Government and Capitalism
You are correct, that Jefferson himself, saw that there may exist cause and reason for changes to the Constitution, for the creation of America was decades in the making, within which he participated.
The considerations and debate on how the original separate Colonies, might assemble for their own prosperity, required well over 30 years (1770 – 1800).
This quest for a "more perfect governance" occured in the context of "refinement", of the philosophical tenets first penned in the Declaration of Independence.
However, the DOI principles were foundational – i.e., the "changes" were not considered as being (nor allowed to be) contrary to them, but instead, a refinement for better operation and self-governance. He stated as much – that future generations should likely only improve the level of individual freedom. It was considered frightening to him that they might actually revert and "go backwards", to despotism and less freedom. To wit –
- "The generation which is going off the stage has deserved well of mankind for the struggles it has made and for having arrested that course of despotism which had overwhelmed the world for thousands and thousands of years. If there seems to be danger that the ground they have gained will be lost again, that danger comes from the [upcoming] generation. But that the enthusiasm which characterizes youth should lift its parricide hands against freedom and science would be such a monstrous phenomenon as I cannot place among possible things in this age and this country." –Thomas Jefferon to William Green Munford, 1799.
- ‘All human constitutions are subject to corruption and must perish unless they are timely renewed and reduced to their first principles.‘" —Thomas Jefferson: copied into his Commonplace Book.
- "It will be said it is easier to find faults than to amend them. I do not think their amendment so difficult as is pretended. Only lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly." –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816
Instead, the fear was that corruption might eventually "set in" with instead, no method of changing the encroachment on freedom, and so, a method for peaceful and thoughtful change would be required (i.e., "amendment").
This requirement for "human constitutions" to be "timely renewed and reduced to their first principles" is precisely my earlier point, regarding our need today, to "dust-off" and not only apply the Constitution, but as importantly, to return to those "first principles", "yet adhere to them inflexibly".
For what change could be considered an "improvement" to the "philosophical ideal", of complete individual freedom, limited only by that which prevents others from the same? Less individual freedom? More dictatorial power within "government"? This "first principle" was that which Jefferson considered we must "adhere to inflexibly".
On the process of "amendment" itself, Jefferson and the Founders took great pride in establishing an eventual "peaceful and thoughtful" system of change which all prior-known governmental forms did not have. At the time, because of their revolution against England, the Founders had an "aligning" relationship with France. Many of Jefferson’s letters were exchanged with the French, who were inspired by "young America".
In the contemporary French Revolution of 1789, the french also attempted to break with the political philosophy embodied by "a King". However, lacking the philosophical concept of "individual rights" – i.e., "each individual a sovereign – i.e., "his own king", the french missed the point. Instead of individual freedom, they quickly got a military dictator in Napoleon, along with conscription, hunger and war, succumbing instead, to a system whereby the rights of the individual were again, to be subjegated to "a Ruler" and "a Mob".
In any case, many of Jefferson’s letters attempt to describe the American experience to French revolutionaries:
- "Happy for us that when we find our constitutions defective and insufficient to secure the happiness of our people, we can assemble with all the coolness of philosophers and set it to rights, while every other nation on earth must have recourse to arms to amend or to restore their constitutions." –Thomas Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 1787
- "I have found here [in America] a philosophic revolution, philosophically effected." –Thomas Jefferson to Comtesse d’Houdetot, 1790
- "Happy for us that abuses have not yet become patrimonies, and that every description of interest is in favor of rational and moderate government. That we are yet able to send our wise and good men together to talk over our form of government, discuss its weaknesses and establish its remedies with the same sang-froid as they would a subject of agriculture." –Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Izard, 1788
- "[The European] monarchs instead of wisely yielding to the gradual change of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself and of ordering its own affairs. Let us… avail ourselves of our reason and experience to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils." –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.
Today – I believe we have, for so long, and at such a distance, left many of these "first principles" in the dust-bin of time.
Is "change" possible? YES, but ONLY if we utilize the power behind the US Constitution, and apply it.
Ultimately America’s form of government is one of "self-governance".
Has the Constitution been largely ignored? Yes, but it doesn’t mean that that must continue.
It may indeed be a desperate state we have reached, and the time may come when there is little or nothing we can do to correct the course. However, I trust we have not yet reached that point.
While the natural effect of dwindling resources and energy may indeed create some difficulties for our condition, there is nonetheless, NO MORE PERFECT PHILOSOPHICAL PRESCRIPTION for the way forward, than that embodied by the philosophical ideal inherent in the "individual rights" and freedom penned in the Founders documents.
