Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Coming Crisis of Legitimacy in American Government

Legitimacy refers to a concurrence of belief. In American government and politics, political legitimacy has been associated with the Constitution. The traditional American value system, Lockean liberalism, requires a limited state, and the Constitution reflects that value. There has always been debate among Americans as to how limited the state ought to be. Traditionally, special interests, to include the wealthy, manufacturing and banking interests, favored government intervention to further their goals. The working class, while poor, favored greater limits on government intervention to permit their acquisition of wealth. In the early twentieth century to the 1930s the model was modified. A strong element of social democracy was introduced. American social democracy was reconciled to Lockean liberalism in an uneasy balance. A social minimum or floor was established, as reflected in Social Security and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Standards of professionalism were established in a wide range of fields. For example, with respect to the workplace, laws concerning health and safety, retirement plans, discrimination, and overtime were established. Although the late nineteenth century doctrines of free contract were overturned, a wide latitude for contracting remained. The social democratic laws did not interfere with a wide range of economic activity. Taxes were kept moderately low, at least in comparison with Europe. Where taxes were high, as with respect to inheritance, numerous loopholes were created.

This system is unstable because there is no dividing line between the principles of Lockean liberalism on which the system is based and the system of social democracy that was superimposed on it. To achieve balance Americans needed to constantly reformulate the principles of Lockean liberalism and social democracy. But to reformulate the balance, Americans must understand Lockean liberalism and social democracy. Yet, many Americans never bought into the social democratic system, and many never bought into Lockean liberalism. From the beginning some Federalists rejected principles of limited government. Europeans who immigrated here by the 20th century were unfamiliar with Lockean liberalism. The education system kept their descendants in the dark. On the one hand, Locke is not part of the education of American students today. He is ignored in the curriculum, and the education schools shun him. Therefore, there is no avenue by which many Americans can learn the foundation of one half of the equation.

On the other hand, the scale is heavily weighted toward social democracy. But the American system of business, innovation and progress depends on Lockean liberalism. Socialism and social democracy are incapable of generating progress, and there has been no progress of substance made in socialist or state-dominated countries. Sweden, for instance, grants prizes in innovation to others but itself has been responsible for little in the past century. In Japan, the most famous principles of business, lean manufacturing and total quality management, were created by Toyota's Taiichi Ohno and by the American consultant Edward I. Deming. The government policies in Japan, subsidies to banks, infrastructure, bailouts, and centralized planning have failed.

The educational system has been particularly aggressive in its rejection of Lockean liberalism. But no system of rights is based on logical necessity. The German university, the prototype of the American educational system, claimed to derive the necessity of social democracy from historical forces. Yet in America historical forces tended toward laissez-faire. But the adherents of the German historical school, such as John R. Commons, claimed to derive the necessity of social democracy from historical forces anyway.

Likewise, conservatives claimed to derive the precariously balanced system of Progressivism from tradition. Yet, there was no Progressive tradition. Indeed, there is no American political tradition. American government was created from scratch by colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Declaration of Independence was a logical assertion of Lockean liberalism, and the Constitution imposed a Federalist superstructure. None of these institutions were derived from ancient tradition as in tribal and Roman Europe, the Middle East or Asia.

American conservatism can have meaning only to those who believe that social democracy is the future. To counterpoise "conservatism" to social democracy is to start by stating that you aim to lose the argument. Thus, the American conservative movement failed.

There is no logical coherence to social democracy. Social democracy depends on the mystical assumption that one must obey the state. Yet there is no moral necessity of obedience to social democracy any more than there is a moral necessity of unlimited laissez-faire. As de Jouvenal points out, democracy is attended with increasing levels of state compulsion to enforce the increasingly aggressive dictates of the democratic state. De Tocqueville called this the tyranny of the majority. Social democracy depends on mystical assertions of a "general will" which directly parallels the monarchical "divine will" of Filmer. Social democracy claims a moral foundation based on the logical necessity of risk aversion or minimizing the maximum possible loss, but there is no such logical necessity. Lockeans believe that progress depends on risk, and history has substantiated this opinion. Minimizing maximum loss is the philosophy of tribal cave men, not of free republicans. Yet the cave man theory of government is the one to which social democrats adhere. If many Americans have adopted the minimizing-maximum-loss value system it is because they have never been given a chance to learn what the American philosophy is.

