The Happy Slave

This is my surrender to the Powers that Be, who wish we all were just happy little slaves, tooling along without a care in the world, doing what our better-educated masters tell us to do, not daring to step out of line. I'm so bad at surrender...

Location: Indianapolis, United States

I'm an old-fashioned Get-out-of-my-face-atarian. So long as the gubmint left me alone, I had no problems with it. Gubmint wants to run my life, so I'm doing something about it. (Not just blogging, either.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Four philosophies of life.

I think I have found yet another way to classify people. Don't know if it's valid, but I'd say it might be thought-provoking. Here's how it runs: Oppose abortion, oppose executions: Value the sanctity of all life, even lives most would judge unworthy. Oppose abortion, favor executions: Value the protection of innocents. Favor abortion, favor executions: Value convenience for individuals and society. Favor abortion, oppose executions: Want the innocent to die and want murderers and child rapists to live. Do they value anything at all?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Color the Federal Government "Fascist"

Okay, here's a new one for the record books, and one that will really get all the hardcore political cultists in a tizzy. There is this meat packer, Creekstone Farms. Now, Creekstone Farms does some business with Asian markets. In a free-market country, there's no problem with that, right? To keep their Asian customers happy, Creekstone Farms wants to voluntarily test all their carcasses for mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). From my Libertarian standpoint, this is just hunky-dory. To add or maintain value to their product, a producer is choosing to have this product certified. This should bother nobody--at least nobody who isn't a lunatic or a screaming fascist, right?

So, of course, this means that the US government is bothered by it. The jackbooted thugs of the USDA have decreed that Creekstone must not implement such testing of its products. (Okay, jackboots probably aren't worn by the vast majority of USDA employees, and they're just "pencil-necked busybodies", but I have so wanted to say "jackbooted thugs", lately.) This is nothing but flat-out fascist meddling. A manufacture desires to pay for extra safety certification of its product. The nanny state prohibits it. Think about that. The USDA is prohibiting a company from voluntarily certifying its products at a level higher than the government-required minimum.

The megacorporate meatpackers agree with the USDA. There should not be testing on all carcasses. However, until now, their argument was that there should not be mandatory testing on all carcasses. Now, the argument is that voluntary testing should be prohibited. Why would the USDA do this? It's the Golden Rule--he with the gold makes the rules. Megacorporate meatpackers have relied on the basic fungibility of meat on the US market. "Fungibility" means that one piece of meat at a given USDA grade is pretty much interchangeable with any other piece of meat at a given USDA grade. For the most part, our food supply is fungible--at least if you look at the outlets of the megacorporate meatpackers and their megacorporate food retail outlets.

I had no personal problem with this so long as there was still choice around for those of us who wanted to pay for it. That's how a free market works. Quality is encouraged by the possibility of profit. However, we are abandoning the free market in the USA and replacing it with a plutocratic alliance of megacorporation and government. This alliance does not, under any circumstances, want some upstart company with a product that might be perceived as superior to the run-of-the-mill plutocrats' mass-market swill. It will use its power to squash any attempt to beat the system, if it is permitted to.

If we let this stand, what will happen next? If it really is illegal in this country for a meatpacker to certify its products at a higher leven than the government minimum requirement, what other standards of excellence will become illegal. We might laugh at the following prospect: Private schools prohibited from certifying their educational outcomes as superior to those of government-run schools. Sound ridiculous? It used to be "ridiculous" when opponents of "tobacco lawsuits" said that the next step would be for fat people to sue McDonalds--that would never happen in a million years, right?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cooper makes an admission.

Well, it looks like Anderson Cooper has slipped up and told the truth: "I've never, not even once, seen a story spiked because the victim was not attractive enough or the wrong race. But I've seen plenty of stories fall by the wayside, pushed down and out of the show, because a consensus develops that says, "You know, I don't think our viewers are very interested in this case." Of course, many of us have known for quite a long time that all the large commercial "news" outlets have no actual reporters nor editors, just different ranks of infopimps. Like good little infopimps, they pander. Too bad they think that being an infopimp is the same as being a journalist.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Scoring the cards some more.

