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Just who the hell do you think we are!?
"Let us be for the freedom of all of us."
-- Paul Berman
Obviously this work will present an apparently eclectic set of ideas, driven by a relatively new philosophy. At the very least, the average reader will most likely not have seen many of the enclosed ideas in the discourse of mainstream American politics before. We are not mainstream people... or are we? The observant reader will, after all, find that we are not utopian or totalitarian radicals of the kind typically implied by calling someone "not mainstream", and yet...
Here we reach the core issue that drove writing this entire piece of work. American politics has become like the weather: everyone complains, but nobody does anything about it, at least not anything to get at the root of our society's present problems. We no longer necessarily
a definitive mainstream encompassing most actual Americans, merely a set of old, established and usually quite wealthy institutions calling themselves "mainstream" and defining the American Overton window according to their own
opinions. More Americans now call themselves "independents" than any time before, yet depending on the issue and the poll most Americans seem to adhere either to some form of radical individualism, some form of theocratic Christianity, or to an ideology that other countries would call social democracy.
Yet nobody represents these people, not honestly at least. The Republicans claim to represent the radical individualists, but in practice act for the neoconservative militarists, Evangelical Christian theocrats, and their friends in oil companies, agribusiness and defense contractors. The Democrats claim to represent the social democrats and social-issue libertarians, but in practice betray the social democrats to nearly every conservative counterproposal, or simply inaction, that they can lay their hands on and instead act for their friends in big academia and the media industry. Both parties bow before the purported wisdom of the richest banks and worship the ground upon which they serve forclosure papers.
The far left and far right have risen boldly to this occasion of history, each seeing the arrival of the inevitable crisis that will allow them to take power, purify the Earth of all evil, and finally build their fantasies. The associated scourges of totalitarian hatred have returned with them. Fascism has come to America, on the one arm draped in the flag and carrying a cross, and on the other pumping its fist to liberate everyone oppressed by bourgeois economics, Jewish bankers, and imperialist aggression by doing away with all traces of capitalism, Jews, banks, and militaries. These groupuscles and creeds thrive on the fear, uncertainty, and doubt generated in these times of political death matches, public ignorance, and shriveling economic opportunities for a more-shriveling few.
In this context, some have begun to rally for sanity and call themselves "the radical center", claiming to deplore partisanship. Yet more often than not, the so-called radical center merely puts a polite smile and a nice suit on compromising between the Democratic betrayals and the Republican duplicity, fallaciously reasoning that whatever lays between of the two "extremes" must somehow constitute a rational, reasonable "Golden Mean". We admire the sentiment, but simply cannot assent to the reasoning.
So then, who are we? We are people who tend to call themselves liberals and progressives but who often have to hold our noses when voting Democratic. We are people so unable to stand the Democrats spinelessness in defending American liberal democracy against totalitarian assault from without and nanny-state social regulations from within that they close their eyes and vote for the purpotedly-libertarian Republicans. In our hearts and heads, most of us are probably social democrats, but may not particularly like the European connotations of the term. Most of us are definitely on what
think of as the Left, even if we so often find vocal leftists like the Chomskyans condemning us for our patriotism, our bourgeois lack of proper radical spirit, our incomes, or most often our failure to join in their pet cause. Some of us may be on the individualistic Right, at least by the standards of other countries, though we do think that the American Right has by now drifted so far right into hatred of government that it must soon fall off the scale into full-on anarchism.
We are people who want to live in a society that maintains its own health, that gives its young every opportunity they merit, that takes care of its citizens no matter their race or class or income or status, that lets its culture and lifestyles evolve naturally rather than dictating them from on high... We are the people who want to build a society that grows upward each year, and we want to plant the seed of that growth, to spiral and spread out until we enable everyone in our country and in every other country to thrive as much as we know they can.
Human thriving is the cause for which we stand, and in it we stand together. We know well what we can accomplish through all our work. The reader is invited, if he or she favors our notions, to join us. To the rest... well, we answered that above.
An Economy is an Ecosystem: A Critique of Modern Consumer/Corporate Capitalism
Normally in this text we will prefer to critique the existing views of the American liberal left, since we are not on the socially conservative, neoconservative, or the atomistic-libertarian right. However, in the context of economics those are all that exist in current thought. Socialism is dead, and the American Left has been too timid to raise even mildly social-democratic proposals. We are, quiet unfortunately, stuck playing the cliched game of throwing repetitious and obvious criticisms at neo-liberal corporate capitalism, and yet for this reason exactly it requires our examination and our proposals for reform.
Previous thinkers have tended to see the economy of a nation, or of the world, as a machine that transforms inputs into outputs. We feel that a more accurate model is that of an ecosystem. Far from simply transforming inputs into outputs, the point of an economy, as a part of the human ecology, is to transform inputs into the various manifestations of human life, individual and institutional, producing as little waste output as possible. Satisfying the needs and desires of humans is paramount, but above mere consumption of “finished” goods, a healthy economic ecosystem must provide a sphere for the individual to contribute to their society and their world through production and creativity. In nature, life forms evolve to survive and prosper, and likewise, we should direct our economic system to enable human society to survive, prosper, and evolve.
