Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Modern Jacksonian - Chapter 2 - The Responsibility of Structure

From its foundations this Nation is one of builders and doers, with a fair oddment of thinkers and philosophers thrown in. The majority of those coming to this Nation either did so to escape repression, social or religious, were exiled by law, thus being common crooks being given a choice between imprisonment or exile, or came willingly to start a new life with new horizons and form a culture amenable to those seeking such. While a class of land owners, merchants and generally wealthy individuals did form, they were not sinecured via past positions to those of power. While the Crown did establish colonies and law in these new territories, the people of those colonies saw themselves as distinctly apart from the mother country. This new land was decidedly different from the old country, and did not have things in form or shape of society that easily fit into the guidelines and definitions set by the Crown itself. Further the actual Government was seen as quite some far removed from the daily affairs of these farflung citizens and not abiding by the compacts of representation for such basic things as taxation.

The cultural compact between the Peoples of a Nation has history and structure to it, both of which are commonly known so that they can be held in common. While religion was somewhat better tolerated than in centuries past in Europe, these new colonies looked to strongly divorce themselves from the waning traditions of tying religion to Nation. Religious persecution, suppression and discrimination were things that drove minority or repressed religions to America and they had this strange notion that to have a different society that tolerated their religions they must *make* that society that did tolerate such differences. And while they were majoritarian followers of a single type of religion, they had seen that intra-religious warfare had killed more people and brought more suffering than could be tolerated by any religion that held to the decency of its practitioners and followers. That was a necessary divorce of culture that was amenable to the small town ethos that was forming up across the colonies, and that ethos goes far back in history, even beyond the near term Scots-Irish, and into deeper parts of Scandinavia and Central Europe.

Unlike the rest of Europe, that practiced 'Divine Right Monarchy', the strand coming from those northerly climes had a different viewpoint on all things religious and how to have a Nation. These peoples held a common, village assembly on an annual basis to determine the interpretation of the Law of the Land. In this the Lawspeaker was able to hold even the King accountable as an individual, and the Kings honored that basis as they would not have a Nation without such structure amongst their People. That moved into the Scots-Irish areas via contact during Viking expansion and changed the local laws to more closely follow this ideal. That infusion changed Law from something dictated by the Nation to something agreed to by the people of the Nation. This diffused over centuries into the general English and then British culture, but the highly clan and tribal based Scotts and Irish adhered to this as it was a form of governing that made much sense to them and gave much in the way of personal liberty while still holding individuals strictly accountable for their actions.

This makes a strong tie between the commonly held culture and the Law that upholds it. And as those were by and large rural communities that practiced this form of government, the actual settlement of a dispute was put off until the next local assembly. That waiting, be it mere days or up to a year, gave time for cooling off and reconciliation between the individuals involved. Thus an important part of the legal system was the social accountability of those people within that town, city or Nation. Such a deferred settlement system does not properly scale up to large formulations of settlements, thus the waiting period became that of awaiting adjudication rather than that of settling the dispute on personal terms. That change came to then reflect the basic adjustment that those trials, then, need be fair, swift and have societal feedback via the jury system. For these peoples this is an outgrowth of Law from below, not imposed from above. It is a means to hold those governing the Law accountable to standardized and regularized means that are given to it by society.

That conflict between Law from below and 'Divine Right' Law from above came into harsh and direct contact in the British Isles. While the Crown was slowly ceding rights it held to the People, those moving from that society wanted a society that was directed for and by the people, not the Crown. By not actually giving representation to citizens and imposing taxation without the input of those being taxed or plainly ignoring them, those people felt that their community was being dictated to from above without recourse of the commonly held system that ruled from below. The Crown could have done many things to assuage these citizens, but did not do so. The citizenry recognized their debts to the Crown, but wanted a more lenient pay schedule not enforced taxation. While this is a gross oversimplification of the colonies that would become the United State, the basis of the Precepts of that Nation were laid out along the communitarian lines of those things held in common amongst a diverse community of believers who did not wish to repeat the mistakes of their forebearers.

