Thursday, September 11, 2008

Democracy and the Principle of Imminent Collapse

Democracy and the Principle of Imminent Collapse

The existence of democracy itself is an improbable phenomenon in a heavily populated global civilization. Today a multitude of factions vie for recognition and participation in the global forum. Even the inventors of democracy, the Greeks and later the Romans, did not allow just anyone to cast his vote for or against a law or action of the state. Athens was full of Athenians who voted and a slave class of people who did not. One did not merely move to Athens or any of the other city-states and sign up as a voting citizen.

Then, there was a ruling class of learned and/or powerful people who constituted the intelligentsia who could plan and implement the business of the state. The blacksmith, the stone masons and the shepherds first had no interests of state nor and say in the matters of state. Slaves certainly were not valued as contributors to the running of the state. Today, we hold as self-evident that everyone should have a say in the matters of selecting representatives who will ultimately conduct the state’s business.

The plebiscite is only for the lesser offices not the decision making process that determines when and with whom we go to war, who we obliterate in bombing raids, how we reduce the enemy to a quivering mass of humble flesh. Our learned and powerful representatives meet to make a show of supporting or condemning each and every law, penalty, budget item and regulation.

Men and women stand for election and re-election to be the ones who cast their votes for and against the things that are to be for the good of the people. It is difficult however to determine what is truly good and not good for the people. A tax might allow the community to have a safe bridge to cross into the next county or state, but the very same tax might send marginal family incomes into a fatal downward spiral to insolvency. Reducing tax burdens may allow taxpayers to buy essential goods and services, but the lack of funding of healthcare leads to poorer aggregate health and higher costs later. This fiscal relationship may impact the same individual directly. Lack of spending for public transportation services for people who do not drive causes their friends and families to have to bear the cost of the transportation themselves.

In the 4th to 3rd century BC, there were no multi-national corporations that earned multi-billion dollar profits while neglecting human needs and exploiting cheap labor and the masses’ need for some commodity. Well there was salt; and salt mines; and people who were sent to the salt mines. People needed salt; wanted salt; were sometimes paid in salt. And if there were wildly profitable corporations in ancient Greece, they certainly would have felt justified in paying the campaign expenses of a Senator or Caesar or two.

Democracy has become synonymous with Capitalism in the American sense. Ironically, it has become synonymous with Communism and Marxism in South America. In the USA sense, bringing democracy to the people of a country means deposing a dictator and opening their markets to American investors.

But all of that aside, democracy must spring forth on its own from its intrinsic nature, from the unified will of those people who are the “demo’ of the “cracy”. One cannot force a people to become democratic. When a people finally do decide that a voting system for representatives is what they want, it is a fragile thing indeed. Young democracies typically see a dozen or more parties and affiliations emerge to promote a candidate to tilt at the windmill of the incumbent who probably seized power in a coup and held that power for many years before being pressured to step down or is deposed by CIA backed insurgents.

A few assassinations of prominent candidates or a couple of improvised explosive devices tossed into the polling places can unset any gains toward stabilization of a new government. Everyone has his particular agenda to promote in these latter days of democracy. Just imagine even the 13 states which were the original 13 revolutionary colonies of England trying today to agree on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the whole three branches of checks and balances of the Federal government along with its expanded powers and authorities as acquired since the first continental congress. Britain would have had ample opportunity to sneak back in and re-establish colonial rule while we were bickering over who had the prettiest powdered wig and curls or the flashiest shoe buckles.

We name-call and degrade the personal attributes of they who would otherwise be wise statesmen and women. We mash together a bit of truth with a dash of lie, then fold in a whole lot of opinion then blend it all with innuendo and revisionist history, and half bake it. For all that effort we get a democracy soufflé that is fluffy, puffy and light. If we are not careful a single nudge will make it fall in on itself. We have all been busy erecting the thin scaffold of party politics in a race to get one over on the competition all the while neglecting its long term stability. No body sneeze just now.

The acid rhetoric between candidates of even the same party let alone candidates of opposing parties has eroded the stone foundations of our nation. Senators and Congress-persons cannot debate the merits of any proposed legislation without smearing the reputations of every legislator in opposition. Where is the end of this contention? Will we reach Extinction or a New Equilibrium? While legislators and their backers spit vitriol at each other, the interest on the national debt grows over $39 million.1 And that doesn’t even include the increased spending and the increases of obligation for budget items for which we have a long standing commitment.2

The American Presidents of recent administrations, along with all of their advisers, financial backers and mouthpieces have lead the nation to the precipice and will be only a nudge to send us tumbling into the morass. The Principle of Imminent Collapse postulates that it takes only The Nudge to manifests the imminent collapse. The Soviets discovered the Principle of Imminent Collapse as they kept trying to compete in the Cold War against the much larger and more sophisticated economic machine of the West. They were drawn into intractable military conflict in Afghanistan and bankrupted themselves. The Soviets put themselves in the position of immanency and the West provided the Nudge.

Today the financial sector of Western Capitalism has put itself in that very same position and little groups of dissenters plot as how to create that Nudge. There are so many possible Nudges to use. One or more in combination are so easy to employ when the tower is so flimsy and lousy with rot.

Democracy and the Western financial system are extensively intertwined. The true electorate is the businesses which buy and sell influence to create and maintain a climate which is conducive to the long term survival of enterprise life even as the atmospheric climate becomes hostile to biological life. In the Terminator movie franchise, it is the rise of sentient machines that takes over the world. Orwell wrote of Big Brother who rules the future (now the Past) of 1984. In both worlds we the people failed to heed the prime warning: Make a system as powerful and extensive as you want, but do not let it have control of its own on/off switch.

