May 29th, 2013
In the first part of this discussion, Jad, Tom and I discuss varying methods, strategies, and pitfalls for finding common ground in which to discuss politics with people. In this second installment we focus more on the belief of whether or not common ground could actually change anything.
Also in this episode, Jad and I find ourselves at an exceptionally rare crossroads of a disagreement regarding whether or not it’s possible to “roll back” laws from within the political institution or if that’s just false hope.
We continue to discuss a number of topics specific to local government in Austin, Texas, but do so in such a way that should make the philosophical points applicable to most any governing structure. This opens up a discussion regarding the unlikeliness of changing the political establishment from within. Essentially the idea is that in order to get elected within the American framework, it’s necessary to bow to the interests of social groups thus compromising or even negating the very political ideology one stands for (speaking as an anarchist or libertarian).
We think you’ll like the conclusion.
Politics is not about responding to those forces. Politics is about applying force to move money into privileged hands.
Jad: Politics is not about responding to those forces. Politics is about applying force to move money into privileged hands.
Kevin: Hello and welcome to the JK Podcast, an anti-authority, pro-free speech, political haven in pursuit in liberty, humanity, and equality for all people. This week we conclude our two-part episode on finding common ground. In the first part of this discussion, Jad, Tom, and I discussed varying methods, strategies, and pitfalls for finding common ground in which to discuss politics with people.
In the second installment, we focus more on the belief of whether or not common ground could actually change anything. Also in this episode, Jad and I find ourselves at an exceptionally rare crossroads of a disagreement regarding whether or not it’s possible to “roll back laws” from within the political institution, or if that’s just false hope.
Jad: [?], is that maybe, is that maybe it then?
Kevin: What’s that?
Jad: You’re saying that if you believe what I said then you would feel politically powerless.
Kevin: This opens up a discussion regarding the unlikeliness of changing the political establishment from within. Essentially the idea that in order to get elected within the American framework, it’s necessary to bow to interest of social groups, thus compromising or even negating the very political ideology one stands for – speaking as anarchist or a libertarian.
We continue to discuss a number of topics specific to Austin, Texas, but do so in such a way that should make the philosophical points applicable to all sorts of governing structures – we think you’ll like it. As always, I’m joined by the co-creator of the show, Jad Davis. I’m Kevin Ludlow, welcome back to the JK Podcast.
Kevin: And then to turn and to say well why would we put up additional roadblocks for that to happen? I mean what if this were an elderly couple in this particular case that doesn’t have very much money? How are they supposed to deal with this type of situation – this is insane. I feel that if you kinda go through that channel, you can eventually arrive at the exact same conclusion to get people on board to say, “Yeah, maybe we should get rid of that law, maybe that is a bad law to have.”
Now I’m not saying it’s that easy, but I’m just kind of playing devil’s advocate to say if you can’t find that common ground, I don’t know how you’d go in – to use a poor metaphor – guns blazing to convince people that those authoritative figures shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Jad: Sure. And I’m not arguing with the common ground issue at all – I’m not saying that that’s a bad tactic. What I’m saying is though that I think probably in the Austin city council sometime in the 1970s, someone made that argument. They said it’s ridiculous that you know, a power company owned by the city, you’re proposing this law and it’s stupid because it’s just going to get in the people’s way, and then the people who were against that law being put in place you know were like, “well, the best thing we can do is to support guy X who wants to stop this silly thing from being in place and making this delay longer.”
But now 30 years later, it’s just the way it is because at that point in time instead of saying the city council shouldn’t be involved in you know, what my utility company and I decide – how we decide to relate to each other.
Jad: They said let’s try to keep everything sane and make sure however it turns out, there’s an emergency level for old people and if the weather’s hot then they’ll bring on more guys to make sure everyone has their power hooked up, and all that sort of stuff. And then the argument against it probably happened about like you said, a long time ago and now that argument’s done, and now we have the system that we have now.
You’re not going to repeal it ever I mean, that’s not even an option. You’re never going to get it to be the case where the city doesn’t permit you know, electrical work, [?] the same city by a different entity comes out and turns the power on.
