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Omniarchy describes the principals and positions of a new political philosophy in the United States. The originality of the political positions espoused by the essays contained on the following pages is matched by the novelty of the name used to define them: Omniarchy. If anarchy is the rule of none, monarchy is the rule of one, and oligarchy is the rule of some, then Omniarchy is the rule of all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Peace in the Middle East

While watching the President's speech last night, I must admit that I kept remembering a personality profile I had read recently that describes our Commander-in-Chief perfectly. So this morning I wandered around on the web until I found it:

"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Sounds like that nailed it to me. Fits George Bush like a glove. Only one problem though: it was prepared by the OSS (the predecessor of today's CIA) to describe Adolph Hitler.

Who does Bush think he's kidding? Is Al Qaeda participating in the Iraqi insurgency? Absolutely. Is Al Qaeda leading or controlling it? Absolutely NOT.

If you're looking for a historical parallel you don't have to go back to Vietnam. Contemporary Iraq should remind us of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in the 1970's and 1980's. We get to play the part of the British and torture our prisoners; the Shiites and Kurds get to play the Protestants and repress minority rights; and the Sunnis get to play the Catholics and blow things up. In other words, batten down the hatches; we're in for a long and bumpy ride.

Everybody who thinks that a functional Iraqi (nee Kurd/Shiite) Army will solve everything and quell the insurgency probably also thinks that Saddam hired Osama to fly the planes into the World Trade Center. The bottom line is we should be prepared for years if not decades of sectarian Iraqi violence (even Secretary Rumsfeld is beginning to realize this) and for living with the continued threat of religious terrorism from the jihadists.

How can we get out of this mess?

Permanent peace in the Middle East will require two admittedly difficult but nevertheless achievable endeavors:

1. Bring Me the Head of Osama bin Laden

Forget the skyrocketing budget deficits. Forget lying about Saddam's WMDs. Forget the tax breaks for wealthy heirs and affluent corporations. Forget the staggering ineptitude of not preventing the attacks of September 11th. One inescapable fact remains: How could George Bush get re-elected while Osama bin Laden is still running around loose?!?

Didn't he stand on the rubble of Ground Zero and promise the rescue workers that those responsible would pay for their acts of barbarous cruelty? Karl Rove may criticize the Democrats (justifiably in my opinion) for an excessively legalistic reaction to horrors of 9/11, but at least they wanted to catch the guys who did it, not let them waltz around the mountains of Western Pakistan and sneer at us!

If you had asked me on 9/12/01, I wouldn't have given Osama four more weeks of freedom instead of the four years he's enjoyed under the Bush Administration. This guy is the worst mass murderer in American history and he's still on the lam. If you don't think Osama's freedom heartens Al Qaeda and exacerbates terrorism, especially in Iraq, you're crazy. (Or President.)

So step #1 in quelling the Iraqi insurgency: destroy the operational capacity of Al Qaeda and capture, if possible, or kill, if necessary, Osama bin Laden.

2. Theocracy Ain't Democracy

Imagine for a moment that you're a young patriotic Iraqi Sunni watching soldiers from the other side of the world with a carte blanche to capture or kill you patrol your streets in armored vehicles. They say that they came to your country to liberate you from a ruthless dictator. On the other hand, some of your friends tell you that the soldiers are lying - that they are conquerors, not liberators, determined to control the country through a permanent military presence and a Shiite/Kurdish puppet government. Who do you believe? Thankfully, the vast majority believes us. Unfortunately, a significant minority doesn't.

So how can we persuade that violent minority that we're on the level? After all, the United States has never conquered another country (except for the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Ri - oh well, never mind). And we always bring our troops home when the war is over (except for Germany, Japan, Cuba, South Kor - damn, 0 for 2). Well, at least we never cut and run or let terrorism scare us out of honoring a commitment (except in South Vietnam, Beruit, Somalia, - hmmm, this isn't going as well as I expected).

The bottom line is that, if I were that young Iraqi patriot, I'd want some proof of the beneficent intentions of the United States.

What would it take? How about this:

If we're willing impose secular democracy upon our enemies, are we willing to induce our friends to adopt it? If American values and principles are universal, as we contend, then perhaps we should begin down the road to peace in the Middle East by exporting them to our closest ally in the region first. Maybe this might convince our young Iraqi patriot that the fight in his country is not between two different forms of intolerance, but against intolerance itself. And who's our closest ally in the Middle East? Israel.

