcare or fight for Citizens United that seeks to make elections more democratic. In the end, my arguments are an attempt to seek a strategy that unites rather divides; and makes freedom and liberties more tenable, rather than a tribal Armageddon.

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5 Demands for the Left

This essay is an attempt to articulate five demands directed at the American Liberal Left. The demands highlight the weakness and deficiencies in a Leftist group that is currently impotent, ignorant, and crippled beyond belief. Mired in pessimism and negativity, the Left can be found either bemoaning the current President while offering no solutions, or they’re curled up in the corner sulking because of a recent micro-aggression against their identity, or even worse, you’ll find them denigrating and castigating Republicans using mindless name-calling. What’s been lost in the sclerotic rhetoric is an attempt to look forward at what America could be within the confines of a cooperative and collaborative dialogue. What’s been lost is an attempt to articulate what America should look like, and then a concerted effort that follows which seeks to make it actually happen. In the end, America is a project; it’s our project.

I have a deep belief in the capacity for human minds to work things out for themselves if they don’t have to live in fear. – Yanis Varoufakis

Demand #1 : Stop with the pessimism

The pessimism that’s endemic with the Left will make us more spectatorial, disgusted, and politically inactive. From my perspective, it seems that the Left can only feel complete and fulfilled if they are able to complain about our current president – without offering any solutions of course. I am willing to bet that at the end of a rainbow, you’ll find two liberals sharing their frustrations about Trump. But l don’t want to oversimplify. Perhaps the pessimism is due in part to such concerns as the pervasive effect of economic inequality, racial tension, gender inequality and angst over the threat of terrorism. I’m sure there are more examples, but there is an overarching cloud of declinism, which resigns the Left to the perspective that the sky is literally falling down upon us. But what’s wrong with pessimism? Well, pessimism fosters a do-nothingness attitude, simply because, well, everything is going to Hell in a hand-basket anyways.

I am continually awestruck at the Left’s unwillingness or blindness to articulate, and provide a strategy for, future hopes. Rather, there is an incessant desire to talk about how progress is now going backwards, rapacious government who cares little about the common American, or how the world is headed toward either environmental or nuclear disaster. Catastrophizing the world seems to the default rather than persuasive arguments that offer solutions or effective strategies. A better solution is to see America as a project; a project that views America as a bastion for the continued cultivation of freedom, liberty and justice. It’s a forward-looking perspective that relies on hope, open dialogue, and democracy to achieve a better world. If you think I sound too utopian, then simply look across the ocean at Germany, and ask yourself: how did a country, so embroiled in a barbaric past socially, and fiscally strapped economically, rebound to a strong economic powerhouse that is more inclusive and optimistic than ever? I guarantee you that pessimism wasn’t their strategy.

Demand #2 : Stop focusing on sins

The Left has become overly moralizing in its self-loathing of America’s genocidal and racist history, and the result is paralysis. We can’t demand that everyone apologize for the sins committed hundreds of years ago. I can’t apologize simply because I have never enslaved people or participated in Christopher Columbus’s genocidal campaign against the native Americans. The perpetual tendency of the Left is to moralize the past to such an extent that it normalizes guilt, self-hate and self-disgust. So crippling are the effects of the Left’s consensual self-loathing that any specter of hope or future ideal is rarely articulated. Why? Because we cannot talk about the future when it’s been dictated and imposed that we are all complicit in, for example, two World Wars and Vietnam.

Perhaps a better solution is to frame the historical past into ‘What we can learn from this?’ and juxtapose the answer to that question with ‘What kind of future should we create in order to ensure that those injustices do not reoccur?’. Likewise, when it comes to confederate statues that stand in the middle of a southern city, why not leave them up, and put up educational signs which explain to onlookers what subjugation, oppression, and dehumanization looked like in the old South (*Richmond, Virginia is doing this, and is the idea of an African-American history professor). The Left suffers from what’s called ‘presentism’ which fosters the tendency to interpret past events (e.g. sins) in terms of modern [present] values and concepts. The past has its own unique context that we can never fully step into and critique in a pure and uncontaminated way. Any of us would have easily been slaughterers if that ‘world’ was all we new and was enculturated into our personal worldview. And for that reason, we should focus on what we can learn from history’s brutal past, rather than moralizing it for the purposes of advancing a present agenda.

Simply put: we are not sinful because of our past. This thinking leads to passivity. We must have some type of pride for our future, if we are to work towards that kind of future.

Demand #3 : Stop assuming that national pride is white chauvinism

National Pride is not white chauvinism. Instead, national pride is what self-respect is to an individual; a necessary condition for self-improvement. If you have too much of it, you get hostility and imperialism, just as excessive self-respect can produce arrogance. Too little self-respect makes it too difficult to show moral courage. Thus, a lack of national pride makes effective energetic talk about change, unlikely.

National pride is a shorthand for a conception of what it is to be human. National pride illuminates such noble attributes like values, decency, virtue, dignity. National pride is a compass that points us in the direction of what we love and hope for in a society.

