Friday, October 13, 2006

What it means to be a Jacksonian

This is a personal outlook piece by the founder of The Jacksonian Party.

Quite some number of people have been putting down their responses on conservatism and other political outlooks in response to the What it means to be a liberal piece done at the Chicago Tribune. Unlike others I will not be tearing into their work but using it as a framework to look at Jacksonian concepts as I see them. And because Jacksonianism with a large "J" is very much individualist centered, these will reflect that conception from my own, purely personal, viewpoint. I cannot and do not push the actual foundational conceptions on *anyone*, but try to demonstrate how they can lead to valid alternatives that are neither 'liberal' nor 'conservative' unless you go back to the more 19th century reading of those terms.

1) Individuals should make up their own minds on everything within the framework of their own, personal beliefs and that of the greater society they are a part of and support. Jacksonians, thusly, do not push beliefs or faith on *anyone*, but try to ensure that honorable representation of themselves and their understanding of others is done. As part of that, Jacksonians do not believe that fighting is the 'first resort' to any conflict, but it is also not the LAST resort, either. Crossing individuals or Nations should have consequences and those need to be understood before taking action. Thus, to fully get understanding of viewpoints done, Jacksonians view censorship, 'hate speech', 'political correctness' and any other attempts to quash ideas or language as anathema to them. Sometimes only rough language can properly express a person's feelings and that should not be delegitimized from the very start. And when a Jacksonian sees that the person they are talking to is unreasonable or will not listen, then they often just reciprocate and 'agree to disagree' without being disagreeable. Personal slurs need to either be fully backed up, or apologized for when spoken. If they are a personal 'feeling' an individual may state them as such to recognize that there is NO backing to them. If such attacks continue, then response can be expected, which is usually done legally today, and in pre-20th century times via the duel.

2) Jacksonians are very much 'live and let live' individuals. This means that so long as no harm is done and no laws broken, individuals should be free to practice what they want, imbibe what they want and act as they please. When taken with the first point, this also means that an individual should learn the effects of what they ingest, how it alters them and fully understand their own, personal response to such things. Personal freedom and full civil rights for all Citizens of the Union and those properly protected as part of the Constitution are seen as full social Guarantees. The Constitution does not need to give 'extra rights' to individuals and the only social and grave import that need changing since the founding was slavery, in which it was made a due process punishment so as not to indict wide portions of the population with that social ill. Equal rights are a due process guarantee via the Constitution and what is not given to the Federal Government by the States and the People is RETAINED by the States and the People. The Federal Government is seen as the very LAST thing you want to go to so as to ensure your individual rights which START with the individual.

3) Jacksonians believe that individuals are responsible for their speech in debates and the public forum as seen in point 1. This also means that debate is to be kept non-defamatory and should impugn no individual wrongly by giving them a 'label' and then ascribing things to that label which an individual may or may not adhere to. Jacksonians do *not* see label adherence as something that would be referred to in computer languages as strong-type bonding: a label is *not* the full valuation of an individual, but only a weakly associated thing that should be cast off as viewpoints and outlooks change. Labels should only be applied to things known as *actions* as they are then fully applicable. A series of actions may then be seen as a broader type and associated with that type weakly unless that type is proven out and then it gains strong type adherance for that individual. Putting large category labels on others due to mere speech is reprehensible, anti-individualistic and, in the end, destructive to personal liberty and the depth of social intercourse necessary to run society. Jacksonians believe that the heart of representative democracy is responsible voting by the individual. Jacksonians also believe that the most accountable government is the BEST government, and thus, push for the highest number of representatives duly elected for the People and by the People. Over time this leads to difficulties found common with the People: learning to network between representatives so as to support common causes and needs as they see them. These social contact networks are also weak-type networks that change due to personal outlook and viewpoint and an individual is a part of MANY networks to reflect their diverse opinions on matters. Any attempt to sinecure parties and personal affiliations by rigging non-geographically compact districts and attempting to make 'safe' seats for mere political parties is anathema to Jacksonians as representatives should REPRESENT all the People, not just those that adhere to a political party. Diverse government is *good* government as it is self-limiting. When limits are put on representation, government then calcifies into set pathways that are neither welcome nor good for the overall health of representative democracy.

