Is Representative Democracy Dead?

A challenging comment from a thought-provoking contributor to this blog, Herb Van Fleet (who also writes op-eds for the Joplin Globe), has prompted me to post the following.

Among other things, in his response to my piece on the Republican voter suppression scandal, Herb offered this:

Being the malcontented, cynical, outlier that I am, it seems to me that just because a person is a U.S. citizen of the right age, who is ambulatory enough to get to the local polling booth, that is not a justification for a “right” to vote.

Should we allow those who are illiterate to vote when they can’t even read the ballot. Should we allow those with very little education to vote if they can’t understand the issues? Should we allow those who are ignorant of our political system — who can name the Three Stooges but not the three branches of government — to vote?

My reply:

Herb,

Of course I have to challenge your suggestion that a U.S. citizen “of the right age, who is ambulatory enough to get to the local polling booth, that is not a justification for a ‘right’ to vote.”

Oh, yes it is. You know why? Because the alternative is unthinkable in a democracy. Just who would get to decide if “those with very little education” can “understand the issues”? Or who would measure the level of ignorance “of our political system” and by what standards would they measure it? Would you apply your Three Stooges test or some other test?

We all agree that it is generally a good idea for folks to be informed and to make use of their rational faculties before doing anything, including casting their votes. But that tells us nothing, when you think about it, about how people might vote or whether they would cast what you or I might consider to be the right vote.

johnson on votingLet’s say we could devise a test that served the purpose you suggested. Then let’s suppose we gave our test to someone like Rush Limbaugh. He would likely pass such a test. Yet, he would certainly disappoint me and around half the country on his choice of candidates. Rush Limbaugh would vote for the dumbest, most clownish Republican on the planet if the alternative was a Democrat. I can guarantee you that, after two decades of listening to him. So, I would ask you: what would be accomplished by such a test? And how significant, in terms of one’s desired electoral outcome, is any testable notion of being “informed”? Therefore, why bother with such a test?

Maybe we could devise a test to sort out people whose minds have been poisoned by fundamentalist religion. We could call it the Ted Cruz or Michele Bachmann test. But what kind of democracy would we have if we arbitrarily decided that this person or that person shouldn’t vote? As much damage as I think the Ted Cruzes and Michele Bachmanns of the world are doing to our politics, in a democracy they both get to vote. And they should. The informed and the misinformed, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the Christians and the pagans, all get to vote—if they want to. Who knows? Perhaps there is safety in numbers.

That leads me to this stunning argument you made:

It seems to me that an important predicate for a fully functional representative democracy is an informed electorate. On that point, I would argue that that is exactly what the founders gave us.

I had to read that a couple of times before I could react appropriately. The founders did not give us “an informed electorate,” since no one could guarantee that anyone casting a vote was informed (and, again, if being an “informed” voter is essential to good governance, why doesn’t it lead people to vote and think the same way? Why were there Federalists and Democratic-Republicans in our system as early as 1792?)

But even if the Founders could have given us such an informed electorate, please explain to me how limiting the vote to literate property owners—no blacks, women, or native Americans need apply—constituted a “fully functional representative democracy”? What it amounted to was essentially a fully functional oligarchy. Now, if you personally prefer oligarchies, just say so!

Which leads me to your point about what you call “the tyranny of the minority,” regarding the relatively small number of eligible people who actually vote and decide issues. Now, that is a strange kind of tyranny, don’t you think? I mean what you are describing is essentially a tyranny that people who don’t bother to vote foist on themselves, year after year, election after election. You can call that a lot of things, but it isn’t a tyranny of the minority, unless the minority (as Republicans are now doing) is actively and successfully engaged in voter suppression.

Finally, while I largely agree with you that in many ways, “Public policy is set by special interest groups, lobbyists, and the top one percent,” I think you go too far when you say,

…we have long since slipped from being a liberal representative democracy into a plutocracy.

Well, yes, there are plenty of plutocrats among us. Yes, those plutocrats have outsize influence over our politics. Yes, we are slouching toward something one might call a plutocracy. But as both Roosevelts demonstrated, the plutocrats don’t always have to win. They don’t “rule” in the sense that they control it all. They can always be defeated in a democracy. If we don’t think they can, if we have lost all public confidence in our electoral process (and Citizens United went a long way in undermining that confidence, I’ll admit), and if we no longer believe the people we elect are ultimately responsive and accountable to voters, then the American experiment is over. 

