For at least five thousand years - and I am certain way before that if you take into account the advanced state of civilization in ancient China 20,000 years earlier - there has been a well known balance fulcrum of rationality known as the golden mean. Linguistically it could have been called many things in many languages but in English it is the golden mean, a centrist phenomenon.
In societal terms the golden mean expresses a concept of universal access to the activities of any society and a practical absence of pernicious extremes.
In this condition attitudes are essentially beneficent and at least socially satisfied. People who actively participate in the society are able to derive effective benefits from that participation.
This describes a society that does not exist anywhere on the planet. It speaks to a point or direction toward which intelligent people strive. Like the concept of perfection, we never ever get there, and the only question is how many mean deviations we are removed from it. Mean deviations are an econometric reference to the extent of departure from a line of process, aberrations of various strengths and impact values.
Illustratively, using temperance as the measured factor - something with which I have had little or no experience - abstinence is the extreme of one variation and drunkenness is the extreme of the other. Moderate tippling is the golden mean and provides happiness and well being. Medicine is now recognizing this publicly, having overcome its reluctance to speak of anything in a socially risky manner. In another way, as my friends would say, we really don't want to have anything to do with anyone who does not drink every single day. It's good for your health, in moderation.
In years gone by, I enjoyed the auspicious status to be the person who's drinking habits were the benchmark for bad behavior. If I hosted a party where adults drank too much and didn't feel good for a week or so, their wives would call up whoever I was married to or living with at the time and complain loudly that I had gotten their husbands/their husbands and their entire law firms drunk and caused them to behave intemperately. I became the antichrist of sobriety to the wives of my colleagues, and gratefully was not included in any of their guest lists. Being angry with me became a hallmark of sorts for how a decent wife should react to anyone socializing with me. My responses to these charges were colorful to say the least and a story in themselves.
Today depressurizing at a bar with one's acquaintances is recognized as a valid form of therapy. The guys who stop at the pub on the way home and leave after a few drinks and a few laughs are never accused of spousal abuse. They arrive home in good spirits with a happier frame of mind than if they had carried their daily emotional load home and dumped it on their wives. But this is really not about drinking so let's move on.
People are strongly influenced by the balance between their attention to duty and their resulting ability to improve their economic and social standing. In a centrist regime that balance is an effective regulator of perspective and conduct (in the absence of mental disease). How that has worked in the United States and elsewhere provides good laboratory conditions for illustrating the point of this article.
Anyone interested in history knows that societies in the west (including Russia) have moved from absolutist monarchical rule to feudalism as part of the absolute monarch support resource, and then either to some form of capitalist construct either directly or following revolution. Kings cannot function without the economic support of a wealthy aristocracy and kings can endow or strip wealth at whim unless they perceive the risks of losing aristocratic support in times of financial need (think wartime). One of the perks given to aristocrats is being landed with its accompanying functional ownership of all people on the land. The landless have no rights until government morphs into some form of universal suffrage.
The French revolution scared every other monarch half to death. They feared the spread of the disease of individual rights, parliaments and public voting. Unwilling to permit those phenomena until it was too late, Russia ended up with revolution just like the French but with much worse consequences. Treat people with enough cruelty and privation and their sense of having nothing to lose eventually overcomes their sense of fear. Off came the heads of royalty and aristocrats in France and Russia, but in Russia the situation had become so desperate that the doctrine of a dictatorship of the proletariat became the law of the land - now seen as just another form of corrupt absolutist government.
The symptoms of each of these upheavals were the same. The concentration of power and wealth in the hands of very few who were also the driving influence of the government so changed the perception of the people that the system failed. People who come to believe that no matter how hard they work, they cannot be upwardly mobile will happily organize into unions and other collective groups/associations to force change. The frustrations of individuals can only be corrected through collective action. Individuals can do nothing. The cobbler who goes out of business because the big shoe factory comes to town goes out of business and gets a job working for the big shoe factory, at wages and working conditions that disable his accumulation of sufficient capital to re-enter the business world. Entrepreneurship is no longer a factor even though the thought of entrepreneurship is fraudulently sold to frustrated workers who end up bankrupt. Today in America we see thousands upon thousands of defrauded franchise owners working for nothing; never breaking even; economically foreclosed from realizing even the slightest significant economies through the force of draconian agreements.
