Create the Perfect Revolutionary Agenda with These Three Tricks!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I and others been mulling how to write such an agenda for some time, but a confluence of articles from several sources provokes me to think that this topic is about to become part of the, er, conversation, so I thought I would put this post together, imperfect though it certainly is; it’s a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, patched together from other people’s quotes and relying on galvanic assertion far more than reasoned argument. But since it is, after all, Bastille Day, en avant!

The first provocation comes in the form of two articles from Matt Yglesias, who seems to have recently applied for his Community Party card, amazingly enough, but even the lowliest worm etc. Yglesias on July 11:

It was convenient for Democrats that for years, Republicans were committed to profoundly unpopular positions on entitlement programs that made it possible for Democrats to win the votes of some cross-pressured, culturally conservative whites. But even though Trumpism hardly amounts to a coherent ideology, the promise to protect the concrete material interests of older[1] working-class people has some real appeal on the merits.

To repeat:

As NC readers know, I’ve been advocating for a focus on “concrete material benefits” for many years (I owe the phrase to a long-time, now silent blogger named AnglachelR). So if this earworm has, through whatever devious channels, worked its way into the brain of Matt Yglesias, and hence into the hive mind of the political class, I think a little celebration is in order, as we all do our bit to drag the (actually triangular, not linear) Overton Window left.

And then on July 12 Yglesias doubles down. The headline:

Democrats should take the class warfare message to upscale suburb

And the deck (and I hope somebody told Neera Tanden to put down her coffee, because otherwise she would have lost a keyboard):

It worked for Jeremy Corbyn, and the opposite failed for Jon Ossoff.

And Yglesias concludes:

Democrats, in short, shouldn’t mistake the possible ambivalence about soaking the rich of their own multi-millionaire donor class for the views of any substantial block of people. The broad American upper-middle class, full of college-educated professionals whose cultural sensibilities broadly align with mainstream Democratic Party politics, is perfectly happy to raise taxes on the rich to pay for universal social services.

It’s a good message that Democrats ought to take to all kinds of districts, but especially the ones full of college graduates that party leaders have rightly identified as the most promising near-term pickup opportunities.

But of course “universal social services” (I would say universal programs that deliver concrete material benefits, especially to the working class) is a concept, not a message. What is required, therefore, is an agenda. How would such an agenda be constructed? We’ll see, but first the second provocation–

This, from Grassroots Economic Organizing, which was in Links yesterday, but I think should be called out again. This was the key point for me:

All too often, I think, we have a tendency to organize more-or-less short-lived mass gatherings as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to anything we are trying to oppose or support (but mostly oppose), without thinking through exactly what purpose in our long-term strategy that action is serving. There are times and places where a march or a petition might be exactly what is called for, but I think a lot of us tend to assume that organizing a march or a petition are good things in and of themselves. But if the march is just the equivalent of the doctor’s shot of morphine or a night out with the girls then that’s not necessarily the case.

And, as in the metaphors above, our inclination to engage in actions that simply allow us to “let off some steam” without moving us any closer to real solutions does, in many cases, keep us from taking steps that would actually start moving us in the right direction.

Pink pussy hats. Giant puppets. Clever signs. Memes. Etc. But what do those “steps” look like? An agenda, obviously, but before that, the third provocation from Hampton Institute (named for Fred Hampton) amplifies the second by raising the question of how long a “long-term strategy” must be:

In brief, I’ll conclude that in order to make Marxism consistent with itself it is necessary to abandon the statist perspective to which Marx and Engels arguably were committed, and which they transmitted to most of their successors. It is necessary to conceive of revolution in gradualist way, not as a sudden historical “rupture” in which the working class or its representatives take over the national state and organize social reconstruction on the basis of a unitary political will (the proletarian dictatorship). According to a properly understood Marxism, even the early stages of the transition from capitalism to post-capitalism must take place over generations, and not in a planned way but unconsciously and rather “spontaneously,” in a process slightly comparable to the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

In a way, I find this perspective freeing; it’s never bugged me that I might not live to see everything that I dream of come to pass. How many generations? Striking a blow at random, I’d say three, because I think people can think as far out as their grandchildren, with a little effort. I realize to somebody who wants to go out and smash up an ATM machine, that might seem “gradualist” (a word Hampton concedes) but in historical terms, three generations is a very short time.

So let me translate this into requirements for what I will unblushingly call the perfect revolutionary agenda. I will assert (this is the three tricks part)

(1) Every agenda item should be a concrete material benefit

(2) The agenda items should be staged

(3) Stages may be generational in scope

(Staging the items is only sensible; pick the low-hanging fruit first. Win some victories. Train people to exercise actual power through experience. And so forth.)

Let’s look at a list from Beth Lynch and Andre Roberge of Progressive Army (and kudos to them for putting one out there. I’m not trashing Lynch and Roberge, at all; they’re both about a hundred years younger than I am, which is a good thing, and Progressive Army is an excellent site you should check out). But to make the point:

If the Democratic Party has any interest in winning elections, it will have to find its soul and its roots as the “Party of the People.” The party will have to run on the same issues that got so many Independent and first time voters to the polls during the Democratic primary:

  • Single-Payer Healthcare
  • Liveable Wages
  • Debt-Free Public College
  • Halting Climate Change
  • Overturning Citizens United
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Pay-Equity
  • Ending Military Interventionism
  • Job Creation
  • Immigration Reform
  • Racial Justice
  • Wall Street Reform

I agree in principle. But there are some… snags. First — I’ll crassly go into the imperative mode, here — focus on the concrete material benefit. “Single-payer health care” is accurate, but a “Medicare for All” item brings the concrete benefit home. Similarly, #FightFor15 is more concrete than “Liveable Wages”; everybody can translate more money in their pocket to what they can buy. “Racial Justice,” sadly, is so vague as to be meaningless, as is “Wall Street Reform.” “Job Creation” might be replaced with “Jobs Guarantee,” an idea for which there’s a solid literature (and “guarantee” sounds better anyhow).[2] And so forth.

Second, put the agenda in rough order of execution. For example, “Criminal Justice Reform” won’t be easy, but it’s certainly easier to execute than “Halting Climate Change.” So why is the easier agenda item after the harder one? Doesn’t it make sense to rack up some victories with what’s do-able first? More subtly, if the agenda items aren’t ordered, you can’t put mutually reinforcing items next to each other. For example, a Jobs Guarantee is not only good in itself, it solves the problem of how to help all the people who used to work in the insurance industry, before Medicare for All nuked it. Finally, even accepting “Racial Justice” and “Halting Climate Change” as precisely formulated universal concrete material benefits, the left can’t deliver them in a year, ten years, or twenty years; they really will take at least two and probably three generations to play out. So why not begin with that time-frame in mind?

* * *

I lied about the three tricks, though. There’s a fourth:

(4) A separate agenda for changes in the political infrastructure, necessary to achieve the main agenda.

(Programmers call this “separation of concerns.” Infrastructure — like co-ops, say — is not good in itself, but good only insofar as the concrete material benefits it brings. Ditto for lefty shibboleths like “the revolution.” If the revolution becomes just another reason why we can’t have nice things, just as before, Animal Farm-style, then what good was it? So put the benefits in one agenda, and put the infrastructure in a second agenda.) One critical infrastructure item is elections with hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, with election day as a national holiday. We can hardly expect to win any battles if election fraud is as easy as it is! Another infrastructural item would be MMT; we’ve got to get out of the neoliberal box that Federal taxes pay for Federal spending and that deficits are sinful.[3]

* * *

So, happy Bastille Day! Again, I’m sorry this isn’t as well-worked out as the topic deserves, but the provocations were there, and I felt I should get these thoughts out “on the table” so that others could make use of them, if they like.

NOTE

[1] That’s not strictly true. If you believe (as I do) that Trump on the trail at the very least expressed skepticism about our military adventures (and especially adventurism against a nuclear power like Russia), that’s partly an appeal to youth: Older people don’t die in wars. Young ones do.

[2] I would throw in a Post Office bank, too.

[3] MMT provides a solid reason why Medicare for All should be implemented by the currency issuer, at the Federal level.

APPENDIX
To be clear, my dream for the left is that it stop acting like a squillion different tiny non-profits selling papers on the street or trying to get the next grant from a donor, and that the left accepts a common agenda as described above (think of it as “the promised land” that everybody wants to get to). I don’t think common institutions are needed or even possible, though of course one might emerge from the pack, but on the agenda, it really is hang together or hang separately.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

143 comments

  1. Ulysses

    “One critical infrastructure item is elections with hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, with election day as a national holiday. We can hardly expect to win any battles if election fraud is as easy as it is!”

    Indeed. My guess is that, prior to accomplishing this, the hopelessly corrupt “two-party system” will need to be abolished.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Yes, which is real revolution. Will the USSA die with a whimper or a bang. It has to destroyed, in order to be saved. Our policy regarding South Vietnamese villages comes home to roost.

      Of course when the USSR died, it was replaced, didn’t disappear. Same thing for the USSA. Fair elections were created to make peaceful periodic revolution possible, but with the elections corrupted, that can’t happen.

      1. dcblogger

        because if you destroy it something better will rise in its place? Because this approach worked so well in Vienna and Berlin in 1918?