4) Jacksonians adhere with strong typing to the Constitution of the United States. Further, as that typing goes, the actual Preamble is highly meaningful for Jacksonians as it sets out the responsibilities that ALL that fall under the Constitution MUST adhere to. Jacksonians see the Nation as an honorable construct amongst Free People and the Nations Honor is seen as one's own and a precious thing to hold and uphold. As part of those responsibilities, all individuals have the widest possible swath of rights which they retain and then lend a few of them to Government to get larger and socially necessary things *done*. As with the rest of the Constitution, Jacksonians understand the framework to be: responsibilities first, methodology second, and rights third and last. Rights are to uphold the responsibilities given to individuals as part of the larger social agreement to have an honorable Nation between them. And to exercise those rights the best form of Government is seen as LOCAL and SMALL government as that is the most accountable to individuals. National government is given very few things to do to safeguard and backstop the entire Nation from invasion and to ensure that laws are justly administered. The States may have many differences in outlook and law, but there needs to be some overall 'regularity' to them and only National government can help that out on the issues it is given to oversee. Outside of those few issues, the States and the People may do as they see fit, keeping in mind the social compact and personal outlooks they hold and that individuals should be free to lead their own lives so long as they live within those guidelines. Anything that attempts to put a 'social good' upon the people via law is seen as unnecessary: if it is a good thing to do it will not NEED a law to be followed, and if it needs a law, then it must be so widely disregarded as a social good that it is a law 'in name only' and unenforceable. Jacksonians abhor the 'Nannystate' and the concept of 'doing it for your own good' moralizing of issues.

5) Jacksonians believe that all rights, save those few lent to government, are retained by the People as individuals. Jacksonians believe in full 'due process' to ensure rights are properly upheld and retained. Jacksonians also have this notion that equal representation in the courts should be equally funded so that NO ONE may gain advantage via high pay for privilege for good counsel. Thus, when the State brings legal proceedings against indigent individuals, the disproportionate weight of able legal presentation is given to the State and only the least means given to the individual. In such cases the State should ALSO need to find a 'pro-bono' attorney to present the State's case, which may have much time and funding behind it, but will start of equally in capability of representation before the law. This also goes for high profile civil cases and the need for equality of legal counsel should *not* lead to disproportionate results due to financial ability to gain excellent counsel to tie up the legal system. Further, Jacksonians view the idea that laws should be divided into an 'intent' or lawful intention statement that is the viewpoint of any law, and a 'content' portion which is the more legalistic enaction of the 'intent'. Via a system of 'intent' and 'content' a law may have legal intentions and that 'intent' upheld, but legalistic 'content' struck as not respecting the rights of the People or the laws which they must be part of. Thus, laws that would have meaningful intent would still be abided by until proper content to enact them can be made. Only improper intent would allow a law to be stricken immediately from the books. With this, Citizens who abided by the 'intent' of a law could gain legal recourse and NOT suffer petty prosecution so long as demonstration of following that 'intent' is done. Via these methods the responsibilities of the People would be justly stated and well understood, equality of counsel gained and the widest possible leeway given for minor violations of 'content' or 'rules' but the highest possible adherence to the overall 'intent' or outlook of laws. Jacksonians have major problems with the legal system as it stands today.

6) Jacksonians see that the Government has very few responsibilities laid out to it and that handing *anything* up to higher in government guarantees loss of responsibilities for the People as individuals and the Rights that are attendant with those responsibilities to ensure that these things are done properly. To the neediest and poorest government should offer a temporary hand 'up' via finding meaningful jobs and minimal help while transitioning those individuals to private sector or publicly financed, non-governmental jobs. Working is a key to liberty, and self-fulfillment and the individual is responsible for *investing* their money for their own benefit and government should not tax the PROFITS of those investments as they are rightful gains of individuals that are BUILDING society. Income and only income should be taxed, and at a low rate that is even across all the People and businesses, using *sales* as *income* but taxed as a whole, not as a *sales tax* so that *wages* can be exempt from that taxation and only taxed for the individual so that they are not taxed *twice*. Note that *investment* is not taxed. Government should take no role in such things as job training and should only serve to facilitate personal responsibility and self-teaching so that individuals can act as responsible Citizens within the Union. More localized government can and *should* offer more things, but then they will have a greater view on the localized needs to be addressed. Here, again, the Federal Government is the LAST resort for communities, not the FIRST.