But wait a minute, isn't Israel already a democracy? Well, not quite. For example, Israel's Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty begins by defining,

"... the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Jewish AND democratic? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron? Jews, regardless of nationality, have the ability to immigrate to Israel, but Palestinians who've lived there for generations or centuries don't? The Israeli government has an official Ministry of Religious Affairs? The judicial system of Israel includes religious courts? Israel has a religious symbol displayed on its flag prominently? If it looks like a theocracy and walks like a theocracy and talks like a theocracy, my guess is that it is a theocracy.

Let's face it, a country can't be Jewish and democratic any more than it can be Christian, Hindu, Moslem or Shinto and democratic. The ultimate sovereignty of the state is either temporal or spiritual; it cannot be both.

In 1948, Israel declared its independence and issued its Israeli Declaration of Establishment that authorized the creation of a provisional government,

"... until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948."

Well, needless to say, that never happened. The religious leaders contended that man's laws couldn't supplant God's laws. So they agreed to disagree with the secularists, adopted a handful of "Basic Laws" eventually and called it an "informal constitution". It's nearly sixty years later Israel still doesn't have a written constitution. Perhaps it's time for the Israelis to honor their own founding document, follow Iraq's lead and adopt a permanent written constitution. (We shouldn't be too hard on the Israelis though. After all, it took us the better part of 200 years to honor the phrase "all men are created equal" written in our own founding document.)

Moreover, according to the Declaration of Establishment, the founders of Israel,

"APPEAL - to the Arab inhabitants ... to participate in the upbuilding [sic] of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship."

In order to confer civic legitimacy upon the resultant government, it seems obvious that the State of Israel (gotta do something about that name - how about Canaan?) must include all of the areas under governmental control, including the West Bank and Gaza. The US must abandon its philosophically absurd and geographically impossible "road map". A Jewish Israel and an Islamic Palestine cannot co-exist peacefully on the same land in perpetuity. Their mutual antipathy and distrust will preclude it.

So instead of creating two bitter theocratic and ethnocentric rivals, we must use our influence to incorporate the Jewish and Moslem residents of Israel and Palestine (as well as the Christians and the Druze) into one secular nation that embraces all of the human rights we espouse as universal, especially Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church [or mosque or synagogue] and state.

If the Israelis and Palestinians (Canaanites?) adopt a constitution that guarantees fundamental human and civil rights and that delineates between governmental and religious authority assiduously, they must receive the approbation of the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. Most importantly, however, they would prove to the nations of the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular that disparate peoples can write a formal constitution that creates a society that accommodates a variety of ethnic groups and religions equitably, impartially and peacefully. And ultimately, isn't this what we're fighting for in Iraq?

In short, the road to a permanent peace in the Middle East may end in Baghdad. Or it may end in Cairo or Mecca or Tehran or Damascus. But it must begin in Jerusalem.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why not a meaningful Amendment to the Constitution?

On Wednesday, 286 Congressional Representatives engaged in their annual act of craven demagoguery by adopting an amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the desecration of the American flag. At the vanguard of this initiative are public officials, especially those on the right wing of the political spectrum, who purport to esteem personal freedom and resent the pervasive influence of the federal government into the private lives of individuals ostensibly. Yet they propose to amend our most fundamental legal document to achieve an objective that contravenes these ideals diametrically. Apparently these putative patriots are either unaware of their profound hypocrisy or sufficiently depraved to be imperious to it.

To them, American freedom must be defined as the freedom to act as they do and believe as they do exclusively. To them, the American flag is not merely a physical symbol of the United States; it is a quasi-religious icon imbued with a sacred significance. To them, those who disagree with them cannot be confronted by argumentation; they must be silenced by force. To them, dissent is heresy and the infidels must be punished. In short, I'm surprised that they haven't blamed the California wildfires on irresponsible flag burners (but it's early yet, and they may get around to it).

Yet, the "loyal opposition", bereft of proactive ideas, merely responds with its conventional and politically unpopular obstinacy: "Just Say No". Instead of opposing an amendment to the Constitution that limits personal freedom, they could counteract the demagogues by advocating an amendment that is not only necessary but liberating, as well.

