April 29, 2011

Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, Religion, and where the world is going

I read 3 articles in the a while back, that really got me to thinking about where we are, and where we are going as a country, as a world, and as humanity. I started a blog post about them, but then life happened. Now I am finishing the post. These articles, while all different, all talk about related subjects, and taken together, perhaps say more than they do individually.

These articles are Democracy, Prosperity, and Religion by Clayton M. Christensen, The Rise of the Hans by Joel Kotkin, and Dependence Day by Mark Steyn.

The first take-away I got from these articles are about the nature of the rise of America and our modern civilization. Something happened in Europe in the late middle ages, which led to the Renaissance, and ultimately to the rise of the English empire. I believe that something was related to the printing press, but also to the translation of the Bible and the rise of the protestant churches. People really believed. The choose to be good and expected everyone else to be good at the same time. Their definition of good was based on the understanding of right and wrong as defined in the Bible. Part of that understanding led to the concept of God given and unalienable rights. This led to the philosophies that built up and strengthened the rise of the United States of America.

These traditions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as all the other rights that are so often claimed by much of the world, but most especially those who live in the Anglosphere, are a direct result of these happenings. Somehow, with the creation of the Magna Carta and the split off of the Church of England, the attitudes and expectations of rights and freedoms became ingrained in the mindset of the populace. When England refused to extend these same rights and freedoms to the colonies, that led to the American Revolution. Of course, the US Bill of Rights was vital in formalizing these rights.

At the time of the revolution, and in the several decades that followed, there was a major resurgence in religiosity in America. Not everyone participated, but it was the general trend. People did what was right because it was right. In Great Britain and its colonies, they soon afterward followed with the Victorian Era with a heightened sense of propriety.

The resulting heightened moral norms had a very strong effect on the strengthening of both democracy and capitalism. Since those in industry and society were expected to be good, and there was significant social consequences for failure to meet these heightened norms, even those without authentic belief generally did what they could to conform.

Over time, there were those without that sincere belief that learned they could have their cake and eat it too. These individuals found a place in the rise of American Industrialization. Opponents of organized religion also have targeted the values that were espoused. The principles that were only enforceable by self restraint became things to be avoided by many. While still, America is the most religious of the modern developed world, those who are actively religious are only around 50%. Dishonesty and underhandedness are no longer justification for social rejection, but expected behavior.

Our current trajectory is a society that is slowly, but systematically, tearing itself apart. It does it culturally, spiritually, economically, politically, and economically. I don't know what we might employ to stop this trend. Perhaps the consequences of our society's actions and choices are inevitable at this point. Some might say they are the judgments of God. I believe that God set this world up so that consequences can be delayed, and even avoided with adequate course correction, but otherwise, they will come. His judgments are often self inflicted by the recipients.

What will the result be? Well, once society gets to the point that force and inertia are the only things holding it together, it is short hop to either totalitarianism or anarchy. If force wins out, it is totalitarianism, but if the inertia of our corrupted behavior wins out, it becomes a anarchic battle to the finish. Neither option sounds very appealing to me. I just don't know what we can do to alter the outcome at this point. So, what about it? Are we too far gone as a society to be saved?

April 26, 2011

Conservative politics - big business capitalism = ?

With all this federal shutdown garbage and now the debt limit crisis and the completely unreasonable and unmoving positions of our elected representatives in our federal government, and in state governments across the country, I have been doing a lot of thinking. I totally agree with the whole fiscal conservatism thing, living beneath our means, paying off the debt, and limiting government... to a point. I completely disagree with subsidies of any kind, apart from the prebate in the FairTax. That should be the primary equalizer our government provides. Oh, and the prebate should be twice as big as in HR 25, and education should be fully taxed, and investment should be taxed on the public exchanges. Well, it should be taxed any time it is required to be registered with any public agency, whether publicly traded or not. I also think we should be transitioning away from Social Security and Medicare and the other social programs.

But, and here is where I part from the traditional cut and slash crowd, I think turning any of this over to big business is a huge mistake. Big companies should be automatically excluded from government contracts and prohibited from buying out smaller companies. Too big to fail is too big to be allowed. We need another round of trust busting, and it should hit any company with revenues over a billion, which means a lot of them. Ok, yeah, some companies by their natures will be bigger than that, only have1 product, and make tons on that 1 product. Great, they need to stick with that 1 product. Companies exist to provide service to the greater good, not for enriching the pockets of investors. I know, sounds really like I am off my rocker. I am all in favor of small business. With this caveat: Businesses of all levels need to be responsible contributors to society and provide solid and fair jobs for their employees. Wages should represent contributions of effort and skill. This whole executive pay garbage where they are making millions and tens of millions, and even sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, all while paying employees less than subsistence level wages is criminal. And should be treated as such.

Businesses of all level should be highly regulated. Not burdened, but regulated in a way to keep the playing field level and make sure they are being good citizens. I feel that most of our current regulation is either ineffective, or misdirected. Corporations, well, all registered businesses for that matter, should have to regularly report on their activities. Maybe if they cannot show they are being good corporate citizens, then they could be entered into receivership, and possibly dissolved and the liquidated assets distributed to creditors and shareholders. The only question is, how do you keep the regulatory environment from being a bully, and limit interventions to only the truly problem companies?

So, as you can see, conservative politics minus big business capitalism equals ... what? I don't know. Maybe the regulation I dreamed up here as I typed is a bad idea. But, would it be any worse than becoming economic slaves to the Fortune 500?