A 9/12 PARTY MANIFESTO And A Warning to Populism
A 9/12 Party must become a true and actual party. This means having an organization, and having primaries. Since ours will be a true independent party rather than a State- Sponsored and State- Sponsoring party, we will be private. We will not file for campaign funds. We will not hold our primaries in Public buildings nor allow non-members a voice in selecting our candidates. It makes no sense to allow everybody and anybody to vote in the GOP or Democrat Party primaries. Party membership is a privilege not a right, and even more so is the right to take part in our primaries process. (This allowed Democrats to help select McCain for the GOP “candidate”.)
The so-called 2-party system is not constitutionally mandated. The presumptions that have allowed the two parties to use public spaces for their internal elections, and for the government to provide campaign financing have blurred the line between State and Party. The writers of the Constitution did not predict the emergence of Political Parties and would surely have included the separation and disestablishment of any and all political parties even faster than they did specific religious enfranchisement. Why should the GOP and Democrat Party be anointed as The Only Games In Town?
Issue #1 for The 9/12 Party is to remove all connections between Party and State!
We need a Constitutional amendment to emphatically exclude the Establishment of any Party or Parties from deriving any special advantages from the Government at any level of governance in the USA. Having GOP and Democratic Primaries in public schools and town halls should be at least as objectionable as having, say, the Episcopalian Synod elections subsidized and held in public buildings! We need to erect a Wall between Party and State at least as robust as the one between Church and State.
If ACORN has taught us nothing else, it has made it clear how necessary the separation of Party and State has become.
The Government’s establishment of the Two-Party system has smothered the emergence of new parties. And it has forced the “lesser of two evils” choice upon generation after generation.
The writers of The Constitution despised the concept of party as divisive. This is the one major flaw in their thinking. They envisaged a Classic Roman-like Republic that would be led by Gentlemen of Liberal Arts Education. By virtue of being Gentlemen, they would be above the fray of interests and hence rule with honor and in the name of the Public Good. And by definition, a Gentleman was one whose wealth was sufficient to generate an income stream sufficient enough to be “Independent”. Those who had to work and operate within The Market were thought to be “interested” and therefore unfit to sit “above the fray”.
Once the Constitution was enacted and the Federalists had won that “war”, the anti-federalists came forward to win the political battles within the framework of the Constitution. The importance of these battles was that the trend towards more and more democracy undermined the ideals of the Republic of the Liberal Enlightened Gentlemen. America, unlike Britain, had but a thin veneer of aristocratic gentlemen. Their numbers were smaller and their relative wealth compared to the non-aristocratic classes was also less. Therefore there was much lesser centripetal force to perpetuate the façade of the Romanesque Republican Senator.
If the American Revolution had stopped at the point of the creation of the Constitution and had not continued to evolve, we probably would have followed our former allies, the French, into bloody Class Warfare. Thankfully our revolution continued, but peacefully, because of the Constitution. The aristocracy had shallow roots in America. In the Old World land was limited. Those who owned it had power over those to whom they leased it. Here, indentured servants having had their transport paid worked off their debt to their “masters”. Afterward (if their master was fortunate enough to keep them in servitude for the duration of the contract), they promptly upped and bought their own land literally “dirt-cheap”. Ownership of land was no longer the great divide between Gentility and the rest of the population. And as merchants and craftsmen became wealthy through their own efforts they also saw little difference in stature between the Patrician Ideal and themselves.
I give this history lesson to explain why our revolution continued peacefully and France’s became the Terror and the guillotine. In France there was absolutely no way a man could rise above the class into which he was born. And if the Founders and the Federalists had prevailed the same might have been the result in America. It was hugely important that the anti-federalists won the political battles after the Federalists won the Constitutional “war”.
To the loathing of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (who until their later years stood on opposite sides of virtually every other issue of their time), parties of special interests emerged. In a continuing revolution, the concept of Ideal Enlightened leaders gradually lost way to the new American Ideal of Work.
In an important State legislative issue this is made clear. Gordon Wood tells the story of William Findley and the Pennsylvania assembly. To sum up his summary In The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the following:
“One of the crucial moments in American politics–maybe the crucial moment–occurred in 1786 during several days of debate in the Pennsylvania assembly over the rechartering of the Bank Of North America. “ During this time there was a widening divergence of interests between eastern Pennsylvania and its genteel class in Philadelphia, and the western entrepreneurs. The “Old Money” wanted to keep the amount of circulating money low. The westerners needed “cheap” money and more credit. Farmers needed capital for farming implements, seed, and other supplies. The craftsmen and merchants needed capital as well to keep up with demand of an increasing population.
