Hollywood. The commodification of our political discontents. I’m not sure whether I condone or condemn their profiteering use of our problems. It’s almost a complete mockery. Propaganda is used to desensitize the masses to certain realities. Are we being conditioned to accept these circumstances? Does this show, “The Network”, ever go beyond acknowledging the problem? It’s pretty much brainwashing. And they make money off of it cause it resonates with us. But solving the problems requires action, not passivity, as TV tends to promote. So actually, I hate this clip. It’s cheap Hollywood magic to sell an audience. It does nothing to empower. It is not a call to action. Only a call to continue watching the series. Critical thinking will save us, and this clip or show does not promote either, because nothing they’re promoting is original, nor does it add value to remedying our dire situation.
Framework: Examine macroeconomic policy issues as well as the theoretical assumptions underpinning their conclusions within a political Liberalism framework that ensures and upholds the democratic values of liberty and equality inherent to the constitution. The complexity of economic development requires a holistic empirical approach that accounts for the historical, political, sociological, and business factors contributing to the makeup of society when crafting and recommending economic policy.
Overview: Economic growth is the aim for any society. Inequality is a product of increased bargaining power resulting from increasingly powerful institutions in the business, financial, and governmental sectors. Research has repeatedly confirmed growing inequality globally and domestically. Inequality, manifested as widening income and wealth disparity, contributes to domestic and global account imbalances, consumer debt, and economic stagflation, i.e. inflation and unemployment. In addition, inequality is linked to key social variables such as political stability, civil unrest, democratization, education attainment, health and longevity, and crime rates. Greater economic equality always results in greater long run economic prosperity for the whole.
Thesis: Bargaining power inequalities causally contribute to economic and socioeconomic inequality due to path dependency, organizational inertia, and habit formation. Bargaining power inequalities increase proportionally with capital accumulation, concentration, and centralization. Restoring bargaining power will rectify financial and labor market imperfections and spur economic growth.
- Increasing debt, unequal capital accumulation, stagnating wages, and increasing inflation are responsible for the steadily rising economic inequalities experienced the past several decades. The habit formation of conspicuous consumption has compounded the impacts of income inequality.
- Inequality has deleterious effects on social well being and long term economic growth, and is the source of a host of cultural ills, affecting education, healthcare, political corruption, etc. It also affects entrepreneurship, creativity, and technological innovation in the long run.
- Historical monetary policy, financialization, and financial liberalization (deregulation) have directly contributed to exacerbating economic inequality by negatively affecting business cycles through the misdirection of short term economic incentives and failing to consider the long-horizon. In addition, credit market imperfections, due to asymmetrical preferences and institutional constraints, causally contribute to inequality, in both physical and human capital accumulation.
- Bargaining power increases with capital accumulation, concentration, and centralization both domestically and globally, establishes organizational inertia in business and legal exchanges, and further compounds the effects of inequality. Avoiding full employment decreases labor demand, in turn decreasing wage bargaining power, leading to wage stagflation.
- Increasing economic equity yields the highest long term economic growth, improves social well-being, facilitates creativity and innovation, and empowers society to resolve its cultural ills.
- Economic equity can be achieved by restoring bargaining power, regulating financial investment activities, incentivizing real-asset investment, and implementing a single structured tax policy on the wealthiest.
I could write for days on end with all that’s been on my mind. But I guess I’ll just dump some random thoughts circulating about at the moment. I apologize if my line of thought appears a bit erratic and nonlinear.
Recent research regarding the genetic basis for novelty seeking behaviors in honey bees parallels that of humans. ADHD is characterized as a novelty seeking behavior, one that thrives off of new stimulation, hence the title Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These genes are hardwired to the benefit of the group to seek new enterprises, to explore and discover new directions for growth.
Society is a historical phenomenon, a developmental product of inherited traditions to preserve functional behavioral aspects for survival. Pure theory disregards the empirical element to any social science. The biggest culprit in perpetuating opaque theories in the social sciences is Economics.
I will state that pure theory of any kind breeds a certain phenomenon of necessity by reducing evolving organic elements into statical-atomistic parts, consequently quelling any perspective that accommodates for change. Theory requires assigned values in order to quantify and logically justify its conclusions. Indoctrination is the method that achieves this end.