        1. UserFriendly

          You can destroy the two party system by simply changing the voting method. Of course not to ranked choice, which is why that is the only one that gets implemented. 3-2-1 voting is much simpler, eliminates the need for primaries, can still use hand counted paper ballots, and makes strategic voting much less advantageous. Ballots are simple; for every candidate running just rate them Bad, Ok, or Good.
          Find 3 Semifinalists: the candidates with the most “good” ratings.
          Find 2 Finalists: the semifinalists with the fewest “bad” ratings
          Find 1 winner: the finalist who is rated above the other on more ballots (like a virtual runoff)
          More info on how it works here:
          http://wiki.electorama.com/wiki/3-2-1_voting
          and why it’s better than other methods here:
          http://electology.github.io/vse-sim/VSEbasic/

          1. TheCatSaid

            I prefer ranked-preference styles of voting where there are more choices allowed than just 3. For example, Ireland has this in place already. There is no limit on the number of candidates that can participate nor on the number that a voter may rank.

            There are other ways to rank preference and count up the votes based on the number of choices each voter ranked. (e.g., if there are 10 candidates but a voter only ranked 5 of them, their #1 preference would get 5 points, their #2 preference would get 4 points, etc. If they ranked all 10, their #1 preference would get 10 points, etc. If they only ranked 1 candidate, that would get 1 point. I’ve used this system in many settings–large groups and small–and it is extremely effective at getting result that expresses accurately and fairly the will of the group.

              1. Paul Boisvert

                321 would be a huge improvement, but I think a much harder sell to the average voter than simple “approval” voting (vote for as many as you approve of, most votes wins.) The 321 “decision process” will seem complicated to an average voter, while “who do you approve of” is extremely simple and obvious. The “electology” website above points out that approval has the most “bang for the buck” as a highly satisfactory reform that is utterly simple. And it’s “monotonic”, to boot!

                1. UserFriendly

                  I agree that Approval is good, but the wonderful people over at Fairvote (The group that gets tons of money for pushing instant runoff) has tons of attacks about approval, just because they are petty. 3-2-1 was actually developed as a response to some of those criticisms of approval. But the reason I like 3-2-1 so much better is because I think that because approval is such a subtle change most people wouldn’t vote any different and I think that states would be less likely to ditch primaries for it. 3-2-1 has a much better chance of killing the duopoly. Here is a chart that some of the nerds who work on this stuff came up with to score the various voting methods that could be implemented.
                  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bNu4eFc1DC-IzJQt9qbyGVay85l5vwTmehXWXiZNVE4/edit#gid=90844263

              2. TheCatSaid

                I agree that IRV is no good and is unfair.
                Same with UK’s “First Past the Post”.
                Same with US Majority wins.

                Ranked preference is not IRV! It is not “faulty” and does not violate monotonicity. You may not have understood it. You can’t have “tactical voting” or “spoiler candidates” (These are more common descriptions of the technical term “monotonicity”.)

                You might appreciate Peter J Emerson’s mathematical comparison of a number of voting methods.

                Another method (different but also you can rank as many candidates as you like is STV (single transferable vote). (In this system the first count is done on the basis of only the first preference votes. The candidate with the least number of first preference votes gets knocked out, and their votes are physically redistributed according to the 2nd preference vote on each ballot if one is indicated. This repeats until there is a winner.) It’s not quite as good as ranked preference in that when an election can have multiple winners (e.g. in a multiple-seat constituency such as in Ireland or in county council elections), it is sometimes possible to have “tactical voting” where you avoid splitting a party’s vote when there are multiple candidates of that party standing for election. This is a subtlety probably not familiar to US voters, as US elections are very different.

                The video you linked was relevant to IRV, but it was not relevant to ranked preference voting which is quite different.

              3. TheCatSaid

                Thanks for that link. It’s a good article. It doesn’t, however, describe the system of ranked preference. Please re-read my post.

                Ranked preference is different because of how multiple points accumulate, and it’s not done in different stages of voting. It doesn’t validate monotonicity.

                Work out an example with 3 or more candidates (e.g. Democratic, Republican, Other). You’ll see that by how you allocate points depending on rank of preference, the results will reflect voter’s preference accurately.

                E.g. If I really want Other to Win, and I’d also prefer Democratic to Republican, on my ballot I’d put
                Other 1
                Republican 3
                Democratic 2

                When tallying this, my first preference would get 3 points
                Democratic candidate would get 2 points
                Republican would get 1 point

                If someone else preferred Democratic and would prefer Other to Republican, their ballot would look like this
                Other 2
                Democratic 1
                Republican 3
                This would be tallied as
                Democratic 3 points
                Other 2 points
                Republican 1 point

                1. UserFriendly

                  You appear to be describing modified borda. Which is monotonic, but it is also by far the worst system at stopping strategic voting. Since you are incentivised to put your favorite first and any serious rivals last it frequently selects no name candidates that no one saw as a threat. This actually happened in the only country to ever hold an election with Borda (Nauru and Kiribati).

                  Here is a list of reasons why a range based system is better than a borda type. (no, the fact that in your version you don’t have to rank all the candidates does not make it any better.)
                  http://rangevoting.org/rangeVborda.html#JohnsonEx

                  It also fails the majority criterion (which I don’t so much mind but the general public would)

                  Also, I think you have misunderstood 3-2-1; for every candidate you get to rate them as Bad, Ok, or Good. You can leave it blank too if you don’t know about the candidate. It is much more expressive that way.

    2. Carla

      I love that Lambert brought the infrastructure issue into this, and the point about elections cannot be made too often. Ditto, your comment about the “two” parties.

      Here’s another thing that will be basic to re-building the infrastructure of democracy: passage of the 28th Amendment stating that only human beings, and not corporate entities, are entitled to Constitutional rights, and that money does not equal speech and therefore political expenditures are not protected by the 1st Amendment.

      Happy to say that 44 members of the U.S. House have co-sponsored so far, and we are working on getting a companion bill introduced in the Senate: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-joint-resolution/48/text

      Please note that HJR-48 goes much farther than simply overturning Citizens United and returning us to the perfect state of democracy we enjoyed in 2009 (/sarc). It will undo the damage that began with Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, and took us off a cliff with Buckley v. Valeo in 1976.

      1. Bill Smith

        How does these proposed bills about Citizens United deal with media companies in regard to elections? What is a media company? Can I write on my blog whatever I want about a candidate? Does it mean that the newspapers won’t be able to publish stories written by reporters that are ‘in the bag’ for one of the candidates?

        And given what is in the news these days… how would it deal with RT & Sputnik publishing their stuff beyond the waters edge but read by those in the US?

        1. Carla

          Well, I included a link to the full text of HJR-48 so that you could see for yourself how it is handled. But let me do the work for you:

          “Article  —

          “section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

          “section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of that person’s money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State, and local governments shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”.

          You’re welcome, Bill Smith.

          1. Bill Smith

            Yeah, I read that.

            The New York Times, a corporation that publishes a newspaper, right now has 1st amendment rights. Under the proposed amendment, that right would be removed.

            All those corporations who are lining to support doing something about global warming would no longer have the right to speak out about it when there is a president who doesn’t believe it. Yeah, right now, there judges are keeping him within some limits. But in 4 years there are going to be a whole lot of Trump or Pence appointed judges.

          2. Richard Musser

            Thanks also Carla. I was not aware of this, and have just contacted my congresswoman, Pramilla Jayapal, to urge her to sign on.
            Do you know anything about the role Move To Amend is playing in this push? Would you say they’re on the right track?

            1. Richard Musser

              I ask because of the Jeffrey Cobb connection, who I wouldn’t trust to run a bingo game.

          3. different clue

            Carla,

            Bill Smith in comment just below yours said what I was thinking when reading this article. If this article becomes part of the Constitution it will be used by clever lawyers to forbid “Naked Capitalism” from publishing any article whatsoever on the grounds that “Naked Capitalism” is not a Natural Person. The clever lawyers and governators will close any and every other “institutional speaker” whose speech displeases them on the same grounds.

            Someone wasn’t thinking when they wrote this article. Someone needs to tailor it more narrowly, somehow.

            Under this article, free speech under the masthead or rubric of any organization which requires 2 or more people to organize, fund and support it . . . can be banned. The free speech rights of the Natural Person will be limited to what the Natural Person can say without any technological or organizational assistance or technology whatsoever.

            Believe it now or believe it later, your choice. Get this article-as-written passed and ratified into the Constitution and watch what happens.

            1. Carla

              @different clue and Bill Smith: The New York Times does not agree with you.

              From an 11/19/2012 editorial entitled
              “Justice Alito, Citizens United and the Press”:

              “Last week, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. speciously defended the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in the 2010 Citizens United case by arguing that the ruling…was not really groundbreaking at all. In fact, he said, all it did was reaffirm that corporations have free speech rights and that, without such rights, newspapers would have lost the major press freedom rulings…

              …But Justice Alito’s argument wrongly confuses the matter. It is not the corporate structure of media companies that makes them deserving of constitutional protection. It is their function — the vital role that the press plays in American democracy — that sets them apart…When framers “constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind,” [Justice John Paul Stevens] noted, not that of corporations.

              …Nor were the free speech rights of a corporation any part of the ruling in the Pentagon Papers case.

              The Citizens United majority never explained why any corporation that does not have a press function warrants the same free speech rights as a person. Neither did Justice Alito…”

              http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/opinion/justice-alito-citizens-united-and-the-press.html

      2. chuck roast

        Thank you Carla!
        This is the 1st thing!
        Until corporations are made second-class citizens we are all well and truly screwed. This means 401(c)3 non-profits as well…the latest grifters on the block.

        1. Carla

          Love ya’ chuck roast. One of my favorite cuts for braising low and slow ;-)

          And oh, BTW, of course corpses (as I fondly call them) aren’t citizens of any class. They are simply creations of the legal system, chartered by governments (with the consent of the governed!) for specific purposes. In fact, they exist entirely at our pleasure, and we hold the key to freedom from corporate rule, if only we would USE IT.