The various political "scorecards" (see my recent frothing, below) are very often the product of a single person or small group. As I have been recently reminded, this means that there are very limited resources at play, here. I propose the following:

Those of us who want to give a portrayal of our US government on some kind of "freedom scorecard" might do well to form alliances and share the effort. Ideally, there would be enough of us so that each person would only have to worry about a single state. It is far easier to comb through the votes for one state's worth of Congresscritters than it is for the whole Congress.

Second, there needs to be a set of specific, evenly-applied criteria for selecting "critical" votes and this should reflect several approaches to the question of "freedom". As a romantic, I'm of the opinion that Liberty is something larger than can be fully understood by any single mind. As a biologist, I'm a fan of the "more traits" school of taxonomy. These principles would reduce individual bias. Thus, a broad variety of people would be preferred. However, this also means that participants must understand that, in the real world, dogmatic purity must often be set aside to actually do anything even remotely useful.

Third, both "snapshot" (single year) and "career" scorecards are useful. Each shows something different. Fortunately, as "snapshots" are compiled, "careers" would become easier to track. While an elected official's overall attitudes show up in a career card, annual snapshot cards are far more useful in reflecting which specific stimuli produce which specific responses in a given legislator. Who can be directed (or panicked)? Who sticks by his guns, no matter what (even if it's irrational)?

Therefore, I am going to stick my neck out and volunteer my time to form a voluntary association with no funding and no resources. However, I do have a preliminary protocol.

  1. Use a Nolan-style dual criteria of "Economic Freedom" and "Personal Freedom".
    1. Define a "pro-liberty/pro-freedom" position that we are all able to stick to, even if it disagrees with our ideas of "justice", "fairness", "social equity", or other confounding issues.
    2. This position will guide our evaluation of the various Congressional votes.
  2. Define the "critical roll-call votes" for a session of congress, starting with the current session or the most recent completed session.
    1. There will be no less than 21 votes in each of the two areas, and the number of votes considered will not be divisible by two or five.
      • This is just a gimmick to avoid "on-the-line" classifications, which are annoying to calculate.
    2. Each vote will be explicitly associated with our position guidelines.
    3. Each vote option will be associated with one of four values: -10, 0, +10, and "na".
      1. The -10 score will be for the vote option that opposes "greater liberty".
      2. The 0 score will be for "abstain", or absence of a seated official.
      3. The +10 score will be for the vote option that is in accord with our "liberty" standards
      4. The "na" score will be for those officials who had not yet been seated by the time of the vote.
  3. Volunteers will allot the various states among themselves, ideally having a roughly equal number of total Representatives and Senators for each volunteer.
  4. Each volunteer will take the Representatives and Senators for the appropriate state (or states) and tally the roll-call votes according to the positions in our guidelines, then report back the scores.
  5. Scores shall be available to all members and the public, by some fairly convenient means. Portrayal and analysis will be at the option of individual members. That is, aside from the "Nolan-style" criteria, there will be no "official presentation". Individuals will be free to spin this all they want.

That's my proposal. Does anyone want to call my bluff, or shall I keep merrily hurling the "partisan shill" charge to all and sundry?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Political "Scorecards"--just another spin gimmick.

I noticed today that Steven Gordon on Hammer of Truth has mentioned that a "scorecard" was issued for the US Senate. The conclusion of this scorecard was that, or so it claims, Democrats are far, far, oodly-doodly-woodly more libertarian than are Republicans. Well, this was a bit of a surprise to me, until I noticed that this "scorecard" was a product of Freedom Democrats.