7) Government shall make no law with respect to religion and all those in the government agree to have a non-sectarian, non-religious viewpoint on their actual *work* for the People. Religion should not be *pushed* by Government, nor by religious proselytizing beyond asking if someone wants to 'hear about the faith you hold'. If the answer to that is 'no', then THAT should be respected. Government has NO business in putting forth any faith, credo, set of arbitrary maxims or anything else out of what it is given to do as these are DISTRACTIONS to its job of governing well. Scientific work, as it produces measurable material results that are of benefit to the People is non-sectarian as it pushes NO religion at all but a working framework that allows understanding of how the physical world works. The difference between science and non-science are important and the ability to put forth propositions that can get measured results are a standard by which they operate. As has been stated for the business realm: Government is not here to ensure that your business model survives, only that the entire business climate remains. If one's religion is at odds with scientific views, that is up for each individual to reconcile within themselves, not something that is a matter for Government at the Federal level to get involved in. Your State and Local governments may do as they please so long as there is regularity and adherence to the Constitution.

8) Courts are the final safeguard of liberty and freedom and the LAST resort in the legal realm to ensuring that they are upheld. Any attempt to diminish the rights of the People or remove responsibilities from individuals by law, need to be addressed by the legislators FIRST, the executives SECOND and the courts LAST. The Courts are seen as having the role of ensuring that due process of law is retained, even when a law, itself, is harebrained. The Courts should not be in the business of deciding what the underpinnings of the society ARE nor if the actual law, itself, is RIGHT: that is what legislators and the executive are for in the first instance, and what a 'jury of peers' is for the second to not uphold idiotic laws. If juries refuse to uphold a law because it is asinine, that should give a loud and clear message to society, legislatures and executives to MAKE BETTER LAWS. Ruling on laws by judges are limited to those things that matter to them: the legal and Constitutional framework behind those laws. When laws break that framework they should be ruled against *immediately* with reasons given.

9) Government has no business being a 'Nannystate' and deciding what is safe and good for the People. Any attempt to dictate 'good behavior' beyond those that protect individuals from harm are seen not only as demeaning but dishonorable. There are many laws on the books that address irresponsible behavior and those should be broadened to cover such things as currently illegal drugs, but the drugs, themselves, should be made LEGAL. The only thing the Government should worry about is enforcement of research to find out the impacts of such drugs, their physiological uptake and effects, purity and dosage levels and then, for those drugs that have no medicinal value or that have recreational value, to tax those USES that are non-medicinal nor for treatment of valid diseases and disorders. For areas of personal communications there is an understanding that the entire Nation has limits upon where laws are and are NOT enforceable. There is an actual set of spatio-temporal coordinates in which the rights of individuals for the Union can be validly upheld and Jacksonians realize this and enforce those limits with a strong-type match adherence: having a Nation is meaningful and *any* attempt to expand notions of National Sovereignty beyond those meanings is not only illegal but dishonorable. The Republic of the United States is represented by USA *not* by SPQR and folks need to learn the difference. As part of that defense of the Nation the Union needs to understand the spread and changes in diseases and other problems, and then offer pathways to remedy and defense of the People against them. Those things which are purely attributable to 'bad habits' are for the People to decide as individuals, not to be proscribed by government.