And if you think this great experiment is over, then you will have to admit that “a liberal representative democracy” is simply impossible to maintain. I, for one, am not ready to toss in the towel, and with all due respect, I hope there are more citizens like me than “malcontented, cynical” ones like you.

Duane

P.S. I read your recent and mostly admirable op-ed in the Joplin Globe, Herb. I agree with you that “our democracy is broken” and I would be the first to entertain “another form of government,” possibly a parliamentary republic just to name one I am fond of. But I was amazed at two things about your piece. One was that you managed to complain about the brokenness of government without mentioning the real culprit these days: the Republican Party. You tend to do that when you write op-eds for the Globe.

The other thing that amazed me was that you ended with a dubious quote from Abraham Lincoln, who allegedly trembled for the safety of the nation because of the reign of “the money power of the country.” As far as I can tell, Lincoln never said that. I wish to God he had because it would be the greatest prophecy in American history, given what the Republicans on the Supreme Court have lately enabled via Citizens United and other decisions. Next time, rather than leaving them with the impression that both sides are equally guilty for our broken system, maybe you can explain that partisan fact to your readers, as well as the fact that gumming up government has been a deliberate GOP tactic since 2009.

 

11 Comments

  1. Troy

     /  October 14, 2014

    Wow! Wtg my brotha! You’re the one who should be writing for the Joplin Globe! Great response!

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  2. Very good discussion between Duane and Herb here, and I side with Duane that there is no way to qualify the right to vote that would not be corruptable.

    I’m thinking there is no perfect solution to the conundrum of voting – it is a blunt instrument. Only in the mirror of history can governmental decisions be seen in their right context and the body politic seems to sense this, the evidence being the often predictable swings of favor between the two major parties.

    Churchill was right, of course, that this messy system of government is flawed but better than all the others. Its sine qua non, the essential element that makes it work, I submit, is freedom of the press, something oddly embedded not in the Constitution itself but in its first amendment. Because of a free and raucous press the representative form works even in the U.K., with its strange House of Lords and vestigial monarchy.

    Of all the threats to our form of government, one of the worst I can think of would be to shrink or eliminate primaries. That’s where the warts and hairs are exposed to the public light. I really enjoyed the 2012 Republican primary campaign. The mind boggles at the possible outcomes of a process determined by an oligarchy, or by its subset, a plutocracy. Here’s hoping the 2016 races will be as revealing.

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  October 14, 2014

    Duane and Herb,

    There is little doubt in my mind that the Founders were concerned about “mob rule”. Recall the French Revolution was taking place around that time frame in world affairs. Very few outside of France wanted such events in their own countries, however such countries were governed at that time. And the French themselves booted out the “mob” after a few years of heads rolling all over France.

    The Founders in fact “defined who could vote” in the Constitution. That was later changed. But our republican form of government has not been changed. People, all the people elect other people to vote for them on all matters before the country. I doubt even Duane would call for the American government to become a “pure democracy” with every Act of Congress becoming a national popular vote and no Presidential veto power or courts to rule against such acts by a popular Congress made up of every adult citizen in America making up that Congress.

    Does anyone believe that “thinking Americans” wanted the OWS mob to take control of our country? I doubt anyone other than really crazy people, crazy in a political sense, would want such mob rule in government. I wonder how the “mobs” in Ferguson would construct a new government in that troubled city as well?

    Someday, actually some century, people on Earth will read of American Democracy. But like the Roman Empire, it will be only in history books. Something else will be in place as the ideal form of government. Of course I have no idea what it will be at that time, in that century. But I do know two major changes in technology that might well drive forms of government in the future.

    One is of course nuclear weapons. The whole world will have such available to them in that century. The second is our more recent information technology. Every opinion can now be sent world wide at the speed of light, almost to anywhere on Earth, in an instant. How is anyone suppose to be able to pick the right information to govern?

    Are people on Earth any smarter today than during the centuries of Roman Rule? I doubt it but people are now a helluva lot more informed and our swords are much more destructive that in those centuries as well.

    Hell I can’t even determine yet who will control the American Senate for the next two years, and I doubt anyone reading this has such a crystal ball on hand to provide the right answer. But for the rest of my life we will continue to govern as a republic. Of that I am almost certain, unless some mob (on either side) gains control.

    In a republic thinking people are the best choice to govern in my view, not mobs. So I will do what I have been doing for about six years, advocating against mobs and trying to instill some sense into American government and in my own mind as well.