So long as economics is a practical exercise whose applications deal with and affect the organism of society, it should have no business perpetuating pure theory over historical-empirical observations, which is science. Psuedo-science is pure theory. Recall the utility of metaphysical speculations rooted in pure machinations melded from minds rooted in supernatural causation, totally detached from the socio-material world. Perspective, or rather the amalgam of perspective, is paramount to achieving accurate explanations. Think on the process of peer review.
Necessity breeds slavery, i.e. denies man. The phonomenon of Necessity is a testament, not to its excellence, but its power [sic Ellul]. Necessity is convergent. Possibility is divergent, as is potentiality. Equilibrium is convergent. Evolution is divergent. Preservation is convergent. Adaptation is divergent.
A college degree, and contemporary formal education, is tantamount to receiving confirmation through the Christian church. I reject the value of indoctrination in both.
Have we witnessed a surge towards the value of divergent thinking or convergent? Does our education system reflect valuations of standardization or differentiation? Has standardized testing, formality, rigid class structure increased or decreased? What is our fate?
You cannot stand within and move without: escape bias by escaping context. Transcend perspective by losing it.
That I know myself to be a common man makes me uncommon. Recall the maxim of Thales: “Know thyself.” Recall the wisest tenant of Socrates: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”
Many know the words, few know the meaning. For that we can praise propaganda’s subversive process of inculcation perpetuated by the forceful effect of formal education: memorization, recitation, regurgitation, repeat. Where is Comprehension? Where is dialog? Propaganda ceases where dialog begins.
Economics is a social science. Society is a historical phenomenon. History is an empirical development. Why are we perpetuating pure theory over empirical practice? Let us cultivate the value of individual consciousness, each man’s theory of mind, and marry it with the prevailing practices to yield a praxis of reflection and action that prizes the individual’s contribution to the well being of the social context in which he is situated. To deny the value of a single perspective is to sabotage evolution’s law of accounting for every variable to render a more perfect adaptability.
Where you look determines what you see. Look farther, look wider, look deeper.
“Men must talk about themselves until they know themselves.” Journal reflections. Engage in dialogue. Objectify the subjective; discover its fruits and failings. Dialogue, so long as it is an honest portrayal of your current convictions, destroys propaganda, dispels ignorance, and produces a finer eye with which to feed the mind.
Recent science has reaffirmed the powers of LSD as a means of disrupting habits of thought. This bodes well for the prospect of freeing the mind of man, i.e. addiction, but poorly for a politik aiming to strengthen its control through conformity.
Mental diseases, as diagnosed by contemporary medical criteria, and most notably depression, bipolar, and anxiety, have been associated with great genius and leadership in every domain of society. Contrary to popular belief, recent science has discovered that depression is due to a hyper activity in the brain that leads to potential paralyzation of thought, hence the symptoms of rumination, chronic worry, listlessness and the like.
ADHD is also characterized by hyperactive brain activity. Individuals with ADHD are in upwards of 2.7 times more likely to simultaneously have depression (Other notable correlations include bipolar disorder, anxiety, and oppositional defiance disorder. See here, here, here, here, here, and here)
Individuals with mild depression, as opposed to those with major depression, are more skeptical and therefore rational than those without the diagnoses. (Listen to this presentation on Optimism Bias)
I posit that the same reason people retain a optimism bias, despite being confronted with contradictory facts, is the same reason people exist in a state of denial. (See here)
“[Michael Shermer’s] latest book, ‘The Believing Brain’, is a fascinating synthesis of 30 years of research on the subject. Shermer’s conclusion, about our belief-forming machinery, is disturbing. Most beliefs are not formed by carefully evaluating the evidence in favor or against a particular claim. Instead, they are snap decisions made for psychological, emotional and social reasons in the context of an environment created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large. Only after the belief is formed, do people try to rationalize it and subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence which, upon finding, reinforces the belief in a positive feedback loop.”
I can appreciate the evolutionary utility of bias as a means of maintaining inherited beliefs and preserving the status quo, but one needs to dwell on the implications of how this bias can be exploited, specifically by propaganda.