10) Jacksonians adhere and believe strongly in the Constitution and that ALL rights emanate from the People and need to have the widest leeway of play and to have the highest degree of individual accountability possible. Thus, laws should be few, government minimal and enforcement of rights done via due process. Unjustly punished individuals need strong recourse against such punishment, for no matter how vile an individual is as a person, they can not and should not be imprisoned or lose life or liberty by conviction of things they did NOT do. And that means that individuals should NOT be 'tried by the media' nor have their lives investigated by the media to show how 'good or bad' an individual is. That is not the BUSINESS of the People as a whole nor of companies nor of government. Invasion of privacy, no matter who does it, is seen as reprehensible and using that to impugn individuals is seen as an abomination. Individuals are to be held accountable for these things known as 'actions' for they are the measure of the law and of the activities of society. Ideas, no matter how vile, are *not* actions and individuals should not be segregated by ideas nor punished for them by society. Being denigrated as an asshat for spouting off is one thing, but being put at loss of liberty for mere hateful verbiage is something entirely other. This is the time-honored and HONORABLE method of doing things and personal liberty and upholding the honor of the Nation and one's own personal honor are paramount. Just and equitable laws that receive full due process with equality of representation and a jury of peers to decide not only on guilt but on the *applicability* and *rightness* of the law are the full and final fail-safe against dictatorship. Unjust laws will *not* be ruled upon and scoffed at and any attempt by Government to RULE not GOVERN will be destroyed by such review by the People of such laws. In the areas of military conduct and National secrets, the Congress has set up rules and, as part of the judicial system in that area, should have instantiated a system of jury or jury-equivalents to do the EXACT SAME THING. That is how due process WORKS: review by peers. On the personal level of duels, peers were there to oversee them and the one *challenged* had choice of weapons which the one impugned graciously allowed them as it was *their* honor to be upheld to the DEATH. And, while some few were done to the death, most were done to something less than that to ensure that personal honor was upheld and that final and just decision was meted out on an even basis. Civility arose from this as very, very, very few wanted to die over impugning another individual and civilization stood on this foundation of a well-armed populace upholding their own honor and the honor of the Nation. And when that was outlawed, the path to dishonorable impugning until it met a final and *legal* definition has belittled discourse to that very, very low level. Liberty, honor and justice are all things that have their recourse for Jacksonians and none of them view fighting as a *last* resort: that is left to the Courts when NOTHING ELSE WORKS.

“Peace, above all things, is to be desired, but blood must sometimes be spilled to obtain it on equable and lasting terms” - Andrew Jackson


Peregrine John said...

Excellent, excellent piece - even more so than usual, which is something. It turns out that I have always been essentially Jacksonian and have become more strongly, even virulently, so as each year passes.

A Jacksonian said...

John - My thanks! Keeping track of my life and getting concentration together has been extremely difficult of late, and do excuse my not dropping by... I sent the piece into the paper, but doubt that it will get anyplace as it is lengthy and explanatory, not glib and quick.

Peregrine John said...

Perhaps in a minor miracle (yes, I've little faith in editors these days) they'll see the potential interest generated by it and run it as, say, a 4-part series...?

A Jacksonian said...

More than a minor miracle, I am sure... the partings of the waters of Lake Michigan and cherubim with trumpets might just do it... although I expect that gripes about the fish population and resultant pollution stirred up would be the main features of such an article.

Others have pushed me to collect this detritus I have written into book form or some such. Well, all my works are free for exploiting, so long as the inability of the original material is put down... my vanity only goes as far as the web, and I will not belittle poor, defenseless pages in a book to be squandered on such a thing.

That and living in perpetual 'Short Attention Span Theater'. Of course if I didn't have that I wouldn't be here and wouldn't have to worry about such things...

Peregrine John said...

I have some doubts about your doubts. Surely organizing this philosophy into a solid form can only be a good thing? It is unlikely that your readership could do a better job of such a thing, and since the end result won't be confused with "beach reading" fluff, its readers will be people who can mentally hold it together enough to digest it.

Just saying. I'll be happy to promote it as I do individual articles.

A Jacksonian said...

John - I can see some of the prospective titles for such a work:

"This book costs money, the ideas are free!"


"So you stopped running long enough to read a book?"


"The best of times, the worst of times, too bad we forgot part 1"


"A Jacksonian remedy to the US: get off your butts and act like a Citizen"


"You are not what you say, you are what you DO"


"Available for FREE on the net, but its hard to read on that cellphone"


"Write your own book! Free margin space INCLUDED!"

All winners, I am sure. About the only place that has an inkling of how I do things is Baen books and while my ideas may be in an alternate reality where honor, ethics and personal responsibility rank as the top things that people care about, I don't think it will get much of an audience as it is just too fantastic to be plausible in this modern world where everyone is so sophisticated wanting the simplistic.

I will think on it. My hubris has limitations and my ability to sustain dialogue limited... which wouldn't be much of a problem if we lived in that alternate reality I talk about and think about and act out upon... still, if more people did... *sigh*... I can only advocate my own viewpoints and those things that have solid basis in measurable fact and those things which sustain the spirit.

But as Franklin and others said and I agree with: "God helps those that help themselves."

Iraqi's are learning that, so perhaps all is not lost in America on that score, either.

