So apparently the Right is having some kind of ‘tea party‘ today, protesting excessive spending and big government. (Really? Where were you these past 8 years??)
So, um, Fox anchor Glenn Beck, a key organizer of this tea party, is also urging states’ secession from the union. Think states would be too crazy to try such a thing? Think again! Texas – or a faction within her – comes through for us in the form of Governor Rick Perry a few days ago:
[Concise version here.]
Forgive me if I feel like the SNL ‘Seth and Amy’ Really…Really?? skits – but really, arch-conservative friends? For eight years you stand silently by while your man is in office, eroding our freedoms through the Patriot Act, expanding executive and governmental powers exponentially, never saying no to a spending bill, particularly those involving his trillions-of-dollars Iraq war? You just sit that one out? Really?
And so now, when a new administration inherits this moral and economic mess, and wants to invest (what I’ll admit is an incomprehensible amount of) money into restoring some of our core infrastructures, creating green jobs, and keeping things from spiraling out of control, now you find your voice and principled fortitude? Really??
Ideals and Means
I love socio-political ideals, and I think variety is the spice of life. I’m not trying to pooh-pooh your ideas, but I am asking you, my libertarian friends: Is this the right way to go about introducing your ideas, in a way that will further polarize a tired nation? Is this good timing? Secession – really? Let’s examine this along conservative lines…is it good for national security for our enemies to see us a divided states of America, right when we’re over-invested in an exorbitant overseas war and riding an economic maelstrom? Is secession going to help the economy? Is it going to help your poor neighbors? Are you looking for civil war? What on earth could be motivating you, right now?
I don’t have much of a dog in this fight…I grew up basically libertarian, and these days have anarchist leanings. I appreciate certain underlying tenets of both the Republican and Democratic parties, and I’m as unsure as you of current government responses to our macro-economic problems. But I do think that the Obama administration spending is principled spending, I do think they have a plan, even if it’s not something I’d align with every jot-and-tittle on.
When I was a kid – and before I married a beautiful black woman – I romanticized the South’s side in the Civil War. (I was a fundamentalist homeschooled kid in the ’80s, after all! Civil War re-enactors were common in my churches and homeschool groups) The battle for states’ rights, local vs. impersonal; these all seemed like worthy fights. Now, as both a follower of Jesus and an anarchist wannabe, I have a different set of values – though there are some continuities. I’ll address the continuities first: I do favor decentralized, locally-organized community. I think it’s the most sustainable way to self-organize and live – for food production, economics, et al. In one sense, Texas’s taunts and threats could be seen as a stepping-stone to just such an anarchist dream – but I doubt it. The belligerent attitudes I saw on display in the Governor’s video show me that if Texas were to secede, it would be a “Mini-Me” version of everything they’re projecting onto the Federal government. Texas rule would be at least as autocratic and top-down as they’re claiming the Feds are being. Now, for the part of me that’s inspired and empowered by Jesus: I don’t have a dog in this fight because I won’t fight. Nonviolent direct action, yes. But violence – physical, verbal, or threatened – no. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword – it wasn’t just Tupac who said that.
Let me put all my cards on the table: I hope that, 100 years from now, statehood is a thing of the past. I hope that the United States of America goes the way of the dinosaur. I hope the same for China, Russia, Brazil, Cuba…you get the picture. And I plan to work for this goal – respectfully and nonviolently – in my lifetime, in my 2009. But my methods cannot be incongruent with my goals. I want to see generative local communities working together in whatever interdependent relationships with other local communities that they wish. I don’t want revolution – revolution is too costly, and the ROI sucks. I want to see an evolution, which begins with a transformation in consciousness – a transformation that, I believe, is rooted in the renewing of our minds in the mind of God in Christ. Others who are not apprentices of Jesus will see this transformation practiced in different ways – I welcome them as neighbors and friends. So for me, consciousness change + local action change + global meme change = the change we seek. I don’t place faith in secession or the status quo to be what we’re looking for – it will only perpetuate cycles of violence, regime change, and decline.