Can we imagine a more dictatorial government under the same reduction of our natural resources and energy? How much darker a picture might that be? Would the "strong arm" of government force be any more bearable, were it even mightier against individual freedom, given a greater lack of oil and resources???
I’ll mention 2 direct prescriptions for change, which can be found in articles by Dr. Edwin Vieira, PhD, JD, a preeminent constitutional lawyer, and one an expert in constitutional law and monetary issues:
A) Monetary Change
B) Return to Active Self-governance
In the case of A) Monetary Change, I believe that we have suffered under 3 dangerous monetary mechanisms – the first for almost 200 years, the 2nd for over 85 (since 1913), and the 3rd for about 30 (since 1971):
1) Fractional-reserve Banking
2) Allowing Private Banks to issue the currency of the Nation (unconstitutional)
3) Irredeemable Fiat-currency (Debt-money) enforced as the only "legal-tender" of the Nation (unconstitutional)
A return to digital gold, or perhaps an indexing of US Notes, against whatever silver and gold remains in the custody of the US Treasury would be a start. As per Dr Vieira’s comments, a second idea would be to convince a State (or perhaps even a local municipality), to begin to allow a precious-metals based "script" (money). Perhaps this is what California and Michigan should do!!!
In the case of B) Return to Self-governance, again, I am only relaying the comments of Edwin Vieira. In any case, the US Consitution has always provided for America to be self-governed, even under the most desperate of condition. The Founding Fathers, having won their freedom through the use of force and war, were ever- vigilant and against "Standing" Armies, not only in times of war, but worse, in times of peace. ("standing armies", as the term was applied then, were analogous to today’s professional & national Army, Navy, etc).
Instead, they felt it every American’s duty, as the ultimate part of "self-governance", to be a part of an "organized militia", as distinct from a "standing Army".
One idea, proposed by Dr Edwin Vieira, http://www.edwinvieira.com/ is to allow for American citizens (as opposed to professional soldiers), to participate and form the core of what is today known as "Homeland Security". In fact, the concept of "Homeland Security" was precisely what the Founders envisioned as an "organized militia" within the 2nd Amendment.
Indeed, the Founders felt that the ultimate in self-governance was so important, that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is the only Amendment which provides a reason for it’s inclusion…
He has written a book on the subject, and proposes that State Governors might participate as leaders of their own "militias", but the requisite that it need be a Governor is not the point. Rather, American citizens, as was per the US Constitution, can establish their own governance, as was originally intended per the Constitution – whether the need for "Homeland Security" be for defense against foreign invaders, terrorists, or perhaps only for maintenance of law and order during times of social upheaval – e.g., should America suffer an economic collapse or hardship.
This would also take the financial burden off of Taxpayers, by allowing them to instead participate directly.
I won’t go into his proposal more here, but if people are interested, suggest that they can find more in his book.
Surely only foreign criminals and unconstitutional desposts would need worry about a self-governing free America.
…wow. I bow to your intellect, sir.
That was the context I eluded to, but lacked the knowledge and intelligence to express.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people on this subject, but you sir have a transcendent grasp of these concepts.
Do us all a favor and run for office.
I agree with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, however I don’t understand how capitalism is the best economic system to uphold those ideals. Capitalism is at its core an exploitative system. In a world that is infinite, exploitation is not a problem because there is always another forest to cut down, another stream to pollute, another freshwater aquifer to suck dry and air that my factory pollutes would have little effect on someone else’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Perhaps the greatest strength of Chris Martenson’s Crash Course is that it so clearly shows that the world we live in is, without a doubt, finite.
At the core of capitalism is the accumulation of capital by virtue of profit. Profit is what is gained when something is exchanged for more than it is worth, or, as is more often the case in our current dominant society, when something is produced for less than it’s real cost (usually at the expense of the people producing it through unfair compensation or at the expense of everyone due to environmental destruction).
What we are witnessing today may not look like Milton Friedman’s free market ideal, but it is the real world application of that ideal. Groups of people have been allowed to exploit others to attain a profit. Profits have been accumulated and used to increase power. Power has been used to alter the game so that those in power can continue to accumulate profits and more power. What we are seeing today is the limit of that system.
The "few bad apples" argument, an excess of regulation, a lack of regulation – these arguments simply do not hold water. A capitalist society rewards accumulation, greed, exploitation, competition and power. This is the nature of the beast. Capitalism is, pure and simple, an unsustainable economic system in a finite world.
