Category Archives: government

Toward a republic: The reining in of democracy …

The dilemma of the masses …

I don’t see any benefit from “people politics.”  I think the notion of democracy, where each person gets a say in choosing who leads a society, has fooled people into believing that it takes the masses to get anything done.  I agree that one person can’t move the mountains necessary for creating a society, but it doesn’t take a large mass of people either.  Masses are considered by a small number of leading individuals as either a battering ram that knocks down perceived doors to power or as the sponge that absorbs the costs of building a society with the gains going to the leader of the pack.

The masses always end up with scraps that depreciate in value.  They are so busy working to pay the taxes that fund that venture capital firm called government that they make no time to participate in the management of society.

Frankly, I like it that way.  The tyranny of the masses of people who operate on their passions and misinformation frightens me.  Just listen to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal any morning and you will cringe at the misinformation that emanates from some of the callers’ mouths.  While I do not believe that citizens should be deprived of basic needs, I don’t think that the masses of citizens should be involved in policy making.  I would be dishonest by saying that the franchise of voting should be open to all.

On the contrary, it needs to be denied to most.  The best way for the individual to enjoy maximum protection is for all avenues that trespass on her liberty to be closed or severely blocked.

One example of the severity of mass ignorance is the removal trial of President Donald J. Trump occurring in Washington.  The Democrats, uncertain of a victory over Mr Trump by any of its current candidates for their party’s nomination, have created a narrative designed to enrage and engage the electorate, the narrative being that Mr Trump abused his power by withholding military funds from the nation of Ukraine and that Mr Trump’s refusal to proffer White House staff for testimony before the House during its investigation of such abuse amounted to the “crime” of obstructing Congress.

The Democrats target rich environment of voters includes those who, rather than educating themselves on how the law defines presidential power or how the law defines abuse of that power, base their preference for impeachment on their genuine dislike for the President’s personality.  The Democrats rather have an uninformed angry mob going into the voting booth this November versus an informed one.

Hence the dilemma of the masses. On the one hand, an uninformed tool easily riled by a party leadership. On the other hand, a mob that has no problem tainting a man’s legacy with charges found nowhere in the Constitution or federal statutes.

Time to rein in democracy ….

American democracy, at least on the national level, needs to be reined in.  The Democrats would not be able to create consternation in the electorate for the purpose of generating momentum to the ballot booth if the electorate were not so easily reached.  One approach would be to get rid of the popular vote and go to an enhanced republican system.  While the voter continues to vote for their state representatives and state chief executives, state legislatures would be responsible for selecting from their own bodies the representatives to Congress.  Congress would then be responsible for selecting the president and vice-president from its chambers.

The biggest benefit from an improved republic would be that in one fell swoop, voters could punish state representatives that selected the congressmen that voted for an ineffective or criminal president.  Washington would stay on edge.  To ensure that the needs of citizens are addressed first, Washington might stay focused on domestic issues versus adventurous campaigns abroad.  The Executive and the Congress may find themselves in greater coordination on policy knowing that ineffective policy behavior by one branch of government severely impacts the other.  Less conflict and more cooperation and communication would reduce the chances of the reckless impeachment behavior we are seeing now in Washington.

Conclusion ….

Democracy isn’t working.  Democracy, by offering a passionate, uninformed mass to weigh in on the selection of leadership, creates gamesmanship that stokes fear rather than reason.  It needs to be reined in.

Political power starts in households, not in group politics

The head fake …

We are in the silly season.  National election primaries are ramping up as the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus looms in February and a number of state legislatures prepare for state representatives to invade their respective state capitals.  It is the silly season because candidates will attempt to sell you ideas and plans that have not a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.  All one has to do is listen to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders’ promises of delivering free college education or free childcare for working families without once laying out the tactics for dealing with a Senate that will likely be in the hands of the Republican Party on 3 January 2021.

The danger of group non-efficacy ….

One overlooked incident of silliness is the voters’ placement of limits on their own political power. Many voters limit their power and influence to the singular act of voting.  The reasons are well documented.  Voters are working two jobs trying to keep food on the table.  After working two or more gigs to feed their kids, voters want to chill for a couple hours watching Netflix versus going to a city council meeting or watching a debate or congressional hearing on C-SPAN.