North American Union or Divided Nation-States of America?
Here’s what I see happening: For years now, many on the far right and in anti-globalization quarters alike have feared the formation of a proposed North American Union, a Canada-US-Mexico trifecta that would institute a common currency and eliminate borders, paving the way for a continental monolith. I think that fear of potentially negative dimensions of this scenario have created an anxiety-fueled counter-scenario in the ‘foresight imaginations’ of many. As I’ve learned in futures studies, images of the future are powerful social indicators, containing in themselves the seeds of a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s look at this counter-scenario a little bit, from the fringes to the halls of power other than our own.
John Petersen of The Arlington Institute talks about intra-national division in an interview with EnlightenNext about 1980s research on
…remote viewing exercises. They asked twenty-five hundred people to envision the United States in the year 2030. About eighty-five percent of them reported the same thing: It’s a place with no government, divided politically into four quadrants, and everyone is living in small communities, some of which are very defensive and full of guns and others where people cooperate and work together. Then Stephan Schwartz, a man who was involved in the U.S. government’s remote viewing program developed during the Cold War to psychically spy on the Soviet Union, reported a very similar thing. In his remote viewing exercises, he asked thousands of people what North America would look like in the year 2050, and they said: “There’s no government; it’s split into four; there are these small communities.”
Weird? You bet. (Especially strange that the US hires both remote viewers and Peterson himself on occasion – hey, Minority Report isn’t the only place where precogs work – welcome to real life in the 21st century!) And speaking of those Russians, leading Russian political analyst and professor Igor Panarin has said since 1998 that the US will divide into separate parts. Last fall, he said he saw the signs of this happening in 2009…
…six parts altogether. The first one is the Pacific Ocean coast of the USA. I can give you an example: 53% of San Francisco’s population is Chinese. The Governor of Washington state was an ethnic Chinese; its capital, Seattle, is called the gate of the Chinese emigration to the USA. It is obvious that the Pacific Ocean coast has been gradually influenced by China. The second part in the south is definitely the Mexicans. In some areas, Spanish has become the official language already. Then comes Texas which has been openly fighting for independence. The Atlantic coast has a totally different ethnos and mentality. It could be split into two parts as well. And we are left with two central depressive areas. May I remind you that five central states where the Indians live had announced their independence. It was perceived as a joke or a kind of a political show. But the fact remains the same. Canada is making a strong influence in the North. By the way, Russia may require returning Alaska, as it had been rented out… [Full interview here; HT Brittian Bullock]
What a fascinating psychographic, rooted in the unconcious minds of probably millions across the past several decades and now reaching a tipping point. My point is not to comment on the ultimate validity of such visions, but to say that we (I’m speaking to my tribe of foresight practicioners primarily and fellow USAmerican inhabitants secondarily) need to take these scenarios seriously, flesh them out vividly, explore their implications and then act, concsciously and creatively. And I hope that people of faith could embody life-giving practices in this coming shift, becoming leaves on the Tree of Life ‘for the healing of the nations.’
that was what I call “bringing it.” well played.
Nicely done Mike. You hit this one like a freight train blazing through a pile of straw…you blew it away.
Thanks for the panorama of perspective… You really are the perfect man for “The Big Idea”. Brilliant.
Very nicely written my friend! I twittered this!
You had me all along until you claimed to be libertarian while stating you believe Obama’s spending is “principled spending.” The fact is, I see little hypocrisy on the part of those at the Tea Parties. For eight years, George Bush was successfully portrayed as a stereotypical conservative, given his penchant for “good-ole’ boy” southern social values, and his proclivity for an assertive foreign policy posture. But economically, nothing could be further from the truth. Bush was not a small-government conservative. He grew government, and the role of government, immeasurably. And Obama has added to that. Big time.
In one fell swoop, with one signing, and in just a few weeks, President Obama committed himself to spending $787 billion of the taxpayer’s money — something none of his previous forty-three predecessors could have the dishonor of saying.
