Wednesday, March 03, 2010

J Signs on to Captain Plaid's Manifesto

J-fave Captain Plaid has briefly returned from his hiatus to lay out why he is (and what is) a "propservralist".

I pretty much sign on to his points without comment; I'm sure I could find things to disagree with, with world enough and time, but his points, on the whole, I find near divine. So why bother? I spend enough of my time disagreeing with things as it is.

He's threatened to take it down, so barring a cease and desist from the ornery Scot himself, here is the pertinent post:

So here’s my first post in what seems like forever. I'd like to think I can do decent work as evidenced by other posts but this one is long, scattered about, likely full of spelling and grammar errors, hardly clear, etc. Still, for the time being, it will have to suffice. I might remove, or even amend, so grab it if you want to keep it and of course please do feel free to offer comments here or via facebook/johngunn or twitter/juntogunto or email at johnralphgunn@gmail.com or …

I've used "propservralist" at times to describe how I’m politically geared. Although it is a work on progress, which should be very much refined, I offer the following as a stream of consciousness summary:

I'm proudly PRogressive and find the idea of taking on problems via legislation and regulation a most rational response.

o I like the idea of letting technocrats and experts nail down ideas yet for the average voter this policy wonk gearing isn't very attractive. Frankly, the US has a very anti-intellectual tradition and some have learned to use this to their advantage. Public policy, the common good, planning, regulation … has been demonized all too much in this last four or so decades. I believe information must be made available to the populace and yet also can accept that “leaders” may at times be required to make decisions the masses may resent.

o I favor a Progressive tax system where taxes are minimal on the least among us and shift gradually upward so that percentage paid increases on the margins above a certain level. I don’t want to go back to 90% marginal rates yet I don’t see that much difference between say 33% to upwards of 40 or even 50%. If you don’t understand what “marginal” means in the above please do a little digging or ask someone to explain.

o I also don’t see why we should allow many multi-nationals and the most affluent to often avoid taxes via offshoring, accounting gimmicks, and the like. I highly recommend David Cay Johnston’s “Free Lunch” and “Perfectly Legal” to see how some game our systems. We can use tax policy to accomplish goals, reward, incentivize … but let’s demand accountability for results and use a “claw back” if and when goals aren’t met.

o Sunshine, open meetings, transparency … are must haves. I can distrust big gov’t as much as Big Biz. The worst of any arrangement is Crony Capitalism.

o I want whistleblowers protected and even rewarded.

o I believe information must be made available to the populace and yet also can see when the grownups must make the decisions for the masses.

o I expect some apathy comes from inadequate education, perceived powerlessness, unsatisfactory alternatives to getting involved, insufficient information, the costs of gaining more knowledge (I’m a big fan of Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy” ideas), and simply an unjust status quo.

o I’m very much in favor of government subsidies to be provided to journalists doing public service, fourth-estate, type work. Without a well-informed citizenry that a vigorous press provides democracy won’t work. The current model is folding and the consequences can’t be denied. Watchdogs must be fed. In fact, the care and feeding of young folks and even the more seasoned doing work that can’t be measured by the bottom line of business is something we could do a much better job at as a society.

o Government exists to provide individuals and their families and communities with a chance to live their own lives in dignity. It can also allow them to form relationships with others free from the hand of powerful public and private forces.

I am pOPulist in that I can't help but think bottom up.

o I believe the common man must always confront the powerful interests which often do in fact hold him down.

o You don’t ask for power but rather you take it.

o I worry that the “tea party” types are stealing our mojo here. Some groups tap into fear and frustration easily but the Left left that approach decades ago. The Conservatives (“Cons” hereafter) have learned to reach our lizard brains where the ancient limbic parts respond to threats, emotions, etc. all too well.

o The recent months have seen a revival of “producerism” that worries me however. While some poor are sorry and hardly do their part, I’d argue most do. Working with the poor can be incredibly frustrating yet we’ve hardly invested enough in social work and related fields since the so called “War on Poverty” back during the 60s. We couldn’t have “guns and butter” LBJ. I’ve read persuasive pieces that it was a false war and a drop in the bucket to transform generational poverty.

o I am convinced being a scrapper is necessary in politics, perhaps especially in the South. I like the label “economic elite” as frankly many have obtained the point where they can buy media, PR, marketing, and the like.

o "Fascism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, persecution of unpopular minorities, exaltation of the mediocre and romantic exaggeration of the wisdom and virtue of the masses" are all possible outcomes of populism. Suspicion of elites has a long history here.

o The idea of broader economic growth doesn’t I’d argue make me a Communist.

o A focus on individual civil liberties, private property, popular sovereignty and democratic republican government is what nearly every populism effort has been built off of.

o Labor can work with biz. Free enterprise on steroids, namely neo-liberalism, however is often just a race to the bottom.

o Today's laissez faire is not as Adam Smith envisioned. I’ve been reading some Smith lately and he’d howl at how many of his ideas have been bastardized.

o Popular culture and popular will have a role to play in this process, but only after sufficient education and only after their more passionate elements have been diverted and diffused. Popular anger and uneducated public sentiments are more likely to lead to hasty and irrational judgments. The conflict of elitism in Progressivism and the popular will in Populism is certain.

o I believe it’s generally a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. The way the modern Cons have privatized pretty much everything, the opportunity to profit from making war is hardly just for those selling weaponry. When Eisenhower left office, he warned us of a Military-Industrial Complex but many don’t know an earlier draft also had Intelligence as part of the mix.