Some part of economic inequality is an inevitable consequence of the diversity of humankind, as every individual is born with a different set of talents, disabilities, and opportunities. Empirical experience has shown truly eliminating or even severely reducing inequality requires controls on wealth so strong that they would suppress nearly all society-wide progress, so we have to accept a (preferably minimal) level of inequality as the price of overall progress. However, certain bounds on inequality must be kept in place. A democratic society cannot allow anyone to become so wealthy that their wealth transmutes into political and social power, lest democracy collapse into oligarchy; a moral society should never allow certain degrees of absolute, crushing poverty while the productive powers available to society could obviate it; and a society that wants to build a better future for itself must always make sure that even those materially lacking have opportunities to develop their bodies, minds, and souls to the better -- for their sake and for everyone's.
Besides, overly severe stratification is bad for the economy itself. Stratification removes resources from circulation in the ecosystem/economy, locking them into what amount to the economical fat-sacs of their receivers, even while the vast number of other populations who watch their necessities drain away remain irreplaceable pillars of that system. No ecosystem has ever maintained, in the long term, a large population of a species at the top of a food web without much, much larger populations of the species underneath it. Hawks die without rodents, goats die when they so overeat that grassland turns into desert, and capitalist financiers cannot survive without a large, healthy population of people doing actual work. For long-term economic survival, workers - not merely pitiable workers, “smart” workers, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, citizen workers or immigrant workers, but
workers - must have their fair sustenance and due for the value they generate, for the wealth they circulate, and for their human needs.
A die-hard capitalist would argue that restrictions on inequality create inefficiency. However, when viewed from an ecological perspective, total efficiency draws a system taut, makes it desperately dependent on the continuation of current conditions and vulnerable to collapse from the slightest change. Unfortunately for the theoreticians who have repeatedly called such artifices economically sustainable, conditions always change. Indeed, as we’ve seen in the Great Recession of the 2000s and in the Great Depression of the early-mid 20th century, drawing an economy taut is quite possibly one of the best ways to bring about a long-term collapse or die-back that manifests, in economic terms, as a horrific recession and a general reduction of overall living standards. Eliminating everything that doesn’t add to the wealth-managing class’s bottom line from the economy, whether by outsourcing or by simple cuts, eliminates the essential parts of enterprises and of the economy that make it work, and we must therefore do away with this approach.
Furthermore, despite its nasty reputation, Darwinian evolution and natural selection have often found cooperation a better long-term survival strategy than fruitless competition. Just so, some things are actually done most efficiently through centralization and socialization rather than through enforced privatization and competition. Natural monopolies such as utilities and natural resources, unprofitable but socially useful enterprises such as public transportation, and enterprises such as health insurance, in which privatization behaves parasitically, all belong with democratically-controlled non-profit actors in the public sphere to ensure the health and wealth of individuals, enterprises, and society at large. The most obvious candidate for this democratically-controlled non-profit actor in the public sphere is, of course, state bureaucracy. While it has a worrying tendency towards uncontrolled growth through the use of its coercive taxation power, it remains, throughout the civilized world, in the democratic bridle, and the periodic swings of political power between those looking to grow the social services budget and those looking to shrink it have tended to keep this tendency in check, with the special exceptions of certain societies in which non-productive sectors of those societies use their democratic power to buy state largess.
Of course, even if we decide not to trust the state, public-sphere cooperative models of various sorts remain available to do similar jobs, and in fact cooperatives often perform better than enterprises with a few hierarchical "brains" directing a great number of "hands" who've no control over their directions.
An Economic Program
In order to control inequality and bring capitalism under the control of the democratic society, we have a series of reforms to enact. All health insurance must be nationalized under a single-payer plan, with universal coverage for all citizens and legal aliens. Private health insurance can continue to exist, but only to provide coverage above and beyond public health-care. Living wage laws must be passed and enforced all across the nation, taking account of local variations in the cost of living. Tariffs will be raised on all imported goods according to the ratio of the minimum wage to cost of living and according to environmental standards in the country of origin, preventing the use of labor and environmental arbitrage to circumvent local regulations-- though we cannot use protectionism for the mere advantage of our worker-supporting and ecologically-friendly goods over someone else's. Anti-monopoly laws must once again be strongly enforced, and businesses that are "too big to fail" must justify to the government why they should not be split into multiple smaller, competing enterprises.
In the spirit of maintaining a diverse ecosystem with fair competition, we believe that the state should maintain a venture-capital bank of its own, for the purpose of funding new socially and economically beneficial enterprises. Since the private, capitalist sphere often fails to take a sufficiently long-term view; discounts public good for private gain; puts high barriers to entry in front of good ideas and hard workers; and creates overmuch consolidation of ownership and management, we propose to use the financial power of the state not merely to push private enterprise around but to break down the barriers to entry and empower the businesses our society needs rather than those its rich want. We believe that if the state runs this bank correctly, it can and should make a profit for society, and it should ensure that the strivers and achievers of our future will not find themselves forever at square one because they don't "know people who know people". State-funded entrepreneurism has worked when done ad-hoc, and it can therefore work when done with a systematic plan. It will inject capital into positive businesses, create self-sustaining enterprises and therefore jobs, make money that can reduce the citizens' tax burden, and bring new progress and diversity even to stale, established markets.
