So if our government is a reflection of ourselves and our natures, the embodiment of the very concept of the first three words of our Constitution, "We the People," then by logical extension, wishing to shrink the government to a size that, as arch-conservative Grover Norquist states "can be drown in a bathtub," should disturb every American. What does this attitude say of people like Mr. Norquist, and the rest of those within our country who hold similar points of view.
Nothing good, I assure you.
It demonstrates one of two profound defects within our natures. The American people are either so intent on "getting ahead" by any means possible in terms of wealth and power, that they are willing to eliminate all checks and balances our political/economic system might retain to achieve that goal; or, we have become so lazy and addled as a people that we are willing to abrogate our responsibility as citizens of this nation to actively engage in its governance. Or both.
The American system of government is more dependent than any other in the world upon the participation of its citizens to work. Yet, when we permit ourselves to be so intensely divided by partisan politics as we have in the last thirty years, at the instigation of individuals who selfishly seek to increase their own political power at our expense, and it is the quality of our government that suffers most. The primary effect of this sharp partisan division is to reduce citizen participation in our political system, making the loudest voices appear to be the majority when they are not.
The American people I believe need to learn to quit being swayed to vote by a single, or even two or three issues, and start to vote on things that are in their long-term self-interest. To vote against a politician whose position mirrors your own on all but one or two out of a dozen issues, is incredibly self-destructive in the long term.
The United States is in no sense "like" any other political system in the world today. Our average citizen is horribly under-represented in Congress: 435 House members (and 100 Senators representing the 50 States, not the people, according to the Constitution) to represent 310 million people, compared to Great Britain where 600 members of Parliament represent 60 million people. Every other Western Democracy has severe restrictions in their election process, in terms of length of time campaigning and money that can be spent.
But the single most important factor in which we are unlike any other Western Democracy is our lack of viable third parties. This means we have no choice in terms of nuance within our system. Workers and small businesses are often thrown into opposite parties by what is felt to be "political necessity," even though the small business person has far more in common with the worker--even the union worker--than they do with the giant multinational corporation they suddenly find themselves in bed with.
Much of this is caused by our having enshrined in many states' constitutions and laws a two party system. While other parties are permitted, they have such a high threshold for competing with the two major parties on anything close to an equal terms, that it has proven an impossible obstacle to surmount since 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt's Progressives took second, and Eugene V. Debs' Socialists took fourth.
Many of the problems of the American system lie with our continuing suppression of our political left wing, beginning a century ago. Progressives, social democrats, socialists, and Communists have had an increasing degree of active government repression directed against them since World War I. What most of us in the United States consider "the left," would barely qualify as Centrist in Western Europe.
The missing ingredient in European, left-wing political theory has always been American Pragmatism. I.F. Stone was more right than he knew when he said that a truly American Socialism would be the marriage of Karl Marx's political and economic theories with Thomas Jefferson's social and economic democracy. But this very pragmatism prevents the American people from accepting some of the most visionary as well as the most outrageous parts of the European left-wing parties programs, which attracts so many adherents in Europe.
The United States is the first nation to officially recognize the importance of the individual as well as the collective in both the need for, and the running of its political institutions. But just as the community as a whole cannot always take precedence over the individual or the small minority contained within it, so to the individual or minority cannot always take precedence over the collective whole. We cannot continue to afford a small wealthy pseudo-aristocracy that continually undermines our nation's long-term best interests for their short-term gain, as our One Percenters have for the last forty-plus years. Providing for t he needs of the majority, the minority, and the individual, in terms of their importance to society, must be decided on a case by case basis.
Professor Stephen Hawking is an outstanding example of why decisions that affect the individual and the community must be made on an individual case by case basis. In the United States, according to the sort of cost benefit analysis that American insurance company actuaries use, Professor Hawking would have found himself without health insurance to pay his medical expenses as soon as he was diagnosed with ALS ( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gerhig's Disease) fifty years ago. Due to the aggressive treatment of his condition by Great Britain's "socialized" medical system, Professor Hawking is still alive, and setting the world of Science on its ear fifty years after his initial diagnosis. If he had lived here in the United States, he would have been dead forty years ago. The choice of using the collective economic power of the state, to support the individual, has paid bonuses to the group many times over.
David Morris' February 10, 2012 Common Dreams article "Where is Kropotkin When We Really Need Him," puts the need for us to work together on Spaceship Earth into perfect perspective:
" Mutual Aid is rarely read today. No one remembers
Petr [sic] Kropotkin. But his message and his empirical evidence, that
cooperation, not competition, is the driving force behind natural selection,
that decentralization is superior to centralization in both governance and
economies and that mutual aid and social cohesion should be encouraged over
massive social inequity and the exaltation of the individual over
society is as relevant to the central debates of our time as it was to the
debates of his time."
I think that I shall end this with two quotes from Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man, which should be thrown in the face of social Darwinists whenever they rear their ugly heads:
"For with those animals which were benefited by living in close association, the individuals which took the greatest pleasure in society would best escape various dangers; whilst those that cared least for their comrades and lived solitary would perish in greater numbers. With respect to the origin of the parental and filial affections, which apparently lie at the basis of the social affections, it is hopeless to speculate; but we may infer that they have been to a large extent gained through natural selection." (The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 80-1.)