You know, most of my thoughts, most of my ideas are not my own, but borrowed from someone else. Without constantly stealing the thoughts of others would I even have any thoughts of my own? Probably not, certainly not as many. I don’t so much stand on the shoulders of someone else —wasn’t it Isaac Newton who said he saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants —Well, me too, I think better (see further) by means of the thoughts of others. And not just those of the giants of thought, but all kinds of people, young and old, because everyone has something from which we can learn. And this process has been going on since I left school the place where thinking is probably the only thing that doesn’t go on, and when, no longer confined to a classroom, I could begin to think and begin my own life-long education.
Anyway daily, every waking moment of every day, I’m always meeting up with the thoughts of others, thoughts that could have been my own thoughts if I had only thought of them. In any case I quickly take them there for the taking and make them my own. This happens constantly. is the most alive part of my day, the day that begins on the internet where I pick and choose from an almost infinite supply of others’ thoughts, those that match my own interests and purposes, as well those that surprise and delight me as something brand new, something I’d never thought about. Here are a few example of the thoughts of others, mostly taken from the past few days, yes as I say now, “my thoughts exactly”:
The Medicaid-repeal bills being fashioned in the Republican Congress are only masquerading as Obamacare-repeal bills. And Medicaid, remember, is not a program that the public is complaining about. It is immensely popular and works well. It provides coverage for sixty per cent of disabled children, and maternity coverage for half of pregnant women. Two-thirds of nursing-home residents end up relying on Medicaid coverage after their savings are spent. Among adult Medicaid recipients sixty per cent work, and eighty per cent are part of working families.
In 1968, in conversation with M. L. King, Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a Polish-born Jewish-American rabbi, asked, “Where does God dwell in America today?” I ask myself this question today. But I do not find the answer. Heschel also asks, “Where does moral religious leadership in America come from today?” I look, but I have not seen it. Perhaps, like Diogenes the Cynic, you’ll find me carrying a lamp in the daytime. But instead of looking for an honest man, I will be looking through the catacombs of your own making, asking, “Is your God dead?” (Diogenes, who lived about 400 BC, a contemporary of Plato, gave up his possessions and chose to live in poverty. He was famous for among many other things, walking through the streets of Athens in broad daylight waving a lantern and announcing that he was looking for a “honest man”.)
—He writes of a generational and racial divide between a largely secular group of young, white party activists and an older electorate that is more religious and more socially conservative. Put simply, outside of a few progressive districts, secular-minded young activists in the party are unable to win voters’ trust…. Only through a willingness to ground their policy proposals in the religious values of prospective voters will they be able to convince people of faith that they are not a threat to their values but are instead an ally in a common cause.
Inasmuch as the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such rules as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of government.
Beard applied this general idea to the Constitution, by studying the economic backgrounds and political ideas of the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draw up the Constitution. He found that a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing, or shipping, that half of them had money loaned out at interest, and that forty of the fifty-five held government bonds, according to the records of the Treasury Department.
Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government: the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection as they invaded Indian lands; slaveowners needed federal security against slave revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds.
In a time of Trump and deepening populist polarization in both parties, the idea of a radical centrist revolution seems as unlikely as it does quaint. But in 15 months, Emmanuel Macron has created a powerful counter-narrative in a time of ethno-nationalist pushback to globalization. His centrist party—La République en Marche—did not even exist when Donald Trump won his first primaries. After this past weekend’s elections, it commands a super-majority in the French parliament, displacing the Socialist Party almost entirely.
Macron tapped into populist desire for change against the stale status quo, but he channeled it in a constructive, rather than destructive, direction. A new generation of first-time candidates—including a majority women—ran for office on his party ticket. The policies they backed were not the stuff of pie-in-the-sky protest votes but a recognition that the major forces shaping our future—technology, the environment, the global economy—do not neatly cleave into ideologically driven left versus right positions. Instead, the choice we face is between an open and closed vision of society, bridge builders versus wall-builders. This perspective offers us the opportunity to clear out some of the cobwebs from our outdated political debates and build a broader coalition between the center-left and the center-right with a few libertarians thrown in for good measure. The result is a refocus on a free-market liberalism that many American centrists would recognize as being consistent with their self-definition: fiscally conservative but socially liberal. This balanced perspective is much more ideologically consistent than it commonly gets credit for:
When American politics is functioning, there is broad consensus around this vision. For most of the past half-century, we’ve had vigorous debates held within the 30 yard-lines of the political field. There is an implicit recognition that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” as Jefferson once said. But what we have today is a deep departure from that American consensus.
I take the thoughts of Charles Beard from Howard Zinn’s
A People/s History of the United States.