Add to this President Obama’s $410 billion omnibus spending bill for 2009, his FY 2010 $4 trillion budget, with $1 trillion in tax hikes, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke’s pledge of $4 trillion, and Treasury Secretary Geithner’s plan for another $2 trillion — that’s trillion with a “t” — and what you have is not “change” between administrations, but rather Bush-Obama continuity which, in and of itself, represents an unprecedented change and fundamental threat to our long-standing socioeconomic way of life.
President Bush enlarged government more than anyone since Lyndon Johnson; Obama will accelerate and expand on that. Bush inflated the federal budget by $700 billion; Obama will add another $1 trillion. Bush enacted Medicare drug entitlement that will cost $800 billion; Obama wants $634 billion for government-run health care. Bush increased federal spending on education 58-percent faster than inflation; Obama wants to double it. Bush spent 3-percent of GDP on anti-poverty programs (the first ever to do so); Obama has already increased this spending by 20-percent. That is why they are protesting.
Under Obama’s proposed budget, our deficit will hit $1.8 trillion this year — quadrupling the 2008 record shortfall, and amounting to 13.1-percent of the country’s entire economic output. The Congressional Budget Office has projected $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade. That is $2.3 trillion worse than the Obama administration’s early predictions, $1 trillion per year until 2019, four times as much as President Bush’s deficits, and over 5-percent of the nation’s GDP — a perilously high level that simply cannot be sustained. Under Obama’s budget, the national debt would also go to 82-percent of the country’s GDP. That is why they are protesting.
Obama is doubling-down on Bush’s policies, and doing what he does best and what got him elected in the first place: over-promising. For example, in the midst of all this insanity, Obama has pledged to cut the national deficit in half by the end of his first term. Despite the statistics, he has not backed down from this assurance. You added a YouTube link of Obama promising to do just that.
To put it politely, this is utter madness. Those of us rooted in reality, however, look on with eager anticipation — for if Obama proves us wrong, he will have defied not only the laws of politics and economics, but those of science and physics, as well. It will, in short, prove to be the most amazing thing any leader, of any country, in any period of time, has ever done, ever. At first, that seems like a high bar to achieve for a 40-something law professor from Chicago, who’s never run a lemonade stand, let alone a nation. But then one recalls those nifty “Progress” and “Hope” t-shirts and one’s doubts are immediately put to ease.
And wherever Obama is, in fact, breaking from Bush, he’s breaking in the entirely wrong direction. He has proposed $989 billion in new taxes, most of which will be on individuals. He will let the Bush tax cuts expire and will hike the capital gains tax on the “rich,” which will cost the rest of the country $636 billion over ten years. On businesses, Obama will repeal LIFO, the expense of drilling costs, eliminate advanced earned income tax credits, rescind the manufacturing tax deduction for oil and natural gas companies, and more, which will cost the entire country an estimated $353 billion.
This rise in spending is without parallel. That is why they are protesting at these “some kind of tea parties.”
Think about it: when going through tough financial times, do individuals save their money — or do they spend more than at any other time in their lives? They save, of course. Then why should governments abide by another standard? Why shouldn’t this logic be applied on a macro-level?
President Obama insists now is not the time to “do nothing.” But rather than “doing something,” and focusing on the task at hand — the housing collapse and the financial sector — Obama has instead used this recession to advance his own political agenda by radically Europeanizing (read: “change”) the energy industry, the health care system, and the education system. And you say, “principled spending”?
That would be like Social Security collapsing and Obama says we needed to septuple or octuple our spending for NASA, implying space exploration will fix Social Security. Crazy, right? Well, welcome to President Obama’s economic recovery plan. It’s as if Obama thinks we’re all equally detached from real-world actuality.
Despite Obama’s best efforts, the economy will rebound in due time. That’s the nature of the beast. Yet it will be then, at the very beginning of recovery, that the pain from Obama’s frivolous spending will truly be felt. In the last five months, the geniuses in Washington have nearly tripled our money supply. Needless to say, during a recession, nothing else really grows (let alone doubles or triples).
