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Two years ago this July, the scientific team at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, used the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, the most important "missing" particle of the Standard Model of modern particle physics. The work of the CERN team was filmed by theoretical physicists Mark Levinson and  David Kaplan, who used over 500 hours of film footage to create a 99 minute documentary, Particle Fever, which was released in July 2013.

The film is a joy to watch.

I especially liked the use of the chorale movement of Beethoven's Ninth at the moment on 4 July 2012 that the LHC provided evidence of the Higgs boson. If you need a lift; if you need a break from all the mayhem and madness of today's politics; if you want to weep tears of joy, watch the film.


A computer generated map of the particle paths generated by a collision of two sub-atomic particles traveling near the speed of light. Source: CERN Press Office Photo Selection.

But that's not what I want to focus on this evening. Near the beginning of the film, Kaplan is shown addressing people in an auditorium somewhere, explaining the search for the Higgs boson, and how its "discovery" will validate the theories of the Standard Model. At 20 minutes into Particle Fever, a member of the audience gets up and asks:

“Let’s assume you’re successful and everything comes out OK. What do we gain from it? What’s the economic return? How do you justify all this?”

Then, as if to strike terror into his listeners -- or perhaps to validate his own importance in the face of a superior intellect of a, you know, actual scientist -- the questioner adds, “By the way, I am an economist.”

More below...

Now, I can't decide if Levinson and Kaplan have done a greater service to humanity by providing a popular and entertaining explanation of the quest for the Higgs boson, or by allowing some unnamed arrogant economist, in a few short breaths, to show us quite precisely what is fundamentally wrong with modern economics as a discipline, and the whole cult of conservative / neo-liberal economics thinking that demands everything be justified solely by its ability to create a "profit."

Again, you have to watch the film to see how perfect is Kaplan's reply.

After the nervous laughter of the audience reacting to the sudden self-revelation in their midst of a high priest of money, Kaplan broke the tension by replying, “I don’t hold it against you.” Then he leaned toward the audience, and said, “It’s a very, very simple answer.” The audience hushed expectantly, and Kaplan gave them the big scientific zinger:

“I have no idea. (pause) We have no idea.”

When the laughter subsided, Kaplan continued. “When radio waves were discovered, they weren’t called radio waves, because there were no radios. They were discovered as some sort of radiation.”

“Basic science, for big breakthroughs, needs to occur at a level where you’re not asking what is the economic gain, but where you’re asking: What do we not know?” And, Where can we make progress?"

(The next scene in the film is great, showing one of the five story tall arrays of electronic sensors and instruments, all custom designed and hand soldered, but I digress. I will, however, toss in these great pictures from CERN to give you an idea of the epic scale of the LHC.


View inside the particle accelerator tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Source: CERN Press Office Photo Selection.

One of the massive instrumentation clusters of the LHC at CERN. One of the observers in the picture is a very special person. Can you guess who? Source: CERN Press Office Photo Selection.

The exchange between Kaplan and the economist goes to the heart of an issue I have been struggling to elucidate for the past couple years. I want to tie together in one neat package the creation of the United States as a constitutional republic, what the political economy of a republic should be, and the centrality of science to republican political economy. The obstacle I find is that the most important economic activity any society undertakes -- the creation, dissemination, and application of new scientific and technological knowledge -- is not even taught as basic economics. Everybody has been mis-educated (perhaps mal-educated would be a better word) about economics.

For example: what is wealth? Is it really hoards of cash, or stockpiles of precious metals? Consider: Why do we have computers now, when there were none 200 or 500 or more years ago? Certainly, 500 years ago, all the raw materials that go into making a computer were available. There was lots of silicon laying around, and there was a lot of petroleum, with which to make plastics, sitting in the ground. There was the same presence of germanium and silver, and copper, and whatever else is needed to make a computer, 500 years ago, as there is today. What is so different today that we can make computers now, but could not 500 years ago? The answer, of course, is knowledge - we first had to develop, acquire, and master, the various facets of science that allowed us to make use of those latent natural resources, then apply that science to actual physical processes of production, or what we call technology. So what wealth really is, is the human power of thinking: reason, investigation, hypothesizing, testing, figuring out why things are the way they are -- and then figuring out how that new knowledge can be used to change the way things are.

If you start off with a mal-educated idea of what wealth is, how can you possibly ever measure how wealthy a society is?

Here's a little mental exercise. Assume one day in the not too distant future the most extreme candidates of the Tea Party / conservative / libertarian / Republican  elements of the US population come to power, and they enact a law deporting all scientists and engineers who refuse to take an oath repudiating evolution, the science of climate change, and the idea that the world is older than 6,000 years. What would be the impact on US gross domestic product in five years? In ten years? In 20 or 30 or more years? Do you have any doubt that in that sort of Tea Party dream land, the United States would inexorably slide into technological atrophy, then economic collapse you can’t even imagine, and finally violent social upheaval?

Without the constant development of new science and technology, any society will become impoverished, and will eventually collapse. Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, examines how societies descend inexorably into collapse when they ignore environmental limitations and mismanage their natural resources. The key point that most readers of Diamond miss is that a society’s environmental limitations are defined only within a fairly specific period of time based on the prevailing technological mode of that society’s economy. Any society that remains stuck in one technological mode will eventually bump up against environmental limitations: what is considered a resource and how much of it is readily available and usable.

All an economy really is, is how a society organizes itself to procure and process raw materials (natural resources) to create and distribute what is needed to sustain and reproduce human life.

And this is true even for societies that are not technologically advanced, and which we think is “sustainable.” Because, how do we know it’s sustainable? We need some measure of that society’s capacity for transforming natural resources into useful   material and services, and we need some measure of the resource base of that society. You cannot get such measures without some level of science, and science applied as technology, to get at the answers. Unless you’re willing to settle for this method of measuring such things: Wait and see if a catastrophic extinction event occurs or not. If and extinction event does not occur, congratulations you have developed a sustainable economy. If it does occur, well, saying “oops” just won’t cut it. And what if the extinction event does not occur until the next generation?

So the most important economic activity a society engages in is the pursuit of new scientific and technological knowledge that allows that society's economy to avoid environmental limitations and inefficient misuse of natural resources. This is one of those wonderful, mysterious paradoxes of life: basic scientific research has no measurable immediate payback but nonetheless is THE most important economic activity that occurs in a society. Recall Kaplan's answer to the economist.

In the United States, there are already many indications and markers of our collapse. Since the social shift from a market economy to a market society began under Ronald Reagan, we've spent three decades now matriculating nearly twice as many MBAs and accountants, as we have biologists, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers. Industrial companies that took a half century or more to build up a level of technological excellence that was formerly envied around the world, have been bought and sold and bought and sold, restructured, reorganized, streamlined, had the fat cut out, had hidden value released, downsized – call it what you will, the truth is those companies have been asset stripped and looted. We’ve been doing that for nearly half a century now. Since Reagan’s first election, our national debt has increased by a factor of double an order of magnitude, from just over $900 billion, to nearly $17 trillion.  Our trade balance has been increasingly negative. These are all not independent phenomena and developments; they are all inter-dependent in a complex web of cause and effect that, if our society were sane -- instead of crazed with the market fundamentalists' worship of mammon -- some of our best scientific minds would be devoted to investigating and understanding. Instead, we have allowed a banking and financial system, "deregulated" from any responsibility or concern for the general welfare, to induce many of our best scientific minds to create credit default swaps and other financial instruments of mass destruction.

So, science is the most important aspect of the political economy of a republic. Why is this so hard to understand? Part of the problem here is that when the United States was founded, the concept of capitalism, as we know it today, had not yet been fully formed. That would happen over the next century. You can search the texts of the Constitution and The Federalist Papers in vain for the words "capitalism" and "capitalist" (thank God for archived books and computerized search functions). The word "capitalism" did not really come into common usage until after Marx's Das Kapital was published in 1867.

So I have never agreed with the interpretation of American history, most popular on the left, that the United States was founded as an irredeemably oppressive and exploitative capitalist system. The very concept of capitalism was unknown at the time of the nation's founding, so how could the country be founded as a capitalist economy?  I am not about to deny the obvious ugliness of much of U.S. economic history. But I think we blind ourselves to our true enemies if we don't realize that the US economy developed in the context of a continual battle between republicans and their enemies, oligarchs and aristocrats. These last were not necessarily titled nobility, though there was no shortage of those. And make no mistake, they wished only ill for the US. There were also commoners, nominally citizens of the US republic, whose avarice and greed for power made them the functional equivalent of oligarchs. Closer to our time, Franklin Roosevelt called these deformed creatures "economic royalists." Today, "Wall Street" and "the one percent" are terms often used to denote these "economic royalists". It’s about time we begin to take seriously the concept of “domestic enermies” mentioned in the Constitution.

