Calvin Ball Constitution

I am a profoundly un-athletic person.  This used to surprise people who knew me when I was young, and now looking at pictures I sort of understand why, as I was tall and muscular and rather enjoyed physical exertion.  I liked hiking and running and I walked everywhere where it was even remotely safe to walk.  (Okay, partly because I was also a skinflint and didn’t want to spend money on buses and trains.  But that was only ancillary.)

My problem with most sports was in fact coordination, not strength or enjoyment of physical exertion.  This is probably traceable to my being a premature birth, and awful astigmatism but in Portugal at the time (we’d learned to chip our flint in the NEW way 😉 ) few people knew that.  I learned early to dread gym class because my teachers made the assumption people at the time would make about a well-grown girl who really didn’t want to play dodge ball or volleyball.  “You’re afraid of taking a ball to the face and spoiling your beauty!” and “You’re a spoiled brat” were the things most often hurled at me.  They hurt all the more because I couldn’t understand where they came from.  I OFTEN took balls to the face (and other things – if someone say threw a book for me to catch, I was likely as not to get it on the face, since I usually stepped the wrong way.) No one had ever told me I had a face worth protecting.  And as for spoiled…. Brother, I wish I’d been.

It worried me more to be told stuff like that, because I’d start wondering if I’d done something to make them think those things – and what could that be.  It took me until my thirties to realize that some number of people are stupid, that – like many writers – most people deal in stereotypes and default to the easiest one, and that it is no part or parcel of my lot in life to be responsible for stupid people.

Eventually, in ninth grade, I had a gym teacher who had given up on the more demanding job of therapy.  He looked at me and a friend who had the same issues and said “Were you two born premature?”  After that, he basically gave us therapy, and while I’m not the world’s best coordinated or most graceful person, I probably hit the low range of normal in both of those.

Anyway, because I enjoyed physical exertion and liked rough play (being a tomboy till marriage tamed me) while I hated sports at school, I LIKED playing at stuff.  Needless to say, in the way of such things, most of my friends had similar issues to mine – or at least weren’t the most athletic creatures around.  (We also solved physics problems for fun.  Wanna make something of it?)

So one summer – we must have been 13 or so, the thing to do became to play a deranged version of volleyball in my mom’s enclosed back patio.  Years later, when I came across Calvin Ball in the Calvin and Hobbs comics, I laughed myself sick, because it was rather like that.  What we played was volleyball or soccer, and occasionally handball, and if you count the times we put the ball into a bucket suspended from the rain gutter, you could call it basketball.

The main thing was that whoever had the ball at the time could make the rules.  So, you’d be dribbling the ball, realize it was going to slip, and say “Dribbling is forbidden” as you held the ball and ran.

I loved that game.  In the end, the advantage went to people who could think fast and were glib talkers – two fields in which I had the advantage I lacked in coordination and visual acuity.

Calvin volleyball was tons of fun for all of us for a while, but eventually it ended in tears, because someone called foul, and how do you call foul on rules that keep changing?  The people who were less mentally agile or less devious were at a serious disadvantage, and when they yelled “it’s not fair” we had nothing to oppose.  Unlike in the physical coordination games (in which I was always at a serious disadvantage) we couldn’t tell the ones who weren’t good at it “but the rules say.”  There were no rules.  Or worse, there were rules that kept changing depending on how fast the people with the ball were in thinking them up so they could keep the ball forever.

So the Summer of fun Calvin Volleyball ended with a big fight and two of the people who’d been regular players never talking to me again, and my brother, who was older than I by ten years told me it was perfectly predictable, which did NOT win him any brownie points.  (How can a genius IQ man not know that “I told you so” will not endear him to his headstrong sister?)

When I created Eden, in Darkship Thieves, I wasn’t thinking of that.  In fact, I wasn’t thinking of much of anything except creating a society with as few laws as possible, that still functioned.  I used to be a capital L fire-eating Libertarian, and that was my opus.

