Thursday, March 17, 2016

No Second Chance

     In her landmark analysis of American government The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson notes that political power, while easy to grant, is not so easy to revoke:

     Further, political power has a ratchet action; it works only one way, to augment itself. A transfer occurs by which the power cannot be retracted once it is bestowed....The difficulty of taking back powers once granted is illustrated in the repeal of the Prohibition Amendment; although it was demanded and carried by overwhelming sentiment of the citizens, the article of repeal contained a proviso which would retain numerous Federal jobs; it was impossible to make a clean sweep of the pernicious usurped power. The Prohibition Amendment was an assertion of absolute government, the indication of complete decomposition of the body politic.

     This is a special case of a more general phenomenon: the disproportionate power of groups with short, coherent agendas. This is part of the reason a group that has in some way “gotten a piece” of the power of the State possesses political influence far beyond what would be imagined from its numbers alone. Not only can it wield coercive power in its own interest; it also has greater motivation, greater capacity to raise resources, and more flexibility in creating alliances with other groups.

     This mechanism also operates within recognizable groups. Robert Conquest’s observation that:

     The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies. ( Conquest’s Third Law of Politics )

     ...is yet another expression of that general law: one that embeds itself in any group that grows beyond a certain, rather intimate size. Which brings us to my main subject for today: the “major” political parties, particularly the Republican Party and the existential crisis it faces due to the rise of Donald Trump.


     The following video came to my attention via American Digest:

     It is inarguable that there exists, within each of the major parties, an “establishment” group that wields far greater power over its party than any randomly assembled group of comparable size. That group’s motivations are known in their entirety only to its members, yet at least one of those motivations is the preservation of its power and perquisites.

     “Power?” I hear you cry. “How can a group of non-office-holding citizens within a voluntary assembly wield power in any objective sense? They have no ability to coerce or award privileges! What kind of libertarian are you, anyway?”

     To answer your last question first: the smart kind. The kind that doesn’t take his eye off the ball. The kind that bears always in mind that any group with a hierarchical nature sooner or later becomes an instrument for wielding power in some fashion. Once that happens, pace Hayek, “the worst” will get on top.

     The major political parties possess privileges denied to the minor parties. Their presidential candidates get Secret Service protection from the nominating conventions to the completion of the balloting. The mechanisms for tallying the votes report directly to the headquarters of those two parties. Presidential candidates “debate” one another by the graces of the Commission on Presidential Debates. Those “debates” automatically get television coverage denied to the minor party candidates. The legislative chambers on Capitol Hill are officially divided according to major-party affiliation. And so forth.

     Like it or not, the Democrat and Republican parties are organs of the federal, state, and county governments – all three-thousand-plus of them. Each of them possesses an Outer Party and an Inner Party. Within each Inner Party there exists a smaller group that holds the true helm of the ship.

     George Carlin, call your office.


     The aim of the High is to remain where they are. – George Orwell, 1984

     The “political circus” video embedded earlier contains statements and expresses attitudes by a number of individuals, each of whom possesses his own motivations. Do their statements reflect the whole of their motivations? Probably not; they’re politicians de facto, and even when a politician tells the truth, he never tells the whole truth. But of this we may be reasonably sure: each of them firmly believes that he belongs in the innermost cabal that steers the Republican Party.

     Perhaps some of them sincerely believes that he has the good of the party and the United States of America at heart. Perhaps all of them do! But that motivation will forever be counterpoised to each one’s desire to remain in his position within the party – and that desire is likely to be the stronger of the two.

     The rise of Donald Trump, an “insurgent” candidate whose past behavior, statements, and affiliations cast serious doubt on his authenticity as a Republican, threatens those power brokers. Should Trump capture the party nomination, he will also capture the party itself. For Trump is a Tyrant of the old style:

     You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. [C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters]

     Donald Trump seeks to hold all power in his own hands. Should he gain the GOP presidential nomination, he would countenance no opposition from within the party. He’d destroy the party rather than permit it. Yet the establishment that precedes him would fight fiercely for its position...and after the dust had settled, there would be no major party dedicated to the limited-government principles expressed in the Republican platform. Granted that elected Republicans haven’t exactly lived up to those principles in recent years.


     Despite the accuracy of Paterson’s observation, there is a way to reclaim power once bestowed: revolution. But revolution is a messy business, which eventuates in worse tyranny at least as often as it does in greater freedom. So also would it be with a revolution dedicated to destroying the Republican Party in the hope that something better would replace it.

     The genesis of the Republican Party was in opposition to slavery. Yet the rest of its platform was very statist: protective tariffs, a central bank, federally planned, funded, and executed “public works.” It speaks to the importance of the slavery issue that Abraham Lincoln was able to rise to the presidency...and that the South, which found itself on the losing end of both its most passionately contested issues (slavery and tariffs), would secede from the Union in consequence.

     Today’s GOP is a far cry from that of the middle 19th Century. It’s not what I would like it to be...but were it to be taken over by Trump and his cronies, or destroyed in the reaction to their rise, where would we who love freedom and America find a home? The Conservative Party is essentially a Republican annex. The Libertarian Party is dominated by intemperate lunatics. The other minor parties offer nothing better.

     It falls to us – libertarian-conservatives – to determine the future of the GOP. Should we allow it to be snatched by the Trumpists or destroyed by its internal conflicts, there might be no second chance for any party of freedom to emerge in our lifetimes.