So what’s the point of national pride? National pride engenders unity that brings us together, along with a vision of what that looks like. When unity and vision conjoin, then there is something to be ambitious for and achieve. Both John Dewey and Walt Whitman, two 19th century major social thinkers, viewed the United States as an opportunity to see ultimate significance in a finite human historical project rather than in something eternal and non-human. They both hoped that America would be the place where a religion of love would replace a religion of fear. They wanted to put hope for a classless and casteless society in the place most commonly occupied by knowledge of the will of God. They wanted the struggle for justice to be the animating principle, the nation’s soul. For Dewey and Whitman, national pride was a cooperative project that utilized freely achieved consensus (democracy) to elevate justice, hope, and freedom.

Demand #4 : Stop with identity politics

The Left needs to stop focusing on identity politics and focus on solidarity. In America today, every group feels threatened to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against. What identity politics does is separate all groups into exclusive segments, which inevitably pits them against one another for a kind of “Oppression Olympics” to see who has suffered the most.

Fifty years ago, the rhetoric of pro–civil rights, Great Society liberals was, in its dominant voices, expressly group transcending, framed in the language of national unity and equal opportunity. The Left, however, has changed its tone. Now out-group members cannot share in the knowledge possessed by in-group members (“You can’t understand X because you are white”; “You can’t understand Y because you’re not a woman”; “You can’t speak about Z because you’re not queer”). The idea of “cultural appropriation” insists, among other things, these are our group’s symbols, traditions, patrimony, and out-group members have no right to them.

Rather than standing up for America, people are standing up for their particular sub-group. Rather than standing up for democracy, equality, and justice, the Left stands up against Beyoncé wearing an Indian bridal outfit, or white restaurateurs who build a business cooking authentic Mexican food, or if a white author writes a novel based on the experiences of a Chinese girl. When liberal icon Bernie Sanders told supporters, “It’s not good enough for somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me,’ ” Quentin James, a leader of Hillary Clinton’s outreach efforts to people of color, retorted that Sanders’s “comments regarding identity politics suggest he may be a white supremacist, too”. Really?

Identity politics fosters division and exclusion, while weaponizing each sub-group with an arsenal ready for battle. Unfortunately, the Left has cried wolf too many times. If the Left is offended by somebody saying, “All lives matter” rather than, “Black lives matter,” then how can we face the real trauma of, say, 44 million Americans (of all identities) having no health insurance?

Demand #5 : Stop having street parties as a guise for protests

Change in society comes by appealing to conscience, not by today’s so-called “protests”, or by blocking highways with marchers, or condemning segments of society as impure or sinful. Today’s protests are absent of any strategy to make actual changes to law – unlike the 60s. What even counts as a protest? Civil rights protests of the 60s involved an appeal to conscious. You forced people to confront the horrible things going on, and there were specific demands being made and they were directly made to an appeal to conscious, e.g. we should not be made to sit in the back of the bus. Today, what we call “protests” are really inconvenient street parties. What specific Occupy Wall Street demand do you remember? And think about how the Left handled a call for women’s rights in 2017. The solution was a nationwide block party of women (and men) donning pink p*ssy hats with their BFF’s and a Starbucks latte in hand. Do you think Capitol Hill was seriously nervous over millions of Leftist’s protesting with their goofy pink hats? Or do you think that shutting down a highway and frustrating the motorists in your city will force the police to be more just? If so, you’re being naïve. In contrast, when you had a sit down in factories or rallies against the Vietnam War in the 60s, it was actually part of a negotiation tactic that fomented change.

Protests can’t be a giant “F You!”. It can’t be that certain segments of society are deplorable and we demand in some vague way that they change. We have to operate within the system, the discursive fabric, which means you have to have some type of power that’s not a type of pseudo authority from on high, you have to appeal to conscious, or you have to persuade, or as with the workers you have to have a relationship with the people you’re trying to get to reach demands.

A protest that realizes this vision, is not simply a protest that condemns, or says America is bad because of all these atrocities. It says we all can work together for this possible future, and we’re all worthy of it, and we’re all capable of it.

Given the present tactics are not working, philosopher Richard Rorty suggested an appeal to conscience and persuasive arguments which gain sympathizers for a worthy cause. We see such tactics when we look back to political shifts like the civil rights movement and gender equality. With civil rights and gender equality, there is a stark difference in rights, or lack thereof, when you compare, say, 1910 with 2010. The reasons for the shift were persuasive arguments that appealed to the conscience of American society. It wasn’t name calling and violence in the street that united both sides, rather, it was people like Martin Luther King and feminist icon Betty Frieden who used their passion and mind to not only change minds but also change legislation. You simply can’t win people over by shutting down the highway for a march or castigating people who think differently.

The iconoclasts of the past that garnered tectonic change in society had one thing in common: they had a hope for a better future. As opposed to pessimism, talk that expresses hope of a future is what can catalyze change and spread like a contagion.

Final Words …

If I had a #6 demand, it would be, stop insisting we let everyone into our country. This #6 highlights a deeper thought that is weaved into my initial 5 demands, and it’s this: there is always a middle between two extremes. When feeling threatened, it’s consoling to gravitate to the extremes and hunker down. However, most often, cooperation and the collaborative process remains in the middle between the extremes. Just as we shouldn’t let everyone into the country, we should not give everyone a gun. The answer to our current vexing dilemmas lie in the shared democracy that takes place in the middle.

