How shall we think about Russia’s ongoing intrusion into the U.S. political realm — especially its attacks on the heart of democracy: our election system?
I think James Madison — the Father of the Constitution — would have had many choice words about this development. Since we cannot alas ask him his opinion any longer, perhaps his parting words to the beloved country he was instrumental in creating can suffice:
The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.”— “Advice to My Country,” James Madison, 1834
In the 1930s and 40s we had the New Deal. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, setting legal limits on the maximum number of hours worked and the minimum wages allowed.
Republicans fought it then, claiming it would be essentially socialist, and an economic enemy to business and growth. However, it was the very opposite of that — the war and post-ware years were ones of productivity and prosperity, widely and broadly. A strong middle class was formed, changing the life and culture of America forever.
In the mid-1970s this growth engine finally began to falter, and since the 80s, we’ve instead had the Raw Deal. An ever-escalating version of a Libertarian’s wet dream: deregulation of numerous industries including finance (leading to the housing crash of 2007-8) and energy (leading to Enron), a steadily less progressive tax system (down from a whopping 94% in 1944 down to 28% under Reagan), and endless waves of cuts to social programs designed to level the opportunity playing field.
The thing is, when people feel hopeful, they work harder.
When there is hopelessness, there is less urgency to work hard to maintain the conditions and systems that make one feel so hopeless. If you know the game is rigged, how futile does it seem to keep playing?
Libertarians lament about the size of the pie, which is as good a modern version of “let them eat cake” while the plebes swill McD’s and pay through the nose for health care as any.
We need to bring the fire down from the mountain. We are not on that project — we are still on the opposite project: keeping the wizards behind the curtain.
Too many of the wizards are male, and are busying themselves in playing petty economic and status zero-sum power games instead of recognizing the context they are in — we are all in — as an infinite game in which the enlargement of the participant group to include and, not just reluctantly tolerate, but to avidly welcome women in to the club will massively benefit all the players.
Then there are the white wizards who create pseudoscientific rationalizations for wasting time obsessing over 18th century racial animus as a massive distraction from having to do the work of creating anything useful or contributing any value to the world. They’ve taken their centuries of evolutionary advantage and painstakingly developed economic pie to split hairs over who ought to be denied a few of the crumbs, as a cheap method of papering over the deep well of collective insecurity and ego fragility precipitated by a lack of meaningful individuation and their failure to create anything useful or contribute any value to the world.
We could be playing this game together. Instead, we furtively dart about in Plato’s Cave imagining we are still living in a world of scarcity, rather than leveling ourselves up to behold the vision of the new world of abundance we have the capacity to create.
Not Ready Player One.
Power is the crushing sensation delivered from somewhere vaguely Above.
It is obtuse; inscrutable.
Ever-shifting and mercurial.
A black hole sucking everything in.
A black boot in every face.
A contradiction; a cognitive dissonance.
The bitter taste on one's tongue.
The gnawing fear.
A slap in the face.
An endless arms race.
A shallow grave.
A cold stare.
Want us tame and domesticated — docile, like house pets. Worker bees. Mechanical drones.