September 19th, 2012
In this episode we explore some of the b-sides to a third-party system political system. The pretext to this exploration was considering whether or not a third-party could exist in the United States at all. With a series of back and forth questions, we come upon some interesting, and perhaps even surprising revelations.
Kevin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of this experimental project. While we’re still in our initial and developmental phase of the show, the format is very likely to continue migrating in some unknown direction with each new episode. In the meantime, we look towards Radio Lab for some general guidance, which perhaps by no coincidence at all, the current format may have some similarity to. Between my personal interests and those of the co-creator, we’ll continue exploring a wide array of topics detailing the human experience. Central[?] to the show, we’ll remain in the themes of humanity, liberty, and the pursuit of equality for all.
In this episode, we explore some of the B sides to a 3rd party political system. The pretext to this exploration was considering whether or not a 3rd part could exist in the United States at all, and with a series of back and forth questions, we’d come upon some interesting and perhaps even surprising revelations.
Jad: You know for example, in Texas, it doesn’t matter who you vote for even at a meta level – at an even higher level it doesn’t matter because the republican’s going to win, so you may as well express disgust with the whole thing by adamantly not voting, or choosing a 3rd party candidate. This is interesting because this is one of those topics we haven’t covered yet.
Kevin: That was Jad Davis. I’m Kevin Ludlow, and this is our show. So to get started, I asked Jad about his general take of the American voting process.
Jad: I kind of – and I don’t really have a strong opinion on voting, and I think this is something interesting – sort of the between you and me is some line of like, how much we’re going to engage with the system, and I think in ways that I wish I was more comfortable with. You feel like engaging is a more productive of a way to go, and I have sort of avoided lots of those ways, much to my detriment I think. But the political thing is still – it’s one step further to me because I know want to ask anyone to run a police force, and a military, and a jail system for me to get what I want.
Even if what I want is everyone to be left alone, or whatever. There’s something distasteful to me about asking someone to be a ruler, or even saying, I think this is legitimate enough that I’m going to make a selection that I think would be the best person to rule us. I guess that combined with the fact that there’s nothing pressing on me where a vote is going to you know; help one way or the other. I pretty much decided to sort of stay away from the whole thing.
Kevin: So it occurred to me that if one person abstained from the voting process, this probably wouldn’t make much of a dent. But if the entire country abstained from voting, how would the democratic process work? Or do we even need a voting process to sustain democracy?
Jad: Well ultimately, I think that’s right. I guess I come at it from a – the moral, philosophical perspective that is not, “you’re never justified in pointing a weapon at somebody and telling them to do something when they have nothing to do with you, and they’re a total stranger”, and essentially, that’s what I mean, democratic governments wraps it in and everyone raises their hand. But the way things get carried out is still the same whether it’s a democratic system, or a military dictatorship.
And I think if you concede that point – if you concede the point that there are things that are so important that yeah, we might have to shoot somebody to get it done – even though that person is not aggressed against anyone else and they’re not stealing anyone’s property or anything, but they’re not going to participate. And because of that, we have to eliminate them, or expel them or whatever – confiscate their stuff. Once you concede that point which is essentially that the first thing you have to concede in a political system, then I think you’re inevitably going to end up down a dark road. It may take a while – you know, 200 years, the American experiment.
But eventually, the prosperity that comes from that – from the freedom of those people, to whatever degree they are free and I fully recognize [?] – but the American experiment that there’s a very small segment of people that were truly free, but it was so huge compared to any other society on earth at the time, and that prosperity it has generated is immediately recognized, and the claim that there is something so important that we need to collect our money together – whether everyone likes it or not – to build, to buy, or an enemy to defeat.
It’s just too alluring I think, and the freer the country initially, the larger that bounty is, and I think that’s why you end up with like, the Roman Empire, and the British Empire, and now, the American empire – I think its results in that event. So to go back to your initial question, I would say that yeah, I think the entire system or that initial concession of one person should be able to control another person if it’s in the best interest of some goal other than self defense, or protection of property, I think that concession leads down a dark road.
Kevin: So I pressed on and tried to explore the practical side versus just the philosophical side. In other words, we can’t live in anarchy, so what would be a practical side that attempts to avoid every level of authoritarianism as well.
Jad: The quick answer for me is I think there are solutions that allow everyone to remain equal. In other words, if for example, we say, well, we have to have somebody who’s allowed to stop person A from shooting person B – which I totally agree with – but I think that everyone should be allowed to stop person A from shooting person B. I don’t see where that is a special super power that seems like a power that everyone should have. The problem is of course that I don’t want person A to shoot person B, or to say, “I have the right to shoot person B, therefore everyone has the right to shoot person B”, if person B has done nothing wrong.
But of course what a policeman is somebody who can do that, but nobody else is allowed to, right? So if they’re driving past your house and they stop and your dog runs out, they can shoot your dog, and that’s totally cool.
Kevin: As we’ve seen.
Jad: As we’ve seen in Austin a lot. And if you’re running away from them, they can shoot you.
Kevin: As we’ve also seen.