Kevin: Well I don’t know, I don’t – I mean, I obviously understand the cynicism in that and would agree with it at most levels except that if I truly believe that, then it becomes very difficult for me to follow any of those libertarian-esque ideas in the first place because I mean, you know, until the entire system collapses like Mad Max style, there’s no hope for my mentality to prevail at all, right?
I mean because if I can’t think that I could actually speak to a group of people, if I don’t have the common intelligence to find that ground with people and slowly work them back, slowly roll that system back through just a complete different way of political thinking, then there’s really nowhere I can go at all because if I were able –
Jad: [?], is that maybe, is that maybe it then?
Kevin: What’s that?
Jad: You’re saying that if you believe what I said then you would feel politically powerless. You would feel like there was no hope in making the system a better – pushing it towards a better outcome through your own – through your own activity and your own will.
Kevin: Well and that could be – yeah, and not necessarily for you know, for any self righteous purposes, but I just mean like –
Jad: You would be psychically shaken, or –
Kevin: Yeah I mean, I feel that –
Jad: – anxiety and –
Kevin: – [?] level, there’s just nothing that – there’s nothing that could be done. I’ve gotta believe somewhere that there actually is a way to roll that back.
Jad: Right, so you have to believe it, is my point.
Jad: Not you believe it because it makes sense, or you believe it because it coincides with fact, but because you have to believe it.
Kevin: Well no I mean – no, I think you do have to believe it, right. I mean, I guess I am speaking a little religiously in that particular sense for lack of a better expression, but no, I mean just you know, from some limited [?] success I’ve had of being that person to stand in that corner with you know, 20 other eyes against you because it’s just not the way the people – as you always say – were raised to think, and I totally agree with you. So to be the one guy in that room who’s willing to voice that opinion, which is – it’s not really a counter-opinion, I’m not really disagreeing with anything that anybody’s saying.
For example, saving the environment, I’m as in favor of that as everybody else is, but what I’m saying is the methodology that the people are trying to implore to do it is counter to their own goal, and for me to have stood in front of groups before and articulated that in some way and to find some success with that, I guess that leads me to believe that there might actually be that way to do that and you’re right, at the end of the day I still do want to believe it because if I don’t, then it does take away a little bit of the energy that goes into that.
But I have also seen it work, I’ve definitely seen people change their opinions a little bit to say, “well, maybe we don’t need to do it exactly that way”, and you know, maybe you don’t need this thorough level of intervention in order to get the exact same outcome at the end of the day, and usually it ties back to finances is the thing I’ve always done is to say all you’re doing is making life harder for the poor people, and isn’t your fundamental goal to help the poor people? OK, then we should probably explore a different way to accomplish this; maybe let’s not put additional laws and burdens on the individual.
Jad: Well so – and again, I think we’re kind of conflating two things, and one I am completely on your side 100%, which is the one where you’re talking to 20 people who disagree with you.
Jad: Right? The other is how effective is that at changing policy at the city level, say?
Kevin: I think that if I use the localization of government kind of analogy I’ve been running with here to say that I think there’s an identical philosophical methodology or – I’m using too many big words here – at the local level as there would be to the federal level, or any level in between. I guess what I’m saying is in these particular groups, I mean, this is like local of local I mean, this is like the sub-local group.
Jad: Right, local but also powerless, right?
Kevin: And powerless, right.
Jad: Without moneyed interests trying to persuade them of the opposite opinion. That’s correct, and so – for the most part anyways – but in those like, I think there has been some success, and so I guess what I’m saying is I’ve not seen a city council member in Austin – or there have been some that have been you know, reasonably more on this particular side – but I’ve not seen the city council person actually you know, stand in front of the crowd and say, “look, I appreciate that we want to accomplish this goal, I also want to accomplish this goal, but I don’t think that the way to accomplish this goal is to further burden people by creating more laws that they’re ultimately going to have to spend money to jump through.
