Sunday, April 3, 2016

Why I'm Not Feeling The Bern

First, I do feel the need to point out that of all candidates, Bernie Sanders is one of the most principled politicians the United States has to offer in 2016. One of the burdens of the U.S. is the unethical purchasing of political power. If anyone is doing an impressive job at minimizing the purchase of his/her campaign, and therefore her/his convictions, it's Bernie Sanders. Even "self-financed" billionaire Donald Trump is not last in outside / "dark" money (PAC): Trump is second to last in PAC funding, at almost $2 million as of March 2016. Sanders is dead last at under $50,000. (OpenSecrets.org)

Second, I also feel the need to point out that Sanders is one of the most socially empathetic candidates in the U.S. political mix today. The shaming of social empathy has traditionally been a dark political pastime of the U.S., even by moderate liberals. Conventional wisdom dictates that survival of the fittest is seriously eroded by "excessive" social empathy, like a mother and a father who tiresomely disagree on what nurtures and what weakens the child. According to the same conventional wizards, social empathy is the damning of the poor: it makes them lazy and weak (Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen"). This prevalent suspicion, embedded in the American quilt, is the fundamental reason the U.S. is in the bottom half of the thirty most developed nations when it comes to social progress. (Social Progress Index)

You would think that those two significant attributes would be enough to feel the Bern. After all, haven't we always turned a blind eye towards the darker side of politicians, as long as we believed they were enlightened in matters that are most important to us? (Something future generations may call Trumping, much in the same way we use the term Machiavellian today.) But more to the point: with those two impressive Sanders attributes highlighted, is there anything about him that would even require the old blind eye?

The answer to that depends on whether you believe that the dark side of socialist democracies are the lesser of two evils. With that I am offering the reader the courtesy of not insulting his or her intelligence, by taking it as a given that ALL man-made socioeconomic systems have a dark side.

Even more importantly, the answer to the blind eye question depends on whether you believe that a vastly less homogenous nation like the U.S., vastly larger, with vastly more significant technological and scientific contributions to the planet, can or should wear the "Nordic Model" skinny jeans (the Nordic Model is the socioeconomic system of five European nations: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). If you believe that the shiny side of the Nordic Model is not heavily fueled by a fiercely "offshore" capitalist model, then you might want to challenge your own sense of social fairness. The offshore dog-whistle by the way is in great part code for "let's do our dirty business in nations where they give much less of a shit about social fairness than we do". If you have not considered that the Nordic Model is still greatly benefitting from the war chest of its non-social heyday, then you might want to vet Bernie Sanders' idealism a little better. Don Corleone's way of life did not magically clean itself up after a whole new generation. You can put lipstick on a pig, but you're still addicted to bacon.

Here's the heart of the matter: the conservative rich are not laughing at Sanders because they think he's a dreamer; they're laughing at him because they know where the money that will be used for "free" healthcare and "free" education comes from. And they know how it's made. Because it's not your mom and pop's money from back in Pleasantville. In case that doesn't sink in, please think back to the Scandinavian heyday war chest. And to the Corleones: Bernie is like Kay Corleone (Diane Keaton), when she begs the conscience of her husband Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), "I thought you weren't going to become a man like your father... Because this all must end... this Sicilian thing that's been going on for two thousand years."  

The Corleone boys don't do lipstick, Bernie.

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This is not the election of a lifetime. The elections you make for yourself every day when you wake up are the elections of a lifetime. Stop falling in love with politicians preaching change, and be the change. These are not the droids you're looking for. 

This is also not a call for a non-vote. By all means, do vote. The democratic process, as frustrating as it may be, is still the healthiest way we have so far in our evolution to propose a general way forward. But destiny is not up to our leaders. It never has been, and it never will be. There is only one destiny, and it's the collective sum of all individual destinies. The only thing you can do to help change the world is focus on your own destiny. Only then will your vote truly count.

Just be aware of one slight rule of engagement, when it comes to focusing on yourself: the more you take without giving, whether in love or in profit, the more insignificant your destiny will be. Even if it makes you a billionaire. Especially if it makes you a billionaire.