Jad: As we’ve also seen frequently in Austin. Nobody else can do that, and I think that we should just universalize that – nobody else being able to do that. So I don’t see where a police force – if you want to call it a police force – has to have any special powers, they can just be people whose job it is to protect people on a full time basis you know, whereas somebody else programs a computer, and somebody else you know, is a doctor – this person’s job all the time is to keep an eye out, and make sure that violence and or theft are not happening. They don’t have to have any magical powers – that’s just what they do. I mean, it’s like a Wal-Mart security guy or whatever, right? You can’t just go shoot somebody.
Kevin: Exactly. And you’re still empowering the responsibility ultimately, which I think gets us into a really interesting segway altogether, and one that you and I have discussed in the past, which just comes down to the notion of rights versus responsibilities. And I think basically, what you’re suggesting – which I do agree with – is our government – through its democratic processes – ultimately empowering these individuals with rights that are above and beyond what other people have for whatever reason, and I don’t think it’s always been like that, so I think what concerns me as a global picture of this is just the fact that there was a time – in my opinion – when the United States had a collective entity of responsibility – where everybody had that responsibility. And nowadays, the people – as you say – are the lesser humans, the governmental bodies are more of the super humans, and those are the ones actually pulling the strings these days – and that worries me.
So at this point in our conversation, we break a bit from the initial ideas of whether voting impacts democracy in a general sense, and instead started focusing more on the specifics of the present. Jad turned the tables on me a bit and wanted to explore my own support of the various liberty candidates, namely Gary Johnson and Ron Paul, and he wanted to know what I hoped they might accomplish in this current election cycle.
Jad: So let’s go back to your – talking about Gary Johnson. In your support of Gary Johnson, what do you imagine coming of that, or let’s say – I’m not sure if you prefer Ron Paul, but I think that’s kind of the political figure that more people are familiar with to go with the argument that there is a way to engage with the system, and roll it back and you know, get it to return to a previous state where the government was in a manageable form. Is that kind of the idea of supporting the libertarian party?
Kevin: I think so. I think it’s – without having people like Gary Johnson or Ron Paul in the mix, I truly see both of the parties – as many people do – really just merging into this one kind of a [?] political party that we’re all systematically a part of, and there’s no way to escape it. If you don’t have somebody else who’s able to steer the conversation a different way – whether I agree with that way or not is irrelevant – just a different way, then we’re just going to slowly get more, and more and more centralized until we’re just headed in a cingular direction.
So – and then the party’s so large that it’s just very difficult to do anything, which I think is where we’re at right now is what we’re seeing, is that – it doesn’t really matter to me if you vote for democrat or republican. There are some differences, but they’re so subtle from my point of view that it’s really just one party who’s cleverly found a way to get the vast majority of the population you know, to own 90% of the vote roughly, let’s say.
Jad: Sure. Sure. I totally agree with you. I think when I think through what you’re talking about, if we concede that there is a anti-authoritarian bent[?] to the United States, so the founding fathers maybe had it in spades, right? Other than their blind spot for women and slaves, they fully understood the danger of a powerful government. They understood the danger of a central bank, they understood the danger of a fiat currency, they had thought it all through and they understood exactly what they needed to be on guard against always, and they realized that eternal vigilance was going to be part of any long term republic, right?
And even as recently as – like you said, let’s again concede – in the 50’s if you knock on someone’s door and said, “hey, we want to pass a law that says the police can listen in on any phone call that anyone makes, anywhere – ever – without telling anyone and without a warrant. Is that cool?” Most people would understand that that was a 4th amendment violation, they would be very much against it, et cetera, et cetera, and there were political actors in those times – that were the proto-Ron Paul’s – that were concerned about those issues – the ones of the day that were leading up to the larger issues that we have now, that were the FBI, and the CIA even being created.
As you were hypothesizing, there was a larger degree of general consciousness about those things and I think I agree with you. At that time when the state is very small and they have just kind of taken over public education, there’s not even a federal branch for public education, and they don’t have much power to tax, and they don’t have much power to police, and there was a large popular resistance to big government. Now we’re in a situation where they have infinite money, infinite police power, and almost nobody realizes that this entity is dangerous to them in a very short term. So it seems like pushing in that direction of trying to get that anti-authoritarian branch of the United States that’s been dwindling for 200 years to move in the other direction, despite being in a worse situation it’s ever been in, and against a much more powerful foe – seems like that’s kind of as unrealistic as say, the anarchist position.
Kevin: Yeah. I mean, I certainly can agree with that to an extent. You get into some pretty interesting psychology here. You get into those fundamental you know, primal things like hope, and consideration for the future where no matter how bad the odds are, there’s just this strange fire that’s still dwindling somewhere and it sparks you for whatever reason. And I think it’s – I think it’s largely – from a psychological point of view – exactly what president Obama did to his constituency for years ago. I mean, I think that those people in their minds were genuinely as charged about Obama as say, somebody like I, or you might be about a Ron Paul type of figure.
So do I think that they actually have a chance of succeeding? You know, I try to remain pretty practical about it so I say no, but on the other hand you know, I start looking at some of the things that have happened, and you know, I read a pretty good article not that long ago that was talking about Ron Paul and the fed, and of course we could debate the hell out of whether or not this would actually change anything even if it did pass, but let’s just assume that disposition of the fed would actually have a huge impact on the country if it managed to pass 4 years ago, or 5 years ago.
