In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near point comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
The New York Times Magazine
Anti-Racism as a New Religion
In the vacuum created by the decline of traditional religion in America, a new religion is taking the world by storm. This is the religion of anti-racism. If Americans can come to a consensus on anything today, it is that slavery and racism are wrong. The popularity of the best-selling book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and the 1619 Project of the New York Times led by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones attest to the strong desire of Americans to address the legacy of racism.
These popular narratives share themes with a large number of courses on Critical Race Theory taught in major universities that
“view racism as institutional and as baked into both American law and society…. that doctrines such as the intent requirement (the idea that discrimination must be intentional in order to be actionable) as overly narrow and reformist rather than structural in nature.”1Introduction to UCLA course Law 266, Critical Race Theory, https://law.ucla.edu/academics/curriculum/critical-race-theory
Critics of critical race theory argue that it is a narrative disconnected from reason, science, and neutral principles of constitutional law.2For example, Jeffrey S. Pyle wrote in the Boston College Law Review (Vol. 40, p. 788), “Critical race theorists attack the very foundations of the liberal legal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law. These liberal values, they allege, have no enduring basis in principle, but are mere social constructs calculated to legitimate white supremacy.” This criticism describes the way Critical Race Theory is used and taught today, because its doctrines are disconnected from reason and evidence if not opposed to science, and even math,3https://www.hoover.org/research/seattle-schools-propose-teach-math-education-racist-will-california-be-far-behindseattle as a form of white supremacy. But critical theory is not possible without reason, science, or the Enlightenment, and proponents of Critical Race Theory who say otherwise reveal an ignorance of critical theory.
The United States has seen the evolution of civil rights from the abolitionists before the founding to the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s that gave full legal equality to all races. These civil rights are negative rights: equal protection under the law to freely pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Most individual Americans have come to accept these rights, and we live in a society with greater intermarriage, mixed housing, and colorblindness in the market.
However, our governments and many social institutions have never reached the stage of treating all people as equals. This is the result of racial data collection and policies that treat people differently based on such data. Elimination of questions of race and ethnicity on driver’s license and passport applications, census forms, university applications, and health questionnaires would mark the final legal hurdle to overcoming racism by social institutions. Racism in social institutions is what is called commonly called “structural racism.”
Today identity group politics has become the latest face of structural racism, and it is rooted in social data and policies that treat people differently depending on answers they provide on government forms. Identity group politics is not rooted in “negative rights” but “positive rights.” Positive rights are not freedoms to pursue a goal, but the right to be given something. When positive rights are provided by public policy, they are considered “entitlements.” Identity group politics argue for entitlements based on race, ethnicity, or some other factor, rather than a person is entitled because they are a human being like everyone else. Thus identity group politics become tribalism and a war over the resources of the government.
The US Founding Sought an End to Identity Group Politics
The US Founding is based on one preeminent principle:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
In their Declaration of Independence, the Americans were declaring they were no longer willing to be the subjects of a remote king who “taxed without representation” and whose government monopolies like the East India Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company would force independent entrepreneurs out of business.
The hyperpartisanism in American politics exists because the founding principle of “consent of the governed” has been circumvented. The US Constitution was designed with checks and balances and a consensus of three-fifths, two-thirds, or three-fourths votes to prevent moneyed interests from using the government. This is often referred to as a “super-majority.” Further, a bill would need to be passed in two houses, the House representing the a consensus of people and (before the 17th Amendment) a consensus of the states. This was to ensure the bill was in both the interests of the people and the states. The “consent of the governed” is what makes a government legitimate in the eyes of its citizens.
A System Off Its Rails
The United States system of government by consent has gone off its constitutional rails. I say “rails” because the Constitution defines the framework and boundaries of legislation. These boundaries, or rails, were established both to protect the citizens from themselves, and to prevent special interests from controlling legislation. In the United States today almost no legislation is passed by consent of the governed and nearly everything is passed by special interests. Thus the system is not considered legitimate by large numbers of citizens.
While, the Constitution created no vehicles for the representation of moneyed interests or corporations, legislators have gradually figured out ways to serve them, rather than the people who elect them. Numerous rules of legislation, laws, and even constitutional amendments have created a new set of rails for special interest legislation and political parties have become the trains that deliver it.
Americans are proud of their heritage of separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This amendment provides a foundation for pluralism and the equal protection under the law of all citizens. There was a practical reason for this Amendment; many of the states were settled by people of different religions: Puritans and Congregationalists in New England, Dutch Reformed in New York, Catholics in Maryland, Anglicans in Virginia, and Quakers in Pennsylvania. People in one of these states would not endorse a government in which the religion of another state was the official religion of the land. Continue reading →
Party names on ballots transform a government of the people into a government by groups. Most of the time voters will vote for a group they identify with rather than an individual candidate. After the election, it is those groups that control the corridors of power and the government. The government becomes a plutocracy in which the primary financial funders of the political parties control the legislation. This is one reason the United States today is neither the Democracy democrats talk about, nor the Republican form of representative government the U.S. Founders sought to create.