Christopher Hitchens once said, “the first step towards being stupid is being partisan.” In other words, we all become stupid when we hunker down with our tribe, and only our tribe. I listed my 5 demands because the Left has become so partisan, that a collective anxiety has taken over. This pervasive angst is paralyzing the Left making political action a distant option. Unlike most of the Left, in no way do I think the sky is falling, and I refuse to. It’s in my refusal, that hope, dignity and opportunity can remain viable pursuits for the America I want.

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups . . . it is the rule. – Friedrich Nietzsche

How Are Values Formed?

Written over the course of two days, and finished in Starbucks in San Jose, CA with electronic dance music pounding in my head, and a grande blonde roast that tastes horrible because I’ve given up sugar. Enjoy the essay!

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Values

When I look back at my belief system while growing up in Dallas, Texas (1976-2001), they are much different than my current belief system that’s been enculturated in liberal Silicon Valley (2013-2019). I remember being taught and believing that inter-racial marriage was wrong, that being gay was immoral, and that any type of governmental distribution of wealth was wrong because hand-outs to those in need simply incentivized laziness. I distinctly remember as a junior in college, cutting and gluing a picture of a grotesque dead fetus to a sign that would later be used at a nearby pro-life rally. When I look back, I can’t believe the contrast in values from then to now. Currently, my more liberal values are a vast contrast to the prior ‘me’.

How did the ‘me’ of 2001 have such contrasting values than the ‘me’ of 2019? Was ‘southern me’ just a red-neck with antiquated values; while the ‘Silicon Valley me’ is enlightened?

When I contemplate my contrasting selves, I can’t help but want to explore the question: how do we form our values? Are values given from the heavens (i.e. God), are the genetic, or are the dynamic and happen as we simply experience life. This begs a follow-up question: are values absolute or cultural?

I truly believe that values are formed based on our life experiences. With that, I do believe they are also bound by culture. I don’t, however, believe that values come from the heavens, rather, I believe that values are imposed on us as children from early on while forming the basis and justification of our morality and ethics. Values such as care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, sanctity/degradation, authority/subversion, and liberty/oppression are ingrained in us from early on, and while they are malleable, they inform our ethics and politics. Moreover, I believe that all values are ingrained with intentions to promote ‘the good’, however, because values are culture bound, what’s good for one culture may be (and often is) deemed an abomination by another. Herein lies the ultimate irresolvable dilemma.

cooperation

How are Values Formed?

Value formation is the confluence of our personal experiences and particular culture we are entwined in. Values are imposed from our family in childhood and reinforced through culture and life experiences. The value of, for example, kindness was imposed on me from my parents, and reinforced throughout early childhood. Then I applied that value on the school playground and experienced how it helped me create greater social bonds with my school mates. My personal experiences growing up reinforced the value of kindness as I experienced the adaptive effects of showing kindness and the maladaptive effects when choosing malice over kindness. All through my upbringing, both my personal experiences and cultural surroundings both reinforced the value of kindness.

Having been born and raised in Dallas, Texas, the values of rugged individualism, church, and God was ingrained in my psyche from birth. Each of those three values, as I grew older, eventually formed the foundation of my worldview and politics. In a sense, our values, imposed upon us early in childhood, become the spectacles in which we view and judge the world.

Our culture plays a huge role in our value formation. Culture gives us a community and shared reality so that we can cooperate in activities and customs that give meaning, purpose, and significance to our existence. Culture gives us prescriptions for appropriate conduct so that we can learn best how to get along with others. All you have to do is travel to another country to see how values ebb and flow with culture. You can travel to China and see how they elevate the group and family over the individual in contrast to most Americans; you can see how South Americans elevate hospitality and care for their elderly unlike most Americans; and how Hawaiians elevate relaxation and balance unlike most urban metropolitan cities in the U.S. (I am obviously speaking in general terms rather than absolutely)

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If you live in the hills of West Virginia and coal mining is your life, and it’s what feeds your family, then you are less likely to support environmental policy that does away with coal mining. If, like I was, you are brought up with the value that every life is sacred, then pro-life values become your spectacles in which you view the the sanctity of a fetus. Likewise, if you lived in Ohio through the 1990’s and you witnessed jobs supplanted overseas, then the Republican platform doesn’t look so bad. But if your personal experiences were lived in, say, San Francisco, California, then it will contrast greatly with West Virginians as liberal values of tolerance, preserving the earth, and multi-culturalism is elevated to supreme importance.

It’s not that West Virginian’s, pro-lifers, and Ohioan’s are dumb or ‘deplorable’, they simply elevate certain values over others. Keep in mind, with the examples I provided, each value is seen as a noble virtue. Sanctity of life, even for an unborn fetus, is based on the pursuit of establishing what is noble and virtuous.  Coal miners and Ohioans value loyalty to one’s country, which involve the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Let’s be honest, I think most of us want our government to be loyal to hard working Americans, rather than betray us in order to profit from setting up jobs abroad.

