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On Demagoguery: A Preceptorial

The President's budget speech reminded me of the Federalist on demagogues:  the word appears twice, once in Federalist 1 and once in #85, the last paper (both by Hamilton).  The precarious realm of reason and choice is surrounded by demagogues, who always beset democratic republics. 
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Again, the question in that is whether the president is stupid or mendacious. If stupid, we still have to live with the results, but if mendacious, if he is lying through his teeth as many commentators suggest, how does he, much less the US actually benefit? If he "wins" this political battle, (and given the balance of power between the two parties as it stands now, how can he not?) what is winning?

My favorite quote from the blast on the WSJ editorial page is this: "According to Internal Revenue Service data, the entire taxable income of everyone earning over $100,000 in 2008 was about $1.582 trillion. Even if all these Americans—most of whom are far from wealthy—were taxed at 100%, it wouldn't cover Mr. Obama's deficit for this year." So the "get the rich guys" aspect of the president's speech is certainly not reasonable. Doesn't he know?

What does it mean for the Left in the US to win this argument? I suppose we could say it is a national debt experiment. How far can a nation of our size (!) go into debt before that deficit of income vs level of spending actually is "unsustainable" and what will that mean? How much money can we borrow and since we cannot pay it back and clearly have no intention of ever being able to repay, then what? I am not looking forward to living through the experiment.

How long until the next election?

I live in California. I have watched 30 years of liberalism/progressivism/socialism destroy what was once the 6th largest economy in the world. If you don't believe me, take a vacation to the Stupid State. Drive through the Central Valley. Not much difference between a third world country and California.

If anyone thinks that the Marxist in the White House is going to make everything okay, then I have some ocean front property in Arizona for sale.

This will not end well.

"Marxist thought is an empty cupboard"
Ronald Reagan - Anti Communist President.

So the "get the rich guys" aspect of the president's speech is certainly not reasonable. Doesn't he know?

Yes, he knows the math.

He does not care if the math does not support his assertion.

He wins if he and his ilk stay in power, even if it's a ship already torn at the hull and sinking. Better he be captain as it sinks then allow the enemy to assume control.

There is something quite remarkable about contemporary progressive thought. At some point in the past it no doubt had some basis in reasoned thought. It no longer does.

This is an interesting post, because it indirectly brings before us the question that should be before every generation--can a nation so constituted and so dedicated as ours long endure? Or in other words, is a government by demagoguery one that has long-term stability-or will it transition to a traditional authoritarian government at some point?

I won't give answers, or examples here. I will merely point out that once upon a time, those who would enter politics would have been able to give historical examples--many from classical times--to illustrate their answer "yea" or "nay" to the above question. And today, as a class, they really can't--and some would laugh off those who could or would (eg., "are you serious?").

If we have, as I would submit that we have, in some sense been in the age of demagoguery since the Jacksonian Revolution--and if that the spiral towards such is increasing at a geometric rate today--then we may want to know where that path leads, and whether it is something we desire or not. Or in other words, in a democracy, is the customer always right? And what do you do if he is not? And do the people have any responsibility themselves to limit their desires and passions? And what is the answer to making sure that the people can both self-govern and self-restrain?

Once again, I will give no grand answers here today, except to note that I think both Adams and Jefferson were on to something when they argued that for a Republic to thrive, virtue must exist in the people (Adams), and the people must be possessors of a thorough education that equips them to be citizen sovereigns (Jefferson). And that, I think, is a good path to go forward on.

That is what I find so depressing, that apparently a nation such ours was constituted could not last. Public education was intended to create such good citizens and look at what it produces -- uneven virtue at best. That forward path is not promising because the promise of the past has brought us here.

That why I find the school voucher programs and the home-schooling revolution so encouraging. The individuals who rise to the top and unscrew our country 30 years from now will be the ones who are currently receiving an excellent education that will mold them into self-reliant, well-adjusted, good citizens, the sort of which constituted our early Republic. Hope springs eternal for those who believe in the power of Truth.

