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In the gardens of Athens in the fourth century BC (planting the seeds of Western Civilization), in the plazas of Florence in the 16th century AD (ushering in the modern era), in the salons of Paris in the 18th century AD (informing and inspiring others in a small meeting room in Philadelphia), to a lesser extent in mid-19th century Concord, MA (informing and inspiring Gandhi and King and Mandela), the genius of a few unleashed new currents of the genius of the many, currents thick with reason and a stronger commitment to our shared humanity, changing the course of human history. It has been done before and it will be done again, whenever and wherever people choose to do it.

They did not gather in those times and places to discuss only how to win this or that election or to shift power from one party to another or to address the human endeavor one issue at a time. Rather, they gathered, with wonder and hope and passion, to explore and discover, to create and innovate, to raise reason and our shared humanity onto a pedestal and dedicate themselves to the enterprise of perfecting our consciousness and improving our existence.

In every time and place, including these ones of particular florescence, most of the people went about their business, engaged in the mundane challenges of life, fought the battles we all fight, both personal and collective. But the great paradigm shifts of history have happened when a coalescence of inspired minds reached deeper and broader than others around them, beyond the individual issues of the day, beyond the immediate urgencies and power struggles, and sought out the essence of our existence, to understand it, to celebrate it, and to change it for the better.

Imagine a gathering of great minds today that were not lost to the minutia of academe or the mud-pit of politics or the selfish pursuit of wealth and fame and power, but were free to devote themselves to the challenge of orchestrating a social transformation, a peaceful revolution occurring beneath the surface of events, a new threshold reached in the advance of creative reason in service to humanity.

Imagine gatherings of engaged citizens that, guided only by the broadly attractive narrative of reason in service to our shared humanity, of emulating our Founding Fathers and fulfilling the vision that they had for this nation, dedicated themselves to learning how to listen to one another and weigh competing arguments rather than regress ever deeper into blind ideological trench warfare. Imagine forming the nucleus of a movement that would extend the logic of methodical reason in service to our shared humanity ever more broadly, not just through direct participation, but through the promotion of the narrative that we are capable of doing so and that it is incumbent on us to do so.

What is stopping us from establishing such gatherings, and such a movement? What is stopping us from bringing together a small cadre of brilliant minds to implement ideas designed to cascade through the social fabric in transformative ways, and large populations of engaged citizens to stir and be stirred by the sea giving rise to those cresting waves of brilliance, together advancing the tide of imaginative reason in service to our shared humanity? Only the precise combination of vision, drive, sophistication and resources that would make it happen, not just in some stumbling and unsustainable or unproductive way, but as a living, breathing, current reality.

I’ve designed the nucleus of an idea, a social movement that is realistic as well as idealistic, a secular religion to promote the narrative and practice of disciplined reason in service to our shared humanity. As a person who learned how to dream as a child; who drifted and worked and lived around the world for several years as a young adult; who became a social scientist, author, teacher, lawyer, public policy consultant, candidate for office, and member of several nonprofit boards and advisory councils; who has done urban outreach work and community organizing; who has synthesized ideas from many disciplines, many great minds, and much experience, this is not a Quixotic quest that boasts much but can deliver little; it is a carefully considered strategic plan for moving the center of gravity of our zeitgeist in the direction of an ever-increasing reliance on imaginative reason in ever-increasing service to our shared humanity.

For a comprehensive (though somewhat dense) presentation of my proposal, please see A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill.

For a briefer and simpler presentation of the underlying philosophy of this proposed social movement, please see: The Ideology of Reason in Service to Humanity.

For an extremely bare-bones summary of the social movement idea itself, please see: A VERY Simplified Synopsis of “The Politics of Reason and Goodwill”.

For more elaboration of various aspects of this proposal and various musings about it, please see the essays hyperlinked to in the second box at: Catalogue of Selected Posts

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Many of us are motivated by the desire to affect the world in a positive way. Everyone engaged in political activities on any level believes in their ability, working with others, to affect people’s beliefs and actions, at least on the margins. And, indeed, the fact that change is constant, and that some of that change is in part a result of intentional social movements demonstrates that intentional actions by some can affect the beliefs and attitudes of others, at least on the margins.

Most political activities and discourse target the turbulence on the surface of our shared existence, focused on passing this or that bill or getting this or that candidate elected. But the most successful and memorable movements have reached deeper, stoking either our humanity or our inhumanity, our generosity or our selfishness, our reason or our irrationality. Their focus has generally been narrower than the one I am suggesting (hatred, prejudice and discrimination toward specific groups, or ending hatred, prejudice and discrimination toward specific groups), but they are memorable for being more sweeping in breadth and more profound and lasting in effect than more superficial political struggles.

In many ways, there is a deeper political struggle that is less attended to than the more superficial issue-specific causes to which we address our attention and energies: the struggle between, on the one hand, our more primal inclinations, our bigotries and hatreds, our fear and anger, our irrational tribalistic dogmas, and, on the other, our “higher consciousness,” our compassion and imagination, our hope and aspiration, our generosity and humanity. Each year, around Christmastime, a small barrage of meta-messages celebrating the latter is repeated (e.g., A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 24th Street), and these meta-messages resonate with many people, who enjoy having those centers of their mind and spirit stimulated. We feel good seeing hope and love prevail.

One part of my proposed social movement (see A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill) is based on the constant, strategic and intentional creation, identification, dissemination and use of such meta-messages to “soften the ground” for more superficial political discourse, to stimulate the centers of the mind more conducive to the passage of rational, humane, compassionate and generous public policies. This is a movement that occupies a largely unexplored and untapped region between culture and politics, a region usually addressed only by religions, and usually enveloped in a lot of noise not related to what I’m talking about here. But what if a motivated group of people, organized to do so, targeted the zeitgeist itself, stoking and stimulating those areas of the human mind that respond in emotionally gratifying ways to messages of generosity and hope and inclusiveness? And did so in conjunction with related narratives about a commitment to disciplined reason in service to those values?

I understand the skepticism about such a movement, because we think of all of the people who will not be responsive to it, and how Quixotic it seems to be. But it’s clear that over the course of a period of time (a generation or so), similar movements a little narrower in scope and in conjunction with haphazard cultural reinforcing messages have been dramatically successful, by moving people on the margins. The Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement are two prominent examples. Under the influence of social movements with political agendas and accompanying proliferation of cultural narratives reinforcing their agenda (e.g., TV shows “normalizing” in the collective consciousness the world these movements were striving to create), dramatic change in the zeitgeist, in the course of about a generation in each case, was accomplished.

What if we combined all of this into a single, coherent, intentional social movement? What if we created a movement whose purpose is to promote disciplined reason and imagination in service to humanity? The fact is that there are relatively few Americans who, if pressed, would explicitly reject the value of working to be more rational and humane people, despite the fact that there is a large faction that implicitly and in effect does reject both reason and humanity. But politics, at root, is a competition of narratives, a battle over human consciousness, and given that we are at a time and place in world history in which few would explicitly reject the value of reason and humanity, that narrative already has an advantage in the competition of narratives. What we need to do is to put meat on its bones, to make sure that that which is, and that which is not, reason in service to humanity is easy to identify and easy to relate with. And the successful movements to which I’ve referred give us shared cognitive, cultural material with which to do so.

America lags behind the rest of the developed world in this cultural progression because of a set of memes, a narrative, which creates a “safe haven” for bigotries and irrationality, an emotional packaging of them which gives them a veneer of nobility. That fortress of ideological delusions continues to resist the progress of reason and humanity. And those who are committed to reason and humanity simply take on the armies sent forth from that fortress, leaving the fortress itself intact. We need to get out our corps of engineers and work on undermining the battlements themselves, work on revealing what’s really hiding behind those walls of faux-patriotism and abused “liberty”. And we need to do so in an organized, strategic and intentional way.

I believe in the human ability to organize to accomplish great things. And I believe it’s time to organize to try to affect the zeitgeist in an intentional way, working to stimulate and liberate our collective genius, to stimulate our compassion and humanity and to lay bare and unprotected the cultural pathologies that stand in the way of our collective genius and our compassion and humanity. It’s time to work in a conscious and organized way at becoming a more conscious and humane people.

Many things have led to this moment, and have made it ripe for all rational and humane people to stand up and speak with one voice, and do so in an effective way. The struggle between those driven by fear and loathing on the one hand and those driven by hope and humanity on the other has come to a head. Both forces are at or near a peak. And those who preach hatred, those who preach irrationality, those who preach implicit inhumanity, are an embattled faction, with only residual influence on the zeitgeist.

When a fresh and inspirational young candidate was elected president in 2008 on a wave of hope and a widespread desire for the kind of change I’m referring to, the resistance rallied, fear and hatred rallied, irrationality rallied. It is a desperate and embattled opposition, crying out in the death throes of a failed ideology. We need to stop letting their anger and irrationality penetrate us, and need to smile at it indulgently, saying, “you are the past, and we are the future.”

Because by doing so, we can make it so.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

One of the subtexts running through the current meta-debate between the Left and the Right is a constant volleying back and forth of accusations and refutations of racism. The Left accuses the Right of racism for a variety of reasons that I partially capture below. The Right indignantly denies it, retaliating with accusations back, insisting that “playing the race card” is the real expression of racism.

Personally, I think this discussion is generally overdone and often distracting, but the thread of validity in the criticism by the Left of the Right, and the reinforcement of irrationality and counterfactuality in the Right’s response, motivates me to give it a comprehensive treatment.

First, it is important to explore the concept of “racism” itself. If, by “racism,” we mean only explicit, overt, self-conscious antipathy toward members of another race, then I’d say that only a small minority of politically active people of either major partisan camp are “racist.” The vast majority denounce such crude racism, and the extant but dwindling population of such unreconstituted racists in the population at large are not a significant political force anymore.

Before I turn to the more implicit forms of racism that I think do continue to play a significant, if not central, role in political affairs, I’d like to emphasize that I think that the ideological thread most prominent in right-wing thought isn’t racism proper at all, but rather what I’ll call “quasi-racism,” an intense in-group/out-group bias, informing a set of beliefs and positions that are very tribalistic, and very dismissive of “the other.” The antagonistic attitude toward numerous non-racial outgroups (though sometimes with strong racial associations), such as gays, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, foreigners in general, the poor, atheists, and, basically, anyone who isn’t perceived to be an in-group member, is one of the most prominent defining characteristics of modern right-wing thought.

Explicit racism, however, is not absent from the right-wing echo-chamber. On a Facebook thread following one posting of the statistic that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be the instrument of the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense, for instance, one commenter responded to another by referring to “a group of n*****s raping your boyfriend” (the point being that you’d want to have a gun handy in that apparently representative scenario). On another thread at another time, a southern Tea Partier included among the problems besetting us “ungrateful blacks.” These are not isolated examples: While such explicit expressions of racism are not the norm, they recur at a constant rate on such threads, always, of course, by right-wing commenters slipping over a line many others approach without crossing.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, there was a Facebook wall post of a news story about a trio of “scary” black violent offenders, apparently being used to make the argument that it is understandable that armed vigilantes should go out in their neighborhoods and pursue unarmed black teens walking home from the store  –even if the price of such “liberty” is the occasional shooting death of one such unarmed black teen– because, in their unself-aware but deep-rooted world view, it’s rational to be afraid, it’s rational to presume that a hoodie-wearing black teen walking through your neighborhood is up to no good, and so it is, implicitly, rational to provoke a deadly encounter with said black teen under those circumstances.

In other words, the right-wing insistence that it’s a non-issue that their ideology can lead to instances of overzealous vigilantes pursuing and killing unarmed black teens walking home from the store is an astounding illustration of an underlying –and effectively racist– defect in their ideology. (The contention that it’s a non-issue because it was allegedly self-defense on the shooter’s part neglects the fact that the alleged need for self-defense was indisputably created by the decision to go out with a gun and pursue the arbitrarily “suspicious looking” unarmed black teen in the first place.)

These same people champion Jim-Crow-like voter suppression laws (on a discredited pretext and repeatedly struck down by the courts as unconstitutional), use code words like “Chicago politics” and “ACORN” and other allusions to blacks-as-inherently-corrupt, advocate discrimination against Muslims (and denial of their first amendment freedom of religion rights), frequently vilify and denegrate Hispanics, want to deny civil rights to gays, and, in general, are committed to a tribalistic orientation to the world, in which the small in-group of overwhelmingly white, mostly male, almost exclusively Judeo-Christian bigots opposes the rights and aspirations of the myriad out-groups surrounding them, denying the reality of a legacy of historical injustices and of current inequities, fighting for a regressive, aggressive, compassionless, irrational, barbaric society, in which those who feel well-served by the status quo (or, more precisely, by the status quo of a previous era) fight to recover an archaic -if all too recent– social order more preferential to their in-group statuses.

And they do so by disregarding fact and reason; by dismissing as bastions of liberalism precisely those professions that methodically gather, verify, analyze, and contemplate information (which, as a liberal, I take as a complement and as an affirmation of how much more rational our ideology is than theirs); by selecting, revising, and ignoring historical data to serve their fabricated ideological narrative; by ignoring the weight of professional economic theory and analysis (prompting the free-market-advocacy Economist magazine to label them “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical”); by cherry-picking, reinterpreting, and selectively disregarding constitutional provisions and phrases in service to that same ideological narrative; and, in general, by defying fact and reason in service to ignorance and bigotry.

Whether we emphasize the racist overtones, the more explicit in-group/out-group tribalism in general, or just the prevailing ignorance and brutality of their ideology, the final evaluation is the same: It’s a perfect storm of organized irrationality in service to implicit and explicit inhumanity. And it’s not who and what we should choose to be as a people and a nation.

So, how much racism is there on the far right? It’s a moot point; the racism is enveloped by so much more that is the very cloth from which racism is cut that the accusation of racism is too narrow a focus and too much of a distraction. Emphasizing the broader irrational inhumanity that defines this ideological camp both captures and goes beyond the identification of the racist overtones within it.

(For more on these themes, see The New Face Of American Racism, The Tea Party’s Neo-”Jim Crow”, The History of American Libertarianism, The Presence of the Past, Godwin’s Law Notwithstanding, Basal Ganglia v. Cerebral Cortex, Basal Ganglia Keeping Score, and “Sharianity”)

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

(The following is a quote posted on Facebook and the exchange that followed it)

“We’re coming to a tipping point… there’s going to be a huge conversation; is government an instrument of good or is it every man for himself? Is there something bigger we want to reach for or is self-interest our basic resting pulse?” -Aaron Sorkin

DK: Each person in our great country gets to reach for something bigger or not.