“The principles in this debate were William Findley, a Scotch-Irish ex-weaver from western Pennsylvania and a defender of the debtor-relief and paper-money interests in the state, and Robert Morris, the wealthiest merchant in the state, with aristocratic aspirations and a major supporter of the rechartering of the bank.” William Findley was everything that the founders and the Federalist elite despised as “being narrow, illiberal, and interested…” Morris and his supporters in the Philadelphia gentry would continue “to pose as disinterested gentlemen in the classical mold”. They sought to maintain that they, being Gentlemen were above “crass marketplace interests and concerned only with the public good”.
Findley and his supporters in the assembly responded with charges that Morris and his supporters were also interested men as well. This in and of itself was nothing new. It was standard, and has once again become standard rhetoric in political debate. But, Findley went where no man had gone before, and unfortunately few go today. “He accepted Morris’s and the other bank supporters’ interestedness in the bank and found, he said, nothing unusual or improper in their efforts”. “After all, they could hardly be expected to do otherwise.” Wood quotes Findley, “ Any others in their situation… would do as they did.” And here is the unrecognized second revolution, that which made America, America! Findley stated, “They had every right to advocate their cause, on the floor of this house”. But they then had no right to pass off their support of their personal interests as acts of “disinterested virtue”! “The promotion of interests in politics suggested Findley, was quite legitimate, as long as it was open and above board and not disguised by specious claims of genteel disinterestedness. The promotion of private interests was in fact what American politics ought to be about.” These are Gordon Wood’s summary, and my highlighting.
This is what we have forgotten. There is a certain humility in admitting that no one of us knows what The Public Good is. All we can know (and even that, only approximately) is what our own interests are. It has been the willingness of Americans to at least subconsciously recognize this truth that allowed for the continuation of The Republic. There are but few points in which The Public Interest is clear and unified. Americans have long formed parties in which people of certain interests joined those whose separate interests did not clash to support each other’s legislation. The sum total of all this give and take of individual interests is admitted to be the only, best and closest approximation of Common Interest.
We have been misled into the hubristic belief that there is One Public Interest, and it is knowable. I suggest that perhaps the ubiquitous media has fostered in each of us a false sense of understanding our world almost in its entirety. This presumed knowledge has created hubris. Until the advent of this global media savvy world, our knowledge was limited to our immediate region and interests. When each individual’s horizons are from Coast to Coast and in fact global, we believe we have a sufficiently remote view as to once again claim “disinterestedness”. This is why we demand “A Vision” from our Presidential candidates. This is why Populist movements are springing up. But, unless this tendency to presume a “God-like” omniscience is seen for the illusion it is, we will merely substitute one Wise Visionary with another.
Of course we have to stop the socialistic and totalitarian direction in which America is now moving. But let us stop making the argument that Obama is wrong because his understanding of The Public Good is flawed; and at the same time claim “we” have a more accurate understanding of it. When Ideologues respond to their opponents with “what is your plan?” and an attempt at an answer is made, it only feeds into the very pernicious concept that there must “be a plan for every possibility”. Maybe “no plan” is better?
For the majority of American history, from Findley until our generation we all voted in accordance with our perceived interests. We didn’t presume to know anything about some Common Good. Thus we are at a very dangerous time. We have stepped back from the nasty looking sausage machine of honest self-interest politics to the premodern concept of Elitist Educated citizens ruling in The Public Interest. This is the path that led the French Revolution into chaos. The humility of presuming knowledge only of one’s own best interests was the path that saved our young republic, and it is from that path that we stray only with great danger!
Finally we reach the main point of this essay. The signs and placards of the Tea Parties call for “An End To Special Interests” . And of course one is easily swept up in this enthusiasm. A 9/12 Party, if it is to be a truly new thing, must recognize that the Genius that has sustained the American Republic has never been based on a conscious desire to determine and enact the “Public Interest”. Rather, it was the explicit understanding that everybody working toward their own rational best interest was the best approximation of A National Interest. Until recently Americans were disarmingly frank, they voted with their pocketbooks as was said. That is an honest upfront human trait. We all know what happens when Utopian Governments decide they need to change Human Nature!