By necessity of being developped in a finite, interconnected world, our new society must be based on balance, not accumulation; cooperation, not competition; fairness and equality, not exploitation, greed and power.
If you can show me where my logic breaks down or where there is a real-world example of a capitalist society that does not have massive inequalities and/or serious environmental/resource depletion problems, please do. Otherwise, I believe our decreasing amount of time is best spent envisioning what our new world will look like and what steps we can take to get there.
THANK YOU CHRIS
you actually read my post. and thank you for bringing up uncle miltie.
What’s your preference in that case?
Is socialism better?
Lets take a quick stroll through history…
Pol Pot in Cambodia. Communism.
Ho Chi Min in Vietnam. Communism.
Mousilini in Italy. Socialism.
Stalin in Russia. Communism.
Hitler in Germany. National Socialism.
Franco in Spain. Socialism.
Huessein in Iraq. Socialism.
Castro in Cuba. Communism.
Chavez in Venuzuela. Socialism.
These are all examples of a system that treated people equally and didn’t exploit workers… right? These are all utopian workers ideologies… right?
The most murderous and tyrannical regimes in history have been created under socialist rule. With all the retrograding our society has done in the last 16 years – do you REALLY want to hand the reigns over to a system that rules from the top down?
In addition to that, some of the WORST pollution and industrialization of rural and valuable ecology has come from Socialist expansion.
Those problems are NOT unique to capitalism! It’s mismanagement and poor leadership that causes this! Please don’t presume that the root cause is a system of government. The de facto problem lies with humans – not with a "ideology". Some ideologies simply allow more power to concentrate in smaller areas. Capitalism contains this problem by offering equal opportunities to all workers, rather than just those promoted by "the party".
Capitalism has allowed great achievers and thinkers unlimited possibilities. These opportunities allow achievement through endevour in a free society with free markets and trade. In an over-regulated quasi-socialistic republic like what we’ve inherited thanks to the miscreants of the 1960’s, we have a delapidated system of feel good politics and failing ideologies that put the collective ahead of the individual. I’m not impressed or compelled by the "capitalism sucks" arguement that some are putting up around here.
Perhaps you should read Orwells anthropomorphic metaphor for socialsim in "Animal Farm", or his take on the oppressive nature of socialist societies in "1984".
Not all people are equal. If they were, there’d be no doctors , because when a doctor makes as much as someone who sweeps floors, what the hell is the incentive to become a doctor? And if you are, what’s your incentive for being a GOOD doctor?
I live under a system of socialist medicine, and it’s lousy.
Capitalism creates healthy competition when it is allowed to work without interference from swollen government programs which demand redistribution of wealth and occupations.
The mentality that merit should be spread by birth instead of by accomplishment is absolutely ridiculous and unless you’ve got a BETTER solution, lets stick to what brought us the most prosperous and technologically productive period in human history. Maybe working the kinks out of that would be smarter than taking a step back in time to the failed utopias of the 1900’s.
Sorry if I’ve missed something.
"Profit is what is gained when something is exchanged for more than it
When two people engage in a transaction, BOTH sides profit. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t engage in the transaction.
Think about what that means. A good does not have some set worth. What something is worth is different to different people. Not only that, what something is worth is different to the same person at different times.
Consider a hamburger. You’re hungry. You buy a hamburger for $3 and gladly thank the cook who in turn thanks you (only in free-market transactions do both sides thank one another). You eat the hamburger. Now you’re not hungry. Will you buy another one? Probably not. Why not? Is the hamburger not worth your $3? Not to you now. You’re not hungry. A hamburger might only be worth, say, a dollar to you now (this is called marginal utility).
Same good. Different worths.
"as is more often the case in our current dominant
society, when something is produced for less than it’s real cost"
No. When you can produce something someone values more than you value the opportunity costs you incur producing it.
Capitalism is all about mutual benefit and cooperation.
What you are describing is an idealized textbook version of an exchange of goods. If you and I are in a closed system where you have something of value to me, say a hamburger, and I have something of value to you, say three dollars, and we agree to exchange those goods, we’re both happy and the "market" has determined the "worth" of our goods.
In the real world, somebody probably got the shaft – and it’s probably not you or me in a direct and immediate way. Where did the meat come from for that burger? What forest got cleared to make room for the grazing land? Who was deprived of his liberty when he was forced to raise cattle for export in order to pay back the unrepayable loans that were imposed upon his country by capitalist organizations in the name of "progress"? How much petroleum was used to feed the cow, to grow the wheat for the bun, to transport it all to us? And who did I exploit to get my three dollars?