My greater point is this: whether it’s West Virginia or San Francisco, these are virtuous goals that have their aim at virtuous ends. By and large, children in Red States are raised by parents who impose on them values that seek the good. I should know, I am a product of Texas and a stereotypical Texan ideology. Where things get muddy is when you have competing values that compete for supremacy. I mean, if all values seek the good, can we say that some are wrong?

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Right/Wrong or Better/Worse

When judging values, we should not speak in terms of right or wrong, rather we should look at competing values in terms of better and worse. When talking about values, thinking in terms of right and wrong will result in completely invalidating the other side of the discussion.

Your values are your baby, so to speak. You hold them dear, because they speak to your life experiences and cultural upbringing. When someone says that your values are wrong, the conversation is off to a bad start from the beginning. Invalidating someone’s values shifts the conversation to a defensive mode. Instead, you can validate someone’s values, and then become ‘Socratic’ by asking questions back-and-forth as you hash out which values actually advance progress, human rights, justice, etc. Common ground is good foundation to have, and this begins by understanding that the other side is truly trying to come from a place of virtue.

When talking about values, thinking in terms of better and worse will recognize the virtuous aims of both sides, while also recognizing that some values ought to be elevated over others. Moreover, better or worse dialogue frames the dialogue in a way that doesn’t get personal, rather, you can simply discuss the effects of values in the public sphere.  Given that values are noble and based on virtue, it’s their externalities that need to be discussed. By externalities, I mean the side effects, blow-back, and consequences of the value when it is fully cashed out in everyday life. For example, early missionaries would visit foreign tribes and not only try and convert them, but also provide food and supplies to help them flourish. From this standpoint, the missionaries can be seen as virtuous. But some missionaries also brought over (unintentionally) diseases that devastated the villages. Thus, we can assess the externalities or consequences and conclude that this was probably not the best idea given the negative side effects it brought upon innocent villagers. It’s not that the missionaries immoral, per se, it’s just that there are better ways to advance the value of generosity and compassion.

In addition to a better or worse thinking rather a right or wrong way, there is another clarifying point I’d like to make. There is a common tendency to confuse value judgements with moralistic judgements. Value judgements reflect our beliefs of how best life can be served. We make moralistic judgements of people and behaviors that fail to support our values judgments; for example, “Anyone who votes for Trump is off their rocker.” In this example, the claim is trying to classify and judge a huge swath of people on moralistic grounds, with a tacit jab that labels Trumpians crazy. This tactic is similar to the one used by Ronald Reagan when calling the U.S.S.R.  an “evil empire.” The Germans also resorted to this by classifying the Jews with negative connotations like “cockroaches.”. Going back to the Trump claim, a more compassionate and enlightened way to articulate this sentiment would be, “I am worried about many of Trump’s policies; I value policies that unite the country and help the poor economically.” Now, this is a value judgment that doesn’t classify or analyze on moral grounds every single Trump voter, rather, it gives voice to your values and needs.

Final Words

Values reflect what we find important to make life better. The formation of our values is cultivated and refined based on our life experiences and influenced by our cultural surroundings. When I was in Texas preparing myself for a pro-life rally in 2001, my actions were guided by values rooted in virtue. Granted, my values were much different than most people in blue states. However, my values later changed due to personal experiences with liberal thinkers who lived out a value system that spoke to my heart. Moreover, I was able to live in the U.K. where I was exposed to different values and thinking that called into question my worldview. What didn’t change me was an intellectual argument or some liberal calling me a ‘southern redneck’. What didn’t change me was someone telling me I’m wrong, or that I needed to be more educated. Rather, it was through compassionate discussions where we worked through, not right and wrong, but the question: what makes life better?

Who’s to say what my values will be in 2030? Or what they will be if I move to Mississippi? All I know now is that I am guided by a value system that is surrounded by a plethora of other value systems. My value system is not the “right one,” rather, it simply speaks life into how I live and make my decisions. And when I hear competing values shouted by a person from a different culture than mine, I hope to take a deep breath, realize that he/she is simply expressing a deep need they have, and then perhaps I can share my values and needs without fostering judgement, evaluations of their character, or moralistic analysis. In the end, compassionate dialogue changes lives, not right/wrong judgement.

 

The 2016 Election: Meritocracy and the Illusions We Believe

Written and finished at Los Gatos Starbucks with a light roast coffee at my side and Hitler’s favorite composer in my ear: Wagner. This essay was inspired by recent readings of Thomas Frank, and personal contemplation of the 2016 presidential election.

These are some questions that have been on my mind as of late:

  • How did the current era of American meritocracy begin? And who started it?
  • What changes should liberals make to become relevant with more people?

Before addressing the questions, there is a current context that needs to be exposed. It’s interesting to sit back and listen both to the laments and rejoicing of the 2016 Presidential election. Given that I live in California, there is much more lamenting. What has been most noticeable, is the psychological manifestations that pervade both camps of liberals and conservatives. It’s as if both camps have chugged the cool-aid of their respective ideologies and dwell solely in the echo chambers of their media outlet of choice. Confirmation bias rules the day with both camps. Liberals tune into CNN and devour their daily dose of fear mongering; inculcated with the implications of a Hitleresque President elect Trump, in all of his racist, sexist, authoritarian ways. Conservatives, on the other hand, have been spoon fed the idea that a billionaire business man actually cares for the poor and disenfranchised. Astonishingly, middle America believes that a Republican congress will bring more jobs and economic freedom. So, what if the best solution is to step away from both camps and expose the deeper problems?