      3. Mo's Bike Shop

        Why not just reign in the laws governing Corporations?

        Just to throw out a stupid simple approach: limit charters to ten years. If they’re keeping their nose clean, and their mission is true and just, it should be a piece of cake to reincorporate. Come to an accounting.

        1. HotFlash

          Um, yeah, but like term limits, time is not exactly the relevant measure. Also, pretty gameable.

          “Come to an accounting.” But who would do the accounting? On what bases?

          1. Mo's Bike Shop

            Are you on the democracy is easy side? I was raised watching NE Town Meetings :)

        2. Carla

          @Mo’s Bike Shop: Limiting corporate charters is a great idea. Probably can’t be done because of all the “personhood” rights corporate lawyers have successfully won for their clients since 1886. (That date is not a typo.) That’s why we need a Constitutional amendment abolishing the concepts of corporate personhood and money as speech.

      4. Minor Heretic

        Just to add to the frustration: If you read the text of Santa Clara you’ll find that the Supreme Court, despite being packed with ex-railroad lawyers, decided the case on a statutory basis. They explicitly stated that California statute was sufficient and that they were making no constitutional ruling.

        In the head notes the clerk (another railroad lawyer) gave an account of the oral arguments, in which the Southern Pacific lawyer stated that he was operating on the assumption that a corporation was a person under the 14th Amendment.

        The head notes have no standing in the ruling, but corporate lawyers took that scrap of text and ran with it. The edifice of corporate personhood has no foundation under it.

  2. voteforno6

    Didn’t the Clintonistas argue the need for incremental progress during the election last year?

    …Just kidding. Incremental change is fine, as long as there is a concrete goal, something which the Clintonistas were (and still are) lacking. That being said, focusing on achieving just one thing (such as Medicare for All) is fine; success has a momentum all its own (hmm, that would make a snappy name for a political movement).

    Look at the history of political change in the U.S. The single hardest thing to do in this country is to enact a Constitutional amendment. If you look at their distribution, they tend to be clustered. That seems to indicate that once that wall is breached, it becomes easier for other things to get through. We just need that first victory. Given the current state of U.S. politics, Medicare for All might be the most promising avenue of attack right now.

    1. divadab

      “Didn’t the Clintonistas argue the need for incremental progress during the election last year?”

      Well yes, except for medicare for all – which “will never, ever happen” according to the anointed one who slipped on the foreign grease and thanks to her corruption and incompetence we landed up with the Trumpster and his dynasty-on-the-make.

    2. Carolinian

      In fact incrementalism gave us Medicare itself where we were assured that single payer for the elderly would soon lead to the same system for the population as a whole. It’s just as likely that a gradualist approach gives opponents a chance to marshal their forces. But perhaps the Medicare example reflects a post 1960s period where the left branch of the duopoly was weakening. Social Security by contrast started out modestly and became much bigger.

      Concrete Material Benefits sounds like a winner to me. I think it was once called “a chicken in every pot.” In fact Huey Long was supposedly the rival that FDR feared the most. Here’s Long’s Share Our Wealth proposal.

      Share Our Wealth Proposal

      Cap personal fortunes at $50 million each — equivalent to about $600 million today (later reduced to $5 – $8 million, or $60 – $96 million today)
      Limit annual income to one million dollars each (about $12 million today)
      Limit inheritances to five million dollars each (about $60 million today)
      Guarantee every family an annual income of $2,000 (or one-third the national average)
      Free college education and vocational training
      Old-age pensions for all persons over 60
      Veterans benefits and healthcare
      A 30 hour work week
      A four week vacation for every worker
      Greater regulation of commodity production to stabilize prices

      http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2015/07/chicken-every-pot-and-every-man-king-huey-long-1934

      Needless to say the fear of redistribution is the reason we have such a rabid rightwing in this country. So perhaps on this Bastille Day a revolution will be needed after all.

      1. Kuhio Kane

        The ruling elite stripped of moneyed privilege? Not likely in the plutocracy of bought governance. Free elections yes. But we need giant steps to surpass a bipartisan duopoly. Print money. The so-called budget crises is pure bollocks in an inverted totalitarian state (see Wolin, Hedges, and Hudson’s “J is for Junk Economics.” Incremental change in the face of global environmental and financial austerity for the only purpose of enriching the rentier class? Not a winning strategy. The will for change has been coopted since the ’70s generally. Incrementalism is status quo. How’s that working out for us in a sweeping move to global fascism?

        1. animalogic

          Kuhio, you are spot on.
          Incrementalism, is a new version of Fabianism. Fabianism was put to the sword in the 70-80’s. Easy meat now. Instigate another crisis, scare people, TINA everyone.
          And, incidentally, do we really have TIME to be incremental ? Between climate, imperialism & neoliberalism, the great crisis IS surely coming: only question is: will WE rise to the opportunity, or will we be another Syriza ?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Incrementalism is status quo. How’s that working out for us in a sweeping move to global fascism?

          It’s not. It’s highly unfortunate that the incrementalism straw man has been introduced and unquestioningly accepted:

          1) Single payer is incrementalist? Really? Abolishing the ginormous private health insurance industry is “incremental”? Really?

          2) I said gradualism, not incrementalism, and I argue (with the well-known Clintonite moderates, the Hampton Institute) for a three-generation time-frame. Those who urge that a much faster process is possible need to give some vague picture of how this is to be done. Black Bloc types smashing ATMs? A revolutionary vanguard seizing the Winter Palace? How, exactly?

          3) Quantitative change adds up to qualitative state change. Suppose you throw a Post Office Bank and a Jobs Guarantee into the mix. (a) Jobs Guarantee puts baseline wages and working conditions under small-d democratic control; (b) JG plus guaranteed checking at the Post Office Bank (I would argue) does more to empower working women then a Planned Parenthood clinic on every corner would do. Incremental? Really? Be serious.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        Instead of taxing the money at the top margin, could we just convert it? I’m thinking of the rai stones of Yap. Anything over the margin will be returned in extraordinarily large denominations as a ‘cultural wealth certificate’ or some such pomposity. Very nice paper, somewhere between the size of a five pound note and a stock certificate.
        Instead of ‘this note is legal tender for all debts public and private’ it can say: “This and five bucks will getcha a cup of coffee.” Or something similar, just so long as it’s excruciatingly obvious that the proles don’t get to touch these things.

        Has to be physical, probably more popular if infinitely traceable.

        Don’t set up any legal definition of these things, let these poor whiney captains of industry set up their own folkways for once. Just stop doing it with our folding money, por favor.

    3. lambert strether

      Where did I say “incremental”? I said “gradual.” Not the same! Who said enormous changes had to be sudden? Not history!

      I mean, if Medicare for All is framed as incremental….

  3. divadab

    Amazing that universal single-payer healthcare is “revolutionary” in the richest empire the world has ever seen. Especially considering that Otto von B’s Germany implemented a form of universal health care (the “Sickness Insurance Law”) in 1883.

    The really good thing about the US of A is that all the democratic institutions exist – despite the chipping away at them by the usual suspects and the corruption of the electoral process by money that presents stage-managed false choices to an electorate lulled into apathy by the most sophisticated propaganda system ever devised. That two private corporations largely control the electoral process for the benefit of their sponsors is bad but not insurmountable – because challenges can be mounted using the (mostly) extant democratic institutions.

    1. Richard Musser

      Our democratic institutions, as you say, do exist, mostly because our rulers desperately need the legitimacy they endow (they bring so little of their own). But as tools for reform they are a mixed bag at best, with scads of oligarchical checks and balances to keep the right sort in charge. Along with ensuring a fair vote count across the land, trick #4, should also include a thoroughgoing review of: the process for electing a president, nomination and general election, the systems through which legislation passes (and the will of the people is routinely twisted), how legislative districts are formed, and omg so much more that this will be one of those 3 generation goals. So let’s get started now, eh?

      Happy Prison Break Day!

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Amazing that universal single-payer healthcare is “revolutionary”

      It’s (a) the totality of the changes that are revolutionary plus (b) the structural changes that have to happen to bring the change into being. Revolutions are multi-decade processes. It’s not all storming the Bastille or the Battleship Potemkin. That’s romantic nonsense (not exemplified by this comment, I hasten to add).

      > The really good thing about the US of A is that all the democratic institutions exist

      Very much agreed, damaged though they are.

      On the same note, though off topic for the post: I find it very disturbing that Democrat loyalists are taking point on gerrymandering and redistricting. Since liberals are enemies of the left, that can’t mean anything good.

  4. Jamie

    Back in the ’70s I got a smidgeon of training from Movement for a New Society (MNS) in Philadelphia, USA. MNS was dedicated to non-violent social change. It was Marx meets Gandhi and there were two principles I learned there. 1) Material conditions matter… always frame every protest around desired specific, concrete, material changes. 2) Always seek to create a dilemma for the opposition such that if they concede to your demands you win the material point and if they refuse you, you win the PR point. Once grasped these principles seem obvious, but I recall coming to understand them to be a minor revelation at the time.

    It seems each new generation must re-invent the wheel. MNS no longer exists (not because it failed—it was part of the plan… Bill Moyer theorized that every institution outgrows its usefulness, even the social change institutions we create, and so must be let go of) but I believe George Lakey still does activist training in the MNS tradition (and doubtless has continued to evolve that training) and New Society Publishers still offers a variety of books distilling the experience of a generation of activists, as well as more recent works.