That leads me to another issue that I’ve been giving plenty of thought: the social construction of reality. What got me started thinking on this topic was my development economics course (which I despise due to the highfalutin exaggerations regarding its ability to actually explain economic development). The only piece of information I found valuable at all was the only piece of information it absolvedly claimed to be the single dictator for a society’s developmental economic success: institutions. This struck me as acutely profound, and odd since it was a mere footnote amongst an oceanic backdrop of theoretical constructions and descriptive statistics.
Since then I began to explore the weight of this idea that institutions are the sole determinate of economic development and success. I began asking myself ‘What are these institutions?’, ‘Why are they so important for economic development?’, ‘What makes one institution better than another?’, ‘How are these institutions created and sustained?’, and many others.
Because of this prick to my curiosity, and because of a massive paper I’m developing for a Macroeconomic policy class, I picked up my old History of Economic Thought book and reread about fifty percent of it, trying to uncover a scintilla of insight into what the history of economic thought may have said about this idea of institutions, and I was more than rewarded for these efforts. In addition to accruing a renewed interest in classical economists such as Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, my eyes were once again opened to the oft-misinterpreted and misaligned message of Marx, and futhermore I discovered just the veins of thought that satisfied by curiosities most exactly: Historical Economics and Institutional Economics. Wow.
Due to my interest in evolutionary economics and political economy I previously read books by Galbraith, Schumpeter, Marshall, Boulding and others but I was totally ignorant to the extent at which these involved socio-economics, specifically institutional economics. Moreover, meta-connections between economics, politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, and evolution were made abundantly clear.
My philosophically minded interest in gaining traction in these seemingly disparately domains to gain a broader, fuller, and more comprehensive understanding of the world in which I am situated lead me to my original fascination with power, which I gratuitously thank Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Thucydides for instilling within me. Specifically, power as the mechanism for all change: be it in the reality of the natural world or in the phenomenon of the conscious mind. The impetus of power occupies the seat governing change in every domain, from physics and math, to politics and business, and all the cultural manifestations in between, from science to religion. The force and intensity of power can be traced to both intentional and accidental confluences.
At the time I had this revelation in the power of institutions, I just so happened to be reading Veblen Thorstein’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. I picked up his book due to my growing fascination with domestic and current account imbalances (debt) and the wealth disparities they create. Thorstein Veblen just so happened to be not only an economist and sociologists, but one of the original proponents of institutional economics.
Other factors that influenced this fascination was my study of Greek civilization. Being a professed model for American Democracy, I felt compelled to investigate the various factors involved in the production of Greek culture. Greek religion appeared as a marvelous area of study due to my corrected ignorance of its role in shaping the nomos or conventions governing social affairs, rather than solely providing a metaphysical comfort like modern Christianity seeks to accomplish.
In addition, I coincidentally read Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion for a humanities class in Crisis and Creativity. This sealed the connection between the role of institutions in shaping mass culture and individual psychology.
From here I began studying sociology more intensely.
I’m nearly finished reading Berger and Luckmann’s seminal work, The Social Construction of Reality, on the formation of social knowledge, which they declare dictates our conception of reality more generally. It’s a fascinating read that I recommend everyone pick up. I don’t have time to elaborate on my revelations, insights and comments at the moment. Another time.
Berger’s reading elevated by insight into the mechanisms that create the social consciousness and the social knowledge that accompanies it. As a result of that reading I also began looking into the various apparatuses within society that perpetuate social knowledge. I purchased the book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes by Ellul and this has further reinforced by understanding of the mechanisms driving social behavior.
An interesting, but not surprising, study reveals that “Large numbers of authors of DSM psychiatry ‘bible’ have ties to the drugs industry.” (See here) This reaffirms my conviction that psychiatry is a purely cultural phenomenon. And culture, as I have mentioned, is a product proportional to the authority and power bestowed by institutions within society. While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is a large institution with vested authority, it is dwarfed in power by the profit motives of the Pharmaceutical industry.
And what dictates the extent of profit motives for big pharma? My thoughts turn immediately to the legal and political realm governed by lawmakers in congress as well as the upholders of that law in the judicial branch and the enforcers in the executive branch.
What motivates these political individuals? The preservation of their power or, at the very least and being most charitable, the preservation of the power of their ideas about the way things ought to be, specifically their values, which are at base purely subjective constructs that reflect a means of preserving their ego.
I could go on but I have other work to due.