During this election, I have become more of a dissident rather than a ‘team player’. I have no party, I have no team. Taking the stance of a dissident, affords me the opportunity to critique both sides of the election, candidates and policies from a (more) neutral perspective. I was not wedded to Hillary’s presidential persona or her ability to discuss policy, or her legacy as a successful policy maker. Moreover, I am not lured to the Republican rhetoric of anti-establishment, nationalistic, and protectionist talk. Rather, I choose to take on the philosophical responsibility of deconstructing and identifying the political power systems that lay insidiously under the duplicitous marketing of both “stronger together” and  “Make America Great!”.

What we see in the 2016 election is millions of working class people voicing their distrust in political institutions, Wall Street and the Clinton dynasty. Perhaps most notable is that both east and west coastal urban regions, in all their blueness, have shown almost zero interest in the economic inequality that many red states have been facing. What has become clear is that while liberals have been pushing for progressive ideals for gay marriage and a multi-cultural America, they have completely ignored the fact that we have a bigger problem: a financial sector that increases the wealth of the top ten percent of the country while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. Welcome to the age of meritocracy.

This is the era in which you get what you earn, and you earn what you get. It’s the professionals and managerial class of affluence and education that are the winners. And if you don’t like that you live in an impoverished area of Oklahoma, then stop whining and get an education. Meritocracy is about winners, so we celebrate the innovation and entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley while forgetting the dustbin of the Rustbelt. The meritocracy credo is the conviction that the successful deserve their rewards, that the people on top are there because they are the best. It is an ideology that tells the Ohioan who has lost their house while making minimum wage: you have no one to blame for your problems but yourself.

The age of meritocracy was ushered in during the 1972 Democratic convention. The tumultuous 1972 convention gave birth to the McGovern-Fraser Commission which shift the Democratic party from a representative of the working-class to representing the professional class. In Thomas Frank’s recent book, “Listen, Liberal,” he describes the result: “The McGovern Commission reforms seemed to be populist, but their effect was to replace one group of party insiders with another—in this case, to replace leaders of workers’ organizations with affluent professionals.” A different set of issues mattered to younger Democrats: the rights of disenfranchised groups, the environment, government corruption, militarism. In 1971, Fred Dutton, a member of the McGovern Commission, published a book called “Changing Sources of Power,” which hailed young college-educated idealists as the future of the Party. Pocketbook issues would give way to concerns about quality of life. Called the New Politics, this set of priorities emphasized personal morality over class interest.

McGovern’s campaign manager were two young intellectuals who shared little interest in the working class. One was a young Yale-educated lawyer named Gary Hart and the other a Yale law student named Bill Clinton. As George Packer states in the New Yorker, “The McGovern rout left its young foot soldiers with two options: restore the Party’s working-class identity or move on to a future where educated professionals might compose a Democratic majority. Hart and Clinton followed the second path. Hart emerged as the leader of the tech-minded ‘Atari Democrats’, in the eighties; Clinton, the bright hope of Southern moderates, became the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, a position that he used as a launchpad for the Presidency in 1992.”

And there you have it; the Democrats pivot from the working class to the educated professional. No longer would the Democrat advocate for the laborer in Toledo Kansas, rather, the liberal would give all the power to Ivey leaguers on Wall Street. These are the men and women that would fill the cabinets of both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama: highly educated professionals who would jump on the globalization train headed straight towards profit. Having laid a quick foundation, it is here where we can proclaim the credo: the successful and educated deserve their rewards. What about everyone else? Well, who cares.

Three Suggestions for Reflection  

First, it’s time that Democrats stop putting all their eggs in the civil liberties basket. Issus of multi-culturalism and gay rights are important, but when it becomes the end-all-be-all, the result is a fractioning of a vast part of America. It’s difficult to ignore the pervasiveness of economic inequality, especially how it penetrates most families no matter their race, creed, or religion. As economist Joseph Stiglitz notes, “A young male in his 30s today has an income, adjusted for inflation, that is 12 percent less that what his father was making 30 years ago.” Some 5.3 million more Americans are living in poverty now than were living in poverty when Bush became president. America’s class structure may not have arrived there yet, but it’s heading in the direction of Brazil’s and Mexico’s. Perhaps there are some concerns that are weighted much heavier than current battles that the liberal wants to fight. A tolerant America, even with all the civil liberties, is still a scary thought if it continues to be wrought with increasing economic divide.

Second, it’s time for Democrats to stopped relying on band-aids such as education, job training and infrastructure. This was the rhetoric of Hillary in 2016, but it’s a ruse. Hillary was in full support of her husband’s polices during the 90s in which the same rhetoric was employed but went a different direction: in the direction of Wall Street. She supported Bill’s policies on deregulating derivatives and telecom, repealing Glass-Steagall, and ramming NAFTA through congress. A 2010 report showed almost 800,00 jobs lost due to NAFTA. Most devastating of all, the Clinton’s pact with Wall Street helped America snowball into the 2008 recession, all the while duping American’s into thinking that the Clinton’s are the voice for the disenfranchised.

