Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Liberty Versus Security, "It Can't Happen Here" ... But It Did, "Labor Omnia Vincet" and David Brooks' Thoughts on Aging


*Labor Omnia Vincet - That Good Place

A big factor resulting in the Republican base being dominated in 2016 by angry middle class working people is their dissatisfaction with a system which they feel has shortchanged them.  These are the folks who are turning to Donald Trump for a solution. On the Democratic side, the unexpectedly large number of supporters Bernie Sanders has amassed manifests the same thing.  So this is not a Republican or a Democratic response.  It is an American response.

Primarily, this dissatisfaction arises from what has happened to the job market in this country.  Wages, when considered along with the rest of the economy, have actually gone down over the years.  Jobs which used to be plentiful have disappeared and have been replaced to an extent by new kinds of employment, with most job creation occurring at the lower and upper levels and few in “the middle” and which seems to be constantly evolving and changing, making retraining difficult. The computer programming a displaced coal miner or textile worker learned last year may be obsolete today.  Finally, the idea of a job lasting for an employee’s entire career has disappeared.  Frequent employment changes, once a sign of personal instability for most people, are now the rule, with companies themselves even losing the permanence they once had.  All of this has enormous implications for such things as health care, home purchasing, paying for education and retirement planning as well as public attitudes toward immigration.

This dissatisfaction comes down to the question of who is looking out for the welfare of the working class. I'll repeat that.  This dissatisfaction comes down to the question of who is looking out for the welfare of the working class.  Individual workers cannot do it by themselves nor can politicians, regardless of what they may say.  Faith in Trump or Cruz to right such inequities is misplaced.  If there are solutions to be found, they must found by a cooperative, joint effort.  From the late nineteenth until the middle of the twentieth centuries, labor unions filled this need.  Now, the unions, except in the area of government employees, are weak if not non-existent.

Samuel Gomphers, labor leader in the late nineteenth century and founder of the A.F. of L. started by unionizing the cigar makers in Tampa.

Certainly, this cannot be blamed on the Democratic Party, which has always had a strong pro-labor union position.  It is the Republicans who have fought the unions with attacks on the National Labor Relations Board, promoting state right-to-work laws and other union-busting activities.  It is the business community which has moved its manufacturing overseas where inexpensive, overworked low cost labor is available to replace the good and more expensive jobs which labor unions had brought to the American working person.  And generally, this business community has supported the Republican Party which in exchange, has favored it from trade and taxation standpoints.

jobs go overseas and wages drop here


So when dissatisfied, angry middle class working people look for someone to blame for the difficult economic challenges they face, the culprit stands before them.  It is the Republican Party. They have never been the friend of working people.  And that includes former film union leader Ronald Reagan who, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, led America down the wrong fork in the road leading to mythological “trickle down” economics. They have decimated the protector of the working person, labor unions. Blame them, folks!  Not Barack Obama!  Rather than continue to support the G.O.P., hoping that the dangerous and hollow oratory of their two leading candidates for the nomination will change things, dissatisfied middle class working people would be better served by organizing and supporting labor unions and their allies in the Democratic Party.  That good place always was and should be the home of the working person. 

*My Latin isn’t particularly good but “Labor Omnia Vincet” can be taken to mean that “hard work will solve all problems” or that the Labor Union movement will ultimately triumph over all.  Some unions have it in their seals and it happens to be the State motto of Oklahoma, where obviously, it refers to “hard work” and not to Unions.

Jack Lippman


Liberty Versus Security  
There has always been a problem in achieving a balance between liberty and security.  Back in feudal times, serfs sacrificed their freedom in exchange for the protection of the nobles who guaranteed their safety by providing them with security from attacks by any marauders from the manor down the road. 

In Feudal Times

In times of war, personal liberties are often temporarily sacrificed in exchange for the ability to more effectively fight an enemy, with the national good as the overriding objective. 

Right now, in combating terrorism, here and abroad, we are asked to sacrifice liberty by enabling our government to invade our individual right to privacy, including electronic communications.  Initially, it would seem that it is not too big a price to pay for increased security.  But really, it is the same as giving someone the okay to slit open and examine the contents of any envelope which the postman leaves in your mailbox, including love letters, business correspondence and dunning letters from creditors, the kind of things about which you might not want others to know.  Do you really want to do that?  Despite assurances of confidentiality, once private information is looked at, it is no longer private.  And electronic surveillance of what happens on your cell phone or other electronic devices is no different than such an invasion of one’s outdoor mailbox. 

Someone is watching you

But if it will protect our nation’s security, is this too great a sacrifice to make?  After all, most people have nothing to hide.   In making this decision, the key is how severe and menacing are the dangers at which such measures are directed.  Certainly, acts of terrorism which can take many lives fall into this category.

Brussels terrorists

Once some privacy is given up, lessening liberty in exchange for more security, it is vital that it not be made the norm, and provision made to restore liberties which were given up, once the crisis calling for such measures is resolved.  And any government which acts in this manner should do so reluctantly, only with the acquiescence of the people, and with no intention of giving permanence to any authoritarian steps it may temporarily take to achieve its aims.