17 December 2015

Law and Sausages

ASK PASTOR KNOW-IT-ALL

"What has happened to altruism on the political spectrum? When I was growing up, it seemed that it was 'One for all and all for one!' It seems to be much more visceral and mean-spirited, today. " - HK

"There is not new under the sun," said the author of Ecclesiastes.  She or he could also have said, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  Sadly, the abject condition of national politics is more typical for our history than not.  Way back in 1866 the lawyer Gideon Tucker said, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."  "Imagine I am an idiot," said Twain.  "Now imagine I am in Congress.  But wait, I repeat myself." My title is usually attributed to Bismarck, but The Daily Cleveland Herald, March 29, 1869, quoted lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe that “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” In our own era, Milton Berle said, "You can lead a man to Congress but you can't make him think."   In other words, the venal and petty and nature of politics is well commented and documented.  

That does not excuse or absolve it, friend, but it does mean we should not be surprised it has come to such a lowly pass as we see now.  Rather we should look to those times of high resolve and comity and ask how they happened at all.  What brings out the spirit of magnanimity in people such that they overcome the lesser angels of their nature?

Again, history is a help, though not an encouragement.  Our eras of greatest nobility seem to follow times of greatest strife.  Only when it is evident that pursuing your own agenda slavishly leads to greater misery not greater good. The lesson of motes and planks still needs learning 20 centuries later.  

But let me set Ecclesiastes aside and try to be practical for a moment.  The current 'free market' orthodoxy in politics confuses and conflates the market with the forum. We need to dismantle the market of politics.  That means limiting the ability of individuals and groups to have more influence than the people themselves.  This comes down to at least three things.

1. Partisan Redistricting to limit party influence over the power of the electorate.
2. Public financing of campaigns
3. Restoration of the Fairness doctrine in Broadcasting.

These will not happen, though, until both parties grasp that trying to get and keep the upper hand is not possible and ultimately self destructive (Witness the ever greater cultivation of the right wing and its culmination in Trump/Cruzism).  It is this competition for power that corrupts, as Lord Acton so wisely noted.  Pray that it does not require some great struggle and sorrow to become evident again.


3 comments:

zeke said...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."- A Tale of Two Cities...Ah! The dichotomy of it all! Thanks for your response....Ecclesiates is still relevant!

zeke said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.-A Tale of Two Cities....Ecclesiastes is still relevant.

Penny Barstow said...

Glad you started up again...such writing deserves the light of day. Maybe sometime I'll have a question.

Penny