But in one or two year’s time, things will begin to recuperate. It will only be then that all of this money, naturally, hits the market — all at the same time. The inescapable effect will be devastating hyperinflation. This will cause even greater unemployment at home, and considering the interconnectivity of the global economy, even greater economic downturns around the world.
And the only way to get out of double-digit inflation is to endure another recession. When this happens, the sad part will be that this all could have been avoided if only we stuck with, and continued to believe in, classically American economic principles. That is why people are protesting.
And to think that all of those starry-eyed first-time voters went into the voting booth and thought their ballots would bring about a clean break from the “failed policies” of “the last eight years.” What a pity, it is, that the misplaced but sincere idealism of 2008 will invariably become the widespread cynicism and disparagement of tomorrow.
This week in the Dutch papers an elder statesman launched some thoughts about what follows democracy. In the long view democracy has only been around for a short while and seems to be failing. So what comes next?
Andrew, your post makes me think of a history of the Soviet Union I read several years ago that began with the admonition to Western readers, “Just because the young god of communism has failed does not mean that the only slightly older god of capitalism will have emerged victorious. Their deaths may be, as with all plurality of gods, inextricably linked”
Nick G–somebody came loaded for bear! wow. i really don’t know what to say. But i certainly understand your position. Well spoke.
Nick G. for President!!!
Nice blog post, Mike. It got more interesting the longer it went on! (which of course is not always the case with longish blog entries) :o) Your speculations about the future governance and social structure of the USA provides some good food for thought.
I can’t help but see numerous contrasts and parallels with the ragtag motley little antiwar protests that I was a part of from 2002 – 2006 or so (I kind of drifted away from interest in those events the past few years as the Bush admin began wobbling and tottering into irrelevancy.) Though I will say that the genuine wave of worldwide antiwar demonstrations that swept the globe in late February 2003 completely overwhelms and outclasses what seems to me the petty self-absorption of a lot of what I see in the teaparty crowd. I get that some basic values are being challenged here and I am fine with the reminders to maintain a healthy skepticism about the promises of big government to improve our lives, but it really seems hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of these protests are just about anger that “the wrong guy” won the election. And I can relate to that too, in some ways, although I think those disgruntled with Bush’s “win” in 2000 have a more legitimate gripe than those who are dismayed by Obama’s.
Right now I’m mainly fascinated by the social engineering that went into promoting these tea party events and trying to get a grasp on the political solutions and priorities that this movement is trying to advance. Clearly, the protests wouldn’t be happening if McCain were in office even though I don’t think peoples’ life experience in most respects would be all that different this early into a McCain administration (beyond all the attachments of meaning we associate with whoever the current White House occupant happens to be.) What seems to be driving the anger, and the calls for secession, is more based on a fear of what “might” happen rather than what actually has or is happening. (Ref. surge in gun sales in the wake of Obama’s election even though I am unaware of any significant attention re: gun laws in the foreseeable future.) I have a number of conservative Fox News watching relatives but to my knowledge none of them have plans to go tea-bagging tonight. But I haven’t checked all their Facebook profiles either so we’ll see what shows up over the next few days!
I wasn’t able to go to either of my local tea parties today. It strikes me that you have a mix of principled libertarians and conservatives who looked the other way during the Bush years but are more than willing to fight a Democrat. I’d like to think I’ve become the former, and agree with you that these sentiments should have been expressed during the last eight years as well. Also, like you I hope to advance the cause of liberty peacefully and would welcome the death of statism!
I guess I hope that rather than being an expression of hypocritical anti-statism, these tea parties reflect that the American people are starting to wake up to what their government has been giving them for decades now. I’d like to hope that Ron Paul succeeded in waking people up to the dangers of an unsound monetary policy and an aggressive foreign policy.
On the topic of secession, I say more power to the states that want to do it! Yes, Texas might be just as top down as the U.S. government, but at least the power would be closer to the people, making the leaders more accountable. I hope it doesn’t come down to secession, but I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing at all.