So as the US economy developed, there raged a fierce, often bitter contest, between  progressives who looked to the Founders for inspiration on the one hand, and, on the other hand, reactionaries, revanchists, and perhaps most often, simply self-centered pricks, who hated the ideas of self government and the general welfare because those ideas created manifold obstacles to their drive to accumulate wealth and power.

But a more weighty reason why there has never been a clear statement of the central role science must play in the economic affairs of the republic is simply that, two and a quarter centuries ago, the importance of science was simply an assumed given, much as it was assumed at the time that most Americans understood what a "republic" was. The creation of the United States is clearly an outgrowth of the Enlightenment, but what is important to understand is that the scientific Enlightenment went hand in hand with the political Enlightenment. In his 2010 book, The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature, American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow Timothy Ferris argues that they are inseparable. More, even – Ferris argues that it was the Scientific Revolution that enabled the Enlightenment, not the other way around. The “democratic revolution,” Ferris writes,

was sparked—caused is perhaps not too strong a word—by the scientific revolution, and…science continues to foster political freedom today. It’s not just that scientific creativity has produced technological improvements, which in turn have enhanced the prosperity and security of the scientific nations, although that is part of the story, but that the freedoms protected by liberal democracies are essential to facilitating scientific inquiry, and that democracy itself is an experimental system without which neither science nor liberty can flourish…. science is inherently anti-authoritarian. In order to qualify as scientific, a proposition must be vulnerable to experimental testing. If it repeatedly fails such tests it tends to fall by the wayside, regardless of who supported it or how much it may have seemed to make sense. (pages 3-4)

The Orrery, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1766, used as the cover illustration on Tim Ferris's book, The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system, showing the motions of the planets, though rarely to scale.

It is worth noting here that Ferris' argument handily destroys the American conservative mythology of democracy and liberty arising from property rights. So it is unfortunate that most historians have ignored science and political economy, and have been more interested in researching and writing military and political histories. In 1976, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger wrote,

Professional scholars have been slow to study the progress of science and technology, partly because of their penchant for political [and military] history, and partly because, even with the rise of social and intellectual history, they have been daunted by the unfamiliar and formidable subject matter. At certain points, it is true, they have touched upon epoch-making mechanical inventions which had self-evident economic consequences, but these occasional references fall far short of depicting the pervasive and continuing role of science in all ranges of American life. -- “An American Historian Looks at Science and Technology,” in Early American Science , edited by Brooke Hindle, Science History Publications, New York City, 1976, page 7.
The founder who absolutely personifies the union of the scientific and political Enlightenments is Benjamin Franklin. His experiments with electricity were at the cutting edge of science in his time. Pulitzer prize winning historian Joseph Ellis has written that Franklin today would be the equivalent of a Nobel Prize winning scientist. In fact, Franklin was actually given, in 1753, what was then the most prestigious award for scientific achievement in the world: the Copley Gold Medal, by the Royal Society in  London.  

In 1743, Franklin proposed the creation of the American Philosophical Society, modeled on his earlier "Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge Among the British Plantations in North America.'' Note the inclusion of the phrase "Useful Knowledge" in Franklin's original proposal. According to the bylaws formulated by Franklin, there were always to be, among the members of the Society, "a physician, a botanist, a mathematician, a chemist, a mechanician, a geographer, and a general natural philosopher.'' In the mid-1700s, these were all leading positions of scientific inquiry and activity. The members of the Society, Franklin stipulated, were to gather and share information concerning "all philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things, tend to increase the power of man over matter, and multiply the conveniences or pleasures of life.'' That meant monitoring closely developments in horticulture, botany, animal husbandry, geology, mines and minerals, advances in mathematics and chemistry, useful inventions and improvements in labor-saving mechanical devices of all types, new processes and techniques of manufactures, surveys, maps and charts, and geology.  Franklin would later put forward a similar proposal for an Academy of higher learning in Philadelphia; this would eventually become the University of Pennsylvania, which today proudly claims Franklin as its founder.

Another founding member of the American Philosophical Society was Franklin’s friend, John Bartram, at the time perhaps the world's leading botanist and horticulturist. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist and zoologist who created the modern biological naming scheme of using two  Latin grammatical forms (for example, Acer saccharum is the scientific name for the sugar maple tree) called Bartram the "greatest natural botanist in the world." Bartram's 8-acre botanic garden, on the west bank of the Schuylkill River about three miles southwest from the center of Philadelphia, is considered to be the first scientific botanic collection in North America. Bartram died in 1777, so he did not play much of a role in the Revolution.

The third leader in establishing the American Philosophical Society was another friend of Franklin, Dr. Thomas Bond, a leading physician and surgeon of the time. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Bond has been called the "Father of Clinical Medicine." He developed an effective splint for fractures of the lower arm, which became known as a "Bond splint." Recall that in this era, fractured limbs often resulted in gangrene and loss of the limb, and very often, death. The medical profession, at that time was considered to be one of the most important in science. In 1750, Dr. Bond sought the assistance of Franklin in establishing the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the first medical facility in the American colonies. According to Wikipedia, the Hospital "quickly drew attention as a center for medical advancement, especially in maternity care and the humane treatment of mental illness, a poorly understood area of medicine at the time." During the Revolutionary War, Bond, in his sixties, was assisted by his son in creating the medical department of the Continental Army, and establishing the first field hospitals. (Bond as co-founder of the American Philosophical Society. is from "The Quaker Background and Science in Colonial Philadelphia," by Brooke Hindle, in Early American Science , edited by Brooke Hindle, Science History Publications, New York City, 1976, page 176.)

A list of the earliest members of the American Philosophical Society speaks for itself:  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, Tadeusz Kościuszko, James McHenry, David Rittenhouse, Nicholas Biddle, Owen Biddle, Benjamin Rush, and John Marshall.

David Rittenhouse was another close friend of Franklin  He was a surveyor, mathematician, inventor, clockmaker, designer and manufacturer of scientific instruments, and the foremost astronomer in North America. He surveyed and marked the 12-mile circle centered on the Court House in New Castle, Delaware, which comprises the northern border of Delaware. He also surveyed parts of the boundaries of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

President Washington appointed Rittenhouse the first director of the United States Mint, a crucial position that involved much more than the supervision of the Mint: Rittenhouse supervised the Mint’s design, construction, equipping, and start up. Rittenhouse built what is thought to be one of the first telescopes in the US, and designed and built the world's first diffraction grating with a spacing of about 1/100 of an inch. Rittenhouse was one of the special committee appointed by the Society to observe and report on the June 3, 1769 transit of Venus across the sun. According to Wikipedia,

On February 24, 1775, Rittenhouse delivered a lecture on the history of astronomy to the American Philosophical Society, in which he linked the structure of nature to the rights of man, liberty and self-government. Rittenhouse also used the occasion to decry slavery.  So impressed were those in attendance that the American Philosophical Society commissioned the speech to be printed and distributed to delegates of the Second Continental Congress when they arrived in 1776.

The drawing of the 1769 transit of Venus made by David Rittenhouse for the American Philosophical Society. Source: Wikipedia.

Owen Biddle, Sr. was, like Rittenhouse, a clockmaker, watchmaker, and an astronomer. He became involved in the Revolutionary cause as early as 1765, when he signed the Non-importation Resolutions of October 25. He served on the Committee of Safety, then on the Council of Safety. These were the organizations that exercised de facto political and administrative control of the various colonies, as the royal governors lost influence and power. Biddle was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of July 15, 1776. In June, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Biddle as Deputy Commissary General of Forage for the Continental Army, with the rank of colonel. Biddle was another member of the special committee of the American Philosophical Society to observe and report on the June 3, 1769 transit of Venus. In 1782, Biddle was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, two years after that organization was founded by the Massachusetts legislature, with a Charter of Incorporation instructing it "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people."

There was a generalized understanding and support for science among the founders, including those who were not scientists. For example, of all his many accomplishments, John Adams took the most pride in the Constitution he wrote for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Look at Chapter V, Section II:

Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
"Cherish the interests of literature and the sciences"! Compare that to the anti-science political hooliganism of conservatives, Tea-baggers, and Republicans today. At six minutes into Particle Fever, Levinson and Kaplan include two clips of Republican Congressmen, Sherwood Boehlert and Joel Hefly, speaking on the floor of the House in 1992 against the Superconducting Super Collider, then in process of construction near Waxahachie, Texas. The Superconducting Super Collider had a planned ring circumference of 54 miles, and would have collided particles with an energy of 20 terravolts per proton, nearly three times the level possible with the Hadron Large Collider at CERN. But the US Congress voted to cut all funding for the Superconducting Super Collider in 1993, and it was abandoned long before being completed. It would, of course, have come online and made possible the Higgs boson experiments probably a full decade before the CERN HLC. Of course, no one talks about a "lost decade" of basic research in particle physics. Only the "lost decade" in Japan -- during which financiers and usurers were unable to keep pumping up the values of the assets they held.

"Rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country." One of the reasons agricultural machinery developed more quickly in the USA than other countries is that the committees which ran State Fairs made it a practice of awarding tidy sums of money for the most advanced machinery brought to the Fair. In the 1840s and 1850s, the great problem to be solved was the application of steam power to agricultural production. It simply was not very safe to move a working steam engine under pressure on anything but the prepared bed and smooth surface of a railroad. Reynold M. Wik writes, in Steam Power on the American Farm (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1953):

Although somewhat crude in appearance, the portable engines built in the 1850's possessed all the basic features necessary for successful operation. They were self-acting, with tubular boilers, governors, safety values, and a forced draft. Most of them were simple in construction and could be purchased with or without trucks. Their manufacture was encouraged by many of the state agricultural societies, which offered cash awards, diplomas, and medals at county and state fairs. The Hoard and Bradford engine received favorable comment from the judges of the New York State Fair in the summer of 1851. In awarding the company a medal, the committee remarked that the engine was built in portable form which could be as "conveniently removed from place to place and set up as readily as a common stove." The Virginia State Agricultural Society held mechanical exhibits in Richmond in 1855, and premiums as high as one hundred dollars were awarded for the best farm engines. (page 20)

"Busting sod" in 1910 with a steam traction engine manufactured by the Geiser Co., Waynesboro, Penn. Note the men in front of and besides the large rear wheel. From the files of my business, Nation Builder Books.

Here is John Adams, again, from his 1765 A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers…. The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country.
Does this sound like a guy intent on erecting a new exploitative economic regime geared toward grinding down and exploiting working men and women?

"Their great Creator." I want to discuss that whole idea of God a bit, because it is central to the Enlightenment belief in science and self-government. The key concepts here are the divine spark of reason, and Imago Dei, man created in the image of God. These concepts were the foundation of the Enlightenment and the development of science. Basically, the Enlightenment was based on the belief that God was not arbitrary and capricious, and the universe was therefore created lawfully (that is, according to invariable laws, i.e., two plus two will always equal four, or the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle will always be equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides); that man is a creature of reason, and can thus inquire into and understand the laws of creation. Or put it this way: we can inquire into and understand the laws of physics, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and so on. This capacity for reason and understanding creation is what makes each individual precious and unique. It is why we assert that "all men are created equal."  

This Enlightenment view of science permeated the society. Here is part of a sermon, entitled "The Dignity of Man," delivered in Franklin, Massachusetts in 1786. The good people of Franklin, it appears, having honored the great man by naming their town after him, were in turn honored by him. The full subtitle I think points to how this whole concept characterized the epoch: "A Discourse Addressed to the Congregation in Franklin, Upon the Occasion of Their receiving from Dr. Franklin, the Mark of his Respect, in a Rich Donation of Books, Appropriated to the Use of a Parish-Library."

...what has been said concerning the nature and dignity of man, shows us, that we are under indispensable obligations to cultivate and improve our minds in all the branches of human knowledge. All our natural powers are so many talents, which, in their own nature, lay us under moral obligation to improve them to the best advantage. Being men, we are obliged to act like men, and not like the horse or the mule which have no understanding. Besides, knowledge, next to religion, is the brightest ornament of human nature. Knowledge strengthens, enlarges, and softens the human soul, and sets its beauty and dignity in the fairest light. Learning hath made astonishing distinctions among the different nations of the earth. Those nations, who have lived under the warm and enlightening beams of science, have appeared like a superior order of beings, in comparison with those, who have dragged out their lives under the cold and dark shades of ignorance.... the cultivation and improvement of the mind is more necessary for use, than for ornament. We were made for usefulness and not for amusement. We were made to be the servants of God, and of each other. We were made to live an active, diligent, and useful life. As men therefore we cannot reach the end of our being, without cultivating all our mental powers, in order to furnish ourselves for the most extensive service in our day and generation. Knowledge and learning are useful in every station; and in the higher and more important departments of life, they are absolutely and indispensably necessary.
In developing, acquiring, mastering, and diffusing that science and technology, we are acting God-like; we are acting in the image of the Creator, by ourselves creating new knowledge, and new uses of that knowledge. The idea that every individual human being is endowed with the divine spark of reason, and therefore can act God-like -- can, in fact, participate in the ongoing work of Creation, by him- or herself creating or assimilating, and using new scientific knowledge -- is the bedrock for the idea of a republic of self-governing citizens.

And Creation is an ongoing process. So, it simply does not square easily with the mindset of a conservative. The foundational statement of modern American conservatism is William Buckley's "standing astride history and yelling 'Stop!'" If the whole idea of being human is to act in the image of God and create new knowledge, if the whole idea of a republic is to nurture and protect those engaged in this noble quest, then how can Buckley's conservatism be anything other than a repudiation of God, and the most noble aspects of humanity: reason, and science?

But, what are we supposed to do with all this new scientific knowledge? Well, it says right in the Preamble of the Constitution: promote the general welfare. Well, OK, but what, exactly, is "the general welfare"? Who decides what it is? Do any of us have any say in deciding what is "the general welfare"?

The Framers certainly thought "the General Welfare" was important. They included the phrase in Constitution twice -- first in the Preamble, as a statement of the purpose of the Constitution, and then again in Article I, Section 8, which established the broad  powers of Congress to "provide for the General Welfare." It is interesting that the Articles of Confederation omitted the phrase, despite Franklin's attempt to include it. So, when the time came to remedy the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, the phrase "the General Welfare" was included twice. It is further interesting that when the Confederate States wrote their constitution, they mostly copied the US Constitution word for word, with some notable changes and omissions. Among these is dropping the phrase "general welfare" entirely. (Another interesting change, given the machinations of Republicans today to destroy the U.S. postal service, was that the Confederates stipulated in their constitution that their postal service must pay its own way.). Today, political conservatives and libertarians explicitly denounce the idea of the general welfare as the "slippery slope" to tyranny.

The clearest statement of the general welfare was given by first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, in his December 1791 Report on Manufactures. Hamilton discussed the powers of the Federal government to encourage necessary industries and infrastructure, and near the end explained his concept of the general welfare:

The terms 'general welfare' were doubtless intended to signify more than as expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou'd have been restricted within narrower limits than the 'General Welfare' and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.

It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general interests of learning of Agriculture or Manufactures and of Commerce are within the sphere of the national Council as far as regards an application of Money."

"Left to the discretion of the National Legislature." This is really interesting, because now we have to discuss the proper role of politics in governing a republic, and how the shift from a market economy to a market society (Michael J. Sandel, a political philosopher at Harvard, is the author of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets), abrogates that role. As I wrote above, the development of new science and technology is the most important economic activity any society can undertake. Without new science and technology, economic collapse is inevitable.

But scientific and technological knowledge is always changing. Or, it should be, as science and technology advance. So, in a republic, the highest duty of a statesman is to understand the present frontiers of science of technology, and where the boundaries of those frontiers must be expanded in order to find the answers to looming, as well as existing, economic and social problems. For example, we face a terrible crises of man-made climate change. But, we have available a wide range of new technologies that can stop, and even reverse climate change. The development, dissemination, and application of this new scientific and technological knowledge should be the highest priority.

So, it is the role of Congress to determine exactly  what is  the General Welfare -- and what the nation as a whole, acting through the social compact of the national government, can do to promote the General Welfare. In times past, this meant, in the 1790s, hiring geometers and surveyors and mathematicians and cartographers to chart the hazards of coastal waters, and to build lighthouses; in the early 1800s sending out Army expeditions to explore and map the west; in the 1820s, outright financing of the building of The National Road; in the 1840s, giving money outright to Samuel Morse to develop the telegraph; in the 1850s and 1860s, giving millions of acres of the public land away, free, to companies in exchange for their promise to build railroads; in the 1910s, paving roads and building bridges to facilitate the use of new fangled motor vehicles; in the 1920s, supporting the development of aviation with lucrative mail carrier routes; in the 1930s, bringing electricity to rural areas that privately owned power companies could not see a profit providing service to; in the 1950s, building an interstate highway system; in the 1960s, kick-starting applied scientific research by making a commitment to a manned moon landing; in the 1970s and 1980s, funding the development of things called routers, TCIP, and ARPAnet.

If you didn’t like what the Congress had decided was the General Welfare, then you could vote the bums out in the next election. That’s the role of politics in a republic.