From the philosophical side such things as Free Masonry would play a part in this as those who followed that set of outlooks held much in common with those craftsmen that had become the basis for their name and meeting places. They, too, had contact with this more community based form of governance and used more southernly notions of democracy to play into that. And religion, particularly Christianity but also the Deists who did not follow the strict beliefs but the underpinnings of those beliefs, came forth to design something different: a society based upon its People as the ruling force. The Declaration of Independence put for the Precepts, or guiding light, of this New Nation and that its foundation was to be something accountable to man, not to King or God. This was a hard and necessary break with the past so that past ills would not be repeated in the New World. To do this required not only the Precepts and Revolution, but a final Government that would not inculcate either of those problems within it.

To have a common government accountable to men, it must be set up as representing those individuals within the society and adjust to them while putting none in danger due to divisions. One of the interesting side-lights of the final tumult leading up to the Constitutional Convention, during which the Articles of Confederation were leading the Nation to bankruptcy and ruin, is that the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, had carefully been given diplomatic duties in France. The Declaration itself nearly fractured the Colonies asunder and while high minded philosophy was fine for Precepts, they don't make good drafting of Government. The one man crucial to editing and rewriting BOTH documents was a man that did understand that this government must be something that is held by the People: Benjamin Franklin.

While being a man of deeply religious feelings, he also recognized the need to formulate things on a more basic and fundamental level to society. He had many trades and occupations during his life, from printer to diplomat to scientist to philosopher, and he so no boundary between these things. By experiencing so much of the richness of many ways of life he knew that this richness must be ensured by those things held common to all of the People so that *any* of them could lead such a rich life. He was the one who redacted the outright religious phrasing of the Declaration and put in the 'self-evident' language because if something was self-evident, you need not reply upon a Deity to hand it to you as it was already done and given as a fact of life. And while he did not formulate the KISS principle, its application is, indeed, self-evident throughout the Declaration and the Constitution. Those things which are 'self-evident' are held in common without regards to religion, race or any other thing and thusly needs no assertion of that evidence.

After the speech to open the Constitutional Convention Franklin then let the backers of the 'Virginia Plan' for divided Federal Government put their proposal forth. It took much hammering out, but this foundational concept of the structure of Government being divided, yet stable in the stresses of that division, is one still pertinent to any way of thinking about Government to this day. The actual drafting and final writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights seen as necessary first amendments to that document, still form a basis for a new way of looking at the structure of society and government and its relationship to its people. Nothing quite like it was really formulated before it, as it changed around the entire basis for government from top down to bottom up. To do this requires a recognized structure and the Constitution in this plan-view is something that is inherently simple and yet complex in its finality.

Within the Body of the Constitution that outlays the sections of Government that is common to the People, each section follows a Division as follows:

1) Responsibilities - Each section of Government is given harsh delimitations on its Responsibilities and given purview over oversight of them.

2) Means and Methods - This is what each section of Government can do and lays out the structural means for how they are to be accomplished.

3) Rights - Lastly Government is given limited Rights to achieve those Responsibilities through the Means and Methods it is given.

The 'Virginia Plan' sets forth a set of interior and exterior accountability systems so that within the Federal Government there is cross-oversight by each section of Government upon other parts of it. The exterior accountability are that this Government is accountable to the States and the People, and the States, in particular, while ceding many Rights to the Federal Government, retain all others and is given provisos for recovery of Rights if Federal Government is seen as no longer doing its job. Finally all Rights are held by the People who may change, edit or amend the Constitution in part, via amendment, or in whole via Convention open to All the States.

That Body of the Constitution so re-iterates this that it is taken that this is the entirety of the Constitution. Government, when it is given something to do, must actually do it, even if the means and methods and rights cannot fully satisfy those responsibilities. Then Government MUST come to the People for help. This indicates that the entirety of the Body of the Constitution is, in and of itself, a means and rights section of the entire document. That would indicate that there is a Responsibilities section before the Body telling what has those Responsibilities and what they are. And that is just the case as the Constitution starts with the Preamble starting with the famous words: "We the People..."