Thus, American higher education has replaced the moral superstructure of Lockean liberalism with the moral superstructure of social democracy. Neither has foundation in logic, but the effects of both can be tested. Germany first adopted social democracy in the 1880s. The century following the adoption of social democracy in Europe and Progressivism in America was the ugliest and bloodiest in Germany's and the world's history. America's adoption of Progressivism in the 1890s led to its foray into imperialism. The adoption of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913 was followed by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The progress that liberalism, England and the United States had generated in the 19th century continued to unfold fifty or sixty years into the twentieth century so that the 19th century innovations of television and radio waves provided for continued innovation. But the rapid, universal innovation levels of the 19th century ended. By the 1970s real wages were declining, a result uncharacteristic of any prior period of American history, and firms had decided that the way to profit was by moving plants into low labor cost regions rather than through innovation. Although the personal computer and Internet were notable exceptions, in broad swathes of American industry innovation stalled. Today, once-proud American firms like GM beg for public money. Yet, in the historical context it would seem that innovation should be ever increasing in pace because new ideas generate yet additional ideas. Creativity experts have long observed that innovation begets innovation. That is the process of brainstorming. Thus, the failure of innovation in America suggests not the failure of capitalism, but the failure of social democracy.

The educational system has thus generated a belief system that is empirically unfounded and is likely to disrupt and disappoint most Americans' expectations. The increasing level of taxation since 1950; the transfer of wealth to established businesses and the wealthy via the Federal Reserve Bank and the recent bailouts; the increasing levels of regulation; and the unquenchable expansion of state power to reflect every moral or ethical fantasy of America's elite (so long as the fantasies do not disrupt the investment holdings of the Ochs Sulzbergers, Warren Buffett or George Soros) will all disappoint Americans, who have been told to expect improvement in living standards even though they have not been told how to achieve such improvement or what the system of government and economy is that creates such improvement.

The belief system that the educational system inculcates is mystical in nature. It claims a universal morality of state action; and it holds that the changing and often whimsical beliefs of university professors and newspaper editors morally require blind adherence. It sets up silly "saviors" such as Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama, whose divine right to exercise power; deprive Americans of traditionally defined rights and property; and to be believed is rigidly proclaimed as moral. Just as late medieval Europeans believed in a divine right of kings, American social democrats believe in a divine right of state power and the cult of the presidential savior.

An essential part of social democrat mysticism is the replacement of God by the state. Thus, just as a religious Catholic might have a picture of a Saint in their home, social democrats have a picture of their Divine Savior-President Barack Obama in their homes. Just as blasphemous language is contemned by the religious, so is language disrespectful of Savior-Divine President Barack Obama contemned by social democrats.

Thus, the inculcation of blind moral obedience to the state by the Progresssive-Republicans and social democrat-Democrats leads to an inherent instability in the legitimacy of American government. This is seen most clearly in the US Supreme Court. Through a series of judicial decisions the Supreme Court has arrogated the power to legislate. This is not provided by the Constitution. With respect to Dred Scott, in the 1850s, the Supreme Court held that it had the power to regulate contracts. This incursion into state power increased through the 19th century. While cases like Brown v. Board of Education may have had morally laudable results, the arrogation of power by the Supreme Court lacks legitimacy. It is not provided in the Constitution. Many Americans do not believe that the Supreme Court ought to function like a moral dictator. And many Americans do not share the Supreme Court's value system. The Supreme Court cannot function as an overseer of the nation's morals because a sizable percentage of Americans do not share the Supreme Court's values.

The reason again speaks to the failure of America's educational system to educate Americans as to Lockean liberalism. As a result, although I do not question the intelligence and sophistication of the members of the Court, the Court's value system reflects in large part the social democratic training that the Justices received in American schools and universities. Their values are elitist and do not reflect justice as most Americans define it. The court has become increasingly illegitimate. The same is true of other American institutions. Congress's approval ratings are very low, but no one seems to be able to say why. The bailout was opposed by the majority of Americans, and there was no real reason for it save crackpot Keynesian arguments in elitist, pissant newspapers and television stations, but Congress went with the elitist newspapers and television stations.

The end result of the increasing tyranny of social democracy and tyranny of elitist opinion over American values and rights is de-legitimacy of the US government. We live in a period of instability because Americans have refused to confront the failure of social democracy and Progressivism. They continue to accept that conservative insistence on Progressivism and elitist social democracy are the only two options. Yet, the economic policies that the nation has adopted will deprive Americans of the standard of living to which they have become accustomed. This failure will mark the end of the American state as we know it. If the nation were doing as well as it could, reflecting Lockean values to a large degree and striving to balance reason, tradition and innovation in public affairs, minor modifications would be possible. But the two Progressive/social democratic parties have followed an avenue that has led them to the side of a cliff. And the public is going to have to back up and push the two parties over the side.


Ă…tlasHugged said...