    Anson

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  4. Duane,

    So much to say, so little time. Let me start with an apology for using a quote attributed to Lincoln (letter to Col. William F. Elkins in 1864) which he, Lincoln, never said or wrote. However, notwithstanding the misattribution, the sentiment expressed is very much in line with Lincoln’s thinking at the time. (See http://www.snopes.com/quotes/lincoln.asp) So, even though he didn’t say it, I believe he would have agreed with it.

    I base my argument on the folly of voting in this political environment mainly from Princeton University’s Martin Gilens’s and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page’s paper, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens . They conclude that (pdf p. 13 -14):“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

    And while I’m on quotes, FDR came to the same conclusion as Gilens and Page way back in 1938, “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling private power.” Hmmmm . . .

    The case for ineffective voting is further supported by some statistics. In my Op-Ed piece, I referred to the dissatisfaction in the direction of the country as being 76%. I do make the leap here that the primary means of mitigating this dissatisfaction is via government action, specifically by those elected as our representatives.

    As to the federal government, Congress has an approval rating of 13%. Yet we overwhelmingly reelect the incumbents 90% to 95% of the time. And in congressional districts where there are no incumbents, gerrymandering typically controls which party will win. (It would be interesting to see how the state legislatures would fair under this analysis.)

    So here we have this big disconnect between the electorate and the elected. 3/4ths of us say we’re dissatisfied with the direction on the country, then we reelect those who are charged with doing something about it, only to disapprove of the representative we empowered to make the changes we want – by a factor of 10 to1! This, of course, is the very definition of insanity.

    By the way, the president is a special case. At a minimum I would pitch the electoral college. It’s no longer necessary as it might have been in the first 150 years or so of the republic. No, a popular vote is simpler and keeps SCOTUS away, along with hanging chads. (Think of how much different the world might be today if Gore has been allowed to win by a majority vote, which he did.)

    As to a “test” to get more informed voters who might actually THINK before they pull the lever or fill in a box, I did not mean that literally. I was only pointing our the inherent weaknesses in our democracy. And, while I advocate a change, I don’t necessarily advocate one alternative over another. I merely wanted to point out the deficiencies in our system and demonstrate our impotence as an electorate. As I said, the way our voting system is operating today makes it useless as a check and balance on the government. I give you your Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann as prime examples.

    You also quibble with my statement that, “an important predicate for a fully functional representative democracy is an informed electorate.” Well, yes. Otherwise we might just as well throw darts. (Hey, there’s an idea.) As to how the electorate becomes informed, well, that’s another deficiency in our country. See the “Nation’s Report Card, Civics 2010, Grades 4, 8. And 12.” It ain’t encouraging.

    Next, you question the validity of “the tyranny of the minority,” where I talk about the final vote tally being less, usually a little over half, than the total number who could vote, whether registered or not. You say, “Now, that is a strange kind of tyranny, don’t you think? I mean what you are describing is essentially a tyranny that people who don’t bother to vote foist on themselves, year after year, election after election?” That’s exactly what I’m saying! If 50% of all potential voters voted, then the winner would only need a bit more the 25% of the votes. Therefore, 25% being less that 100%, a plurality, which is to say a minority, wins. It’‘s a tyranny because the winner enters office under the illusion that she won by a majority. There is no mandate here. To say she is a representative “of the people” is absurd.

    Finally you say I go too far when I say, “…we have long since slipped from being a liberal representative democracy into a plutocracy.” Yes, we are a plutocracy, an “oligopoly” if you prefer. In fact we’re not too many elitists away from becoming a Fascist nation, just as FDR warned us.

    Now, you hope some people with the leadership skills of the Roosevelt’s, T.R. and FDR, will ride in on their respective horses/wheelchairs and save the day. You are the quintessential optimist, lost in the fog of altruism. There are no more Roosevelt’s or Truman’s or Eisenhower’s or Kennedy’s. We have no more statesmen like Fulbright, or Dirkson, or Goldwater, or Moynihan, and so many others. Politicians today are picked by the plutocrats. Patriotism and the notion of pro bono publico ethics have left the building.

    I don’t know if this great experiment in democracy is over, but it ain’t looking good.