Then Reagan came into office, and we got crammed down our throats the very un-American idea that the national government can’t do anything right. That it should just plain keep its nose out of the economy. Now, there is no real role for politics – all the decisions about our collective futures are supposed to be made by the new right-wing, neo-liberal deity, The Market. Do we need to promote the General Welfare by implementing a crash program to build wind power and solar energy? Sorry, only The Market can decide that. Yeah, it’s great that we have two or three states now that can get over half the electricity from wind and solar on a good day. For me, that’s where we should have been ten years ago. Do we need to promote the General Welfare by building a high speed passenger rail system? Sorry, only The Market can decide whether we should do that, and look at how many people are voting economically by driving cars. In the meantime, the Japanese have been running their 150–200 mph Shinkansen since 1964. We have a trade deficit with Japan now? And you don’t think the two are related in any way?

This is why I feel betrayed by President Obama. He came into office with a huge mandate, with his party in control of both houses of Congress, and with a public mood, -- in reaction to the financial collapse of 2007-2008 -- that had finally been broken from the cultural “worship of riches” we have had to endure since Reagan. Rather than draw upon the rich and powerful Enlightenment tradition of the American Revolution, in which government was established as a force to do good, he sided with our “domestic enemies”, the financiers, rentiers, and usurers of Wall Street (“I’m the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks,” he literally told them) to save their morally bankrupt system – a system that is destroying us from within.  

There is much more to the neat little package I want, tying together the creation of the United States as a constitutional republic, what the political economy of a republic should be, and the centrality of science to republican political economy. The discussion of the general welfare must be expanded, to include its corollary, the Constitutional concept of implied powers. My first cut at that was in November 2011, in Constitutional Foundation of the US Economy: Powers are Implied Not Enumerated. A short extract I posted as a recent comment is here.

The de-industrialization of the US economy over the past half century is the inevitable result of not knowing what the political economy of a republic is supposed to be. Rentiers, speculators, and usurers have no place in the properly functioning economy of a republic; they must be rooted out and destroyed ruthlessly. Financiers do have a role, and it is not unimportant. However, their activities must be closely monitored and tightly regulated. The issue is quite simple: the creation and allocation of money and credit must be organized and regulated in such a way that it promotes the general welfare, not just private gain. There is room for private gain; in fact capitalism remains the best form of organizing most (note: most, not all) of an economy. Alexander Hamilton laid down a short and simple test in The Federalist Number 15: “Is private credit the friend and patron of industry?” In June 2012, in Neo-liberalism, De-capitalization/De-industrialization, and the Res Publica,
I posted the evidence that in fact, the financial system is the enemy of industry:  the United States is becoming less capital intense. It is becoming, in other words, less capitalistic. In another recent comment, I posted a series of graphs that I used in that piece showing the de-capitalization of the US economy. We need an economy in which real capitalists can profit and flourish, not rentiers, usurers, and speculators.

But this post is quite long already, so I think it’s time to finish. I will leave you with this happy thought:


I love this photo; it make me sniffle every time I see it. This is physicist Peter Higgs, in his eighties, shown on site at one of the massive instrumentation clusters at the CERN LHC. May we all be so blessed to live to see such powerful validation of our life's work. Source: CERN Press Office Photo Selection.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's not just an economic question, either (29+ / 0-)

    I think it's a question of why we are here. We're curious by nature. It's FUN to learn, to know stuff. For every kid who's ever wondered why the moon shines or why fireflies light up or dandelions know how to grow up and not down, this quest is for you, too. Even if the future economic potential was zero (and it isn't), then the search for the Higgs (and other large-scale projects like this) create a world where curiosity is lauded, where asking questions is rewarded, where being human in the most fundamental sense is appreciated. That's good for humanity, good for the future, and good for the human spirit.  

    Odds and ends about life in Japan: 1971wolfie.wordpress.com

    by Hatrax on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 07:57:11 PM PDT

  •  I'm Not Sure There's Been a Question Since Around (25+ / 0-)

    the time of the Beatles. That's when government demonstrably began to serve only ownership, which means it became an oligarchy after the last liberal Administration, namely LBJ's.

    inevitable result of not knowing
    Over the half century that beatniks and hippies and their successors have been explaining what's happened to the country, we've been hearing this incessant refrain from Democrats and every type of intellectual under the sun that we're being plagued with mistakes, misunderstandings, stupidity and such.

    No.

    We've been taken over. It was a conquest. The initial intended result of cessation of representing the people was established over 2 generations ago.

    No mistake, no misunderstanding, no failures to realize our potential.

    A republic, if we could create one.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:11:58 PM PDT

  •  Long ago, 'economics' was dubbed (8+ / 0-)

    "the dismal science". I wonder what Adam Smith would think of the medieval bent of the current rush to plutocracy.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:31:28 PM PDT

  •  there is a remarkable series called "connections" (38+ / 0-)

    by a fellow named Burke...

    He demonstrates how many inventions were developed from other discoveries and seemingly unrelated inventions..

    for example.. the vacuum tube..the inventor of this had no earthly idea what it would eventually lead to. There are so many of these examples he did three full tv series on this concept.

    So.. to wonder what a new invention or discovery will lead to is to attempt to peer into the future.. a rather futile undertaking, especially when, several other seemingly unrelated inventions/discoveries that have also yet to occur  must be combined with the one in question..

    •  A fabulous series. n/t (12+ / 0-)

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:08:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  that was a great series (6+ / 0-)

      i only saw one episode but it stayed with me

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:37:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also The Day the Universe Changed eom (2+ / 0-)

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:22:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, James Burke and Carl Sagan (7+ / 0-)

      and their wonderful PBS shows were among the things that taught me how to actually THINK when I was just a child in the 70's.

      Of course Burke did have a flair for finding just the right "connection" if it involved traveling to an idyllic shooting location with good food and exceptional wine or whiskey...

      But I suppose we cannot fault him for that.

      His core proposition was, and remains, entirely sound.

    •  Technology marches on. (9+ / 0-)

      Nighttime light initially came from candles made from beeswax and tallow. People didn't switch over from beeswax and tallow to whale oil because the world ran out of bees and cows, it came about because whale oil made a higher quality, cheaper light source. Then came paraffin wax. People didn't switch from whale oil to paraffin because the world ran out of whales (yes, some populations had been hunted to near extinction, but many were still untouched); it happened because paraffin made a higher quality, cheaper light source. Then again, the world switched to kerosene - not because of a shortage of paraffin, but because kerosene made a better, cheaper light source. Then to electricity, not because of a shortage of kerosene, but because it made a better, cheaper light source.

      Can you imagine a world today where all of our lighting needs for these 7 billion people came from bee wax and dead animals? That could never begin to meet demand.

      From whales? They'd be all long extinct.

      From oil products? Really, think of the cost and environmental damage of all that extra, highly inefficient, non-scrubbed oil burning.

      The diarist is right on. It is technological advances that make the world a better place to live and keep it sustainable. Without them, human progress stalls and often rolls backwards. When William Gilbert started playing around with lodestones and amber to document their properties, do you think he could have had even the slightest conception that some day what he was dealing with was going to replace the successor to the successor to the successor of the candles that lit his workspace? There were many thousands of experimenters with electricity before 1800, but perhaps for maybe a couple speculating about the seemingly far-fetched notion of lighting a room with leyden jar sparks, how many do you think envisioned a world lit up by electric light bulbs? One never knows which direction technology is going to go, but you must probe its fundamentals if you want your future generations to have a decent world.

      Relativity must have seemed crazy esoteric but without understanding it we wouldn't have GPS. I'm sure quantum physics seemed even more esoteric, but quantum effects now have major roles in electronics, batteries, solar cells, nuclear technology, etc. I have no clue in what direction knowledge that the Higgs Field is a real thing will lead... but odds are it's going to leave somewhere. And it might just save our great-great-great-great-great grandchildrens' lives.

      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

      by Rei on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 05:16:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Burke tells an incredible story of innovation. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, AnotherAmericanLie

      I don't see how it was possible without MBA's and private equity firms. /s

      Tar sands, fracking and deep water drilling are expensive. Crude oil price exceeded $100/bbl in 2008 where it still hovers. NH₃ based fertilizer feeds an estimated ⅓ of the world with the Haber-Bosch process using natural gas as a feedstock.

      by FrY10cK on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:27:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Recc'ed and tipped, (11+ / 0-)

    - among other reasons - because you have quoted my sigline in the body of your argument. ;p

    "[T]he preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country." - John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law. (1765)

    by AnacharsisClootz on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:58:38 PM PDT

  •  It's practically a chapter of a book... (18+ / 0-)

    ...but well worth the read. We need a version of tl;dr that doesn't worry about length, just about quality.