So instead, I’m going to propose the following, I’m going to propose X” – I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t involve creating some sort of law, or additional tax space, or whatever the case may be, it involves some sort of line of thinking. But the water treatment plant, the big counter-argument that was out there for that which did lose, was to say look, if you’re going to spend money on anything like this, spend a fraction of that cost and find ways to incentivize people to reduce the amounts of water consumption that they’re going through right now rather than spend hundreds of millions of dollars and probably billions of dollars in the end to create this whole new water treatment center.
I didn’t really have a strong opinion in that particular case because I didn’t get into it quite enough, but I appreciated that group that actually took that counter-side and maybe to your point, they did lose so maybe it doesn’t work. But I don’t know, I think that you can do that. I think that you can get people to follow it.
I’ve never been in a position to have any type of critical mass behind me where I could speak those messages, but this is when I generally fall back to the whole Ron Paul thing to say as the center figure for exciting this type of libertarian-esque push into local politics, I mean I think he’s clearly the poster person for that to say these are not popular thoughts, but I believe it so I’m going to keep telling you it and all of a sudden you’ve got way more people I think all of a sudden who are – they’re at least open to it. I’m not saying that they’re on board with it, but they’re open to it and that’s a hell of a lot more than existed I don’t know, in let’s say six or seven years ago, I think.
Jad: Oh, I don’t disagree. But I mean that’s also because you know six or seven years ago, robots couldn’t kill you while you drink your coffee in a coffee shop.
Kevin: True, true, but –
Jad: But I mean, your point is well taken and I’m not trying to – I feel like I’m coming off too harsh here as far as like, the Ron Paul and even Rand Paul to a much, much lesser degree you know, whenever they say we shouldn’t you know, murder foreigners or whatever – whatever bold statement they make – like, that does have an effect. I do believe individual people who are not part of the power structure are swayed by that position. When Ron Paul turns to the senate and says that, nobody is swayed because they can’t be.
The institution is not about dialog and conversation, and rational arguments, and coming up with the best plan for the people. It’s about shoveling huge amounts of money back and forth and making people wealthy and not disobeying those people. And the same thing is true at the city level too, like you said, it’s a microcosm right – it’s a much, much smaller thing – but the main components of it are in play. I mean this government that is in the city that is you know, is huge, and violent, and you know, in many cases of presses, even though it is you know, like I said, it is hippyfied – like the mayor wears his you know, tie dye shirt to South by Southwest events and all that. So it has a soft face to it in many cases, but it grew up despite people saying, “look, what you’re doing is hurting poor people.”
When you disregard half of your city where all the you know, Blacks and Latinos live and put all of the wealth into the other part of the city where all the rich White people live, you’re not creating a vibrant, integrated, dynamic city life – that message had no resonance. It may have had resonance on an individual level – I’m sure I could’ve gone back in time in 1960 and gone into a you know, a restaurant and had a conversation with somebody who disagreed with me and convinced them that what their interest was really you know, an integrated place with even distribution of wealth and access to jobs and for everybody that they probably shouldn’t build I-35 right through you know, between the two sides of town. I could probably convince that guy, but I’m not going to convince the city council.
Jad: Right? So what I’m saying is I think the education aspect of what you do when you’re talking to people and the education aspect of what Ron Paul does when he talks to people – turning people on, getting people thinking about it – that is a 100% invaluable. I’m not saying it has no power – that’s tremendously powerful. Politically it doesn’t do anything because politics is not about responding to those forces. Politics is about applying force to move money into privileged hands.
Kevin: Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean but – I mean if I could say it softly – I mean that’s not what it’s supposed to be about, right?
Jad: That’s what we’re told it’s about. We’re educated to believe that it’s about responding to the needs of the people that it’s serving us, but that’s just made up. That’s just something they teach you in school that’s not actually true. Going back to what I was saying earlier, the enlightenment thinkers knew that that wasn’t true.
Jad: Right? Thomas Payne did not think that government was helping people.