We have a number of proposals, all of which we wish to take advantage of, to fund our proposals and balance government budgets. Firstly, income and capital gains taxes must be restored to a progressive slope: little taxation for the poor, moderate taxation for the middle class, and high taxation for the rich. We will also legalize and tax the safe production, sale, and usage of marijuana, LSD, and MDMA, which will serve the dual purpose of discouraging recreational drug abuse (by taking away its cachet of rebellion) while simultaneously providing a valuable source of funding for essential programs. The military-industrial complex must be completely cut off and defense spending reduced dramatically; if the government requires something it will acquire the capacities to manufacture that thing itself and then sell off that enterprise when it no longer requires the thing. Our state-run entrepreneurial bank will also
We also have a series of systemic changes to make. The workers who actually run modern businesses must be given a voice in how they are run, and to achieve this goal, all business corporations must immediately issue dividend-granting shares of voting stock equal in number to the current number of shares issued and allocate an equal number of these shares to each employee, though small businesses such as sole proprietorships and partnerships will not have to do so. Any and all employees must be issued these shares (ensuring that businesses will prefer to get their money’s worth by hiring full-time), and post-employment employees will maintain their shares for three years, until they find other work, or until a replacement is hired, so that firings and layoffs cannot be used to influence the balance of power between workers, management, and other stockholders. If a new worker is hired who does not replace a previous worker, their employer must issue the correct number of new shares to them, and if a fired worker’s shares expire after the full period, the shares are de-issued. Corporate governance for these new enterprises should be reorganized along the lines of the Mondragon Cooperatives, with workers' voting their shares to appoint executives and wield governing power over enterprises on an equal standing with other shareholders.
Corporate personhood must also be explicitly revoked by legislation, and the precise civil rights of business and nonprofit corporations specified therein.
Why haven't the Leftists been Pirates?
Traditionally, the Left has stood for the rights of working people over the rights of capitalists, and it has also stood, when not plunged into a Maoist fever dream, for the rights of cultural figures, artists, and intellectuals to speak, write, and perform as they please. Technological advancement and the democratization of culture have been watchwords of Leftist activism since there
such a thing. Yet no major Leftist bloc has come out in favor of the Free Culture movement, and it would appear that the reason has been that the Free Culture movement looks less like oppressed Third-World workers rising up for socialism than like First World middle-class teenagers who want a legal right to remix copyrighted music with cartoon clips on YouTube. Why defend such a thing?
We defend it, we justify it, and we endorse it because every civilization that has enjoyed the blessings of a domestic golden age enjoyed it due to the widespread dissemination of culture, information, art, and communication. The printing press led to the spread of pornographic pamphlets, but it also dawned with the Gutenberg Illuminated Bibles and therefore enabled, on a fundamental historical level, the rise of religious liberalism in Europe and religious literacy everywhere -- literally doing God's work! Free printing meant the free flow of information, and the inability of England to enforce its copyright laws on the United States enabled the printing of Charles Dickens in the US.
Modern computing technology should represent another great leap forward for culture, communication, and simple fun, but overly stringent intellectual property laws have prevented that. Thanks to these laws, developers wishing to develop for many computing platforms must pay licensing fees for a "dev-kit", fees so exorbitant that only large corporations can afford them. Thanks to these laws, what culture can be produced by common people through "mash-ups" or "remixes" is often criminalized as unlicensed "derived works" and removed from the networks. Common people face bankrupting lawsuits for the "crime" of sharing culture for free -- the same price at which it can be found on advertising-supported media sources that, unlike commoners, could afford licensing fees.
To give an example of why and how free culture has become a necessity, let's take two examples recognizable to a person familiar with current-day popular culture: the
series of video games and the song
Happy Birthday to You
. Both remain under copyright, though the original
games came out more than twelve years ago and
Happy Birthday to You
nearly a century ago. More people now know the latter by heart than any other song in the English language, and the former spawned a long video-game saga. The accompanying youth fad could not have spread if not for its followers' ability to, in whole or part, circumvent the copyrights and trademarks gripping the
brand by creating unlicensed derivative works.
Most of us grew up singing
Happy Birthday to You
every single year at our birthdays, and yet a radio DJ cannot play it without paying a license fee. Its writers have long since died, the copyright has passed through several different purchases, and some judges have even recommending examining whether the song still falls under copyright at all. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to publicly perform the song must pay the fees because the ideology of "post-industrial" corporate capitalism demands that we privatize the cultural sphere for better profits and "job creation". Fair use, once a concept native to copyright law, has died in the pro-corporate courtroom, and free use, entirely unregulated by copyright law, has gone almost completely extinct despite originally making up the majority of all uses of copyrighted works.
games provide us with a sample of the blossoming that can come from allowing common creators to work free from the chains of licensing, or even free to pay modest, known licensing fees rather than large, arbitrary ones. A cursory search of a single web-site indicates that four patches exist to
games and three that yield
entirely new games
based on the
game engines. The common American, while perfectly able to download the software patches, cannot use them because the Digital Millenium Copyright Act has rendered illegal the copying of any software from its original medium, such as the game cartridge, even when no actual copyright violation occurs. It has even illegalized the production and sale of devices that perform this function, or that allow hardware owners to run unlicensed but free software on their own property.