Last thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War as well as Althusser’s Philosophy, Lenin, and other essays. I need to finish reading Das Capital by Marx, something I began reading with great enthusiasm a month or two ago but got distracted with all these new insights.
Other author’s also on my reading list are Max Weber, Kahneman and Tversky, Mitchell Waldrop, Alfred Schutz, Karl Mannheim, Alfred Weber, Max Scheler, Colin Camerer, and Tacitus.
I’ll dump more thoughts later.
To pay off our $15.5 trillion national debt the government will continue monetary expansion and quantitative easing, i.e. printing money. Inflation will rise. Prices Increase. Income/ real wages will stagnate and unemployment will increase as businesses look for ways to cut costs. Since businesses possess bargaining power, wage labor markets will suffer. The cost of living will be so great that people will be forced to reign in consumption and cut spending. If you have debt (financed by wealthy private domestic lenders), you will have difficulty paying it off because cost of living has left you with less money to live on. If you can’t pay it off and file for bankruptcy, they will not only repossess your assets, you’ll still be in debt, thanks to recent revisions in Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy laws. What’s left of the middle class will continue getting squeezed until the income disparity is so large that poverty will be the norm. Meanwhile the wealthy will get richer as they continue cashing in on your debt.
A word of advice: get out of debt, fast.
Now, I have to ask myself: if income drops and consumption decreases, and if credit and loans are more difficult to obtain, what will sustain the domestic demand that drives economic growth? Simplified: if 90% of the country has no money, how will they buy things, and how will businesses make money?
Data indicates that our GDP has continued increasing and is back to pre-recession rates.
What if I said GDP is a worthless measure of the economy? What about exponential growth in inequality? What if I said real wages were a better determinant of economic prosperity and success?
The Athenian democracy operated politically and economically as an aristocratic slave owning society. In order to be a citizen you must be male and of Athenian descent, but more importantly, you must possess capital, or tangible assets, usually land, but other times a horse was a sufficient indicator. Business and economy functioned among households, where each home was a corporation with women providing children for labor, but more importantly to inherit the capital assets and business. Slaves and the very poor non-Athenians were the laborers and looked at as nothing more than expensive tools, much like a plow or hammer or, for a more contemporary example, a car, which can serve various functions maintaining the business and household. Most interesting is that Athenian citizens universally considered wage labor to be the most debasing form of work, primarily because of its repetitive mechanical nature which requires no thought. In Ancient Greece it was unthinkable for any self-respecting citizen to ever work for an hourly wage. That was reserved exclusively for the slaves and xenos. Honorable means of income included rent, investment activities, and growing the business, whether it was in manufacturing or mining or crafts.
Some thousand years later John Locke purposed a treatise on government and politics with the sole aim of facilitating human self-preservation. For Locke, the most important and only worthwhile goal of the government was to ensure that property was parceled out and protected fairly among citizens. Locke believed that man’s naturally ordained rights were a healthy life, liberty, and property, all of which were essential for the pursuit of self-preservation. The right to property was a significant aspect to securing the other provisions that aided in self-preservation. Property, or more specifically capital assets, allowed man to retain value and worth, provided him a means of subsistence, and a means of attaining happiness by laboring his land in order to increase his value.
Capital assets, such as land or other hard assets of value, were a fundamental role to being an autonomous, equal, and free member of society throughout history. I ask myself, what is the current state of the US economy and society, and how do we compare and stand up with the values and realizations that past thinkers and societies valued as paramount to liberalism, that of liberty, autonomy, and equality, that facilitate and ensure self-preservation?
I look around at society and I see many problems: inequality, concentration and centralization of wealth, wild financial speculation or “irrational exubrence” in investment markets, debt and credit, poverty, stagflation, corruption among politicians working for corporations and financial institutions, corporate person-hood that robs individuals of representational power and dignity, and many more. What is the cause of these problems? While I believe the questions and their inquiry are philosophical, the explanation, in my mind, is purely economical, or exists within the realm of political economy. After all, economics is the study of human interactions within the various ecologies that sustain them. This includes every facet of the human condition, as well as environmental and sociological externalities and considerations.
Unlike many economists, my premises are philosophical and existentially rooted in a singular force that guides and shapes all decisions. This force is the will-to-power. I’ll elaborate more on the nature of this often wildly misunderstood concept at a later time. But first it’s important to explore some assumptions contained in the prevailing macroeconomic theories, specifically the mainstream economics of Keynes, Friedman, and other monetarists.