Kevin: And that’s what brings you back obviously, in favor of the anarchist side – which I’m clearly in favor of as well – it’s just a matter of I guess I believe – naively perhaps – that there’s a stepping stone involved in there, or a stepping stone that sits inside of that transition if you will, and I guess that whilst I completely agree with what you say, I mean there’s no doubt about it, that is what politics is all about. Politics is all about big corporations moving money between other big corporations with the help of a bunch of people in power that turn a blind eye to it and make it easier for them. Meanwhile making it appear that they’re actually protecting the people somehow in the protecting the people somehow in the process, but that’s not supposed to be the way it is and that’s clearly not what we’re taught is actually going on.
But I think you’ve got those people like Ron Paul who in principal – for whatever particular reason – reject that notion and clearly have a record to show for that. Now you’re right, he’s one of whatever 400 people that are sitting in that chamber and you’re right, the vast majority of the other ones are not listening to him anytime he says something, but he does have a small group of people now that have been elected as a result specifically of him. I guess what I’m saying is imagine if I actually did sit upon the Austin city council, I mean, I like to think that I would hold to the same convictions that I’ve held to for my entire adult life – I don’t think I would change. In fact I think I would take great pride in knowing that I was the black sheep of the council who probably voted no to every single yes vote that they had.
But you get one person – I mean, that would be a tremendous improvement from what it’s at right now – who actually is willing to do that. If you could somehow find a way to get just one more person like that, well now all of a sudden you’ve got a pretty substantial size that has infiltrated the city chambers all of a sudden. So I don’t know, like in that particular example I mean like, what would you say in a very fictitious and kinda narcissistic view that I’m having right now? Like imagine if I did sit on that, like what would be your attitude of that at that point? I mean is there not somebody at very least who would be trying to say this shouldn’t happen, we’re going to do whatever we can to reveal these because you shouldn’t have these laws in the first place.
Jad: Sure, so I guess what I would say is to take the hypothetical and concretize it, there’s no way you would get to the city council, if that’s actually what you said you were going to do.
Kevin: Yeah, fair enough.
Jad: Right. What you might be able to do – what Ron Paul did to a degree – is like, “I believe in human freedom except for immigrants and except for women”, and that got enough of a coalition together that he could go congress you know, with a sort of a bastardized[?] freedom message, right? Out of one district in Texas, he was able to get enough people together who said that.
Now with that said, I think it’s possible to take the hypothetical different direction, let’s just say that things in Austin got very, very bad for whatever reason right, then you might be able to get a place at the city council, you know? You might be able to overwhelm their voting machine, their political machine and you know, the government beaurocracy, which constitutes like pretty much the entire 11% of Autsonians that vote at all, and step by step-by-step you might be able to overwhelm all those things just by sheer popular revolt against more taxes, say more bond issues or something –
Jad: Right? But you’re not going to be able to get two people to do that.
Jad: Right? They’re going to continue, and the idea though – what I would imagine if what I say is 100% correct, or in my fantasy world or whatever – what would happen is they would take all of the political anger, all of the grassroots movements in Austin, all the different community groups and all that that could be doing things like starting their own infrastructure, policing their own streets, starting their own schools – they’re going to take all that energy and effort and put it in its year[?] campaign, or into the campaign of the next person – the second person who’s supposed to go in. All of the time, and energy, and effort, and organizing, and politicizing is going to be put into the belief that this political system is what is trying to help you, it can be used to help you.
Jad: And all of that energy will be drawn up, and drawn up, and drawn up until the election comes and the loss happens and everything collapses – the political energy collapses –
Jad: – and you end up with some degree of despair, right – I mean, that’s like the Ron Paul thing. So anyways, turning the system into something it’s intentionally and fundamentally not is I mean, it’s not possible is my belief. But again, if you were able to do the city council thing and you were – you might be able to educate a lot of individuals about your libertarian principles, but you’re not going to be able to change the political apparatus into something that is helping Austonians by leaving them alone, by withdrawing from them – that’s not possible.