These are not the only examples. Basic glances at YouTube or at the disk-jockeying profession will show the cultural productivity that can come from applying an ethical right of derivation, a right to create derived works from an original by adding one's own work, and the web site which held
mods held comparable software patches for more than a hundred other games. If such "modding", "mashing up" and "remixing" as have already become commonplace for video games, music, and short videos were legal and free, who knows the breadth, scope, or scale of the brilliance that could reach the public, finally unchained from the need for million-dollar license financing?
The Left has traditionally liked any story of normal people against multi-millionaire corporations, joined any such fight. It should join this one as well.
Our Culture Belongs to Us: A Program of Free Culture
In addition to changing the structure of the corporate world, we also aim to restructure intellectual property law to serve their original and proper purpose, the advance of the arts and sciences. The basic term of copyright shall be reduced to five years and the basic term of a patent reduced to ten years, with a slowly but exponentially rising scale of fees payable to the government for extensions. The DMCA will be considered a “value-added” intellectual-property law, with fees required even during the initial periods of patents and copyrights for enforcement and a corresponding exponential fee scale for further enforcement. When a copyright or patent expires under our new intellectual property system, the law will not allow it to be renewed later. Algorithms, genetic codes, and business methods will not be considered patentable, though particular implementations of algorithms will be subject to copyright law and anyone who wishes to keep a particular genetic code or business method as a trade secret will be entitled to do so.
Furthermore, the term of a copyright will degrade with each successive sale or reassignment of that copyright, providing legal and financial incentive to keep copyright titles held in the hands of the original cultural producer. Our reformed copyright laws will not apply copyright at all to a "derived work" the majority of whose content is original or that uses the original work purely as a platform for the presentation of original work, provided that the derived work is not distributed commercially. Other derived works will become legal but require that their creator pay financial compensation to the copyright holder of the original work. All firms producing physical equipment that serves as a platform for the consumption or production of cultural material will have to install some mode that gives the user, the owner of the device, total access to the workings of the device, with the freedom to install and run their own software or content.
We will require that all research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation be published, if it is published at all, in a format accessible to the public and free of charge, since it was payed for with our taxes. We will also disallow any patenting or restrictive copyrighting of research work done mostly using public funds, though publishing such works under licenses which enforce free sharing will be permissible. The government will run a web site that will accept and publish copies of all such works for public consumption.
Commercial copyright or patent infringement, however, will remain a violation of the law and a matter for the civil courts, since otherwise copyright would, after all, become meaningless as a way to encourage the production of culture through the finance of a culture industry. If, and only if, a real financial collapse of the entire cultural industry occurs, as industry lobbyists love to prognosticate, and the flow of professional-quality new cultural content halts utterly, we will begin to strengthen intellectual property laws again, but not without this condition. Fundamentally, our culture must remain ours.
We pledge to place all documents, pictures, videos, computer programs, plans, etc. of our movement under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, and we do this for the same reason that we intend to reform intellectual-property laws: because we favor a free culture with a large public domain and even a domain of works that
, by law, remain public. Since we want to reinforce that culture, we must act as a part of it, and that means that everyone who reads any of our material must have the freedom to alter or republish that material, provided that they attribute proper authorship and share their changes in the same way as we have shared our originals.
Anti-Hegemony Does Not Mean Pro-Liberty: A Critique of Current Leftist Foreign Policy Attitudes
"We are in a world in which, on the one hand, we have the United States, its English poodle, its Israeli lackey - a three-headed gorgon that commits all the sins in the world - and, on the other side, all those who, no matter what their crimes, their ideology, their treatment of their own minorities, their internal policies, their anti-Semitism and their racism, their disdain for women and homosexuals, their lack of press freedom and of any freedom whatsoever, are challenging the former."
-- Bernard Henri-Levy
Our regrettable story begins with the fall of the Soviet Union. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the Western Left conceived of its foreign policy attitudes in terms of concrete support for socialism and human advancement. The economic development of poor countries was presumed to be a good thing, so long as it did not take place under the auspices of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation of cheap labor and natural resources. Opposition to the Western perpetrators of these evils took place on the solid ideological basis of ending exploitation to raise the standard of living of poor countries and encourage the development of universal, individual human rights.
After the fall of the Soviet Union however, and with the arrival of neoliberal globalization, the ideological chain of logic that made such stances intelligible and moral was replaced with an ideology that has been alternatively termed Third Worldism or Cultural Marxism. Over the 1990s, an additional heavy stew of postmodern multiculturalism was poured into the preexisting brew of xenophilia. Thus, the universalistic philosophies of the Enlightenment were deemed culturally particularistic, and the only properly universalistic stance was taken to be permitting every culture and group to have its own entire worldview, from moral philosophy to ontology and epistemology -- a toxic, antinomian view. If everything is moral, there is no morality.
A few people, such as Dr. Alan Sokal, raised the alarm at the colonization of the Left, the noble political wing that has always stood for liberty, equality, and fraternity, by nonsense.