In 1972, the US Congress adopted an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that would have prohibited sexual discrimination and more than 90% of the Senators and Representatives who voted on the measure did so in support of it. It was promptly signed by President Nixon and ratified by thirty-five of the fifty sates. Since the Constitution requires ratification by a three-fourths majority, it fell three states short of adoption and has languished in Congress ever since.

Perhaps our esteemed representative on the political left could eradicate this legislative inertia by changing the name of the ERA and expanding its purview beyond merely gender. They could propose a HUMAN Rights Amendment, which might be written as follows:

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of any state on account of religious creed, ethnicity or any permanent physical characteristic determined by genetic factors exclusively."

Our intrinsic human and civil rights must be protected against legal discrimination equitably, not merely on the basis of race or sex, but against all forms of religious, ethnic and genetic discrimination. If our Declaration of Independence stipulates that the raison d'ĂȘtre of the United States is predicated upon the principle that "all Men are created equal", shouldn't our Constitution compel the enforcement of that principle? A Human Rights Amendment will ensure that one of our most fundamental rights, the right to be treated as an individual rather than as the representative of a subclass, is protected by our most fundamental legal document.

Twenty states have some kind of prohibitions against religious, ethnic or genetic discrimination written into their constitutions currently. The Constitution of New Hampshire is somewhat typical:

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin."

Although the passage of a Human Rights Amendment to the US Constitution might not succeed easily, it is necessary to begin the process. Not only could it displace the insipid and venal debate about flag desecration from national political discourse, it would demonstrate that the United States has political leaders who not only oppose totalitarian encroachments upon civil liberties but who support the expansion of civic egalitarianism. Regardless of its ultimate success, it would be fascinating to watch its opponents argue against granting every American the same rights as those who live in that a bastion of political liberalism like New Hampshire.

PS: In those states that have anti-discrimination clauses in their constitutions, it is difficult to see how any statues that prohibit same-sex marriage could be constitutional. For example, if marriage is a "right" in New Hampshire, then every person must have the ability to marry any other person regardless of their partner's "race, creed, color, sex or national origin." It's hard to read this clause of their constitution in any other way.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Omniarchy and Stem Cell Research

Examining the abortion/stem cell/in vitro issue, it seems to me that both sides tend to forget that the creation of human life is a process rather than an event. It doesn't occur at either conception or birth; it occurs when a fetus is capable of sustaining its own life ex utero: viability.

Any reasonable person has to recognize that the difference between a zygote moments after conception and a fetus moments before birth is a difference of kind, not degree. Any other conclusion yields a host of contradictions.

For those who believe that human life begins at conception, how can the nature of that act effect the nature of the life it creates? Doesn't the embryo created by rape and/or incest merit the same protection of the law as the embryo created by loving parents? If the Fourteenth Amendment is to be revised from "all persons born" to "all persons conceived", the equal protection clause would mandate that any law that denied a fetus due process on the grounds of its conception would be grossly unconstitutional. The syllogism is inescapable: if human life begins at conception, then every fetus is a person, and if every person merits the equal protection of the law, then every abortion must be murder.

Furthermore, those that believe that human life begins at conception would have to resolve at least three less serious but nevertheless interesting enigmas:

  1. Why doesn't any society in the world (or throughout recorded history, to the best of my knowledge) hold funerals for miscarriages?
  2. Should America revise its citizenship laws to include all persons conceived in the United States?
  3. When will President Bush begin celebrating his "Conception Day" instead of his "Birth Day"? (I'm sure H.W. and Barbara would get a big kick out of that one.)

Conversely, pro-choice advocates must understand that the point at which viability occurs is the point at which the fetus assumes a right to life (and health) that supercedes the mother's right to privacy and hence choice. They must spearhead legislation that would punish anyone, including the mother, that intentionally or recklessly kills or injures a healthy human fetus during the last trimester of gestation. As Supreme Court Justice Blackmun wrote in Roe v. Wade,

" ... state regulation protective of fetal life after viability ... has both logical and biological justifications."

Once they do so, perhaps they would gain a sufficient degree of moral capital to induce the more lucid "pro-life" proponents to join with them to compel the federal government to support stem-cell research.

From gamete to zygote to embryo to fetus, the laws of society must reflect the laws of nature to retain their moral validity. Equating fertilized eggs with human beings is to equate possible and existing human life. To delay or obstruct stem-cell research and in so doing deny suffering and dying Americans the results of its potentially miraculous cures in order to sustain the dogmatic orthodoxy of an archaic, erroneous and unnatural definition of human life is unconscionably cruel.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Sickening Cost of American Healthcare

I knew that the United States spent more of its GNP on healthcare goods and services than any other nation on Earth, but I was amazed to discover the degree of that difference and how little we get in return.