SH: We are far too individualistic a society. First, our individual welfare depends heavily on how well developed are our institutions for cooperation and coordination of our efforts. Second, our liberty is a function of our unity and social cohesion, not of our disunity and social incoherence, because government isn’t the only potential agent for depriving one of one’s liberty (or life, or property, or happiness), and it’s absence ensures that other, more diffuse predators will plague everyone incessantly. Third, we are primarily expressions of a historically produced collective consciousness, thinking in languages and with concepts, operating through social institutions and utilizing technologies that we did not individually invent, but rather collectively developed over the course of generations. Our “individuality” is a unique confluence and marginal variation of both genetic and cognitive shared material. We are part of something bigger than us, and as big as it, for it flows through us and we flow through it. Government is not arbitrary; it is one valuable social institutional modality, evolved over millennia, to be refined and utilized in ever more useful and liberating ways.

DK: I grew up in a small MA community that still made decisions during annual town hall meetings. There was a strong sense of community and neighbors took care of neighbors. My grandfather was the town’s tax collector (thirty-five years) and he provided that service evenings and weekends from his home (his day job was being a shop foreman). It was very efficient as were many of the other town services, like fire and police (volunteers). Today in that same town many of these same services are full-time and the town has buildings to house them. Is there better service? Nope. But that’s small town America. My point is the closer the government is to the people the better. Our founders knew this and tried to set up a system that limited federal authority. It does allow more individualism, versus collective authority and remote control. In my opinion collectivism just doesn’t work very well (Russia). I don’t want you or anyone else bossing me around. I’ll take care of myself and do more than my fair share to help others who are in need. Only independence leads to self-actualization. As a former trust officer I saw this with trust babies. Money isn’t everything.

SH: If you’re saying that the disintegration of our communities has been horribly bad for America, and that we would be better off working toward recreating such communities again, I not only agree with you, but it is a topic I write on often, and in very specific ways. When I talk about my ideal social movement (which I do at length, in dozens of essays on my blog, Colorado Confluence), reconstructing a specific, modern form of local community is one of the three components I emphasize.

If your suggestion is that the growth in the federal governmental role in our lives is incompatible with this, or the cause of this, then I couldn’t disagree more. The primary causes of the disintegration of local community have been: 1) increased geographic mobility (and the economic incentives for it), 2) increased options for associating with people remotely (thus decreasing the need to associate with neighbors who are dissimilar to oneself), and 3) the same rise in hyper-individualism that is responsible for our diminished willingness to consider government a tool of collective action and collective welfare.

A sense of community may well have been at its height at precisely the same time that we were most willing to utilize and rely on Government as a tool for taking care of one another: During the Great Depression and the New Deal. This is because the two are more inherently compatible and mutually reinforcing than inherently incompatible and mutually inhibiting.

I agree: The closer government is to the people the better. But that’s not a geographic thing, but rather an emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral thing. First, let me point out why it’s wrong as a geographic assertion, and how our history has been, in one sense, the ongoing discovery of why it’s wrong as a geographic assertion.

At the founding of this county, many (not all) of the Founding Fathers were concerned about the potential tyranny of a more remote government, and took for granted that the more local government was more a thing of the people. In many ways, this was a very nationalistic notion, because they thought of their state as their nation (that’s how we came to change the meaning of the word “state” as we have), and they considered governments that weren’t their own true ”national” government to be imperialistic and foreign.

But our history has been one of successive increases of federal power either to increase the federal protection of individual liberty from more local government (e.g., the abolition of slavery and the 14th amendment, which catalyzed a gradual application of the Bill of Rights to state and local government as well as to federal government; the Civil Rights court federal court holdings, federal legislation, and federal enforcement), or to increase the federal role in facilitating individual liberty by increasing opportunities to thrive economically (e.g., the New Deal, the Great Society).

But a larger role for federal government does not have to be an emotionally or socially remote thing. I feel a personal connection to my two U.S. senators (one more than the other) and several of my state’s congressmen (as well as many in the state legislature and state government). In a different way (i.e., without the benefit of actual, personal interaction), I feel a personal connection to President Obama. And all of us who feel that we are in a shared national community feel that we are also in a shared local community. We tend to be more involved locally as well as nationally. I, for instance, made an effort once to reinvigorate my community, to get my neighbors more involved in our local schools and local businesses, to become more of a community. (Ironically, it is in the strongly Republican/Conservative/Libertarian enclaves such as where I live where local communities are weakest, and in the strongly Democratic neighborhoods where local communities are strongest, suggesting again that the correlation you identified is the inverse of reality.)

“Collectivism,” like “socialism” is an inherently overbroad term, and even more so in the way that it is used by modern conservatives. It is used to simultaneously refer to a set of failed totalitarian states, and to the entire corpus of modern developed predominantly capitalist but politically economic hybrid states that are the most successful economies in the history of the world. Every single modern developed nation, without exception, has the enormous administrative infrastructure that invokes those terms from conservatives, and every single one, without exception, had such an infrastructure in place PRIOR TO participating in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity (pre-empting an insistence that it is an unhealthy and self-defeating by-product of such wealth). In reality, the political economic form that you insist doesn’t work is the only one that ever has, on the modern scale, and the one you insist is the best imaginable has never actually existed and can never actually work.

(Sure, before the New Deal we had a much smaller federal government, but we were already using it in multiple ways to address social problems, including child labor and anti-trust laws. It only resembled the conservative ideal when we lived in a historical period that did not support any other form, due to the state of the economy and of communications and travel.)

Our founders set up a system that had the potential to articulate with and evolve according to the realities of lived history. The Constitution is brilliantly short and highly general, except in the exact design of the governmental institutions, which remain as they were outlined, with some Constitutional modifications since (such as the elimination of slavery and of their infamous designation as 3/5 of a human being, and the direct election of U.S. senators). Our nation is not some stagnant edifice following nothing more than a blueprint which perfectly predicted and mandated every placement of every brick, but rather an organic articulation of our founding principles and documents with our lived history, creating something that is responsive to both simultaneously.

No, this isn’t the America envisioned by Jefferson and Madison. It is a bit more like the one envisioned by Hamilton and Adams, and, in some ways, not nearly as “collectivist” as the one envisioned by Franklin, who considered all private wealth beyond that necessary to sustain oneself and one’s family to belong “to the public, by whose laws it was created.” But, more importantly, it is the one that the articulation of foundational principles with lived history has created. None of us can read the minds of historical figures, or impute to them with confidence what they would think today, but for everyone who says that Jefferson would be revolted by modern America, I say that it may well be that he would be delighted by it, for the ideals he helped to codify gained fuller and deeper expression, through the unexpected mechanism of a stronger rather than weaker federal government, than he was able to imagine possible. (And it was Jefferson; after all, who insisted that our social institutions have to grow and change with the times, for to fail to do so is to force the man to wear the coat which fit him as a boy.)

Community, like a well-functioning and substantial federal government, is, to some extent, all about us as a community, as a people, limiting one another’s actions and pooling resources for mutual benefit. You may not want a government bossing you around, but I don’t want corporations poisoning my air and water because they can increase the profit margin by not “wasting” money on avoiding doing so. You may not want a government bossing you around, but I want a functioning market economy rather than the undermined and unstable one that occurs in the absence of sufficient governmental regulations to ensure that centralized market actors don’t game markets to their enormous profit and to the public’s enormous, often catastrophic, detriment.

Are there challenges to be met while doing so? Does the resolution of problems create new problems to be resolved? Absolutely. Does that mean that we should rely on the never-adequate system of private charity to confront deeply embedded and horribly unjust poverty and destitution, rather than confront it as a people, through our agency of collective action, our government? Absolutely not.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

(This is the first half of “It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done”, which I decided to break down into two separate posts, the first, this one, addressing the dimensions of inventiveness, scope, and intensity by which transformational events or movements can be measured, and the second one, Transforming America and the World, addressing the social movement that I think should be occurring right now, and that I would like to help catalyze, that I think could put into place a nucleus of a deepening and expanding popular commitment to the cultivation of a more rational and more humane society.)

I recently posted the following Nelson Mandela quote on several of my Facebook pages: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” One woman commented that it reminds her of the thesis she is trying to finish, which made me think about the different levels to which this quote applies. Certainly, her comment is a fair one, and familiar to most of us: Personal thresholds, challenges, major tasks we are undertaking can feel daunting, even impossible, until they are done.

Many things feel that way, but there is a hierarchy of magnitudes involved that is worth exploring. There are things that require great effort and time and endurance by an individual, that many have done before, such as graduating, or writing a thesis, or passing the Bar Exam. There are things that have never been done before, such as inventing a new device or creating a new organization (that particular device and that particular organization never having existed until created). Even more so, there are things that have never been done before, and affect a whole society. And most of all, there are things that have never been done before, and change the world, dramatically.

To capture some of the nuances and complexities to this formulation, I’d like to conceptualize it along three axes. The first axis is how novel the thing being done is, whether it is just one instance of a familiar form (e.g., writing a thesis), or a relatively new form (e.g., composing a multi-media thesis affecting all of the senses in a coordinated way to achieve a combined aesthetic and intellectual effect). Obviously, there is a range of degrees of possible deviation from the archetype, from minor changes in formatting to major changes in structure and form and function. As the deviation from the archetype grows, the nature of the innovation moves from being quantitative (a change in degree) to being qualitative (a change in kind).

The second axis is the scale of change, in terms of how many humans are (or how big a swath of the natural universe is) affected by it. Finishing a thesis is, generally, a personal milestone, with only a very marginal impact on the world at large. Forming a new government, organizing a successful political or cultural movement, changing long-standing social institutions (hopefully for the better), are all milestones that affect larger populations in more dramatic ways.

The third axis is the depth and breadth, or intensity, of the change thus achieved, not so much in terms of the number of humans affected, but more in terms in the degree to which they are affected. A promotion in a job, for instance, affects one person to one degree, while emancipation from slavery affects one person to a much greater degree. The passage of a new federal law that makes a marginal change in an existing social institution affects a society to one degree, while the drafting of a federal constitution affects the society to a more extensive degree. Again, there is a range on which such impact can occur, from the very marginal to the extremely revolutionary.

One of the ways in which an innovation or movement can have a deeper and broader impact in this last sense is the degree to which it reaches into the algorithms of change, and affects not only the current status quo, but the manner in which status quos themselves are determined. A law, for instance, affects the current status quo, while a Constitution affects how laws are passed and implemented. A scientific discovery affects our current state of knowledge, while the development of scientific methodology affected the manner in which our knowledge is acquired and accumulates. Impact is generally maximized by reaching down into the algorithms of change, and modifying procedures or methodologies by which particular instances of change occur. (See, e.g.,The Algorithms of Complexity, Second-Order Social Change, The Variable Malleability of Reality, and The Wizards’ Eye for more exploration of this concept.)

I’m going to focus for the remainder of this essay on society-wide changes of relatively large magnitude, looking initially at the degree of variation in how innovative the changes are (i.e., the first axis). I will then discuss, in the next essay, one such proposal I have long been making, that is a social movement aspiring to a rather profound informal change in how we go about governing ourselves (in other words, focused on innovation in the algorithms of change rather than in the particular instances of it), that is rather highly innovative. As Nelson Mandela reminds us, though it may seem impossible, it can be done. (See the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts for more discussion of that social movement.)

Oversimplifying a bit, there are two kinds of things that have never been done before and change the world: Those that are of a familiar type (those that are of a type that has been done before), and those that are of an unfamiliar type (those of a type that has never been done before). For instance, inventing the car, or airplane, or space ships, or personal and hand held computers, are all things that had never been done before, and changed the world, but were of a familiar type (technological innovation). Similarly, Abolitionism, the Suffragettes, The Civil Rights Movement, past national independence movements, were all things that had not been done before (each nation seeking independence had never sought independence before), but were all of a type that had been done before (movements to extend rights to those who had been denied them, and to secede from superordinate political entities).

There are things that had never been done before, and were of a type that had never been done before. For instance, the Constitution of Medina, drafted in the 7th century by the Prophet Mohamed, is often considered the first written constitution to form a new government in world history. (The first in American history was drafted in Hartford, Connecticut in 1638, forming a government comprised of three towns.) Such innovations are all the more portentous for not only having transformed a society or the world in their own time and place, but also for having established a new form by which future transformation can occur (they change the template, paralleling in terms of degree of innovation the dimension involving the depth of the transformative algorithm). It is a beautiful irony of history that America’s crowning and defining formative achievement, the drafting of our own remarkable Constitution, draws on a form invented by the founder of Islam, a religion and culture currently (and tragically) reviled by a large faction of very counterproductive Americans.

The invention not just of new instances of a previously existing form, but of new forms entirely, requires more imagination, more willingness to try the seemingly impossible, for not only does it involve confronting a status quo that appears too overwhelming to transform, it also involves doing so in a way that no one before had ever contemplated.

Of course, nothing is ever completely new: There are always predecessors of some kind or another, similar innovations to draw upon. Prior to the Constitution of Medina, there had been written laws, from the Ten Commandments to the legal codes of Hammurabi in Babylonia and Draco in Greece. And prior to these, there had been unwritten laws, reflecting varying degrees of formality and clarity of definition. New forms, new memes, draw on the wealth of material produced previously, amalgamating, synthesizing, innovating on the margins. (See the essays linked to in the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts for an in-depth exploration of how this process occurs and what it looks like.)

In other words, the degree of inventiveness lies on a continuum, from very marginal modifications of existing forms, to dramatic new departures that explore avenues not yet explored. Revolutions of great magnitude involve a confluence of highly innovative, highly impactful (i.e., algorithmic rather than superficial), and society-or-world-wide changes rooted in a sense of history and the opportunities existing, thresholds arrived at, in a given time and place. I believe that here and now is such a time and place. (Please see Transforming America and the World for a discussion of why and how.)

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(This is the second half of “It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done”, which I decided to break down into two separate posts, the first, Dimensions of Social Change, addressing the dimensions of inventiveness, scope, and intensity by which transformational events or movements can be measured, and the second one, this one, addressing the social movement that I think should be occurring right now, and that I would like to help catalyze, that I think could put into place a nucleus of a deepening and expanding popular commitment to the cultivation of a more rational and more humane society.)

I believe that America today is ripe for a social movement that draws on these understandings, and that promotes a new paradigm for change that can have profound effects over time. We are clearly at a threshold in American history, with two opposing forces reaching a pinnacle of definition and passion. A combination of technological advances (see A Major Historical Threshold or A Tragically Missed Opportunity?), our historical trajectory, and recent historical shocks have placed us in that kind of hyper-activated state that generally precedes major paradigm shifts. There is a clear and real danger that the paradigm shift we might experience will be an odious one, destructive to ourselves and to humanity. But there is also a very real potential, one which must be vigorously embraced, that the paradigm shift we experience will be a laudable one, beneficial to ourselves and to humanity.