9 comments:

  1. You talked me into it. Back to Egypt it is. Slavery is obviously preferable to all this uncertainty. /sarc

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  2. "Donald Trump seeks to hold all power in his own hands."

    Sure is good we've got that selfless paragon Obama in the WH then isn't it? And that the Uniparty prefers anyone other than Trump, and would certainly rather have Clinton, who is known for her honesty and humility and sexy pantsuits.

    Yeah, it would sure be better for all if that upstart Trump would just fade away, and all those millions supporting him to find some other country in which to be free. Here, the Uniparty (long live the Uniparty!) is Maintaining the Status Quo!

    (Really don't know what has got into you, Fran. This screed is not worthy of you.)

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  3. Have viewed online the "By Ballot or Bullet Restoration is Coming" theme. Please God let it be by ballot. I humbly request that all consider reading "Fear the People" a free .pdf with a plan by a Texas engineer.

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  4. Esky, Trump is no better than Obama and has the potential to be far worse. It goes beyond his demonstrated penchant for dictatorial action. He's a person without convictions or firm moral and ethical standards. His entire life history speaks to his self-absorption and willingness to trample others if it would get him what he seeks.

    There are other choices, Esky, and there's still time to act on them. One of those choices is a rally toward Cruz, who despite some lapses of judgment -- one of which I wrote about just Tuesday -- remains a far better choice than anyone else still in the race. Another is a brokered convention which, even if it should select Rubio or Kasich, would be better for the country than nominating Trump, who will lose to Clinton if he's nominated. That's "what's got into me" -- and you, a longtime reader, should know better than to say such a thing, especially at the end of an insulting and completely substance-free comment.

    Have a nice life.

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  5. Without going to my dictionary I would define "revolution" as a sudden, radical shift in a pre-determined course. I believe we are faced with some sort of a revolution now and as I look at the alternatives presented - Trump, however bad he might be, is still preferable to the shooting variety. He may turn out to be a disaster but with Democrats urging us to dump him and vote for Cruz I have to believe they feel they would have an easier time defeating Cruz rather than Trump.

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  6. Still voting for Trump. I think the left could use a good trampling. God knows they've been squashing us on the finest Orwellian fashion for most of my life.

    And a Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio would, if nominated and elected, gleefully go back to raping all of America, lining their own and their cronies pockets, and further destroying the beautiful country I remember growing up in many years ago. Probably in the guise of fairness, or reaching across the aisle, or multiculturalism, global warming, or other rot.

    Either way, there will be blood. It will be interesting to see who's.

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  7. The revocation of political power is not that complicated.
    Bloody, dangerous and fraught with uncertainty....but not
    complicated. The real trick is knowing what happens AFTER
    the political power is taken away from those in power. They
    tend to resist and they tend to follow the 'scorched earth'
    philosophy.

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  8. sorrow eateth the soul of him who may not unburden his mind.
    -- The Sayings of Har, the Poetic Edda

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  9. Jeez, this is actually a response to Fran's Frday, 3/18/2016 missive about ROI, but, since he didn't allow comments there, I'll try to use the same lens here to make a similar point.

    In "No Second Chance," (Thursday, 3/17/2016) Fran argues that political parties have strayed a long way from their initial postitions that they claimed to represent; and that politicians (and governments)in general never relinquish power once they've been granted it.

    Meanwhile, in his "ROI" post, Fran points out, "But some of those retired bloggers didn’t run out [of free 'ice cream,' that is, free expresssion of viewpoints that *did* have a cost of time, effort and personal feeling.] Some just got tired of other people pissing on it. Too negative an ROI endured for too long simply bankrupted them. There’s a moral in there, somewhere."

    I think the lesson is pretty simple. As much as we want to believe in altruistic stuff, the closer you look at the actual workings of American politics, or the American people, the more complicated (and posssibly, uglier) it gets.

    And, on a "meta" level - as physiscists might point out - you can't even look closely at your subject without changing it. . . and IT CHANGING YOU.

    Readers here, and Fran, I'm sure, are familiar with Schrodinger's cat and how an observer collapses the wave and influences the particle/wave experiment. But what isn't commented upon is how the observation of those metaphysical things also affects the OBSERVER.

    Fran, I'll bet you were happier and more optimistic before you got down and dirty and observed how race really works in America. Or politics. Or demographics, in general.

    And I'll bet almost any blogger was initially blissfully ignorant of the number of spiteful, ignorant, drunk or hurtful people there are in the general population that have the time and wherewithal to just cause grief to anyone who dares voice what they believe.

    This is where we're at. We are not a nation or tribe or family connected by common beliefs or customs. We are not Newton's physics.

    We are now disparate waves with our own random functions adrift in a causal sea of mathematics and probability. We have an entire group of people who choose to deny any notion of human characteristics - race, gender, family, history or even "what I saw with my own eyes."

    We are no longer human, with the traditions, morals and shared history of a shared experience. We are, instead, reflections of an ignorant understanding of the inestimable universe. Too many of us focus on the random, entropic nature of things and choose to react mindessly to what appears mindless.

    Life is. Mind is. Thought is.

    Yes, a sun could go nova tomorrow and obliterate any life with minds and their thought in an instant. That doesn't change what was, is or shall be.

    Minds matter. You matter. We need to continue to observe, care and comment so that life, politics and humans don't get overwhelmed by simple physics into thinking that it's ok to be a hateful, mindlles jerk who can act like a black hole of gravitational selfishness until our nuerons stop functioning.

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