From the bottom up societal view of things via the Scots-Irish, this statement is a foundation of SOCIETY not GOVERNMENT. The outlay of all Responsibilities for everything that Government does is put upon We the People. When Government fails it is a failure of the People of the United States, not their Government. And as the Constitution hands out all of those things which MUST be accomplished FIRST via the Means and Methods given and the Rights seen as fulfilling those, it is the complete and utter responsibility of the People to see that all of the things handed to THEM get done FIRST. Government is just ONE way to do this because all other Means and Methods and Rights are held by the People who grant a very few of those to Government to have a stable society.

That is why Thomas Jefferson was left steaming in France: he put forth rights over community. With him at the Convention it would have dragged on for long, long months if not a year or more and be a fundamentally weaker document because it does not hold the People into the strictest accountability for everything done in their name. When the People elect Government to act in their Name they abide by those decisions, even if they disagree with them. This is a harsh and stark difference between the Declaration and the Constitution, in that it does not disperse responsibility along with rights, but concentrates it to the level of the individual. We the People agree to uphold the Law and the commonality that it gives us and agree to peaceful means to express opinions and try to change the minds and outlook of other Citizens against Laws seen as unjust. This gives continuity to society, while Jefferson is famously quoted as saying that it would be a 'good thing' for the country to have a revolution every 10 years or so. That was a non-starter for the majority of the People as they were sick to death about fighting and squabbles and wanted accountable government that would NOT force its ideas upon them. The Jeffersonian method would get government that tried to do everything that was 'right' and failing, while the 'Virginia Plan' put forward a few things a Federal Government MUST DO so as to succeed.

By doing that and creating a limited set of oversight areas for the Federal Government, the rest of the Responsibilities move towards the States and the People. The direct ordering of who has Responsibility and Rights, then, is:

1) We the People. We have all rights as a People and put forth common responsibilities that we agree to abide by first so that we may have a society in common.

2) The States. The States are given autonomy within the Federal Structure so as to have practicing difference in law and culture so long as regularity, but not identicality, of law is applied.

3) Federal Government. This is the last and least of Governments, although it is given awesome responsibilities to handle for the common good.

From this ordering of Responsibilities and Rights, We the People are put first and hold it all. This actually was the understood compact amongst the People up to the modern age, and the Federal Government was seen as generally distant, small, and not having much to do outside of wars. The less Federal Government *did* the better the Nation was. The modern age of industrialization changed that starting in the World War era of 1914 to 1945. The United States tried to switch back and forth from Mass Mobilization to small volunteer force and Mass Industrial Mobilization of the Nation. The needs for WWII were such that over half the economy of the Nation was devoted to it as *more* was being devoted to it by Germany, Italy and Japan. While German industrial advancement was always touted and seen as strong up to WWI and then again during the lead-up to WWII, in point of fact it was not a thoroughly mechanized economy as its military demonstrated: at its height only 60% of the German Armed forces were mechanized, and such things as horse transport were still used for things like field artillery. Italy was more a rural society with pockets of industry as was Japan, with centers of industrial activity. The United States distributed industrial expansion across the Nation and then found a few areas to concentrate it during wartime, mostly for vehicle and aircraft production.

To get *that* capability to actually command industry, powers were used by the Federal Government that were only rarely pulled out for dire necessity. It was highly unusual for the Federal Government to have such a deep level of activity in the affairs of the Nation, and the majority of the People much preferred it that way. The Depression Era programs that were installed just prior to that were actual late-comers to the recovery and only started to appear once recovery had already started. Industrial expansion and regrowth had already started by 1934 and by 1938 was in full swing. Some of the large 'public works' projects added to this, no doubt, and gave the United States added resources in the way of electricity, that had not been readily available before then. These resources were put to use for WWII and after that war a new, global enemy to the US helped to solidify that ranking of Federal Power. What was unusual and contrary to how the United States was formed was now the new 'normal'.