The problem is much deeper than education, job training and infrastructure – it’s deeply economic. Pumping money into education and job training will not assuage the current system that hands all the negotiating and bargaining power to corporate interests. In 2012, the United States spent $11,700 per full-time-equivalent student on elementary/secondary education, which was 31 percent higher than the OECD average of $9,000. At the post-secondary level, the United States spent $26,600 per FTE student, which was 79 percent higher than the OECD average of $14,800 (National Center of Education Statistics). Democrats need to move away from band-aid solutions and shift to the systemic problems that plague our society. The systemic problems revolve around a concentration of power at the very top filled with corporatists and lobbyists that rig the system for themselves. If you don’t believe me ask yourselves two questions: (1) Why is it that the median income (when adjusted for inflation) has plateaued since the 1970s and (2) why is it, that since the Great Recession of 2008, the top 5% have become wealthier and everyone else is still stagnate (or poorer)? Education, job training and infrastructure will not solve these problems that are deeply rooted in a rigged economic system.

Lastly, liberals need to admit the huge failings in policy with the Clinton’s, rather than the perpetual genuflecting before the Clinton dynasty. It is paramount that liberals accept the history and facts that surround the Clinton regime. Besides the economic policies already mentioned, she supported her husband’s 1994 crime bill that created the largest gulag in the world. Astonishingly, 8.7 billion dollars was spent on constructing numerous prisons that would house a criminal population caught in the Clinton vortex. Furthermore, besides the abysmal three strikes initiative, Hilary supported Bill’s signing off on in the infamous 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. The former drug was thought to be scourge of the planet – and 88 percent of the people arrested for it were black – while the latter even though it was essentially the same thing, was regarded as just another harmless yuppie crime. Handing down prison sentences of many decades for one drug but not the other was both racist and insanely cruel.

Do liberals possess the wisdom to admit these egregious acts by the Clinton’s? When it comes to the 90s, it’s as if Liberals highlight the Clinton’s banning assault weapons, balancing the budget, and (phony) economic growth – and that’s it! Open-minded liberals have a duty to possess the cognitive fortitude to pull the wool from their eyes.

I’ll conclude this section with the Clinton’s 1996 repeal of welfare. The welfare system was deeply unpopular in the 1990s. Its centerpiece was a 1935 program called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) that dispensed case assistance to impoverished single mothers. AFDC was one of the basic guarantees of the American Welfare State, but it was also a program hated both by resentful taxpayers as well as by the poor themselves, because it made no provision for employment or training. As Thomas Frank notes, instead of fixing the system, Clinton deleted the AFDC and replaced it with a program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) that leaves welfare up to the states – and gives the states plenty of incentive to kick people off the rolls. What’s more, it bars hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants—including many who have worked in the United States for decades and paid a considerable amount in Social Security and income taxes—from receiving disability and old-age assistance and food stamps, and reduces food-stamp assistance for millions of children in working families. What was the result of all this? The continued attempt to keep the ceiling low for minorities and the poor.

Concluding Remarks

There is a myth and meme that believes that Democratic ideals are for the poor and disenfranchised, contra to Conservatives. My contention, however, is that both Conservative and Democrats on Capitol Hill are for the banks and Wall Street, while the poor and disenfranchise are left out of the conversation. I’ll conclude with highlighting the past eight years of the Obama administration, and you tell me if Obama’s compassionate and eloquent speeches match his policy – or rather, lack of policy.

Ask yourself this: what did Obama do to help resuscitate America after the 2009 financial collapse? He was able to get a $800 billion stimulus package through congress, but it was the tax payer who paid the debt of the banks! Moreover, the biggest single part of the stimulus was wasted on tax cuts designed to lure Republican votes. Another chunk was wasted on coaxing state governments to embrace charter schools and to open their education systems to consultants and entrepreneurs. For fear of frightening the men of lower Manhattan, the Obama team dared undertake none of the serious measures the times obviously called for. No big Wall Street institutions were put into receivership or cut down to size. No important Wall Street bankers were terminated in the manner of the unfortunate chairman of General Motors.

The classic and most direct solution to an epidemic of corrupt bank management and fraudulent bank lending is to use the authority that comes with rescuing failed banks to close those banks down or to fire those banks’ top managers. This was evidently never seriously considered by Obama’s team of geniuses. When it came down to people or Wall Street, Obama choose the ladder.

Obama could have done something, but he didn’t. As Thomas Frank notes, the most notorious example was a Democratic proposal that would have allowed judges to modify homeowners’ mortgage debt when they filed bankruptcy – a process called “cramdown” that would have been extremely helpful for millions of homeowners but would have been unpleasant consequences for whoever it was who owned the mortgages. In 2008, Obama had announced he was in favor of cramdown, but when it came up in the Senate in April of 2009, the president and his team, in the concise description of Obama biographer Jonathan Alter, “wouldn’t lift a finger to help.” With the banks lobbying energetically against it, the measure naturally failed.