Then the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 occurred, and things only got worse when the far-right Bush Administration used 9/11 as an excuse to invade, destroy, and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. The Left thus accepted the poison pill that Islamists acted as a vanguard party representing the oppressed Muslims of "colonized" nations, and that the Left should therefore side with them against America.
We disagree utterly. There is no reason that we should not stand, in the arena of foreign policy, for the same things we stand for domestically: universal individual rights, liberal democracy, economic equality, and communal self-determination. This certainly means that we have a long, long laundry list of complaints against the very real economic imperialism of past American policies. Still, to put it quite simply, the enemy of our misguided political opponents is not our friend, or anything close, if he does not share our principles.
To those who protest that Islamism is a phantom conjured to justify a hegemonic American foreign policy, we say that the division of the world into an American Empire and "everything else" is insane. There is very clearly a region of the world which possesses a rising Islamist hegemony: the Middle East. That Islamist hegemony emanates on one side from Shia Persian Iran and on the other Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia, both authoritarian and fundamentalist oil states that violently suppress internal dissent and attempt to spread their ideology into Muslim communities everywhere. It is distinct from traditional Sunni and Shia Islam and their schools of jurisprudence, and its founders include Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. Its current-day leaders include Osama bin Laden, Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and Muqtada al-Sadr in its more violent Middle-Eastern incarnation, but such relatively mainstream figures as Tariq Ramadan preach the same basic ideology in a more "moderate" version (if by "moderate" one means that he restricts his call for violence to targeting "Zionists").
It is the reason that Lebanon has become a
colony of Syria and Iran, and it is the reason that neither the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor the India-Pakistan conflict have been solved. It is the reason that French girls of Muslim immigrant descent find themselves pressured to forgo a full education or necessary health-care in the name of
It is the reason that Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Ahmed Aboutaleb are in hiding or traveling only with a complement of bodyguards, all fearing assassination for their advocacy of individual rights and secular government. We must oppose it.
On top of that, North Korea seems eager for a nuclear war, despotism has returned to Russia, China is buying influence wherever it can, and numerous other small issues demand attention. The European Union is seeking a place on the world stage, and we need to end, for their good and ours, the economic colonialism afflicting Africa and South America. We have a lot of work to do.
A Program for the "War on Terrorism"
"The key question, as Bill Durodie, senior fellow in Human Security at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, writes in a 2007 essay, is not 'what it is that attracts a minority from a variety of backgrounds, including some who are relatively privileged, to fringe Islamist organizations, but
what it is about our own societies and culture that fails to provide aspirational, educated, and energetic young individuals with a clear sense of purpose
Foreign Policy magazine, July 15, 2010
To those who claim that Islamism stands, perhaps in an inadequately liberal fashion, for the poor and oppressed of the Muslim world, perhaps for the desperation experienced by Muslims, we reply that the terrorists the world has thus far seen have been anything but desperate or lacking resources. Quite to the contrary, some of the Muslim Middle East's richest governments and families are engaged in funding and training Islamist organizations and their terrorist soldiers. Most of the individuals who actually committed attacks such as 9/11, the London bombings, or the Madrid bombing, came from middle-class backgrounds and had Western educations, many in engineering. They were, in short, quite identical to any Russian Communist, Italian fascist, or German Nazi: relatively ordinary people who have chosen to believe in a totalitarian ideology with such ferocity that basic facts about the non-demonic nature of their supposed "enemy" no longer provoke hesitation or doubt. We can see no reason not to treat them likewise as our enemies, but we do know that we can prevent people from walking into this mental prison.
Thus, our program is actually quite simple and pleasantly non-militaristic. We intend to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan in so far as they can be, and then leave as soon as possible. We intend to build a position of strength against an Iranian nuclear bomb even while we extend the hand of peaceful science to the Iranians, and we intend to accomplish this through economic sanctions, a propaganda and educational campaign against the Shia Islamist ideology of Iran's current government, and even, if and only if Iran begins a war with nuclear possibilities, through the use of military force. We also intend to wage an intellectual "war of ideas" against totalitarian Islamism as a whole, which we view as a fascist ideology unfortunately expounded by intellectuals.
Islamism only rose in the first place due to the failure of the West to sufficiently support and believe in the Enlightenment liberalism that, ironically, constitutes the foundation of our own societies. The rise of multiculturalism pushed liberal, leftist Muslims into the Islamist camp by devaluing the very concept of common humanity and citizenship in favor of engaging with the Islamic Other. This has only encouraged salon racism towards Muslims and marginalized Muslim liberals. Rather than pigeonholing our citizens into racial or religious "communities" with which we "engage", we need to restore our common liberal values and engage with our own society as a whole, working for our common benefit in a time when so very much needs doing.
As noted above in our economic program, we intend to use tariffs and trade barriers to ensure that less and less American trade flows through repressive nations without functioning labor rights or environmental protections, nations such as China and Saudi Arabia. Where necessary, we will engage the scientists and engineers of the United States to develop alternative fuels and technologies to replace those only available from enemies of liberal democracy. We will finally plug the obvious holes in the American homeland-security apparatus and rid ourselves of the idiocy that has driven citizens and visitors alike slowly insane with bureaucratic obstinacy, low-level racism, and systematic inefficiency. We firmly believe that by attacking the ideology and the purse-strings of Islamist fascism and the points of weakness in our own lands that it exploits for its propaganda
, we can reduce the amount of necessary military action to a minimum.