By the time I came to re-write it and make it publishable, some of the polish had worn off my shiny Libertarianism, and I sort of perceived that no human society can operate without – at least – habit setting in.  People need to know some minimal stuff to count on.  So I gave them custom, tradition, and the court of public opinion.

Then as I was trying to noodle what happened in Darkship Renegades (the book was not being talkative.  I knew they were forced to come back to Earth, but I couldn’t see WHY.) no lesser person than Eric S. Raymond told me that I had a problem I had to think through, because in the end what Eden had was too changeable to be safe, and under stress (attack from Earth on energy collectors) it would splinter and become, in fact, Calvin Government.  From that thought, both DSR, the next still untitled book, and The Earth Revolution series were born.

Lately I’ve been thinking of that in regards to our founding documents, too.  Oh, we have a Constitution, and it’s written and everything.

Which is, to our purposes, nothing since its range of interpretation has now gone so far as to permit people being taxed for what they DON’T do.   Once you’re at that point, the people who have the Calvin Ball are making the rules er… fast and furious, and not only isn’t it fair, but by being fast and glib they have the right to keep the ball forever and to make the rules that allow them to always win the game.  (And before someone says anything, no, I don’t in fact think they understand that they can’t remake the rules of economics like they remake the rules of government and on the fly – Most of them being lawyers, I think they’re under the impression words remake the world.)

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying the Constitution is written in stone and no amendment should be permitted.  I simply think the ammendments must be well thought out, carefully discussed and put to a vote. (Which won’t prevent us screwing the pooch – look at prohibition – but it will keep it to a minimum.)  The Constitution should be taken seriously, enforced and – if enough people think it’s become intolerable – amended.  BUT it should be difficult to amend it, and it should be done with care and deliberation and with unintended consequences always before our eyes.

That process is what prevents the “person with the ball” from changing the rules on the fly, to ensure they rule forever.

If we were still following the Constitution, elections would still be important but they wouldn’t be vital.  Whom the current clowns appoint to the Supreme Court would be important and might give people heartburn, but we’d be protected by the basic rules.  You couldn’t take the ball, start running with it towards the agreed-upon goal, spy the bucket hanging from the rain gutter, yell out “And dunking it in the bucket wins a bazillion points” and then win the game that way.  The rules are agreed upon before the game starts, and they change very slowly and very carefully, so that everyone knows them and they have to be followed.

Oh, I know, the game is then not as much fun for the people in charge, and yep, they’re right, some people are going to get hit by the rules – some people are always going to get hit by the rules.  We’re born equal before the law, but that’s the ONLY way in which we’re born equal – and some people are going to do well out of it.  It’s natural for those who have power – and for the type of people who are attracted by power over others – to want to be the winners.  If someone is going to lose, why should it be them?

Because the rules can be made so the fewer people lose, so that playing fair is allowed, so that creativity and hard work is rewarded and so that the game is fun for most people, of course.  Because one way produces wide-spread prosperity and a flourishing society and the other way produces… North Korea.  On the other hand, North Korea is, of course, lots of fun for those on top.

The most important words in the Constitution are not the enumerations of power or all the nifty things that our government can do for us.  Other countries have Constitutions like that, and they neither prevent the onset of dictatorship (one of the reasons why Fascism is always descending on the US, but always manages to fall on Europe) or the big fight that comes at the end of a game of Calvin Volleyball.

No, the most important words in the Constitution are contained in the tenth amendment: The powers are delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

We bend other amendments to impinge on it, and make a mockery of it to our own risk.

Calvin Ball Constitution is nothing more than strong-man government.  One way or another, it always ends in tears.

112 responses to “Calvin Ball Constitution

  1. Calvin and Hobbes has to be the best daily comic ever.

  2. The Confederate States of America had Calvinball Government. After the surrender, the Union found warehouses in North Carolina full of shoe leather. Confederate soldiers from other states had been going barefoot for years, but the CSA government had no authority to order NC to cough up the shoe leather. The CSA states agreed on the final, third design for the Confederate national flag two months before the surrender.