That's interesting: a piece of my current despair is in considering my own children, largely home educated (the oldest of them is 33) and who I filled with an idealism that is considerably battered. I worry how they will cope with the world as it is and what the world will do to them. One son said I didn't equip them for what's normal; confessedly, I didn't want them to be normal. I feel as if my labor with them was the launching of a Forlorn Hope.

That feels cruel, to expect so much of them -- not just mine, but all the others I have known. Lately, I have been watching children I knew, products of home schools or private ones, grown now and raising their own crops of children and struggling to preserve those old, republican ideals. They are either incredibly foolish or incredibly courageous or just little fountains of that hope you mention. I cherish them.

That's interesting about your children; although I went to public schools (and witnessed the State of Nature raw and uncut on the school bus every morning), I felt for a long time the same way about how I was raised. I think that parents who go that route maybe focus too much on the "ought" without giving enough instruction on the "is" and thus cultivating a black-and-white (and unsustainable) ethos which leads to disappoint in society or one's self or both.

I won't pretend to have any idea of what "the answer" is, but when it comes to consolation I find Lewis and Tolkien inimitable and their message indomitable. In the meantime I think parents would be well-served by presenting things as they are and explaining why many times one ought to behave differently than ones peers (both the practical reasons and the metaphysical ones).

I might just toss this out there, but I consider the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to be rather epic demagogory on most days.

"According to Internal Revenue Service data, the entire taxable income of everyone earning over $100,000 in 2008 was about $1.582 trillion. Even if all these Americans—most of whom are far from wealthy—were taxed at 100%, it wouldn't cover Mr. Obama's deficit for this year." So the "get the rich guys" aspect of the president's speech is certainly not reasonable. Doesn't he know?"

First of all 2008 is a pretty cherry picked year. I can get you 2009 and 2010 with relative ease, so lets just assume the Wall Street Journal can as well.

2nd of all no one is suggesting this, nor would it be possible.

3rd of all taxing the rich is not about income tax. The Income tax is taxing labor. If there is going to be a class war, the Wall Street journal has a vested interest in it being of a certain type. Also the income tax is traditionally less than 50% of federal taxes. While we are traditionally in the 19% of GDP range, currently we are near 15%. In 1992 we were at 19% of GDP, in 1992 we collected 9.3% of GDP from the Income tax, today we collect around 8.5% from the Income tax. So the Income tax got a little less onerous, by about .8%, the payroll tax actually increased a bit as a share of GDP and Corporate taxes decreased the most. I could respond with nightmarish 2009 numbers but those would be fairly cherry picked. Essentially in 1992 the richest 400 people paid at around a 26% rate, in 2010 the richest 400 people paid around a 16% rate.

Why did Obama drop to 41% in Gallup after his speech, because the generally proggressive tax lawyers said hey, Obama you are pissing in our cherioes and screwing up our tax gamming strategies. Do not fuck with us we are independent, but we also carry a lot of credibility and influence with rich older people, and we rellied upon the existance of these "loopholes". We are just voting democrat, in order to prop up the idea that materialist are democrats, but we will move republican if and when you mess with our self-interest.

When I bother to do due dilligence, Obama is actually one of the most reasonable and honest politicians out there. His tax speech was far from demagogory, it actually hit the nail near the head, thus his sudden drop in popularity.

Obama will now lose this political battle. He has done too much to alienate the true ideological proggressives, so he can't win them with soundbites and he has came too close to messing with the interests of the ideologically strategic independent faction.

Obama loses, Demagogory wins.

@ John Lewis,

Your "due diligence" requires new Percepts, and definitely new education.

And next time you attempt to pretend objective analysis, learn something about logic.

You can't help yourself. Your ideology sticks you in a hard place with little light.

John Lewis, I am sorry I missed this; it must have been lost in a spam blizzard.

Income tax taxes more than labor, it taxes all forms of income. You have a point in that government taxes more than with income tax. Social Security tax brings a great amount of revenue that can be used, but who pays the most SS tax?

I am at work with no time to mount an argument and on a keyboard that seems to have had a Coke spilled in it -- sticky -- and I am sure you have rethought this issue since writing about it here.

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