But accomplishing the latter requires an authentic act of courage, not just a repetition of our familiar patterns of action and reaction. We need to divert some small fraction of our resources, some of our time and effort and passion, away from the endless urgency of now, away from the particular issues over which we are wrangling, away from the familiar game of electoral politics, and into a truly transformative movement. Politics as usual will continue apace, and it may even be the case that no actual resources, no actual time or effort or passion is diverted from it, since the new movement may well generate new resources, new time and effort and passion, that more than compensates for any that was drawn from existing efforts.

But it’s time for an act of courage and imagination, an act of reaching for what seems to be the impossible but in reality is not (and, in many ways, is more attainable than some of the more superficial goals to which we devote ourselves, because it faces less resistance). It’s time to move along the continuum of inventiveness, and along the continuum of impact (into the depths of our algorithms of change), and transform our society, and our world, in a fundamental way. That may sound dauntingly bold, but it’s been done many times throughout world history, and it’s been done by those who seize the opportunity to do it. Now is such a time. The opportunity is upon us.

To summarize my proposed social movement very briefly: I call it, alternatively, “the politics of reason and goodwill,” or “transcendental politics,” or “holistic politics” (see the essays linked to in the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts for a more complete explanation and exploration of this idea). I’ll refer to it here as “PRG” (the acronym for “politics of reason and goodwill”). It is as cultural as it is political, recognizing that politics is at root a competition of narratives (see, e.g., The Battle of Narratives, Changing The Narrative, The Dance of Consciousness, and The Politics of Consciousness), and that the most profound political changes are fundamentally cultural in nature. PRG thus bears as much resemblance to cultural (and religious) movements as to political ones, a characteristic common to some of the most successful social movements in our history. (For instance, the Civil Rights Movement had a major religious component, with its leaders and infrastructure being rooted in the southern black church network, and invoking religious symbolism and cadences.)

PRG is comprised of three interrelated components: 1) Meta-messaging, which is the composition, accumulation, and dissemination of messages promoting a commitment to reason and imagination and compassion and pragmatism in service to humanity (see, e.g., Meta-messaging with Frames and Narratives, “Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few, and Politics Isn’t Everything…, for more in-depth discussion). 2) Specifically tailored community organizations and networks of community organizations, drawing on all of the community organizational material already in place, which are dedicated to promoting civil and open-minded dialogue and a sense of mutual identification and mutual interdependence (See, e.g., Community Action Groups (CAGs) & Network (CAN)). And 3) the creation and on-going development and refinement of a system for accessing easily understood competing arguments on all matters of public concern or public policy, filtering them only for the degree to which they are well-reasoned (i.e., peer-review quality) arguments which apply reason to evidence, and ensuring that the goals and interests they purport to serve are made as explicit as possible (see. e.g., The Politics of Reason & Goodwill, simplified and A Comprehensive Paradigm for Progressive Thought and Action; or “Yes We Can, and Here’s How”).

These three components interact in the following ways: The community organizations are a forum designed to draw on the competing reasonable arguments on matters of public interest and concern, while the meta-messaging can be disseminated, in part, through those community organizations as well. The explicit purpose of the community organizations is to celebrate and realize our civic responsibility as citizens of a nation and members of a community (and of humanity), so it makes sense to, for instance, not only designate a time and place to discuss this issue or that, but also to designate a time and place to watch or read, say, A Christmas Carol (or more modern works that explore similar themes), and discuss what lessons it holds for us as citizens and members of communities. This would be a national (or international) movement whose purpose is to increase our commitment to and realization of the application of reason and imagination to the challenges facing humanity, given precise definition and form.

People (such as cognitive scientist George Lakoff in The Political Mind) often argue that people do not generally arrive at their opinions and conclusions through rational contemplation and rational debate, but rather by emotional appeals to their pre-existing frames and narratives. My third component (as I’ve listed them here) seems to fail to recognize this. But PRG is a bit subtler than it seems, and follows a pattern already established by which reason has gained a greater purchase on society than it previously had.

I do not expect that any time in the foreseeable future there will be any large number of people actually belonging to the community organizations envisioned by this movement, or accessing the competing arguments made more accessible by this movement, but I do expect that a small minority doing so will create a nucleus of credibility that will generate an attractive and transformative force beyond that small minority of people. Thus is the nature of successful social movements; they do not start with a society in agreement with their goals, but rather draw a society into agreement with their goals, by appealing to existing frames and narratives in effective ways.

Reason and imagination applied to evidence (and other objects for contemplation) in service to humanity is not just a methodology that a minority might adhere to, but is also a narrative that many already acknowledge the value of. Few in America today would explicitly admit, to themselves or others, that they are irrational and inhumane people. That is not how modern Americans in general would identify themselves. But many are irrational and, to some extent, inhumane people, and I’ve noticed in public discourse that many of them implicitly, just below the threshold of conscious recognition, are vaguely aware of it. That creates a huge opportunity for social change.

By addressing the individual issues or instances of this competition of narratives, we are sucked into the frames that opponents adhere to, and stuck on a treadmill of shouting past each other ineffectually. But by addressing the underlying, agreed-upon values of reason and imagination in service to humanity, we make the ground more fertile for those positions that actually do emanate from these values and this commitment, and less fertile for those that don’t.

We have a compelling historical precedent for how successful this can be: The Scientific Revolution. People may not, in general, be most persuaded by the most rational arguments, but disciplined reason certainly has gained a very powerful and pervasive foothold on global humanity through the evolution of scientific methodology (and the various forms of scholarship that emanate from it) over the past few centuries.

Science has transformed our lives in numerous ways, on numerous levels, including not only the technological advances facilitated by it, but also the social institutional ones. Our own somewhat sanctified Constitution, claimed as the secular holy document guiding those in our nation most obstructive of the influence of reason in service to humanity, is, in fact, a product of Enlightenment thinking, which itself was an extension of the Scientific Revolution into the sphere of rational self-governance.

PRG also builds on historical precedents that are various instances of applying that rationality (and passion and compassion along with it) to the purpose of humanity. Movements which extended rights and protections to those who were denied them, which confronted the use of power to oppress and exploit, which addressed our inhumanity to one another and sought to improve the condition of those born into the least advantageous opportunity structures, are almost universally admired and revered movements in our national and world history. There will inevitably come a time in human history when people will reunite those isolated instances of a commitment to humanity into a comprehensive commitment to humanity, transcending and improving on past attempts to do so, incorporating more modern knowledge and insight into the effort.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time it was ever attempted. The dominant world religions today are rooted, at least formally, in such a commitment, though, again, those who are most obstructive to the movement I am outlining are those who claim to be the most devoted adherents to those religions. But this, while a lesson in the power of hypocrisy, is also a positive portent, for the underlying frames and narratives of compassion and humanity don’t need to be implanted anew; they merely need to be activated for the purposes of recruiting those within reach of persuasion, and marginalizing those beyond that reach. Again, that is the familiar pattern of historical social movements.

So PRG draws on two sets of frames and narratives, two underlying values, already deeply embedded in our collective consciousness, and already formally almost universally accepted in our nation: Reason and Compassion. The degree to which they are in practice rejected is the challenge we face, but it is a challenge in which we are invited to ply the lever of cognitive dissonance, for in the overwhelming majority of cases, irrationality and inhumanity are exercised by people who identify themselves as rational and humane people. A remarkable core of them will remain completely insulated against any intrusion of actual reason, or the demands of actual compassion; but they will play into a growing narrative, that PRG will be consciously cultivating and disseminating, that they are the Philistines of our day, the Scrooges before the transformation, that which we strive to transcend rather than that which we strive to be.

This narrative is not a hard one to cultivate and disseminate. It is favored by reason, and it is favored by humanity. In the long run, as both Martin Luther King Jr. (adapting an earlier quote) and John Maynard Keynes have noted, reason and humanity prevail. It falls upon us to expedite their journey, and avoid the potentially catastrophic eruptions of irrationality and inhumanity that occur during the incessant short-term detours from that path.

PRG is what I see as part of a more general probable trend: The generalization of movements that were incubated in more particular forms and enclaves. Science has grown as something that scientists do, and that we indirectly accept (or resist) as having some authoritative power by virtue of its proven quality for reducing bias and increasing insight. A commitment to humanity is something that has resided semi-dormant and frequently betrayed in our dominant world religions. But its sublimated influence can be seen in the historical (even if constantly embattled and betrayed) commitment to social justice and equality that have helped forge the dominant developed nations of the world. Few would explicitly reject the suggestion that we should all be more rational, or that we should all be more humane. Cultivating that nucleus in intentional ways is the fundamental challenge facing humanity, now and always.

And it is the nature of history that such nuclei expand into general populations in various ways. In ancient civilizations, mathematics was something that a few elites used for elite purposes; now it is something that many use for many purposes. Science began as an esoteric endeavor discussed by philosophers and ignored by others; now it is something that virtually all of us defer to in various ways, even those trying to reject its specific findings are limited to doing so within the logic or language of science itself.

One of the most insidious of inhumanities, racism, which has existed throughout world history, is a discredited form of thought in modern nations, largely now relegated to the most sublimated forms, only able to thrive at all by claiming not to be what it is. Whereas a few short generations ago many would have applauded the lynching of a black man for glancing at a white woman, far fewer would today (perhaps marking progress against sexism as well). More humane memes have indeed gained greater purchase, despite the degree to which malicious ones persist alongside of them.

(I envision something similar for public education, and legal services, and a variety of other social institutional forms: What was once more diffuse, done by individuals and families to the best of their ability, became professionalized, and developed within that context. But there is a next threshold of development that takes that developed form and engages a larger population in the endeavor once again, getting families and communities more involved in the education of our children, and making legal services more accessible to lay people through resources designed to provide them with tools. This alternation of centralization and decentralization, facilitating a coherent progression, is, I think, one of history’s underlying themes.)

The coherent paradigm of social thought and action presented here, and throughout my essays on Colorado Confluence, which lays out the nature of our shared cognitive and social institutional and technological landscape, and considers how to maximize our own ability to affect it in profoundly beneficial ways, is one that can and should guide us far more so, and more intentionally, and with more discipline and focus, than it has.

Human history is the story of human consciousness, of its growth, of its implementations, of its unintended consequences, of its abuses, of its spread and of the forces it puts into play. In the spirit of reaching into underlying algorithms, we need to be conscious about the development and implementation of our consciousness, we need to be intentional about it, we need to use it as a vehicle for its continued growth and continued implementation, not in the haphazard and frequently self-destructive ways to which we are accustomed, but in increasingly focused and intentional ways. We need to realize that just because this particular, quixotically ambitious transformation of reality hasn’t yet occurred does not mean that it can never occur, or that we can’t be the agents for its occurrence.

Forming a social movement similar to PRG is a marginal innovation with potentially world revolutionary implications. It will not change what human beings are, or the underlying nature of our shared existence. But it can, over time, create a force that propels our shared story down dramatically more beneficial channels. And that is what being a human being is all about.

It will continue to seem impossible…, until it has been done.

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(This is a long one, but please bear with me: It gets to the heart of my project here on Colorado Confluence, that I need others’ help to incubate and realize. This is one of those cases in which someone gets a glimpse of some possibility, a real possibility within the reach of motivated human beings, and passionately wants others to get a glimpse of it as well, so that it can become a part of what defines our future rather than just a forgotten thought that never takes hold.)

I recently posted the following Nelson Mandela quote on several of my Facebook pages: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” One woman commented that it reminds her of the thesis she is trying to finish, which made me think about the different levels to which this quote applies. Certainly, her comment is a fair one, and familiar to most of us: Personal thresholds, challenges, major tasks we are undertaking can feel daunting, even impossible, until they are done.

Many things feel that way, but there is a hierarchy of magnitudes involved that is worth exploring. There are things that require great effort and time and endurance by an individual, that many have done before, such as graduating, or writing a thesis, or passing the Bar Exam. There are things that have never been done before, such as inventing a new device or creating a new organization (that particular device and that particular organization never having existed until created). Even more so, there are things that have never been done before, and affect a whole society. And most of all, there are things that have never been done before, and change the world, dramatically.

To capture some of the nuances and complexities to this formulation, I’d like to conceptualize it along three axes. The first axis is how novel the thing being done is, whether it is just one instance of a familiar form (e.g., writing a thesis), or a relatively new form (e.g., composing a multi-media thesis affecting all of the senses in a coordinated way to achieve a combined aesthetic and intellectual effect). Obviously, there is a range of degrees of possible deviation from the archetype, from minor changes in formatting to major changes in structure and form and function. As the deviation from the archetype grows, the nature of the innovation moves from being quantitative (a change in degree) to being qualitative (a change in kind).

The second axis is the scale of change, in terms of how many humans are (or how big a swath of the natural universe is) affected by it. Finishing a thesis is, generally, a personal milestone, with only a very marginal impact on the world at large. Forming a new government, organizing a successful political or cultural movement, changing long-standing social institutions (hopefully for the better), are all milestones that affect larger populations in more dramatic ways.

The third axis is the depth and breadth of the change thus achieved, not so much in terms of the number of humans affected, but more in terms in the degree to which they are affected. A promotion in a job, for instance, affects one person to one degree, while emancipation from slavery affects one person to a much greater degree. The passage of a new federal law that makes a marginal change in an existing social institution affects a society to one degree, while the drafting of a federal constitution affects the society to a more extensive degree. Again, there is a range on which such impact can occur, from the very marginal to the extremely revolutionary.

One of the ways in which an innovation or movement can have a deeper and broader impact in this last sense is the degree to which it reaches into the algorithms of change, and affects not only the current status quo, but the manner in which status quos themselves are determined. A law, for instance, affects the current status quo, while a Constitution affects how laws are passed and implemented. A scientific discovery affects our current state of knowledge, while the development of scientific methodology affected the manner in which our knowledge is acquired and accumulates. Impact is generally maximized by reaching down into the algorithms of change, and modifying procedures or methodologies by which particular instances of change occur. (See, e.g.,The Algorithms of Complexity, Second-Order Social ChangeThe Variable Malleability of Reality, and The Wizards’ Eye for more exploration of this concept.)

I’m going to focus for the remainder of this essay on society-wide changes of relatively large magnitude, looking initially at the degree of variation in how innovative the changes are (i.e., the first axis). I will end with a reminder of one such proposal I have long been making, that is a social movement aspiring to a rather profound informal change in how we go about governing ourselves (in other words, focused on innovation in the algorithms of change rather than in the particular instances of it), that is rather highly innovative. As Nelson Mandela reminds us, though it may seem impossible, it can be done.

Oversimplifying a bit, there are two kinds of things that have never been done before and change the world: Those that are of a familiar type (those that are of a type that has been done before), and those that are of an unfamiliar type (those of a type that has never been done before). For instance, inventing the car, or airplane, or space ships, or personal and hand held computers, are all things that had never been done before, and changed the world, but were of a familiar type (technological innovation). Similarly, Abolitionism, the Suffragettes, The Civil Rights Movement, past national independence movements, were all things that had not been done before (each nation seeking independence had never sought independence before), but were all of a type that had been done before (movements to extend rights to those who had been denied them, and to secede from superordinate political entities).