Furthermore, we will favor and promote liberal democracy wherever possible through non-military means. We will insist that the the Gaza Strip reunite with the Palestinian Authority, and we will bring relative peace to the Levant by pressuring the Palestinian Arabs to finally make necessary sacrifices of their own for a Palestinian state. If quashing the
and Hamas long enough to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace to fruition requires it, we will even send our own peace-keeping troops to Gaza, and since Hamas's supporters already consider the United States guilty of occupying Gaza by force when we have not a man there, this really can't harm our relations with Gazans. Totalitarianism must not be allowed to spoil the flowering of sovereignty and human rights for even one people, let alone two. We will encourage economic development in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt to bring about, if not a citizens' movement for true liberalization, at least a Chinese-style development and stabilization that will stem violence.
From there, we plan to cement our alliance with India, the world's largest liberal democracy, and introduce there a new form of humanitarianism. Where previous humanitarians have attempted to stabilize tragic situations through the delivery of food or medicine and have occasionally ended up destabilizing whole economies, we aim to foment change for the better from the very beginning. We want to create an economically and ecologically sound Marshall Plan for the entire developing and undeveloped world, because we believe that once we spread education and opportunity, self-determination and development, across the Earth, peaceful relations will follow from there. Rather than the world's policemen, we would prefer to act as the world's tutors.
A further foreign-policy program
"The UN is the accepted forum for the expression of international hatred."
— Sir Humphrey,
Yes Prime Minister
The rest of our foreign-policy program shall be simple. We aim to strengthen compliance with environmental laws and labor standards internationally, and to do that we will participate wholeheartedly in the full array of cooperative international institutions. We will adhere to the Kyoto Treaty, participate enthusiastically in the United Nations Human Rights Council, and advocate for our interests and beliefs in the UN General Assembly. We will bend the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the good of humanity rather than to economic neo-colonialism.
However, we will not allow those institutions to become a political battlefield of the numerous tyrannies against the few democracies, and so we will found an organization for the international cooperation of liberal democracies on matters related to the environment, free travel, trade cooperation, security, and the advancement of science, art, and the liberal humanities. We will invite all liberal democracies to join, and all other nations to join us by advancing to liberal democracy. We will attempt to build an organization that will enable the liberal nations of the world to uphold a united front exactly as the tin-pot dictators of the world uphold a united front in the UN.
We will do this because it has become quite plain that the previous policy, of admitting illiberal states to good standing in the international community as an encouragement towards liberalization, has failed completely. Instead, we find ourselves in a United Nations dominated by tin-pot dictators, one-party bureaucracy-states, any number of so-called republics that utterly lack free or fair or effective elections, fascist maniacs, and even actual kings. These have organized for mutual benefit, each defending the others in front of the UN Security Council. They have utterly taken over the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. They have made the United Nations and international law into mockeries of themselves, apparatuses of "lawfare" that work between societies as frivolous lawsuits work between individuals within societies.
The solution is obvious, but requires political will: maintain standards. The UN must never become a world government (since sovereignty remains a prerequisite of both democracy and self-determination), but the liberal nations can organize our power and influence by banding together politically. We can work together to craft international institutions and agreements that meet our standards for effective action on world issues, and we can not allow ourselves to be held back by inaction, inertia, and jealous bickering. When evil stands united and tall, the time has come for the good to join hands.
Democracy Requires Majority Rule and Representative Bodies
In the domestic arena, we need to face up to the fact that electoral politics cannot work without some level of majoritarianism, and the United States Senate has long since lost that required level of respect for the will of the people through their elected representatives. A government that requires a 60% supermajority of an unrepresentative body in which the votes of the rural minority of the country count for more than those of the urban and suburban majority simply cannot run. We cannot have a country in which the most regressive 12% of the country control 40% of the Senate votes and therefore veto the other 88% of the people. For the sake of efficient government, and indeed any government at all, we must eliminate the filibuster as soon as possible.
In fact, we could do better by replacing the Senate entirely. It originally functioned as a body meant to represent the State legislatures on a national scale, and while electing Senators directly has partially democratized it, it still serves as little more than a damper on the ability of anyone without fearsome whips to get anything done in the United States government. If we want a second house of the legislature, why not employ a form of such that actually represents its electors, the nation's voters, rather than merely repressing them.
For that purpose, we should advocate a 100-seat Parliament, which we might as well call the Senate for purposes of tradition. Voters would elect this body according to a high-threshold form of Single Transferable Vote proportional representation, and upon these ballots voters would vote for political parties rather than individuals. In the best American tradition, "remainder" seats (seats without someone in them due to the electoral threshold) and tie-breaking votes could be cast by the Vice President. This new Senate would actually represent not only the people, but the greater diversity of political opinion currently suppressed by the first-past-the-post voting system.