Switching off the machines and enterprises upon which we have come to depend may be painful but when they run amuck it sometimes becomes necessary. Either way we have to live with the consequences even when the clock of progress is set back too.

One significant flaw inherent in democracy is that the people can vote to do something that is totally wrong and destructive. The people can vote to stop being their “brother’s keeper” and let the less fortunate among us sink. When we allow that to happen, we have already set in motion our own decline.

1 10 mos. Fiscal 2004 Interest / Hour was $39,494,260.00 ($Mil) from

2 Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Military.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Expecting Collapse to Solve Our Problems

Expecting Collapse

A great many people are expecting collapse. I know a few of them personally. If you are not one yourself, you undoubtedly know a few yourself anyway. There is a danger in expecting collapse to solve your problems. The " Truth About Tobacco " campaign says it quite succinctly: "you don't always die from tobacco."

As recently as September 1, 2008 President George W. Bush did get his wish and received a more than plausible reason to stay away from the RNC in Minneapolis-St. Paul. In this case he was relieved to have a major storm event in the Gulf of Mexico to watch from The Whitehouse rather than take a chance on flying to the Convention cities and be caught off guard once again by a tricky hurricane that everyone else could see coming for five days.

As the world approached the most recent millennium anniversary millions of the inhabitants of this Big blue Marble came to believe that the end was near. Preachers with wide exposure on the airwaves warned everyone to repent and prepare. Some people even disposed of all their worldly possessions in order to be more worthy of the Rapture when all the righteous ones would disappear and the graves would be opened as those sleeping in the certain hope of the resurrection would rise and float to heaven. For the dead, this was a reasonable pastime. For the living it was a path toward the Principle of Imminent Collapse.

If a person believes that the end of civilization, nay, the entire realm of Creation, is about to be destroyed by God, then there is no reason to take any action for self preservation or for the preservation of civilization itself. There is no reason to pay off those debts, especially the national ones. The problem arises is when the end doesn't come.

We can see the mentality of the end-time philosophy in the lack of planning by the US Government. FEMA was not anywhere near competent and ready to take any coherent action at the time of Katrina. And we had a President at the time who relies heavily on his faith to guide his decisions. It is all well and good that a parent seeks the guidance of Providence in deciding how to raise a child, but one cannot extrapolate the value of that intervention in national and global politics, because we have to realize that the other sides are praying to the same god and seeking conflicting outcomes.

Many day-trading short sellers have found themselves studying the business end of a Smith and Wesson over the miscalculation of imminent collapse of a particular stock price and hoping that the price falls soon enough and fast enough to beat the margin call.

The residents Heaven's Gate cult compound listened to their spiritual leader Marshall Applewhite and took their lives in advance of the "recycling" of the Earth and their only chance of survival was to depart while leaving their physical bodies behind. Their 1997 escape was a bit pre-mature at the very least. Even if the Earth is to be recycled, the construction schedule has been revised.

Millennium madness spurred on many such actions by less than stable people and groups. Men slay their wives and children. Women microwave their babies. Lone gunmen (boys) rampage on high school and college campuses. The idea that there is nothing to lose takes root and everything else becomes meaningless. The psychiatric imbalance is there all along, latent, imminent, waiting for the Nudge.

Individual borrowers listen to the rhetoric that says 'buy now pay later', extract the equity of your home today, and repay it if you can. And if you die first, have your insurance policy pay off the balance. Do it now, don't be left behind.

Left Behind became a best-selling book series of the tele-evangelist set. It portrays the Rapture of the Church and all of its worthy righteous brethren. Only the most sincere worshippers get to go to Heaven. And the time is now. But like Linus Van Pelt sitting in the pumpkin patch on Halloween, we are all left waiting, and waiting, for the imminent collapse to come.

Some people read into the prophecies that certain events must come to pass before the end actually comes and ushers in the new world. They look deeply into ancient texts and reinterpret what has long been believed. The Bible Code, the DaVinci Code and now the Nostradamus Code follow the 1988 certainty of the 88 Reasons Why Rosh-hash-ana 1988 Must be the Time of the Church's Rapture. A lot of people believed the telling of this lore and acted accordingly, or completely irrationally.

The ubiquitous nature of the Principle of Imminent Collapse must be resisted if we are to not be complicit in its manifestation when it was only latent before. Plans must be made. Consensus must be reached and budgets prepared. The size of the budget might be painful today since we have already wasted too many decades on indecision and wandering around in a legislative quagmire led by inept or wrong thinking Presidents but they will only become even more painful later on.

Hoping for imminent collapse can be an evil thing. The inept and negligent managing of the funding of the Social Security fund had left us with an almost unfundable entitlement. The baby boom birth rate from 1946 to 1964 created the largest population of future retirees in history. That coupled with advancements in health care that greatly extended our life expectancies means that the actual retiring population is much larger than originally calculated. Planners did extrapolate these numbers but legislators did not adopt the plans.

Then we had annual inflation rates created by borrowing and spending funds we did not have and the price of such large volume consumptions like oil quintuples in price. A lot of short term investors made a lot of profits but we were left without the funding of that huge SSI entitlement. Maybe the problem would go away if we ignored it. Maybe a miracle would be bestowed upon us and the problem would go away. Maybe 1 million people who were just ready to retire would suddenly die and not need Social Security after all. A monthly payment of $1,900 over ten years for 1 million people is $2.28 Trillion. Maybe the Rapture is a solution after all.