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Saturday, September 20, 2008

COMMON SENSE--FOR A TIME OF CRISIS:

Addressed to the Citizens of the United States--A People that sacrifices its liberties to achieve security is deserving of neither, and will end up losing both:

"Without Vision, the People Perish!"

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ON July 4, 2006, we published a new version of "Common Sense," modeled on Tom Paine's famous appeal to citizens for action during the Revolutionary Crisis of 1776.

We previously compared Bush administration policies to those of Calvin Coolidge, and predicted they would eventually lead our country to an economic crisis similar to that which occurred at the end of the 1920s. But in doing so, we did not assume the parallels would necessarily be as dramatic as they have become over the last several weeks.

Now, more than ever, and especially in light of the lack of vision being exhibited by our current political leaders and presidential candidates, there is great need for the kind of Common Sense vision that has inspired the common citizens of this country throughout its history to rise up to demand from their elected leaders and government actions and policies worthy of the Declaration of Independence that founded this country as one where ALL people should have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

So, we publish again here the first part of this Common Sense call to ACTION, and refer readers to the full blog here.

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Common Sense--For a Time of Crisis:

Addressed to the Citizens of the United States: A People that sacrifices its liberties to achieve security is deserving of neither, and will end up losing both--"Without Vision, the People Perish!"

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[Our economic and political rulers] have failed through their own stubborness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated [their responsibility] ... They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish. ... They have shown no realization that what they call free enterprise means anything but greed.

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We may well ask, are we in danger of a new caveman's club, of a new feudal system, of the creation of such a highly centralized industrial control that we may have to bring forth a new Declaration of Independence? (July 4, 1929)

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We are now providing a drab living for our own people ... If the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men ... We are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already. (1932)

This election is not a mere shift from the ins to the outs. It means deciding the direction our Nation will take over a century to come.

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Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods ... [Our task] is ... distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organization to the service of the people.

This Nation asks for action, and action now ... We must act and act quickly ... We must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline.

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The only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts.... (All the above quotes are the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as cited in Arthur M. Schlesinger's The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933)

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INTRODUCTION

Philadelphia, July 4, 2006

Without vision, the People perish. And democratic government dies with them--

So the founders of this nation understood, and so they established not only a constitutional government of three branches structured by checks and balances, but also insisted that the first amendment be incorporated into the Constitution to guarantee that the freedom of the press and public opinion would serve as strategic institutions to allow the people to watch over government and make sure each of its branches fulfilled the responsibilities assigned it by the Constitution--to protect and defend the security, liberties, and well-being of the American people:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
But this July 4, as the people of this country approach the 2006 mid-term elections in the midst of an ill-defined and ill-fated “war on terror,” the securities and liberties that “we the people” established our system of constitutional government to protect are under threat as perhaps never before in the history of our nation:

As we have witnessed in recent days and months, the free press and the security of our fundamental human rights and civil liberties are threatened not only by an executive administration that justifies everything it does--including its attacks on the free press--in the name of prosecuting a perpetual war on terror; but also by a supine Congress that has failed to exert its proper constitutional responsibilities and powers to provide effective oversight of the executive administration in carrying out both its foreign (unsupervised practices of secret surveillance) and domestic (Katrina) responsibilities.

On top of these wrongs, we have allowed ourselves as citizens to be distracted and alienated from our own proper authority to control and direct our government, even as we have allowed private corporate interests to come to dominate the key political processes of elections and policymaking, on which the functioning of our democratic government depends.

To the wrongs of an overreaching executive office, and a supine Congress, we have thus added the evil of allowing corporate lobbyists and consultants to dominate the essential functions of our government, so that what should be the people’s government, our government—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people—has become largely their government—a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

Now more than ever, it is therefore important for us as individual citizens and as a nation to remember and put into practice the lesson emphasized by one of the wisest of our founders--the antislavery advocate, scientist, statesman, and philanthropist Benjamin Franklin: A People that sacrifices its liberties to achieve security is deserving of neither, and will probably end up losing both.

As a previous writer on Common Sense at the beginning of our nation’s history stated, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” Today, the dominant custom in our government has become one of corporate lobbyists and consultants dominating both the primary political functions of policymaking and the elections essential to the maintenance of a democratic constitution.

And unfortunately we, as citizens, have by our distraction and inaction largely accepted this take-over as a fait accompli. Without the assistance of any military coup, our government has, for all practical purposes, been taken over by private corporate interests, which have come to so control the framing of elections and the policymaking agenda, that “we the people” have lost effective control of our government.

It is now time for us to unite as citizens of a democratic republic to take back the reigns of government from the corporate interests now controlling them.

For if self-government is the ideal of a democratic nation, and faithful representation of our common interests as citizens by our elected politicians in Congress is the basis of a republican nation, then corporate domination of the institutions of government is the antithesis and subversion of democratic republican government.

If we want to preserve anything resembling true democratic government in the United States in the twenty-first century, we must organize across this nation to take the reigns of government back into our hands as citizens, so that corporations cannot continue to dominate the electoral and policymaking processes in the guise of acting on behalf of the interests of the citizens of this country.

This call to action is addressed to the people of the United States in the belief that we the people still have it in our capacity, if we act now, to begin again the history of this nation, to renew its proud democratic traditions, and to re-establish here in our own country a democratic government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

For it is not by invading other countries with our military, but by remaking our own country according to the ideals of democracy, that we can most effectively influence the history of the world for the better in the twenty-first century--not only for ourselves, but for all people.