Okay, so a group of Democrats says that the Democrats are all nice and liberty-loving while the Republicans are just as icky as can be. I've no doubt that many other blogs are now breathlessly (and mindlessly) reporting this "scorecard" as Gospel truth. That's the nature of these little bits of propaganda, and that's what "Senate scorecards" usually are. They are propaganda pieces. Remember, this was not produced by an independent person or institution. It was a product of a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party who at least seems to have enough sense to realize that a police state might not be the best of all possible worlds.

In other words, a Democrat has defined a Good Thing (liberty) and then concluded that Democrats are better at the Good Thing than are Republicans. Knee-jerk, cult-like Democrats will now gush over how "obvious" the "conclusion" is while knee-jerk, cult-like Republicans will gush over how "wrong" it has to be. I'm just all around suspicious when it comes to any member of any party nattering on about how good they are and how bad The Enemy is. I want to check things out. However, instead of just critiquing the methods and presumptions that went into this particular "Score Card", I rememberd that there is a group of Republicans who also like to claim that they're "libertarian" at heart.

The Republican Liberty Caucus just happens to have their own "Liberty Index", and with a little digging you can get hold of the specifics for both the Liberty Index and the Freedom Democrats' Senate Scorecard. The first thing that should hit you square in the face is that the "key" votes look like they've been severely cherry-picked by both sides. I'm of the opinion that this severely altered the outcome and very well may have been done to produce the specific desired result. The Republican index restricts itself to 20 "personal" and 20 "economic" votes, all taken in 2005. The Democrat scorecard has 15 "social" and 15 "econonomy" votes, but in each of their categories, the Democrat scorecard sees fit to use two votes from 2003 and four from 2004. This is highly questionable. Even more questionable is that the Democrat scorecard only lists 14 of the 15 "social" votes it counted--at least when I consulted the web site. What is really interesting is how little overlap there is in the two lists, even though I could make a case for nearly every member of both lists to have been included in some sort of "Liberty Scorecard". Oddly enough, whenever the Democrat list mentioned a bill meant to rein in spending in a field particularly favored by our President, it was absent on the Republican list. Likewise, votes on the Republican list that appeared to me to be important regarding liberty issues were absent on the Democrat.

In short: The books were cooked, and we really can't trust either of these sources on their own. A strong indicator of this is what we might see if we juxtapose the two "scorecards" on each other. It just so happens that the Democrats used a Nolan Chart while the Republicans used a modified Nolan Chart. Since I like the finer nuancing of the Republican version (which still preserves the old Nolan boundaries), I have mapped both surveys together onto a single chart:

Okay, Red is for Republican Senators, Blue is for Democrats. Solid squares represent a same-party evaluation, hollow squares are cross-party evaluation. To quote Saint Gomer of Pyle: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Republicans think that other Republicans adore liberty and that Democrats are all a bunch of little dictators. Likewise, contrariwise.

So here we have it, a group of Liberty-loving Democrats are ready to tell the world that the Democratic party is our last, best hope from the tyrannical schemes of the vile Republicans. Simultaneously, a group of Liberty-loving Republicans are ready to tell the world that the Republican party is our last, best hope from the tyrannical schemes of the vile Democrats. I don't need to smell ammonia to tell when someone's taking a leak down my leg and telling me it's rain.

These "liberty" or "freedom" scams within the two major parties very well may just be that--scams, if we're lucky. The more likely scenario is far worse. Both of these groups are probably quite convinced, quite dogmatically convinced, that they truly do represent the only way to achieve liberty and that anyone who won't toe their party line is irrational, deluded, or evil. I have no doubt that most of these people truly do feel emotional affection for our tradition of individual liberty, but they still also insist upon party loyalty first, last, and always.