Group Names on Ballots Make Representatives Accountable to Groups, not Individual Citizens
The Republican Tax Bill Makes some changes to the tax code that will help promote jobs and economic growth and reduce taxes on the middle class. However, it fails to address serious loopholes and flaws that serve wealthier people and investors. It also fails to balance the budget. These are things the middle class will need to elect Democrats to do in a future session.
Weaknesses in the U.S. political system have allowed special interests behind both political parties to serve themselves at the expense of the middle classes. The Trump election was a signal that the middle classes could not continue to bear the bulk of the tax burden at the expense of the rich and the poor. Continue reading →
Principled Approaches to Displaying Public Monuments
The Charlottesville riots are the result of a poor decision process by the Charlottesville City Council. The right-wing protestors, the left-wing counter-protesters, and the statements by the Mayor, President Trump, and many news reporters were reactions to a decision that did not reflect the consent of the governed. It is not a mayor’s job, the media’s job, or a political party’s job, not the president’s job, to tell a people what they should believe, do, or say. The people living in a town or city should have a right to choose monuments for themselves. What does this statue mean to the citizens of Charlottesville? Slavery?—Maybe. Heroism?—Maybe. Group identity?—Maybe. Democracy?—Maybe. It means all of these things to some people and some of these things to others.
The purpose of this article is to offer a principled and non-violent approach to determining the display of public monuments. Consistent with the principles of “the will of the people,” and “consent of the governed” a large majority of the people of a territory should approve the erection or removal of public art. A 51% majority is insufficient to qualify as “the will of the people,” and a minimum of 2/3 and perhaps 80% more properly represents the will of the people. Failing to achieve that amount of support public land should remain empty or we can expect the possibility of violence. Continue reading →
A few days ago my dermatologist recommended an over-the-counter powder and a prescription cream for athletes’ foot. I bought the powder for about $5 at a local store, then went to the pharmacy who said that 48g of the cream, Alcortin A, would cost $8,000. It seemed unbelievable, but it was not a mistake. Like the nationwide scandals regarding Mylan’s EpiPens, and a $1,100 pill for Hepatitis C,Alcortin A, is an example of price gouging.
At $8,000 for 48g, this 2g sample pack would sell for $333.33
These drugs do not cost this much to make. While over-the-counter creams cost $5 to $20, Alcortin A’s inventor was selling the product for $189 before Novum Pharma acquired the patent and raised the price to astronomical heights, because insurance companies could be charged for it. This price gouging is possible because of a perfect storm of patent law and health insurance regulations. The patent holder has a monopoly on the product, and lack of flexible health insurance plans, usually paid for by third parties, forces buyers to pay the inflated price. While all these systemic problems should be addressed, this article proposes a patent law reform that would both (1) enable the patent holder to profit, and (2) return competitive market prices to the drugs. Continue reading →
Trump tweets, like Tarot cards, stimulate imagination
President Donald Trump’s tweets and “Trumpisms” have confused many people in both political parties and the media because they are not conventional modes of political or rational discourse. Rather, they tend to be unexpected short emotional concepts or outbursts, that generate a lot of reactions, positive and negative, as well as a lot of creative ideas.
Many people credit Trump’s victory to the emotional resonance that many middle-class citizens have with phrases like “drain the swamp,” “build the wall,” and “provide affordable health care,” even though there were very few well-articulated plans or policies yet developed to transform these ideas into reality.
Tarot cards, when used by a constructive Tarot reader, or the ancient Chinese Yi Jing (I Ching), work similarly to stimulate creative thoughts about problems people face. For example, a good Tarot reader who throws down the card “Death,” does not say “you are going to die,” but “you could die if you don’t alter your path.” And, other cards laid down in a spread convey other forces at work that can help you think about ideas for changes you could make.
Security services missed five opportunities to stop the Manchester bomber
The Homeland Security News Wire report that “U.K. Security Services missed several opportunities to stop Manchester suicide bomber” is eerily reminiscent of the failure of the FBI in the U.S. to respond to opportunities to stop the 9/11 attackers. Readers may remember that before the 9/11 attacks, FBI agent Colleen Rowley warned that Zacarias Moussaoui might be a terror suspect, but the report went unheeded and the September 11 attack killed over 3,000 Americans. These recurring problems indicate that these security agencies are not optimally structured to respond to security warnings.
Current appointment and hiring practices for government agencies, including security services, is an important reason that agencies’ priorities are misplaced, and not adequately responsive to citizen concerns. Continue reading →