I went to ‘tea-party’ today…actually the first time I’ve held a placard since I was a child pressed into anti-abortion protest by my mother. Good event. Enjoyed the (largely) non-partisan focus on unaccountable spending of tax dollars. I’d like to be more involved in the future. Though, I definitely don’t like the tax bite which bigger government demands, my reaction to socialism falls along other lines. Socialism conflicts with how I view my faith in action. I believe that the world needs the church as a mother as opposed to the state as a Big Brother. In effect, the Body of Christ (one metaphor the Bible uses to describe the church) is being robbed of one of her greatest blessings when she lets the state pat her on the back and say, “We’ll take care of these poor, addicted, disabled, uneducated, and mentally ill people…..you just keep on playing church.” The state is doing the job of the churchs’ hands and feet and we’ve let it render us quadriplegic. However, true charity cannot be legislated…garnishing wages is not equal to voluntary service towards one’s neighbor. When the federal government grows large the churches heart grows small. But, the kingdom of God rises to its call as government realizes its proper role. When the federal government attends to curtailing career politicians, enforcing our national interests worldwide, protecting our borders, upholding our laws, and maintaining an appropriate infrastructure the church will be forced to extend the charity which truly fulfills her mission in society which is to shine the light of Christ’s love in a darkened world.
It was not an anti-Obama rally. This is a non-partisan problem…yes, Republicans have adopted much the same strategies of the Democrats of late. Bush’s Socialism was more of a slow burn, I think this lulled many Republicans into complacency. Their credibility in opposing wasteful spending is dubious. But, libertarians and other fiercely independent types, alongside many of us, were disappointed with the bailout precedent which Bush began, however, we’re seeing strong-arm economic tactics being used by our federal government against its states which we haven’t seen before. While I appreciate Obama’s brazeness in some ways, it is obvious progressivism and not the veiled type of the Bush administration. This is waking people up after 8 years. I don’t blame Obama or Bush…I blame a culture of career politics which is disassociated from reality. Washington is busy speculating against the best interests of a deposit which they have no real concern in protecting. This is worth rallying against. Obama is not the problem, nor is he the answer.
Bush as an ultra-conservative? Please, he wasn’t even that as Governor. And I actually wrote against the Patriot Act to all of my representatives in Washington, to no avail. Same thing on a lot of the spending, and they didn’t all vote for every spending bill that came to them. When it came to the bailouts, most of them voted against in 2008 and continue to do so.
I see Bush in 2008 ALMOST as a traitor. Not for the same reasons you do (far from them, actually).
How a “libertarian” can see any of the government expansion under both Bush and Obama as positive is an absolute mystery to me.
Excellent Tea Party in Southlake, TX at noon today. Traffic was crazy, but this is DFW, traffic is ALWAYS crazy.
The latest Bills in the legislature deal with reaffirmation of the 9th and 10th amendments to the US Constitution. If they pass and are signed, Texas would become the 16th state to do so and would join even Obama’s Illinois in that group.
Thanks for the awesome post. I’m not getting into many details because tons has already been said, but I’m with you, and I’m glad to read your well-said statement.
To be specific for a moment, I don’t understand how anyone could complain against us spending money on education, health care or energy needs. Can you really say doubling education spending is a bad thing? We have major education problems in this country. Test results within the past year have shown that our test scores compare so badly that we have moved from the top of the list WAY down low on the list. There are even third world countries above us, so striving to help our children’s education process is what we have to do if we don’t want to fall by the wayside.
Also, why is the comparison between the US and anything European always so negative? They have lots of things right that we haven’t come close to fixing (energy, transportation, health care [including maternity/paternity rights], work guidelines, etc.)
Just some thoughts.
I was not pro Bush and I am not pro Obama. However, if Texas wants to pull out awesome! I don’t really get your tone her Mike. You blast Bush for taking away rights yet you are angry that people are having “TEA” parties and thinking about becoming an independent republic. You can’t have it both ways man. You can’t critics people for not speaking up about someone you don’t like and attack them for speaking up about something you do like. This whole long diatribe sucks. I have the right to say it. Obama has sucked thus far. His politics suck. His ideas suck. Is it an educated response? No. It’s a free one.
