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Failure to Communicate

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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, because it says that government should be made so small that We the People have no influence over it, and this miniscule, flaccid body could do nothing against the predatory acts of the economically most powerful members of our society even if we could influence it. 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 have become 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 on the participation of its citizens to work. Yet we have permitted ourselves to become as intensely divided by partisan politics in the last thirty years as any time in America's history, at the instigation of individuals who selfishly seek to increase their own social and political power at our expense, and it is the quality of our government that suffers the 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."

Free market capitalism is presented to us, unlike government, as a self-correcting system; any excesses within the system will eventually be corrected by market forces.

This is a false premise and demonstrably wrong. Historically, the tendency of any capitalist system on a large, i.e., national scale, is towards monopoly at worst, or a very small, colluding oligopoly at best. One needs only to read Ida Tarbell's The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), or note the history of the American automobile manufacturers or IBM, as well as the financial crash of 2008, to see the truth of this statement. Competition is crushed, and profit is maximized without any consideration for consumers once a company becomes "the only game in town." This belief in the "magic" of "market forces" to keep free market capitalism honest and competitive is as ridiculous and contrary to human nature that they should rename laissez-faire capitalism "lazy fairy capitalism." The disciples of the Austrian and Chicago Schools of Economics, at least in public, expect their fairy godmother (in the form of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, or to use the modern term, "market forces") to come down, wave her magic wand, and keep everything as it should be in terms of maintaining a functioning, competitive system.

The greatest fault that exists within our economic system currently is a psychological one: a belief that there must be winners and losers. If you believe that there has to be winners and losers for an economic system to function, you are ultimately insuring that economic system will fail at its most basic level at some point in the future for the vast majority of its participants. And the weight of that failure must ultimately pull down the rest of the system with it. We have the examples of Chile under General Pinochet, as well as Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina under their military juntas in the 1970's, to show us how dangerous this system is for the economic well-being of the majority of a nation's people. (Read Naomi Klein's 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, for more on the history and effects of the application of Milton Friedman's selfishness-based economics to real-life and real people.)

And no place in American society is this more apparent today than in America's education system, public and private. And the problems of America's educational system cannot be solved by a system that is based on selfishness.

As I stated three years ago in my November 10, 2009 OpEdNews article " Social Capitalism ," selfishness is not an emotionally healthy state. Selfixhness is in fact an invariable component of mental illness. To quote from the article:

"Whether you are in the depths of depression or the unbounded heights of a manic episode, it is all about you, and your pain or elation. If you are paranoid, they are out to get you. If you are schizophrenic, the voices in your head are talking only to you; the visions that you are seeing are only for you. Narcissism is about loving you to the exclusion of all others. Being a sociopath is about what you need, and to hell with everyone else. All of the forms of true sexual deviance are about you getting your jollies, not about sharing life's most intimate experience."

As the great psychologist and social commentator, Erich Fromm, stated in his 1947 book, Man for Himself (chapter 4), "Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either."

I will quote further from my 2009 article [words in italics have been added for clarification and amplification]:

If selfishness is an invariable component of mental illness, then what does that have to say about an economic system that is based on selfishness? Can an economic system that distorts the fabric of civil society through its overriding emphasis on selfishness be considered healthy? Can we actually draw the conclusion that the economic selfishness exhibited by our society is a component of a deeper underlying illness within our society? I believe that we can.

Almost sixty years ago, the Rand Corporation created one of the most important models of game theory, "The Prisoner's Dilemma." Their assumption was that if presented with a choice between cooperation and self-interest--where the outcome of the dilemma was, unknown to the participants, weighted toward self-interest--the participants would choose self-interest. When they tested it on their secretaries, they were surprised that the secretaries overwhelmingly chose cooperation over self-interest. The people at Rand ignored the outcome of this iteration of their test, stating that the secretaries lacked the sophistication necessary for a valid test.

John F. Nash, whose life was featured in the film A Beautiful Mind, at the same time proposed the Nash equilibrium. Nash assumed in this hypothesis that individuals acting in their own self-interest would always arrive at the best possible outcome. While brilliant, Nash was also a paranoid-schizophrenic, whose view of the world was tainted by his mental illness and its inherent selfishness. However, Nash and the Rand Corporation's conservative outlook of fear and selfishness appealed to the military and more conservative elements of the government, who used the fear to create America's nuclear policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Twice this policy almost ended civilization, in 1962 and 1983. Yet when Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon instigated the policy of de'tente, or cooperation, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, tensions between the super powers decreased until Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, and repudiated de'tente. In 1983 a Norwegian weather rocket almost triggered an automated Soviet nuclear attack, and this time it was the Soviet Union's Chairman Gorbachev who began the new era of cooperation and disarmament.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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