    Thanks.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:08:07 PM PDT

  •  if you know the answer, it's not research. (4+ / 0-)

    sometimes you go just open the unknown.

    however the SSC was a mess,  had it been started a decade or two earlier, the proper approach would have been to build it using the FERMI tevatron as the injector ring.

    then you would have started with a known faciity
    and you'd have the infrastructure of two labs
    Fermi and Argonne to bootstrap from

    Putting it in texas just was going to be a disaster
    as we saw.

  •  i tried to see Particle Fever (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, dewtx

    when it was playing in Cambridge MA but I just couldn't get my schedule to work and it did not stay in the theater long...

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:36:25 PM PDT

  •  American society has passed into un-Enlightenment. (11+ / 0-)

    Most of the philosophies, values and virtues of the founders of this country have been lost and are now openly disparaged by the ruling elite, which prizes above all else blind obedience by a dumbed-down population. Rational thought, education, and scientific inquiry, unless applied to the purpose of maximum extraction of short-term economic profit, are rejected as not only unnecessary but as contrary to modern American values. Truly, how far we have fallen.

    Thank you for this very interesting and thought-provoking article. Tipped and rec'd.

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:34:48 PM PDT

  •  I always enjoy your posts, NBBooks. (12+ / 0-)

    This one is no exception. Much to ponder, and much to use. Many thanks.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 10:36:44 PM PDT

  •  Reagan was not a cultural shift, rather a retur... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, NoMoreLies

    Reagan was not a cultural shift, rather a return of anti-Whig neoconfederate structures, a return of Dred Scott governance by the Court. Buckley ended the republic and the function of Congress as a democratic institution. The work of John Quincy Adams and his successor Charles Sumner, with Lincoln, is too far over the heads of Americans, such that it could be said that this the same nation. As prof. Bruce Ackerman has shown, its not possible to preserve the Constitution, only, at best its values as a sort of historical preservation.

  •  One of my fave movies of the year- Particle Fever (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thanatokephaloides, sillia, dewtx

    Was not around the theaters for very long but
    I caught it and was amazed and delighted!
    MUST SEE for everyone.

    "The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations."Thomas Jefferson, 1816

    by cynfowler on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:01:28 PM PDT

  •  Brilliant. Thank you. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi, 6/30/07 // "Succeed?" At what?

    by nailbender on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 03:51:00 AM PDT

  •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

    there were computers before the silicon variety, What do you think an abacus is? Also there is a variety of carbon based computers as well.

    com·pute [kuhm-pyoot] verb (used with object), com·put·ed, com·put·ing.
    1. to determine by calculation; reckon; calculate: to compute the period of Jupiter's revolution.

    computer com·put·er [kuhm-pyoo-ter]
    noun
    1. Also called processor. an electronic device designed to accept data, perform prescribed mathematical and logical operations at high speed, and display the results of these operations.
    2. a person who computes; computist.
    via dictionary.com

    "There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." ~ Sun Tsu

    by coyote66 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 04:15:40 AM PDT

    •  An abacus is great, but is not a computer. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      techno, dewtx

      By reckoning since, oh, the 1950s, a computer is programmable. Period. No exceptions. And an abacus is in no way programmable via instructions of any kind. QED

      Out of date semantics are merely misleading, here.

      •  So humans aren't programmable? (0+ / 0-)

        What do you think school is? It's programming, perhaps not in the way that you program a silicon based computer; yet the process of teaching is a kind of programming. Isn't that one of the oft repeated memes about modern American schools: they're programming our kids to be good little unquestioning serfs?

        Sure, some people giggle when they see or hear the phrase "I'm so happy and gay!" given the more modern use of gay. Yet they still understand the original meaning. Assuming that people will only understand a more modern use of a word leads to confusion, confusion leads to misunderstandings, misunderstandings leads to anger, anger leads to the Dark Side! ;)

        "There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." ~ Sun Tsu

        by coyote66 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:22:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fire control system on Iowa Class Battleships (0+ / 0-)

        3 tube computers made those 16 inch guns one shot one hit at 15 miles range.

        They were ordered in 1939.

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 12:53:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Jacquard weaving looms (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, dewtx, blueoasis, mkor7

      invented in 1801, were the first computers, in a sense. You could 'reprogram' them by installing a different card. The cards were something like the original punch-cards used in early computers. Later they used a series of cards, like paper tape.  Charles Babbage learned from this technology, speaking of standing on shoulders.

      I saw this mentioned on a great PBS program long ago but don't remember which one. Anyway, there's a great Wikipedia page about these looms and their connection to early computers.

      Where in the Constitution does it say: "...on behalf of corporate interests" ???

      by sillia on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:04:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great job (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    thank you

    In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

    by lippythelion69 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 04:16:11 AM PDT

  •  What is the economic return? (10+ / 0-)

    What is the cash value of love?
    What is the ROI of a sunset?
    Is baseball a great game because it makes money?
    What is the economic return of your child, and if you lost money on her would you sell her?
    How much would you charge to change your religion? -- Not just take the money and fake it, but really, REALLY change?

    Is it better to profit from a lie or lose money on a search for truth?

    Conservatives are idiots. We know that.

    The idea that everything can ONLY be justified by it's ROI is just another stupid conservative trick. Another self-serving, self-aggrandizing lie they use to get their way and pretend they are serious and "intuhleckchewull."

    When conservative loons build "creation museums" full of lies and moron-level made up shit, they do it purely for the money. We know that. It's a con to milk the rubes for their cash. There's a lot of nickels and dimes to be grabbed from idiots and fools. This is the heart and soul of conservative "religion."

    And they assume that everything everyone else does is for the same reason and is of the same nature.

    They can't be taught truth because they assume that everything is a con artist's lie told to profit someone. They assume the LHC is no different in any way from some xtianist theme park and their objection is not the content, it's that THEY feel slighted by not getting a free pile of gubbamint money to sell THEIR packs of lies.

  •  Beautiful - (5+ / 0-)

    Inspiring diary.
    We must get our country back from these goobers.

  •  One story I like to quote (8+ / 0-)

    when confronted with the practicality of pure scientific research is a story about Benjamin Franklin.  At one of the first hot-air balloon flights, someone asked him what practical use this invention would have.  His response:  "What use is a new born baby?"

    On the one hand, I have to admit that I scratch my head at the scale of money that has been spent on this particular discovery.  (I have made scientific discoveries, albeit much less exciting ones than the discovery of the Higgs boson, spending mere thousands of dollars.)  But on the other hand, we still don't know what other things we can learn from the discovery of the Higgs, and I am repulsed by the attitude of those who will not support pursuing a line of research simply because there appears to be no way to make money off the result.  The best research is driven by pure curiosity.  Even if there are no direct practical applications for the results, knowing more about the universe is always a good thing, and increases one's knowledge of options and limits.

    -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

    by gizmo59 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 04:49:14 AM PDT

  •  Republic vs. Democracy. (6+ / 0-)

    We got here because the Framers chose the wrong system of government. Hold on, I must amend my statement. I should have said that we got here because the Framers chose a system of government that was right for them and others of their class, and wrong for the rest of us. No, that is not quite right. I should have said that the Framers designed a system of government that was right for them and for others of their class, and wrong for the rest of us. They designed a Madisonian republic instead of a democracy—they designed a flawed government. They designed a system of government that excluded the majority of Americans. They designed the wrong system of government.  

    A democracy is a form of government that carries out the will of the people. A republic, our Madisonian republic, obeys the will of those who control our elected representatives. In Federalist 10, James Madison expressly repudiated democracies because, he said, they kept transformative power in the hands of the people. This was the main reason he rejected democracy in favor of a republic with his “scheme of representation.” He said that the ancient democracies always failed because they let the people make decisions. But he did not acknowledge that the ancient democracies did use representatives to manage their government—he either lied or he was ignorant about the ancient democracies.

    But during the debates about whether to ratify the Constitution someone challenged Madison’s sales pitch. This challenger rightly pointed out that in the ancient democracies, representatives were used. So, if those ancient democracies were vulnerable to factions, as Madison claimed, and if those democracies used representatives, wouldn’t Madison’s representative republic be vulnerable to factions as well? This was a challenge that had to be answered, so Madison responded. In Federalist 63 he made it clear that even though the ancient democracies and the Madisonian republic both relied on representatives, there was one critical difference. Here is what he wrote (emphasis in the original):

    From these facts, to which many others might be added, it is clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political constitutions. The true distinction between these and the American governments lies in the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity, from any share in the latter, and not in the total exclusion of the representatives of the people from the administration of the former. The distinction, however, thus qualified, must be admitted to leave a most advantageous superiority in favor of the United States.
    This paragraph is difficult to follow, and I think that Madison deliberately made it confusing. Here is what he was really saying:
    Yes, representatives were used in the ancient democracies, and they are used in our American state governments, and they will be used in our new republic. But, the use of representatives did not cause the ancient democracies to fail, the use of representatives has not caused our American state governments to fail, and it will not cause our new republic to fail. The failure of the ancient democracies was caused by the people having too much transformative power. The people of the ancient democracies could decide among themselves what they wanted their democracy to do and then order their representatives to do it. In effect, the citizens of these ancient democracies retained and exercised all transformative power, and their representatives were delegated administrative power only. In effect, the people ruled. This resulted in all of the failures cataloged in Federalist 10. But, we do not have to worry about this in our new republic.