  3. Executive orders. Calvin. Oof!

    Once again you make things so perfectly understood.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    But Sarah, as long as the “Good Men” are in charge, things will be OK! (Deliberate use of Sarah’s term.) [Wink]

  5. Am I the only one who finds it funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) that the faction most vociferous in asserting a “Living Constitution” are also the ones quickest to decry any proposed amendments to it?

    Remember which faction eagerly praised Bellisle’s attempt to rewrite the 2nd Amendment’s history and meaning? And which denounce presidential exercise of war powers following 9/11 as unconstitutional, even though it followed the examples of Jefferson’s and Madison’s similar exercise in the Barbary Wars?

  6. When your continued existence as a party depends upon the ability to distribute government largess, you will find ways to retain your grasp of the levers of government.

    It seems one party is playing soccer while the other plays rugby, which does not usually work out well for the soccer players.

    • Judging by a recent headline, I think one party is playing badminton and the other is playing rugby. (“Hey, what just happened to my racquet?” as he holds his sprained wrist.)

    • scott2harrison

      No it doesn’t. Of course, when the soccer players come to understand that the rugby players will not follow the rules of soccer and decide to make sure that they will never pollute the game again, the rugby players loose a lot more than just a game.

  7. I hate to defend our putative lords and masters, but they aren’t wholly at fault. When circumstances change enough, constitutions break. If you don’t mind, I’d like to discuss how it happened in Rome.

    The Roman Republic had a constitution designed for a city-state whose inhabitants knew, in the depth of their heart, that they had to band together against common enemies. It worked extremely well for that, allowing for minor tweaks like tribunes of the plebs (because Rome needed the plebs to be willing to fight for it), or proconsuls (because eventually wars were fought far away and had to take more than the annual consular term).

    It worked so well that eventually the common need for mutual defense weakened. The ruling class was no longer Cincinnatus types, content to lay down their powers and go back to the plow. Instead, they had huge farms worked by demilitarized slaves. The city itself became full of proles, too poor to afford the arms required for military service.

    By the time of Marius this was enough of a problem that it was necessary for the state to provide the arms. That wasn’t a big deal, the Roman state could afford them. But because the proles didn’t have property to go back to either. They needed to rely on their generals for their retirement property. This meant they were loyals to the generals instead of the Republic. It only took a few decades for the Republic to die.

    Our constitution also has design parameters. Some were conscious (“Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams Others, like the importance of local politics(1) or that voters would be primarily business owners, were probably unconscious.

    I am not saying that the constitution is outdated, and we should throw it out and let Obama try to run a strong-man government(2). I am saying that I am scared we are headed that way. Oh well, it may be interesting times, but it probably won’t be nearly as bad as what my grandparents’ generation went through.

    (1) The speed of communication was a man on a fast horse. People rarely moved from state to state without really good reasons.

    (2) I think he’ll fail miserably. He hasn’t done nearly enough to obtain the loyalty of the military.

    • I always thought of it as a matter of politicians becoming a class, politics a way of life.

      You can have Cincinattus or George Washington, if you have a civilization that will elect people from all walks of life *temporarily* with the intent that eventually they go home and get a *real* job. Politics as service is only possible if the job takes a very small portion of the prospective politician’s life and effort. The prospect of living, at the same common level, in the society they so temporarily rule keeps them from abusing their power and authority.

      People, in general, can only be selfless with work that eats a small portion of their lives. The vast majority of someone’s effort is going to be spent pursuing their own goals – the prosperity, position, and security of their family, their lifelong dreams, etc. Charity/service to a higher cause happens with the leftovers.

      If a politician has to begin his career pursuing highly politicized and artificially selective law degrees, continue through all sorts of staff positions, junior internships, junior senate seats, senior senate seats, etc – then when they finally start gaining power they are going to abuse it to make themselves and their families rich and ensure their perpetual fixture in the government. They’ve given their whole lives to politics, and it can make them arbitrarily rich and powerful – they aren’t going to go home and learn how to lay bricks.

      In the private sector, being out for yourself and your family (as all creatures ultimately are), is harmless. In poltiics, it is lethal.