By doing this and inserting the artifact known as 'Big Government' into the agenda of the Nation, the Federal Government soon was seen as a source of *solutions* instead of being the last place to go to so as to ensure *rights*. What this did, however, was break the previous agreement that the People held all Responsibilities and only gave a limited number and limited Rights to Government to achieve those very few things. Moving to higher levels of Government to get things done at a local level removed local accountability from the equation and with them the Rights of the People to oversee these things directly. Concentrating power via the Federal Government is a direct erosion of the Rights of the People as it is done at the level of least accountability to the People. Those things should be few and far between, not a legion of programs to 'address the Nation'. Bottom up society was now turning into a Top down one, and Individuals lost feeling of connection to society by that formulation.

Here the actual structure of society is put at peril and it is this that Jacksonians abhor, above all other things. To have a society worth fighting *for* one must have the most possible say into that society and how it is run. The movement to 'Mass Society' removes that direct connection of the Individual and starts a process of isolation amongst the People. The commonality of non-infringement of rights and beliefs turned from a cohesive force of agreement to one of minoritarian pushing for that force to be diluted by 'social recognition of them within the law'. To Jacksonians the law does not codify what society is, but creates room for a common society to exist. By divvying up that common space you get the 'tragedy of the commons' in which no one cares for that which is common to all in preference of small segments 'getting what is theirs'.

Such things as segregation and racial laws are a divisive force between the People. Turning around and then wanting the problems codified into law forevermore is even worse than the original transgression as it tries to make a permanent separation of what is seen as a common good to the People as a whole. 'Getting yours' means that this piece you have taken removes it from the common for trivial reasons. Once segregation is removed, it is up to the People to determine, without recourse to defining what is 'right' in terms of the exact same terms used for the original division, of how to administer to the wrongs done. Because all of the rights that are being asked for as 'special treatment' are already held within the commonality of the People as Individuals to give or not as they see fit.

Top down enforcement of social change is contrary to the agreement held that the People find a way to work it out and resort to government as a last recourse to ensure that basic rights are upheld. Codify rights and privileges based on previous discrimination is, in and of itself, discrimination and seeking entitlement FOREVER for temporary misdeeds. And when such laws try to be generalized to 'class', then the conception of seeking permanent isolation from the totality of the community of the People is put forth and that is contrary to the system actually set up by the People.

One of the reasons I go through this is that Jacksonians, from all I have seen and read, are enamored of crafts and trades and the activities of same. Any common trade craft, be it carpentry, metalworking, engineering, or network design, requires understanding that the tools available have limits and that the system for making something must be understood before you actually set out trying to make it or change one that already exists. As an example, a plumber is needed to address a leak in a far off part of the house, but to understand the cause of the leak requires understanding the mechanical and physical components of the entire water system and the workings inside of it.

To address the leak requires removing pressure from the system and some draining and then actually finding the part or area at fault and examining it. A 'busted pipe' can have many causes that are due to simple, local things: poor fitting, improper seal placement, poor welding. However it can also be an indication of a much wider and systemic problem: improper pressure for pipe type, improper layout which causes stress on components, old pipe style which has gone brittle due to age and changes in crystal structure of the metal involved, heat strain for plastic piping. In these cases addressing the leak does not address the problem, which requires some addressing of the overall structure. So, you can pay a bill for a hundred or so dollars now, and then have a catastrophic failure later which puts the whole house in danger, or you can trust the plumber when he says: 'You know these old cast iron pipes from that company just weren't made right and you got a problem here.'

Society addresses such ills in a different manner when they are put forward within the Constitutional structure. Here discrimination and segregation are seen as problems locally which must be addressed, and that the proper flow throughout the system will then rebalance given time. Those that want absolute systemic change today, wish to rip out the entirety of that part of society and put in something that they hope will work better, but have no proof of that. In this case those doing the purporting have not addressed the structure as a whole nor made the case to society that such a complete and drastic overhaul so as to resection Rights is necessary. How is the cure not worse than the disease which has already received proper treatment? So the specific case is, as the Scotts would say: "Not proved."

