who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. The Government
2. George Carlin
This is a Nederlog of December
25, 2014. It is a crisis log with an item about Robert Reich, and
with some bits of George Carlin thrown in because of Christmas.
I am sorry this is a smaller Nederlog than I originally planned, but I
slept very badly last night, and am today quite tired.
Hopefully I will be fitter tomorrow.
1. The Government Problem (Reich)
The first item today is a crisis item by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Some believe the
central political issue of our era is the size of the government.
They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.
As I will outline below,
this might just as well - or better - have been called "The People's
Problem" or "Democracy's Problem", though Reich is right that there are
quite a few issues about the government, such as: How much it should
tax the different income groups; how much it should spend on various
governmental ends; what it should and should not do; what laws it
should enact, etc.
In fact, both questions - about the size of the government and whom the
government is for - are mostly false simplifications that appeal only
to superficial people: The size indeed depends on who it is for, and
who it is for is clearly in some general and vague sense "the
people who inhabit the country", but without any specifications
of plans, proposals and taxes that answer also is far too
Then again, Reich is right in empasizing that the present and previous
American governments do not take ordinary people serious (except to
mislead them in elections in key states) and in fact mostly work for
the extra-ordinary people who are quite rich or who work for the
government in high positions.
And Reich gives quite a few examples of recent governmental actions
that strongly favor the rich.
Thus, he mentions the partial repeal of Dodd-Frank, that again
allows the banks to speculate with the people's money; health insurance
business, food companies, defense contractors, agri-business, travel
industry, and oil and gas industries, that all get special governmental
support, subsidies or tax loopholes; Big Pharma, that was especially helped by a prohibition
on the government's using its bargaining powers to lower drug prices;
and the great sums spend on corporate welfare are good examples of how the
government helps the rich, and then he asks:
politicians doing so much for corporate executives and Wall Street
insiders? Follow the money. It’s because they’re flooding Washington
with money as never before, financing an increasing portion of
Yes indeed: "Follow the
money" - but then government should not serve the rich few
merely because they have the money to buy politicians, but indeed it
Reich sums up as follows (and I am deleting some):
continues to concentrate at the top, individuals and entities with lots
of money have greater political power to get favors from government –
like the rollback of the Dodd-Frank law and the accumulation of
additional corporate welfare. These favors, in turn, further entrench
and expand the wealth at the top.
The size of government
isn’t the problem. That’s a canard used to hide the far larger problem.
The larger problem is
that much of government is no longer working for the vast majority it’s
intended to serve. It’s working instead for a small minority at the top.
And that indeed is the
problem - except that it is much less a problem of government, as it is
a problem of democracy or of the people:
If the majority of the
democratic electorate can be deceived into supporting a
majority of politicians who support the rich much rather than ordinary
people, which seems to be the case, democracy has turned into an empty
formalism, that masks the underlying plutocratic oligarchy.
The second item is in
fact a slightly edited repeat of last year, basically because I am
today very tired, not having slept enough, and because George
Carlin, at least since the early 1990ies, was a real philosopher, who
addressed many philosophical problems with style and wit.
I only discovered George Carlin
two years after he died, in 2010, but have been a fan ever since, and
have seen most of the Carlin material on Youtube, and several times
linked to selections from it.
I must have mentioned
him in Nederlog before May 2, 2012,
but that is the first time he is in the Nederlog-indexes, and I then
did include my assessment of him:
All of that still holds,
and indeed I also really think Carlin did far more good than any
American philosopher of the 20th Century did, because he made a lot of
sense, that very few people really do, and reached a far
than any philosopher ever did.
George Carlin, although he never
got any university degree, was a real
philosopher who discussed real
philosophical problems in ways that are accessible, amusing and
instructive to real people who are not blessed by academic
knowing how to perform some academic tricks passably well and without
giving offense to the authorities or the public at large, and who call
themselves "philosophers" because they teach it, and maybe also write
about it in journals that are only read by their own kind.
again, in order
to reach the public Carlin had to adopt the stance of a comedian - as
few will pay to hear a talk about philosophy - a subject which he
excelled in thanks to a combination of courage, individualism,
intelligence and verbal wit.
seems to me to be
one of the very few Americans of his and my generation who
speak the truth about many
accepted idiocies and injustices in an intelligent and intelligible
way, and who also managed to get away with it, and indeed to make money
by it, because he was genuinely witty, which is another talent academic
philosophers rarely have, even if they believe they do (see Magee's
interviews, if you were inclined to think otherwise: compare the
agility of these supposedly major 20th Century philosophers with the
verbal agility, ready wit and logical clarity that Carlin displayed,
also in direct discussion, as can be seen on YouTube).
This is especially so from 1992 onwards, as he himself indicates in the
In fact, this is an
interview from 2007, about a year before his death, and it is a good
video with good questions, and I hadn't seen this before, although I
have seen and linked other interviews with him.
Finally here is a quotation with links, that still work today, from May
Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 1 of 4)
Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 2 of 4)
Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 3 of 4)
Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 4 of 4)
enjoy, realize this was no ordinary fool: He was one of the very few
who dared to speak the truth about average mankind to average mankind,
and who survived that and made money from it by sheer wit.)