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Unite for Transitional Goals: Conservative Progressivism

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The crash of 2008 is still a teachable moment.   Persistent unemployment, bailouts, and the vastly greater Federal Reserve program of loans to the banks present an opportunity to Libertarians and Greens.   Libertarians and Greens tend to be too polemical toward one another based on our extremely different basic concepts of the nature and proper roles of government. Can we agree at this time that an Unholy Alliance of Big Government and Big Business has acquired vastly too much control of wealth and power over almost all Americans?   These times present an opportunity to unite our electoral activists around transitional goals. Progressivism can be conservative in the sense of respectful of Libertarian values such as individualism and self-reliance. It can appreciate that governments are coercive about acquiring tax money for some uses progressives profoundly disagree with (such as aggressive wars of choice.) It can sympathize with the complaint that many of the wealthiest one percenters got rich and stay rich "with the [coercive] aid of sovereignty."   Libertarians can be conservative in respect to values like equal opportunity and ecological wisdom. Both seek to use government office make change they think is desirable. We don't have to present ultimate goals (which will probably continue to diverge for a long while.)   Even such transitional goals would need to be very carefully worded. I have in mind matters like democratizing control of the Federal Reserve and ending foreign wars of governmental choice. The opportunity presented by the Crash of 2008 is a opportunity we're missing. It's a receding opportunity.

   The presidency of the U.S. is an aspirational office. People vote hoping to elect the candidate whom, they think, most closely will further their own hopes both for themselves and others. Or else they vote indirectly against one or more candidates they've come to dislike.   Paradoxically, the presidency is only powerful negatively, by veto, and in war making. The Constitution sharply limited a president's ability to further the domestic hopes people have. For example, despite all the propagandizing about President Obama being a Muslim, and a socialist, there is no way, constitutionally, that he could convert anyone or take private property and make it governmental and non-profit in operation. On the other hand, Congress has the power of impeachment and has not exercised it against Presidential war-making in the Iran-Contra affair, or the presidential wars on Serbia, Iraq, or Afghanistan, despite the limitation it placed upon war-making with the War Powers Act in 1973. But it has impeached a president for lying under oath over an affair he had. Thus there remains in our "democratic" practice, a near divine right of the president to make and end wars. Currently we see, with the Israel-Iran conflict, the extent to which during election years at least, the president's war-making ability can be "rented" by a vote-rich and wealthy constituency like conservative American Jews (Zionists like AIPAC.)   As of May 2012, the Libertarian party has nominated a candidate for president, Gary Johnson, a former Governor of New Mexico. The Green Party USA convention will be in mid-July in Baltimore, with Drs. Jill Stein, Kent Mesplay, and Roseanne Barr currently running. None except Barr has, I think, sufficient national recognition to attract resources needed (and Barr's is not all favorable, of course.)

  Not even added together do Libertarians and Greens have enough activists and money to accomplish victory in a Presidential election. But we could conceivably educate and motivate enough of the voting public to do the following. First, reform the electoral process. Get many voters to unregister from the major parties. Get them to reregister as independent. Get them to declare nonsupport for major parties unless and until they have actually made serious changes. Get them to refuse pollsters' questions.  Such serious changes could include opening primaries, holding elections over two weekdays, introducing preference voting, paper receipt ballots and proportional representation. They should join, by name, suits against the photo id vote requirement.   Still more serious would be the measure most needed to give at least temporary effect to the popular will expressed in sweep elections. (By "sweep elections" I mean ones wherein the Presidency changes party and both houses of Congress become of the President's party, like the election of 2008.) That measure needed most, is a lowering of the vote needed in the Senate to override filibusters to 51 votes.   Our economic problems have become too extreme and too urgent to allow the Senate to proceed as an 18th Century debating society where "everything goes to die."   

Here is an example. Ron Paul campaigns to abolish the Federal Reserve. I believe this is, at present an unnecessarily extreme sounding goal. It puts off a number of bright, educated people who already are activists or at least contributors to the centrist parties and who see chaos with immediate disappearance of a central bank. Could we agree, as a transitional goal, to insist Congress reconstitute the Fed so that credit allocation policies and interest rates are set by a majority of Directors who shall be much more representative? They need to represent big non-financial corporations, small business, employees individually, unions, students, scientists and technologists, as well as governments of federal, state and local governments. Could Greens agree to Libertarians' goal of getting gold (maybe even other precious metals also) accepted along with Federal Reserve notes, or greenbacks (money created without debt) as legal tender, in exchange for Libertarians support for some other Green goal?

On the subject of foreign wars, maybe together we could eventually achieve a return to the state of affairs in 1973 -- 75, when Congress took advantage of the Vietnam stalemate bloodbath and weakness of an appointed president (Ford) to impose the War Powers Act, or to the operation of the Boland Amendment of 1984. Historically, I think, we would become the first world empire to truly wrest the decision to go to war away from the single highest ruler of nations and vest it a somewhat more democratic and deliberative body. Over millennia rulers have sought ways to soften and spread the effects of war on their people, propagandize the cannon fodder, finance it by captured booty, borrowing, debasing currency, deficit finance, compulsory levy, acceptance of paid volunteers instead of draftees, and finally mercenaries. Even with all these in use today, many people are awakening to the hellish expense, terrible harm we do and blow-back that comes from our aggressive wars of choice like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beyond retarding or hopefully abolishing aggressive wars of choice, "defense" spending, military Keynesianism is for now an essential part of our economic system. Abolished instantly, there would very shortly be depression. But this area illustrates another possible compromise. Perhaps Libertarians and Greens could push the centrists toward the position that we would support "defense" weapons and space research, so long as they would agree to not vote for any appropriations for use of American military personnel against foreign countries nor support for private contractors. No "boots on the grounds," no bombing, no missile attacks, no blockading. Corporations would be free and also required to protect "their own" property elsewhere in the world by hiring mercenaries as guards. Americans who feel a call help in war anywhere else in the world could raise funds for exporting food, medicine, and small arms and/or volunteer and organize on their own. But they would do so at their own individual or group's risk. Our government would have no obligation of protection of them in any zone declared a war zone by our State Department. The same would be true of any Americans who became hired guns for corporations. At a later time we might be able to work on decreasing military aid to nations in conflict with their own people or neighbors.

None of the perennial problems of America, imperial war, growing inequality, the un-melted pot, boiling with racism and nativism, sagging education of the masses, vulgarization of culture, crumbling infrastructure, damage to the environment, will ever be ameliorated by the oligarchy. Their elected officials are rental politicians. The super-rich can live anywhere in the world they want. They don't need highly educated American workers, American infrastructure in safe and serviceable shape, etc. Activist "extremists" have to work together to accomplish anything positive on these fronts.

 

http://baloneyslicer.tripod.com/

The author, born 1940, is a white male American retired college professor of philosophy raised as a secular Jew by professional parents. He is a long-time minor activist in the civil rights, anti-war, profeminism movements and taught critical (more...)
 

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It may be possible for Libertarians and Greens, in... by Robert Cogan on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:32:23 PM
Good article.  I agree.  What's Left and... by Scott Baker on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:39:46 PM
Yes! It's indeed encouraging to see many more vide... by Alan MacDonald on Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 10:39:12 AM