    Under our new Constitution, the American people cannot decide for themselves what they want the government to do and then order the government to do it. The people can only delegate their transformative power to a small group of elected representatives.  The American people can only decide which representatives they want to give their transformative power, and in turn, these few representatives will meet in person to decide what they want the government to do—only they will have—only they will exercise—the transformative power of the people. Under the new Constitution, the people will never be permitted to act in their collective capacity. In this way the governing elites will hold all transformative power and thereby be assured that they can keep the factious masses under control. America will be safe in the hands of the elites.

    So, in Federalist 63 Madison wanted to show that there was an important difference between the proposed new government and the ancient ones. And that difference was to exclude the people from acting in any way except through their chosen representatives. This “true distinction,” as he called it, emphatically confirms that the new constitutional system, with its scheme of representation, was intended to mute the voice of the people and steal from them their transformative power. And because our national government, by design, is controlled by the wealthy classes, then the transformative power of the people is given over to the invisible, but heavy, hand of tyranno-capitalism which makes all the important economic decisions. And this is the element of tyranno-capitalism that causes it to fail. Just as it is designed to do, it works for the good of a few individuals but not for the masses. In other words, our system of government is deliberately designed to keep the people from using their transformative power to decide whether jobs should be kept in America or sent overseas. Our system of government is deliberately designed to keep the people from using their transformative power to decide whether we should maintain our infrastructure or let it crumble, or to decide whether we should give our children good breakfasts and good educations or let them enter adulthood unprepared to fit into society—you get the idea.

    Historian Charles A. Beard published An Economic Interpretation of the American Constitution in 1913, and it still stands like a rock. In the last chapter, Beard summarizes the discussion held in the various states in reaction to the ratification. And, in closing, he draws the following overall conclusions:

    •    At the close of this long and arid survey—partaking of the nature of catalogue—it seems worthwhile to bring together the important conclusions for political science which the data presented appear to warrant.
    •    The movement for the Constitution of the United States was originated and carried through principally by four groups of personalty interests which had been adversely affected under the Articles of Confederation: money, public securities, manufactures, and trade and shipping.
    •    The first firm steps toward the formation of the Constitution were taken by a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labours.
    •    No popular vote was taken directly or indirectly on the proposition to call the Convention which drafted the Constitution.
    •    A large propertyless mass was, under the prevailing suffrage qualifications, excluded at the outset from participation (through representatives) in the work of framing the Constitution.
    •    The members of the Philadelphia Convention which drafted the Constitution were, with a few exceptions, immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.
    •    The Constitution was essentially an economic document based upon the concept that the fundamental private rights of property are anterior to [come before] government and morally beyond the reach of popular [democratic] majorities.
    •    The major portion of the members of the Convention is on record as recognizing the claim of property to a special and defensive position in the Constitution.
    •    In the ratification, of the Constitution, about three-fourths of the adult males failed to vote on the question, having abstained from the elections at which delegates to the state conventions were chosen, either on account of their indifference or their disfranchisement by property qualifications.
    •    The Constitution was ratified by a vote of probably not more than one-sixth of the adult males.  It is questionable whether a majority of the voters participating in the elections for the state conventions in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and South Carolina, actually approved the ratification of the Constitution.
    •    The leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia Convention; and in a large number of instances they were also directly and personally interested in the outcome of their efforts.
    •    In the ratification, it became manifest that the line of cleavage for and against the Constitution was between substantial personalty interests on the one hand and the small farming and debtor interests on the other.
    •    The Constitution was not created by "the whole people" as the jurists have said; neither was it created by "the states" as Southern nullifiers long contended; but it was the work of a consolidated group whose interests knew no state boundaries and were truly national in their scope.
    I find nothing to disagree with. Charles Beard was right: the Constitution was designed to protect and improve the economic interests of the Framers and others of their class. Many historians agreed with Beard, and for a while, his views were ascendant. But myths, when they are widely held, and even though they are false, nevertheless are often stronger than truth, and with the help of time and a few historians the myth finally prevailed—Beard’s work is largely forgotten and economic oligarchy reigns supreme.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 04:54:39 AM PDT

    •  Do you really want pure democracy? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, jbsoul

      Do you really want a pure democracy? When the Constitution was framed, the foremost example of democracy was Athens, in which the people voted to put Socrates to death. And the record of the competition between Athens and Sparta, including two wars, did nothing to improve the image of Athens.

      Would you really have wanted pure democracy in Alabama or Mississippi the 1963 or 1964? I think in the case of voting rights, our republican design worked rather well, enforcing the franchise for minority citizens on a bigoted majority who I have no doubt would have voted to approve capital punishment for any minority showing up within 100 yards of a voting place. It should have happened a decades earlier, but I don't see how a form of government that was more like pure democracy would have made that happen.

      More recently, what would you have done after 9-11, when George Bush had approval ratings above ninety percent? I think an exercise of pure democracy in that period would have been catastrophic. Would it have been worse than the vastly expanded police state we did get out of that period, and now live with? We will never know. My own belief is that the angry passions of that time would have given us something worse.

      And exactly how are democracies an infallible safeguard against the rise to power of an oligarchy? The history of Rome is notorious for the oligarchs' use of “bread and circuses” to control the people.

      Now, the "class interest" argument of Beard and others has, I think, more traction. I will not deny that "the system" has worked so far to elevate the rights of property above all else. But, honestly tell me, when John Adams wrote "The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country." was he being deceptive? Was he just blowing smoke up everyone's butts?

      The problem with your belief is that it is a blanket condemnation, and makes no distinction (does not even try, from what I've read), between those who sincerely believed in the ideals that "all mean are created equal" and those who hated and targeted the entire idea of self-government.  The struggle between Hamilton and Burr is an excellent example of what I mean. Originally, corporate charters were issued for very specific activities, and with a general admonition that such activities were to be carried out in service of the public interest, or general welfare. Well, Aaron Burr and his allies wanted a bank, but Hamilton was preventing them from getting a charter. So, Burr and associates obtained a charter for a water company in Manhattan, then turned right around and began operating their new corporation just like a bank, as well as a water company. Hamilton and others were furious, but were unable to terminate the charter. And that's the origins of Citibank. Now, I think there is pretty clearly a good guy and a bad guy in this story, but far as I can tell, Beard's school just mindlessly condemns them all. Not very useful for understanding and identifying who might be a "domestic enemy." Leaves us powerless to defend the republic, I believe.

      And there is some very interesting historical context in which to understand the desire to limit the franchise to property holders. The paragons of republican virtue people like Jefferson believed, were the land-owning farmers of the Roman republic. Foremost was Cincinnati, who refused to be made dictator after leading the Legions to victory, but quietly went back to his farm. Working the soil, and reaping the bounty of nature, was the purest, most honest of occupations. Merchants and bankers were held in low repute, because their "profit" came not from anything they reaped from nature, it came from the "unnatural" source of selling something for more than you bought it for.

      And when Jefferson and others looked at what the industrial revolution was doing in England, they were horrified. Masses of farmers had been driven from their lands, and forced to seek work in the new factories and mills. And the conditions of those workers was abysmal. They were barely fed and clothed, let alone educated. Where the yeoman farmer was free, dependent on no man for his livelihood, and therefore able to exercise his reason and act upon his moral instincts without compromise, urban workers in industrializing England suffered miserable lives of economic dependence and desperation. There was not even any pretense of instilling in them anything that could be called virtuous.

      Moreover, the goods that these urban workers produced were not for mass consumption, but were expensive luxuries that only the wealthy could afford. Thus, even merchants selling the goods had to affect a fawning subservience to their customers. Jefferson wrote that this economic "Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." Consequently, wage laborers made poor citizens; a republic filled with manufacturing employees would be quickly corrupted. So "let our workshops remain in Europe," Jefferson advised; only if America remained an agrarian nation of farmers might it "keep alive that sacred fire" of fierce independence and republican virtue.

      So, an important element in the Jeffersonian opposition to Hamilton's proposals for encouraging manufacturing and commerce was that the Jeffersonians wanted to prevent, or at least delay as long as possible, the time when the US ceased being an agrarian economy.

      The great failure of Jefferson, of course, is that he failed to try and figure out how republican virtue could be inculcated in other groups than just land-owning farmers.