    You have a sidebar quote from Lyndon Johnson emphasizing the importance of voting. I’ll give you another one, from Winston Churchill: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

    Herb

    p.s., Your very brave putting my mug on this post. It was taken somewhere on the Oregon coast circa Christmas, 2003. Fortunately, I’ve changed so much since then I won’t be recognized anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ben Field

       /  October 14, 2014

      Herb,

      Glad to hear you weren’t serious about qualifying voters, as I think people would protest an object in manner not seen in some while. It would be great if Princeton or Northwestern could do a study to name these businesses, and affluent people are that influence policy. Perhaps if they were publicly named people in this country could influence their pocketbooks. You and Anson both decry the status of our educational system, well guess whose influencing it? I know my 27 year old daughter has a eidetic memory and works for a data management corporation for upper Fortune 500 companies. My point being there are young people today that do realize how the system works and have the knowledge of how to work it against these entities. Then a representative could either be altruistic or unemployed. The voters wouldn’t need to be informed if there were a grade ranking on the congressman as opposed to the voter. Hell, this could spread to small towns and become a franchise and rebuild the economy. Don’t count out our children as mine are certainly smarter than I, and I am not alone there. I think you would be very surprised at how the American public would respond to such data. I don’t know what your plan is to sit back and say, “Told you so” or to use your considerable knowledge to find a solution. I find quintessential optimists to be far more inspiring than Chicken Little. I don’t know the answer but I have faith that the overwhelmingly majority of people in this country will do the right thing for their family and community when informed.

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    • Herb,

      First of all, if that mug is good enough for you to use, it is good enough for me!

      Second, I think Gilens and Page are onto something, for sure (even though they have their critics). I completely agree that “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the domination of certain interest groups and economic elites. That seems axiomatic to me. But that is different from saying that we have a plutocracy or that we can never counter the outsize control those classes have. Gilens has said this about the study:

      I’m sure you’ve noticed, this notion of America being an oligarchy seems to be a dominant meme in the discussion of our work. It’s not a term that we used in the paper. It’s just a dramatic sort of overstatement of our findings.

      I think that is about right. There is an overstatement of their work, which is the point I was trying to make about what you wrote. That’s not to say that there isn’t a profound danger in what their study indicates. What we have is a situation in which the voice of the people at large is often, but not always, drowned out by interest groups and elites via money injected into politics, either through elections or lobbying. To me, that is why it is “that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” People, at least right now, aren’t upset enough about it to do much beyond complaining. That’s partly because, as Gilens and Page point out, their interests and the interests of the economic elite often correspond. I think they correspond enough to cover up the serious threat that Gilens and Page have apparently found.

      But I should also again make the point that most of the problem is our system of government. Its design has enabled the special interests and elites to take advantage of the cumbersomeness inherent in the idea of checks and balances, in the idea of the separation of powers, in the idea of making it so damned difficult to change the Constitution. I prefer a parliamentary system for several reasons, chief among them that the kind of gridlock we see in Washington–which is serving the special interests and the elite for the most part–mostly disappears. Disparate groups of legislators have to form a coalition in order to have executive power and that power tends to be more responsive to the folks. Government works better under parliamentary systems and the well-being of the people is better served.

      That being said, there is exactly no chance that we will throw out our presidential system. We have to work within it. Getting money out of politics, completely out of politics, is the only way to make it work for the average Joe. There are people trying to do that and they are mostly failing. But I can’t give up hope just yet, even though you say I am “lost in the fog of altruism.” I say you are lost in a fog of pessimism. So maybe we both are lost. But I would ask you: How do you know there aren’t any Roosevelts or Trumans or Eisenhowers or Kennedys out there? One could argue that all of those guys were picked by the plutocrats, and for the most part, they did the country right.

      Duane

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      • ansonburlingame

         /  October 15, 2014

        Duane,

        I would only observe that a parlimentary system has been in place in Britain for …….. I for one would much prefer to live in America rather than England, today. That particular parlimentary system has slowly implaced socialism into the midst of the British realm.

        Of course that is what you really want, a form of socialism that spreads the wealth around. I am all for spreading the wealth around to people willing to actually work for weatlh and succeed based on their own hard work or “merit”. As well I support a safety net as well, but nothing like the safety net you and yours call for.

        Finally, in terms of individual wherewithall to run a large organization, I will pick a GOOD CEO, meaning a compassionate but still tough, man or woman, to pick the right way and not some “average worker” that only knows how to do far smaller taskes, far more focused tasks. Both can well be “good men and women”. But one has far more experience and knowledge (but not necessarily IQ) on how to run big and very complex things.

        Anson

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      • Agreed. Hope, as they say, springs eternal. Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve got to go on theses days.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 15, 2014

    Herb and Ben,

    Interesting to say the least when Ben says “I have faith that the overwhelmingly majority of people in this country will do the right thing for their family and community when informed.”

    Now go back and read Churchill’s quote offered by Herb. Sure the vast majority of Americans want the best for themselves and their families, or “the right thing for……”. But what IS the “right thing” becomes very contentious.