The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, and economic spoliation, declaring war against the natural rights of all humankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, in our own or any other country, is the concern of every person to whom nature has given the power of human feeling; of which humble but patriotic class, regardless of Party censure, is the Author.*

In this spirit of common human feeling, I therefore offer in the following pages a basic challenge to the American people, supported by nothing more than common facts, readily available to the public, plain arguments, and common sense in pursuit of the goal of establishing effective democratic government in these United States:

I challenge you to join together with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues across the nation to organize a powerful nation-wide movement of citizens dedicated to taking your government back from the corporate interests that are, in their short-sighted drive for unrestrained profit and wealth, driving this country and the world to ruin.

However our eyes may have been dazzled up to this point by the show of corporate interest, and our ears deceived by the pandering of corporate lobbyists; however private prejudices may have warped our political wills, or corporate interests may have darkened our political understanding, I plead with all American citizens now to open their minds and hearts to the voice of democratic political reason (not narrow party prejudice or ideology) and common sense. And if you do so as a citizen, I am sure you will begin to see what you must do in the days ahead to win your government back to the service of the common good of the citizens of this country.

Perhaps the thoughts contained in the following pages about how we, as citizens, must reclaim the reigns of government from the control of private corporate interests, are not yet wide-spread enough to shape a fundamental reform of our politics in this year's mid-term elections. Perhaps these ideas about the kind of concerted action needed by the American people to make sure our elected representatives reassert democratic control over the practices of government are not yet common enough to bring about a nation-wide transformation in policy for the common good of all the people of this nation.

But if this be so, it is my hope that these pages may serve to provoke the kind of sustained public debate about fundamental issues of democratic government that may eventually affect, over the pivotal months ahead, the kind of revolution in political understanding and vision that will allow the American people to forge the unified political sentiment needed to renew the democratic institutions of this country, and to reestablish for ourselves and our posterity a government of the people, by the people, and for the common good of all the people of this nation.

Instead of a government of and for the private interests that now dominate the country’s political agenda and law-making, we need—now more than ever—a government that will work in our common interests to establish and enforce laws (for health, safety, energy independence, and environmental protection) for the common good of all the citizens of the United States, and not just for the wealthy few or the narrow corporate interests represented by the lobbyists that pay the highest bid. Our government and the policies by which we are governed should not be up for sale to the highest bidder in our cities, our states, or in Washington, D.C.

Under the current circumstances of economic globalization, many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and will challenge the faith and principles of all who believe that humankind can best govern itself and participate in fulfilling its highest destiny through democratic means. These circumstances have already deprived many people and nations of the world of the ability to participate effectively in determining their own destiny, and have caused many to lose faith in the powers of democratic self-government.

Terrorism is only one manifestation of that loss of democratic self-governing power and faith. Whether ever greater numbers of the people of the world fall victim to this loss of democratic power and faith in the years ahead may well depend on what the citizens of the United States are able to do, or fail to do, in the months and years ahead, to renew the effective institutions of democratic governance that make the perpetuation of the democratic faith possible.

Without the democratic practice to back it up, democratic faith becomes futile, at best, and at worst becomes a delusion or cover to distract attention from the imposition of the tactics of anti-democratic, imperial force. And without the creative vision needed to renew democratic practice, our democratic faith—even in this greatly privileged nation--may fail in the years ahead. The Author dearly hopes that what follows may begin to nurture a rebirth of both democratic vision and practice among the citizens of this country.

I have nothing more to say by way of introduction, except to ask that readers will, for the time they take to consider the words that follow, suspend their familiar opinions and views, and allow their patriotic feeling, combined with (rather than opposed to) their reason, to determine the justice and validity of the arguments presented here; and that in response to their reasoned consideration and discussion of these arguments, they will decide how best to put on the true character of democratic citizens for conducting the struggle ahead.

And I would pray that all of us in this pivotal election year may, as citizens, through open and vibrant discussion of the kinds of issues raised here, learn how to enlarge our views beyond those that have for too long restrained and enslaved our political imaginations, and have thereby kept us from acting effectively as citizens to pursue our own best interests and common good as individuals and as a nation. To this democratic struggle, and to the betterment of us all as citizens and a democratic nation, I dedicate all that follows.

*Who the Author of this production is, is not important at this time, since the entire object of this writing is to focus attention on the ideas and arguments here set forward, and on their implication for the immediate future conduct of the citizens of this country during this election year, regardless of the particular party or class background of this pamphlet’s author or its readers. Yet it may be said that the author has no official role or connection with any political party, and is under no sort of party influence, public or private, beyond the influence of the patriotic “party” of democratic republican reason and principle, upon which the best traditions of government in this country were established. Such reason and principle is all the more important to emphasize today, since both our dominant political parties have been governing in ways that defy and violate this reason and its principles. It is now up to the citizens of this nation to exert their democratic authority in action, in order to bring both parties back into line with principles of reasonable and good government. It is to this most truly progressive party of citizens, wherever they live and work, that the Author truly belongs.

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COMMON SENSE--FOR A TIME OF CRISIS continues here.

1. An Urgent Appeal to Common Sense in Support of Democratic Government

2. Worse than George II: Corporate Control of the Reigns of Government

3. The Slippery Slope Into the War in Iraq, and the Failures of Democratic Nation-Building

4. The Distinction Between Corporate Interests and the Public Good

5. Toward a Common Sense Policy Agenda for the Common Good

6. A Progressive Common Sense Policy Agenda for the Nation

CONCLUSION: Rediscovering the Meaning of Democratic Government

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