While reading this article I was often reminded of Julian Jayne's four step Bicameral Paradigm. The application of this paradigm by the proponents of Social Democracy is how they have so easily duped the citizentry into blindly accepting the obfuscation of Lockean Liberalism.

The purpose of the paradigm, regardless of the subject matter inserted into it, is for a very small group of people to control great masses of people by manipulating their somewhat natural tendency to listen to and follow the direction of external authority rather than have to resort to their own internal authority by thinking for themselves.

The paradigm consists of:

the Collective Cognitive Imperative, or belief system, a culturally agreed-on expectancy or prescription which defines the particular form of a phenomenon and the roles to be acted out within that form;
an Induction or formally ritualized procedure whose function is the narrowing of consciousness by focussing attention on a small range of preoccupations;
the Trance itself, a response to both the preceding, characterized by a lessening of consciousness or its loss, the diminishing of the analog 'I,' or its loss, resulting in a role that is accepted, tolerated, or encouraged by the group; and
the Archaic Authorization to which the trance is directed or related to, usually a god, but sometimes a person who is accepted by the individual and his culture as an authority over the individual, and who by the collective cognitive imperative is prescribed to be responsible for controlling the trance state.

-Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; page 324
Although Jaynes appeared to be referring to ancient civilizations in an innocuous context, his paradigm is the primary method of operation for modern authorities whose belief system is not built upon ignorance but instead modern belief systems vacillate upon intentional lies, deceipt, and coercion. Just as they must; how else does one obfuscate someone elses ability to reason concepts back to percepts if not via lies, deceipt, or coercion?

Our Republic has been usurped by people who exploit Jaynes' paradigm as a means to acquire unearned wealth and maintain social control. The Usurpers social-control is illegitimate; the Founding Fathers' advocacy of self-control is legitimate. Therefore, lets smash the Bicameral Paradigm and break the trance.

Shall we push the Usurpers off the cliff?

...But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw [vote] off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.Yes. We have our instructions.
(PS. I was thrown off by the your opening statement. I think of Mysticism as referring to a concurrence of belief and Legitimacy as referring to an abundance of fact. Therefore, Lockean Liberalism rests upon fact and Social Democracy vacillates upon mysticism.)

Mitchell Langbert said...

Wow. Awesome. I will have to read Jaynes. That is one of those ideas where you say "I wish I had thought of that".

I'm using the word "legitimacy" in the sense of conforming to expectations, as it's used in social psychology, where there is concurrence that someone's due is to achieve power.

Likewise, de Jouvenal uses the word (p. 26, "On Power"):

"On the side of theory (reason) has sought to justify obedience as such: on the side of practice it has opened the door to beliefs, whether in efficient or final causes matters not, which make an increase of obedience possible. Power, in other words, must be obeyed, whether in virtue of its nature or of its aims.

"the arguments from its nature are based on the rise of theories of sovereignty. The efficient cause of obedience, run these theories, is to be found in a prerogative exercised by Power in virtue of a certain Majestas, of which it is either the possessor or the incarnation or the representative. This prerogative belongs to it on the one necessary and sufficient condition that it is legitimate--in virtue, other words, of its origin."

De Jouvenal beautifully shows how the justification of power's extension parallels the development of democracy, and that the unrestrained democracy of Spinoza, Rousseau, Hegel, Comte and Durkheim directly parallels the unrestrained growth in power culminating in totalitarianism.

He adds of Durkheim in this chapter "The Organic Theories of Power":

"Durkeim...laid down that the scales and functions of the governmental organ had necessarily to grow with the development of societies, and that the strength of authority was bound to increase by reason of the pressure of feelings shared in common. At a later date he was to go further and claim that even the religious feelings were only the feelings of belonging to society--the obscure premonition that we are working out a being which is our superior. And he was to assert that, under the names of gods or God, the real object of our adoration has never been other than society."

He concludes (p. 66):

"We have now passed in review four abstract concepts--four families of theories, so to speak, of Power.

Two of them, the theories of sovereignty, explain and justify Power as a right which derives from the sovereign, whether God or the people, and which it may exercise by reason of its legitimacy or due origin. The other two, to which we have given the name of organic theories, explain and justify Power by its function or its end, which is to assure the moral and material cohesion of society.

In the first two, Power appears as a centre of command in the midst of a multitude, in the third as a crystallinzing fire, or perhaps as a zone or light from which enlightenment spreads, and lastly in the fourth, as an organ within an organism..."

It is of note that the process was reversed, at least temporarily in the 1980s, but America seems to have decided to make up for lost time.

I hear ya, dude.