I mean, Ron Paul was labeled an absolute lunatic for discussing the Federal Reserve – I mean, just absolute lunacy – and now all of a sudden you know, even after all the dissent that happened at the republican convention and people were kicked out, and the liberty movement was effectively just crushed. It was still one of the primary topping points from what I understand, at the GOP convention. So you know – not to belabor the point – but I do have some you know oddly enough I suppose – some cycle of hope for that at the moment.
I guess I do feel that it could potentially start moving, albeit very slowly. I find the notion of libertarianism to be a very – a very powerful wave in the sense that I think you could get a democrat to convince somebody to become a democrat and they’ll, “okay fine, I’ll start voting democratic”. You can convince a republican to do the same thing, and the person would start voting republican. But you convince somebody to start looking at the world in terms of libertarianism and just actual liberty, in my opinion and experience; it’s a very eye-opening sort of thing for people. It really never considered the idea that what if there weren’t laws for this? Why do I have to listen to somebody telling me to do these things that doesn’t make sense? Why am I you know, the pawn in this game? It’s crazy, and so anyway, I guess I just have this glimmer of hope that enough of those people could get that twinkle in their eye that you know, that really sparks something.
Jad: Sure. Sure. So if you don’t mind, can you play devil’s advocate – I had that same feeling that indefatigable belief that there’s a way out. Somebody posted that the other day, the apocoloptimist – that everything is going to go to hell, but it’s going to be alright in the end. But I think the thing is, these ideas – the ideas of liberty – always gain ground when there’s sadly, things like hunger, and mass incarceration, and people begin to understand the messages are there, the arguments are clear, and people will begin to listen to them when things get bad.
The 2000’s have been bad in a whole series of ways, and I think that’s why more and more people are listening from both side because you’ve both got just these awful global wars, and you’ve got an economy that’s entirely collapsing while tons of money [?] hoovered up by a handful of people. On both sides of the left right spectrum, people are being pulled away into the third direction I guess – the libertarian Z access, right?
But if there was enough movement in that direction and people began to see that these things were dangerous, and they began to dismantle them in a 1776-ish sort of way, but we maintain the fundamental idea that there had to be this core body of people that had these magical powers that the rest of us don’t have, then how does that not just happen again?
Kevin: Well, that’s a very good question, and I think it’s – we have to have a mixed representation in government. This whole winner take all, two-party system – it doesn’t work. It’s going to lead right back into that – it was a decade ago now that I you know, I had the privilege of living in New Zealand for a year – and one of the things that I really loved about their government structure there is that it’s not a winner take all. So if 10% of the population say, votes from the green party, then 10% of your parliament in that case is going to consist of green party members – and I think that’s a wonderful way for this to work, and I think the governments that do that – and there’s a number of European ones, and New Zealand does it as well for example – I think that they are much better nations frankly, and I’d love to see the United States do that.
I think it’s one way that – I’m not saying it magically fixes the country, but I’m pretty certain that we wouldn’t be in these wars that we’re in right now if we had that type of mixed representation in our congressional body for example.
Jad: Right. Yeah no, and I guess I don’t entirely see how the multiple party system stops that from happening, but I mean I can’t disagree that proportional representation would be a big plus.
Kevin: You know, I don’t think it’s magic beans or anything like that. I don’t think it – the problem just disappears. It seems that there’s a lot more balance in the system when you ultimately have that. I would really be excited about participating in these things if I could see representation on the point of view that we tend to have inside of the congressional chambers – which just isn’t the case. Even the people who are allegedly elected to represent this movement, I – frankly, for the most part – I don’t really think represent my views very well at all.
Jad: I guess the counterpoint again is the very few people granted, who are in there doing that, just don’t have any leverage in the system at all. And I guess I don’t know New Zealand’s politics, but I mean, the European systems are sort of disintegrating as well, and I think you’re seeing a lot of the same aspects where it’s basically public debt that’s being held by central banks, which is essentially going lead to social services being slashed, and taxes going up – sort of a reentry of serfdom in European continent.
Again – to go back to my position – once you have that power – the power of taking someone’s money with limited recourse, and you have the public choice theory motor – which once I take that money and give it to corporation A, or bank A, or whatever, they’re going to turn around and spend all of their time and effort because it’s worth their while financially to increase that amount, whereas for everyone else, losing just a small amount to put together that sum is not that much to fight for.
I think as long as those dynamics are in place, they can be triggered at any time. A political system may coincide with a relative period of peace, but I’m not sure the relative period of peace is a result of the political system. But I’d be interested in thinking about it more.
Kevin: So that’s about where we left things this week. Thank you so much for listening, and we sincerely hope you’ll come back and check out future installments of this project. If you’d like to get in touch with us, stop by either of our websites at Jad Davis – J-A-D dash D-A-V-I-S dot com, Kevin Ludlow – K-E-V-I-N-L-U-D-L-O-W dot com. Thanks again, and we’ll talk to you very soon.