My point is not that people should not be allowed to exchange goods freely, but that the real costs of goods need to be accounted for. The downfall of capitalism is the idea that you can somehow "externalize" costs in a finite, interconnected world. Free market economics is not going to replenish the oceans with fish, nor slow the destruction of forests, nor refill aquifers with fresh water, nor create more oil, nor remove toxic chemicals from our topsoil, et cetera, ad nauseum. Free market economics is going to use up and destroy every last resource and then ask "What’s next?"
My hope is that we put our collective heads and hearts together and come up with something else – and soon. The Market will not save us.
I agree with 95% of your response to my "capitalism sucks" argument (I thought my argument had a bit more logic to it than what you call it, but no matter). Where you lost me was when you said that capitalism has brought us "the most prosperous and technologically productive period in human history." Two hundred years ago, there were about one billion people on the planet. Today there are nearly one billion STARVING people on the planet. If this is what you consider prosperous, then you and I have a very different value system.
You have created a false dichotomy between capitalism/free market economics and socialism/communism/government controlling the means of production (particularly since one side of the dichotomy is an economic system and the other is a political system). Nowhere in my post did I say that we should be more like Hitler or Pol Pot. Yes, Soviet-style communism sucks. Yes, dictatorships suck. Yes, fascism sucks. And capitalism sucks.
My point is that we are doomed to failure if we try to "work the kinks out" of an inherently destructive system. What we need to do is go beyond what we have done in the past and create something new and better. Obviously I don’t have the solution or I wouldn’t be engaging in this conversation in this way. And just as obvious to me is that you wouldn’t be active on this website if you didn’t understand that we, as humans, are doing something terribly wrong. I apologize for not having more constructive ideas. What I do know is that we can’t solve a problem without being able to identify it, which is why I have spent so much time trying to show you the logical failings of capitalism.
What will our new society look like? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include gas-powered leaf-blowers. And it will include much of what is in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that recognizes one’s inalienable rights. I imagine that production of goods will be more localized than what we have now. I also know that the production of goods will have to take into account their true costs in terms of resource depletion and toxicity. I would also assume that we will have to value material objects in terms of the energy required to make them. What do you think will be important in our new society?
I think that the things that will be important in our "new" society will be intrensic ones, and I also believe we’ll see a return to socialism of sorts by default.
To be brief, I have no faith in our system right now. I think we will undergo a Argentina/USSR style collapse, and revert back to farmers markets and local commerce out of necessty. I also imagine we’ll see a renewed interest in spirituality, and mutual defense. So, the "social" dynamics will probably change drastically, and that is good.
On a small scale, I believe things SHOULD be "socialised". Communities should pool resources for mutual betterment. However, this concept has NO place as a "federal" ideology. Again, to be brief, I believe we HAD the perfect system of government, and if you really think about it, the last 80 years is the first time in human history that we had a "free" society. It’s no wonder it rapidly reverted into the situation we’re in now, which is an oligarichal heirarchy based on wealth.
We must continue to push forward with the government that our founders envisioned. Eventually, it will take root.
To digress a bit and talk some about why I compared Socialisms in general to dictators – Socialism is a power consolidation method that channels the matters of the individuals into the hands of the state. This ideology is contrary to, and precludes individual liberty. In addition to that, it creates an environment of "ad hoc" or subjective laws, which are generally used by a "ruling" class to determine the fitness of a "civilian" class’s ability to conduct themselves.
Whatever our future looks like, we cannot discount the importance of human liberty.
Most people are like calculators – you put garbage in, you get garbage out. They work, reproduce and die. What we must strive for is allowing each person an opportunity, and educating them to the civic rights and responsibilites of being a Free American.
Finally, the fact we have a billion starving on the planet is certainly concerning. I’ve thought at length about this, and my dad used to tell me "Aaron, any problem you can think of can be traced back to overpopulation."
If people cannot manage their breeding and balance their ecosystem with their growth, they will go extinct. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a evolutionary impartive that is absolutely necessary. It is not our job to manage their lives, and as a serviceman, I do not feel compelled to risk MY life to straighten out the messes in some of those areas. It’s terrible I know, and compassion may be mankinds greatest strength, but it also has a nasty tendancy to cloud our good judgement.
We have to be careful about what we commit ourselves to – there is always someone else who must ‘lead the charge’ when we as a population decide we want action.
Hey, we’re on the same page after all, Aaron!
There is always a balance between what we do as individuals and what we do collectively (government). The trick, of course, is finding the best balancing point – and being fluid enough to move that point when things get out of whack.