-The Free View-
January 20, 2001
405 weeks until election day
In This Issue:
-The Case Against Schools - Relinked
-Articles and Links
-Defection 2000 - the final chapter
-How to Unsubscribe/Subscribe
"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it." -- John Stuart Mill, 1859
The Case Against Schools - Relinked
In the last Free View, I debuted a new article I had written called "'Boston Public': The Case Against Schools". Unfortunately, problems with the domain name info caused that link to be inactive for a few days following the mailing. Well, the problem has been resolved, the article is up, and you can read it right here: http://futuresolutions.org/futsols/freeschool/bp/
This article serves as a complement to my previous writings on The Free School on The Internet. I had already written why classrooms prevent ideal learning, and this new piece provides good examples why the school environment is a bad place for students to be, and not just for academic reasons.
Articles and Links
This piece is from DRCNet (the Drug Reform Coalition), probably the Internet's best watchdog against the abuses of the Drug War. This is from their weekly news e-mail:
"Which State Has More People -- Your State or the Prison State? http://www.drcnet.org/wol/166.html#census
Almost a year ago (February), the US incarcerated population passed the two million mark. Earlier this week, the results of the 2000 US Census were released, numbers estimated as of April 1, 2000. How do the populations of the 50 states compare with the prison state?
Nearly a third of them are smaller, some of them much smaller: Alaska, 626,932; Delaware, 783,600; Hawaii, 1,211,537; Idaho, 1,293,953; Maine, 1,274,923; Montana, 902,195; Nebraska, 1,711,263; Nevada, 1,998,257; New Hampshire, 1,235,786; New Mexico, 1,819,046; North Dakota, 642,200; Rhode Island, 1,048,319; South Dakota, 754,844; Vermont, 608,827, West Virginia, 1,808,344; Wyoming, 493,782.
Also smaller than the prison state are the three smallest US states combined: Wyoming + Vermont + Alaska, 1,729,541.
What would be the social and economic impact of incarcerating all the residents of these three states?"
The Eugenics Archive
This site is both sickening and fascinating. It is an account of the Eugenics movement of the early 20th century. Most disturbing is the fact that it seems clear after reading it, that Hitler's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" had many of its roots in the U.S. eugenics movement. Equally disturbing is the idea that eugenics was used to justify laws that forbid mixed race marriages (up until 1967) and that mandated sterilization for "lesser" people (into the 1970's), and that restricted immigration in the early 3rd of the past century.
I never heard about any of this in my History classes. There are a number of hateful and disgusting movements that have existed in our country's past, and it is disturbing to see how effective many of them were in getting Government to institute their sick agendas. I think that we need to recognize fully the reckless and damaging things we have done as a nation before we can move on to build a better way. The Eugenics Archive helps do that for at least one chapter of our tattered history.
Defection 2000 - The Final Chapter
(This is my third and final article on the failed election of 2000. I put it at the end of the newsletter because it is a bit long and maybe a bit rambling. It is in answer to the question of why our legislature has failed to supply us with a functioning federal election system.)
For the past 150 years, in almost every facet of society, federal government has taken control of the management of solutions to our problems. Education, banking, health care, transportation, commerce...the list goes on and on. There's almost no part of our lives that hasn't been taken under the wing of the federal government. There is, however, one notable exception- one part of our system of societal self-government, which has been woefully ignored at the national level: elections.
If there's one thing we can be absolutely sure of about the election drama in Florida, it's that the balloting, voting, and counting system there is a total mess. And this is backed up by the nationwide figures. Curtis Gins, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, points out, over two million ballots nationwide were "thrown out for one reason or another."
Two million ballots thrown out. Easily enough to swing the election whichever way you want. Imagine what we would have found if the counts in California, New York, and Texas were called into question. Does anyone think that it would be less of a chaotic mess than Florida has been? Not likely. In Florida, we are likely to end this election with three separate vote totals, depending on who you ask. Once the ballots are released and the news outlets do their counts, we'll probably have even more different totals. What are the chances that the same thing could be said about the 5 or 6 other states that had a slim margin? How many lost or uncounted ballots do you think we would have if we dug deep in New Mexico or New Hampshire? Isn't it likely that intense court battles there could produce vote total shifts that would change the state's winner?
The irony of this, to me, is that it seems that providing a functional, reliable national voting system would be one of the most fundamental jobs for the federal government to tackle. It can be argued that almost every federal social program is addressing what is essentially a local issue. The politicians in Washington don't teach your children- local teachers do. If Congress hadn't made it so, there would be no federal aspect to education. Education takes place between two people in a local setting. The same can be said for the health care industry. Health care was not national, until Congress made it so. At its core, health care takes place between two people in a local setting.
Voting, on the other hand, is arguably the ONLY function where we as citizens have a direct, federal interest. Voting for Congress and the President is a uniquely un-local function. It is, in essence, the delivery of our votes to Washington. The two parties involved are you and the Federal Government. The federal election, unlike almost every other project our Government has its hands in, is a truly federal matter. The only other instances I can think of where the interaction is between the citizen and the government is in court, and in the military.
