Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lessons from the Roman Republic

Although Rome is famous for its vast empire, few realize that Rome was once a republic. In 509 B.C.E. the Roman nobility replaced the Etruscan monarchy with an aristocratic republic. Designed for a small city-state, the government consisted of two consuls with executive power, who were elected by an assembly who wielded legislative authority. This assembly was made up of wealthy aristocrats who spoke on behalf of all Roman people. Since the wealthy dominated the Senate and made all major decisions on behalf of all Romans, tensions rose between the common people and the aristocrats. With tensions rising between socioeconomic classes, the patricians (wealthy members of society) allowed the common people to elect officials called tribunes to represent them in the government. Because of this, Rome became a more participatory republic.
Meanwhile, Rome was expanding its territory with its highly disciplined military, and it was establishing its presence around the Mediterranean basin. New land and wealth brought power to Rome, which would eventually account for Rome's republican downfall. Wealth and power brought benefits for some, but problems for many. The Roman constitution no longer was effective now that Rome had expanded beyond a small city-state and was now a vast empire. Class tensions rose due to the unequal redistribution of wealth and land.
People who tried to fix Rome's problems were assassinated by the conservative and aristocratic leaders trying to maintain their political status and power. Political power remained in the hands of the wealthy and the privileged, instead of opportunity being distributed throughout all classes of Roman society. When it was clear that the constitution needed reworking, Roman civil and military leaders started personal armies of common people to gain power. In the first century B.C.E. Rome fell into civil war. Eventually, Julius Caesar rose to power and even though he established an imperial form of government, he favored liberal policies and social reform and because he alienated many of the Roman elite and favored the common people, the elite assassinated him on March 15, 44 B.C.E.
Today, in America, problems such as the rule of an elite class of citizens and unequal redistribution of wealth, are real. We are a country that brings in wealth and power. How can the government positively deal with these benefits of a powerful nation? Redistribution of obtained wealth will prevent the wealth and power being consolidated in an elite class. If it is aimed at the elite class, political power is sure to follow. Self-government cannot become a reality if wealth and power are aimed at the privileged since the wealthy will obtain political power that was once in the hands of the people. Equal social and economic opportunity are basic axioms of an enlightened and democratic society and by aiming them at a certain class, putting the interests of others to the side, our republican experiment has failed.

Join me in a study of past republics!

Recently, I have decided to do a study of past republics on this blog, and together we may be able to see what we can learn from them. These will be republics ranging from the beginning of time to the creation of our republic, the United States of America. We will look mainly at the reasons that the republics failed, but we will also look at some of their triumphs. It is important that we study history so that we may learn from its mistakes and its failures, so that we may improve on them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Still on Top

On the computer one day, I happily typed in "United States Economy" into Wikipedia, hoping that a page would come up that I could skim, and find some useful information to store in the back of my head. I was surprised to find that even though most Americans feel like our economy is falling, we are still on top. Our nominal GDP is still three times the size of the world's second largest economy, Japan. Our GDP by Purchasing Power Parity is twice that of China, the competitor today. I find that we were number two on the Global Competitiveness Report. I thought that we would be second to China, which many Americans would agree with that guess. We were second, however, to Switzerland. So then I thought to myself, what makes the countries other than us economic powerhouses. Most of these countries are European, and many on the right would say "Oh they are socialist, we don't want to be like them at all." Let's look at Sweden and Denmark, who come in at four and five. Sweden has a mixed economy that depends on foreign trade and it has very skilled workers. This may get many right-wingers scratching their heads, but they have a government-funded health care system. Sweden has deregulated its economy since the 1990's but it is still more regulated than ours is today. Now let's move to Denmark. The country boasts the lowest level of income inequality and the highest minimum wage in the world. This country has granted its people a lot of economic freedom compared to other European countries, which can also account for its high ranking. Get this, Denmark also has an almost entirely funded health care system. Now that just doesn't make sense. Low income inequality, high minimum wage, and a government-run health-care system? I wrote this to show that some economies that may seem to be more socialized or "socialistic" than ours, sometimes work. I am not saying that America should be socialist, but I am saying that the countries that will be at the top of the Global Competitiveness Report most likely will not be advocates of laissez-faire capitalism. The other note is that socialized medicine does not ruin an economy the way many people on the right would suggest. If we do not fix our health care system or find a way to fix the financial sectors of our economy, we will be ruined and the answer is a middle-way between socialism and the free-market. I predict that America will be on top of the economy for many years, but if these issues are not addressed reasonably through a study of history and experience, we be knocked off. But for now, we are still #1 overall.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Favorite Constitutional Clauses