      • Ditto for career civil servants. Career civil servants aren’t serving anyone but themselves – they don’t have to. They don’t need to provide a service for their money. They can’t be fired. The vast cancerous bureaucracy is another instance of this principle – putting in 20 years while climbing to the top of an org chart in place of presumably doing duty in some temporary position.

        • Well, perhaps that’s too harsh. (I’ve been a bit too harsh lately). There are people I know who, despite having a job where it would be impossible to fire them, still try to do their jobs right and well.

          On the other hand, there are people I encountered who could tell you the number of years/months/days/hours/minutes/seconds they have to retirement and that’s why they don’t need to deal with X. Or they convince themselves that a job that consists of harassing and obstructing other people trying to do *their* jobs constitutes a lofty and important function.

          • Mad– My hubby does work for the State– and does his best. However, he has bet the other kind you like to mention. They also do their best to obstruct others in their offices who are trying to do a job. When the job is “invested,” it is hard to find people who will continue working. Plus unionizing Federal and State workers is a travesty imho. What would happen if they let the military unionize? (the thought made me smile)– I have seen it in other countries actually.

            • I meant– he has met (gosh must be the Nevada air– betting, betting) 😉

            • This points to a reason why the old rule of thumb held that it requires 50 years for Current Events to become History for purposes of evaluation. It is only when policies have ripened fully that we can properly judge just how bad (or, less commonly, how good) those policies are.

              Fifty years ago JFK authorized government employee unions; the true disastrous nature of that policy has only been fully apparent in the last decade or so. LBJ’s expansion of government benefits is a fiscal avalanche that is even now denied by a majority of politicians and “thinkers.” Nixon’s EPA was quicker than most agencies to turn South, but the depths of abuses it is prone to are only beginning to truly be explored under the present administration, forty years after the agency’s creation. The disaster that was Carter’s foreign policy is still short of fruition, with the Ayotollaucracy well established as a major proliferator of terrorism even without nuclear weaponry. (It is a measure of how bad Carter was that his chickens are so soon come home to roost.) George H. W. Bush’s Americans With Disabilities Act has only been with us for twenty years and already we are seeing how the abusers are warping it from its original intent, demonstrating the accelerating nature of the compounded problems (bureaucracies will expand their regimes.)

          • A major problem with those dedicated civil servants who attempt to perform their designated tasks is that they often find they are doing the work of several other, less diligent servants. Which rather tends to quell their dedication to their tasks and causes them to leave that line of employment or slide into the apathetic abyss like their co(non)workers.

            Thus the system is forever in a descending spiral as the diligent come to recognize that they are being played for suckers, and that their efforts enable those whose sole interest lies in sucking at the public teat. As a former PM recently wrote in a British daily, Yes, Minister ought be required viewing for all incoming politicians and ministers (political appointees in the US bureaucracy.)

            • YES– it takes a highly ethical person to continue to be diligent in face of such opposition–

              • Being in government is a thankless job. You do so much that is a necessary part of any society, defense, policing, sanitation, administration and you are only noticed when things break down and if you are honest you won’t get rich. The honest believers die on the roofs of embassies and those that would be their commanders in chief sell their assets to Al-Jazeera.

            • I have a lot of personal stories to this effect from when I was in the Air Force. When they sent me to Defense Acquisitions University, and the DAU drones unrolled their grand org-chart (which covered a campaign table) of the *Acquisitions Process*, complete with five different stages of sending things all the way up to Congress and back – it’s no wonder they haven’t been able to design anything new and contract everything that actually works out to companies.

              They were *proud* of it. It was so intricate, so involved, how could it not be a veritable machine for innovation – the inventive spirit, distilled? If I continued my glorious career, I could aspire to be one of those microscopic boxes in the chain of approval. It made me die a little inside. (And leave the career field)

              • In contrast to their glorious process, they spent an entire lesson trying to use Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks team as a *counterexample* to good systems engineering. Those godawful cowboys just hauled off and did things. They didn’t plan out the entire life cycle. They didn’t plan for what their planes would need 35 years from now, or have a safe disposal infastructure. They didn’t submit their process to tiered review levels! They just designed stuff, tried new technology willy nilly, and *built it* (gasp). Well before they had proven technology readiness. Such irresponsibility!