Kevin: Yeah I mean, I agree with that. I think the biggest part of it is the education that it allows you to bring out. I mean it’s going to change, we’re going to have ten people and then the mayor but you know, at the moment there’s six and the mayor, so seven people. So each one of the council votes is a pretty substantial voice on the council at the moment, right? It’s a pretty big city and I think statistically [?] – I’m pretty sure we’ve got the smallest city council in the entire United States with respect to the population – it should be considerably larger for what our current population is – but regardless I guess all I’m saying is it would be really interesting in my opinion to have a person of this type of mindset – your mindset or my mindset – never mind the votes that they actually took on the pulpit, or the [?], that’s one thing, but the press releases and such and the interviews that they did, and things like that – I think it would be very powerful in a city like this. You know, I could be naïve, I could be mistaken, it’s –
Jad: Well no, I think you’re totally right. And there’s an anarchist sheriff in Travis county that ran – you know about the whatever, Texas for a responsible government or [?], tag – there are groups doing that thing –
Jad: So I mean, if you thought that would work then you haven’t – there are avenues to try that out, I mean I would be all for it. I might even be persuaded to vote, although unlikely. But I mean I’m just, my point is that my belief doesn’t come from what I think you’re capable of doing, I think you’re capable of doing just about anything you set your mind to – just from what I know of you – but my knowledge that the system does not bend to individual will. The system has a purpose and if an individual will is to thwart that purpose then it’s not a possibility.
Anyway, it can’t be done – now if your will was to take power and you were willing to compromise and be like, “well, I really have a strong libertarian message, but you know, I’m going to have to work with the fire department because I need to get their votes in order to get my 10% together you know”, blah, blah, blah, or, “need to you know, protect teachers unions, or I need to like I said, I want to improve things on the east side, so I’m going to support a community center that gets built over there.” Like you could cobble together a coalition like that because the system accepts that – that’s fine.
But you can’t run on, “I’m going to vote no to everything that costs the people of Austin more money, I’m going to vote against the police funding, I’m going to vote for liberalization of all of the money making laws that we have”, but you’re going to find huge forces [?] against you that no one person could overcome.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean I sadly tend to agree with that line of thinking.
Jad: One more thing, if you are very, very successful, you would probably have a car accident or be shot in the head or something.
Kevin: Yeah and that’s the way I want to go, it really is. I’d love to be a political martyr.
Jad: Are you serious? I can kinda believe that about you.
Kevin: I’m actually serious for real.
Kevin: No, I’m for real I totally would. I mean, if there’s any way that I would want to go, I mean I could think of nothing better than you know, you finally get to a – well I mean it’s like, it’s the Kennedy thing, right? Like I don’t know a lot about him, but that’s the way that people see it is that he was doing stuff that was against the grain of the political machine and so therefore he’s dead, and I don’t really follow much into the whole Kennedy assassination, but I don’t know.
Actually I think it’s probably like an incredibly narcissistic view to be honest, but I guess to me, for some strange reason, it means that you actually accomplished what it was that you were trying to accomplish – even though you got killed, so you didn’t accomplish anything – but you beat the system, so to speak.
Jad: Well you got as far as the system allows anyone to go.
Kevin: Right, like you’ve got past that line instead of lying there, and you managed to somehow skirt – nobody knows how to fucking get past that line, you did it, congratulations, we’ve gotta kill you now.
Jad: Boom, right.
Kevin: Right. But that to me is an immeasurable level of success in order to have gotten past that.
And so we end on the topic of political martyrdom within the United States. It would actually be interesting to take that one on as a future topic, and consider whether the agendas of the Lincolns and Kennedys would have been successful had they not been killed. Thanks so very much for tuning in to the show. We’d like to remind our audience every week that we love receiving mail, especially when it’s political in nature. If you have any comments or questions for us or just want to give us an idea for the show, we’d certainly love to hear from you.
You can reach us through the podcast website at www.JKPod.com, or you can reach either of us individually. Jad is at Jad-Davis.com, and I am at KevinLudlow.com. We’d also like to thank Deidra Alexander of Galaxy Creative Media for continuing to provide wonderful transcription services to the podcast. Thanks again, and we’ll be back next week with another episode.