    Sociology I found was the study of how to achieve social equality. Wrong quest in my view. But of course one must define social equality as well. The “average” American might well think that such equality is “I get what you get, in terms of material acquisition”. Of course I feel that is wrong. Social equality means I get what you get in terms of opportunity to achieve the things I want, legally. Social equality means equality of every citizen under the same law. Equality in opportunity gets turned around by many to equality in “getting”.

    So much for domestic social equality. Take the leap into international affairs. Then show me what the “average” American believes is the “right” thing to do with ISIL. Good luck on that quest!!!

    I refuse to get into the morass of the decision making powers of all Americans. But I would suggest we be far more constrained in what we ask of all Americans. If you put H/C reform before all Americans Lord only knows what we would get. Sure about 90% would say “do more for us” but what exactly to do and how to pay for it would be far beyond the comprehension of most Americans, beyond thinking that “free” HC for all is “right” for America. In the military/foreign affairs set of issues, well, “no wars” and “no nuclear anything” would probably be the majority view of all Americans. They might even think a well trained military is only needed to keep the peace in….., say Ferguson!!

    As well, all of us know that popular opinion swings all over the place, all the time. Today popular opinion would likely be to replace the President, just like popular opinion shown in “Presidential approval ratings” near the end of Bush II’s term in office. Of course replace them with who and then do what becomes a deeper problem to argue about.

    Popular opinion is not at all patient. The Founders knew that and set up a republic to tame that beast. People scream “kick the SOBs out”, “clean house” all the time. But then when the time comes to do so, look what happens.

    My point, a simple one, is a complex society cannot be run by popular opinion, in the details or running a country. The “average” American can no more plumb the depths of complexity in government than fly to the moon, day by day. Hell even the bureaucracy of the federal government cannot keep up with such modern complexity, trying to satisfy the majority of Americans, that ever changing majority.

    Solution in my view is use the Constitiution to limit government power to things only the government can and must do well. Should the government do such and so is the wrong question. CAN the government do such and so, and do it well, is the overriding consideration, BEFORE we launch government at new things that nobody really knows, yet, how to do very well at all. And WHEN we the people give government a task, hold government’s feet to the fire, make those bureaucrats ACCOUNTABLE to all Americans.

    Every dollar that government collects should be put to good use for all Americans. Yet we forgive government so it seems when Medicare alone costs some $70 Billion in waste, fraud and abuse, or maybe even more money, depending on who does the audit to determine such a “fact”.

    One more example, Detroit, to beat that dead horse again. Does anyone think that all the citizens of Detroit know full well how to turn that city around? I suggest no one in the country has that answer, yet. The “liberal way” sure hasn’t worked in that community, but I have grave doubts that a conservative hard baller would be any more successful.

    The simple question of how to keep any city in America out of the financial and moral ditch is easy to ask, and demand as well. OK, all you wise citizens, what next? Let the majority get their way and ……….?

    I also understand that simply because of information technology that can tell us all the “bad” things going on, the popular view will be “fix it and fix it NOW”. So much for patience to develop and execute a long term strategy that can unite the country and allow such a strategy to take effect over years, even decades. No way will the majority stand for such.

    I can’t think of a better example than public education in America. It is a mess, to say the least. But no way will we “fix it” next year or even in a decade, probably. But listen to teacher unions and they will say just give us more money and all will be well.

    I also read today that some nurse’s union is weighing in on inadequate controls treating Ebola patients. Hmmmm? Usually that means they think “management” screwed up and they need MORE, nurses, anti-contamination clothing, better waste disposal, etc., etc. Yet nurses were supposedly infected because they simply failed to use available methods to prevent the spread of …….. I could put “radioactive material” in those dots and ask if Joplin is in fact ready to handle a major radiological emergency on I44, today. In one case we want to protect everyone against a “bug” and in the other protect everyone against “plutonium”. Wonder how well Joplin emergency responders and medical care workers could handle that last example?

    I spent 35 years training already well trained workers, including medical personnel how to handle a massive spread of radioactive material. I assure you it is not easy, at all. As for any confidence in the CDC, well go back two years and read what I had to say about that government institution, trying to deal with radioactive material 5,000 miles away. It was a joke, in my view, a typical bureaucratic mess.