    Part of the problem of keeping a coherent “left” alive and well under a reactive regime is keeping a sense of historical continuity of struggle. Material conditions change (the oligarchy reacts, initiates new assaults and new obfuscations) so each new moment brings a new set of specific challenges and what worked yesterday will not necessarily work today. But on the other hand, there is a technology of social change that can be preserved and passed along… that can be built upon and developed.

    1. Paul P

      Movement for a New Society merged with Michael Harrington’s
      DSOC, ie, Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, to form
      DSA. Democratic Socialists of America.

      DSA is alive and well, with a big bump in membership in response to Trump.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        From what I see on the Twitter, admittedly totally curated, DSA is cool and filled with smart young people. They keep posting images of their meetings; always good numbers in reasonable spaces (i.e., not a few old codgers like me in a church basement somewhere).

        I also think it’s extremely smart of them to be a membership organization.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Have you any links about deliberately planning to be superseded? Just a bleg, because, well, google now.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I like 1) (material conditions) and 2) (create dilemmas). An agenda would supply the list of #1s. Then create dilemmas over and over and over.

      That’s good information on the MNS.

  5. David J.

    Examine the premises of a (any) system. If the premises are sound, then incrementalism would be the way to go. Make a sound system better. If the premises are unsound, then jettison those premises and create a new set of premises from which a more sound system can be constructed. This would be revolutionary in the sense that there is an abrupt change in how a system is based, but once a new set of fundamental premises is adopted, one can gradually build out and extend a corresponding set of social and political policies that are logically and soundly based on the new premises.

    E.g.: Incrementally extending the corporate insurance-based ACA versus some form of revolutionary single payer construct that is not derived from the set of premises which is at the root of corporate insurance.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t think so. Put the universal concrete material benefits out front, and then let people work out for themselves whether a system based on current premises can provide them. Personally, I doubt that neoliberalism can deliver them, but if it could, so what? The theory is not the end. The theory is the means. And as the Old Mole says somewhere (paraphrasing) “Reality is more cunning than any theory.”

  6. Darius

    A party that presides over full employment tends to stay in power. Full employment also gives that party a lot of leeway to do other things on its agenda, if, unlike the Democrats, they have one. It’s also the one thing that benefits the most people. So that has to be at the top of the agenda.

    Democrats used to know how to do this before they decided not to know it.

  7. p gorden lippy

    I think “incrementalism” doesn’t quite frame this sound approach correctly and frankly sounds a bit weak. I think it’s more like “chunk-ism,” going for significant chunks of meaningful, tangible change serially, or one or two at a time.

    Good piece and wise strategy, IMHO.

    1. SoCal Rhino

      I think of incrementalism as rolling out stage 0.1 of a 10-phase program without having target dates for the remaining deliverables and then declaring victory.

      Staging large projects into bite-size chunks is common sense.

      Even if you think a cataclysmic paradigm change is needed (not my view) to break out of stasis, that would still be step 1 of many.

  8. Donald

    I find most of this convincing, with a couple of exceptions. First and most important, the climate change issue doesn’t fit with this model, because the time scale there is set partly by physics. You don’t have to agree with the New York magazine doomsday article that Michael Mann criticized– it’s still true that we don’t have much time to muck around. It will take generations to play out, but we have to start now, or better, several
    decades ago. If politics doesn’t allow it, more species go extinct and more people die. Climate change is tough precisely because we have to act now to prevent really bad stuff later.

    Military intervention is also hard to fit in, because if American troops aren’t involved the downside is hard to see for Americans. There are concrete material benefits for non US citizens in not having us kill them, but they don’t vote here. I don’t think stopping the war in Yemen, for instance, is of much obvious concrete benefit to most Americans, but we shouldn’t wait until things are better here to stop all the stupid immoral things we do overseas.

    I think to some extent those two issues have to be considered as important right now even if there are no obvious direct material benefits that most voters can see. Of course this is a slippery slope and everyone will claim their issue is special, but you could order most domestic issues the way you suggest, starting with the easiest to achieve and still recognize that not every single issue fits into this approach even if overall it is a good idea. This may sound negative, but I don’t mean it to be,

    1. jrs

      yes even if one thinks that climate change poses no immediate threat (something I am not convinced of) if we are actually being encouraged to think several generations down the line, one needs to think about climate change and all the other environmental destruction going on, because those will likely be the single largest issues in the future, even if they are far from the only issues then or now.

      So you can’t think 3 generations down and table environmental destruction as something to deal with in the future, the cognitive dissonance just seems too much IMO. I’m not saying it’s the only issue a *politician* needs to run on because it’s a huge vote getter, no likely not, but I don’t see how we can really envision a better society without thinking about it.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > we have to start now

      Well, I suppose if I were a project manager, I’d start some preliminary work before really launching the step.

      But if you want the state to play a role in climate change, then you had better prove the state can deliver (since a lot of people are rightly skeptical of that (and not just TINA loons)).

      So relatively small (ha ha ha) steps like single payer or a post office bank help build the credibility for whatever will (ultimately) be needed for climate change.

      I don’t go to the gym but I’m sure there’s a metaphor about exercising the body politic here somewhere. You don’t start out with the heaviest lift even if you know that’s what you ultimately want.

      For any of this to work, the left needs some victories and needs to take some scalps. Looks to me like Medicare for All is the best opportunity for that.

  9. wheezy

    This isn’t fully formed but articulates pretty damned well stuff that’s been rattling around in my brain for some years.
    Thanks. This really brightened up my morning!

  10. DJG

    Lambert: Your so-called appendix should be up top >
    –To be clear, my dream for the left is that it stop acting like a squillion different tiny non-profits selling papers on the street or trying to get the next grant from a donor, and that the left accepts a common agenda as described above (think of it as “the promised land” that everybody wants to get to). I don’t think common institutions are needed or even possible, though of course one might emerge from the pack, but on the agenda, it really is hang together or hang separately.–

    Yes.

    One of the most obvious cases is the continuous and current meltdown of the Green Party, which has trouble getting candidates for local elections, operates as a bunch of separate talking-stick-passing discussion clubs, and seems to enjoy losing. So the left cannot be the Green Party (and the Green Party has to stop being an attempt to reform capitalism, a road taken off and on by the Greens, say, of Germany.)

    I think that the U.S. left could look more to the broad-based Italian left (which is still highly influential, malgrado Renzi), the U.K. (follow Corbyn’s tactics), the Scottish Nationalist Party (what a platform!), the Portuguese left (Americans tend to think of Portugal as a suburb of Spain, but recent history there shows all kinds of typically savvy Portuguese experimentation), and even the successes of the Workers Party in Brazil. That may mean reading Gramsci, who has already been through some of these issues. We have to stop inventing the wheel (in all of those pseudo-earnest discussion groups).

    I am willing to accept the Lynch and Roberge twelve-point program. I would organize it as economic benefits and legal reforms (with teeth, not just vague Obama-ish reformy stuff). Let’s remember FDR!

    Basic economic rights of citizens:
    Single-Payer Healthcare
    Liveable Wages (a higher minimum wage / promotion of unionization, especially among white-collar workers)
    Debt-Free Public College
    Pay Equity (male / female /+/ white and nonwhite (racial disparity is something not to be forgotten))
    Halting Climate Change by eliminating subsidies to extractive industries and subsidizing use of renewable power by end users and by viable new industries
    Job Creation (having an actual job-and-incomes policy / ending the idea that full employment produces inflation / hiring for state and federal jobs / rebuild the post office + post office bank)
    Ending Military Interventionism (I disagree very much with Donald above who thinks there are no concrete material benefits to ending, say, the war in Yemen, which is soaking up U.S. dollars and resources–and who knows how much has been wasted by the U.S.A. in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, and in largesse to our pals the Saudis and in outright bribes (no other way to describe it) to Israel. Keep the money home.)

    Reinvigoration of the idea that the law applies equally to all citizens:
    Overturn Citizens United (which may mean instead having Congress pass a series of laws reforming the electoral system and placing low limits on contributions and let the Supremes overturn laws a couple of times till the Supremes get the message / or just go to a system of public financing of elections with no private contributions allowed)
    Criminal Justice Reform (more prosecution of white-collar criminality / an end to the New Jim Crow / drug law reform)
    Immigration Reform (streamlining acceptance / ending various exceptional visas that import docile workers (I am not talking about visas for performing artists) / no open borders / creating a better system of adjudication that does not deport families and children / creating a path to citizenship that is clear and easy to follow)
    Racial Justice (an end to charter schools / promotion of unionization / prosecution of environmental disasters visited on minority communities / more self-determination for Native American peoples)
    Wall Street Reform (prosecutions / breaking up the banks / enforcement of current law / progressive taxation / a rise in transation taxes and capital gains taxes).

    To be brief: Boil the twelve points down so that what they stand for is (1) concrete material benefits for the citizenry and (2) return to the rule of law.

    And what is the basis for these ideas? Conveniently, it is Bastille Day. Let us be animated by liberty, equality, and solidarity.

    1. Carla

      Re: Overturn Citizens’ United — do you remember the perfect conditions of democracy we enjoyed back in 2009, before money was ever a problem in politics? Yeah, me neither.

      Until we take on and CHANGE the fact that corporations have usurped Constitutional rights intended solely for human beings, they will continue to bludgeon us with those “rights.” Why? Well, they can afford phalanxes of lawyers, for one thing.

      Changing the rules is simply not enough. We must change WHO MAKES the rules.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Call me a heretic but I think in the grand scheme of things Citizens United is not that big of a deal – much less of a big deal that the substantive political program – which is a good thing because I don’t see it being overturned (ever).

