Thursday, June 09, 2005

Beatty vs. the Governor: Send Arnold back to Hollywood

I read with interest the article transcribed from a speech given by Warren Beatty today from the keynote address delivered at the graduation ceremony for UC Berkeley's Goldman School for Public Policy. While I agreed with the underlying sentiments expressed I found myself wishing Mr. Beatty had stood up for actors. Certainly there is no reason to assert today that actors contribute less to our common happiness and wellbeing than do politicians. I would make a case for the contrary. I know one honest politician but I have known several honest actors. And actors do not expect the lavish retirement accorded to members of Congress and the larger legislatures. They know if they don't give the audience what it wants they could starve. A laudable attitude that keeps them on their toes.

The state of California would be far better off if this actor turned governor were still making the same quality movies for which he was so well known.

So I would I suggest to Mr. Beatty that his respect for politicians is misplaced. We all have wish lists of issues but first and foremost America needs to return control of governance to the people and reinstall accountability in governance. That is after all, the original idea. That does not mean handing control off to a new form of aristocracy which is what politicians have become.

Being elected to office is the equivalent of winning the lottery.

It has been going bad for a long time but it was the idea that politicians can experiment on us that destroyed the basis of accountability. The ideas of the past, grounded in the failures of socialist thought and utility theory do not work. With the advent of socialism in the early 1900s the practice of installing clever ideas with no proof they would work became accepted. Theories are nice but should never be used without full liability for harm caused and a comprehensive impact study, not in business and not in government.

No-fault divorce, welfare reform, and other nifty ideas foisted on us through legislation have destroyed the expectations of generations of Americans. It has to stop.

And in a world where Americans cannot trust the electoral process discussing health care is like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

We are as able to audit the accounts of those convicted of crimes like Enron as we are the ballots that elect our leaders. Therefore, America has no reasonable expectation of an honest vote. That should scare you. So, while I very much enjoyed the warm sentiments and insights of Mr. Beatty I would urge him to rethink his priorities.

Consider for a moment the retirement and benefits packages of those who serve. Definitely not what they voted up for us. Personally, if I had my way I would put the Congress on whatever privatized Social Security system they elect for us and give the elderly the retirement packages customized for Congress. To expensive you say? Just cancel the present war and we can afford it, I answer.

Which brings us to another issue on which I disagree with Mr. Beatty while sharing his sentiments. Taxation is not the best way to equalize wealth. The robber barons of California went after the money with the help of various legislatures and then bought respectability and acceptance, which was all too cheaply for sale. Being able to buy acceptability without fear of liability makes thievery carried out under the guise of “business” and “government” far too attractive. If this had not been the case, if liability were the disincentive it should be, then the problems with California's 'energy deregulation' would by now have resulted in the seizure of the ill gotten gains and hopefully restitution would have been rendered to those harmed. Jail time is far too good for them. Give them jobs at Walmart. Wealth is not the problem; what wealth makes acceptable to us is.

This kind of predatory behavior is not a recent development and predates both Mr. Beatty and myself.

Far from representing a forgotten era of capitalism the Roaring Twenties was alive with larceny, the legacy of law and practice already distorted by the growing partnership between government and big business that is only today reaching its full flower through the logical consistency of the NeoCons. The motto of these Grandees of Greed ought to be, “If you are going to steal, steal everything.” No one can deny they are efficient. Who else would have ended combat pay the second a soldier is wounded and then charged the injured for food and treatment while still in the hospital, rendering a bill on discharge?

One can imagine the murmurs of awe and respect issuing from the now dead lips of Nazi bureaucrats.

I will happily accord any politician the respect I give my plumber if he or she does the job as promised. Politicians deserve exactly as much respect and profit as they earn by fulfilling the duty they owe to those who pay their salaries. Perhaps at sometime in America's past being a politician meant a life of service but for longer than either Mr. Beatty of I have lived being a politician in America has meant, for most of those 'called' to that profession, serving up Americans to the interests of power. Being an actor is a profession far more worthy of respect. Honor is in any work well and honestly performed, not in the kind of work. Any actor posing as a corpse can tell you that.

So, Mr. Beatty, give actors the respect they deserve. I'd rather have a bad actor acting than one playing politician any day.

1 comment:

Norlyn Dimmitt said...

"America needs to return control of governance to the people and reinstall accountability in governance."

You put it perfectly! Since my discovery of Jim Fishkin's work on Deliberative Polls (in grad school, in 1996), this has been my life work.

Which is why I evangelize so much. It offers a clear (if imperfect) path to ending two party plutocracy by 2020, and making the U.S. House more accountable to a statistical proxy for the "informed will of the people" (which involves the respectful dialogue-across-diversity that is required to generate "Collective Wisdom").

First, we empower a wiser democracy in the U.S. House. When enough citizens are aware of the possibility of their empowerment (and aware of each other), we can demote both parties to minority status in the U.S. House, with transpartisan committed to wiser democracy providing the "swing vote" on every issue. The U.S. Senate and presidency will quickly follow.

The issues facing civilization itself (climate change; the possible extinction of the bees that pollinate our crops); governance of the global commons, including the oceans that sustain us; and the intractable problem of violence -- from the cultural subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia, to the tyranny of North Korea, to stateless terrorism) cannot be solved at the city or state level.

We have to empower a Wiser Democracy in our federal government soon, or face the prospects that the human experiment will not end well.