I will spend off-line time cogitating and doing frivolous and non-noteworthy things for inane personal enjoyment. The cats are always good to be with and their Dumb Looks are always FREE.

John said...

I guess I would have to disagree on your conclusions on religion. You see, in a voluntary way, our leaders can choose this route, but our Constitution guarantees they don't have to choose this route. You're advocating freedom FROM religion which isn't anywhere in our Constitution. And what people are casually calling science, as if to hide behind that infallible curtain, is actually a growing religion. We elect legislators to represent us and our beliefs. We expect them to legislate on their beliefs. It would be abnormal for a Christian to agree to make a law that says a woman can have an abortion at any time for any reason. The Christian would legislate against that as it would be against their moral code. In the same way, a staunch environmentalist would never legislate to allow for DDT to be used again, no matter how many studies showed that American biologist Rachel Carson was completely wrong about her conclusions about the chemical. You cannot take away someone's core beliefs. And those people should not be expected to legislate against their beliefs. Our forefathers, and Jackson as well, would never expect there to be an absence of religion from government. The only thing they mandated was that government could neither enforce one religion nor could it stop the practice of religion. Pretty easy to understand language, and for you to use sophistry to try and obfuscate it is sad.

A Jacksonian said...

John - The Constitution specificially talks of the Federal Government. The original, foundational view was that States would have the Right to institute religious viewpoint in accordance to the wishes of the People in each State.

Rachel Carson put forth her viewpoint based on limited input and analysis of chemical reactivity and bio entrainment of long chain polymer chemicals. She did not put forth any economic analysis nor proper treatment of such chemicals but sought a ban on them, as did her followers. If there is biological cost to use of such things as pesticide there is also a human loss in the non-use of them as seen by the spread of malaria and other diseases due to various pests that had been attacked by DDT. Science is foundational to understanding effects, but scientists are not economists. Further, with limited knowledgebase one cannot say, with certainty, what the long term effects of biologically active chemicals are. Mercury from industrial effluent in Lake Erie reached levels that required limited ingestion of fish from that lake due to high concentrations of mercury. The immediate neurological effects were apparant as were the impacts of it. Government set limitations on such as a safety measure and gave public warnings on the hazards of ingesting from the food-chain in Lake Erie. Rachel Carson could show limited egg shell size and some other problems in other species with DDT, but sought the outright ban of such chemicals instead of understanding a way of limiting their application that would minimize that impact.

By forcefully pushing for that and an anti-industrial menu of other things, she was using a single case that was not heavily backed up on a global basis to push an agenda. That agenda was and remains anti-industrial and still has as little widespread basis as it did then. The actual scientific findings were never but to the wide-spread test and those seeking any foundation on an anti-industrial and anti-progress agenda used minimal basis to push what was, in fact, a belief system.

They were not held up to the standards of scientific inquiry even for their *time* and the slow but steady re-entry of DDT into use by poor Nations to combat malaria is being seen. Perhaps we can bother to actually study and understand the impacts of its use and *not* try to push a broad agenda based on minimal factual basis. Rachel Carson's alarmism was an attempt to side-track and railroad a particular viewpoint home based on little foundation. That, as the current Global Warming stuff, must be guarded against as limited inquiry by those that do not have broad and deep understanding of the multiple issues involved are again attempting to push an agenda based on very, very, very limited numbers. Those numbers have not gotten the proper contextual study of their basis... which is the exact same problem with Rachel Carson.

I do not want religion eliminated from the lives of the People, nor from their direct Government. Government has no role at pushing *any* religion. The State level Governments were meant as a way for various beliefs and outlooks to be tested in this Nation so that religious and moral beliefs could get fair and open treatment in a non-discriminatory manner. Anything widely adopted by an overwhelming majority of the States would point to effectiveness in using such basis for enforcing society.

If you have disagreement with those pushing an agenda with limited factual basis, do bring it up with them. I am in vehement disagreement with the glib 'studies' done that are biased by the setting of the 'study' FIRST so that only a pre-determined outcome can be had. That is not science: it is political science which isn't a science. And when it turns into belief with no basis and is pushed upon the People, it is poselytizing for a belief system. The Government should have no part in that.

Staunch environmentalists are pushing a religion. I want that OUT of Government at the Federal level until it can get some *proof* at the State level.

Acid rain doing particulate and chemical analysis tracing them back to coal-burning power plants is one thing.