There are things that had never been done before, and were of a type that had never been done before. For instance, the Constitution of Medina, drafted in the 7th century by the Prophet Mohamed, is often considered the first written constitution to form a new government in world history. (The first in American history was drafted in Hartford, Connecticut in 1638, forming a government comprised of three towns.) Such innovations are all the more portentous for not only having transformed a society or the world in their own time and place, but also for having established a new form by which future transformation can occur (they change the template, paralleling in terms of degree of innovation the dimension involving the depth of the transformative algorithm). It is a beautiful irony of history that America’s crowning and defining formative achievement, the drafting of our own remarkable Constitution, draws on a form invented by the founder of Islam, a religion and culture currently (and tragically) reviled by a large faction of very counterproductive Americans.

The invention not just of new instances of a previously existing form, but of new forms entirely, requires more imagination, more willingness to try the seemingly impossible, for not only does it involve confronting a status quo that appears too overwhelming to transform, it also involves doing so in a way that no one before had ever contemplated.

Of course, nothing is ever completely new: There are always predecessors of some kind or another, similar innovations to draw upon. Prior to the Constitution of Medina, there had been written laws, from the Ten Commandments to the legal codes of Hammurabi in Babylonia and Draco in Greece. And prior to these, there had been unwritten laws, reflecting varying degrees of formality and clarity of definition. New forms, new memes, draw on the wealth of material produced previously, amalgamating, synthesizing, innovating on the margins. (See the essays linked to in the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts for an in-depth exploration of how this process occurs and what it looks like.)

In other words, the degree of inventiveness lies on a continuum, from very marginal modifications of existing forms, to dramatic new departures that explore avenues not yet explored. Revolutions of great magnitude involve a confluence of highly innovative, highly impactful (i.e., algorithmic rather than superficial), and society-or-world-wide changes rooted in a sense of history and the opportunities existing, thresholds arrived at, in a given time and place.

I believe that America today is ripe for a social movement that draws on these understandings, and that promotes a new paradigm for change that can have profound effects over time. We are clearly at a threshold in American history, with two opposing forces reaching a pinnacle of definition and passion. A combination of technological advances (see A Major Historical Threshold or A Tragically Missed Opportunity?), our historical trajectory, and recent historical shocks have placed us in that kind of hyper-activated state that generally precedes major paradigm shifts. There is a clear and real danger that the paradigm shift we might experience will be an odious one, destructive to ourselves and to humanity. But there is also a very real potential, one which must be vigorously embraced, that the paradigm shift we experience will be a laudable one, beneficial to ourselves and to humanity.

But accomplishing the latter requires an authentic act of courage, not just a repetition of our familiar patterns of action and reaction. We need to divert some small fraction of our resources, some of our time and effort and passion, away from the endless urgency of now, away from the particular issues over which we are wrangling, away from the familiar game of electoral politics, and into a truly transformative movement. Politics as usual will continue apace, and it may even be the case that no actual resources, no actual time or effort or passion is diverted from it, since the new movement may well generate new resources, new time and effort and passion, that more than compensates for any that was drawn from existing efforts.

But it’s time for an act of courage and imagination, an act of reaching for what seems to be the impossible but in reality is not (and, in many ways, is more attainable than some of the more superficial goals to which we devote ourselves, because it faces less resistance). It’s time to move along the continuum of inventiveness, and along the continuum of impact (into the depths of our algorithms of change), and transform our society, and our world, in a fundamental way. That may sound dauntingly bold, but it’s been done many times throughout world history, and it’s been done by those who seize the opportunity to do it. Now is such a time. The opportunity is upon us.

To summarize my proposed social movement very briefly: I call it, alternatively, “the politics of reason and goodwill,” or “transcendental politics,” or “holistic politics” (see the essays linked to in the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts for a more complete explanation and exploration of this idea). I’ll refer to it here as “PRG” (the acronym for “politics of reason and goodwill”). It is as cultural as it is political, recognizing that politics is at root a competition of narratives (see, e.g., The Battle of Narratives, Changing The Narrative, The Dance of Consciousness, and The Politics of Consciousness), and that the most profound political changes are fundamentally cultural in nature. PRG thus bears as much resemblance to cultural (and religious) movements as to political ones, a characteristic common to some of the most successful social movements in our history. (For instance, the Civil Rights Movement had a major religious component, with its leaders and infrastructure being rooted in the southern black church network, and invoking religious symbolism and cadences.)

PRG is comprised of three interrelated components: 1) Meta-messaging, which is the composition, accumulation, and dissemination of messages promoting a commitment to reason and imagination and compassion and pragmatism in service to humanity (see, e.g., Meta-messaging with Frames and Narratives“Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few, and Politics Isn’t Everything…, for more in-depth discussion). 2) Specifically tailored community organizations and networks of community organizations, drawing on all of the community organizational material already in place, which are dedicated to promoting civil and open-minded dialogue and a sense of mutual identification and mutual interdependence (See, e.g., Community Action Groups (CAGs) & Network (CAN)). And 3) the creation and on-going development and refinement of a system for accessing easily understood competing arguments on all matters of public concern or public policy, filtering them only for the degree to which they are well-reasoned (i.e., peer-review quality) arguments which apply reason to evidence, and ensuring that the goals and interests they purport to serve are made as explicit as possible (see. e.g., The Politics of Reason & Goodwill, simplified and A Comprehensive Paradigm for Progressive Thought and Action; or “Yes We Can, and Here’s How”).

These three components interact in the following ways: The community organizations are a forum designed to draw on the competing reasonable arguments on matters of public interest and concern, while the meta-messaging can be disseminated, in part, through those community organizations as well. The explicit purpose of the community organizations is to celebrate and realize our civic responsibility as citizens of a nation and members of a community (and of humanity), so it makes sense to, for instance, not only designate a time and place to discuss this issue or that, but also to designate a time and place to watch or read, say, A Christmas Carol (or more modern works that explore similar themes), and discuss what lessons it holds for us as citizens and members of communities. This would be a national (or international) movement whose purpose is to increase our commitment to and realization of the application of reason and imagination to the challenges facing humanity, given precise definition and form.

People (such as cognitive scientist George Lakoff in The Political Mind) often argue that people do not generally arrive at their opinions and conclusions through rational contemplation and rational debate, but rather by emotional appeals to their pre-existing frames and narratives. My third component (as I’ve listed them here) seems to fail to recognize this. But PRG is a bit subtler than it seems, and follows a pattern already established by which reason has gained a greater purchase on society than it previously had.

I do not expect that any time in the foreseeable future there will be any large number of people actually belonging to the community organizations envisioned by this movement, or accessing the competing arguments made more accessible by this movement, but I do expect that a small minority doing so will create a nucleus of credibility that will generate an attractive and transformative force beyond that small minority of people. Thus is the nature of successful social movements; they do not start with a society in agreement with their goals, but rather draw a society into agreement with their goals, by appealing to existing frames and narratives in effective ways.

Reason and imagination applied to evidence (and other objects for contemplation) in service to humanity is not just a methodology that a minority might adhere to, but is also a narrative that many already acknowledge the value of. Few in America today would explicitly admit, to themselves or others, that they are irrational and inhumane people. That is not how modern Americans in general would identify themselves. But many are irrational and, to some extent, inhumane people, and I’ve noticed in public discourse that many of them implicitly, just below the threshold of conscious recognition, are vaguely aware of it. That creates a huge opportunity for social change.

By addressing the individual issues or instances of this competition of narratives, we are sucked into the frames that opponents adhere to, and stuck on a treadmill of shouting past each other ineffectually. But by addressing the underlying, agreed-upon values of reason and imagination in service to humanity, we make the ground more fertile for those positions that actually do emanate from these values and this commitment, and less fertile for those that don’t.

We have a compelling historical precedent for how successful this can be: The Scientific Revolution. People may not, in general, be most persuaded by the most rational arguments, but disciplined reason certainly has gained a very powerful and pervasive foothold on global humanity through the evolution of scientific methodology (and the various forms of scholarship that emanate from it) over the past few centuries.

Science has transformed our lives in numerous ways, on numerous levels, including not only the technological advances facilitated by it, but also the social institutional ones. Our own somewhat sanctified Constitution, claimed as the secular holy document guiding those in our nation most obstructive of the influence of reason in service to humanity, is, in fact, a product of Enlightenment thinking, which itself was an extension of the Scientific Revolution into the sphere of rational self-governance.

PRG also builds on historical precedents that are various instances of applying that rationality (and passion and compassion along with it) to the purpose of humanity. Movements which extended rights and protections to those who were denied them, which confronted the use of power to oppress and exploit, which addressed our inhumanity to one another and sought to improve the condition of those born into the least advantageous opportunity structures, are almost universally admired and revered movements in our national and world history. There will inevitably come a time in human history when people will reunite those isolated instances of a commitment to humanity into a comprehensive commitment to humanity, transcending and improving on past attempts to do so, incorporating more modern knowledge and insight into the effort.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time it was ever attempted. The dominant world religions today are rooted, at least formally, in such a commitment, though, again, those who are most obstructive to the movement I am outlining are those who claim to be the most devoted adherents to those religions. But this, while a lesson in the power of hypocrisy, is also a positive portent, for the underlying frames and narratives of compassion and humanity don’t need to be implanted anew; they merely need to be activated for the purposes of recruiting those within reach of persuasion, and marginalizing those beyond that reach. Again, that is the familiar pattern of historical social movements.

So PRG draws on two sets of frames and narratives, two underlying values, already deeply embedded in our collective consciousness, and already formally almost universally accepted in our nation: Reason and Compassion. The degree to which they are in practice rejected is the challenge we face, but it is a challenge in which we are invited to ply the lever of cognitive dissonance, for in the overwhelming majority of cases, irrationality and inhumanity are exercised by people who identify themselves as rational and humane people. A remarkable core of them will remain completely insulated against any intrusion of actual reason, or the demands of actual compassion; but they will play into a growing narrative, that PRG will be consciously cultivating and disseminating, that they are the Philistines of our day, the Scrooges before the transformation, that which we strive to transcend rather than that which we strive to be.

This narrative is not a hard one to cultivate and disseminate. It is favored by reason, and it is favored by humanity. In the long run, as both Martin Luther King Jr. (adapting an earlier quote) and John Maynard Keynes have noted, reason and humanity prevail. It falls upon us to expedite their journey, and avoid the potentially catastrophic eruptions of irrationality and inhumanity that occur during the incessant short-term detours from that path.

PRG is what I see as part of a more general probable trend: The generalization of movements that were incubated in more particular forms and enclaves. Science has grown as something that scientists do, and that we indirectly accept (or resist) as having some authoritative power by virtue of its proven quality for reducing bias and increasing insight. A commitment to humanity is something that has resided semi-dormant and frequently betrayed in our dominant world religions. But its sublimated influence can be seen in the historical (even if constantly embattled and betrayed) commitment to social justice and equality that have helped forge the dominant developed nations of the world. Few would explicitly reject the suggestion that we should all be more rational, or that we should all be more humane. Cultivating that nucleus in intentional ways is the fundamental challenge facing humanity, now and always.

And it is the nature of history that such nuclei expand into general populations in various ways. In ancient civilizations, mathematics was something that a few elites used for elite purposes; now it is something that many use for many purposes. Science began as an esoteric endeavor discussed by philosophers and ignored by others; now it is something that virtually all of us defer to in various ways, even those trying to reject its specific findings are limited to doing so within the logic or language of science itself.

One of the most insidious of inhumanities, racism, which has existed throughout world history, is a discredited form of thought in modern nations, largely now relegated to the most sublimated forms, only able to thrive at all by claiming not to be what it is. Whereas a few short generations ago many would have applauded the lynching of a black man for glancing at a white woman, far fewer would today (perhaps marking progress against sexism as well). More humane memes have indeed gained greater purchase, despite the degree to which malicious ones persist alongside of them.

(I envision something similar for public education, and legal services, and a variety of other social institutional forms: What was once more diffuse, done by individuals and families to the best of their ability, became professionalized, and developed within that context. But there is a next threshold of development that takes that developed form and engages a larger population in the endeavor once again, getting families and communities more involved in the education of our children, and making legal services more accessible to lay people through resources designed to provide them with tools. This alternation of centralization and decentralization, facilitating a coherent progression, is, I think, one of history’s underlying themes.)

The coherent paradigm of social thought and action presented here, and throughout my essays on Colorado Confluence, which lays out the nature of our shared cognitive and social institutional and technological landscape, and considers how to maximize our own ability to affect it in profoundly beneficial ways, is one that can and should guide us far more so, and more intentionally, and with more discipline and focus, than it has.

Human history is the story of human consciousness, of its growth, of its implementations, of its unintended consequences, of its abuses, of its spread and of the forces it puts into play. In the spirit of reaching into underlying algorithms, we need to be conscious about the development and implementation of our consciousness, we need to be intentional about it, we need to use it as a vehicle for its continued growth and continued implementation, not in the haphazard and frequently self-destructive ways to which we are accustomed, but in increasingly focused and intentional ways. We need to realize that just because this particular, quixotically ambitious transformation of reality hasn’t yet occurred does not mean that it can never occur, or that we can’t be the agents for its occurrence.

Forming a social movement similar to PRG is a marginal innovation with potentially world revolutionary implications. It will not change what human beings are, or the underlying nature of our shared existence. But it can, over time, create a force that propels our shared story down dramatically more beneficial channels. And that is what being a human being is all about.

It will continue to seem impossible…, until it has been done.

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(This essay originated as a response to a Libertarian commenting on another Libertarian’s Facebook page, making the familiar argument about why Jeffersonian democracy, emphasizing minimal government, was both the intention of our Founding Fathers, and is the best form of government possible.)

As you might have gathered, I like the dialectic, so here’s both the antithesis to your thesis, and the synthesis of the two:

Adams, Franklin, and Hamilton wanted stronger central government than Jefferson did (thus, the first incarnation of our perennial, unintended and undesired,l two-party system was Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans v. Hamilton/Adams’ Federalists, the latter pretty much meaning the opposite of what it does today: a strong federal government). The country was a product of these competing views, and has continued to be carved on the lathe of a similar dichotomy throughout its history, to excellent effect. The Constitution itself was the first victory for the “stronger federal government” side, requiring convincing a population that considered each state a sovereign…, well, “state,” in the original and still used sense of a sovereign political unit.

These arguments to a reluctant public were made, most cogently and famously, in The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay arguing for the need to create a sufficiently strong central government. This was in response to the failed Articles of Confederation, which did not provide a sufficiently strong central government.