According to the OECD, in 1960 the per capita cost of healthcare in America was only $144; by 2002 it had risen more than six times faster than the Consumer Price Index to $5,267. Most impressively, however, we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, by far. The United States spent 52% more per capita than the country with the second most expensive healthcare system on earth, Switzerland; 80% more than Canada; and 144% more than the United Kingdom.

Those are depressing numbers certainly, but they're justifiable because everyone knows that high quality healthcare is expensive. After all, the best healthcare system in the world should be the most expensive, shouldn't it? Imagine my chagrin when I stumbled upon the World Health Organization's World Health Report - 2000, however, and searched it's national rankings for the land of the free and the home of the brave. OK, so we weren't number one. We weren't number two or even number three. We weren't in the top five or the top ten either. I really started to get worried though when we didn't make the top twenty or the top thirty. Where did we end up? Thirty-seventh! I was amazed. The WHO had ranked the quality of healthcare in the United States as on par the quality of healthcare in Costa Rica and Slovenia!

Ironically and shamefully, insult was added to injury when I discovered that the nation with the world's best healthcare system was France. Sacre bleu! How was it possible for the French to spend less than $2,800 per person and receive the highest quality healthcare in the world when we spend nearly twice as much per person as they do and end up ranked thirty-seventh? Digging a little deeper, I noticed that per capita public expenditures in France ($2,080) were only slightly less than they were here ($2,364). It was in the private spending for healthcare that America really showed its stuff to the rest of the world. In 2002 per capita private expenditures for healthcare amounted to $656 in France, $883 in Canada and $359 in the UK. In the good old US of A, however, every man woman and child spent nearly three thousand dollars ($2,903) out of their own pockets, an impressive margin of victory by any standard. Each of us spent nearly four and a half times more than the French, nearly three and a half times more than the Canadians and eight times more than the British. What did we get in return for all of our hard-earned dollars? We got the worst possible result: developing world healthcare at industrialized world prices. By any measure, the privatization of healthcare must be considered to be a colossal failure both quantitatively and qualitatively.

But why? Why is the most common medical procedure in the United States a walletectomy? The competitive forces of the marketplace succeed marvelously in providing high quality goods and services at efficient prices in so many other industries. Why did they flop so resoundingly in this one? In other words, why did Reaganomics succeed so well in the airline and telecommunications industries, for example, but fail so abysmally in the healthcare industry?

The answer lies in the illusive quality of free choice. In a fair marketplace, both buyers and sellers possess variable degrees of choice. As the consumer's desire to buy and the producer's desire to sell change, prices fluctuate accordingly. When need replaces want in the pricing equation, however, the dynamics of supply and demand become moot. Marketplace conditions are immaterial when the choice is between sickness and health or between life and death. A hungry person may pay more for a sandwich than a sated one, but a staving person will pay anything.

Notwithstanding elective procedures, the provision of medical goods and services differs profoundly from most other human endeavors, such as air travel and telecommunications, because the buyer's choice is effectively eliminated from the purchasing decision. People may say, "It looks like a slow weekend. I think I'll call Aunt Martha. Better yet, I think I'll fly out to see her," but nobody says, "It looks like a slow weekend. I think I'll go get an appendectomy." The consumption of medical goods and sevices is based upon need, not desire, which eliminates the efficiencies inherent in fair market capitalism.

So what's Uncle Sam to do? Perhaps our elected representatives should hearken back to our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, for a clue. According to Jefferson, the only valid rationale for the very existence of government is to protect the "inalienable rights" of its citizenry, and that among these rights, are life, liberty and the pusuit of happiness. As the first of Jefferson's enumerated rights, life and health are the most fundamental of our natural rights. Contemporary civilized societies may choose to help educate the ignorant, clothe the naked or feed the hungry, but they must help cure the sick. It is the ultimate human entitlement.