And what did Obama do for the average worker? Workers got the same treatment. As a presidential candidate, for example, Obama had loudly denounced the still-unpopular NAFTA; as president, he let such talk drift away. In Obama’s early days, labor’s highest priority in Washington was a legislative proposal called the Employee Free Choice Act., which would have made it easier for workers to bargain collectively with management, and might even have reserved the long slide in the unionized percentage of the workforce. Again, Obama declared himself in support of the measure; he had even voted for it as a Senator. Again, though, as Wal-Mart and the Chamber of Commerce mobilized their lobbyists against the measure, the president’s audacity seemed to disappear. The White House simply chose to let it go. One detail that was astonishing at the time, was the amazing number of liberals that business interests had hired to their lobbying on this matter: former assistant John Kerry, to Rahm Emanuel, to several Democratic senators, even to the secretary of labor.

I’m simply wondering if the average Democrat is even willing to critique and scrutinize their own beloved President and party? Of course, the Democrat will always go back to the wonders of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) as the crowning jewel. With all the problems of Obamacare, we can hardly call it a success with its ever-rising costs for the poor. This is hardly a success for America. The past eight years have not been a success. Since the recession, the situation for working class people has continued to deteriorate. Since the recession ended in 2009, the country’s gross domestic product has grown by 13.8 percent; in that same period, salaries and wages have gone up a mere 1.8 percent. The economic clout of labor unions has continued to shrink, as the percentage of private sector workers who were members of a union has dwindled form 7.2 percent in 2009 to 6.6 percent in 2014. The “labor share” of the nation’s income declined sharply from its old postwar average; during the Obama presidency it has stumbled along at or near its all-time lows.

We need to stop making excuses and look at policy. We need to stop bifurcating Conservative and Democrat politicians as ‘evil versus good’. The truth is, both parties on Capitol Hill are advocating for Wall Street, while the lower strata sits and waits for its turn at the table. The proof is in the pudding, and the continued growing inequality in America is all the proof you need. Perhaps it’s better to avoid picking a team, thus the blinders of your own bias and prejudice is a bit freer. Perhaps stepping back, looking at history, and scrutinizing both sides will yield a clearer picture of reality. Or we can continue being duped by empty rhetoric, from both sides.

-Wes Fornes

America’s Propaganda Machine: The Cultivation of Fear

Recently, I have given up on CNN and any other news medium. I have also unsubscribed from my NY Times source. I am tired of the fear mongering and hearing pundits decry injustice in America without providing solutions that unite the country. So here are some thoughts on my view of the propaganda machine that seeks to stir fear inside of us and dictate what I should believe. Let me preface, this is not a Republican/Democrat rant given that both are guilty of manufacturing consent.

Whether its FOX or CNN, the Washington Post or the New York Times, or even the hegemonic forces of corporations and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the message is clear: Let the people who are supposed to run the show do so without any interference from the mass of the population, who have no business in the public arena. There is a conscious effort in our media that is committed to belief that they must control attitudes and opinions, because the people are otherwise too dangerous.

Take Karl Rove, Bush’s manager, for example. Rove’s goal, he says, is “to shape perceptions of Mr. Bush as a wartime leader and to prepare for the re-election campaign that will start soon as the war ends.” So that the Republicans can push through their domestic agenda. That means tax cuts – they say for the economy, but they mean for the rich – and other programs that are designed to benefit an extremely small sector of the ultra-wealthy and privileged and that will have the effect of harming the mass population.

And the way to achieve that – since people aren’t going to accept it otherwise – is to make people afraid. If people are frightened that their security is threatened, they will gravitate toward the strong leaders. This is what we saw in the justification for the invasion of Iraq. The constant themes used to stir American hysteria were: (1) Iraq was an imminent threat, (2) Iraq was behind September 11, and (3) Iraq is planning new atrocities. Keep in mind, at the time, no other country believed any of this. No other country viewed Iraq as a threat to its security. Kuwait and Iran which were both invaded by Iraq, didn’t regard Iraq as a threat to its security. It’s ridiculous. But the American polls sky-rocketed due to the media’s control over American minds and we took the bait. We demonized an entire country that has the weakest economy and the weakest military force in the region. Its military expenditures are less than half those of Kuwait, which has 10% of Iraq’s population. I wouldn’t say that America is more susceptible to propaganda; we’re more susceptible to fear. Whether its crime, immigration, drugs, you pick – our fears are off the spectrum. The last time America was threatened was during the War of 1812. Since then, America has just conquered others.

The 20th century has seen a bourgeoning propaganda machine that has used language to shape attitudes and opinions and to induce conformity and subordination. The first coordinated propaganda ministry, the Ministry of Information was set up in Britain during the First World War. Its “task,” as they put it, was “to direct the thought of most of the world.” What the ministry was particularly concerned with was the mind of America, and, more specifically, the thinking of American intellectuals. Britain needed U.S. backing for the WWII, and the ministry’s planners thought if they could convince American intellectuals of the nobility of the British war effort, then these intellectuals would succeed in driving the basically pacifist population of the United States – which wanted nothing to do with the European wars, rightly – into a fit of hysteria that would get them to join the war. The Wilson administration reacted by setting up the first propaganda agency here, the Committee on Public Information. This is already Orwellian, of course.