        The whole premise of the anti-CU argument is “I am smart enough to know that big money in politics works against my interests but too many other people aren’t. And so there is no way we can win unless CU is overturned and we can have a fair political fight on the merits.” I don’t think any aspect of this is valid:

        1. People are rarely given the opportunity to vote for a candidate who truly represents their interests.
        2. A left program will be a much bigger threat to TPTB than the damp Dem squib, and will be opposed that much more vigorously. This is a given. So either we will beat them even with them throwing everything they have, or we won’t.
        3. The credibility of big corporations is not high and continues to shrink. One benefit of the Trump cf is that it will promote this further diminishment.

        BUT, we have a huge amount of political organizing to do. The two-party system is a much bigger impediment to positive change than CU.

        1. Carla

          Well, the Republicrat and Democraton parties are corporate entities and as such currently have (never-intended) Constitutional “rights” that undermine the natural rights of the People to adopt laws that will protect us from the harms done by corporate behemoths (including those so-called parties).

          Corporations have appropriated not just the 1st amendment but the 4th, under which they claim protections from search without a warrant or prior notice, protecting them from the surprise inspections needed to regulate pollution and other egregious practices.

          We the People are unable to revoke corporate charters by popular referenda because corporate “persons” have successfully stolen the “equal protection” granted by the 14th amendment.

          With the protection of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, corporations have been able to re-define toxic waste as “commerce” by simply shipping it to another state.

          Here’s the point: corporations can be granted certain statutory privileges by the government with the consent of the governed, but they can never legitimately be permitted “rights” under the U.S. Constitution. Statutory privileges can be revoked; the rights constitutionally granted We the People never can be.

          Again, it’s not about any particular rule. It’s about who makes the rules. And to have a democracy, the People have to make the rules.

        2. Paul P

          Citizen’s United is a big deal if you want laws that prohibit corporations from contributing to political campaigns and mandate workers and representatives from the community be on the governing boards.

          “A chicken in every pot” political effort would end up
          overturning Citizen’s United, even were it not the initial focus.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      –To be clear, my dream for the left is that it stop acting like a squillion different tiny non-profits selling papers on the street or trying to get the next grant from a donor

      I think this conflates two different issues:
      1. The hardcore left has no funding to speak of, and thus the newspaper selling. Funding on the left will always be an issue.
      2. Donors don’t fund the real left, they fund the pretend left. And neither the pretend left nor the donors who desire control of the “left” agenda are ever going to go away. So we will need to attack them, exposing them for who and what they are. But, as with the right, our attacks will be much more poorly funded than their defenses of the status quo.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think, as I said, that the list needs to be time-based. That’s the solution to every groupuscle saying “No, me first!” (because silo funding). Put them all in order. Of course, that raises the possibility of the earlier betraying the later but (a) the left isn’t doing all that well now, right? Despite what all agree is enormous, unprecendented opportunity? And (b) everything else raises the same possibility anyhow.

  11. justanotherprogressive

    Ahhhh…..Bastille Day! I’m not a great fan of those “resist” type protests either, but I think an Occupy Wall Street type protest today might have had some of the uber-riche (I know, it’s not a “word” but you get who I mean…..) heading to their bolt holes…..

    Great article and great follow-up posts! All I can say is Yes, Yes, and more Yes! Did I say Yes enough?

    We can argue about what words to use or how to do it, but the revolution must be started – and soon, if we are to save anything for our grandchildren…..

  12. Sue

    “Mutually reinforcing items next to each other. For example, a Jobs Guarantee is not only good in itself, it solves the problem of how to help all the people who used to work in the insurance industry, before Medicare for All nuked it”

    These are the good types of thoughts. The insurer CEO will never go for it anyway, but you show most insurance industry employees that a change to something clearly better for the nation will not be leaving them out. Compare to what cold impersonal globalization has done to many. Thumbs up!

    1. Oregoncharles

      To repeat a previous point: retraining actually makes sense in this context, because universal health care would release a huge amount of demand. One of the problems would be finding enough medical personnel to take care of all the patients.

      Any such program would have to include expanding the medical schools, too. There is an artificial shortage.

  13. XXYY

    I think this is actually one of the most beautiful pieces of political analysis I have read in a long time.

    One of the obvious and manifest problems with traditional Marxist thinking is the idea of “the revolution.” The latent idea that there is eventually going to be some kind of instantaneous transition of the political and economic status quo from the current arrangement to some new and vastly superior one is not only laughable, but also leads to a mentality where everyone is in some sense just sitting around waiting for the revolution. While it’s true there may have been historical cases where rapid societal transitions took place, I claim these mostly fall into a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” model, that is, a new set of elites has displaced an existing set of elites but no fundamental changes took place. The American Revolution is typical: Rich people based in North America took over running the society, displacing rich people based in England. Despite myths to the contrary, there was no huge change in the material circumstances of the bulk of the population.

    Indeed, it can hardly be any other way. The changes needed for true transformation in human society do not take place overnight. So I claim real societal transformations must necessarily take many decades or centuries to achieve. Consequently, political activists must plan with this type of time frame in mind.

    Kudoes to Lambert for this beautiful “post-Marxist” formulation of how political change, will (and must!) be achieved.

  14. Synoia

    Incrementalism can mean:

    We’ll offer a few crumbs, deliver less, and then complain than “they” won’t let us do any more, and enjoy our sinecure…

    1. lambert strether

      Incrementalism is really a mischracterization of the post and strawmanning.

      Of course, I don’t suffer from left-wing infantile disorder…

    1. Oregoncharles

      ” near-term pickup opportunities.” – dating advice, now? (Interesting parallels, actually.)

    2. Outis Philalithopoulos

      It’s a typo for en avant, meaning “Forward!” – thanks for pointing this out.

  15. FortyYearsInThe UniversitySystem

    Marx was one of the great scholars. His learning was rather encyclopaediac in scope. So, um, personally mine eyes glaze over when I see that a blogger or worse a journalist is claiming to “correct” Marx on this or that point. Uh huh. That could happen I suppose. But..

        1. Outis Philalithopoulos

          What do you mean by Darwin’s “theory of history”? Social Darwinism? If so, (1) it is associated more with Herbert Spencer than with Darwin, (2) in many ways, it (the doctrine, not the name) was anticipated by the earlier economists. Maffeo Pantaleoni (neoclassical economist, later associated with fascism), in one of his late 19th century books, said something to the effect of “It isn’t true that economics just steals ideas from other disciplines. In fact, the doctrine of survival of the fittest, now so successful in biology, was first developed in economics, and only later applied fruitfully to other disciplines.”

          1. Oregoncharles

            I’m trying desperately to remember Marx’s term for the supposed process of social change: thesis, antithesis, [handwaving], synthesis [if we’re lucky].

            Darwin’s theory of evolution is much more specific, especially once the mechanism of genetics was discovered. However, it fits social change just as well, and eliminates the handwaving. In that case, culture substitutes for genetics – the reason Dawkins invented the “meme” concept.

            Social Darwinism is a distortion that doesn’t account for people being obligate social animals.

            Sorry I was so unclear; it helps to remember the proper terminology.

            1. Outis Philalithopoulos

              Dialectic was adopted by Marx. He didn’t invent the idea. It is often attributed to Hegel, but this is misleading. The triad is actually due to Fichte, in 1794, see here for more details.

              What both Marxist and (cultural or social) Darwinist theories of history have in common is a tendency to downplay contingency and tragedy by sublimating them. The apparently jarring effect of proclaiming brutal realities is soothed by the reassurance that history has a direction, that particular incidents of viciousness might play supporting roles within a more majestic drama.

              1. Oregoncharles

                Evolution does not have a direction, nor does anyone who understands it claim that it does. It’s entirely contingent, although constrained by the initial state.

                Exception: since organisms and societies start at the simplest possible form, complexity will always increase overall – but not necessarily in any particular lineage.

                I think you’re talking about historians and similarly literary creators.

                1. Outis Philalithopoulos

                  You initially said that “Darwin disproved Marx’s theories of history.” My response was based on what Darwin said on the subject.

                  In The Descent of Man, Darwin said that “National selection acts only tentatively,” but that

                  There is apparently much truth in the belief that the wonderful progress of the United States, as well as the character of the people, are the results of natural selection; for the more energetic, restless, and courageous men from all parts of Europe have emigrated during the last ten or twelve generations to that great country, and have there succeeded best. (29. Mr. Galton, ‘Macmillan’s Magazine,’ August 1865, p. 325. See also, ‘Nature,’ ‘On Darwinism and National Life,’ Dec. 1869, p. 184.) Looking to the distant future, I do not think that the Rev. Mr. Zincke takes an exaggerated view when he says (30. ‘Last Winter in the United States,’ 1868, p. 29.): “All other series of events–as that which resulted in the culture of mind in Greece, and that which resulted in the empire of Rome–only appear to have purpose and value when viewed in connection with, or rather as subsidiary to…the great stream of Anglo- Saxon emigration to the west.”

                  Such statements about “purpose” – or the one about “the western nations of Europe, who now so immeasurably surpass their former progenitors, and stand at the summit of civilisation” – leave the door wide open to interpretations of history as directional, albeit in a “tentative” way.

                  1. Oregoncharles

                    Technology – what is meant by “stand at the summit of civilization” – does accumulate knowledge and power over time, even if some knowledge is lost. It’s another example of complexity increasing, because it started in the simplest possible state.

                    The long quote from Darwin didn’t make much sense to me. But he was in some ways a typical Victorian.