To further understand how twisted our federal government's priorities have gotten, you just need to look at the federal budget. In 1999, under 1% of the $1.7 trillion dollars of our budget is devoted to "General Government." Presumably this includes the running of the White House and everything around it, including stuff like the General Accounting Office, the Federal Archives, the Library of Congress, and so on. Also within that .9% would be the money devoted to our federal election system.
I think most people would agree that the truest roles of government are military defense, a court system, and the administration of a system of elections to choose leaders. As I've mentioned, these are the only current government functions where the "problem" involves a relationship between citizen and government.
We each have an equal, direct interest in the military- it is the part of our government that protects us from attack. It applies to all citizens, and it is a direct relationship between citizen and government. Our budget recognizes this- National Defense, at 16%, gets the second biggest chunk of federal funding. And, as a result, we have a military without equal.
We also each have an equal, direct interest in the courts- it is the part of our government that protects us from injustice and fraud. It applies to all citizens, at least in theory, and it is a direct relationship between citizen and government. Of course, most people agree that our justice system is under great strain, and that injustice is dispensed nearly as often as justice is. Our budget recognizes this too- Administration of Justice, at 1.4%, is one of our least funded categories.
Arguably, the only other category of funding that we each have an equal, direct interest in is General Government- it's the part of our government that runs our government- protecting us, I suppose, from not having a functioning government. It, like the military and courts, applies to all citizens, and it is clearly a direct relationship between citizen and government. Unfortunately, running the government properly is not a big concern of ours, if you let the budget tell the story. At a measly $16 billion, or .9%, General Government is in the bottom 5 of the 18 general funding categories, right above International Affairs, and right below General Science, Space, and Technology. And let's not forget that the federal elections are just one of many functions sharing that .9%.
So, we spend more money on space exploration than we spend maintaining the very system that our government runs under. And it wouldn't be a hard case to make that NASA has made better use of its money than have the dispensers of the General Government fund. After all, each space shuttle mission involves a zillion details and intricacies, all of which must be properly aligned for things to go right. And, by and large, each of those missions has gone off without a debilitating glitch (except for the one BIG glitch back in the 80's).
Like a shuttle mission, a federal election involves a zillion details and intricacies. But, lucky for the General Government fund dispensers, the vote margin in our federal elections is usually big enough so that a few glitches won't cause a failure of the process. But, as the Florida spectacle made clear, it IS possible for the glitches to add up to a huge explosion- which, as NASA already knows, is a demoralizing public spectacle that results in an extreme loss of confidence in the process.
Well, this time the process is the election of a President, and this time, the tiny glitches happen to matter. And, in this, arguably the single most important part of our entire system of government, the system has failed. There will never be a conclusive vote total from Florida 2000. As a result, we will never know if we elected the right guy.
Where is the Federal Election Commission in all this? After all, we do have an agency that's supposed to handle this type of thing. I have yet to see or hear from a single person from that body in this whole fiasco. Instead, county canvassing boards, disgruntled voters, lawyers, county judges, state judges, circuit judges, state supreme judges, state legislatures, and a whole host of non-federal people have engaged in a Battle Royale match of "gimme votes." The only federal government people who have played any part are the Supreme Court- and if you can tell me where the Supreme Court fits logically into the space between voting and electing, I'd love to hear it.
So here we are, reaping what our legislators have sown for us. We've got a space station, a huge bank of social programs, and a federal election system that is well on its way to becoming a worldwide joke. I've got a good one: "The U.S. election system is so broken...you can't even BUY an election these days!"
In 1960, the razor-thin margin in the Presidential election caused a chaos not unlike the one we have here- only it was in more states than one. In response to the problems, Congress initiated substantial reforms to fix the process. Later, the FEC was created to help out, mostly with campaign finance reform. 40 years after that election, many places are still using the machines they bought in that post-election reform period. And the fate of our federal election is still in the hands of partisan county canvassing boards, just like it was in 1960.
Not too long after that last broken election, newly elected President Kennedy declared that, come hell or high water, we would get a man on the moon (I paraphrase, of course). Just a few years later, after an intense and concentrated effort, we did. And our space program has gone on since then to do truly amazing feats, each more amazing than the next.
Maybe, just maybe, we will learn, from the Florida election travesty, that we have been mixing up our priorities. After all, who will work to expand all of our failed federal social programs, if we can't even elect our leaders?
Imagine if our budget was divided three ways between only the military, the courts, and the running of the government. We would have near-total military defense capabilities, a justice system without parallel, and an elections and government system that would be proactive, engaging, and accessible.
Maybe if we had that, we could solve the other problems as free, private citizens and communities, in a prosperous and functioning democratic republic.
Thanks for reading. See you next week!
Be Well, Be Free,
Candidate for President - Year 2008