Of course, these two conflicting charts can make me wonder, what would happen were the ratings to be combined? I decided to treat each of these partisan political factions as fundamentally "equal". Both cherry-pick their samples and both miraculously cast themselves as guarding liberty against the supreme totalitarians of the other party. Thus, I just averaged the scores. If you have the least bit of scientific training, you should be cringing right now, but I wanted to see what the model would look like if we did a simple "pos on both your houses" and threw the two dogmatic views right in with each other. The results were, at very least, amusing, as you can see for yourself:


I'd say that this is a pretty interesting turn of affairs. The Republican and Democrat jingoistic views of each other essentially cancel each other out! What is even more interesting is that, when giving Republican and Democrat evaluations equal weight, the Democrats are, as a group, distinctively "Liberal". In addition, they have the only "Statist" Senators and the sole "Authoritarian" turns out to be a Democrat.

Likewise, and remember, we are giving a Democrat source equal weight to a Republican source, Republicans turn out to dominate the "Centrist" spot in the US Senate. There are a few "Enterprisers" and "Conservatives" among them, but nobody who would qualify as "Right-Wing" or "Authoritarian". No Republicans make it as "Libertarian" on this particular chart--the "Enterprisers" would be "weak Libertarians" on more traditional charts.

The funny thing is that, unlike all the "Ooh-oh, WOW! response that the Freedom Democrat chart seems to be producing in parts of bloggieland, this "unified" chart actually poses no real surprises. The US Senate turns out to be pretty bland. Most Democrats turn out to be liberal, with a few extremists. Republicans (remember, this is Senate Republicans, not House of Representative Republicans) are mostly moderate, with a few libertarian-leaners and conservatives.

But who wants to hear that the Senate is pretty much what it's been for a long time? Political wonks want warfare. They want people at each others throats. Reason is their worst enemy, and a public informed of all sides of a question their worst nightmare.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Guess who grew a pair.

Evidently, there are a few Europeans left who have not had their entire spinal columns surgically removed. As of today, the European Union has told the new Palestinian government that Hamas had better change its tune if it wants to keep riding the gravy train. From what I had seen from Europe in the last few decades, this has come as a complete surprise to me, a very pleasant surprise, but a complete one. For decades, Europeans have adopted a quite mindless, knee-jerk support for anyone and everyone who hated Israel, the more violently, the better. In essence, they had become nothing but the blindly reflexive opposite of the Christian Zionist Amen Corner we have here in the USA.

Likewise, the severely shameful kowtowing of European leaders to terrorist religious fanatics over a few stupid cartoons certainly would lead a reasonable person to presume that Europe had simply decided to blithely go along with whatever Islamic extremism wants to do.

But maybe there still is hope for Eurpean civilization. Perhaps Europe has remembered that, in order to remain civilized, one must sometimes stand up to barbarians. We can only hope that this is the case, that Europe's strong words will be accompanied by strong acts.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Laws you don't like.

South Dakota has just banned pretty much all abortions. Some people will be tickled pink and some will be just a teeny bit cross. A similar bill was recently proposed in my own state's General Assembly, and we Hoosiers weren't exactly unanimously behind it.

I have no doubt that the opponents of the new South Dakota law and many who oppose the Indiana bill will say that they should never have been permitted to be mentioned in legislatures in the first place. Attitudes like that only prove how much hatred there is for democracy there is in this country. People in America only favor any sort of representative or democratic process when it guarantees the outcomes they want. When they aren't so sure of the outcome, they try to circumvent our democratic and representative mechanisms.

These enemies of democracy love to claim that, once an issue has been ruled on by a specific supreme court, the matter is "settled" for all time. This attitude is completely at opposition to any sort of representative democratic republic. Yes, it is the duty of the US Supreme Court to reconcile our overly complicated body of laws. However, history has shown that even the supreme court does not consider itself to be infallible. Were that not the case, then Plessy v. Ferguson would have remained the final statement on educational segregation. Brown v. Board of Education of Maryland never could have happened. Likewise, the Supreme Court actually upheld slavery, most famously in Dredd Scott v. Sandford, until such time as the Constitution was amended via the Congress and several state legislatures to abolish the practice.

