I never promised to blog something every day but I’ve gotten this odd idea that I should. I almost let the cosmos down this morning by failing.

I had a lovely weekend, which included dinner with a friend and her sister, a newer friend, plus much reading from The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.

I inadvertently bought the hardback version of the book, but by page 3 or 4, I had already marked so much that I immediately bought the Kindle version, too, which better fits how I “process” non-fiction. (Passages highlighted in Kindle are saved to “My Kindle Highlights” at Amazon, from which I clip them into Evernote.)

The Demon in Democracy is an unlikely candidate for reading over a “lovely weekend,” but if you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know I’m pretty bearish about most of what’s going on around me. Any help in figuring out “How did this happen?” is welcome.

I saw two related news items this morning that finally gave me something blogworthy:

  1. A Tweetstorm vilifying House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had the temeritity to wish L’Shana Tova! while formally supporting Donald Trump.
  2. A loaded video at the Washington Post, “Watch Trump’s surrogates defend his handling of tax laws“, which concluded with a Bernie Sanders wrap-up.

It’s not enough, I guess, to oppose Trump and point out his flaws. One must oppose, vilify and shame those who for whatever reason support him, howsoever unenthusiastically.

This brought to mind passages like this from The Demon in Democracy:

The liberals adopted a similar Leninist practice, though probably they would not find the adjective pleasing. When faced with a statement, or an opinion, or an idea, the first and most important question they ask is whether any of these may be dangerous: that is, whether they may potentially contradict liberal assumptions … This kind of argument—outrageous, let us admit it—is considered by the liberals to be decisive, and it serves them to disparage opponents by suggesting that by making seemingly harmless theoretical statements they open the gates to totalitarianism, fascism, inquisition, torture, Hitler, and various other horrors.

One is an enemy of the regime if one doesn’t hate those who don’t hate one who threatens the regime. Four legs good, two legs bad.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Too Big to Govern

Not too long ago, I encountered an item reminding me of a little-remarked feature of our national polity: the immense dilution of the meaningful individual voice in governance.

At our nation’s founding, each Congressman represented few people – 50,000 or something. Today he or she represents roughly 700,000. This historic figure may be wrong, but the difference is by orders of magnitude.

And even at that, with 435 members, Congress is pretty unruly. We really can’t grow Congress back to where a Congressman represents something like the relatively few of yesteryear. It would be totally unworkable.

This leaves voters alienated from the national government.

In contrast, I have for a number of years, on and off, participated in my local Chamber of Commerce’s “Third House” program. Every Saturday or two during the Indiana legislative session, the “Third House” meets to eat an excessively large breakfast, hear reports from our representatives and to give them feedback on Bills that affect us. They sit at table and break hash browns with us, sharing a common cup of orange juice. Thus there’s informal chatter as well as formal reports from them to us and votes by us to inform them. It’s not uncommon for as many as 5 State Senators and Representatives to be present, nor for our input to influence their votes.

So what if we broke up government and devolved power back to the states so as once again to empower and dis-alienate voters? We’d still need, I think, a national assembly to provide for the national defense and a few other limited functions, but there would be multiple more regional assemblies. Like, maybe, fifty of them. Doing meaningful things independently of what happens in Washington, DC.

This ought to appeal to the Left counterculture and to the Right as well. Indeed, although I still very much consider myself a conservative, I’m finding plenty of kindred spirits on the Left, courtesy of this wonderful gathering place of cyberspace.

But I just described (except for the cyberspace thingy) Federalism, the intent of the Founders. Somehow, some centripetal force has driven the real power toward Washington, DC contrary to the original design. We can argue about why (I have some half-baked theories, riffing off the trope “nation with the soul of a Church” the dogmas of that Church being “democracy” and “American Exceptionalism” and the undermining of Federalism’s political safeguards by the direct election of Senators), but it’s hard to argue that the effect has been entirely healthy (or so it seems to me).

This gives me great appreciation for the wisdom of the Founders, who gave us a Republic, if only we’d kept it.

These thoughts brought to you courtesy of a goading by this Wilfred McClay article on Federalism.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

God bless the child

Sometimes a song is more than a song:

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you’re gone, spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
He just worry ’bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own

God Bless the Child, Billie Holliday and Arthur Herzog, Jr.

Nothing much has changed, has it? Ross Douthat’s Monday column at the New York Times, “The Great Consolidation,” surveys the events of the past few years and concludes:

This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn’t matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it.

But their fixes tend to make the system even more complex and centralized, and more vulnerable to the next national-security surprise, the next natural disaster, the next economic crisis. Which is why, despite all the populist backlash and all the promises from Washington, this isn’t the end of the “too big to fail” era. It’s the beginning.

If it doesn’t ring true to you, I’m surprised you’re reading this blog at all.

Is this the result of a conspiracy? Are there some bastards we can shoot to end it? I rather think of it as tragedy, not conspiracy. And, having grown up as I did, I sometimes think of it as misadventure (looks sorta like tragedy, but the reversal of fortune is brought about by an external cause, says Aristotle).

Even in tragedy, there can be comic moments, as when POTUS (President of the United States) rationalizes a Supreme Court Appointment:

In the past week, I’ve read two news stories about Kagan in my local paper that featured absurd language.  The first was an AP story by Ben Feller on May 10.  The second was an AP story by Julie Hirschfeld Davis on May 12.

The second story quotes Harry Reid as saying Kagan “has fresh ideas” because she’s been “out in the real world recently.”  Reid is trying to turn a negative into a positive. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience means she has been doing other things instead of being cloistered among black robes.  But are the other things she’s been doing part of “the real world”?  For the past decade, she has been professor and then dean of Harvard Law School, followed by a year as U.S. solicitor general.  That’s pretty rarefied living.  In the ‘90s, she was a White House counsel and policy advisor.  Is there anything “fresh” about a retread from the corrupt and sleazy Clinton years?

The first story reports, “The president has grown vocal in his concern that the conservative-tilting court is giving too little voice to average people.”  Obama—he of the famed analysis regarding bitterness and clinging—has now condescended to express a tender regard for the vox populi.  In between his policy talks with Bernanke, Geithner, and Blankfein; his strategy sessions with Chicago machine cogs; and his social visits with the Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard set.  Somehow he finds time to worry about the little guys and gals and then express that worry while the press dutifully notes the expression.

We are told that Kagan is a manifestation of Obama’s concern that the common people are not being heard by the Supreme Court.  So he appoints a person who attended an exclusive high school, then Princeton, then Oxford, and then Harvard.  Just the sort of person who is most likely to be in touch with the struggles and aspirations, the stances and aims of We the People.  Ain’t democracy grand?

(Jeff Taylor, Few v. Many: The Topsy-Turvy World of Judicial Demographics, at Front Porch Republic)

Rima Fakih is soooo yesterday. Where’s my bread? Where’s the next circus?

Yes, Jeff: Democracy is grand.