These types of voters, those who cannot make the time to glean information on policy making are dangerous and quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed near a voting booth as their uninformed voting decisions have a negative impact on the rest of society (although some candidates may like this type of voter as long as they have bought into the candidate’s narrative hook, line, and sinker.)  Creating a large collective of voters i.e. political colonization, is advantageous to a candidate especially where the candidate can sell that group on what the group’s self-interests should be.  The candidate enjoys efficiencies from aggregating this most important electoral resource because creating a collection of voters buoyed by a few singular issues helps to refine the number of promises or political packages the candidate has to offer.

The risk to individual households with interests that vary widely from the group is that their political needs will not be served.  Being herded into a large group, whether based on race, culture, income, etc., dilutes your position, limits your influence, drowns out your voice.  There is a decision to be made.  Either be the wolf maximizing your political gains or be the sheep herded to the slaughter spawned by dissatisfaction.

Each household must step out on its own….

An individual household cannot hold itself back out of some false sense of allegiance to a group.  There is no rule saying you must bear the cost of a group’s non-efficacy.  Once you have decided that only you can increase your influence; that showing up just to vote is not enough, then you must take the next step of investment.  I will not tell you that the investment is cheap, but the costs can be minimized.  Here are a few simple steps that you may have already heard of.

First, build your political network.  That network may be right in front of you.  We are all six or fewer handshakes away from meeting Kevin Bacon.  Someone in your network likely knows a policymaker or elected official.  In that case, seek out an introduction.

One other way to meet policy makers or elected officials is to identify the policy maker or elected official that is making a decision on a matter that you are most interested in.  Contrary to public belief, elected officials want to meet you.  You are their resource.  When you identify them, set up a meeting or determine what events they will be attending so that you can meet them.

Second, continuously engage your policy makers or elected officials on those top issues you are concerned about.  Engagement need not be expensive.  Written correspondence is great.  A short letter will suffice.  Letters are preferable to email.  While both types get entered into the record, letters get more thorough responses.  Also, if your budget allows, offer to meet the policy maker or elected official for coffee or lunch.  As long as you are not lobbying on behalf of a group or business, no disclosure reports need be filed.

You can near guarantee an audience if you are bringing some insights or knowledge to the table.  In your emails or letters, always demonstrate that you are abreast of the issue by sharing some tidbit that you have researched.  This bit of information will get you closer to a meet and greet.  Stay informed!

Lastly, donate time, money, or both.  If you want to impress a policy maker or elected official, show up to hearings and if the forum allows, make a statement for the record.  If you believe an elected official is meeting your representative needs, send them a donation.  People who donate get an audience, even if it is a response to a message via LinkedIn.

You can do it …

The above advice is from real world experience.  I have met policy makers and elected officials simply as a result of reaching out.  For we shy types, it is not easy at first, but keeping your “ask” real simple will settle your nerves and keep the engagement simple.  Once you are willing to increase your households influence over the political process, you will see the investment of time as worth it.

Need more consultation on reaching out to policymakers or elected officials? Feel free to reach out to me at altondrew@altondrew.com.

 

 

Blacks should start preparing to manage a future electoral clash between whites and Hispanics…

Blacks don’t have the numbers and it will get worse, unless….

Back in August I wrote the following regarding representative democracy’s failure of black people:

“Representative democracy has failed black people in America.  The representatives from the black community in Washington have been converted into agents for their respective party’s leadership, securing the votes needed so that they can pull up a chair at the trough.  Just like social media has turned subscribers to social networks into resource and product for advertisers, the electoral system has turned black voters into lumps of coal with black congressmen acting as the conveyor belt carrying the coal to the primaries and the national elections.”

In addition to this major fail of black leadership and representative democracy will be the further weakening of black political capital as a result of demographics.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the portion of the American population identifying as “black” will increase to 13.3% in 2060, barely budging from the 2014 statistic of 13%.  Meanwhile, the population identifying as “Hispanic” will see their percentage of the population increase to 25.5% in 2060 up from 13% in 2014.

The population identifying as “white” will represent 49.4% of the U.S. population in 2060, down from the 2014 figure of 68.8%.

As a voting bloc, I expect that Hispanics will cement their position as the go-to ethnic group that sways at least the popular vote for president. The current “people of color” movement may have run its course by then depending on how much farther the interests of both groups diverge.  Assuming that blacks and Hispanics occupy in 2060 the regions of the country they mostly occupy today, there may not be a demographic clash.  Blacks still mostly occupy the south and southeastern United States while Hispanics mostly occupy Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, and New York.  Two of the states, California and Florida, because of the number of electoral votes they carry, will continue to influence the popular vote and the Electoral College vote.  Hispanics will be in a position to exercise substantial electoral clout.