The history of the country ever since has been one of a punctuated growth in power of the central government. I know that I just stated your major contention, but I don’t see it as a necessarily bad thing, or a betrayal of our founding philosophy: It is, rather, the articulation of lived history with founding principles, since the latter guided the process and form of the former. We retained strong protections for individual rights within the context of that strong federal government: Free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to organize, freedom of press, freedom of religion, protections from police (i.e., state) overreach into our private lives.

In fact, the stronger federal government has been primarily responsible for, and grew in response to the demand for, the extension of those protections of individual liberty; extending them to categories of people to whom they had been denied, and extending them to protect people from the overreaches of individual states as well as the federal government.

The genealogy of Libertarianism, and the argument on which it depends, while exalted by its association with Jefferson, is in fact characterized more by its defense of inequality and injustice (see also The History of American Libertarianism). From the ratification of the Constitution to the Civil War, it was the argument of slave owners resisting the abolition of slavery, the southern statesman John C. Calhoun famously arguing in Union and Liberty that a commitment to “liberty” and to the protection of “minorities” required the protection of the “liberty” of the “minority” southerners to own slaves! This argument was the argument of the “states’ rights,” small federal government ideological camp. That camp lost by losing the Civil War and by the abolition of slavery.

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era, the states’ rights, small federal government ideology was invoked to preserve Jim Crow and resist the enforcement of Constitutional guarantees to protect the rights of minorities (in the modern sense of the word), especially African Americans. That camp lost by a series of Supreme Court holdings (most notably Brown v. Board of Education) and the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (by which President Lyndon B. Johnson knowingly and willingly lost southern whites, who had until then formed a major branch of the Democratic Party, to the Republican Party, where they have since resided, and continue to comprise a large portion of the adherents to this perennial ideology).

Contemporary Libertarianism is the logical next step in this progression, after having resisted the abolition of slavery in the name of “liberty,” and the passage of Civil Rights legislation and Court holdings in the name of “liberty,” it now opposes the further confrontation of the legacy of that racist and discriminatory history by insisting, falsely, that “we’re all equal now, so any attempt to address, as a nation, the injustices still embedded in our political economy and culture is a deprivation of the liberty of those against whose interests it is to do so.” In other words, just as in those previous incarnations throughout our history, this particular concept of “liberty” still means “my liberty to screw you.”

Libertarians, conveniently, don’t see it this way, because it is a passive “screwing,” one that involves leaving in place institutionalized, but not legally reproduced, inequities and injustices. It is, as it has been before, the insistence that “we’ve done enough, and need do no more,” just as the defenders of slavery considered acquiescing to a national constitution was enough, and the defenders of racism considered acquiescing to abolition was enough, modern Libertarians think that acquiescing to a formal, legal end to racial discrimination is enough,and that it is an affront to their “liberty” to attempt to address as a nation, as a polity, the non-legally reproduced but deeply entrenched inequality of opportunity that persists in our country (see, e.g., The Paradox of Property).

This national commitment to ever-deepening and ever-broadening Liberty, including equality of opportunity without which liberty is, to varying degrees and in varying ways, granted to some and denied to others, involves more than just the African American experience: It involves women, Native Americans, gays, practitioners of disfavored religions (such as Islam), members of ethnic groups who are most highly represented in the current wave of undocumented immigration (such as Hispanics), basically, “out-groups” in general. It’s no coincidence that Libertarianism is so closely linked to Christian Fundamentalism and militant nationalism: It is an ideology that focuses on a notion of individual liberty that is, in effect and implementation, highly exclusive and highly discriminatory. (There are, it should be noted, branches of Libertarianism which are more internally consistent, and, at least, reject these overt hypocrisies, while still retaining the implicit, passive, retention of historically determined inequality of opportunity described above.)

History has demanded increasing centralization of powers for other reasons as well: an increasingly complex market economy with increasingly difficult-to-manage opportunities for centralized market actors to game markets in highly pernicious ways (due to information asymmetries); increasingly pernicious economic externalities increasingly robustly generated by our wonderful wealth-producing market dynamo (see Collective Action (and Time Horizon) Problems and Political Market Instruments); in general, a complex dynamical system that is highly organic and self-regulating, but not perfectly so, and without some pretty sophisticated centralized management is doomed to frequent and devastating collapse.

(This is why, by the way, every single modern developed nation, without exception, has a large administrative infrastructure, and had in place a large administrative infrastructure prior to participating in the post-WII explosion in the production of wealth. The characteristic that Libertarians insist is antithetical to the production of wealth is one of the characteristics universally present in all nations that have been most successful in producing wealth.)

The tension between our demand for individual liberty and minimal government, on the one hand, and a government adequately large and empowered to confront the real challenges posed by our increasingly complex social institutional landscape on the other, is a healthy tension, just as the tension among the branches of government is a healthy tension. We don’t want one side of any of these forces in tension to predominate absolutely: We want the tension itself to remain intact, largely as it has throughout our history. Through it, we took the genius of the Constitution, and extended it to constraints imposed on state and local as well as federal government, recognizing through our experience with the institution of slavery that tyranny doesn’t have to be vested in the more remote locus of government, and the resistance to it doesn’t always come from the more local locus of government. And through it, we took the genius of the Constitution, and extended it through the lessons of history and the pragmatic demands placed on our national self-governance by the evolution of our technological and social institutional context.

The pragmatic, moderate, flexible, analytical implementation of our ideals that has resulted, protecting the true liberties that we treasure, extending them to those who were excluded, deepening them in many ways for all of us, and allowing, at the same time, for us to act, as a polity, through our agent of collective action (government), in ways that serve our collective interests, is what serves us best, and what we should remain committed to, with ever greater resolve.

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(The following is a response to an extreme Libertarian who posted the New Hampshire Constitution’s endorsement of a right to revolution as a justification and encouragement to his ideological fellow travelers.)

The only problem is that you are “rebelling” against a government that is both Constitutional and, within those constraints, democratic. You resent the will of the majority, which differs from yours, and misname the will of the majority, with Constitutional restraints to protect minorities, “tyranny.” By your definition, any use of government of which YOU disapprove is automatically tyranny. Rather, you would wish to overrule the will of the majority, and discard the Constitution, in order to impose your radical, economically illiterate, ahistorical, impractical, inegalitarian, and nationally self-destructive ideology on the rest of us. You can utter all of the magical rhetorical incantations you want, but it remains what it is: A cultish, glassy-eyed fanaticism rearing its ugly head in our own country and our own time, as it has reared its ugly head in so many other times and places.

The government you are rebelling against is Constitutional because your main objection, to the taxing and spending of Congress, is a Constitutionally granted power. Article I, Section 8, Clause i of the United States Constitution grants Congress the unlimited power to tax and spend in the general welfare. You can argue about what constitutes the general welfare, and, in perhaps some extreme instances, can find a Supreme Court that would hold that some use of that power was too clearly NOT in the general welfare to pass Constitutional muster (e.g., Congress taxed and spent in a manner which was unambiguously and incontrovertibly only on the welfare of the members of Congress), but none of the programs that are in controversy fall into that range. The Constitutional limitation on Congress’s power to tax and spend in the general welfare is the electoral system, by which we can fire those members of Congress whom we feel have abused that power, or have not executed it as faithful agents of our will and interests.

The government you are rebelling against is democratic, because the people making the decisions with which you disagree were elected according to our electoral process, administered with a relatively high degree of legitimacy and precaution against fraud and abuse. You oppose the will of the majority, appropriately constrained by Constitutional protections of minorities, and wrap that anti-Constitutional, anti-democratic inclination to impose your own factional will on all others, in defiance of both our Constitution and our electoral process, in a faux-nobility and patriotism, though it is, in fact, exactly the opposite.

The government you are rebelling against is the one that has been honed by the lathe of history, in part through a Civil War and Civil Rights Movement which institutionalized the recognition of the fact that minorities and individuals don’t just need to be protected against the tyranny of the federal government, but also against the tyranny of state and local governments, and, in some instances, the tyranny of private corporations or individuals (e.g., against racist employment discrimination).

And, ironically, the consequences of your efforts, to the extent that they are successful (whether through legal or extralegal means), is the increase of real tyranny, not only by rolling back such protections, not only by reducing our national commitment to equality of opportunity, but also by transferring de facto political power from those public institutions which are (imperfectly) Constitutionally and democratically constrained, to those powerful private institutions that are not.

This is a subtle and complex world we live in, in which the lathe of history works on the raw material produced by our Constitution and by our basic values as a nation. The development of our political economy, of our administrative state, of our need to rein in not just governmental power but also private corporate power which in many instances has grown to the size of medium-sized nations, are not developments to be tossed away because a group of blind ideological fanatics believe that there is some single platitude which overrules all other knowledge and historical experience. You counsel for a kind of imposed mass stupidity, a quasi-religious fanaticism which rejects all knowledge in deference to generally misinterpreted sacred documents and ancient prophets. You may succeed; there’s enough lunacy in this country for that to be a real possibility. But to the extent that you do, it will be an immeasurable tragedy for those hundreds of millions who must suffer the consequences.

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(Here is an unedited Facebook thread, continuing the ongoing discussion….): David K Williams Jr: What radical, ignorant tea-bagger said this?

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” 

David K Williams Jr: A: Abraham Lincoln

Matt Arnold: As quoted by yours truly several months ago: http://www.clearthebenchco​lorado.org/2010/10/25/figh​ting-the-%E2%80%9Cprogress​ive%E2%80%9D-takeover-of-s​tate-courts/

Joshua Sharf: I think he even had a low, sloping forehead.

Audrey Lussier Hussey: what a radical.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Barney Frank????

Jacque Rhoades: Crazy Abe. What was he thinking?!?!

Lawrence Depenbusch: Abe said enough great things, he could have had one off day. You try getting selected for Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial, and the penny…

Steve Harvey: Right. The same guy who led the opposition to your ideology in his time, and who would continue to lead it today were he alive, strengthening the federal government against a secessionist movement, denying the individual liberty asserted by southern slave owners. The words are perfect; your blindness to the fact that today you are those “men who pervert the Constitution” ironic.

Joshua Sharf: Steve: I wasn’t aware that “my ideology” included the ownership of other human beings.

Buddy Shipley: xactly, Joshua. Beat me to it! Steve’s a twit.

Steve Harvey: Your ideology includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others. The inability to abstract and apply general principles to new variations on repeating patterns is part of what permits them to be repeated. Or, more conventionally, “those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.”

Buddy Shipley: Liberals reject principle in favor of moral relativism, screws their reasoning every time.

Steve Harvey: Read John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty,” which argued in langauge almost indistinguishable from Tea Party arguments why the overreaching federal government was depriving Southern Slave owners of their Constitutionally guarnanteed liberty by trying to abolish slavery.

Buddy Shipley: Wrong again, Stevie.

Buddy Shipley: On all counts/

Steve Harvey: Really, Buddy? Because I read it, cover to cover, when I studied American Political History. And that is exactly the argument that Calhoun makes.

Steve Harvey: Once again, you’re entitled to your opinion, but not to your facts, no matter how determined you are to simply declare that the facts are other than what they are.

Buddy Shipley: That’s my line, thief.

Steve Harvey: You are a bunch of throwbacks, lacking the knowledge, humility, or imagination to have the faintest recognition of to what extent that is the case. And, in the process, you try to inflict a utopian farce on an otherwise pragmatic nation, ta…king an idea divorced from its articulation with our lived history and insisting that only that idea must be revered, even if the version to which you reduce it can be implemented only at the cost of our prosperity and our humanity.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG: “ideology [that] includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others.” –YOU ARE COMPLETELY WRONG.

David K Williams Jr: Steve – read Massachusett’s abolitionist Lysander Spooner’s “No Treason.” It’s readily available on the internet.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you frequently repeat it, though you never demonstrate it. You ignore the historical, economic, and legal empirical evidence that I mobilize. Your last comment, citing another argument, does nothing to address the one that I cited.

Joshua Sharf: Steve, this is a non-argument. I’m not going to be held responsible for Calhoun’s misuse of Constitutional arguments, any more than you would be for early “progressives'” racism.

Buddy Shipley: Lincoln inherited a nation already in conflict over the economic canard of state’s rights to free commerce based on slave labor. Rather than allow the Union to collapse Lincoln chose to fight to keep it together, and that meant he had to choose between sanctioning slavery or ending it –One nation United without slavery, or divided and enslaved. The choice is not difficult.

Steve Harvey: Joshua, you would be absolutely right, if your ideas were fundamentally different from Calhoun’s. Unfortunately, they are fundamentally similar, just in a different historical context. They were used to oppose Civil Rights, and your own Ran…d Paul said that he wouldn’t have been able to support The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 because of how it infringes on the liberty to be (though he of course did not put it this way) a discriminatory racist.

Steve Harvey: The fundamental flaw in libertarian ideology is the de-emphasis of interdependence, and the neglect of the degree to which freedom must be articulated with where its exercise affects the welfare of others, which is extensive and ubiquitous.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”They were used to oppose Civil Rights…” — WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: Steve, you are babbling again.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”de-emphasis of interdependence” — ON WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: The Left has for generations been allowed to manipulate the language to serve their own ends with deceptively crafted legislation presided over by a Judiciary that has been corrupt at least since Liberal luminary Thurgood Marshall who asser…ted: “Do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” — ie: legislate from the bench because we the elite anointed few, surely know better than the great unwashed masses or any Legislative Branch that must actually be elected by the proletariat.

Steve Harvey: Uh, yes, Buddy. Southern leaders, such as George Wallace, used the complaint of an overreaching federal government to resist desegregation and the enforcement of Civil Rights provisions. The history of your ideology begins with the Articles of Confederation, and continued with “nullification” doctrine (that states have the right to “nullify” federal law at will), and then was used to impose Jim Crow, and finally has been reincarnated as Tea Party dogma.

Of course, it has articulated with other essentially absolutist doctrines along the way, such as religious fundamentalism, but the integral thread is very easy to discern, and to recognize as coherent across our history. And, yes, I see that you have now indicted Thurgood Marshall, responsible for arguing “Brown v. Board of Education,” which made desegregation the law of the land, and catalyzed the modern Civil Rights movement. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

Buddy Shipley: I indict Marshall for legislating from the bench.

Buddy Shipley: You fail civics 101, asshole.

Buddy Shipley: Your reading & comprehension skill are also lacking.

Steve Harvey: Right. You indict Marshall for doing what his namesake (Chief Justice John Marshall) had established as the role of the Court in the early 19th century, to the great benefit of the nation (which would almost certainly not have managed to so… closely approach “rule of law” as it has had he not done so, since your ideal of each imposing his or her own Constitutional interpretation, and not tolerating any process which imposes one in any centralized fashion, would have obliterated the law by converting it into a creature of each person’s imagination).

