Thursday, December 30, 2010

Politics, Popularity & Priorities

"The purse of the people is the real seat of sensibility.  Let it be drawn upon largely, and they will then listen to truths which could not excite them through any other organ." - Thomas Jefferson

There are {2} easy and {2} difficult things about politics as we know it;

Easy: cutting taxes & offering services, amenities & programs desired by citizens

Difficult: raising taxes & cutting services, amenities & programs desired by citizens

Can you identify any inherent conflicts with this situation?

[My blog of Saturday, November 22, 2008 also touches on this dilemma]

As Walter Cronkhite used to say; 'and that's the way it is'

Think what you will about politics, government and our ability to effectively deal with public problems in general, the system we have is what we -individually and collectively- make it to be.

Having a victim's mentality about politics helps nothing but perpetrating a perceived bad situation and discouraging good people from performing public service.
So, while complaints are OK, excessive complaints only exacerbate the problem.

Despite the obstacles, we do have a good number of dedicated public servants with the competence and courage to conceive, advocate and make the difficult decisions most likely to sustainably endure and benefit citizens.

Unfortunately, things often have to get bad enough that politicians have no choice but to really deal with the situation that has evolved.
Such seems to be happening now, and simultaneously at multiple levels of government.

A recent example is this opinion piece by Washington Governor, Christine Gregoire, in Crosscut.

You can read it and decide for yourself, but I think the Governor has very few options, given both legal restraints and inescapable realities.

Of course, this is also true of the situations which our local and federal governments are facing.
The main difference is the feds have much broader and more diverse responsibilities, plus no mandate to balance the budget.
Plus, the Fed can also legally print money.

Some may remember the well-intended, but tepid exercise the City of Bellingham underwent a few years ago.
It was called 'Priorities of Government' [POG]. and while most elected officials gave it lip service as 'an interesting concept', not many really wanted to seriously touch it to implement its clear implications.
Believe me, I know - I was there!

Anyway, it's too bad that an absolute crisis seems absolutely needed for governments to seriously confront such intractable questions as defining what is necessary, fair and sustainable as public policy.
Unfortunately -or otherwise- that is the situation we find ourself now.

"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained." - James Madison, The Federalist Papers Federalist No. 62 - 1788

The Trouble With Liberty?

"Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" - Patrick Henry 1775 **[see note below]

"Certainty is the most vivid condition of ignorance and the most necessary condition for knowledge." - Kedar Joshi


Before this year is history, this link is worth a read.
For those mainly interested in the gist, a few excerpts are quoted below:

• Libertarians, of both left and right, haven’t been this close to power since 1776. But do we want to live in their world?

• For all the talk about casting off government shackles, libertarianism is still considered the crazy uncle of American politics: loud and cocky and occasionally profound but always a bit unhinged.

• Ayn Rand is the gateway drug to Libertarianism, though many toke into adulthood.

• Libertarianism is a long, clunky word for a simple, elegant idea: that government should do as little as possible.

• Libertarian minarchy is an elegant idea in the abstract. But the moment you get specific, the foundation starts to crumble.

• There’s always tension between freedom and fairness. We want less government regulation, but not when it means firms can hire cheap child labor. We want a free market, but not so bankers can deceive investors. Libertarianism, in promoting freedom above all else, pretends the tension doesn’t exist.

• “There’s something about libertarians where working as a team is inconsistent with the whole concept of being a libertarian,”

• Lindsey compares libertarians who preach purity to the “Underpants Gnomes” in South Park, a popular analogy in wonk circles: “Step one, articulate Utopia. Step three is Utopia. Step two is a big question mark.”

• Consider the social side of Libertopia. It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. “Man’s first duty is to himself,” says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. “His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.” Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise. If you don’t get your way, blow things up. And there’s the problem. If everyone refused to compromise his vision, there would be no cooperation. There would be no collective responsibility. The result wouldn’t be a city on a hill. It would be a port town in Somalia. In a world of scarce resources, everyone pursuing their own self-interest would yield not Atlas Shrugged but Lord of the Flies. And even if you did somehow achieve Libertopia, you’d be surrounded by assholes.

• Libertarianism and power are like matter and anti-matter. They cancel each other out.


"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd". - Voltaire

"To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness." - Ursula K. Le Guin

••[Ear-witnesses to Henry's hypnotic orations remarked that while they always seemed to be convincing in the moment, they had a difficult time remembering exactly what he had said immediately afterwards: according to Thomas Jefferson, "Although it was difficult, when [Henry] had spoken, to tell what he had said, yet, while speaking, it always seemed directly to the point. When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself, when he ceased, 'What the devil has he said?' and could never answer the inquiry."
[ from wikipedia at this URL.