       

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 10:43:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Pure" democracy, as Madison and apparently (0+ / 0-)

        you define it was a fantasy. Madison made it up. It never existed anywhere or at any time. The government of ancient Athens did not even come close to being a "pure" democracy as you and Madison define it. The Athenians were much too smart to govern that way.

        I don't know where you learned about Athenian Democracy, but you were taught the wrong things. But you are in  the majority in America, because our schools teach our children the wrong story about Athens, the Framers, and the our Madisonian republic.

        There are lots of good books available and there is a lot of useful material on the Internet, but most people don't bother reading something that requires a little thought and that will disagree with what they already believe.

        In any case you and I have discussed this issue before and there is really no point in going forward except to ask, "Do you really want the government we have today?"

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 12:52:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another point made in the movie (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny, dewtx, FrY10cK

    the United States could have been home to the collider that detected the Higgs.

    The Superconducting Super Collider was planned to be larger and have higher energy capacity than the LHC.

    Funding for it was killed by Republicans in Congress.

    If not for that, the Higgs could have been detected earlier, on US soil.

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

    by pierre9045 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:01:37 AM PDT

  •  This is a fantastic diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, dewolf99

    Thank you very much.

  •  Deporting scientists? (0+ / 0-)

    Give me a break.

    •  OK, what do you want broken? ;) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, NBBooks

      If you think science & scientists can't be trumped by trumped-up politics, look no further than the mass decamping of Jewish physicists from the Third Reich & environs. The guys who built The Bomb weren't exactly deported, but they had the good sense to get out while the getting out was, if not good, at least better than the alternative.

      But I agree with you that deportation would be unlikely--why let them out to work for the unGodly rest of the world? More likely the theocrats would come up with a variation of the Soviet sharashka system:

      The scientists and engineers at a sharashka were prisoners picked from various camps and prisons and assigned to work on scientific and technological problems for the state. Living conditions were usually much better than in an average taiga camp, especially bearing in mind the absence of hard labor.
      Variant in that Murkkin sharashkas would probably be contracted out to the individual corporations they serviced (Blockhead-Moron, Nutjob-Grumblin, General Demonics, etc.) which in turn would establish their own imprisonment subdivisions. The technical staff would still be kept away from good Godfearing Murkkins to keep their heretical notions about logic and proof from polluting (whatever was left of) their minds. But they'd probably get enough to eat...

      The bumpersticker I want: THE LEFT IS RIGHT! THE RIGHT IS WRONG! THE FAR RIGHT IS FAR WRONG!

      by Uncle Cosmo on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:38:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Superb and important (6+ / 0-)

    BTW, notice that many conservatives explicitly want to limit science to applied science and engineering.

    Also, as you've touched on above, one of the most interesting phenomena in the intellectual history of the planet (in my opinion) is "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics".

    Mathematicians (and theoretical computer scientists) keep solving problems because they are intellectually challenging (read: fun), and then some time later, in some cases 50-100 years later, some physical or other situation turns out be modeled by that mathematics. Or the mathematics developed for one purpose turns out to be applicable to a completely different area.

    One important example is the mathematics of vector spaces over finite fields and of elliptic curves, both of which have proved to be important for modern cryptography. (Too many citations to too many variations and approaches to list here.)

  •  A tour de force. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hlsmlane, native, MKinTN, dewtx, blueoasis, jbsoul

    Many thanks.

    The Republican Unenlightenment is a central travesty of our time, paving the way as it does for the decidedly unscientific tenets of neoliberal economics. The Democratic Party leadership's Third Way subscription to neoliberalism is central to perpetuating both the market society and the Unenlightenment. One cannot achieve an appropriate balance of economic and environmental interests when both parties are committed first and foremost to the short-term gains of the "rentiers, usurers, and speculators," a pursuit whose intent they both misrepresent as "job creation."

    I don't know how we deal with this situation without putting "democracy" and the General Welfare back front and center in the Democratic Party, which means exorcising the Third Way demons. And there are presently too many demon-appeasers for that kind of radical change to happen, vital to democracy and the General Welfare though it is...

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:26:53 AM PDT

  •  That was a great answer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, NBBooks, blueoasis

    there was a SETI diary a while back where someone constantly urged that the program end because it didn't provide an economic return.

    I would also say,  knowing the Higgs Boson exists provides one more fact that narrows the universe of stupid assumptions economists make to get the answer they want instead of the answer that actually describes economic behavior.

  •  Asimov on serendipity in research (6+ / 0-)

    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'

  •  We spend trillions on War (5+ / 0-)

    yet the budget of the NIH, as merely one example of the prioritization of basic but nevertheless useful research, is $30 billion.

    Another product of and hence barometer for the corrupting effects of the Republican Age of Unenlightenment and the market society, which, as you say, places the interests of the few--in this case the war profiteers and fossil fuel energy moguls--light years ahead of the general welfare.

    I've never left a blank space on a ballot... but I will not vote for someone [who vows] to spy on me. I will not do it. - dclawyer06

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    by Words In Action on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:45:07 AM PDT

  •  The Higgs Boson was discovered in Europe (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny, SisTwo, dewtx, TheFern

    In the US, as the CERN supercollider came online, budget cuts shut down the Tevatron at Fermilab.

    Rick Perry - the greatest scientist since Galileo!

    by Bobs Telecaster on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:51:32 AM PDT

  •  So a Higgs bosun walks into a cathedral (9+ / 0-)

    and the bishop says "You can't be in here!" To which the Higgs replies, "But I must! You can't have mass without me!"

    #rimshot

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:21:33 AM PDT

  •  Tipped and Rec'd (0+ / 0-)

    for a marvelous article and the discussion it provoked.

  •  So, I guess... (0+ / 0-)

    ...there really is such a thing as a dumb question.

  •  Science vs. Economics: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, raboof, MKinTN, dewtx, blueoasis

    I have tried to understand economics. I have taken a class, I have read many books, including Paul Krugman’s 940-page textbook, and it just does not make sense to me.

    Max Tegmark is from Denmark, and like many of us he made a stab at picking a career when he graduated from high school. Here is what he wrote (emphasis added):

    When the time came to apply for college, I decided against physics and other technical fields, and ended up at the Stockholm School of Economics, focusing on environmental issues. I wanted to do my small part to make our planet a better place, and felt that the main problem wasn’t that we lacked technical solutions, but that we didn’t properly use the technology we had. I figured that the best way to affect people’s behavior was through their wallets, and was intrigued by the idea of creating economic incentives that aligned individual egoism with the common good.

    Alas, I soon grew disillusioned, concluding that economics was largely a form of intellectual prostitution where you got rewarded for saying what the powers that be wanted to hear. Whatever a politician wanted to do, he or she could find an economist as advisor who had argued for doing precisely that. Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to increase government spending, so he listened to John Maynard Keynes, whereas Ronald Reagan wanted to decrease government spending, so he listened to Milton Friedman.

    Tegmark decided to become a physicist and is author or coauthor of more than two hundred technical papers, twelve of which have been cited more than five hundred times. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a physics professor at MIT. I applaud Tegmark’s wish to make “our planet a better place,” and I agree with his description of economics as being “a form of intellectual prostitution.” I wish I had thought of it.

    Another scientist, more famous than Tegmark, was Albert Einstein. He shared Tegmark’s wish to make the world a better place, and he believed that the economic scourge of capitalism produced more evil than good. He was inclined toward socialism which is a dirty word in America today, but based on my reading of his views, I think he was more inclined toward any system that obeyed the will of the people. In any case he wondered if the field of economics would be useful in designing a government of the future. In 1949 he wrote:

    Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately.

    Economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

    So, for anyone out there who thinks economics is a science, I will be happy to debate it with you. However, your quarrel is not with me—you really should take it up with Max Tegmark or Albert Einstein.

    As a science wannabe, economics is not ready for prime time. If economics is a science, then it is at the stage of searching for its Galileo.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:02:12 AM PDT

  •  Dang, I've only read about a quarter of this, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raboof, MKinTN, dewtx, jbsoul

    and it is about the best thing I've read here. I always feel this way when I read something at DKos that helps me coalesce thoughts and ideas I have rattling around in my noggin as I muddle through my days.

    Thanks.

  •  Brilliant (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raboof, MKinTN, dewtx, jbsoul, mkor7

    Best diary in years, should be widely read! Tipped, recced, hotlisted, passed along and will re-read.

    I'm halfway through the "Particle Fever" film on Netflix and it is just wonderful. One of the things I think scientists who do basic research can say, to the question of what is the purpose--"We don't know...YET." I think that is what Kaplan said but in a different, more thoughtful way. When talking to anti-science people though, you don't get more than a few seconds of their attention , concise is better.