Just to start, of course, we ought to have publicly-funded election campaigns with (inflation-indexed) spending caps and government-sponsored debates that include all political parties with their own nominee for the position in question. If our inclusion of this demand seems a little dismissive, a little offhand, we have included it this way because we consider it so utterly basic that we barely need write it down.
We have not here offered a critique of current Leftist views and actions in America, because the Left actually acts correctly, most of the time, on this issue.
NGOs: the Privatization of Public Life
"[K]een observers of the strange world of the quango rights industry are aware that Amnesty has of late been spreading its imperial wings. It originally began by demanding freedom for a Portuguese man in Salazar's prison cell. Now it has forceful and declamatory opinions on littering, breast-feeding, double-parking, immigration, global warming, airline taxes and the laws on offside in soccer and lbw in cricket. It is also -- according to the NWC -- in favour of keeping children's benefits as they are."
We need to face up to the fact that, when it comes to NGOs and quangos and civil society organizations, the Right has a point. It's not a large point, but it is a point: these organizations are fundamentally undemocratic. They have a loud, influential voice in our public life without subjection to electioneering laws, and often while receiving government funding. Through armies of lawyers, lobbyists, and intellectuals, NGOs of both the Left and the Right have systemically shifted, from issue- or community-based advocacy organizations with little role in broader politics to organizations that openly claim the right to dictate what's right and wrong to the public. In fact, in nearly every advanced democracy, they often act through legal cases and rights councils that directly override the democratically-decided laws.
Some might say that more constraint on the state's power must always be better. However, the power does not simply disappear, it instead moves from the elected government to those in the superelectoral domain: advising committees, courts, the legal profession, and most of all NGOs. Laws no longer get written through ideological compromise and overriden through independent legal cases in an independent judiciary. Instead, NGOs (also known as "lobbies") often take an active hand in writing the laws, push for the creation of new superelectoral governing bodies, and then use their financing, clout, and intellectual might to colonize the new political sphere. They usually then turn their strength to populating the government with allies who will continue to hand money, prestige, and legal power to the sphere where the NGOs operate. Thus, governmental good deeds become mixed so intimately with base corruption that many can no longer tell the difference.
Now many will still ask, what is wrong with constraining the government to respect the environment, the rights of citizens, and all other good causes? The problem is that most modern NGOs do not nearly qualify as non-partisan or transparent. Through their broad lobbying and intellectual production, each one now tends to push forward a body of opinion that qualifies as its own narrowly-focused ideology, and in fact some NGOs
exist only to oppose or criticize other NGOs
. How can we call them apolitical while they take political stances and joust with political opponents?
In addition, the major NGOs don't just operate internationally, they funnel money between their branches to support each other's work. A donation to Oxfam in America intended to relieve famine can support warlords in the Congo of which the donor may not know and with which they may not agree, and as it turns out many conservative NGOs in the United States appear plentifully funded by the rich Koch Brothers and the royalty of Saudi Arabia. The quality of NGO work varies wildly based on the precise national branch in question and the precise views of the staff operating that branch, and all such work has
a tendency to become explicitly political at some point
, to voice opinions and biases rather than objective assessments. Staff and board members themselves receive their appointments without any recourse to the donors' assent, and thus NGOs with backing from the rich can appoint whoever they want to do whatever they want.
In short, NGOs now operate exactly like international political parties, except that they never have to stand for elections, face restraint of their influence by low polling numbers, accept instructions from their members, or abide by the clean-government laws for political parties. In short, they now operate exactly like international political parties, except totally and completely corrupt. They are the privatized public.
We scarcely need to even speak about the organized Left's involvement in all this. After all, in the same way that big business defines the modern Right, big humanitarian NGO-ism defines the Left.
A Program to Make Public Life Public Again
The complexities of modern political issues would be better represented by an Assembly of Interests than just a single-vote body, no matter how proportional its representation of those single votes. If we want a body with proportional representation, let the people have multiple votes (perhaps three or five) each to grant to whatever organizations they wish. Let's integrate the so-called non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations into the political process as democratically accountable members, and let the Assembly represent not only the diversity of the populace but the diversity of each person's views and interests. Votes would remain of equal value, so once again a simple thresholded proportional-representation system would adequately and fairly distribute seats.
Such a body would have the advantages of more accurately representing voters' views, especially independent voters, and of integrating advocacy, activist, and lobbying organizations into the political process, dependent on the people for their power. It would also grant increased voice to the many causes and interests supported by large portions of the public but lacking funding and column-space from the chattering classes.
Of course, many of today's radicals and totalitarians rail against lobbies and undemocratic influence as well, but by this they tend to mean that they want to destroy the political voice (and possibly the rights and lives!) of disfavored ethnic, religious, or ideological groups entirely. I want nothing of the sort. After all, many NGOs provide crucial advocacy for issues too specialized or marginalized for the mainstream political parties to take up. No, I want only to bring the power of NGOs in line with their public support, whomever the public supports. I do, though, think that the results will surprise most NGO constituents, since I think the
of today are far more interested in domestic economic and social issues than inthe
's desire to have
more dance parties
for "aid" that keeps hungry Ethiopians hungry.
