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Monday, November 22, 2004


the broken system

outrage, both genuine and masquerade, is circulating congress regarding the discovery of some malicious code in a rushed spending bill that would have opened all tax returns to the purview of senate committee chairmen. being as such a measure would have no benefit for any democrat -- all chairmen are majority republicans -- the political source of the insertion is plain, despite majority leader bill frist's mock indignation. what end that was desired is the subject of speculation, but one imagines political blackmail to be most likely.

it's hard to say if a conception of ethics plays any role at all in the hard-edged american politics of individual greed and glory. that malfeasance dominates the proceedings in washington -- as it certainly now does, with open criminals often prominent -- is in my mind a function of the dissipation of civility and society that we are witness to in our time at the hands of individual or collective will. very often now when a potential conflict with established rules comes up in governance, instead of the conflict being resolved by subordinating will to law, the rules are changed to avoid the conflict and thus subordinating law to unfettered will.

so far do we go to gratify the freedom even unto total irresponsibility of the free will that we are witnessing the end of the rule of law very quietly and often even in nodding approval. delay's case and this latest deception are just the most recent example. the entire movement finds its most powerful manifestation in the imperial presidency, which is unquestioningly supported by a significant number (if a minority) of americans.

it is possible for an aristocracy to manage the affairs of state without brazen manipulation or persistently circumventing the inconveniences of law when they are strongly social and feel real responsibility to limit themselves and behave modestly for the benefit of their kin and countrymen. the idea of noble gentlemen responsibly shepherding the nation seems comically inappropriate now in the meanness of degenerative democracy, though there have been times when such was closer to true.

but those days of flourishing community responsibility, to the extent that they once existed, have largely passed in the west. the march of individualism has dictated that the aristocracy and even the bourgeoisie be sidelined in favor of the proletarian democracy of universal suffrage, putting every shyster and snake-oil salesman within reach of high office. frequently, the bolder and more bizarre their behavior, the better their chance of national recognition and self-enrichment.

the population in general has come to identify such individuality, however egregious, with political virtue -- at the expense and to the detriment of society. such extreme individualism as they confuse with virtue is surely inimical to good government over the long haul by fostering a shortsighted, greedy and permissive society. it is these developments that have coincided with the chaos and subsequent tyranny experienced in many dying democracies past.

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