A Letter to London

(The “post” below is an email to DZ, a friend of mine, dating back to the early 70s, who has lived in England for over 40 years after marrying an English woman.   Recently, he has contributed summaries of three books to this blog, The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haight, One Way Forward by Lawrence Lessig and We Can Do Better by Bill Bradley, the last-named pair referred to below).

Just read over your summary.  Good job.  Bradley’s approach seems the most comprehensive that I’ve seen.  Of course, being so raises lots of questions and things to quibble with.  Still, he seems to touch all the bases and could be sort of a initial blue print for change to rework or tweak here and there.

In the States we seem to have three huge interconnected problems (at least until I think of a fourth):  1) our polarization.  2) the corrupting influence of big money 3) our lack of commonly respected sources of knowledge.  As to the last point, I know several guys who can’t stand Obama just because they have swallowed the negative image the Republicans have ginned up  over the past four years.

They call Obama a “socialist”.   Both Warren Buffet and Paul Volker would say that those  accusations are unfounded.   Warren Buffet  has been Mr. Super Investment Guy for years,  and Paul Volker is a former Federal Reserve Chief and generally well respected banking type.   Does it make sense that either of these guys would welcome a socialist as president?

Rather than being a socialist, Obama could be accused of being soft on the big banks which are still too big too fail.  Though Obama isn’t getting as much money from them for this election as before, he has been getting more money than Romney…….which may also reflect the bankers’ belief that Mitt is not likely to win and/or simply a hedging of their bets.

Speaking of  money, the influence of “Big Money” has gotten bigger since Citizens United which I discussed in two recent posts.  And their role in this election is largely the production of negative ads from both sides.  I just saw a Republican ad strategist  on FOX compliment an ad from the Obama campaign that makes Mitt look like a heartless guy sacking workers while at Bain Capital.  One hired gun complimenting another.  Our election is all attack ads and sound bites.

Finding the unity to do things while lacking a base of commonly recognized knowledge and restricting the influence of big money (which seems to prosper with keeping things just the way they are) seems so difficult that  it is hard to imagine a solution.

I have come to have doubts about the possibility of a third party that makes a big impact in our life times.   While I think the internet makes it a possibility, it is a very tricky situation to make work.   Bill Bradley refers to Americans Elect which I wrote about in a post, and is now dormant.    It is a sort of Catch 22.  For something like that to attract backing it needs to convince people it has real potential and to convince people it has real potential it needs to attract backing.

Lawrence Lessig, who you reported on, (I figure at your advanced age you might need a reminder) has initiated a web site called rootstrikers that urges people to take several steps to fight money corruption, including signing a pledge to back several actions  (you don’t have to back all of them).   This has been around for months I think,  and they have only about 5,400 signed up.

Lessig urges me and others  to spread the news to friends and I will at some point mention the site, but not with vigor.   If I don’t see something working, I am  not going to ask readers to back it with enthusiasm.    If the numbers stick round 5000, I’m not going to push it, even if I sign up myself.  That Catch 22 I mentioned.

While what I have written must seem pessimistic, I just think of it as realistic.  We cannot figure out a way forward without seeing clearly all the obstacles we face.

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