Read Nation

Prior to the Fall of 2008, there were Red States and Blue States.  After the on-going economic crisis that began in September of 2008 and the Bush and Obama Administrations’ failure to respond effectively, we have become a Read Nation.

We have read the Constitution and the writings of the Framers and have embraced Federalism and rejected centralization and bureaucracy.  We have read The Wealth of Nations and have rejected the ideas of Marx.  We have read Friedman and have rejected Keynes.

We know we are a nation of free man, free markets and free pulpits.  We embrace freedom (and its natural concomitant, responsibility) and reject a  security that comes at the expense of economic choice and consequence, of risk and reward.

The Democratic Party will likely be shattered as a national party by the 2010 elections, much as the Federalists were by the election of 1800, the Health Care Bill a modern version of the Alien and Sedition Act.  Some say this has happened before: in 1980; 1994; 2000; 2002; and 2004, but the Democratic Party survived.  I say that because this has happened so many times  before, the Democratic Party of centralized federal power for its own sake is clearly a dead letter with the American people.

The Republican Party of George W.Bush and “National Greatness Conservatism” is likewise dead.  However, there a coterie of men and women drawn to conservative and libertarian principals existed to replace the failed structure.

To an extent, The Tea Party movement may have begun as an “AstroTurf Campaign” begun by Republican Party hacks, but it has grown like a weed among liberty-loving Americans, attached to their ancient patrimony of the Constitution, many of them never before involved in politics or activism.

With the death of the Democratic Party as a viable national party, as a possible alternative voice, we need to create a Liberalism for the 21st Century.  This would be a Liberalism rooted in the Constitution and Federalism and in the tradition of the voluntary not-for-profit organization, what management gaon Peter Drucker called the “Social Sector.”

What would such a liberalism look like?  Perhaps this is an answer:

1. If the 20th Century, from Lochner, through Griswold to Roe v. Wade, was the century of the Civil War Amendments, the 21st should be the Century of the Tenth Amendment.

2.  The great, looming realities of the 21st Century are: 1) we will have to compete for foreign capital with everyone else; and 2) we will have a less affluent population and a slower rate of growth.  Ever see those commercials for investment in Macedonia on Fox and CNBC?  They are the competition.

3.  These two constraints mean: 1) we will have to have to allocate a lower percentage of our GDP to government to attract investment; and 2) we will probably have a shrinking tax base in any event.

4.  There will, however, be needs that will have to be met and investment rarely comes to unstable nation-states or to those without a properly educated work force.

5.  The key to dealing with items 3 and 4 above is the Tenth Amendment.

6.  The Federal Government needs to shrink, performing only its Constitutionally enumerated powers, as Madison believed it should, even though this is not the current state of the law.

7.  Things like Education, properly a State (or, better, a local) function, would be returned to that level and the Federal Education Department could be eliminated.  Something new needs to replace the current model of property-tax-funded, free, universal K-12 public education.  We need as many incubators as possible to develop best practices.

8.  Universal health care could be pursued through legal reform and the establishment of not-for-profit buying cooperatives.  Instead of creating a centralized government bureaucracy like the DMV (or continuing the current employment-based system), Americans should get their health insurance through competing not-for-profit groups (like USAA in Auto Insurance).  The Federal Government, post Iraq and Katrina, does not have the legitimacy to make hard choices in this immensely personal area.

9.  If this proves successful, Social Security and pensions could be privatized on a similar model.

10. National defense is a (perhaps “the”) critical function of government but it does not require continuing to buy weapons for the Cold War.  More money, time and effort need to be given to State and USAID.  The Department of Defense needs to think, not only about the current war(s), but the next.  This would best be done through investing in the development and honing of the Military’s current stable of exceptionally experienced Officers and NCOs.  Why not try to make them all McMasters and Nagles?  GEN Peterus’s exceptional brain trust in Iraq  needs to become the norm, not the exception.

11.  The Troop Program Units (“TPUs”) of the Army and Air Force Reserves should be reassigned to the states.  State National Guards and Militia ought to be capable enough to handle a disaster at the Hurricane Katrina level on their own.  If these forces are deployed in Federal service, there should be Inter-state compacts that handle the issue.  As a result, FEMA should be stood-down, saving money and decentralizing disaster response and recovery.

12.  Returning Education to the States and allowing individuals to come together to solve common problems though voluntary organizations is not only more efficient, it is more resilient, an issue identified by thinkers like Ramo and Robb and William Lind.

Are these the answers?  Perhaps, but far more important is replacing old ideas that have proven time and again to be failures that are antithetical to human liberty.  For Liberals and Progressives, it is time to throw away the failed and embrace the proven and workable, to trust the people instead of trying to coddle them.  The time has come, in sum, to think.