This clout may come in handy on policy issues such as immigration and trade.  Blacks have expressed animosity to policy that favors immigration because they see immigrants from Latin American countries as competitive cheap labor.  Hispanics see immigration as access to better pay and living conditions while trade benefits Latino populations living on both sides of the southwestern border where there is an opportunity to access and transport more goods and services at affordable prices.

The issue for black political leaders will be how best to manage a political environment, based on a failed representative framework, within which the struggle for public capital will only intensify. One solution may be to go external and manipulate the system from the outside.

Manipulate the equation…Raise the ante….

Yvette Carnell last night described a voting strategy for getting the Democratic Party to take notice of black voters without black voters giving away all of their electoral capital.  The “down ballot” tactic allows black voters to exercise the option of skipping Democratic candidates for president, vice-president, Congress, etc., where those candidates do not offer adequate public policy in exchange for the vote.  Ms. Carnell stresses that blacks should just not show up, but should instead go to the polls and cast a vote on other issues reflected on the ballot with the goal of letting Democrats know that the voter showed up but did not see on the ballot a candidate that presented an adequate black agenda.

Another tactic I would suggest is that blacks skip the primaries and that this practice should start in 2020. Skipping the primaries raises not only uncertainty in both parties, especially the Democratic Party, but would force the parties to pay more attention to black public policy needs and start preparing substantive packages in advance of election so that packages can be put in place soon after an election.

I believe these are the sort of tactics that blacks should implement now in order to strategically position themselves as the price giver versus price takers.

Conclusion: A more active listening public administrator

There is no guarantee 40 years out that black political leaders external to the government will follow the above strategies in the face of changing demographics and political power.  Public administrators should get in the habit of being forward looking, however, as demands of the electorate in the political markets will call for changes in approach to governance.  To stay valid, public administrators have to listen to two constituencies: the elected official that oversees them, and the electorate that at least in theory oversees them both.

 

 

Deep down inside, Democrats want a tyrant …

The executive in a republican form of government …

In a republican form of government, the goal is to temper the passions of the masses in order to maximize your goal for governing: the garnering of the spoils from capturing the government; to direct public capital in a way that awards leadership while placating the citizenry.  Populism is to be squelched if the state is to be efficiently administered.  You can’t have efficient administration if the executive is constantly competing with a citizenry that makes demands for more resources where such demands tend to be driven more by emotion and a limited view of alternatives for garnering resources versus pragmatism.  If the framers of the American constitution got one thing right it was that governance should include a mechanism for keeping the passions of the electorate in check.

Squelching populism is necessary ….

To proceed with the squelching of populism and the promotion of republicanism, you will have to get rid of the notion of the strong, independent executive. The existence of a strong, independent executive indicates that there is a significant majority whose popular vote propelled that executive into office.  Keeping a strong, independent executive in check is the goal of a citizenry seeking to maximize its liberty to trade and use its private capital as it pleases.  Eradicating populism protects the individual from this clear and present danger to her liberty.

I should add that this argument is not about protecting the rich from a future Elizabeth Warren-type presidency.  This protection extends to people like me who are not affluent or well connected.  We, too, have liberties that we do not wish to be trampled upon, including the freedom to be left alone.

This brings me to a second approach to squelching populism: destroying the notion that government is designed to protect you.  Social programs for and income transfers to the poor are not about protecting the less fortunate.  Social programs and income transfers are more about buying votes and keeping the barbarians from knocking down the gates.  A strong, independent executive can use such programs to engender fealty, creating a standing army of passion-driven, unenlightened majorities willing to do their part in the executive’s suppression of the minority’s liberties.

People are, for a government, a resource to be managed, not a ruling force to be submitted to.  The executive should not be bolstered or subjugated by the masses.  This check on the executive should come from the state and national legislatures, bodies that are directly elected by the masses and who, because of their proximity to and familiarity with the people’s unique needs, are best suited for addressing the “distractions” the masses could cause the executive.

Democratic Party hypocrisy …

The Democratic Party feigns anger at Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016.  They have to in order to validate their supporters belief that the political system was supposed to serve their perceptions of fairness.  In actuality, the Democratic Party had no choice but to accept the outcome of the November 2016 election because the outcome showed that the majority of the populace will not be able to create mandates that handcuff a Democratic victor in the future.