Reforming the Court System, Civil and Criminal
The frivolous lawsuit has become a tool of censorship and oppression that operates entirely to penalize those without enough money to fight a lawsuit. We will therefore provide public defenders for any and all civil charges carrying a potential penalty that threatens to bankrupt a defendant. After all, with enough lawyers paid for enough hours, anyone can be somehow made a criminal nowadays.
We also think that judicial activism has become overly prevalent in our legal system, and here we criticize the broad body of Leftist work in the United States for relying overly on the mandate of sympathetic judges rather than doing the leg-work of convincing enough of the populace of the righteousness of our cause that we can pass bills by mass mandate. Some issues are indeed foundational to our society, and we have enshrined them in the Constitution for that exact reason, but not every bit of moral hectoring about "decency" or "equality" is entitled to defy the most basic principles of democratic lawmaking. We will therefore provide appellate judges with a third option for ruling in any particular case: to refer the matter to the legislature for consideration as a democratic, political affair.
The revocation of the right to vote from criminals receiving anything less than a life sentence must be undone immediately, since in many cases only the nation's prisoners, parolees, and rehabilitated criminals (both innocent and guilty) have the experience to truly say what has gone right or wrong in our criminal justice system. While obviously some crimes merit a temporary loss of the vote during the criminal's prison term, once they have redeemed their debt to society, they deserve as much voice in things as the rest of us.
Anti-racism is no good reason for labor arbitrage: immigration
Recent years have seen a bizarre consensus form between the pro-business Right wing of the United States and the socially liberal Left on the matter of immigration. These have supported a clandestine policy of porous borders under which the business world illegally imports cheap labor from Mexico or India and then demands that no effort be made to send illegal immigrants home, because doing so, it tells the Left, would be "racist". Thus, when right-wingers gain power they make it easier to import workers, and when left-wingers gain power they make it legal to do so. A sensible person ought to ask why this has occurred.
It has happened because the Left has become the province of activists and academia rather than of workers. A
ctivists believe that enforcing border laws by deporting illegals constitutes a racist act, and they agitate for an unstated but very real open-borders policy out of sincere ethical belief. We disagree with them on economic and nationalist grounds, but we find no grounds to criticize their earnestness other than their unwillingness to state their goal clearly.
Academia, on the other hand, argues the racism of borders because they continue to take advantage of an unlimited supply of student visas and H1-B work visas to import undergraduate and graduate students, who form the bottom of a pyramidal labor/career structure, doing the real work while others often take the credit. To keep the laws allowing this in place, they have turned away from the interests of working people, of their own nation, and from sincere ethics to embrace an unholy alliance with big business. The two now work together to ensure that both can continue to treat the training of their workers as an externality and can maintain their exploitative, pyramidal organizational and career structures. We demand an end to this hypocrisy.
We assert that, for the sake of our economy and our citizenry, immigration must be selective and must be spread across different economic and social strata within society. Flooding any particular sector or another with immigrants strains social services, ghettoizes many new immigrants, creates ethnic tensions, and depresses the standard of living in that sector. Furthermore, we must enforce the laws against crossing our borders and against overstaying visas to avoid these problems, as well as to prevent smuggling, human trafficking, and the spread of disease.
There is nothing racist in demanding that we only admit immigrants who will not become dependents of the state or bring drugs and disease into our country, and nothing xenophobic in demanding that we spread them all across society rather than using them as a bludgeon with which to hit our internal issues. Quite to the contrary, enforcing our borders and spreading out the parameters of allowable immigration will create a more diverse set of immigrants.
An immigration program
Our first step is to close the Mexican border, by whatever means necessary. Mexico has little right to dump its own internal problems, or its problems with its neighbors, on us, and it will have even less once we've legalized the major recreational drugs and thereby starved the drug cartels. For our next step, we aim to rigorously enforce our preexisting laws against visa fraud, with a particular focus on the student and working visas used for labor arbitrage.
Once we have control of immigration, we can actually proceed to pass better policies. First and foremost, we will eliminate the current visa system; all visas other than visitation visas will aim towards a green card and we will make the period between obtaining a green card and taking a citizenship exam one year. INS offices will be equipped to handle and to expect people on a track to citizenship.
A million or two million immigrants per year seems like a good number, and our policy will be to take them in proportion to the economic and professional strata of our own society. If some percentage
of American citizens work in a particular field, we will admit at most
percent immigrants who work in that field. If
percent are poor, we shall admit
percent poor immigrants. We will take our immigrants from everywhere in the world, whoever wants to come and contribute to the United States of America, selecting them by lottery rather than discriminating between nationalities. Our only special cases outside these parameters will be matters of family reunification or cases in which we require an immigrant with some particular linguistic or cultural expertise for public service.
We will restructure the penalty system for overstaying visitation visas, and stratify the visitation visas themselves to last for different periods of time. Fines or prison terms shall increase in direct proportion to the amount of time that a person has overstayed their visa in terms of the length of that visa. The penalty for overstaying a one-month tourist visa for a month shall be small; the penalty for overstaying a one-year academic visa large. However, a person will be entitled to put in their application for immigration while on visitation, and if their application is accepted they will not need to leave and reenter the United States.
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