STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Copycat Republicans Seek Answers
By Staff News & Analysis - May 26, 2010

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, stung by criticism that their party lacks new ideas, launched an online initiative on Tuesday to hear suggestions and policy proposals directly from Americans. Republicans are licking their chops at the idea of taking seats away from Democrats in November congressional elections. And yet they said their taxpayer-funded "America Speaking Out" website was not aimed at attracting voter support for their candidates. "This has to do with listening to the American people and addressing their concerns today," said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader John Boehner (left). Republicans by law cannot use the americaspeakingout.com website for political purposes, since they established it with taxpayer money. Representative Kevin McCarthy, who is in charge of the effort, said it would not cost much more than an average website for a congressional office. – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: New ideas are necessary

Free-Market Analysis: We wrote recently that the approach of the British coalition government to governing marked a new dominant social theme that in our view had larger ramifications. Now we read that the US Republican party is apparently taking a leaf from the Tories and soliciting new thinking about government as well. In this article we shall examine the Republican initiative – a notable one since this "movement" has now spread from Britain to America (and thus can be seen as a pan Anglo-American initiative) and try to decide whether or not we can expect that the rhetoric shall produce, potentially, substantive change.

On May 19, we reported on the Tories planned "Great Reform Act" that was putatively intended to roll back Britain's surveillance state. We quoted an excerpt from the UK Telegraph regarding the plan as follows: "The most radical redistribution of power from the state to the people for 200 years is to be made by the new coalition Government, Nick Clegg is to claim … The public will be asked what laws they want ripped up, in far-reaching reforms designed to put back 'faith in politics', the Deputy Prime Minister will say. The reordering of power will sweep away Labour legislation and new criminal offences deemed to have eroded personal freedom. … It will involve the end of the controversial ID cards scheme, the scrapping of universal DNA databases – in which the records of thousands of innocent people have been stored – and restrictions placed on Internet records."

We see parallels obviously between what is happening in Britain and across the pond. And as we mentioned previously, the initial importance of this promotion is that the powers-that-be seem to believe it is necessary at all. Interestingly the emphasis in the American "Great Reform Act" (not nearly so far along as the British one) is that it is seemingly to focus on economic rather than surveillance issues. Here's more from the Reuters article:

Using the information gained, Republicans hope to develop legislative priorities for Congress based on their conservative principles by September, two months before the November 2 elections. Boehner said an agenda for congressional candidates is being developed on a separate track. … Republicans hope to use their initiative to tap into Americans' frustration with Washington at rising debt and a lingering 9.9 percent unemployment rate. Representative Candice Miller, a Republican who represents the electoral swing district of Macomb County in Michigan, said in 30 years of holding elected offices she has never seen people so "absolutely agitated" at government spending and the perceived lack of emphasis on creating jobs."And the number one thing that I hear, over and over and over again, everywhere I go, is 'Why isn't Washington listening to us?'" she said.

The most notable part of both initiatives in our opinion is the determination to derive a legislative platform based on the input from "average voters." And yet we are not sure it will make much of a difference – or not so long as the same power structure that developed the difficulties are in charge of dismantling them. No, as we wrote in our previous article, the importance of this promotion lies in the shifting rhetoric. The powers-that-be not only see a need to launch efforts of this sort, they are doing them within days of each other and with a good deal of fanfare. Here's an excerpt from an article we wrote about the British initiative:

And what now? What do make of this latest series of pronouncements from the new British government? Hm-mm. We think the elite is feeling the heat. The power elite in particular has been trying to drive Western society toward a far more authoritarian construct in the 2000s. We've been startled frankly by the level of aggression and naked manipulation this has entailed, especially given a blogosphere that quickly reports on and often rebuts the most obvious and evident promotions. But we sense some give now, some flex.

Click here to read full article: UK Surveillance State Deflates

Now that we have reported on British and American efforts to turn to the voters, let us move to the question we wished to resolve in this article: Whether it will truly make a difference or just prove to be a kind of window-dressing, revealing more about the emotional state of the power elite than any intention to diminish authoritarianism or aid in the creation of a healthier and more entrepreneurial economic system.

To help in our analysis we will draw on a resource already available to us – a political-action list, generated as a result of the US Tea Party movement. A Christian Science Monitor story entitled "Contract From America: Real plan or bumper sticker?" spelled out in mid-April 10 points recently developed, as follows: "Conservatives like Mr. Gingrich and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour hope that the new contract – a crowd-sourced document that used hundreds of suggestions and nearly half a million online votes to produce a 10-point plank for conservative rebellion – defines a way for the tea party movement to bridge angry protests with ballot box success." Here are the points:

• Protect the Constitution

• Reject cap and trade energy reforms

• Demand a balanced budget

• Enact fundamental tax reform

• Restore fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government in Washington

• End runaway government spending

• Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care

• Pass an 'all-of-the-above' energy policy

• Stop the pork

• Stop the tax hikes

What is interesting about this list (obviously a conservative rather than libertarian one) is that it makes no mention of America's US$1 trillion military industrial complex and entirely avoids any mention of central banking. It focuses on taxes (fiscal responsibility) but leaves out any mention of monetary issues. Here's a quick list of what would constitute a radical break from the recent past for both Britain and America – in our opinion, anyway:

• Get rid of central banks and allow a return to sound money – gold and silver, privately circulated

• Reduce taxes to a bare minimum to ensure they are neither progressive nor graduated

• Debate and create a sound and modest form of republican government

• Pursue devolution so power flows back to municipalities and neighborhoods

• Privatize public services as much as possible (transportation, policing, etc) and reduce them.

• Re-privatize health care and let the market do its work

• Privatize education and let the market do its work

• Reduce military spending to a minimum and abandon foreign entanglements

• Get rid of laws differentiating between commercial and private speech and respect the 1st amendment

• Return as much as possible to common law and decriminalize as many activities as possible

Certainly, we have left out some points, perhaps important ones, but these areas above focus on some of the most intrusive aspects of the modern nation state. We can see from the Gingrich-backed "wish list" that it touches on only a few areas of what needs to be done if the state is to be rolled back to truly manageable proportions and free-market allowed to rise more freely.

Admittedly, we have only examined one actionable list. But the Tea Party movement (in various incarnations) is substantively more free-market oriented than the Republican party in our opinion. While the libertarian wing of the Tea Party movement might agree with our list (versus the Gingrich-backed one) we would venture a guess that whatever the Republicans come up with will be even tamer than this. And, of course, we are not so optimistic about what the coalition government will arrive at regarding a roll-back of authoritarianism in Britain either. Certainly the jury is still out, but we would be surprised if substance overwhelms rhetoric.

After Thoughts

We are more apt to consider these twin initiatives to be promotions rather than serious efforts to address serious Western dilemmas. Yet even their existence, no matter the outcome, indicates that the elites are well aware of the rising level of discontent in the West and especially in Britain and American. This is, we think, a useful perception and one that indicates the level of turmoil now occurring. We have recognized it (as have you), and now apparently so do they.

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