My point in going through such a summary is that the US Supreme Court is not a divinely-ordained body, instituted to infallibly and permanently determine all matters of dispute in the USA. At most, it ought to be a body to determine whether or not a given law is in accord with the general body of law in our country, resting ultimately upon the US Constitution. Unfortunately, my parents' generation has managed to convince itself into believing that the court actually is supposed to have divine powers, and many in my own generation share the unfortunate delusion.

The impulse is easy to understand. Real democratic processes are messy and scary. You actually have to deal with peopl who don't agree with you, and this is something that a tiny-minded dogmatic cannot tolerate. It is much safer and more reassuring to leave the matter up to a small board of "experts" and keep silly things like state legislatures out of the picture.

Unfortunately, these attitudes only play into the hands of anyone and everyone who would deny us all our fundamental liberties, whether they are on the "right" or on the "left". Use of courts to "permanently" decide all matters of dispute by one side of the political spectrum lulls the entire population into accepting this method as the first recourse. It inevitably leads to the exact same process being adopted by the "other side". At that point, the actual acts of a legislature become irrelevant. Instead, all efforts are expended on "packing" the courts. The current outraged of the "left" over our "right-wing" Supreme Court is a direct result of the "right" merely embracing the judicial hijinks of the "left". Indeed, this very attitude has been embraced by those people who used to be most opposed to "judicial activism". The pro-life faction of our country is now looking for a "big test case" to "settle" the matter in exactly the way they used to denounce Roe v. Wade.

While the function of the courts in reconciling law is indispensible, it should not become a replacement for the proper acts of the legislature. Legislative action, for all its dirt and flaws, is good for our country for two reasons. First, it requires us to actually hear what the "other side" has to say. This is a very painful experience for those people who adhere to a political religion. It is the breath of life for those of us who truly accept the fundamental premise of representative democratic governments.

The moment that any issue is prohibited from consideration in the legislative bodies is the moment that we lose a fundamental portion of our political liberty. At times, this liberty may mean that a legislature makes a mistake. This is a risk inherent in the democratic process, but the consensus had been that this is a risk worth taking. If asked whether or not it is better to risk stupid or bad laws or surrender all of my freedom to a board of lifetime-appointed "experts", I will take the risk. What is enacted by a legislature is far more easily reversed by a legislature than the pseudoholy writs issued from a now-overly revered judiciary.

Finally, prohibiting access to the legislatures to even the most pernicious of issues is a threat to the fabric of society. Like it or not, abortion does not seem to be all that popular in South Dakota, given that the entire state only has one abortion clinic. Whether or not abortion ought to be legal, this does mean that the issue ought to be at very least aired in that particular state's legislature. Crushing all political debate--and political debate must extend into the legislatures--only forces the issue into other means of expression. When any group feels that it cannot be heard in the legislatures, it is far more likely to resort to violence.

So, what is my take-home message? Am I going to say the South Dakota legislature was right or wrong in what it did? Am I going to use this law to stump for pro-life or pro-choice? Which side was I spending all this time just winding you up for? I'm not going to make it so easy on anyone who reads this. The abortion issue is so emotionally laden that it would be far too easy for someone to simply ignore fundamental issues of law, liberty, and separation of powers in the quest to get a particular "side" enforced upon the rest of the country. A civilized individual will put aside the most cherished emotional convictions for the sake of civil society in general. If that means submitting heated issues to the flawed processes of legislative deliberation, then that is what is required.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Get into the game.

I'm going to break (again) my one-post-per-day rule to say something that's pretty important to me. Contribute to political campaigns or parties. I know it sounds pretty stupid. After all, we pretty much presume that it's all owned by big pressure groups or their "527" proxies. But that might not be the case. Even though both of the major parties pretty much want to shut down free speech when it comes to elections, it turns out that there are more of us little people making contributions than ever before. So, for once, I'm going to tell people to join a trend. Do some thinking, and if any candidate really seems worthwhile, find his or her web site and make a contribution. If nothing else, it will tell that particular party that at least one ordinary person actually matters.