What about the issue of Corruption? Again, it is very easy to dismiss much of the current crisis atmosphere as due to an increasing level of corruption in high places. And for sure that is present. But we must go the additional step and ask “why?” “Why now?” Corruption is a major problem and yet it is but a symptom of an even greater problem. And that problem is not entirely due to the lowering of moral standards of Americans. Corruption is what occurs when private interests are thwarted by top-down “Public Interest”. When the State presumes that it is The Public Interest, the previous system of messy yet honest compromise is dismissed as being “self-interested”. Yet it was the very legitimization of Self-Interest that had allowed the Republic to prosper and remain stable. Like a head of water pressure, Self Interest will find its way “downhill”, period. And history has shown that when self interests clash in the give and take of democracy the losers do not just denounce the legitimacy of the legislature and become revolutionaries. No, for even if this or that vote was against their interest, their larger interest is promoted by a system in which all private self-interested people are accorded equal respect. But, when The State presumes to know the Common Good, and acts on that notion, it accrues to itself such power and scope as to dwarf all other private interests. There no longer is a sense of equality amongst the interested concerns. The sense of fairness vanishes. As The scope of the State enlarges it becomes increasingly urgent for private interests to be heard.
The other day on a local Connecticut radio station the host was reading down the list of fees for licenses in various fields. I of course was well aware of the necessity of having a license in my profession, and knew that other professionals were also licensed. Yes, even barbers, since they have sharp tools near ones ears (I presume) are licensed. OK I believe that the whole notion of licensure is basically bad, but that is another subject. But even giving the benefit of the doubt to the state for licensing its “health care providers” as necessary to the public health, I was truly amazed at the list of business activities that required licenses. Just to have a business, of any kind, requires a license. And though the radio host was complaining more about the increase in fees, I was agape at the scope and range of the State to regulate the Totality of the economy. The cost of the fee to me was of merely passing interest. The thing which horrifies is the concept of Licensure. To grant a license implies the ownership of the title thus granted. The implication for having these licenses must be that The State owns the monopoly on conducting all business, and will lease it out to those who pay and fulfill certain arbitrary stipulations. Wow!
How did this situation evolve; in which the State claims the monopoly on conducting all business? The only answer is that it did so under the pretense of furthering the Public Interest. And if Human Nature has not changed, is this not per chance the cause of the massive corruption we are witnessing? So, for a New Party, a 9/12 Party to make a break with the current mess will require it to go beyond mere demands for ending corruption. After all, as William Findley pointed out, people with interests “could hardly be expected to do otherwise”. “The promotion of interests in politics suggested Findley, was quite legitimate, as long as it was open and above board and not disguised by specious claims of genteel disinterestedness. The promotion of private interests was in fact what American politics ought to be about.”
If I may be so bold as to state The AttilaShrug’s Law: “Corruption varies directly with the intrusiveness of the government into the private sector.”
The 9/12 Party must:
1. Become an organized party, and represent only its members. It requires its members to agree with the basic Constitutional ideals.
2. Never take funds from any governmental election commission. We will select our candidates privately, in a private space, and allow no nonmembers any say in the process. We must actively work towards creating a unbreachable wall between Party and State.
3. Not presume to know what The Common Good is. We shall advance the individual issues that we agree on. We shall question relentlessly those who shield their duplicity under the guise of “disinterestedness”. And as Ayn Rand always asked when discussing the Public Good, we shall also ask “For whom?” We shall question with boldness! Indeed!
4. No longer will feel obliged to claim the Common Good when pushing for our own agendas.
5. Recognize that corruption is the result of government expansion into the private life of individuals. We shall work towards creating a unbreachable wall between Business and State. In addition to fighting the current corruption.
6. Not have any foreign policy position a priori. The Cold War is over. The 9/12 Party ought to create a committee to consider a Foreign Policy appropriate to a commercial Republic.
7. Not have any trade policy a priori. One Constitutionally legitimate role of government is to regulate foreign trade. The ability to export to the USA is a privilege and not a right. The development of a Trade Policy is a legitimate arena for political give and take. Therefore the 9/12 Party will have a committee to debate and argue and compromise on Trade Policy that approximates a common interest.
8. Not have more than seven (7) points.We shall always maintain a sense of humor and never take ourselves too seriously. We shall remember that we have government to better our lives, and that our lives are not meant to better the government!