I’ll need to explore their basic assumptions in value-theory, decision making and preference theory and their relation to various consumption theories (such as conspicuous, necessary, etc), money, supply and demand, labor markets and employment, wages rates, prices, institutions, investment and saving, economic development and growth, business cycles, the nature of competition and competitive markets, capital accumulation and its role in capital concentration and centralization towards inequality formation, entrepreneurism and technological innovation, government fiscal policies and taxation structures, monetary policies and inflation, banks and financial intermediaries, the wealthy and more. I will also explore assumptions contained within neo-classical and contemporary theories such as ceteris paribus (as well as the associated equilibrium states, atomistic and neo-platonistic conjectures and their ideal, representative variables), real balances and the Real-balance effect, the purchasing power of money, Say’s law, the Fisher effect, the nature of inflation, the liquidity-preference theory and liquidity trap, and the nature of aggregate supply and aggregate demand.
I also want to explore the how we conceive and view the role of various entities and nature of contexts, such as imperfect competitive markets (such as monopolies, duopolies, oligarchies and the like), short-run and long-run outcomes, propaganda and advertising, product differentiation, the affluent society, institutional powers and their countervailing powers, and others.
Lastly, I will examine the methodology for justifying and legitimizing these various claims by looking at various paradigms or frameworks such as those characteristic of empiricism and analyticism, and how they factor into an array scientific and non-scientific traditions like those of historicism, psychology, sociology, biological evolution, and even physics and the metaphysical reflections of phenomenology and its dialectical method.
In sum, I would like to combine understanding from all these aspects to produce a sound, organically rooted, evolutionary paradigm for political economy existing, if at all possible, under the pretext of political philosophy’s liberalism, like that found in the US constitution.
I’m so excited I’m trembling. My mind is brewing with enthusiasm. I feel like I can see through the noise, the static, perfect problems. I don’t know what the solution is, but I need to articulate the fundamental problems first. My next post will elaborate on the current issues and problems I observe within our country and explain why they exist. Specifically, I will expound on why our fatally flawed economic paradigms are only contributing to these problems.
Is the death penalty an acceptable punishment? Is it moral? Is it prudential? I will take a pragmatic position, arguing that the death penalty is an instrumental and symbolic act for maintaining order and harmony. Morality, that which appeals to a higher good, is typically codified by societal conventions and expectations. Arguing whether the death penalty is moral would require appealing to what is traditionally acceptable, or asking whether it benefits society in some way. In this case the question of the death penalty is a pragmatic one.
A society based on liberalism is characterized by the mutual collaboration of free and equal individuals working towards certain ends, with the most general end being the growth and flourishing of all of its constituent citizens. This is a feature of life more generally. Laws are created to preserve order and to ensure that this collaboration occurs justly, where liberty and equality are preserved for all. Why do we use the death penalty? This form of punishment is reserved for those who undermine the harmonious order, order that is instantiated to ensure the well-being of society, and is used for punishing the most heinous of crimes, most typically those committed by individuals who murder.
I argue that the death penalty is justifiable on moral and prudential grounds, that the authority established in the formation of the government, in which all citizens tacitly consent to, has ultimate power to exercise its interpretation of the law in order to justify punishments. Speaking broadly, this authority is derived not from its power to exercise rule, but because of the constitutional document which established it and the tacit consent of its citizens to exist under the rule of this document.
Liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle.
-Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (1878). I.67
What does this mean? Liberalism, in the philosophical sense that Nietzsche is using it, is an ethical framework in which man is free, equal, and autonomous. While this conception of man resonates with most as evidently true, I maintain that this is an illusory conception of man. Do we really believe that we are free? Equal? Autonomous? As with most comforting notions, we avow these ideals simply as a means of preserving the familiar, a mechanism of evasion that allows us to avoid the biting reality of our situation; namely, that we are not free, nor are we equal and autonomous.
What does Nietzsche mean when he says that liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle? It is the process in which individuality is smoothed over en masse, in which minds are watered down into a cloudy collective consciousness, where man is no longer a thinking spirit that possesses a unique soul but a mere facsimile. Being lead to believe that our thoughts are freely chosen, that we are as valuable as any man, that we can choose according to a unique volition, we cease to employ our internal reason, fail to reflect on our position, and assume that the ideals in which we derive our greatness are a right rather than a product.
