Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hope for the Hopeful

I realize my own internal political discussion has been tumbling out here for the past several weeks. I would not argue if someone were to label my current position as cynical. I prefer to think of myself as semi-mired in a period of existential angst over the direct of the country in political terms. 

I cannot in good conscience shift this blog completely away from the political, at least without offering some lights at the end of the tunnel. Here are several sources I think would buoy up any sagging political conscience.

The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century by Carne Ross is by no means a pollyannish approach to political change but rather a blueprint for individual involvement in the system. His main point - government is an inadequate answer to the problems we face today.

We Can All Do Better by Bill Bradley. Former Senator and NBA player, Bradley itemizes the problems and suggests step-by-step how each one of us can contribute to solutions both local and national.

The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It by Timothy Noah. A truly eye-opening litany of how big and how destructive the financial inequality gap is in the U.S. Even if you think you know how bad it is, I assure you that it's much worse and much more dangerous than you believe. The "What We Can Do About It" part of the book is less than satisfying but the articulation of the scope of the inequality and where it will inevitably lead is worth the read.

Finally, one of my favorite and most thoughtful blogger friends has expressed the depth of my disenchantment with the political system far better than I have. Plus she managed to come out of the dark tunnel still engaged and hopeful. It is my own hope that you might do the same. Read her excellent piece - The Impasse and be uplifted.


michael said...

I am Canadian so feel free to ignore all comments I make about American politics, however our governments, economies and politics are completely integrated so I follow US politics much closer than I follow Canadian politics. I almost never post in any forum or comment on any posts.

In my opinion, the core of the issue is the old saying of whether you give a [person] a fish to feed them for a day, or teach a [person] to fish and feed them for their life. There are people that have (much) less than others. Does that mean you organize the government to give them more, or do you try to set up the system to make sure people have opportunities and paths to success?

You cannot equalize opportunity - that is an unobtainable buzz-phrase - "equalization of opportunity". The children of Bill O'Reilly or Tom Brokaw don't have the same opportunities of the children of Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio - children of any of the four can do almost anything they want, but their parents different contacts and circles of influence will have different impacts on their career choices. Opportunity equalization for the children of celebrities isn't something that anyone is interested in fighting about, but it does show that you will never have absolute equality of opportunity at any level. It is impossible at the highest and lowest fringes of the economy the same as it is in the middle of the economy. You cannot "equalize" opportunity, the goal should just be to make opportunities available to as many people as possible.

All that can be done is to reduce the barriers for new people or companies to get into markets and occupations. This means offering training and training assistance and small business assistance and tax breaks. Those are the only things the government can effectively assist with. Income transfer schemes are both destined for failure and offensive to people who have worked for their success. Simply "giving" money to companies (Solyndra) or individuals through income transfer policies will rarely succeed in any meaningful way.

Is there too much money influencing elections? Absolutely. Will anyone have success pretending that this is primarily on the Republican side of the aisle? Absolutely not. People fighting against the effect of money in politics would get a LOT more traction if George Soros and were part of their complaints. It seems that whenever money in politics makes the mainstream media all that is discussed is funding of "right wing" causes and candidates. The hypocrisy is palpable.

These were just a couple of things that came to mind, there is plenty more to talk about and I appreciate the discussion.


The Shrink said...

I would not think to ignore such well reasoned and thoughtful commentary; would that all of my readers so moved would make such arguments here.