The thing about school vouchers.

On the face of it school vouchers sound like a good idea. They simultaneously manage to do everything. They redistribute wealth (makes liberals happy) and give "school choice" to families (makes conservatives happy). But here's the little fly in this ointment. It's still money that gets filtered through taxation, which means that it magically gets transformed into "government funding". Why does this little legal fiction matter? If a school accepts any form of "government funding" it has implicitly agreed to government control.

It's true that this particular case outcome would please conservatives, but if we can step away from the mere accidents of the case and examine the fundamental underlying issue. So long as some sort of "Constitutional" rationalization can be found, there is no legal recourse for a school to refuse to comply with any government order that is tied to continuing to accept government funding.

I'm not in the least bit outraged about this as such. After all, it is a fair trade, if you want to get a ladle-full from the Gravy Train, you have to let the conductor seat you as he wishes. It is a crude sort of justice. Likewise, if you want to be free from government interference, you have to forego handouts from said goverment. What this means, and it's very well established in the courts at both state and federal levels, is that any sort of government "funding" can be legally used as an inducement to force schools to implement or refuse to implement certain policies, programs, or curriculum measures.

I'm sure you can follow where this can lead. The progression would go like this. First, a voucher program is implemented. Once it becomes sufficiently popular that "private" schools are completely dependent upon vouchers to survive, the government will start imposing "standards". "Private" schools run by a church could face prohibition on teaching religion and a requirement to teach Darwinism. If they refused, the government could say "Okay, you are a private school, but we just won't let you use our vouchers." Now, the school is in a quandry: They have allowed themselves to become addicted to the vouchers. They can either now obey their new masters or quit, cold turkey. We know which is going to be more likely.

While vouchers might be a useful short-term measure, we cannot look at them as a true solution to our educational problems. They make it too easy to simply export all the problems we have in our public schools to the "private" educational sector, with the added flaw that the "private" sector would still have the illusion of not being under government control. Instead, they would be state schools by proxy. Vouchers really should be considered to be equivalent to a crash kit. They might be useful to get the patient stable, but they won't fix the underlying problem. We have a rot at the root of our society, and I don't think that it's been properly diagnosed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Are you in a political party or a political religion?

The next time you start to make a political point or express a political attitude, consider the following question: Are you expressing your adherence to a political party or your adherence to a political religion? I have had some idea of the existence of political religions for some time, but I didn't know that someone else had already figured out that these monsters exist. I look around at the "left" and the "right", and I do not see political theories or philosophies, I see political religions.

Politics has become a religion in the USA, and I do not mean that religion has come to dominate politics. I mean that politics has taken the place of religion, on both the "left" and the "right". Most "right"-leaning politics has co-opted many of the symbols of Christianity, but the reality is that these are merely used as a way to cloak the underlying political religion in an aura of respectability for the intended target audience. The "left" political religion doesn't use the explicit language of a specific faith, which might make it all the more dangerous, especially to its own "worshippers", since they are more easily able to delude themselves into believing that they are operating under "reason" and not "dogma".

But that's not the point of this essay, the point is to ask us all to examine ourselves and figure out if we are doing politics or worshipping at the altars of competing political religions. Thus, I have dug up some traits that seem to be considered indicative of a political religion. Does your political group adhere to them, do you? This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, nor is it a "safe checklist". A group can still be a political religion even if it doesn't adhere to each and every trait on the list.