              2. different clue

                Or as Homer Simpson once said: ” aww . . . history is just a bunch of stuff that happened.”

      1. Sue

        We can’t say Marxian texts have been sacred in the US. The problem with them is that they have been conveniently dismissed by most educational institutions. Marx ,like Keynes, Schumpeter or any of the big theoreticians of political economy has his past shortcomings and current obsolescences. Nonetheless, Marx should be restored to where he rightly belongs, not as a producer of sacred texts, but as one of the most brilliant and important intellectuals ever.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Arguments from authority are very weak.

      Marxism did not turn out well in practice, so it’s pretty clear that Marx was wrong on more than one point. In general, his analysis was a lot better than his recommendations. Major seminal thinkers are almost always a mixed bag.

      1. Plenue

        Well, Marxism-Leninism didn’t turn out well. That’s not really the same thing as Marxism.

  16. Oregoncharles

    ” and not in a planned way but unconsciously and rather “spontaneously,” ”

    Seriously, now: this refers to what I consider a vital principle of social/political engineering: it has to proceed under the control of the people in it. They have the ethical last word on what serves their interests – they get to define “good.” Otherwise, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” is just a dictatorship, like the Soviet Union, and runs rapidly off the rails.

    So a defining principle is that you can’t dictate, beforehand, the final state. That will have to be a response to experience. It always will be, of course; the point here is that the process needs to be democratic. We set up the beginning state, then let it run.

    Marx’s “statism” systematically betrayed this principle. He defined socialism as worker control of the means of production – but saw the “workers” as a collective of the whole, equivalent to the state, rather than the workers actually operating a given means of production, a much smaller set. At least, that’s the way it turned out. And why he thought a “dictatorship” would “wither away” escapes me altogether. Oddly enough, the Soviet Union actually did, in a rather unpleasant manner.

    1. John

      Re: And why he thought a “dictatorship” would “wither away” escapes me altogether.

      Lots of pathologically-optimistic people in the world. Especially those who write “systems manuals”.

      (Dude, this is gonna be the best [accounting-system|social-system] EVER! All we need to do is start [coding|revolting] now, and we’ll [patch|reeducate] the [system|masses] as we go. It’ll be great, dude!)

    2. hemeantwell

      Marx thought, quite reasonably, that some kind of coordinating agency would need to replace capitalism until people worked out something to replace it. The state, an organization that was already ‘nominally’ subject to popular control, could fill the bill. He also thought, quite reasonably, that if a socialist revolution were to occur it would be an awful struggle — French Revolution? — and so some way of organizing class dominance would be necessary. Anyone who has read Marx seriously has run across the idea that he did not want to tell people how to arrange their future. He was a critical theorist, not a prophet, and his references to a postcapitalist state are thus something of a placeholder.

      As far as looking to the Soviet Union for some sort of argument against Marx, I would strongly encourage you to spend some really unpleasant time reading what an unmitigated, strife-ridden catastrophe the early years of the Soviet Union were. It simply boggles me that anyone, even its sympathizers, could call it an “experiment.” Not only was the loss of life and material wealth disastrous, but the necessity of imposing ruthless and *necessary* policies of extraction on the population wrecked political relations and set up structures of control that were inertial and ongoingly warped political interaction. Plus, if you’ve tried to appreciate what it’s like for vets coming back to the US and have thought about PTSD, try applying it to the Soviet Union, only to just about everybody. The Civil War in the US pales in comparison.

      1. PhilM

        Thank you for this. And it’s true for every revolution before or since then, too, with the exception of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which wasn’t a revolution, really, but merely a coup. Why anybody would actually want a revolution completely escapes me; the winners are the predators, almost without exception.

        1. hemeantwell

          Yeah, the strongest argument against socialism is in some sense external to it: capital’s endgame is exterminism.

  17. Oregoncharles

    So why is the easier agenda item after the harder one?

    Because priorities are hard (and I don’t think that’s a prioritized list). In the particular case, climate collapse is an existential crisis that affects everyone; legal injustice is not. It’s also questionable that fixing one is any easier than fixing the other. “We begin by seeking justice, and end up with the police.”

  18. Oregoncharles

    “and that the left accepts a common agenda ”
    Have you read the Green Party platform? It’s certainly intended as an inclusive agenda, though I think not organized as you suggest. One big advantage of digital publication is that it (or any similar agenda) could easily be offered in multiple organizations, just by rearranging and re-heading the bullet points.

    To Be Fair: I helped write the state platform, but I haven’t read the national one, at least not all of it. Too much time spent on NC.

  19. Granite Fines

    Lambert,

    Just wanted to put in my .02 worth regarding this from your post:

    • Single-Payer Healthcare
    • Liveable Wages
    • Debt-Free Public College
    • Halting Climate Change
    • Overturning Citizens United
    • Criminal Justice Reform
    • Pay-Equity
    • Ending Military Interventionism
    • Job Creation
    • Immigration Reform
    • Racial Justice
    • Wall Street Reform

    First a collective comment on the above list. Nice list, but will probably never happen with current Democratic party — too addicted to big banks, big insurance, big pharma, etc.

    They are also forgetting that some elements (Single-Payer Healthcare) is literally taking money from someone and redistributing it to others. This does not really go over well with the folks whose taxes will have to fund it.

    Liveable Wages — Sounds nice, but lets face reality. There are not enough jobs to go around in our country for everyone, so there are always folks willing to take a crap job just to have a job. As my daughter learned working in DC for $15/hr, it is basically a poverty wage for the area, but she can barely make it while looking for another job.

    Debt-Free Public College – Another where someone thinks they will get free college, but it is not free to the person who will be footing the bill or future generations who have to pay the debt back.

    Halting Climate Change – Sounds great, but until life as we currently know it drastically changes this will go nowhere. And then tell it to the person working paycheck to paycheck that has to get rid of their 20yr old gas guzzler and can’t afford an eco-friendly car.

    Overturning Citizens United — Republicans won’t do it and most Democrats won’t say it out loud, but they don’t want it overturned either. Democrats too have learned that there is a bounty of $$$ to be accessed via Citizens United. And Hillary spent 2X what Trump spent and still lost.

    Criminal Justice Reform – This one could be doable, but when illegal aliens run around murdering folks, this one drives off the road into the ditch very quickly.

    Pay Equity – Sounds like no one could oppose, but there is no way to really implement this. The minimum wage is about the only way to to go at it, but working for the current minimum wage doesn’t really get you anywhere.

    Ending Military Intervention – Should be easy, but with the Democrats and Media vilifying Russia no one is going to advocate ending US involvement when the “Red Menace” is out there “menacing” us. Plus, the Lockheeds and Boeings of the defense world make a lot of money off of US intervention.

    Job Creation – Another one that no one could argue with, but if this one could be done, it would have been done already.

    Immigration Reform – Maybe doable, but how about starting with enforcing the current immigration laws already on the books? How does our country end up with over 11 million illegals in the country? You just can’t throw open the borders and then offer up all kinds of welfare goodies – again, somebody has to pay for it.

    Racial Justice – Another sounds good, but probably will get fixed when we find a fix for poverty. So, this will never happen.

    Wall Street Reform — We had the chance, but Obama could not bring himself around to do it. The $400K/speech money he now commands was too tempting. He was content to allow Wall Street to just keep strip mining the rest of the country.

    Bottom Line — It all sounds nice, but “good luck” that. I live in rural Minnesota in an area where our school district has a 52% free or reduced lunch population meaning basically 52% of our local area is at or below the poverty line. So, I see why Trump gets elected. Out here people are struggling to make it and Hillary’s $250K speeches she commands doesn’t help either. The Democratic party literally needs a hostile takeover — like the hostile takeover the Republican party got.

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, and I don’t have the answers either other than we should have busted up the big banks when Obama could have put the screws to them, but he didn’t do it. So, I guess it will have to get worse than it already is before something gets done to make it better. “Sigh”

    1. John

      Re: current Democratic party

      I don’t see why it would happen regardless of any party? What would cause the really smart-n-savvy people who are currently winning (those of us in the top 20%) to WANT TO HELP those in bottom 80% and in a (what is it now) “concrete and material way” (which doesn’t reduce MY “concrete or material”)?

      Is it “we’re all American together”? One “common nation”?

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Well, given the numbers (80-20), it could happen without any of the 20%. Also, it is certainly likely that a good portion of the 20% would be on the other side regardless. But previous periods of radical reform have tended to have some support among elites a) with radical politics despite their social location or b) concerned that the stability of the system was at stake.

    2. reslez

      Yet another commenter trapped in pre-MMT thinking. Unshackle your mind!

      Your taxes don’t “pay for” federal spending. The government is not on a gold standard.

      Why is it you believe we can’t “afford” free college in the richest country in the world? We have all the resources we need to provide free education. We have enough qualified people to teach the students. We have enough empty buildings to serve as classrooms. Are you aware we’ve spent $1 trillion on the useless F-35, with another $400 billion to go? Why do we pour resources into destructive military ends while our own people are homeless and jobless and our infrastructure crumbles? And then to state we have “no money” to afford things, when the government creates money and can never run out! This is the height of insanity. Please educate yourself. What you have been taught is wrong.

      1. Granite Fines

        I am not sure I would want to live in a world of unlimited money printing that “can never run out!” I don’t think it would end well. Maybe I am wrong, but I just don’t have a good feeling about it.

        1. Inode_buddha

          Most people worry about inflation when it comes to printing money. Yet consider, that producers are *already* raising their prices as much as possible regardless.

        2. Carla

          “I am not sure I would want to live in a world of unlimited money printing that “can never run out!”