I insist that freedom is a state of being that follows from mind, but my fellow man would hold that freedom is a state of existence that follows from body. Where these most evidently diverge, in my opinion, is when man finds himself in a state of perfect equilibrium.
When man has all his bodily needs satisfied, with every desire or whim or passion cared and provided for so that nothing is wanting, do we have a free man? Such a man would be no more free than a domesticated animal whose instincts have been muted and dulled, like an animal coddled and conditioned with pleasures generated by no necessity of its own. My fellow man, swept up in his allegiance toward the sensational, would insist that a man with all his desires satisfied is free, for what more could he want? But I would ask whether this standard– of having pleasure metted out in proportion to wants– is a good mark of freedom. Where does this standard leave man? In a perfect state of equilibrium. But is equilibrium man’s greatest achievement, his highest aim, the natural denouement of successful living?
I must ask myself more about equilibrium to discover whether this is a good measure for judging man. What is equilibrium? A state of rest or balance due to the equal action of opposing forces, an equality of balance, a calmness. From this definition I would ask whether we could equate equilibrium with man’s desire for self-preservation; is their aim one in the same? Self-preservation is a process of maintenance of body and mind, so as to keep alive or conserve existence, or make lasting. In this light, equilibrium and self-preservation seem to be compatible states, achieving one in the same end, namely balance or preservation.
I must implore, however, as to whether this situation is reflective of nature, or a product of man’s mind? Is nature constantly seeking to retain equilibrium? Is life characterized by preservation?
Let’s observe the most obvious characteristics, in my mind, of natural experience: when my mind meets with the impressions afforded to me by my senses, there are two reigning features which traverse through all collective experience past and present. These being the continuity of consciousness and the constancy of change. The continuity of consciousness, I can conclude, is not a feature of experience, for even when I sleep I possess a consciousness, but a feature of mind alone. The constancy of change, however, is a guarantee endemic to nature, indelibly present throughout the physical world, that renders every moment of experience wholly unique and never the same.
Can we say that equilibrium and change are synonymous features? Certainly not. Does life stay the same, or is it in perpetual change? I would reply that life is in perpetual change, for I am not the boy of my youth, neither is a frog still a tadpole or butterfly a caterpillar.
To exist occurs in the moment, to live occurs over moments. I hold then, that equilibrium is death, whereas disequilibrium is life. In this way existing is a mode of self-preservation, whereas living is a mode of thriving.
In summation, the satisfaction of desires, the end of want, places man in a state of equilibrium that is typified by the complacent tranquility which is characteristic of death. For man to be truly alive he must evolve, he must seek out disequilibrium, living in a state of anxiety and incertitude. To do this, man must not feign satisfaction, nor be satisfied with equilibrium.
Freedom, then, is disequilibrium, a form of living that transcends and expands consciousness. When change occurs, the man living in disequilibrium, having no complacent expectations, and always ready for change, does not flinch nor does he hesitate to move or act or think. His life is a fluid change.
This is freedom. Not all men possess it. Those who do act alone.
“Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks—those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest.”
—Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
This is what a paper written in 1 hour and 20 minutes looks like.
Fundamental America: Free for a Price
Examining the paradoxes of social inequalities within the scope of democratic sentiments
Two hundred and thirty years ago the American people declared their independence from tyrannical autocratic rule. The founders synthesized the enduring democratic rights and truths of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. Despite this, democracy was reserved for a margin of people and out of reach from the vast majority. Since our countries conception, great advances have been made to refine what democracy is and establish who has the right to contribute their voice. Major movements in women’s suffrage and later slavery and African American rights were milestones that helped shape the seemingly exclusive ideal of democracy. Currently America faces several fronts that challenge the legitimacy of our current democracy.
In our readings in Signs of Life in the USA, authors Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon address a variety of paradoxes that exist within our American culture in chapter six, American Paradox. No paradox is more controversial and relevant than America’s simultaneous declaration of universal human freedom and equality and its long history of racism. This paradox addresses the tip of the iceberg of much larger paradox illustrating an advertised freedom that was not intended to be free.