And I have no doubt that I failed your version of Civics, though I have taught it (and US History, and US Government), though not the caricature of it that your litmus test requires.

Steve Harvey: There are three branches of government, all involved in creating the law of the land, in different ways. Congress legislates, but legsilation is not the only law producing process. When the executive branch implements the laws, it must affe…ct them to make them implementable. Executive branch agencies do this in the form of agency rule making, a very elaborate process with lots of in-put from all interested parties. The judicial branch interprets the law, which cannot be drafted to cover all contingencies. The process of interpretation is a process of creation, inevitably.

Part of the genius of our system is this tension in the creation of law, a lathe on which it is forever refined, a lathe that you are determined to smash and replace with a sledgehammer for all occasions.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG AGAIN, asshole.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you keep saying it. But, strangely, you are completely devoid of arguments. I know you are convinced that whatever you declare to be true must be, especially if you can accompany it with a profanity. But, alas, that’s just not how it works.

Steve Harvey: Buddy, that’s the elementary school version, not the reality, either by design or in practice. The idealized version is that the legislative branch writes the laws, the executive implements them, and the judicial interprets them. The realit…y is that all three of those processes affect their formation, inevitably, by the very nature of what it means to do those things. The shallowness of your mind is the problem, not the complexity of the real world.

Buddy Shipley: The 3 branches have DIFFERENT responsibilities! The Legislative Branch has the sole authority and power to craft and pass Legislation — NOT the Judiciary, you twit!! The Executive can choose to either sign the Legislation into law or veto it, and the Judiciary must APPLY THE LAW, not MAKE SHIT UP as they see fit!

Aaron Michael: The fundamental flaw with progressivism is that it seeks to cure the vices of men through force via the state. Libertarians acknowledge interdependence among people (hence the advocation of pure capitalism), but stop at trying to impose th…eir social norms on others. That’s not to say they don’t recognize universal morals, but being a prejudice dick does not fall into a category of aggression that would warrant a negative law enacted for the purpose of curtailing persons with discriminating behavior.

Buddy Shipley Just like Obama’s tyrannical policies to NOT enforce the laws of the land, T. Marshall chose to ignore the law and exert his own despotic opinion in place of the law and in blatant defiance of the Legislature that was actually ELECTED by the People. This is tyranny, and Steve wholeheartedly advocates it.

Aaron Michael: And once again Buddy emerges from the swampy soil to give his opinion on a matter he know nothing about.

Buddy Shipley I’ve been here all along, what steamy turd did Aaron crawl out from under??

Buddy Shipley ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke. Why do you leftist maggots insist on doing just that?

Buddy Shipley ‎”Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control mans’ appetite through legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not even crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our Government was founded” –President Abraham Lincoln (December 1840).

Buddy Shipley: Can your wee wittle bwains expand these concepts to everything else, or is the strain to great?

Aaron Michael: Buddy, O’Rourke is much too sophisticated to have jelly brains like yourself quoting him.

Aaron Michael: Try quoting Justin Bieber; it fits you better.

Buddy Shipley: Ohh, how witty. How many books have you written, maggot?

Buddy Shipley: Debt Default: More Honesty, Less Hyperbole U.S. Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 Trillion this year alone, or 10% of GDP. The national debt is over $14.3 Trillion dollars, or 91.2% of GDP, which is no one claims is sustainable…. Service on the national debt amounts to nearly $400 Billion each year, based on average interest rates of ~3.9%, as Democrats demand a higher debt ceiling! This cannot be permitted. If the U.S. were to actually default on its debt payment we may lose our AAA rating (determined by Standard & Poors, Moody’s, Fitch), which in theory could cause our interest rates to increase; specifically, if the U.S. rating was downgraded from “AAA” to “AA-” it could result in an increase from .25% to .50% percent paid in interest, or a total of between $1 Billion and $2 Billion per year. Compared to our national debt, annual deficit spending and even the annual service on our national debt, $2 Billion is chump-change, especially considering the debate in Congress is about the need to slash federal spending by Hundreds of Billions, even Trillions of dollars! Too many politicians are addicted to spending other people’s money, and like a drug addict they will do anything to satisfy their addiction, no matter the harm done to others. It is well-past time for intervention; our only recourse now is interdiction. True fiscal conservatives must stand their ground at all costs, they must NOT cave-in on demands, threats and scare-tactics to lift the debt ceiling or raise taxes! Raising taxes will only stall an already stagnate economy and facilitate the politicians’ addiction. Defaulting would not be the worst thing to happen, but raising the debt limit and increasing taxes on a stagnate economy with 9.1% unemployment certainly would. This Congress has consistently proven it cannot be trusted to conduct the nation’s business within its means, with or without any wars. If you eliminate the entire $1.2 Trillion in war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan from the budget we’re still smothered under $13.1 Trillion in debt! Our junkie government has a SPENDING problem, not a revenue problem. The socialists have finally run out of other people’s money; it’s time for tough love, they must be forced to quit cold turkey.

Buddy Shipley: You maggots want a revolution? Keep it up.

Aaron Michael: So writing a book makes one smart? Oh and a captain planet coloring book doesn’t count.

Buddy Shipley: So, ad hominem attacks are all you’ve got?

Aaron Michael: Hahahaha and the pot calls the kettle black.

Steve Harvey: Let’s start with a thought experiment: What happens if you remove the state from the pricture? No force, only freedom. Those inclined to prey on others will do so, and will band together to do so, while those who are not will band together …to defend themselves. They will use force in both cases. Some of these bands will defeat others, consolidating into larger entities, with those able to assert or impose leadership becoming de facto governments, only far more tyrannical than those of developed modern democracies that you are now decrying.

If you remove the state, then you essentially press the reset button on political history. The state is a reality, because force is a reality. So pretending that the issue is over whether the state is good or bad is moot; the question is how to limit it and use it to maximum advantage, all things considered.

Yes, limiting it and controlling it is an essential part of the challenge, but not as some quasi-religious notion unrefined by a recognition of both its inevitability and its range of competence. The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state can, should, and must accept that responsibility, despite the real challenges and obstacles posed by it.

My version of progressivism doesn’t declare the state good or bad, but rather starts with the recognition that we cannot escape the responsibility of governing ourselves to the best of our ability, today, here and now, guided by the brilliant products of our history, but not absolved of our living responsibility by them. We can best do this by first resolving to be reasonable people of goodwill rather than raging blind ideologues, whether on this side or that of any question.

To do that, we need to be somewhat humble, recognizing that we live in an almost infintely complex and subtle reality, with wonderful minds that are more limited than that reality. So we need to know that we don’t know, that we are constantly discovering. Then we need to do our best to mobilize our collective genius in this inevitable effort to continue to do the best we can, as reaonable people of goodwill. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusion which limit the state more, then I am the first to applaud our success. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusions that utilize the state more, then I applaud that success as well. There is no one final panacea that answers all questions and resolves all challenges, once and for all.

The Constitution is a short and vague document, interpretable in mulitple ways, one which provides brilliant guidance, but does not resolve all questions. We are participants in a living history, just as the drafters of that wonderful document were (who knew better than their modern idolators how great the need would be to continue to refine it as history created new challenges and opportunities). There is no escaping that fact, nor should we wish to.

Argue your positions, and I’ll argue mine, and let’s strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. Now, THAT would be tribute to our Founding Fathers, who showed us the way!

Buddy Shipley: “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it” –Thomas Sowell

“Most people who read “The Communist Manifesto” probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of ‘the workers.'” –Thomas Sowell

Buddy Shipley: Compromise ALWAYS means losing ground to progressives/liberals! As Thomas Jefferson said, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” For the past century this is exactly what has happened. In the…ir attempts to “bring the country together” many prominent Republicans have pursued the disastrous course of “moderation” and “compromise” as they seek what they mistakenly believe to be some sort of desirable “middle ground.” I say there is no such thing! It is a fallacy to describe compromise with liberals as anything more than the constant erosion of conservatism and liberty — we are constantly yielding more ground to the Left — toward socialism, fascism, communism. They may call themselves Liberals or Progressives or Democrats, but history reveals them to be one in the same: Leftists progressing toward total government rule, always for our own good of course! Whether the Leftist Lemmings are aware of this or not, they seek a form of government better known as Totalitarian. Read Orwell’s “1984” with a different perspective, one where the totalitarian dystopia is Obama’s Leftist dreams made manifest. Forms of Government: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. Liberal Fantasies v. Reality: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=90SdmjuCAqw. And yes, “socialism” is but a few steps away from communism. http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. “The problem with splitting the difference between opposing sides, as many negotiators are prone to do– whether these negotiators are marriage counselors, labor arbitrators or the United Nations– is that this gives an advantage to the side with the most unreasonable demands, and therefore promotes more unreasonable demands in the future.” –economist Thomas Sowell

Steve Harvey: Buddy, what you are now calling “socialism” has a record of success, not of failure, for not one modern prosperous nation has achieved modern levels of prosperity without the form of government you are now calling “socialism.” Not one. The post-WWII economic boom was participated in only by nations that had large administrative states in place prior to it, and not by any nation that didn’t. Your semantic game of applying a word overbroadly, to indict one system by lumping it together with another completely different one, carefully obfuscating the reality of world history, may be satisfying to your ideological zeal, but it is an affront to reason.

And your loathing of compromise is a loathing of the process which produced the Constitution you turn into an object of idolatry rather than the legal framework it was intended to be, for it was all about compromise. The basic argument has existed throughout our history, between “the Hamiltonians” on the one hand (ironically, the original “federalists,” though “federalism” then meant an argument for stronger rather than weaker federal government), and “the Jeffersonians” on the other (though Jefferson explicitly repudiated many of the notions you now enshrine as sacrosanct).

Steve Harvey: Okay, I can’t spend my life demonstrating the historical, legal, empirical, logical, economic, and just general folly of every bit of nonsense that Buddy Shipley insists is not only Gospel truth, but justification for social and political disintegration. Go for it, Buddy. The podium is yours and yours alone.

Aaron Michael: I added doughnuts to my new workout routine and have lost 35 lbs! Therefore, doughnuts made me lose weight. Steve, you also failed to mention the more appropriate correlation that the 20th century was by far the bloodiest and the perpetrators were those very same gigantic centralized states.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, that previous comment is perhaps the most cogent thing I’ve ever seen you write & share, if only it were not so long and rambling — dude, you need to focus better. I never suggested eliminating the state. The State is certainly th…e problem and direct cause for our economic crisis, but that is because it has exceeded its authority! I am no anarchist, although I’ve recently given it more consideration I still think anarchy is too unstable to survive aggressive parties seeking dominance. You are correct about the effect of a “reset,” and the emergence of groups using force for aggression and defense (now apply that to the current world). Force is essential in protecting individual rights, and the right to exercise that force has been granted to government, and yes, “limiting it and controlling it is essential,” else it might be turned against those it is intended to protect. But again, that is why the founders constrained the government’s authority with the limited powers enumerated in the Constitution! You seem to support these great ideas but then contradict your own position by endorsing ever more excessive government, legislating from the Bench, and progressive nonsense that only leads to more government excess! You do not seem to comprehend your own ideas. It’s certainly a concern that overthrowing our current government could result in even worse tyranny than what it has become. We must certainly seek to govern ourselves rather than depending on Big Government to do it for us, but that concept in and of itself is an ideology, perhaps one some might consider “raging & blind”… Our founders were “reasonable people of goodwill” and to that end they crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We need to return to them. Also, they are only “vague documents” to those who wish to circumvent their intent and exceed the limits of power proscribed by them. In their wisdom the founders also incorporated the means to amend the documents, but our elected officials prefer to ignore that difficult hurdle and again exceed their authority! How is it you do not grasp this? Our Constitution defines the limited powers of government and distributes those powers among the three branches: Executive, Judiciary, and the bicameral Congress. When any of these branches usurps a power of another branch it is unconstitutional, a breech of the Public trust, and a crime that should be prosecuted, but instead goes ignored, thereby establishing precedent for the next breech, and the next, each more egregious than the one before. What you advocate, we already have, if only it were enforced. And finally, you’re wrong about the successes of socialism — it is a cancerous disease destroying every country it has infected.

Lawrence Depenbusch: What Buddy said…

Jacque Rhoades ‎:( Just looked at Steve’s profile, he is a teacher. Sad.

Steve Harvey: Aaron, I did not mention the perfect correlation between large administrative states and modern prosperity as proof of causation (though, unlike your doughnuts analogy, it wasn’t the offering of one anomalous example otherwise disproven by a flood of contradictory examples, since EVERY modern prosperous state has a large administrative infrastructure, and HAD one in place prior to participating in the post-WWII explosion of wealth. Furthermore, the ACTUAL socialist states, that HAVE universally failed, are distinguishable from these modern prosperous states in their political economic form, including the Western European states and The United States, despite the sloppy use of a single ideologically-charged, rhetorically exploited term to conflate them). I offered it as refutation of Buddy’s not only erroneous, but diametrically-opposite-to-​the-truth, statement, that all “socialist” states (by which he meant “states characterized by large administrative infrastructures”) have failed. What have failed are states which have dismantled market economies en masse, which the large prosperous states with large administrative infrastructures have not done.

As for the bloody twentieth century, since warfare is ubiquitous in human history, and states of all types and degrees of development have engaged in it to fairly similar, extensive degrees, the main cause of the distinction in degrees of violence in twentieth century wars is level of technology, thus leading to more destructive warfare, rather than form of state, which does not significantly distinguish the degree of warfare (independent of technological destructiveness) that occurred.

As for Buddy, he continues to ignore arguments and rely on insults and arbitrary declarations, since I argued why the Constitution does not answer all questions, and have previously argued why we are already following it in a systematic, rather than political disintegrative, way (through judicial review, by which determinations are made concerning the constitutionality of laws which do not degenerate into the wild and generally erroneious ideological assertions of a particular fanatical faction). Yes, the Founding Fathers were, taken as a whole, “reasonable people of goodwill,” who did not absolve us of the responsibility to do the same by ending history for us, but rather began our national “experiment” in a brilliant way on which we are challenged to continue to build.

Furthermore, Buddy: The reliance on attacks on style (your literary critique) is both irrelevant and evidence that you feel that merely addressing substance (focusing on the arguments and responding to them) is insufficient to the task of “winning” the debate. I was amazed at your accusation toward someone else of relying on ad hominems, since that is well over 90% of the content of your posts!

And Jacque: I’m a former college lecturer, high school teacher, professional researcher, and author (I’ve presented papers at professional meetings of economists, and my original scholarship is cited in several articles and books); and am currently an attorney who has worked as an independent policy consultant. I have no doubt that you find it sad that your ideology is rejected by those who know what they’re talking about (which is why you, plural, always complain about academics and journalists, supposedly all “leftists,” though you never quite manage to explain why it is that precisely those people who professionally acquire, analyze, and report information should happen to lean en masse in the direction opposite of your dogmas).