          Well, Granite Fines, you may not have a good feeling about it, but that is EXACTLY the world you — and all the rest of us — live in.

          It’s just that the money is printed — as pointed out quite clearly by reslez — to finance weapons, wars, rapacious financial hierarchies and incredibly opulent lifestyles for the 1%.

          Now. The money could be printed to provide nice things like healthcare and excellent public education for all. Like sustainable energy and nutritious food for a population that would wisely begin to limit itself–because we are resource-restrained but not currency-restrained.

          But first we would have to have functioning democracies.

          I know, it’s a hard mental shift. Try to make it.

          1. Granite Fines

            If we need to have functioning democracies first, …. well good luck with that here in the U.S.

            1. Carla

              Yes, well, money is a political construct, and the choices of how to spend it are 100% political decisions.

        3. Scott

          Our Treasury prints infinite amounts of money for the DOD.
          MMT basically says the Treasury has the money, & if Congress votes the bill, the money is provided.
          It is what it is provided for that matters.
          Providing for needs of citizens inside the nation creates a strong nation.
          Civilians who are healthy & educated provide for defense in the end, no differently from when King Alfred needed people to fight off the Danes.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The Democratic party literally needs a hostile takeover — like the hostile takeover the Republican party got.

      That’s an infrastructural issue…

  20. John

    Now THAT was humorous!

    Last year we hated the pick-up-truck-drivin’, country-music-singin’, tattooed deplorables, but next election we’re going to happily increase our taxes to (what) “reeducate them”?

    Don’t think so. The Democratic Party operations manual has perfected the divide-n-conqueror technique. I don’t think they are going to rewrite the manual until the peasants are revolving.

  21. hemeantwell

    Working out a collection of proposals for the left is essential.

    But NB how that part of Lambert’s message becomes the focus, and the opener — class war — fades out. The left needs an analysis of socioeconomic processes that goes beyond objecting to an outcome — inequality, ruined lives, etc. — to outrage over the processes that produce it. Potential allies need to feel that they are not, to put it at its worst, “envious of the wealthy,” but instead refuse to be exploited and manipulated by an extractive system. I’m not saying anything that everyone here doesn’t essentially agree with, but you just won’t get very far unless you attack the system of accumulation directly. Perhaps one way of putting it is that we need to get out of the Fabian run of trying for redistribution and, at least in theoretical terms, argue in a revolutionary way.

    Yes, that risks making it difficult for some people to understand. Our gut-level ideas of how the economy works are very primitive. E.g., in talking about state spending we always have to grapple with the national accounts = family accounts misunderstanding. These ideas aren’t just a matter of ideology in the usual sense, but tie in with childhood socialization routines, right down to the idea that the children don’t have a say in the family finances (pretty much). So it’s not just a matter of coming up with a justifying rationale for expropriation — like Marx did with his theory of surplus value that the neoclassicals sidestepped — but it’s literally about re-, or un-, socialization. For anyone who’s found any plausibility to the idea that that the Republicans are the “party of the superego” this should make sense.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The left needs an analysis of socioeconomic processes that goes beyond objecting to an outcome — inequality, ruined lives, etc. — to outrage over the processes that produce it.

      I think that puts the cart before the horse in two ways: (1) it’s outcomes that matter to the 80% (say) of the citizenry you need to get on board to make anything happen. They care about the car, not the blueprint for the car and rightly, at least those who have hostages to fortune (others to provide for) as most do (unlike me). (2) Keeping the focus on the needs/requirements of the beneficiaries (let’s call them) as opposed to the beauty/truth/whatever of theories puts highly verbal intellectuals with no real skin in the game (like me) in our places — as servants.

  22. Cujo359

    For example, a Jobs Guarantee is not only good in itself, it solves the problem of how to help all the people who used to work in the insurance industry, before Medicare for All nuked it.

    It would also help the cause of racial justice, I believe. People with jobs tend to have more self-respect than those who don’t, and if those jobs pay at all well they will also be able to generate more financial resources for their causes.

    I think that one of the worst things to happen to the equal rights cause was Reaganomics, which diminished employment opportunities for those at the low end of the economic spectrum. Since blacks and latinos tend to occupy that part of the spectrum more than whites, it hit them just as the playing field was made more level for them. Since higher paying union jobs tended to disappear also, working class whites resented affirmative action all the more.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Also, national (or local) public service could serve the integrating function that the military once provided. My experience is that people become a lot less racist once they get to know a number (more than a few) people of other races and backgrounds.

      1. Cujo359

        Yes, plus when someone is both an ethnic minority and unemployed, there’s extra reason he will encounter prejudice. Employment reduces the likelihood somewhat.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > My experience is that people become a lot less racist once they get to know a number (more than a few) people of other races and backgrounds.

        Which is what the workplace can do (another way in which the warehouse as organized by Bezos is genuinely evil; no way for people to interact).

        When I checked out of my Portland hotel this morning, the front desk was staffed by two young women, one very blonde, and the other a (I’m betting) Somali in a hijab. They seems to get along just fine as they mastered the (no doubt needlessly complex) intricacies of the checkout system together.

  23. David

    Two thoughts from the country where we have just been celebrating Bastille Day.
    As a child I lived in (another) country with free universal healthcare, free education and full employment. So we’re not talking about some impossible set of revolutionary demands, but a pragmatic state of affairs that people, even on the Right, saw as normal fifty years ago.
    Secondly, it’s been argued (e.g. by James Scott) that the real distinction is not to do with Marx as such, but rather located in the struggle between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. Lenin believed in a surgical strike (in several senses) coordinated by a general staff of professional revolutionaries, Luxemburg believed in mass organisation and mass action, in an inevitably piecemeal and disorganized manner. Marx might well have agreed with her – he thought that the state was nothing more than the “executive committee of the bourgeoisie,” and so would naturally disappear once class distinctions had been overcome. He seems to have mistrusted organisations and blueprints generally.

  24. Claire

    Don’t the political infrastructure changes have to take place before there is any serious possibility of implementing the concrete material benefits agenda?

    If the apparent vehicle for implementing this agenda is a new or radically reformed Democratic party, what has to happen within the party first to make sure that the Yglesias comment on bringing the class message to upscale largely professional suburbs does not become simply a rhetorical ploy to maintain control of the party for the upper middle class?

    At this point, is the Lambert agenda still primarily an articulation of an agenda from that portion of upper middle class professionals who are comfortable with a larger role for the State in American politics– one through which they might get the opportunity to exercise power in the name of bringing concrete material benefits to the average American citizen?

    .

    .

    1. TheCatSaid

      Personal experimentation with different processes and voting methods for group decision-making are a useful step along the way. See my comment above in this thread about ranked-choice voting.

      I learned a lot by reading–and doing–different ways of voting in groups of different sizes and various contexts. Getting experience with this would be valuable before attempting to change the existing infrastructure.

      FWIW, this awareness started when visiting a friend in a small rural VA town that was carrying out a public exercise to set its priorities. They used Condorcet voting, which I’d never heard of or experienced. Later, I learned about and experienced different systems used in Ireland. I discovered more ways from a group in which I was a member, and also by reading one of Peter J. Emerson’s books which described the mathematical ways that the different methods affected the outcomes, and which ways were better or worse in reflecting a group’s mindset.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t see why two two lists can’t be intertwined. It’s possible that Medicare for All is do-able without too much infrastructural change. Decapitating that source of campaign contributions might make other changes more easy, and so forth.

      I think the right way to think about this is parallel processing, not sequential processing. And I think all the infrastructural groups will be energized by knowing they are part of a larger battle, not just one silo.

  25. Richard

    Incrementalism did not happen with FDR’s New Deal. The New Deal was forced marched on the country by the agony and pressure of the Great Depression.It was a quick execution of the status quo of the time and its results lasted for decades. So, as an 83 year old who lived through much of it, I will offer that the hoped for changes listed in this post will only take place after the agony and pressure of the new depression that is soon to befall us. Hopefully, enough of you or your thinking will be around to force a new New Deal.

    1. dao

      +100000000!

      In the aftermath of the Great Depression, thousands of banks went belly up and assets were sold off en masse. Nothing of the sort has happened since the 2008 financial crisis. It’s been extend and pretend. The day of reckoning is coming. I am as pessimistic (actually realistic) as you are about any reforms being enacted until we feel the full effects of a depression in the U.S.

        1. dao

          Thanks for responding to us naysayers and I hope you read this as well. Shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, the attention of the population was diverted by a very long and protracted “health care reform” debate lasting almost 2 years. The result was “reform” drafted by the health insurance industry. The 2016 election coverage served a similar purpose as that was also a long and protracted diversion from dealing with economic issues (an almost 2 year long diversion). Now we are back to debating “health care reform” again. This time with a focus on single payer (who’s going to draft this one?). It is a distraction from the real issues. It’s well past time to stop the distractions.

  26. Vatch

    If one is to create a list of important political tasks that need to be performed, let’s not forget one of the biggest of all: We MUST stop human population growth. Our planet is finite, our resources are finite, and despite our over-consumption of resources, most people on the planet still live in poverty.

    Sometimes I forget to include the obvious disclaimer: the end of population growth must be performed by reducing the birth rate, not by increasing the death rate. In some countries and economic groups, we need to reduce both the birth rate and the death rate.

    1. Carla

      Agreed. Thank you.

      P.S. I am aware that in most ways, we females have been a terrible disappointment since we got the franchise. At least, I’m crushingly disappointed in us. But I must say, left to our own devices and with adequate medical assistance available, I do believe we would vastly lower the birth rate of our own accord. Just sayin’.