The general problem of seeing the Federal Government as the FIRST place to go to for redress of social problems is, however, demonstrated by this. As designed the Federal Government is the last back stop to the Rights of the Individual to be upheld. It is not the first place for social redress which starts at the level of the People as Individuals. Going to the Federal Government to 'force change' upon society is thusly seen as an attempt to circumvent all of society and over rule the entirety of that society. That is not a conception of Government that fits within the Framework of all Individuals holding the Responsibilities of society and Government FIRST and then delegating small portions of those to actual Government to do. By putting the remedy FIRST at that highest level for enaction DOWNWARDS is antithetical to the system of Government as it is laid out. To change society first requires the free flow of Rights so that Responsibilities may be addressed, and then doing this thing as actually convincing the People to change society. To change how they do things.

Removal of a blockage to Rights is one thing.

Looking to overhaul the entire system because the flow needs to restart and fully use that part that was blocked is quite another. One of these over-riding 'fixes' to the Nation happened to address a temporary ill, and is causing far more grief today than it ever fixed as a solution. In the Depression one of the problems is that older folks were still looking for work and seen as stopping the flow of younger workers into the workforce. Thus was born the idea of the 'retirement age' and paying out money to those who retired from Federal coffers. The immediate point of the program was to address the temporary ill of unemployment and the possibility of older individuals not having money to scrape by on. To pay for this the Federal Government did two things: 1) went into debt, and, 2) raised taxes.

The debt, then was minuscule compared to what it would incur during WWII. The taxation, however, was permanent upon earnings. Thus those earning money would be paying to help older people retire. As a temporary solution, this is not much of a problem. Demographically the Nation could afford this as the number of workers far outnumbered the retirees by fair margin. Further, distributed investment capability was not available to the common man, so finding secure and minimal ways to grow funds via investment was a problem. The remedy before the Depression was: families. Anyone who could get any work in a family helped to support the entire family. While many people did lose jobs and homes, the vast majority did *not*. Stories from Depression era Buffalo of families with eight or nine people living in the same home to make ends meet are not uncommon. Children worked. Mothers worked. In-laws worked. Anything to get food on the table, which included the growing of vegetables in the backyard and raising some ducks or chickens, or buying same at a farmers market. By the time the actual program got put into place, the families had already overcome the worst of the Depression and were starting to use this new-found mobility to get homes elsewhere in town.

Then in WWII women and overage workers went to work as young men went to war. By the time those men returned home, they found that their sweethearts had good jobs and their parents had earned enough to move into the suburbs. America had truly mobilized when the pent-up wealth of the war years was released and an economic boom of unprecedented size and scope hit the Nation. Again, retirement payments were a small part of the Government and seen as an easy burden to carry. The Baby Boom, however, were to change the entire demographic system as a flood of children hit the Nation and then would grow old with it. And even with that economic expansion still went on, even when fighting the Cold War and having that eat up 8-10% of GDP. That military portion would remain relatively static as an amount, but the size of the economy would push down its proportion more and more. What was growing in proportion to expansion was the age of those moving upwards in years from the Baby Boom. Suddenly the more traditional replacement rate of children into the economy spelled for a looming disaster.

What no one has addressed, however, is that this Federal Program has been moving money from the hands of Individuals and then doing poor oversight of those funds. Typically the US Government returns an industrial low of 45-55% efficiency on work. What this means is that in typical private industry, the productive hours are measured as a percentage of hours worked. Thus, the average in private industry is 80%, meaning out of an 8 hour day you get 6.4 hours of real work done. The US Government, due to overhead, paperwork, oversight, multiple systems of accountability, and so on, gets only a 45-55% average productive time out of any hour. So the billions of dollars spent on this program have a relatively low return rate on the overhead, for something that should be a highly automated system. Further, the demographics are pushing things so that a larger portion of earnings are taken in by this program to pay for the larger number of retirees.