Judging an entire ecosystem based on a supposition with little factual basis is quite another.

The first needs addressing, the second needs hard study as an alarmist approach can be more costly than doing *nothing*.

Is that clear?

Jonathan said...

Very interesting stuff, I had read an essay comparing the Jacksonian to the Wilsonian and Jeffersonian, among others, and found that I do have an affinity for the Jacksonian.

I would like to point out a possible inconsistency. At one point it is stated that only income should be taxed, yet at another point taxing recreational drugs is advocated. Perhaps that is a desirable exception, if so it should be stated as such.

Also, rule and govern are generally considered synonymous, and though I think I get the point you are trying to make, some better distinction might be able to be made.

Finally, I think the most resistance you will receive will be regarding the part about individual rights coming well after our responsibilities as citizens. I have not accepted this premise as yet. Though civic responsibility is not well understood or adhered to by a majority of citizens, there is no way a free society can force such responsibilities on individuals. Don't forget that the Founders clearly believed that our rights are not granted by government, but are our birthright, not to be interfered with!

A Jacksonian said...

Johathan - My thanks!

I do try to shy from taxation, but there is an interstate commerce part of use of medications that needs to be looked at as *well* as the common defense against diseases. In our world there are many Nations and Peoples that will *not* take their full course and range of drugs and, in that doing, make diseases like TB and staph resistant to them. The recreational use of those pharmaceuticals one needs to realize puts the greater society at risk.

As for the rest, I would be more than happy to forego taxes on drugs and medicines that have no impact upon interstate commerce nor the public health. It is an issue that I wrestle with as those who wreck themselves with self-indulgence then seek to make themselves a burden on society when they cannot control their own impulses. Yet the acknowledged and mindful use of such things should NOT be proscribed nor limited by government as any individual who can fully acknowledge how medications work with them should have that access.

For that, and as these medications are shipped from outside the Union or made in other States within it, a taxation on that commerce can be leveraged for the States and distributed to them (severally) via population. I don't like that as a solution, but dealing with it at the far more expensive back-end of treatment or having families disrupted by it is something that the States, severally, have not shown the demonstrated ability to deal with. If the States could come up with their OWN solutions and would have DONE so by now, I would see zero need for any taxation. As it is, once mass production and removal of prescription for non-medical use is done, the entire drug production and distribution system will change. Truly, wherever market forces are put in-play the cost has dropped precipitously, and, over time, as medications are taken more quickly off-patent and generic producers get into the act, the long term baseline cost of manufacturing should make a tax minimal in impact. Older medications are now produced for pennies a pill and that is the force that needs to get into the act for individuals. Better medications coming faster and cheaper over time, with enough and minimal regulation to ensure that they are not toxic to people, or if so with known quantities put onto purity labels.

A final note is that this would NOT affect medications produced inside an individual State for that State's population, save for the toxic ones and those that can make diseases stronger through mis-use. This would not tax home production of all medications as well as State based production for that State. So if wise States wish to entice generic drug producers to their State to get around Federal taxation, they may go right ahead.

It is a problem, balancing individual needs, their cumulative needs as States and the broader government for all the States.

You are damned correct that one cannot force social conscience upon individuals. Reminding someone that there is a responsibility to themselves, their society, their State and the Nation is hard to do in this era of 'society is to blame for all ills and none upon individuals for their actions'. The political equation of moving problems up and concentrating them has led to lack of oversight, lack of accountability and inability to uphold the laws. To remedy *that* means changing that outlook to ensure that power is distributed and held at the most accountable level which should be with each person. The highly State centered 20th century was good for a few 'big projects' but medication, health, welfare, and such are not 'big projects' but societal responsibilities that are least well handled by the Nation.

From all I have read of the Founding Generation, that IS democracy as they wanted it here: distributed and local democracy that kept the National government on a very, very tight leash.

I like that vision of democracy, and it worked quite well up until its basis changed... if we can't than the Hamiltonian idea of Federalist #26 to remove support at the Federal and break the States into counties and start over, sounds like the only thing left. The implications of that are horrific and costly... the implications of *not* doing it are looking to be fatal to liberty and freedom. Our choice as Americans is either to become subjects of the Nation or make the Nation subject to We the People. I am just trying to find the path that leads to the greatest democracy so as to avoid that conflict.