      1. Oregoncharles

        You don’t need to “believe” that; it’s been demonstrated in the countries that have tried it – including the US; the birth rate is below replacement. Now some of them face the problems of an aging population, but that’s better than using up the world.

        In fact, it’s a good question whether the species would continue very long if it were left up to the people who have to actually bear children. I don’t think it would if MEN had to. But that’s a problem we wish we had.

        Of course, it takes a fairly high standard of living for women to have that much control, so there’s a Catch-22.

        1. Carla

          “Of course, it takes a fairly high standard of living for women to have that much control, so there’s a Catch-22.”

          That’s what I meant.

          It’s all about power. And money’s just a proxy for power.

        2. Vatch

          US; the birth rate is below replacement.

          Well, yes, but the birth rate still exceeds the death rate, so the U.S. population continues to grow. And the growth is even higher due to immigration. For the total fertility rate of 1.8 (2.1 is replacement), birth rate of 12 per 1000, and death rate of 8 per 1000, see:

          http://www.prb.org/Publications/DataSheets/2016/2016-world-population-data-sheet.aspx

          Of course, it takes a fairly high standard of living for women to have that much control, so there’s a Catch-22.

          Usually, but there are people who are working to correct that by providing education. Some of that education is in the form of radio and television soap operas!

          https://www.populationmedia.org/

    2. HBE

      This +1000.

      Doesn’t really matter if we have a revolution and achieve all the points above, but the population keeps climbing. Ecological constraints don’t give a damn about justice or equality.

      Not saying overpopulation should be in the concrete list, the amount of self delusion on the subject makes that almost impossible, but it should always be kept in mind, as one works towards more immediate concrete deliverables.

      1. Scott

        9 Billion was estimate as the top end of sustainable. 13 billion was great for 3 weeks.
        But we concentrate on food too much.
        It isn’t just food that we need enough of. We need to eradicate ignorance of crucial aspects of civilization.
        Ethics are universal whereas theology is not.

  27. rps

    1. Campaign finance reform.
    2. State and Federal term limits across all upper management public servant venues particularly congress, senate, governor, mayor, etc.
    3. Nail Shut the revolving door between private/corporate positions to public servants and public servants to private corporate positions. No individual is allowed to transition into the private sphere for 5 years. Maybe the taxpayers will have to pick up the 5 year retirement tab but it’ll cost us a hell of a lot less than being sold down the river in the long run.
    4. End Non-profit foundations/charities/organization (think Koch bros). The point of Non profit organizations was to fill a niche in which people fell through a hole unforeseen in the societal fabric. Now, its a loophole for all types of nefarious organizations.

    Until then, the wine sipping limousine demogagues have no compunction in giving up the blue punchbowl #partee# anymore than the fake god fearing repubs spiked red punchbowl.

  28. TheCatSaid

    Great post, Lambert! An important (crucial!) addition to your list of requirements for election reform–unbroken chain of custody of those paper ballots! You’d be amazed how lax this is in the USA–including in places that we typically think have “good” voting systems (e.g., NH–which has unbelievably corrupt/inept handling of paper ballots with NO chain of custody control in many locations. All documented extensively on video by Bev Harris / BlackBoxVoting.)

    Also–it’s crucial to require documentation and unbroken chain of custody of all the ballots printed. (This is another big loophole exploited by many, again documented in gory detail by Bev Harris.) And meaningful remedies when “oops” errors occur.

    And also, outlawing use of bar codes and other devices that would tie a vote to a specific voter. (Again, Bev Harris and others have documented this in gory detail. The fact that it is illegal doesn’t seem to matter. In some states, this happens.)

    Each of these points is easy to say, and seems obvious–yet these are some of the ways the system is currently being gamed in places that use paper ballots. Actual instances have been documented with video evidence on the internet for years. Yet people remain relatively uninformed and disinterested. Like the IT issues raised on NC in relation to changing a currency or import/export controls, for example, these are not “sexy” areas and there is a lot of ignorance, but the details and implementation matter. Otherwise just having hand-counted, publicly counted paper ballots becomes a deceptive sham!

    In operational terms the 3 requirements I’ve mentioned above can be difficult to achieve if there is inadequate understanding and oversight. Postal voting is one example in which it is almost impossible to maintain a chain of custody of the ballots. There are possible solutions, but right now the challenges are not being acknowledged or understood, let alone addressed.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I hate both postal voting and “early voting” because both make a farce of the electoral process (“I know how this movie ends, I’m leaving early”). All voters (I would urge) should vote based on identical information. The solution is to make election day a national holiday, which it obviously ought to be anyhow

      1. Oregoncharles

        Postal voting is pretty wonderful. Increases turnout, because it’s much more convenient, and encourages informed voting – you’re at home, at your leisure, no one waiting behind you; you can do research in the course of filing out your ballot.

        And in Oregon, a ballot is defined as a piece of paper marked by the voter. That could be achieved in other ways, too, of course, but postal voting makes it unavoidable. No one can manipulate access by, for instance, withholding voting machines or making a voting site inaccessible. And voting on the same day does NOT make for “identical information.” That would depend on a program to inform voters, like Oregon’s Voter’s Pamphlet.

        I see your point; what if there are dramatic developments on election day? I don’t see a solution, though the lead time from receiving ballots to election day could be reduced. That would reduce turnout somewhat, but probably not dramatically.

  29. RBHoughton

    I too have thought about a replacement administrative system to make democracy work. The two-party system does not promote democracy but instead the interests of employers on the one hand and employees on the other. That’s no good. Its divisive. We want an institution that cares for all of us.

    We need is a means of enforcing constitutional terms on the people we elect to run the country. The flaw in the 1688 British Bill of Rights, the US and French revolutionary papers, is the absence of an enforcement clause. Magna Carta had one although historians tend to conceal it.

    The proposal is for a new national institution of Protectors of the Constitution, made up of students between college and employment and of retirees willing to lend their knowledge and time. They are conscripted for a year and they police the legislature, observe the legislators in their daily round, record their acts and decisions, publish them daily and have power to enforce popular decisions.

    1. Sue

      Time to smell the coffee. Western nations’ constitutions are children of liberalism doctrine. It is not an accident that the best of the US Constitution is the amendments consequence of the civil rights movement. We have been pushed down and around so much that we are not fighting about improving it, i.e to offset the inequalities of our times,… we are now trying to protect it!

  30. Skip Intro

    Ooops, looks like the Post Office Bank/public banking fell of the list of concrete material benefits. It seems like relatively low hanging fruit.

  31. gordon

    Sounds like a plea for an American Fabian Society. But that can’t work, because the Fabians were avowedly Socialist. If you try to be a Socialist in the USA they lynch you, or the police paint you black and shoot you, (or shoot you and then paint you black) or something. But here’s an idea – what about a New Religion? Maybe Americans could get away with some kind of revolutionary agenda if they claim Gaard told them to do it. And it might even be tax deductible!

  32. Scott

    I have modeled a nation of airports for over 40 years & finished up with the Passport Manifesto. I finished the thing with the invention of the currency called the Transcendia Insurodollar. It uses insurance on & for all the citizens from birth to eventually provide a private wealth for all.

    (I go past the Darrity Duke U, “Baby Bonds”. I believe reparations are simply unrealistic and risk creating another set of special persons, as records of past work and contributions are difficult and reconstruction of the past will prove to be too time consuming. My currency plan obviates the need for research.)

    Hence it, The Transcendia Insurodollar overcomes the flaw of communism, which failed due to state rewards of elitist access to everyone else’s wealth.

    Mobility of the Corporations & the Rich beats labor into the ground. Labor is in an international struggle with capital. It has access to telephones with instant translation functions so that Business Agents from various union internationals can come to fair compete deals across borders and locals.

    My passport is supposed to give labor as much mobility as capital. I’ve failed to get traction, and had a strong desire for an introduction to Sir Branson whose airline I wanted to accept Transcendia Passports.

    “There is no substitute for personal contact in business.” James Boy Pilot

    Far as Climate Change, well, it is important to frame the struggle as one that is positive aiming for renewables & energy capture. Uruguay did it. Do whatever it was their parliament did.

    It is truly doubtful that the US can be reformed, but the greatest reason for divisions are the ignorance of the difference between Economics represented by the US Treasury, the Dollar as Reserve Currency, and Finance. Finance is limited and Economics are infinite. Or Finance is limited & Economics are Elastic.

    We in the US are denied the use of our own Treasury by Finance Banking of Wall Street that wants all access and benefits of the Treasury for itself. Hence it is the Utility banking of the Bank of North Dakota to found for all states in the US willing to see that Banking is a Utility and must be regulated as such.

    I am Transcendian on Youtube and there is an Economics Playlist.

    The power of television is not to be disputed and I lust to create a TV Show with Yves & her writers & David Cay Johnston. Foxmind persons simply have never seen their Treasury for what it is.

    Power is seated in Washington DC and it is vital that We, meaning Revolutionaries such as Fred Hampton was gain control of a building, Compound, from which to work. Sociology teaches that to be real one, and their organization must control real, concrete, territory.

    If there is a negative campaign to fight against all the time, it is Fracking. If you want to destroy your nation ruin the water & cut down all the trees. In NC the wood pellet industry is cutting down all the trees. NC’s last Governor was intent on opening the state to frackers.

    P.S. I myself met Fred Hampton who was the most Christlike figure I have ever met. My novel the Revolutionary I’ve not yet uploaded for a paperback is dedicated to him. It does exist as a manuscript ebook.

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