I see the two major parties (Democrat and Republican) in the USA strongly adopting all of these traits. Likewise, I see most self-identified Democrats and Republicans as adhering to all of them. All of the "right" and "left" pretty much lives in this territory, full time. However, as I've hinted before, this absolves the "third parties" and "independents" of nothing. More than a few Libertarians are well-described by the traits of a political religion, as are at least some elements of authority within the Libertarian party as a formal organization. The same is true of "third parties" like the Greens and the majority of explicitly "left", "right", "racial", and other such parties. In essence, it's like political religion is a contagious mental illness--nobody is immune. Thus, the best defense is to be aware of the symptoms and try to clean out the infection when we see signs of it in ourselves.

The traits are as follows:

  • Sharp distinction of a group deemed not like us and demonization of the not like us. The definition of the “not like us” depends on agreeing with specific political beliefs, membership in an “enemy” political party, or agreement with a specific set of social goals.
  • A strong, hierarchical organization (e.g., county parties report to state parties, which report to the national committee. Authority flows downward from the national committee and the local parties are expected to toe the line.)
  • A coherent belief system that is supposed to be reflected in all aspects of life. One is expected to adhere to a specific set of social assumptions to be a “true” member of the party. There is a strong emphasis on purity of beliefs.
  • The ultimate aim is to completely transform the country into a “better place”, be that a “haven of tolerance”, the “New Jerusalem”, or any other idealized state of existence.
  • Members and followers believe that their ideology is “natural” or inherently “obvious”, thus anyone who does not accept the ideology must be “blind”, “evil”, “deluded”, or “misled”.
  • Unwillingness to accept possibility that ones own party is in risk of becoming or actualy might already be a political religion.
  • Genuine desire on the part of members and followers to convert others to “the cause”.
  • Willingness to place ends over means. It would be acceptable, for example to greatly restrict freedom of speech in order to foster greater “tolerance” or promote greater “security”.
  • Belief that the goals of the party will inevitably triump. Anyone who opposes the ideology merely opposes the great weight of “history”, the “inevitable progress of humanity”, the “will of God for our county”, or some similar immutable force.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Do we want Great Men to lead us?

Is George W. Bush a Great Man? Is John Kerry a Great Man? Was Bill Clinton a Great Man? If you say "yes" to any of the above, what does it say about you in light of the following remarkably true observations?

The worst form of slavery is that which is called Caesarism, or the choice of some bold or brilliant man as despot because he is suitable. For that means that men choose a representative, not because he represents them, but because he does not.... Men trust an ordinary man because they trust themselves. But men trust a great man because they do not trust themselves. And hence the worship of great men always appears in times of weakness and cowardice; we never hear of great men until the time when all other men are small.

A fellow named Chesterton wrote that some time back, and he's pretty much spot-on, as far as I'm concerned. These days, we are awash in miserable little anklebiters, desperate to follow a Great Man and horribly offended if we don't blindly worship their personal Great Man. It's time we did away with Great Men and instead concentrated on making all men great.

What does this mean? It means that we all have to stop turning our minds over to other people, for one thing. It means that we must admit that even leaders we admire very well just might pull some severely bone-headed moves. It means that we must stop letting politics be a substitute for religion. Likewise, it means that we must stop seeking a new Christ in the person of any particular politicians or group of politicians. Yes, I used the term "Christ" intentionally. It means "anointed one", "chosen one", or even "one who has the calling" (to be metaphorical).

This is what I have seen all Presidential candidates portrayed as in the last several elections, and it has gotten worse and worse. Both the major parties present their respective Christs to the American people, but that's not the real crime. The real crime is that the American people don't tell the two parties to shove their political Christs back up their party backsides.

Why do we do this? In part, it's because so many of us really do believe that we are, individually, nothing but grease-spots--or in need of a promotion to even be a fully-fledged grease-spot. I've watched a lot of people in my life, and the assistant grease-spots of humanity are actually few and far between. The vast majority of us are nowhere near as stupid as we get told we are. We do not need to look to a political party Christ to save us from the world, ourselves, or whomever it is that a given party deems to be the devil. We need to start looking to ourselves for our solutions, not looking for Great Men to dictate solutions to us.