You (plural) rely on a bizarre combination of insisting that reason supports your conclusions, while rejecting all reasoned empirical arguments as “intellectual elitism,” and relying instead on a completely irrational semantic game (“since we can erroneously label the modern capitalist hybrid of robust market economies and large, economically engaged administrative states “socialism,” and can point to other states characterized by completely different political economic structures that are generally known as ‘socialist’ [though we will also engage in the revisionism of recategorizing states that were historically characterized by far-right rather than far-left ideology as “socialist” as well, simply naming all failed or reviled states ‘socialist’ as part of our absurd, blindly ideological form of ‘argumentation’], by this sloppy and meaningless equation we have proven that large administrative states are universally failures, despite the historical fact that no successful modern state has not had a large administrative infrastructure.”).

Steve Harvey: As I’ve told David previously, intellectualism doesn’t guarantee success (Marxism was indeed an intellectual paradigm, and a failure both theoretically and politically), but anti-intellectualism guarantees failure, and is an institutionaliz…ed part of all totalitarian states while absent from all modern, prosperous capitalist states. Our Founding Fathers were markedly intellectual, mobilizing classical and Enlightenment thought in the devising of our political framework, and no one is arguing that that intellectual achievement was a failure. Marxism itself was just one of several competing intellectual paradigms, not the only one, and once it prevailed politically, became an anti-intellectual paradigm (the rulers of Marxist and other totalitarian states universally persecuting intellectuals, who are the bane of the kinds of ideas that they and you profess, that are mere blind fanaticisms in service to concentrations of power and impositions of human suffering). We have no choice but to continue to use our minds to the best of our ability, fallible as that faculty is, because the opposite is far more disastrous.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Wrong Steve: It is not modern techonology that was the force that led to the death of so many in the last century, but the rise of PROGRESSIVE idealogy in the hands of media supported tyrants in Russia, Germany and China. Progressive leaders slaughtered millions of people, who did not share their idealogy. Progressive ideas kill…..

Steve Harvey: Sorry, Lawrence, but that’s your semantic game again. Russia, Nazi Germany, and China are examples more dissimilar than similar to Western Europe and The United States, on multiple dimensions. The sloppy use of the word “progressive” to mea…n “any state that I reject, regardless of dissimilarities,” may satisfy your ideological certainties, but it is poor argumentation. To take it a step further, the reality of the world is one characterized by variation along multiple dimensions, to varying degrees.

While you identify “state engagement” as the defining characteristic, it is in fact one dimension, that comes in dramatically varying degrees. Western European and modern American levels of state engagement are, in reality, strongly correlated to prosperity and freedom, while significantly higher degrees of state engagement (displacing markets and freedom of expression and assembly) are associated with tyranny.

This conflation of dissimilar things to argue your position is persuasive only to those who are rationalizing irrationality, not to those who are examining the world, and trying to understand it as it is. Ironically, Libertarianism and Marixism are quite similar in form, even while being substantively opposites, because both are utopian fantasies, divorced from our lived history and our incremental pragmatic social institutional evolution, attempting to impose an internally contradictory and easily debunked extreme absolutism on a society, in ways inevitably destructive to the real freedom and welfare of the members of that society.

Steve Harvey: There is error at both extremes, whether too much or too little state engagement. This is strongly evidenced by history, and strongly supported by any well-reasoned analysis. You cite examples of the error of too much state engagement (“Tyranny”) to defend an argument for too little, in opposition to the paradigm that is most supported empirically and historically as the most effective balance.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke >>> (…and Power in the hands of an institution that can tax and punish is even more odious)

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Government is not reason, it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington >>> (For an educator -such as Steve- to cast off such primary wisdom against the danger of government force, shows him to be under the sway of this force that has fed him for decades and turned him into it’s guard dog—pity)

Lawrence Depenbusch: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” ~Plato >>> (Laws and courts are ultimately at a loss to control evil people, and so more laws tend to hinder the good more than constrain the evil)

Steve Harvey: Again, Lawrence, does that mean that we should have no laws? Everything should be legal, no use of force involved, and if someone decides to commit murder or steal or rape, laws are irrelevant, because good people won’t and bad people will? Or do we, more sanely, and more in accord with reality, recognize that laws play a vital role in regulating human coexistence, and that the question isn’t whether, but rather how and in what ways?

Quotes, BTW, are made in historical context, by mere human beings. Washington’s doesn’t imply that government is bad, but rather draws attention to the real challenges involved in using it well, made at a time when his emphasis was determined by his context. Listing quotes of revered (or not revered) individuals is not argumentation either. It doesn’t absolve us of mobilizing reason applied to evidence in search of understanding and in service to humanity. And even the most brilliant quotes, taken out of context and misapplied, can lead to appallingly erroneous conclusions.

Bumber-sticker wisdom, even when it is indeed wise, is not enough for self-governance; real analysis, mobilizing real data, in service to real understanding, can’t be by-passed by recourse to your version of pithy sayings to live by (a tactic which is used more often in service to ignorance and tyranny than in service to wisdom and freedom). If you want to make arguments about how best to govern ourselves, cite instead the Federalist Papers, which are extensive and in-depth (and are arguments for stronger rather than weaker federal government).

But, more importantly than all of this, recognize that you champion one position in a national dialogue of legitimately conflicting views; champion it, by all means, making your best arguments, and advocating for what you believe in. But engage in the debate with the desire to grow and learn, and, when necessary, to compromise with those with whom you sincerely disagree. Because this nation belongs to all of us, not just to any one radical faction. And we have in place many systems for deciding from among our competing views.

While I fervently disagree with the bulk of your ideological corpus, I also recognize that there are legitimate debates to be had over the balance between investing in our present and future well-being and taming our growing debt, over how best to balance our various social institutional modalities, over how best to maintain a robust market economy. I do not dismiss monetarist economic theory, because I recognize that there are very well-informed and intelligent people who champion it, and so it is incumbent on me to consider the possibility that it is the more valid position, or that it has some validity even if not the more valid position. The most important point is not about our conflicting substantive positions, but rather about our conflicting attitudes toward how to go about engaging in this substantive conflict.

I argue that we are best off, first and foremost, suspending our substantive certainties from time to time, and agreeing that our first responsibility is to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. We all need to admit that, no matter how well informed we are, we are fallible, and our own beliefs may be in error, those of our opponents may be correct. We all have to recognize that being a human being is being a work in progress, that none of us have the one, true, unassailable final answer on all matters. And on that foundation, we need to continue to build our wisdom, our humanity, and our commitment to being responsible citizens engaged in a common endeavor.

I may be wrong about everything else (and, if so, fervently desire that that be demonstrated to me, or that I be defeated in our political contests, because my commitment isn’t to what I now think I know, but rather to what I don’t yet know and must still discover), but I am right about one thing: We need to recognize that our competing ideological certainties, militantly held and insulated against evidence and reason, do not serve us well. Disciplines and processes that favor reason and goodwill have proven to serve us much better, and the more we are able to extend those individual and collective disciplines and processes into ever-wider spheres of our existence, the better off we will be.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, why do you always ALWAYS misinterpret and exaggerate everything we say?? NO ONE suggested we should have NO laws! I never said we should have NO state! For an educator your reading and comprehension skills F’ing suck! And as I’ve suggested to you on several occasions — LESS is MORE! Your overly-verbose rambling tomes are not going to get read — these are COMMENTS, not books. WTF?

Lawrence Depenbusch: “The government solution to any problem is usually at least as bad as the problem.” —Milton Friedman … It is not an ALL OR NOTHING situation. Realizing that government power is odious, that laws have unintended consequences, that evil is not often constrained by law, we ought to keep our laws general and few.

Steve Harvey: When I am arguing substantively, I try to mobilize evidence and reason to demonstrate what I perceive to be the dazzling empirical and logical weaknesses in the “arguments” dominating the opposition to my arguments on this thread. I see mostly sloppy semantic arguments, overapplying terms and then concluding that all forms stuffed into the overbroad terms are proven dysfunctional by the dysfunctionality of some of the quite different forms to be found in the same overbroad category (akin to arguing that cows must be meat eaters, because cows are mammals, and here are some examples of mammals that are meat eaters, proving that cows are therefore meat eaters too, despite the empirical evidence that they aren’t).

But I live my life with the recognition that what I think I know today may be demonstrated wrong in some or all ways, and so must listen to arguments, address them, respect that others believe something different from what I believe, and engage with the purpose of improving our shared understandings rather than with the purpose of showing how my dogmatic religion is THE RIGHT ONE and yours is THE WRONG ONE. Of all of the irrational positions dominating the arguments against me here, the most irrational of all is the sense of absolute certainty, often in complete contradiction of reason and evidence, though insulated by a shared and reinforced delusion that reason and evidence supports whatever you are certain is true.

We all need to start with the recognition that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, that we need to rely on evidence and reason and to whatever extent possible submit ourselves to those disciplines of the mind in pursuit of our understandings, and to know above all us that, if we are wise, what we are certain is the one infallible truth today will be shown to be in some ways less than perfect if we do allow reason and evidence to influence us. I have long maintained that the most fundamental political divide in America (and the world) isn’t between any of the conflicting substantive positions we hold, but rather between those who are absolutely certain of a dogmatic ideology in a world that they insist is really quite simple, and those who are committed to using their minds to the best of their ability to address the challenges of life in a world subtler and more complex than our understandings in any given moment.

For this reason, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world; and Marxists and Libertarians are, in the same way, more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world, despite the substantive diametrical opposition of their respective positions.

I accept, as a fundamental tenet of reason, that I may be mistaken about any substantive position, that evidence and reason must be given primacy over what I think I know, that I must submit to a discipline that goes beyond simply rationalizing my current certainties and be willing to let go of some and gravitate to others as reason and evidence dictate. The most urgent of all political projects is advocacy of that procedural commitment, that shared humility and shared commitment to reason.

Believe what you will, but believe it with the recognition that we exist in a world of conflicting views that are not neatly divided into those that are absolutely and infallibly correct (the ones oneself holds) and those that are absolutely and invariably wrong (the ones that others hold). The more people who take THAT step, the better off we will be.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me” ~Dave Barry >> reminds me of Steve.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, “general and few” is a vague phrase. How about “we ought to do the analysis, mobilizing all of the tools and information and reason at our disposal, to determine how much and in what ways to utilize government to optimal advantage, and minimal harm”? Real governance, real policy determinations, are information intensive endeavors, involving huge amounts of phenomena to be taken into account, and require an attention to details.

For instance, markets are easily gamed, at extraordinary and sometimes catastrophic public expense, by central players with unique access to sophisticated information, unless the public implements mechanisms to police those markets and prevent that gaming of them. That is a necessary government function in modern capitalist economies, the failure of which to perform is heavily implicated in every major economic crisis of the last century. But that demand is not captured by an absolute ideological commitment to “less” government.

Buddy complains that I misinterpret when I argue as if you are advocating for no government, but I do not misinterpret; rather, I follow the logical implications of your position. Unless you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you are implicitly arguing for no government. And if you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you need to recognize that we are faced with the challenge of determining what precisely that balance should entail.

The argument that that has already been determined by the Constitution is both false and a mere appeal to authority rather than an argument on point. It’s false, because, for instance, Art I, Section 8, clause 1 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to tax and spend in the general welfare. It is up to us to elect members of Congress who do that in ways with which we agree, which means that the Constitution ultimately does not tell us what balance is to be struck between governmental functions and their absence. It’s an appeal to authority because the Constitution, while a brilliant document, is not infallible, and we are still responsible for governing ourselves, and considering when and how we might best serve that function by amending the Constitution when appropriate.

And, thank you once again, Buddy, for your valuable literary criicism. I consider this a debate about our self-governance, but if you feel the need to try to talk about something else, I understand completely.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, let’s suspend the urgent issue of who and what we are or aren’t as individuals, and focus instead on the topics of debate. Respond to my advocacy that we all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, recognizing our own fallibility, and acknowledging the irrationality of assuming that everything we believe is, since we believe it, the one absolute truth, while everything our opponents believe, since we do not believe it, is absolutely wrong. I would be happy for every other argument I’ve made to be disregarded, if this one compelling point be addressed.

Don’t you think we would serve ourselves better by saying, “okay, you have your position, and we have ours. Let’s back up here a second, look for merit in the opposing view, acknowledge that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, and work together as reasonable people of goodwill to arrive at common understandings and civil compromises as we engage in this difficult task of self-governance”? Or do you think that a mere war of conflicting fanaticisms is the height of wisdom and responsibility?

Buddy Shipley: What Lawrence said! Steve: re-read each one of those quotes and try to grasp at least a fragment of their author’s insight. For all your attempts at intellectualizing political ideologies you utterly fail to acknowledge the wisdom of the …ages stated so eloquently by the people who made that history. Instead of learning from the best of them you advocate expanding the worst of them! Above, Steve stated, “The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state…” blah blah blah — BULLSHIT. He implies the state is our ONLY vehicle of “collective action.” WRONG! Our ‘state’ was established with the express purpose of protecting our Rights to Life, Liberty and Property, to set free each individual to pursue their own happiness, their own dreams, to allow each to live his life as he pleases — WITHOUT government intervention and impediments to those pursuits. To these ends our ‘state’ — the federal government — was granted LIMITED powers to exercise LIMITED authority over a very finite set of issues, all primarily concerned with protecting the aforementioned individual Rights. In this country the state is NOT all-powerful, its scope of power was purposely restricted to avoid the bloodshed, destruction and ultimate collapse of governments past. To be clear, the majority of power was specifically granted to the individual States and to the individuals in each State, NOT to the central government, as Steve seems to believe. Steve seems to be denying the right or ability of people to freely assemble and create organizations such as churches, clubs, companies, volunteer groups, non-profits, etc to take collective action that benefits them and others. As I’ve said before: Government is NOT a charity, and spending other people’s money is NOT philanthropy! Government mandated “contributions” are tantamount to theft; taken from each according to his ability, redistributed to each according to his need — as determined by government bureaucrats. Karl Marx would be proud! If you want to pursue any certain “social agenda,” I suggest you start your own charity for that express purpose. Do not assume it is any part of the role of government, or that your social agenda is the same as mine. The rights of the individual extend only until they infringe on the rights of others; your pursuits cannot impede, impair or steal from those of others. “What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.” (AKA: Theft). Moochers, looters, thugs and parasites, otherwise known as Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats and labor unions, have no problem with that. The rest of us object.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy” -Guiliiani- 9-3-08 (Busting the vague slogans of the Left)

Steve Harvey: Once again, are you willing to agree that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world, or do you insist that there is only one absolute truth, and it is the …one that you hold to be true? Are you more committed to perpetuating our world history of endless religious and ideological wars, or are you more committed to seeking the common ground of proven procedures and disciplines?

