April 25, 2014
Americans seem to have lost sight of the meaning of democracy. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a democracy is "a government by the people" and especially the "rule of the majority." Most Americans think we have a democracy but we clearly do not have a system of majority rule. What we have is a sort of deformed, failed oligarchy, but apart from naming the right analytic categories what really matters is that people don't talk enough about or think enough about what democracy would do for us if we had it or how we might go about getting it. Indeed, if you want to level the finger of blame for our current system it fairly points at all of us! Here are a few of my thoughts on what's happening. Total runtime eight minutes. Propāgandā fidē.
April 18, 2014
The Great Pretending
America is the only country in the world with a constitution that forbids democracy. What's most remarkable, however, is not that a cabal of slave-drivers in the eighteenth century would try to impose themselves on future generations but that two hundred years later those future generations would worship their anti-democratic political system on the grounds that it provides "freedom." To be honest, it's a greater political horror — and it had already happened — than even George Orwell could have imagined. If there's a silver lining it may be that although nobody seriously talks about changing the constitution or, better yet, adopting an entirely new, democratic constitution, that's because nobody ever thinks — really thinks — about the possibilities. Eric Black is one of the few journalists who gets what's happening. And I encourage listeners to regularly read his outstanding columns. Total runtime thirty five minutes. Exēgī monumentum aere perennius.
April 11, 2014
Caught Between Rhetoric and Reality
Meta-discussions about the U.S. Constitution can be problematic. It seems to me that the rhetorical values we use in talking about the Constitution are almost perfectly contradicted by the rules laid out in the document itself, or rules we have subsequently dreamt up and improperly ascribe to it. Most complicated! But meta-discussions, I think, always deserve the benefit of the doubt. Besides, how else would we analyze the Constitution as a quasi-religious text? But that would take us past the limits of this show. Here, I talk with gifted rhetorician and constitutional law scholar Robert L. Tsai, author most recently of America's Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community (Harvard University Press, just published this Monday). Thanks, Robert, for your historical insight! Total runtime forty four minutes. Cōnsēnsus facit lēgem.
April 4, 2014
Hope on the Face of the Earth
The scholar activist travels a rough, winding road — or sometimes no road at all, blazing ways into the unknown. I find great inspiration in the work of Dr. Staughton Lynd — in, for example, his book Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution (Cambridge University Press, 2009, the second edition with a new, brilliant forward by Robin Einhorn) and in all his selfless work on behalf of the dispossessed and powerless. Yet I face a paradox: I want more because I believe in more, despite my profound ignorance regarding whether more can be achieved. Here, we talk about society and social change. Thanks, Staughton! Total runtime forty two minutes. At spēs nōn frācta.
March 28, 2014
Realists have insufficient say in this administration's foreign policy. Take, for example, Crimea. It's of no intrinsic importance to the United States, our full-throated protests smack of hypocrisy, and we're in the process of giving up a great many substantive benefits from a working relationship with Russia for... what? Nostalgia for frontier justice? In fact, Washington is putting on a very scary display of delusional behavior... Even worse, those delusions are widely shared: swept along by groupthink and propaganda most Americans can't assess the Crimean crisis objectively. Thus it was refreshing — indeed, congenial — to talk with Dr. John Tirman, who puts foreign policy problems in a human perspective. But there's no silver lining. We will just have to cope with the less than peaceful consequences of our poor political judgment. Total runtime forty three minutes. Grātis anhēlāns, multa agendō nihil agēns.