                Anyway, the prospect of someday working for people like the Skunkworks team sounded more fun than Defense Acquisitions Management.

                • Yeah – completely different mindsets. One fears failure and tries to cover its a$$ against risk, the other accepts risk as a necessary factor and knows that success is a decisive argument all on its own.

                • That was one of the most fascinating things about the job I had in the Air Force. It didn’t matter what your rank was, how much experience you had, or where you worked, if you were the first one to identify what was going on, your report took precedence. I’d give my eye teeth to be working in that kind of field again, even though I know I’d be physically MISERABLE doing it. The only problem in the system was getting it by the editor, who always wanted to change a “confirmed” to a “probable”, and a “probable” to a “possible”. Luckily, sometimes the imagery was so clear that even they had to admit you saw what you said you saw.

                  • Oh, BTW, don’t take this as me complaining about the Air Force in general. I worked places that I loved as well. I just wasn’t enthusiastic about a bright future in acquisitions management.

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  Interestingly, the team building exercise I was forced to attend a couple of months ago was designed to highlight the fact that the Skunkworks way is generally the better way to get things accomplished.

                • Robin Roberts

                  Uh, the Skunkworks whose U2 aircraft is still in service after five and a half decades … yep, pretty crappy work.

                  • Actually, all the U2 aircraft over 40 years old have been scrapped and replaced by TR-1 aircraft (metal fatigue, not anything to do with design or function. Wings warp a LOT at 72K). The only pure U2 aircraft left work for NASA or State. Have a few anecdotes about U2 and SR-71 a/c and the imagery they produce.

              • This points to a significant problem of bureaucracies in a period of accelerating technological innovation: by the time they have determined the replacement technology for their obsolete system … the replacement technology is obsolete. Going through the acquisition process to purchase 250M hard drives for government computers in, say, 1999, would have gotten approval and issuance of purchase orders well after 2G thumb-drives were widely and cheaply available.

                This is an underlying theme of John Ringo’s Paladin of Shadows series: that the MC, by virtue of not being subject to bureausclerosis, is able to acquire and employ up-to-the-minute technology and act more decisively and effectively in consequence.

                • “This is an underlying theme of John Ringo’s Paladin of Shadows series: that the MC, by virtue of not being subject to bureausclerosis, is able to acquire and employ up-to-the-minute technology and act more decisively and effectively in consequence.”

                  Well, and the fact that the MC is a firm believer in the adages, “rules were made to be broken,” “results are all that counts,” and “it’s only illegal if you get caught.”

    • He hasn’t done nearly enough to obtain the loyalty of the military.

      This is one of the things that worries me most – basically, the current guy is an incompetent know-it-all would-be tyrant, who, due to ideology and hubris, has repeatedly and consistently alienated constituencies critical to any bypassing of those pesky constitutional restraints on absolute power. But he has established precedents that look like they will go unchallenged.

      What happens when the next guy (or gal), taking advantage of the precedents set by the current guy, is competent?

      • The wretched ratchet effect of precedence is of great concern. We can only hope that the disaster of Obama creates precedents that discredit anybody attempting to use them, on a par with citing Herbert Hoover or James Buchanan.

        • Oh, I expect a competent future great leader would emulate the “blame the last guy” behavior most of all. After all, since “It’s (Still) All Bush’s Fault” was a successful election cycle policy position with last year’s electorate even though almost all the previous administrations policies were continued, it’s easy to predict that any Future Occupant would happily use the current guy’s precedents while loudly blaming him for everything that needs blaming on someone.

          • Oh, well, taken in that light … I don’t think actual precedents matter. This is an administration which (in part) gained office through attacks on its predecessor’s (imagined) politicization of the Justice Department … and has gone on to pack the department with the kind of activist hacks that partisans call extremist. ACTUAL precedents only matter to administrations that feel bound by precedent, not those which manufacture precedent ex post facto from whole cloth.