Imagine for a moment that the federal government treated the second of Jefferson's "inalienable rights", the right to liberty, as cavalierly as it treats the first. Our armed forces protect our collective liberty from foreign conquest and our police forces protect our individual liberty from criminal exploitation. Why shouldn't the federal government disband our military and police forces and rely on the private marketplace to provide these services for us? After all, a large standing army and a federal police force are relatively recent developments in American history, and they're very expensive. Why don't the acolytes of Reaganomics contend that we should be as free to choose our own soldiers and policemen as we are to choose our own doctors and pharmacists? We could go back to receiving our collective protection from the armies of feudal lords and our individual protection from roving bands of gunslingers. What price would we be willing to pay these private providers to protect our liberties when foreign conquerors or local criminals threatened them? We would pay them pretty much the same amount as when injury or disease threatens our lives or the lives of our loved ones: anything they ask.

The days of pharmaceutical drug pushers and samurai surgeons selling their goods and services only to those who can afford to pay their exorbitant and collusive prices must end. Our elected representatives must honor their most fundamental obigation: to protect the lives of their constituents, not the bank accounts of their contributors.

The next time you're at the pharmacy or your doctor's office and peel off a hundred to pay the tab, it might help to ease your financial pain a bit to look down at the picture of the man whose face adorns the bill and recall the words he wrote 270 years ago:
"Necessity never made a good bargain."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Omniarchy and the European Constitution

Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of the birth of the "United States of Europe" have been greatly exaggerated.
As if the French rejection of the European Constitution wasn't bad enough, its overwhelming rejection by the Dutch seems to have sealed its doom.
The negative majorities in Europe last week affirmed a hoary American political principle: pandering paranoia pays political dividends. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the repressive slave laws of the ante-bellum South to the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 to the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 to the McCarran Act of 1954 to Cointelpro in the 1960's to the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the history of the United States abounds with examples of demagogic fearmongering.
Today, a majority of Western European voters appears to be afraid of social, political and economic change and would prefer to dip their nations in aspic than confront the future dynamically. Moreover, the proposed constitution gave the demagogues plenty of ammunition. They could whip up the masses with a plethora of terrors: increased immigration, fewer social welfare benefits, cultural amalgamation, the political tyranny of a centralized bureaucracy and the economic tyranny of unbridled corporate power to name but a few. In short, the citizens of France and the Netherlands voted to affirm the status quo.
Contemporary Americans cannot engage in any sanctimonious criticisms of the craven Europeans, however, because nations that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Examples of status quo worship abound here, as well. Afraid of economic competition? Lobby Congress to extend patent protections or grant your company sweetheart tax breaks, tariffs and subsidies. Afraid of privatizing Social Security? Simply ignore the actuaries and eschew offering any constructive alternatives. Afraid of "big government" controlling the administration of healthcare? Pass a bill that prevents the federal government from negotiating lower prices for pharmaceutical drugs. Afraid of having to earn your own money? Rescind estate taxes. Afraid that internationalism will inhibit American vigilantism? Support the nomination of a dogmatic unilateralist to become the Ambassodor to the United Nations. Afraid of religious terorrism? Support a massive increase in the defense budget, discretionary wars and boondoggle weapons programs such as Star Wars.
Both Americans and Europeans must find leaders that are able to convince their respective electorates that hope must transcend fear for cultural progress to occur. Change may discomfit the comfortable, but cultures must either advance or perish. Stagnation yields entropy inexorably. When risk-adverse nations face the future with more fear than hope, they ensure the realization of a self-fulfilling prophesy: the quality of life they provide to their citizens is certain to deteriorate.
Equitable opportunity, the opportunity to succeed as well as fail, must reign supreme on both sides of the Atlantic if the industrialized nations of the world hope to maintain or expand their cultural hegemonies. Americans must take the initiative in this regard and remember that only when ownership is a by-product of opportunity does it have any societal significance. The acts of achieving and acquiring are sacrosanct natural rights, but the achievements and acquisitions they yield are not. After all, it is our Declaration of Independence that stipulates that the ultimate rationale for the existence of government is to safeguard mankind's three most fundamental rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not the possession of it.
We must show the demagogues, both at home and abroad, that equitable opportunity within fair markets and a free society is the possession we prize most highly and that complacency, not change, is our greatest fear. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America:
"The prospect really does frighten me that they [the Americans] may finally become so engrossed in a cowardly love of immediate pleasures that their interest in their own future and in that of their descendants may vanish, and that they will prefer tamely to follow the course of their destiny rather than make a sudden energetic effort necessary to set things right."
The primary lesson of the failure of the European Constitution is clear: America does not have a monopoly on myopia.

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