One of the most fascinating things, for me as a Brit, about engaging with American politics is that all political issues are filtered in the media through an extraordinarily crass Left vs. Right paradigm.
Left and right are not the two paradigms of American politics. They are the two flavors of only one.
America has been brought to its knees by a Left that has empowered the state and a Right that has subsidized big business. The nation has been disempowered by an axis between the apparatchiks of State that pass laws that concentrate wealth in the hands of the financial elite that funds them. Over the last century, the Left have tended to harp on about the corruption of corporate and financial interests, while the Right have tended to harp on about the corruption of State interests.
Meanwhile, corporate interests have made the State corrupt by financing it, and the State has made corporations corrupt through corporatist law-making. The net effect is that the State has concentrated power, and the corporations -- and in particular banks -- have concentrated wealth. The rest of us have paid for it in liberty and wealth, respectively.
The rise of the welfare state has depended on the rise of the crony capitalism -- and vice versa, and the mechanism is not hard to understand.
Banks create money and thereby inflation under license from the government. Wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of bankers as they charge interest on the money they create. This interest has eventually to be paid by the users of that money -- workers and the middle class -- out of the wealth they gain through their labor. In other words, over time, the products of human labor accumulate as assets to those that deal only in money and make nothing good. The government's interest in this system is that it allows them to create and borrow money to fund their schemes without having to tax the people their full cost. In other words, it helps them get votes and retain power.
This creation of money by bankers, including central bankers is inflation. The steady erosion of the value of money transfers wealth to those that create it, impoverishing those who do not hold significant assets. Those asset-poor people are the lower 90 percent of our nation. Over time, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and those in the middle tend to join the latter group. The skilled American householder today earns less than he earned in 1973. And whereas it used to take one income to raise a family, it now takes two.
To keep the system running without riots in the street, the same government officials who license the banks to print money pass welfare laws, which keep the disenfranchised at the bottom, but off the streets.
Therefore, there is no welfarism, beloved of the old Left, without crony capitalism (which pays for it). And there is no crony capitalism, beloved of the old Right, without welfarism (which maintains the political stability that protects it).
None of this is Constitutional. And none of it is conducive to liberty or the honest pursuit of happiness.
The Left never had all the answers, but they were for a long time damned sure the Right were evil. And the Right never had all the answers, but they were damned sure that the Left were stupid. And most people who are interested in politics have for the longest time chosen one of those two teams.
Finally, though, there is a glimmer that things are changing -- and in the most exciting way. One might even venture to say that things are changing in the most American of ways, even though the character of the change is still not visible to the nation at large -- whose perception of reality continues to be filtered through the old Left/Right paradigm, especially in the mainstream media.
What is the change and why is it happening now?
To answer the second question first, the consequences of the crony-capitalist-welfarist system are becoming clear to see. The government has all-but bankrupted the nation through both entitlement programs and back-stopping the financiers who make spend-now and pay-later politics possible. This bi-directional mechanism by which the wealth of the productive middle class is moved upward to the wealthy who produce nothing but move money that doesn't even exist (on the one hand) and to public sector employees and those on welfare who have been promised more than the rest of society can afford to pay (on the other) is now as plain as day.
Those who voted the Republicans out of office in 2008 for trampling all over the most basic of Constitutional rights of this nation by pushing for the Patriot Act (as but one example), are now shocked, but perhaps not surprised, to see Obama happily extending that act. Those who voted them out for killing thousands of civilians in a foreign Arab land now watch with a dropped jaw as Barack Obama pulls broadly the same trick in Libya.
It is almost as if all hope is lost and the game is over -- a kind of "end of American history" in which the steady end state is that none of the ruling class could care one Federal Reserve Note for life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.
Almost. But not entirely.
Two maxims appear to be more pertinent today than ever in American politics.
The first is, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop," known as Herbert Stein's Law.
The second is Churchill's observation that "the Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they've exhausted all other possibilities."
The last, best hope for the Last, Best Hope is that both quotes are right.
Just as the Left-Right axis has operated over time to bankrupt the nation, financially and ethically, those who are often misunderstood by the mainstream to be of the extreme left and the extreme right (but who are in truth neither) are working together, sometimes consciously and sometimes entirely by accident, to undo the bankrupt American settlement, and revitalize the country's founding promise.
For example, the man I saw on cable news waving his pocket Constitution as the anchor asked him why he thought Obama should not have gone into Libya could have been Ron Paul, but was in fact Dennis Kucinich. The man I saw proposing a cut in the military, among other things, to balance the budget could have been Dennis Kucinich, but was in fact Rand Paul. And the man who recently composed a legislative amendment with the words, ""The President does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," should have been someone from the party of the man who said it, but was again that "extremist of the tea party" (if you listen to the mainstream media or many of the moderates from the party of the speaker of those words), Rand Paul.
Something is surely afoot when the "extremists" are advocating such extreme positions as not invading countries without declaring war, spending no more than revenues, using money that is worth something and not passing laws that allows government agents to invade the privacy of citizens without cause, and the "moderates" are advocating spending trillions more than we earn, dropping bombs on people who don't threaten us, giving money to people who destroy value, and voiding the fourth amendment without so much as a "by the way".
Of course, for the most part, politics continues as usual in D.C. and the paradigm shift that I am hoping for is just beginning ... but at least is beginning, and as usual, it is further along outside the beltway than it is inside.
For example, Max Keiser, a man from the Left and a writer here on the Huffington Post, is now posting videos from Peter Schiff (who recently stood as a Republican for Senate in Connecticut) on his own site as much as he links to anyone else. Ampedstatus, an aggregator that is full of leftish commentary is headed up by an image of that part of the Constitution with the words, "We the People," underneath which is a picture of Bernanke and Geithner and the words (at the time of writing), "Dear Financial Tyrants, Your days are numbered," which would not be out-of-place on thousands of Constitutional conservative sites.
Indeed, it will soon be time to coin the term "Constitutional liberal," and that can only be a good thing.
True Constitutionalists conserve liberality. Does that make them conservative or liberal? The Constitution, properly understood, is no more than the Hippocratic Oath for politicians. It requires, "First, Do No Harm." That is an axiom that is exquisitely liberal and conservative at the same time. (Think about it.)
Progressive liberals on the one hand, and neocons on the other, have between them done plenty of harm to the USA. Most of the lives and treasure that have been lost by America would not have been lost if the Constitution had been followed more closely by both groups. We may now be entering a period in which some of the constraints of that document -- the requirement to declare war in Congress; the need for sound money that cannot be printed at will, impoverishing the working man over time; the prohibition against any lawmaking that favors one class of people over another; the rights of all Americans to privacy in the absence of due process - are being revisited by Left and Right as favorable to the interests of both.
The Constitution is not left or right-wing, and both Left and Right are starting to see that the most egregious acts that have been performed in the interest of the governing and the financial classes have in common that they defy the Constitution, typically by violating the rights of some for the benefit of others.
"First, Do No Harm," is the Constitution in four words, and should be the rallying cry of conservative liberals everywhere.
The so-called "radicals" like Paul and Kucinich who appear through the old left-right filter to be so different, are more importantly defined by what they have in common -- a principled attempt to protect American Constitutional rights that, while radical in 1776, should not even be up for discussion today.
Of the men I've mentioned, the darling of Constitutionalists today is Ron Paul. He has so far out-raised all of the potential GOP candidates for 2012, even while many of the MSM continue to conduct their polls (among likely Republican voters) often times without even including his name. I don't know exactly what that means, but I know it means something, and I like it.