Most people in America simply don't believe that something like this could ever happen here. They ignore the attempts to control government by the wealthiest through political action committees acting through bribery and collusion. Few Americans are aware of the degree to which the very small percentage of the wealthiest at the top are concentrating ownership of critical resources. People are now the easiest asset to bury simply through layoffs that rarely are followed by recalls.
Plutocrats like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates try to bring this to the attention of America, but Americans continue to ignore the processes inflicted upon them. When they move from displaced "executive" (a total fiction) to defrauded small business owner and finally into bankruptcy court they simply cannot appreciate how this was allowed to happen in this country.
This is not the first time we have experienced this. The industrial revolution was followed by concentration of wealth. The Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, assisted by the swindlers like Morgan, Hill and other purveyors of worthless investments to the public, somewhat like the Lehman Brothers, Bank of America and the insurance companies who sold worthless mortgage backed securities that even the youngest among us can remember in real time, controlled government - just as they do now to such an enormous degree.
Visionaries like Theodore Roosevelt and the leaders of the progressive movement in America at the end of the 19th century, using antitrust and securities regulation laws, barely prevented a new revolution, aided by World War One and followed by the Great Depression. FDR pressing new progressivism based upon collectivization of political power to enable economic mobility, and the demand pent up during World War Two brought wealth to many. Concerted action by the many through various forms of collectivization (think political parties as one such form) enforced this until the Eisenhower administration. Kennedy and Johnson administrations further enabled individual growth until the Nixonian era brought wage and price controls. Price controls were a fiction because the Nixon plan enabled avoidance through daisy chaining sales through several entities with small price increases at each such event until price increases were what they would have been without controls at all. But wage controls had no such fire escapes. Workers became subject to doors of economic growth being slammed in their faces.
That system never works and it certainly did not work in America. Nixon's Vice President Spiro Agnew went to prison for felonious tax fraud and Nixon left in lieu of being tried for high crimes and misdemeanors - to use the language of impeachments. Government was sold to the American equivalent of oligarchs. Reagan followed with similar anti labor/anti people policies, and the process continued until the Bush family just about ruined everything that could be ruined, domestically and internationally through bogus wars lasting over 15 years.
Fed up with being relegated to serf status politically and economically, Americans threw the bums out and elected our first African American President, a Democrat humanist who pushed programs to enable people to have access to medical care. Imagine that in America at the end of the 20th century millions of Americans had no access to essential health care other than emergency rooms and charity. Hard to believe isn't it.
Now we are at the beginning of another election cycle. The Obama administration is near its end. The Republicans seem to have learned nothing from the past eight years, and are still anti immigration, anti open access medical care, anti women's rights and urging us once more to put our people into another war in the Middle East - as if losing during the last 15 years the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not an adequate lesson about wasting our human capital for no valid reason. When our adversaries are busy killing each other off, why would anyone with any sense at all want to interrupt them? And since intervening in that struggle serves no rational purpose, we only have to look to those who would profit from such stupidity to be able to identify the promoters of it.
History has taught those of us who have paid attention that intervening in places like Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan is a huge mistake. The French showed us how to get one's ass kicked in Viet Nam and the Russians preceded us in getting theirs kicked in the Middle East. What does it take to recognize that fighting 19th century wars in the 21st century is just plain stupid. Even if it were in our interests to do so, until we learn asymmetrical warfare we are just throwing good money after bad and condemning many of our best young people to be sacrificed for nothing. Not doing stupid things repeatedly is a sign of rationality. What then is it a sign of when people continue to repeat what was a total loss? Nineteenth century warfare in an asymmetrical world is to expect a different result without changing the stimulus. Who is foolish enough to put faith in that kind of thinking or decision making?
Where is our search for our own golden mean? Who among us is even searching for it? At this particular juncture in governmental reconfiguration, we should be empowering our less fortunate brothers and sisters to the point at which they perceive some present and future interest in promoting their own sense of achievement instead of burglary and armed robbery and worse. If our leaders are irresponsible, how can we expect the least among us to see a reward in being responsible?
We must accept responsibility for ourselves before we try to dictate the terms of social existence to others. We are nowhere near that yet. That is why absurd, hateful people like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckaby and Donald Trump are seeking high office. If we give high positions to people like that we can be assured of a truly miserable position in the world and a lot of misery at home.
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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