This has changed the outlook of Americans upon their lives and has also put into this kitty the idea of 'retirement years'. Now turning into 'retirement decades' and soon to be 'retirement half-life'. That last is a bit of a misnomer as it is applied to the active working life of an individual being equaled by their retirement life. And when the US starts to see a shortfall in labor the choices are multi-fold, but also limited by this arrangement: 1) import labor, 2) automate.

Option 3 is never put on the table: scrap the system as it is no longer needed and let individuals who now have wonderful investment opportunities to create their own retirement accounts and system do so. What this would do is remove the retirement age so that those who find working to be enjoyable and productive, even if they want to take a lesser job, to be able to do so. Further, anyone who has 'read the tea leaves' of the retirement system knows that its eventual collapse is inevitable due to demographics and has been preparing accordingly since the 1980's. The math is not beyond an individual to do, nor is finding good investment vehicles, nor is getting insurance that they can choose as trustworthy or not. Doing this would return a huge proportion of taxes paid to the Federal Government back to those doing active wage earning and let *them* decide how to invest or squander it as they please.

This is no longer the 1930's and the capability of the individual to get necessary help for long term investment is no longer a mystical land limited to the wealthy elite. Funds that address all sorts of things with distributed ownership and investment and track records and outlooks are available in a plethora, and individuals can clearly find this material for investment as they have been doing so for decades. And as this is the largest, single portion of the money going to the Federal Government, the increased distributed earned *wealth* would then infuse the Nation via spending and investment. And grow the economy even more than it is and would place a huge, one-time burden on the Government which would be duly paid off through normal, low taxation.

Here the Responsibilities of the individual are being taken by the Federal Government and direct oversight of how those Responsibilities are carried out are at the furthest and least accountable system for something that effects every single working individual in the Nation. This is antithetical to the construction of the Constitution and the Society that is to be built upon the Individual as part of the People. What has happened is Social Engineering on a huge scale with little accountability and much in the way of problems and a patronizing attitude that those working for a living are not smart enough to figure out how to invest their money or their time. By putting this bit of Social Engineering into play the Federal Government has taken it upon itself to decide for the People what is best for them. Their role for the general welfare is *not* to create a Welfare State, but to create a Nation in which the People can look after their own welfare and do it well.

This 'assistance' from the Federal Government comes at a high cost of time, money, lost wages, and lost investment opportunity. And all of it to address a temporary ill, which was already passing by the time the program got off the ground and fully running. By the post-WWII era it was wholly unnecessary as the investment of parents into their homes would start to pay rich rewards upon the sale of same, and those that did not own were already being offered better packages through their workplaces. When those started to wane private industry invented the widely divested and invested 'mutual fund' system. There have always been poor elderly in this society, but the ability of a family to look after such individuals and those capable of actually working to support themselves was a backbone of the United States. Today, many of those who are elderly and *want* to work, cannot because of this retirement age business. They work under the table or risk losing their steady Federal Payment... instead of having invested that for 20 years or more and depending upon private payments upon which they have personal oversight.

This is why Jacksonians look askance at the idea of a Big Government to solve problems: it is contrary to the system put in place to support society and it demeans individuals and removes personal oversight and accountability for decisions. Trying to put in place long lasting 'social reform' for temporary problems is contrary to the Individualistic basis for which Jacksonians see as the strength of the United States. Even when you make BAD decisions, you then learn from them and stop doing them and find a better way to make decisions so that you do not hit that same pitfall again. Jacksonians are all FOR helping those that life has handed a bum time to: the infirm, mentally ill and those that have just been unable to handle their lives to any meaningful end. To those that can work jobs are to be found so that the Individual builds self-respect and self-worth in doing something productive. To those permanently disabled help and succor is given freely and openly as is currently seen with the large number of charities addressing same. The Federal Government's role is not to dictate a permanent treatment for a temporary ill.

Because every time it does so, more of the Responsibilities of the Individual are lifted from them, and from the People as a whole. And society is lessened by each and every piece that is taken from it and put to poor ends, that do not justify the means and that loss.

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