So what are ‘anarchist leanings’?
I imagine anarchy as being a situation where there are no mechanisms for any kind of coordinated activities in society. In fact there is no society, it is just every man for himself. So:
– no healthcare
– no public utilities for energy or water supply or drainage
– no communication services
– no banking system
– no money
– no education system
– no libraries
– no transport networks
The only way to survive is to build a barrier round one’s own patch of land and become self sufficient in everything. And maybe take to piracy, like the Somalis. Seems like a retrograde step. But I guess it would lower the human population quite fast. And might thereby save the planet.
Or is there a desirable form of anarchy?
It might be helpful to make a distinction between “anarchy” — a word we use when we want to invoke images of chaos and anomie — and “anarchism,” which (to some) connotes an actual political philosophy usually based on the philosophical rejection of force or coercion as an organizing element of human society. To be sure, there are forms of anarchism that are primarily interested in the violent overthrow of government — burn the mother$%^#&r down — with little constructive vision of what might take its place. It’s also true that the rhetorical infighting among anarchist groups makes Christianity’s internecine squabbles look like a petting zoo.
But the every-man-for-himself rugged individualism you describe is really more characteristic of libertarianism. Most libertarians see the need for some sort of nominal government: to make treaties, provide for national defense, to guarantee individual rights and — perhaps more importantly — protect the viabilty and even (we might say) sovereignty of the market. Libertarians would (I think) be very open to the societal amenities you list as long as they could be supported by the market. Think of it as hyperprivatization.
Anarchists tend to be less market oriented, often downright (read: vehemently) anti-capitalist. The anarchist vision — and of course this varies widely — is one where social organization consists of small, voluntary communities wherein, as much as possible, no one is subject to a decision in which she or he has not directly participated. Economically they tend to favor some sort of communism or communalism, or a gift economy. Some practice communal and/or consensual decision-making that parallels that of the Quakers and some anabaptists.
Some anarchists are critical not just of the state, or “empire,” but of civilization itself. They are not necessarily Luddites (though some are) but nevertheless regard some of we normally take to constitute being “civilized” to come at an ecological and/or social price that we have not fully considered, or that the amenities we enjoy, as they are currently constituted, are situated in a matrix of power and coercion that is inherently oppressive and ultimately violent.
Wikipedia actually has some pretty good stuff on anarchism (the whole creative commmons/wiki/open source milieu itself having anarchist overtones), and a great source for exploring the intersection of anarchism and Christian thought is http://www.jesusradicals.com. And some guy is writing a dissertation on this topic if he ever stops commenting on blogs long enough to pass his comps. Could be awhile.
Thanks Ted for the tutorial on anarchism. There is clearly a gap in my education and cultural development. Obviously an area for further study.
Living in a small country that is densely populated (The Netherlands) I am accustomed to thinking of highly ordered forms of society. For centuries part of the way of life in The Netherlands has been the organisation and cooperation necessary to manage water in an area below sea level and in the delta of two large rivers.
On the other hand, of course. NL is well known for some traits that might be regarded as tending to anarchism, such as toleration of soft drugs, legalisation of prostitution, a legal framework for squatting, a sceptical respect for authority.
But ‘Christian anarchism’ is a new concept for me. From the Wikipedia article I found references to Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You” and was surprised to find so many different recent editions of it on Amazon. Any suggestions on which one to order?
I’m afraid I don’t know much about which version of Tolstoy to pick up — I just read whatever was at the library. However, I might recommend, instead of Tolstoy as a place to begin, Jaques Ellul’s Anarchy and Christianity. Ellul deals explicitly with anarchist principles, but doesn’t claim to fully integrate them (his argument is that Christianity and anarchism are complementary, but he does not claim that anarchists should be Christians or Christians should be anarchists), which makes it a little more accessible. Plus it’s mercifully short.