Examining our American roots we can see that our puritanical Christian forefathers desired a society of their own, free from autocratic dictation. They envisioned this society for the United States. As time went on, these puritanical sentiments persisted and found their way into our legislation. Because their ideals subjugated the rights of women and African Americans, they were prevented from voicing themselves for the first half of American history. Only after massive opposition and generations of change have these become matters of the past.
Xenophobia of Middle Easterners
In our current culture racism seems to be localized to extreme fringe groups. Popular culture has seen women take center stage on political issues, and African Americans dominate multiple industries from entertainment to sports. However, social inequalities are still alive and well, and although racism may be withering, xenophobia continues to blossom with every generation. Most recently our country has been in multiple wars and with every war is an accompanying fear. Middle easterners have been the target of these fears as our government denounced radical Muslims and extremists from the middle east of reeking havoc world wide. While the atrocious crimes were committed by radical sects, the language used to single them out has effectively caused a mass hysteria directed towards the Middle East as a whole. Ignorant Americans forget that the numbers of such extremists are next to nothing.
Xenophobia of Illegal Immigrants
Another xenophobia gripping our nation is that of illegal immigration. The news of illegal immigrants storming our borders, scaling walls, digging tunnels, enduring deserts and dangers has America in a panic. While Americans national security has been called into question, another issue of economic security has been the focus of most news. Illegal immigrants are publicized as taking hard working tax paying American’s jobs. In light of our economic decline, this has been the spotlight of most Americans concern. To compound the issue further, America’s war on drugs is now directly battling the major trafficking of illegal drugs through our southern Mexican border.
Social Inequality of Homosexuality
The last social inequality that challenges the fabric of our constitution and agitates the ethical and moral minds of America is the issue of homosexuality. It seems it would be an inevitable topic given our ‘free’ country was founded by puritanical Christians. While the issue of homosexuality has made much headway in popular culture and open acceptance the past two decades, it has only recently been challenging the roots of America. Proposition 8 and the issue of same sex marriage has been the most widely publicized debate on the issue.
Examining the Paradoxes
Why are these paradoxical? While some might look at these issues and produce valid concerns for their legitimacy, they overlook the very foundations of America. This land, whatever the founder’s initial intent, was established as a haven for the persecuted, a home for those underfoot, those whose rights were molested or stripped. Social inequalities serve to destabilize the creed of freedom. To remove one man his rights would be to undermine the rights of all men. This, however, is what America has done throughout its history as it has attempted to reserve democracy to a select few.
These examples illustrate a major flaw in America’s declaration of freedom and equality: where the line of freedom is drawn. While we hold our relativistic and tolerant values supreme, we are terribly protective and afraid of anybody watering this down and wavering from these values. In the case of illegal immigration, most would think that America, of all places, would be the most receptive and lax about this process. Considering that there are no true natives other than the Indians, we should embrace the people who venture here to exercise their rights. The truth is that earning your citizenship and freedom in America is an arduous test of patience that many people simply do not have the time to pass.
Paradoxes: Generational Entrapment
Democracy is defined as a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people. These people make up the common people and dictate the governing rule through the legislative and judiciary process. However, problems arise when one generation’s laws improperly reflect the current generation. As the generation of one common people phases out, another phases in, often met in opposition to outdated traditions and beliefs that made their way in legislation. These tendencies create obstacles for progress, as is seen throughout American history with landowners only being able to vote, women’s rights, and African American rights.
Defining a Free Democracy
Another paradox that exists within these paradoxes is that of a free democracy itself. Any form of government is a form of control. Whether that control is derived from single or multiple sources detracts from that fact that there is a degree of freedom is forfeited. In a democracy this power is derived from the common people, the populous. This causes difficulties among those who compose a margin of the population or any minority with fringe beliefs and philosophies.
Overcoming these paradoxes will be the result of overcoming an inherent part of the human nature: fear, specifically the unknown. That includes all unfamiliarity extending to foreigners, homosexuality, or just change in general. While I would love to say these inequalities have all but disappeared with the advent of the mass media, internet, and other mediums of communication that break down the one sided walls of ignorance, the truth is they remain an enduring part of our culture. Though America once related with the tired huddled masses in Emma Lazarus’s words on the statue of liberty, we have grown alien to these feelings and are less empathetic to those who need it most.