1. The Preamble- Thanks to this section we have popular self-government. "We the people..."
2. The Commerce Clause- Allows the government to regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations.
3. Necessary and Proper Clause- Allows the government to do what is necessary and proper to complete its assigned tasks. Much needed for a liberal construction of the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton would agree.
4. Taxing and Spending Clause- Justifying spending towards the public good and interest. Good stuff.
5. National Supremacy Clause- The Supreme Law of the Land. End of story, the end, goodbye.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Call for Health Care Reform

Today, the special interests are pumping out the lies about health care reform, especially reform that offers a public option. 47 million are uninsured and many have poor-quality care that give them little coverage, but this coverage still costs a large amount of money. 8 out of 10 working poor families are uninsured and in a recession people are losing their jobs, and jobs are the source of 90% of working Americans' health care. These numbers will only go up if competition is not created that will help lower premiums. Our country spends more on health care than any other advanced country, and we still don't get any results. Why? Because there is a huge flaw in the system.
To tell you the truth, I really don't think reform will be as effective if it does not include a public option or some sort of move towards universal coverage. Attacks are coming left and right of the public option. Conservatives are angry because people won't have to work for a "privilege" like a good health care plan. Health care is not a privilege, but it will soon be one if action is not taken. If it were a privilege, people who don't have good health care would not go into poverty if they got sick. Having a television is a privelege and if I don't have one, it does not dramatically affect my life or put me in bankruptcy like health care can do. Right now health care to most people is a necessity and if the market cannot make it accessible to everyone, than the government may have to use its guiding hand to point us in the right direction. We must be reminded that a public option still requires citizens to pay for health care offered in its exchange, so the public option is not just an incentive to do nothing.
Many people ask how we will pay for a public option. Reducing the number of deductions the wealthy can take would help pay for a large portion of the public option. Some will say that the wealthy create jobs and deserve tax cuts to keep creating those jobs. If that were true, the Bush tax cuts would be reinstated and the number of jobs being lost in this recession would not be so high. If we had a country that achieved shared prosperity, worked towards providing everyone with equal economic opportunity, and didn't favor a minority over the majority, we wouldn't need health care reform so urgently. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to the middle-class, but the past eight years weren't in your favor and didn't want to provide you with financial security. Even though the deficit is high, due to low taxes during an expensive war and no fiscal responsibility shown by the Bush administration, universal coverage (or at least something close to it) is needed now. People are losing their jobs, a huge source of people's coverage. If we do nothing, people will lose jobs, lose their health care, the government will keep spending billions on health care and get no results (leading to a higher deficit than what a public option would eventually lead to), and then America is in worst shape than it was before.
There is also the complaint about expanding government. George Bush expands the executive department at the expense of the other two branches, discards the rule of law and open debate in the name of unity, makes foreign policy an "executive only thing", and wiretaps American citizens without a warrant and with little judicial oversight; no complaints. Obama wants a health care plan that will drive down premiums, provide quality care at a cheap price to compete and keep insurers honest, and he wants everyone to have health care that will keep them standing when an illness tries to kick them down; people start complaining. I must remind everyone that there are only a select few, who if they don't have quality care, will avoid financial ruin if they get seriously sick.
Many are also concerned that the health care industry will suffer from a government monopoly. A public option needs to create competition that is healthy, not the kind that hurts. Private insurers will still be encouraged to compete, and honest and reliable insurers will be able to lower prices and compete with the public option. Those who will be weeded out are those who have been cheating the American people for decades.
There are economic reasons to achieve major reform; security for the poor and competition in the health care industry. There are also moral reasons for major reform; help the poor and help the disadvantaged obtain security when they get seriously ill, and force greedy company's to be honest. Financial ruin should not be an end result of a serious illness. The American people have spoken. The special interests and small minorities who don't want everyone to have affordable and quality health care cannot stop us. If there is a time for this to be done, it is now. If there is a moment in which all the American people won't have to worry about getting sick and heading towards financial ruin, that moment is coming. The alternative is national ruin and insecurity.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Check Out This Site

Everyone who checks out my blog needs to look at this site. is a neutral site, in fact, Dick Cheney encouraged people to check it out when he debated Edwards in 2004. The special interests and the small minorities (that look huge but are actually a tiny fraction of the population) will not stop the American people from having good and quality healthcare. The myths and lies that are being spread just show us how deceiving small groups of people can really have.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To all my readers:

Do not read the last post in a mean, nasty voice. Thank you.