The British plan worked to perfection and within a few months, it turned a pacifist population into raving anti-German fanatics. America was driven into hysteria. It reached the point that the Boston Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t play Bach.

What I find astonishing is how the propaganda machine has its roots in democratic societies. If you can control people by force, it’s not so important to control what they think and feel. But if you lose the capacity to control people by force, it becomes necessary to control attitudes and opinions. Today it’s not so much the government that exercises control, but corporations. Now private tyrannies – corporate systems – play the role of controlling opinions and attitudes. So what now?  I’m trading CNN for the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Written @ Starbucks on 1/10/15 in Los Gatos CA

When We Talk About War, Why Not Discuss Collateral Damage?

collateral damage: noun : deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war.

In WWI there was a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians, whereas in WWII that ratio became 60 percent civilians, 40 percent military. Since WWII, a vast majority of the people who have gotten killed in wars have been civilians. Gino Strada, the Italian war surgeon who has operated on war victims all over the world these last 10 years, estimates that 90 percent are civilians, and one-third are children.

And by the way, I don’t want to insist on the distinction between innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, in that way were they not innocent? The U.S. Army just buried them; hundreds and hundreds of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down in the so called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating already defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren’t Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.

I suggest that the history of bombing – and no one has bombed more than this nation – is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like “accident,” “military targets,” and “collateral damage.”

Indeed in both WWIII and in Vietnam, the historical record shows that there was a deliberate decision to target civilians in order to destroy morale of the enemy: hence the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, the B-52’s over Hanoi, the jet bombers over peaceful villages in the Vietnam courtside. When some argue that we can engage on “limited military action” without “an excessive use of force,” they are ignoring the history of bombing. The momentum of war rides roughshod over limits.

 

Anarchism: A Worthy Consideration?

Written this morning after reflecting on Noam Chomsky’s book entitled Anarchism. While I do not subscribe to anarchism, I do believe it is a topic worth extrapolating for the purpose of questioning our current norms. This is a short 750 word introduction to anarchism without [my usual] verbose arguments.

“Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.” – Edward Abbey

Should the wealthy elite have a vast majority of the power? I wonder what it would be like to live in a truly anarchist country? I understand anarchy in pure form to mean that the individual is at the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life. Of course, this also means that there is no centralized or system of government with rulers. Anarchy thus thrives by maintaining that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through man’s subordination. Furthermore, anarchism acknowledges that (1) religion is the dominion of the human mind, (2) that property is the dominion of human needs, and (3) that Government is the dominion of human conduct. These represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails. And it must be stated that anarchy is not a proponent of lawlessness and mass chaos where laws are null and void. Rather, anarchy elevates human liberty above absolute power that exists within most, if not all, governments today.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -The Lord Acton

In the current American political climate, neither Republicans nor Democrats are the dominate party. This is because the corporate party, encompassing both Republicans and Democrats rule absolutely. And if the American people wish to cast their vote, our representatives will most often ignore us due to the lobbyists who lurk in every corridor on Capitol Hill. Economically, the middle class voice is but a whisper while patrimonialism is reigning supreme as all power flows to and from our top leaders. Did you get to vote on how much our government spends on military defense? You didn’t. $125 billion a year went towards wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Men and woman are fighting in the Middle East for our politician’s quest for expansion of power, not freedom. Just look at the multi-national companies who have profited from the recent wars, especially Halliburton and Bechtel. Moreover, we have a broken healthcare system and educational (K-12th grade) system that show no signs of improvement during the next decade. America, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Indivisible? 

“Government is best when it governs least.” –Thomas Paine

Individualist anarchists believe in mutual exchange, not economic privilege. They believe in freed markets, not capitalism. They defend a distinctive response to the challenges of ending global capitalism and achieving social justice: eliminate the political privileges that prop up capitalists. Anarchism borrows from both classical liberalism and socialism. Classical liberals (a.k.a. market liberals) advocate a free market economy. Socialism seeks a world where the means of production are owned by workers. Many market anarchists believe that freed markets lead to that world. The state-granted monopoly privileges and rents deigned to the purchasers and wielders of political power removed, the amount of economic opportunity available to working class people would outpace the bureaucratic and artificial economies of the existing corporate-dominated marketplace.

In more simplistic terms, within anarchism, the individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence–that is, the individual–pure and strong. “The one thing of value in the world,” says Emerson, “is the active soul; this every man contains within him. The soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth and creates.” In other words, the individual instinct is the thing of value in the world. It is the true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to come a still greater truth, the re-born social soul.

While I do not subscribe to anarchism as a political goal, I cannot help but wonder if it is a worthy hypothesis. I do not believe that anarchism will ever be the ideal of an entire country, rather, we could see anarchist movements of protest spawning in rebellion due to suppression. The key idea to remember is: when you centralize power in the hands of the wealthy elite, the middle and lower class will inevitably suffer. This net result is one nation divisible by class.