Mr. Trump’s share of the popular vote in 2016 and his current job approval rating demonstrates that for all his “going public” efforts and his blustery personality, he is still handcuffed; he is not an independent executive.  The republican form of government still allows the Democratic Party to keep the President in their political cross-hairs by signaling that the President does not have majority support acting as a moat that protects him.  The republican form of government should also give the Democratic Party some hope that if they ran a candidate with the right campaign game plan, that they could manipulate the Electoral College for a victorious outcome.

Observation: Democratic voters want a tyrant ….

The Democratic Party’s supporters, however, want a tyrant. The rank and file voter supports the populist agenda, thus would support a strong, independent leader spawned by populism.  The emotionalism of the average Democratic voter gives me pause because it tells me that this voter has not fully thought through what they are asking for from a populist leader.  A populist leader, as I discussed before, will keep the goody bag filled in order to maintain that support.  It is what they ask for in return for their political packages is what concerns me.

 

Capital. The true digital divide

A couple early morning thoughts on the digital divide.  So far the digital divide narrative has occupied two schools of thought that are not necessarily opposed to each other.

Race and the Digital Divide

The first school of thought revolves around race.  Given that within the black American community there is a higher level of poor households, affordability is keeping blacks from accessing the internet via high-speed broadband infrastructure.  If blacks do not have the income to sustain a broadband business model, then internet access providers are less likely to deploy facilities in poor neighborhoods.  Lack of deployment in these neighborhoods may result in a barrier to valuable information that may lead to greater economic opportunities, according to advocates seeking to close this gap.

Rural Communities and the Digital Divide

The second school of thought revolves around rural communities.  The argument is that lower population density as compared to urban areas makes deploying broadband access facilities in rural areas more expensive.  In addition, terrain, such as that faced by internet access providers in mountain states, has traditionally added to the problem of higher costs to provide broadband access facilities.

An Overlooked Divide

There is another divide, one that is often overlooked and it has to go to what is known as “first-mover advantage.” The real value generated by the internet is the ability to extract, analyze, package, and distribute information, and have that information be available digitally forever.  The focus on a gap between facilities deployed in black neighborhoods versus facilities deployed in white neighborhoods or the gap between rural community deployment versus urban community deployment goes to seeking out new suppliers of information.  The civil right veneer that has been placed over the broadband racial divide hides this supply-side characteristic from the policy debate.  It has also created the opportunity for the political left to craft an electoral package that can be sold to voters.

It is the other side of the equation, the production side, that, in my opinion holds more value.  When we look at the history of the internet, particularly the period when the internet was commercialized, its players included white venture capitalists; Web 1.0 internet service providers, i.e. AOL, CompuServ, Mindspring, etc.; and dial-up access providers such as BellSouth.

Black Americans could always access information from analog sources, i.e. television; print media; or word of mouth, but the efficient extraction, cataloging,  indexing, aggregation, and distribution of information via the internet were the domain of companies invested in and managed by whites.  As whites continued to level their first-mover advantage, this gap between producer/owner of capital and consumer continued to grow.

Capital not only seeks a vacuum, it also seeks a return.  Returns from investing in black or even rural communities were not going to be as high as returns invested in affluent neighborhoods, neighborhoods whose residents probably owned shares in the very companies that commercialized the internet in the first place.  Closing the “digital divide” means first closing the capital divide.

What will Government Do Next?

Government will do nothing from a capital perspective to close the digital divide. The Federal Communications Commission has a number of universal service funding initiatives designed to encourage mobile and fixed broadband deployment in rural areas; to facilitate the delivery of health care via broadband; and to reduce the costs incurred by low-income consumers for accessing and maintaining high-speed broadband service.  By subsidizing the consumer demand for broadband services, the Commission hopes to encourage the delivery of broadband services.  But again, the focus is on consumer demand, not bridging the capital gap.

The philosophical underpinnings of the American economy, where capital is to flow freely to its best use may prohibit government from taking any concrete action for closing a capital gap.  If blacks or rural residents had sufficient capital to purchase, construct, or maintain broadband access facilities, using their intimate knowledge of their communities to distribute services, we might see a decrease in the gap.  We should expect that government will stay on a path of incentivizing capital investment in infrastructure development versus trying to repair capital discrepancies via a capital transfer.