This brief post will be about politics. Not politics in specific, though, but the political spectrum in general. We all choose political sides on issues. Some of us choose them on specific issues and because the sides sometimes switch between topics we like to think of ourselves as “free thinkers” or simply not being entirely aligned to a political “side” for what passes for politics in the United States these days. Some of us have a “hot button” issue that then directs us to support the opinions of the political party on other issues that champions our view on our dearly held issue. Regardless, there are two basic sides in America and we all arrive there via some means of thought or value process. In all fairness, what I’m about to discuss isn’t a new concept and isn’t breaking any new ground but with revelations over the past couple of years, is, to me, a lot more stark example of where the origins of thought are when discussing how people in our single country can be so politically polarized as we appear to be.
I believe the genesis of someone’s leaning in one direction or the other comes down to one value: “confidence“.
In general terms, it is the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help” to do so. If you feel that you can be successful without the government lending a hand you tend to lean one way. If you feel that you need the government to “level the playing field” for you in order to enhance your chances of success then you tend to lean another. Now, understand, most people don’t hold opinions wholly in one direction or wholly in another…it tends to be a shade of grey somewhere in the middle…but in general terms, I believe a individual’s confidence (in more than just themselves) is what starts the leaning in opinion in one direction or another. In fact, going back to the first example (the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help”) it’s also a measure of which do you feel more confident in? You or the government? Now, because I, like everyone else, has a political opinion, how I describe that may unintentionally convey a leaning in and of itself. That’s unavoidable but being aware of it should explain any received bias, if any. People who identify themselves on the political “right” in this country would probably tend to say they prefer to rely more on themselves and less on the government for their success in life. People who identify themselves on the political “left” in this country would probably tend to say that not all people are equal but that everyone should have an equal shot for success in life and see the government as the means to enact such “balance”. In shorter terms, people on the Right tend to trust in themselves overcoming obstacles to success more while people on the Left tend to trust in the government to remove obstacles to success for them. In even shorter terms than that: people on the Left tend to have confidence in and trust the government more than people on the Right. With this value in mind, you can look at nearly every political issue in terms of that balance between confidence and trust in yourself and confidence and trust in the government. Thinking on that theory for a moment, consider some of the news of the past few days and realize that there is a change underway in this country.
One of those news items was this: welfare pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, creating little incentive for Americans to take entry-level work and likely increasing their long-term dependency on government help. That’s a fairly stark statement and, for this country, has never occurred before on a scale like this. What it means is that our government is taking so much from those who work and giving so much to those who don’t that the incentive for those who don’t work is to not even consider working in first place. Wealth (individual as well as collected wealth) in this country is generated by those who work. Our entire economic system is based on the productivity of the American workforce and the rest of the planet, like it or not, is reliant on the American economy. This percentage of people in poverty who are living at the pleasure of government entitlements has exploded in the past several years and shows no signs of abating unless radical and drastic changes are made…and those changes would be painful and very controversial.
The other news item is yet another revelation of how our own government views its relationship with its governed populace and how their view appears to be changing. Turns out, contrary to each and every statement denying such by the NSA, the White House press secretary and the President himself, the NSA is, has and continues to spy on Americans who have nothing to do with foreign threats or terrorism. The trouble with the news article in that link I just posted is that it contains so much troubling content. The government spying on their own people is one thing. The government outright lying to the only body that stands between them and the people (the FISA court judge) three times in the past three years ought to be even more troubling. Keep in mind now, when I say “government” in this context it’s actually more like the executive branch and the legions of bureaucrats that the executive controls and not Congress. This is alongside the other and previous scandals like the bureaucracy of the Justice Department running weapons into a neighboring foreign country, lying about it, getting caught lying about it and nothing happening as well as the bureaucracy of the IRS actively stifling political speech that would likely be contrary to the political views held by the current executive (President Obama) again with no apparent penalty. Those, of course, aren’t the only three incidents where it would appear our own government executive branch regards itself as separated from the populace and at least appears as though it has a divine right to rule. That kind of thing has always been the case but it’s only recently that that same executive, at least via it’s actions, seems to regard the rule of law as not applying to it and, what’s worse (if that’s possible), that the populace it governs is contemptible and possibly adversarial.
Obama’s own healthcare law was, by law, to go into effect August 1 (about 3 weeks ago)…and Obama simply said “no, I’m delaying that part”. It’s the law. How does the president believe that he has the authority to suspend the law whenever it suits his personal or political whim?
People who remember history or have even watched a passably accurate movie about historical events would remember governments who had agencies called things like “the Cheka”, the NKVD and finally the KGB. They’d remember such government organs like the private Sturmabteilung (SA) which eventually was superceded by the governmental Schutzstaffel (SS) and went hand in hand with that other famous contemporary governmental agency, the Gestapo. What all such governments had in common was that they were swept into power by a popular revolution of sorts. In Russia, it was a revolution against the Tsars, followed by a civil war where the Bolsheviks (who were promising their version of Hope and Change) won with the support of the people. In Germany, it was the National Socialists who were elected as the largest minority group via the very people they’d turn around and cull from their ranks, the homosexuals, the Jews and every other undesirable via death factories like Dachau (a death camp actually on German soil and operating before the war even started).
In both such recent cases and the case of the American and French revolutions further back in history, the government serving the people was either repressive or criminally inept and corrupt…and so a radical change was made by the people. The point I’m making here is: all governments come to that point. No government or system of government is eternal. China, Greece, Rome, the Pharaohs, various emperors, kings and queens…they’ve all ruled and they’ve all eventually fallen. Were there governments that didn’t fall? Of course, but they were the ones who weren’t victimizing their own people to the extent that the people revolted.
The ones that did victimize their people had government agencies to excessively seize wealth and property from their people (agencies like the IRS) and agencies to keep an eye on those people because the government realized that with enough confiscation of the peoples’ money and property, they might get mad and turn their anger against that same government (agencies like the NSA). Is the United States there yet? No, and not by a long shot. However, what the government spends isn’t matched by the wealth the IRS seizes from us individuals. These days they borrow the money…except the point is fast approaching where they won’t be able to do that anymore and they’ll be forced to either cut back drastically on what they spend (which will cause a revolt amongst those who are dependent on the government handout) or they’ll have to take more from the people than they do (which could also cause a revolt). In either case, you have the executive branch of this government using both instruments (the IRS and the NSA) to act against the people in a manner that exceeds their prior activities…and for that everyone should ask the simple question: why?
If you have confidence in yourself and not as much trust in the government you may answer that question in a way that matches your values. If you have more confidence and trust in the government you may get an answer to that same question that also comports with your values but will be almost entirely opposite the answer the first group arrived at. Regardless, the conditions that Americans face today (a repressive IRS and a domestic intelligence gathering effort by the NSA) are both new things…and if you’re not asking “why the change” then maybe you should start.
My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.