I am conSERVative in the sense that I tend to be cautious and greatly respect traditions. Please note some of the following is placed here simply because many of the Cons have managed to make people think these are “Conservative” ideas.

o I can be a bit of an Agrarian at times. Jeffersonian ideas remain rather attractive to me and simplicity from being near the land is likely how I’d like to wind up my days. Hope springs eternal at least.

o I personally find caring for our environment very much a conservative trait.

o Many of the Conservatives I knew long ago wouldn’t recognize today's movement conservatism types. Many of them were more Libertarian geared and I just don’t think they’d fall for the likes of those occupying positions of power in today’s GOP. Then again, the powers that be in the Democratic Party would be run out of town on a rail by many silenced or ignored hippies like yours truly.

o And while I am attracted to Libertarianism personally, I don’t think it will work that well for such an interdependent world. If you want to go Galt, truly it’s possible. Go right ahead. I bet most would make it less than a year in the Gulch. Just don’t take the balance of the world with you involuntarily as you go off into Randian fantasy land please.

o Neighbors, small businesses, local focus and control, …, if they are Conservative valued ideas, which I’m not certain they are, are certainly fine by me.

o As late as the Nixon administration, the provision of public goods by government was considered perfectly compatible with a market economy. Since then, free-market fundamentalists have largely changed and mastered the debate.

I am libeRAL as I believe humanity can advance.

o Our civil liberties must be protected. No exceptions!

o I believe in the power of law. She’s not perfect and I’ve seen injustices, often related to power and poverty frankly. I’m very concerned with the burrowed in Federalist Society sorts on benches across this land. Our Alabama Supreme Court is largely bought and paid for by the Business Council of Alabama and other Big Mules like Alfa. The Court of Criminal Appeals used to be rather hostile to defense lawyers and I know for a fact they dodged a serious question I once raised in a brief.

o Lockean libertarians who recognize the need for social insurance and regulation were once celebrated yet are now having rocks thrown at them.

o I favor same-sex marriages or at least civil unions. Discrimination can hardly be tolerated as to a person’s sexual orientation.

o I had a person once tell me liberals believe people are inherently good. I'm not sure I buy that yet I do think many are. On some of the laggards, ignorant, … I occasionally think of how I used to work with critters by making it easy for them to do the right thing. Policies to prod, channel, and the like are OK for me but then again just help and a hug work on the face to face work I try to do. I know for a fact I helped some kids I taught or have known and likely could have done more if carrying a fair work load and able to really teach and represent.

o Education is an investment. We ought to be proud to spend money for our future generations.

o Clinton’s welfare “reform” sounded perhaps good on paper and was a winner politically yet only a booming economy avoided a train wreck. The costs of having those babies being taken from their mothers so she could do some type of “make work” is hard to measure but I bet there were and are costs.

I'm a pragmatIST in just getting stuff done.

o I can accept the projection of military power can be persuasive and useful in many, many areas yet hardly think we need the footprint we currently have. We can’t afford it. It’s not our job alone. Finally, our national interests do not justify invading or even threatening a sovereign country absent some rather certain and serious threats. Hegemony sends the wrong signals to many in the world.

o Weapons manufacturers and profiteers love war so we’ve a duty to be cautious with our treasure but certainly blood.

o I certainly think alliances, cooperation, treaties, diplomacy, intelligence, etc. aren’t incompatible with national security.

o The religious right annoys the hell out of me. Their abstinence only sex education” is just one disaster. Kids can have their parents opt them out but let’s let the average kid hear the whole story please.

o For someone to impose their morality into another’s personal life is just wrong.

o I have a healthy skepticism of government and authority.

o I worry about climate change and think the science sound. Even if not, what do “we” really have to lose to shift away from a carbon based economy sooner rather than later?

o I think reflexively anti-government libertarianism yield a lack of investment in badly-needed public capital (schools, infrastructure, etc.) and vulnerable to Big Biz. We can’t run a country, state, city “on the cheap” but can certainly demand smart spending with limited waste.

I also like stirring stuff up, bitching, confronting conventional wisdom, challenging authority, reading, studying, pondering, etc. I am perfectly prepared to change my mind. I hope I am not an ideologue. My ideal politicians are those like Russ Feingold and Chuck Hagel. I like Anthony Weiner, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, etc. I do not support term limits. More to follow but I’m done for now. Except for this quote:

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” - Abraham Kuyper

Peace, John

I found a "copy and paste" portion that I can't track down now. I blended some old stuff and apparently let something slip by. I'll tweak as I have time.


--Captain Plaid: Progressivism meets an Ornery Scot