    Anson

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    • Ben Field

       /  October 15, 2014

      Anson,

      We are all aware of your conservative desire to limit government to the wills of self-described informed, competent, old people basing government on what is best described as failed policy makers of unknown origin that are currently “in charge” of our course. You seem satisfied with the status quo and offer nothing to alter the course. Popular opinion based on misinformation presented by these sources is indeed questionable. Do you think the millions of Americans that now have health care is a detriment to society? Do you think Bush II nearly bankrupting our economy based on WMD that were in Iraq to start a war when in fact they were supplied to them by us in the Iran-Iraq war with most being deteriorated from prolonged storage was good policy? I would submit your position has failed us in the past and will continue with the same course. There are patriots in this country that are sick of the status quo and want to change to anonymous powers that are setting public policy. We live in the Information Age now and have the technology to determine best policies, we have the ability to present all sides of the argument to the people to make informed decisions. There will always be people that are recognized for their altruism and supported by the people. Sometimes they are like Snowden with good intent but dangerous, but I am confident they are still among us, but probably not in your party. The only thing that is certain in our society is change and with that comes the responsibility to make the best choices available. To discount the youth of our nation as inferior in decision making in evaluating public policy as compared to you looking into the eyes of a CEO or public official and determining the merit of their character is ridiculous.

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  October 16, 2014

    Here we go again with the personal disdain. “…… to limit government to the wills of self-described informed, competent, old people basing government on what is best described as failed policy makers of unknown origin that are currently “in charge” of our course. You seem satisfied with the status quo and offer nothing to alter the course.”

    If you believe I am satisfied with the status quo then you are more obtuse than I ever believed. I was not satisfied with it under Bush and certainly not satisfied with it under Obama, just for one retort. And I offer ideas to be considered all the time, like a far more limited government, limited to only things government can and should do well. Throwing money at problems as a solution is crazy until the solution is better understood. Hiring MORE teachers that are not able to teach, like the ones we see all over today is crazy, until we figure out how to better educate teachers, to start a loud argument!!!

    You and almost everyone else wants “government to fix Ebola” right now and of course they want it NOW, an immediate vacination to prevent the infection and a treatment protocol to save lives for the infected. Great, I do too, but that will take a while. For now the real and very hard (inconvient) task is to CONTAIN that “bug” and keep it away from the uninfected.

    I am sure in some obscure lab, somewhere, someone has been plugging along for years to find a way to elimate Ebola as a threat to human life, like smallpox used to be. That for sure is supposed to be what the CDC, a huge and cumbersome bureaucracy, does. But no one really cared until……….., recently. Now we see infected nurses flying home and then ……..

    Is it not obvious that ANYONE that came near that one man from Liberia should be kept in medical isolation for at least 21 days, right now? But try doing that and listen to the outrage. I also believe that EVERYONE on BOTH airplanes that recent nurse was on should be ……, until…….. Hell if I had been on one of those planes I would do it myself, remain away from anyone for at least 21 days. Yes that is conservative, but it is safe as well.

    That is not primarily a medical challenge. It is a command and control challenge. And government does a really lousy job of command and control in many cases. Just look at Ferguson if you have any doubts. And when command and control is needed to save lives popular opinion goes nuts, against firm but legal measures to keep everyone safe, from a deadly and invisible disease, one only visible when it is too late, so far, to save every life with the disease.

    Popular opinion wants the “easy way out”. Students are failing by many different metrics. So throw more money at the problem and expect it to be fixed. Many adults will not agree to take up the burden as parents to do more with kids at home to help fix that problem, MANY adults (but not all of them for sure). It is the schools’ task to change kids behavior and attitude to make them become good citizens, right! Well just go try, Ben and see how well you do in such a daunting task today, in the schools.

    Duane did a good job with his son it seems, I did the same with mine and you believe you did with yours as well as I recall. Great. Now come with me on a tour of JHS and let me show you about 50% of the kids therein that have not had such parenting. But you and others want to fire people, only administrators but certainly not teachers, to fix that problem. Ha!

    Some problems, societal problems are very hard to fix. Yet government operates on about a 4 year cycle at best, every Presidential election period to address many problems, or not address them. Even during a presidential election only the “hot topics” of the day are really debated, and politicians bob and weave around them all the time, like Benghazi. And we STILL argue over what happened and what needs to be done to prevent another Benghazi, keep overseas government facilities safe.

    We also forget when some “leader” says “this will be a generational problem” and be willing to work hard for at least a generation to fix it! Popular opinion wants it fixed NOW. Good luck.

    Oh, I would add, everyone wants someone else to “work hard to fix ……”, usually government. But very few want to work hard themselves, to lend a hand to fix the problem that is in their own home!!

    Anson

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