Steve Harvey: What marks real progress is a growing commitment to such procedural discipline. The growth of scientific methodology revolutionized our understanding of nature, vastly increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in our contemplations of the phenomena that encompass and comprise us. The Constitution is a document establishing a procedural framework, the rule of law, through which we can settle our political and legal disputes in an orderly and rational way. Legal procedure has developed from “trials by ordeal” to a highly rational (if still imperfect) process, by which arguments are made and conclusions and resoutions arrived at.

Our political system is a procedure for deciding among relatively arbitrary ideological positions, but we can improve on that by all committing to procedures which make those competing positions less arbitrary, and narrow the contest more to those positions which fall within the parameters suggested by evidence and reason. Strings of bumper-sticker slogans do not define such a process; empirical, logical, analytical argumentation does.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, I agree, we should not govern ourselves with slogans. So “busting the vague slogans of the left” with a pithy slogan from the right is not a solution to that deficiency, but rather a continued participation in it. We need governance not by competing bumper-sticker wisdom, by by competing arguments. That’s what I advocate.

Lawrence Depenbusch: In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty. ~Proverbs 14:23

Steve Harvey: More slogans. Do we agree, or don’t we, that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, humble enough to know that what we think we know may in any given instance be mistaken, and that the views of those who oppose us may in any given isntance be correct, and that we need to allow a vibrant public discourse, as disciplined by reason and evidence as possible, to sort that out? Do we agree, or don’t we?

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”A witty saying proves nothing.” ~Voltaire – and I say bye

Steve Harvey: I’ve asked this simple question repeatedly now, here and on other threads. I’ve received before flat out rejections of the notion (because, as Buddy once said, “liberals are neither reasonable nor have goodwill, so fuck you!”). This is what… defines the real divide, with dogmatists from across the political spectrum on one side, and people trying to engage in rational thought and discourse on the other. Which side do you want to be on in that struggle?

Steve Harvey: So, are we to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can, with some modicum of humility, or are we Crusaders and Jihadists, Belsheviks and Tribalists, knowing that our own One Absolute Truth is the only Absolute Truth, and that …all who disagree with us are simply wrong, because they disagree with us? What’s it to be, the battle of Organized Ignorance against Reason and Goodwill, or an agreement to all strive to contain our disagreements within the parameters of reason and goodwill?

Steve Harvey: So, Lawrence, your fortress against Reason and Goodwill is impenetrable after all. What a surprise!

Steve Harvey: Funny, Lawrence, that after relying solely on a long string of witty sayings, you end with the witty saying that a witty saying proves nothing, in an argument against someone not relying on witty sayings at all, but rather complete empirical arguments. It’s disappointing that I’m the only one here who can appreciate the irony.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Steve thinks using more vague terms in longer sentences brings more clarity? Steve thinks only his witty sayings prove anything? Self-Love 101

Steve Harvey: Once again, Lawrence, I ask you: Do you want to strive to be a reasonable person of goodwill, engaged in a debate encouraging other people to strive to be the same, or do you want to insist that the purpose of this debate is to prove what a… terrible person I am? What matters more: Who and what I am, or the issues we are discussing? What is more on-point, and what better serves our public discourse, focusing on me, who you don’t like, or arguing on the debate we are having, in which two citizens of this country are presenting conflicting positions and hopefully both growing as a result?

Buddy Shipley: Reality Check: From the outset our governments were small, their duties few, their powers fewer, and they imposed a very small tax burden on the People. All of this is no longer true, and witness the result of runaway government: Deficit spending $1.42 for every ONE DOLLAR of tax collected! Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 TRILLION! … JUST THIS YEAR ALONE — next year it will be higher. National Debt is now over $14.3 Trillion dollars! … That’s over 91% of GDP, which is NO ONE claims is sustainable. … The entire U.S. GDP is $14.6 Trillion, with no growth in sight. Service on the National Debt is $400 BILLION — EVERY YEAR! Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats want to Borrow, Tax and Spend even more. Living within ones’ means is not “raging blind ideology” — it is only reasonable, prudent, wise and the fiscally responsible thing to do. To insist on doing otherwise is reckless and criminal, which sums up everything advocated by Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats

Steve Harvey: Here’s my theory: This debate, and all like it, quickly become very personal, and as far removed from the substance of the debate as possible, because that is the only way to insulate your ideology from any information that challenges it. You simply ignore the FACT that all prosperous modern nations have the political economic structure (a large administrative apparatus) that you are condemning as unworkable.

You simply ignore the well-argued position that your ideology is a direct descendent of the ideology that has been on the morally, economically, and politically losing side of our national history since its inception, first championing The Articles of Confederation against The Constitution, then championing secession against the abolition of slavery, then championing Jim Crow over Civil Rights, and now championing a hamstrung government prevented from being used as our public agent to address the challenges which continue to face us as a people.

You ignore the economic arguments that you find inconvenient (while I do not; I grapple with them in order to continue to refine and challenge my own positions), the center of gravity of the entire discipline of economics (which is dominated by analyses which do not jive well with your ideology), and the realities of such things as “transaction costs,” which imply a larger role for government than you acknowledge (as demonstrated by 2009 Economic Nobel Prize winners Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom, in their separate analyses on the role of extra-market institutional forms in the maximization of market efficiency).

You ignore the actual Constitution, which enumerates Congress’s power to tax and spend in the General Welfare, while errneously insisting that the Constitution unambiguously and unequivocally supports every article of faith you hold to be true. In fact, “ignoring” seems to be the basis of how you preserve and defend your position, engaging in the verb whose noun best describes your ideology and your attitude.

Buddy Shipley: NO Steve! Your premise is wrong from the start!

Steve Harvey: Reality check: No one is arguing against the need to address our balance sheet. Meeting that challenge, every reasonable person knows, requires both a decrease in spending and an increase in revenues. There are blind ideolgues on the left who resist the former, and blind ideologues on the right who resist the latter. Reasonable people seek real solutions.

As an economic matter, it is a non-linear proposition, so that some of the best solutions are counterintuitive: There are ways in which current investment is the best way to reduce future debt, and an economically and fiscally intelligent policy is not the one that uses your sledge-hammer understanding of the challenges involved. Furthermore, our debt has consistently grown more rapidly under Republican than Democratic administrations over the course of the last 30 years, with only the exception of Obama’s response to an economic crisis catalyzed by right-wing deregulationary fervor and a commitment to siphoning wealth upward into ever fewer hands.

Steve Harvey: But let’s get back to the real question: Regardless of which of us is right or wrong on these substantive issues, can we all agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, exercising enough humility to acknowledge that any of us may be right or wrong on any given issue, and that we should try to build that recognition into our discourse and into our political process?

Buddy Shipley: You assume that because we condemn what the states have become that we are also condemning what they once were, but we don’t!

Buddy Shipley: I do not have time to prattle back and forth with you — some of us have to go earn a living/

Buddy Shipley: But Steve! LIBERALS never admit losing an argument, when they sense they are losing on any given point they just change the topic to a straw man or red herring and declare victory!

Steve Harvey: So, Buddy, you can’t admit to the possibility that you might be wrong about anything? I will: I might be wrong, on any position that I have argued. I hold every substantive position tentatively, submitting it to the continued lathe of evide…nce and reason. Can you meet me there, agreeing that none of us is omniscient, that our conflicting positions require an ability to recognize that no one of us or one faction of us has a monopoly on all truth? Why are you so resistent to this notion?

Buddy Shipley: Of course I can! Why just the other day I thought I was wrong, but then I realized I was mistaken.

Steve Harvey: First of all, I’m only “losing” this argument in the minds of people too deluded to acknowledge any of the evidence or argumentation that has been put into play. Secondly, arguing against ideological dogmatism and inflexible false certainty is not “a red herring,” but the most essential of all issues on the table. It forever astounds me that your entire ideological camp so consistently tap dances around the obvious: You represent (along with some counterparts on the Left) the historical norm of blind ideology and religious fanaticism. That is the core truth that you are so thoroughly insulated against that you can’t answer the question: Will you commit to striving to be reasonable people of goodwill engaged in a public discourse in which we have yet to determine where absolute truth lies?

You can’t make that pledge, just as Christian Fundamentalists, and Islamic Fundamentalists, and Bolsheviks, and Nazis, and Khmer Rouge, and all other militant fanatical ideologues throughout history are unable to make it. Because you represent and fight for the opposite of reason and goodwill.

Buddy Shipley: We are witnessing the collapse of socialist economies all over Europe, and the unelected powers-that-be expect the remaining Eurozone countries to save the others. This, too, is unsustainable. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The trouble with So…cialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But Liberals/Progressives never learn from these mistakes, they just change their label and argue a different issue, and keep repeating the same failed behavior expecting different results. They are insane. And some of us must work… fin

Steve Harvey: You see? You have repeated a falsehood that I pointed out in one of our recent discussions, to shore up a position that is not supported by the evidence. We are NOT witnessing the collapse of “socialist” economies all over Europe. The German economy, which is far more socialist than ours, has outperformed ours for decades, was less affected by the recent economic crisis than ours, recovered from that crisis sooner, and is not facing any of the credit issues that Greece and Ireland and some others are.

What we learn from those countries that are in crisis is that what they specifically did must be avoided, not that all members of some overbroad category in which you place them is discredited by their failures. Again, meat eaters and mammals; not the same thing.

Buddy Shipley: Only seems wrong to Marxist polyps like you, Steve.

Buddy Shipley: Ask Big Government Spenders, How much government is enough? Or better yet, how much can we afford? Clearly we cannot afford the bloated over-reaching behemoth we now have. Clearly this is not what the framers intended, else they would have… created most of it at the outset. And WHY do those who favor big government and bigger spending steadfastly REFUSE to acknowledge their failures, and why do they insanely insist on repeating the same behavior expecting different results? Environmental Protection Agency: $10.5 Billion The EPA may have served a positive role when first established, but no more. It’s become an apparatchik of the Marxists in DC and it continues to grow like a metastatic cancer. The EPA and the Dept of Energy, along with the current administration, are a clear and present danger to our nations. SHUT THESE SOBs DOWN IMMEDIATELY. Energy Department: $26 Billion The U.S. Dept of Energy has utterly completely failed to attain its 1977 prime directive of U.S. energy independence and should have been terminated decades ago. Instead of euthanizing this diseased sow, DoE’s budget has grown to more than $26 BILLION this year. Instead of pursuing their mission, the fools at DoE are pursuing investigations and filing lawsuits against American businesses! PULL THE PLUG ALREADY! Education Department: $71 Billion, plus ARRA: $23 Billion (and more?) The U.S. Dept of Education is an insatiable and dismal failure. Throwing more money down this rat hole will not do anything to improve education; gutting this bloated pig and returning those tax revenues to the states will keep more money closer to the students where it belongs. There is NO justification whatsoever for a federal Department of Edumacation, Constitutionally or otherwise, and again it is a malignant out of control bureaucracy that defeats its own reason for existing. Fannie/Freddie Bailout cost taxpayers $7 Billion per month (Already totaling $1 Trillion ~ $1.4 Trillion) Their liabilities alone could increase the national debt by $7 Trillion. The GSEs, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac must be shut down and everyone involved investigated and the corrupt indicted and imprisoned, along with the politicians guilty of passing legislation such as the CRA and compelling banks to make bad loans to unqualified borrowers (ie, “sub-prime” borrowers). Instead of blaming lenders for making risky loans resulting in the mortgage meltdown, blame the politicians that compelled them to make such loans; one of those misguided pieces of legislation is euphemistically called the “Community Reinvestment Act” (CRA), starting with Public Enemy #1: Barney Frank and gang. ALL of these government departments and agencies have FAILED HORRIBLY and have been contributing to the demise of our country for decades! WHY keep raping taxpayers to fund them?? Then there’s the oppressive and abusive IRS that enforces the raping… Internal Revenue Service: $13 Billion Eliminate the IRS and save $13 Billion immediately*! Americans spend over 6 Billion hours and billions of dollars yearly struggling to comply with the tax code. If we eliminated the U.S. Tax Code or at least simplified it and made it less onerous we could eliminate the IRS, immediately saving taxpayers $13 Billion, plus do away with the costs shouldered by individuals, families and businesses to pay for tax accountants and lawyers, which are totally unproductive and a waste of everyone’s resources. It would also reduce (or eliminate) tax evasion thereby increasing revenues as it increases peace of mind and insures domestic tranquility… Tax forms could be reduced to a 3″x5″ card and tax collections could be outsourced to several Temp Services – or maybe even the US Postal Service (they need the work!). *The IRS Oversight Board recommended $12.914 billion for 2011, an increase of $767.7 Million over the FY2010 budget of $12.146 Billion. This recommendation is $280.6 Million above the President’s FY2011 request of $12.633 Billion for the IRS. The Board’s recommended budget is 2.2 percent higher than the President’s request. I think these numbers are modest, and by no means do these few items address ALL the government’s insanely expensive, reckless and feckless failures. Not even the proposed $500 Billion in federal budget cuts will solve our fiscal problems, yet Democrats laugh and scoff at the mere suggestion of it – these bastards must be held accountable, indicted, impeached, dragged out of their offices in cuffs, publicly tried, convicted and imprisoned or better yet, sent to Gitmo for use as waterboard practice dummies.

Steve Harvey: It’s mind-boggling the extent to which you carefully avoid making any actual argument, or getting paste the absolute equation of “government engagement” and “socialism.” as if there are no degrees or differentiations to be found within everything you are able to stuff into that word you depend so completely upon.

Garrett Whitehorn: All of you, please! Ad hominem attacks have no place in a battle of reason! If this was in response to a status of mine, I’d have deleted a lot of these comments for that very reason. I’m especially disappointed in you libertarians/conservatives​ … you’re supposed to be better than that.

Steve Harvey: You know, Buddy, in reality, I’m exactly as opposed to Marxism as I am to your ideology, for exactly the same reasons: It is logically and empircally and politically and economically untenable. I am strong believer in the robustness of mark…ets, and in the dangers of not recognizing the salience of individual incentives or the importance of emphasizing personal responsibility. But you are so lost in oversimplifications and overgeneralizations and mischaracterizations, unable to distinguish between green and orange because both have a bit of yellow in them, that such distinctions are defined out of existence, and the ideology built on that contraction reflects the loss.

Steve Harvey: Here’s something I just wrote to a friend, joking with me about how I am “WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG” (to which I replied, “you forgot to call me ‘asshole’!”), which bears repeating: “here’s some irony for you: I actually assume that I AM w…rong, to some degree or another, on almost every substantive position I hold, because the truth is almost always subtler than our representations of it. To me, this more than anything else is the distinguishing characteristic in the debate you are referring to, and others like it.”

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