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6 comments:

  1. As an American who has lived much of his life overseas, in 10 different countries no-less, I respectfully disagree. There is no reason the US cannot be an effective social-democracy and it will not require additional taxes. I suggest you look into Keynesian economic theory that focuses on expanding internal demand (the US has almost always focused only on the cost of supply). In a social democracy, all the US citizens will participate in the economy instead of today's level (that is probably about 60%, I would guess). So, about 100 million additional consumers and tax payers. Additionally, reform and prioritization of where monies are spent can free up an enormous amount of money, primarily in cutting military spend (for instance, why does my home state of New Mexico have 4+ military bases? Who are they protecting the citizens against?). I'm "feeling the bern" despite being something close to a 1%er and a white, male executive in the O&G industry. Why, because it is the best model out there. Go spend a few months in Australia if you want to see it in practice.

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  2. Thanks for the comment Jeff. Like you, I have lived in many countries, travelled to about sixty, conducted business with more than half of them. My primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate education all took place on different continents. It was during my European MBA in fact where I became very acquainted with John Maynard Keynes work. Ironically, JMK was not nearly as well travelled as you or I, and for that reason I tend to avoid using world exposure as a guarantee of reason. It would be impossible to have a conversation with someone who may indeed be wiser, but not as travelled.

    In the US since JMK's "General Theory", both Republican and Democratic administrations have not interfered much with classic Keynesian maneuvers when it came to lowering interest rates and trying hard to stimulate spending - particularly during recessions. But your point is more about the demand side than the supply. I disagree that the US has "always focused only on the cost of supply". What I would agree with is that the US tends to focus more on supply cost than on demand capacity. Not semantics, an important distinction.

    But my central point about Bernie Sanders goes well before macroeconomics. Macroeconomics without microeconomics is academic theory. The entrepreneurial forces that stimulate employment will bloom frequently and legitimately, as they do in the US, or in black markets as they do in countries that oppress entrepreneurship. The dynamics that take place from entrepreneurship to growth, peak, maturity, and decline of businesses is what capitalism is all about. Where there are rules that can be followed, they are. Where they begin to interfere with business, there are politics. And where they are impossible to solve domestically, they are offshored. Either way, the ultimate purpose of these businesses is profit. How much of that profit you retain is the raison d'etre of capitalism. The Nordic Model flows more cash outside of its borders than inside. And somewhere in China, Africa, and Latin America, someone is getting exploited at the expense of the model. I am sure that, like me, in your travels, you have witnessed that. It is not a sustainable model, not until the very essence of capitalism changes dramatically.

    By the way, thanks for the suggestion to spend some time in Australia. Perhaps I will one day. Having conducted business remotely with Australian companies, and having a few friends there, I will most certainly like to spend some time there. In the meantime, based on my travels so far, I'm fairly convinced that it is not necessary to spend a few months in every country of the world to have a fair appreciation for political and socioeconomic realities.

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  3. Hard to disagree, but I also think you touch on but ultimately miss the central theme of Bernie's campaign and that is simply removing, or restricting, bribery of Gov't official with special interest PAC money. For this reason alone, we should all get behind the man because without implemting these restrictions I'm very afraid of where this slow-motion train wreck is heading. We can see a glimpse of it with the illogic and against the overwhelming wishes of the majority, no gun control legislation has a chance in Congress. Why? The NRA is buying sufficient support to ensure this does not happen. So, ultimately (if we aren't already there), our politics & economy are completely dictated by corporate bribery. We will never see health care reform, sensible gun controls, an energy policy, a right-sized military and sensible foreign policy that isn't predicated on "pick a fight so we can use our military might." The only candidate even talking about changing this horrible mess is Bernie. That is reason enough for me.

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    1. Let's try this approach Jeff... if you re-read my article carefully, you will notice two things: one is that I have more praise for the man than criticism (2:1 actually, hence my "first" and "second"). And two (there I go again) that I never propose either not voting for Bernie or voting for for someone else. In fact, I clearly leave that wide open, and encourage people to vote as they see fit. My central point overall, is that I'm not feeling the Bern because he is not right about an important issue. That does not mean he may not be the lesser of all misguidings. I will make the determination when the time comes. But the most important determination is one I already made a long time ago: we need to stop canonizing our politicians. It's really not up to them. It's up to you and me. The founding fathers brilliant system of checks and balances is one of the few things holding us back from being a banana republic. Where feverish populism is the only thing they know.

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  4. Putting aside the "U.S. vastly more significant technological and scientific contributions to the planet" Joe,
    "......apart from Ikea furniture, aerosol cans, power transformers, heart rate monitors and Lego ...what has the "Nordic Model" ever done for us ?!"

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  5. Clearly you've never had to assemble IKEA furniture before Heather. I might as well go and chop the bloody tree myself ;)

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