BLIND SPOT POLITICS

a contemplative approach to politics

Archive for June, 2012

#Healthcare: the triumph of subjectivity

Posted by blindspotpolitics on June 28, 2012

A few months ago I almost shit myself from laughing so hard. During one of the Republican Presidential debates, New Gingrich proposed that we start getting rid of activist judges who support liberal things like gay marriage or gun control or health care reform. Most of the men who shared the stage with him shared his sentiments. “These activist judges have got to go!” Newt demanded, with much applause and many a rebel yell from the audience.

Well, the big no-no happened. Health care, sorry, *Obamacare, is now here and firmly constitutional. And although I haven’t checked my RSS feed to see the responses of the day, mainly out of fear for how many updates I have from the Cato Institute, I bet there is a lot of jabbering about activist judges, and liberal judges, and how judges are destroying this country.

But wait.

Activist judges?

Well, the deciding vote today was John Roberts. JOHN ROBERTS: the guy who voted from unlimited corporate money in politics. John, freaking, Roberts: the George W. Bush Court appointee.

Is he an activist?

No.

Whether you agree with today’s decision or not, it revealed why placing the Supreme Court above partisanship or political loyalty is essential to our Democracy.

Many people, including those who oppose activist judges, bemoan the lack of objectivity in the current Supreme Court. They see the Justices as the judicial arms of our political parties.

Today’s decision shows that this is not always the case. Chief Justice Roberts, the supposed constitutional muscle of the Republicans, took a step towards left field.

His decision surprised a lot of people and proved that the Supreme court is not rigid nor objective. The court is necessarily dynamic and organic, fueled by the experiences of the men and women under the black robes. Their respective subjectivity makes things difficult and uncertain, the antithesis of partisan politics and party line voting to be sure, but also evolutionary, revolutionary, and contemplative.

The Court evolves as we evolve and as America evolves. Yes, sometimes too quickly, but almost always in our direction. The decision today is not the creeping of socialism or the tip toeing of Stalin or Castro, but the hurrah of independent thought.

Today, subjectivity allowed one man to rise above the political muck and finally make a thought-out judgment regarding our Constitution.

Today was a victory against the naysayers of American Democracy; those zealots, on either side of the aisle, who claim that bipartisanship is dead and that we’ll soon have to fish the constitution out of a garbage dump along with all the other crap.

History might judge Roberts for his independent choice, but at least he made one.

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Two Specimens: Corporations and Government

Posted by blindspotpolitics on June 13, 2012

I like Elizabeth Warren. She’s energetic, smart, and refreshing. I think she offers a level of academic insight and contemplation that’s often missing with other senate hopefuls. Her recent comment that has sparked some news got me a thinking. She’s smart and she clearly shows that here:

“No, Mitt, corporations are not people,” Warren said, to applause. “People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, they cry, they dance, they live and they die. Learn the difference.”

The words sound good to me. Of course corporations aren’t people; how could they be? But her phrasing also reminded me of something else: the other side of the coin, the missing link between the Tea Party patriots and those Occupy folks: Government. If the institution was a virtue, then corporations and government would be on opposite ends of Aristotle’s golden mean; the former promoted for profit, the latter for truth. In actuality, however, the comparison is far more nuanced.

Government matches Warren’s truthful critique of the corporation. Our state is not an organ; live, breath, love, it does not. Rather, government is dynamic, shifting in form from one majority party to the next, like a new face on the board of directors. Corporations and government are both institutions commanded by men, not men in and of themselves. They neither have  good nor evil other than that brought to them by the actions of subjectivity.

A democratic government can encourage its citizens to sacrifice no more than a corporation can make its employees embrace a pay cut. But, then again, what can? Well: mothers, fathers, pastors, monks, friends; people we know and love and trust; not the abstract; not a form of virtue or good intentions, as so many flickers on the walls of the cave.

All government can every do is try, while its mortality plays to the tunes of Rome. The first rule of biopolitics, as Ian Hacking smartly pointed out, is that the results never match the intentions. The federal government cannot create self-sacrifice or community by saying we need it.

The doctor was right: we are, unlike corporations and government, individuals. And yes, we have communities. And yes, those communities are constructed. But at least we construct them.

America is quickly approaching a giant fork in the road. Will she choose the road of moderation and sensibility or will she choose the road of Hayek? Ironically, the individual, not our two specimens, will determine the collective path.

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Sweden and Political Ideology

Posted by blindspotpolitics on June 10, 2012

Before the recent faltering of the European Union, the average left leaning American was inclined to use the success of the European social welfare state as an example of the fairness and economic equality America should attain. Sweden, with its supposed combination of massive taxes and livable bliss, was often the epitome of this thought.

The argument would go: They live longer! They have universal healthcare! They’re happier! They have a lower infant mortality rate! And they have it all and do it all because of higher taxes, entitlement programs, and more governmental regulation. Why is America so behind the rest of the industrialized world? Why can’t we be more like Sweden?

Besides the glaring dissimilarities between the Untied States and many European “social welfare” states, such as the homogeneous populations of most Northern and Western European countries, the new question becomes, are these states really succeeding; and if so, is it because of social welfare promoted by the state?

Sure, wouldn’t it be great if everyone had healthcare? And heck, who doesn’t want to live longer or be happier?  But is the modern social welfare model sustainable? Or does it allow one generation to live rich and equal, while sentencing another to an imminent collapse and economic devolution?

Recently, Sweden has stripped itself of many taxes and entitlement programs. In these pressing economic times, the Swedish have continued to have a strong economy by heeding more to the creed of Smith than of Keynes.

However, these successes are not necessarily a rallying point for the proponents of Austrian or supply-side economics. Relative to the United States, Sweden still has high taxes and many entitlement programs. They are moving toward deregulation and lowered taxes—but are hardly an example for the triumph of unmitigated capitalism; Sweden is cutting waste, not the desire for economic equality.

Instead, Sweden’s successes indicate that a balance between social welfarism, directed by a sense of national community, and the private sector, supported by lower taxes and increased economic freedom, can lead to good things. Essentially, in recent years, Sweden has given us a balancing act.

We have seen in Sweden, if anything, the triumph of civil society, not of government or the free market. President Clinton and the New Democrats were correct—balance social responsibility with equality of means instead of equality of outcome. Sweden reveals the resilience of mankind and communities—not of governments—during hard economic times.

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