I am innately critical, which means I spend most of my time deconstructing and refuting what I believe to be bad arguments. I thought perhaps one of my New Year’s resolutions should be to offer solutions as often as criticisms. Like many of our resolutions, this may not last any longer than a week; but, I suppose I can at least try. So, here it is—my list of solutions to begin 2013:
POLITICAL PARTIES: Thomas Jefferson saw political parties as an “addiction” and as “the last degradation of a free and moral agent.” The two current parties are logically inconsistent, and are therefore mutually self-defeating. This was just illustrated with poetic irony as our congress created for itself a “fiscal cliff” and then tried to drive off of it. That is beyond self-defeating; it is suicidal. Thus, Jefferson concluded: “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
SOLUTION: Reject your current political party — and for the sake of all that is good, don’t just run off and join another one!
BOOKS: Once you have thrown off the shackles of political affiliation, how shall you form your opinions? Once again, we could refer to Jefferson, who said that “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Using a single source for all of your information will leave you as putty in the hands of that single source.
SOLUTION: Read a book. Pick something that challenges you; something from another time; from another place. Don’t rely on sources that will simply affirm what you already think to be true, telling you how right you are, how wrong the other guys are, and ensuring that no one finds any common ground.
REFORM: In America’s early days, there was one representative in the House for each 30,000 citizens. George Washington argued that, if this ratio grew much higher, the effectiveness of our representation would deteriorate. Today, each representative embodies more than 700,000 citizens. President Washington would not be thrilled. Yes, more representation would create an unmanageably large House of Representatives, but a problematic solution is not an excuse for ignoring the problem. This is only one example of reform. The “winner takes all” electoral system cries out for change even louder.
SOLUTION: Propose reform for these systemic problems in order to rebuild democracy.
VOTING: Speaking of elections, we must move the focus to the local, where we can actually have insight into the candidates. Our democracy was supposed to work from the ground up, local to national. Focusing on the distant caricatures running for president is a distraction more than anything else.
SOLUTION: Turn the current notion of voting on its head: vote first for the guys closest to you, and if you are going to leave a spot on the ballot blank, make it the spot labeled “President.” This is not childish protest; this is an effort at more effective democracy.
GUILDS: The death of the guild is, bar-none, the best example of what went wrong in civilization. A guild was an institution formed by craftsmen of a given trade, which enabled them to cooperate while also maintaining a healthy independence. The guild is emphatically not a labor union. Guilds were made up of men who owned their work, and who were more than just “organized labor.” Because the guild was private, it was self-directing and often took on the religious color of its particular members. Because it was also public, it had influence on government policy. It achieved the goals of both the Right and the Left, while avoiding the evils of both. Health care in the Middle Ages?—guild had it covered. Social security and retirement?—guild provided. Life insurance?—guild buried the dead. Malpractice insurance?—guild had a common fund for just such things.
Charity?—you guessed it, the guild. It could do all this because it was neither “state” nor “market.” It was “community.” It was man cooperating with man for the benefit of man, which is exactly what we now need. It died because it was less profitable than the rising competitive mercantile capitalism. Its death represented the subordination of community to profit. That trend has persevered ever since.
SOLUTION: Rediscover the guild, that we may rebuild a culture of cooperative identity.
GUNS: The Constitution grants the right to bear arms, and anyone who advocates firearm removal should be rejected. That being said, the NRA should not only be rejected, but also tarred and feathered. It does not matter if elementary school teachers are allowed to carry guns, if the teachers themselves do not want to carry guns. I know a few teachers, and I don’t think they want to start “packing.” Therefore, in order for the NRA solution to work, we’d have to do one of two things: force teachers by law to carry a gun, which is tyranny in itself; or, propagandize them until they are scared enough to consider carrying, which is psychological terrorism. If we look around us, every other “constitutional right” is exercised within boundaries. For example, we restrict “free speech” with laws against libel, incitement, conspiracy, and disorderly conduct. The 2nd Amendment should logically be no exception.
SOLUTION: Think creatively about the social role of firearms without swan-diving straight into absurdity.
EDUCATION: The current system of education has been formed in the image of industrialism, and is controlled by the government. From capitalism it gained a dehumanizing, efficiency-centered method; from the state it gained its bureaucracy.
SOLUTION: If you can, home-school.
Happy New Year!
This column is dedicated to social philosophy, religion and all other subjects that seek to keep us sane. If you have any related questions or suggestions that you would like to see explored here, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.