    Where in the Constitution does it say: "...on behalf of corporate interests" ???

    by sillia on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:12:59 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny, dewtx, MKinTN, dewolf99

    I enjoyed it a lot. Worth reading for everyone.

    Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?

  •  Great Post, will watch film tonight n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx
  •  The Idiocracy is already here (0+ / 0-)

    It's called the Tea Party and all those other 'conservative / libertarian / Republican  elements of the US population' that your reference.

    Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps makes as much sense as trying to pick up a chair while you're still sitting in it.

    by Ammo Hauler on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 10:29:32 AM PDT

  •  A related encounter between Robert R. Wilson,... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NBBooks, blueoasis

    a founder and first Director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (aka FNAL or Fermilab) near Chicago and Senator John Pastore during Senate hearings to approve the construction of Fermilab:

    “Senator Pastore, I and my colleagues will be spending a good part of our lives building and using this machine. We have a deep and very personal commitment to it.” [Robert R. Wilson] launched into an impassioned argument for the accelerator [Fermilab], and Senator Pastore was being impassioned right back. Among other things the senator said: “Is there anything connected [with] this accelerator that in any way involves the security of this country?” Wilson responded: “No sir; I do not believe so.” Senator Pastore persisted: “Nothing at all?” Finally Wilson said: “[The accelerator] has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets?... It has nothing to do with defending our country, except to make it worth defending.”

    Dennis Flanagan, (Flanagan’s Version, 1988)

    I am proud to be able to say that I got the chance to vote for Ann Richards for Governor of Texas, twice!

    by dewtx on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:12:23 AM PDT

  •  if only (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    techno, jayden, dewolf99

    an understanding of hypothesis testing was a requirement for professional politicians.

    Republicans - the party that wrecked America

    by ecologydoc on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:28:55 AM PDT

  •  I just saw Particle Fever yesterday... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG, techno

    So it's a funny coincidence to see this diary here today.

    The film was okay, but a few things reminded me why I left physics after earning my bachelor's degree in the field.

    1) The view of the Nobel Prize as the apotheosis of a scientific career. In my experience, scientists spend way too much time gossiping about who's going to win the next Nobel, and too little time pondering the scientific, social, and cultural implications of their work (the answer to the question, "So what?").

    2) The view of exploration and discovery as the ultimate goals of a human life. NBBooks claims in this diary that the Scientific Revolution enabled the Enlightenment but, really, the Age of Exploration sparked both. The problem is that European explorers considered the lands they "discovered" to be empty of humanity -- cf. terra nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery -- which made colonialism and genocide so much easier on the conscience than it would have been if the explorers and colonizers had acknowledged the value of the lives of the people they killed and the kinship and interrelationship they tore apart. Today, the science of ecology continues the misperceptions caused by the glorification of exploration and discovery by focusing on "exploring" a "nature" and a "natural" history free of Indigenous people and their interrelationships with land and water.

    3) Toward the end of Particle Fever, a physicist talks about the painters of Chauvet Cave (cf. Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams) as scientists, as "discoverers" of the animals they portrayed on the cave walls. But those painters were not discoverers. They saw the bears, lions, and horses they painted all the time. The paintings are expressions of deep human relationship with other animals dating from time immemorial, not of "discovery." To sustain ourselves and other beings, to avoid Diamond's "collapse," we do not need to discover new technological fixes for diminishing "natural" resources and "raw materials." Instead we need to recuperate the cultural, mutually beneficial, and reciprocal relationships that we have had with plants, animals, land, and water. From across a 30,000-year time span, the Chauvet artists are showing us ways to do that.

    I guess maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for Particle Fever. When "Ode to Joy" blasted out of the audio track at a "dramatic" moment, my eyes didn't fill with tears, they rolled.

    •  You most certainly have a point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, Fresno

      Many things look better to an outsider and science is one of them.  Take a long view and apply some historicism, and science looks positively heroic.  Up close, probably not so much.

      My discovery came because I had a job in college working as a surgical orderly.  One job was to replenish the floor disinfectant every morning.  This job took me into the rooms where world-class surgeons in a known research hospital scrubbed in—a tedious job that almost demands small talk.  Turns out that outside their medical fields, world-class surgeons are pig-ignorant holding views that hadn't evolved past, say, seventh grade.

      To this day, I am frightened by the ignorance of the physician classes. I wouldn't vote to make one dog-catcher.

  •  Wow. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny, dewtx
    American conservative mythology of democracy and liberty arising from property rights.
    Really?  Really?  I thought I'd run across all the stupid conservative crap, living here in Texas.  I've even run across the "Crislam" justification for Obama being Muslim even though he attends church regularly.  But equating democracy with property rights is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!  Sure, they meant liberty.  Liberty for landed aristocrats!

    Is this misinformation the reason the Libertarians are such idiots?  I'd hardly call feudalism any kind of liberty.  No wonder the things they say don't make any kind of sense.

    I support a Biblical definition of marriage. When do I get my concubines and second wife?

    by jackdabastard on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 01:36:19 PM PDT

  •  This Reminds Me Of The High School Mentality (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx

    Teacher: This information I am trying to teach you will be useful to you in your life someday.

    Teen-age Student: And how does this knowledge get me a car, or how does this knowledge get me laid?

    That is precisely the mentality that was displayed by the economist asking Kaplan his question.
    He might as well have come right out and said it.

  •  This is such a good diary. (0+ / 0-)

    When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

    by genethefiend on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 10:37:37 AM PDT

fly, claude, OkieByAccident, Angie in WA State, Danny Boy, raboof, teacherken, native, Geenius at Wrok, Gooserock, Powered Grace, PeterHug, Shockwave, Fabienne, just another vet, genethefiend, LEP, Rachael7, red moon dog, NCJim, RFK Lives, MarkInSanFran, hubcap, 88kathy, lippythelion69, pucklady, whenwego, joe pittsburgh, AlyoshaKaramazov, mrblifil, Arun, wader, psnyder, Dallasdoc, pat bunny, kj in missouri, penguins4peace, Timbuk3, BlogDog, Dood Abides, Major Kong, hfjai, Deward Hastings, Mosquito Pilot, Steven D, rapala, nailbender, kbman, tovan, Bluesee, SisTwo, NoMoreLies, sc kitty, run around, Simplify, basquebob, dewtx, ChemBob, Sun Tzu, stevemb, ivorybill, markdd, Sandino, techno, Ammo Hauler, Rusty in PA, itsjim, sillia, turdraker, Arsenic, BlackWolf, bently, buckeyebornandbred, occams hatchet, Clytemnestra, profundo, smokeymonkey, The Wizard, blueoasis, ecologydoc, Unitary Moonbat, MBNYC, hlsmlane, doingbusinessas, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Texdude50, crystal eyes, CharlieHipHop, One Pissed Off Liberal, BeninSC, anotherdemocrat, Habitat Vic, tgypsy, Dartagnan, ColoTim, gloriana, Stwriley, puakev, some other george, Via Chicago, terabytes, certainot, DWG, Shadowmage36, Uncle Cosmo, bnasley, jayden, letsgetreal, jnhobbs, Don midwest, gizmo59, MKinTN, mconvente, Youffraita, KJG52, monkeybrainpolitics, J V Calin, petulans, driftwood, rsmpdx, TheFern, socal altvibe, mkor7, LibrErica, Keith Pickering, guyeda, Thutmose V, ArthurPoet, jfromga, LookingUp, Larsstephens, Words In Action, Man Oh Man, Mokurai, everyoneismad, Susan Grigsby, jakedog42, ThirtyFiveUp, samlowry, DrTerwilliker, cocinero, nosleep4u, FarmerG, bluesophie, Hatrax, AnotherAmericanLie, marleycat, Wolf10, incognita, muddy boots, tardis10, enhydra lutris, peregrine kate, myrmecia gulosa, gr8trtl, sound of progress, Andrew F Cockburn, Joe Jackson, Eric Stetson, zenox, No one gets out alive, mrbond, lurkyloo, IndieGuy, oldcrow, Trenz Pruca, exatc, peachcreek, belinda ridgewood, willrob, avsp, rat racer, FrY10cK, bigrivergal, George3, Windowpane, The Geogre, Scioto8, GoGoGoEverton, Chaddiwicker, goodpractice, Alhambra, optimistic pizza, OregonWetDog, skepticalcitizen, TheDuckManCometh, richardvjohnson, grape crush, pierre9045, jbsoul, Fish Man, patbahn, Gurnt, JustBeKos, thanatokephaloides, ray ciaf, Back Porch philosopher, libera nos, liz2339, liberaldad2, dewolf99, jackdabastard, bobcat41702, From Outer Space, coyote66, AnacharsisClootz

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