The State of Affairs in America- Three Seminal Articles


It has been quite some time since I posted an original piece of writing written specifically for this blog; most of my recent posts have either been reposts from works I find inspirational, or reposts of my own past writings on different forums.

It will be quite some time before I post another such original piece; business and affairs of all sorts now squeeze out those bits of time and sparks of thought by which I usually produce eccentric essays. I have literally dozens of half-finished and unedited pieces saved in my browser, and dozens more thesis sentences on critical ideas which, over the last few months, have blossomed long enough for me to record their overriding concepts. But I have completed only a very few.

Tonight I will content myself with recommending to my readers three articles which I believe are quite revealing and instructive. Their authors, Adam Garfinkle and Walter Russell Mead, are highly intelligent and evenly balanced men whose hearts lie in line with the interests of America. That penetrating minds still exist with patriotic hearts ought to placate each and every doomsayer present in our midst.

Garfinkle, in ‘Broken,’ argues that the present state of the American system is problematic and unsustainable, and must be resolved. This is a common call among the punditry nowadays, but his argument focuses on three main trends.

First are the trends of globalization and automation. The changing nature of the world economy, in its interconnectedness, has undermined the relationship between national business enterprises and governments; and that has placed immense pressure both on national economies and the governments and bureaucracies tending them, all the while producing vast piles of wealth. Thus the “blue model” (see my summary of the next article) has been doomed to be wrought impotent by the advance of the world market, while the markets are doomed to become immeasurably rich. The automation of labor, by undermining traditional labor structures, has served the same purpose.

But the effects do not remain economic. As the political structure of the United States has been intimately connected with its economic structure, has affected it, and has been affected by it, so there are undoubtedly direct political effects. Trends in politics and institutions form the next set.

Whereas previously the American electoral system had invested power in party bosses and national caucuses, by the 70s and 80s, influxes in global wealth made reform more plausible, until a situation was worked out wherein candidates would finance themselves. Thus began the infamous “funneling of money into politics” which so many young idealists rightly declaim today. The resultant emphasis on ideology in elections (I will post about the direct connection between moneyed elections and ideological politics later) has led to the increased degrees of gridlock we have seen over and over again in the last two decades. And we have all seen the tremendous political consequences of that development, and how it has affected our institutions and polluted our democracy.

Finally Garfinkle examines the effects of trends in corruption and plutocracy. In short, the rise of lobbying culture within the Beltway, to the degree that Lobbyists become as powerful as politicians themselves, has paralyzed the regulatory agencies of government by making them effectively beholden to the very corporations and other entities which they are tasked to regulate. Thus monopolies still proliferate, and laws which would seem to punish harshly are enforced loosely. Moreover, there is a good degree of back-patting that enriches many pockets of many different people, as this goes on.

The link to the article is here:

Walter Russell Mead has two essays, the first a broad overview of two trends in American political thought, the second a review of the last century and an exhortation to build a new century.

In ‘Age of Hamilton’ Mead explores the Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian traditions in domestic policy. These should be fairly straightforward to the observer: Hamiltonianism emphasizes government activism in producing wealth and creating a strong society, whereas Jeffersonianism decries the excesses of government and counsels a republic made strong by the weakness of its leaders.

Clearly the American republic has always had a strong Hamiltonian core with various Jeffersonian peripheries. Mead’s Blue Model, the 20th Century way of doing things epitomized by TR’s Square Deal, FDR’s New Deal, and LBJ’s Great Society (basically a powerful government allied with banks and corporations, providing certain social welfare and regulatory measures aimed at a just and stable society) is more or less the norm most Americans are used to. But the rise of Jeffersonianism again, under Reagan, proved itself a worthy adversary, and as the Blue Model continues to sputter, it appears that the prudent thinkers of American must devise a new governmental model for the 21st Century, retaining the critical aspects of Hamiltonian rule while embracing the certain vigor made possible by Jeffersonianism.

The link to the article is here:

The final article, ‘The Once and Future Liberalism,’ is phenomenal. It more or less covers the same points as ‘Age of Hamilton’ but in much clearer detail, and with a review of the 20th Century and an exhortation to build a better 21st Century.

If you read nothing else on this post, you should read ‘The Once and Future Liberalism.’

The link to the article is here:

I have done Mr. Mead and Mr. Garfinkle a disservice- these are terrible summaries of their works. But I hope they pique someone’s curiosity enough to merit that person’s further inquiry; all Americans seeking to be a part of the solution to our present woes love their country with the depth of their heart, and would be wise to educate themselves by wise and designless men’s counsel. They can find that in these articles. I hope to have great conversations with those who read these.

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