            It would be different if we had a mainstream media which placed any value on consistency (ok – in fairness, they are consistently partisan) and balance.

            • Precedents only matter when an action is challenged – thus, precedents only matter to the opposition.

              Unopposed acts look to no precedents.

              …At least until everything passes into history, academia takes over the evaluations, and some poor untenured historian needs to get something published.

  8. Ultimately, might makes right and those with the might can decide to do whatever the heck they want with pieces of paper called constitutions. Perhaps one day if libertarians and conservatives get real power and are willing to utilize it ruthlessly the constitution could have meaning again.

    Our checks and balances did check and balance for an impressively long time, but the constitution was shredded with wickard v. filburn and even before.

    Each president starting with Lincoln (or even before) has grabbed more and more power and Obama has accelerated the trend.

    The amazing American experiment is on the wane and I’m just thankful that I got to live most of my life near the peak. Too bad for the younger generations.

    • Lincoln?? Starting with Jackson, or maybe Adams. “Alien & Sedition Acts” my sweet patootie.

      • Your right. I was gonna say FDR, then thought about Wilson, then thought about Teddy Roosevelt, then thought about Lincoln, and got stuck on the huge increase in power to the central government at that point, but at least I added “(or even before)” before I hit reply.

      • Not necessarily. Like war, the choice may be “do this, or be left behind by those who do”. I am sure the traditional publishers (Baen excepted) would have loved it if e-books were a choice.

        • no, but that’s a case in point, Ori. The decline of traditional publishing IS and was a choice. It started with centralization and becoming too sclerotic to change. they wanted to push the “right” books, instead of the ones people will buy. Then came ebooks and resisting them with all their might.

          I agree with you tech has changed, but I don’t think that’s a reason to ditch the basics of the constitution, on the contrary, since new tech favors more individual choice/control.

          • I didn’t make my analogy clear. Once one traditional publisher “broke ranks” and embraced e-books, the others had to follow suite. Similarly, once one party promises government goodies to voters, the other has to follow suite. The decline of the Republic is a choice, but one that is almost forced on people. It is like war – you don’t have to fight, but if you don’t you’ll be ruled by those who do.

      • I expect we’ll be able to build a good replacement, but the changes have to happen.

        • I am afraid that I have to disagree– The Constitution is the replacement to tyranny and Good Men. There hasn’t been a replacement since — If you take a look at other constitutions written in the last hundred years (I’ll be nice), they are not anywhere as comprehensively for the People as ours.

          • The US constitution is one replacement for the tyranny and aristocracy that have been the standard single the discovery of agriculture and metal weapons. The Roman constitution, at least after they added the tribunes, was another. The constitution of Iceland at the beginning may have been a third – but it was unwritten and we don’t know it for sure.

            That nothing better, or at least better fitted to the circumstances, has been found since the 1700s doesn’t mean that it is impossible. It is rare enough that a system of government that is not disguised tyranny or aristocracy is even tried.

      • This. This right here. We are no less capable than our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. At no time in history have we been more powerful, individually or in groups. Modern technology enables each of us to do the work of an entire publishing company, and to reach as many people as most of our local rags. We can form our opinions in a morning, inform them in an afternoon, and spend the evening finding others who share them. We can use the same technology to place internet orders for enough stuff to supply a company – okay, a squad … well, maybe a fireteam … would you believe an ornery pack of assault rodents? – and have it all delivered to your doorstep. Home fabrication is nearing the mature technology point at breakneck speed. A new company has announced plans for asteroid mining (which means two so far. competition, baby!). We have no excuse if we let things fall apart now.

      • I’d say decline is a choice many are unaware they are making.

    • Ultimately, might makes right

      Stopped reading here. Go take Ethics 101.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        That might have been p***-poor phrasing, but the rest of it was pretty well on. I agree that “might makes right” is crap, but you have to admit that might does certainly allow one to make (or remake) the rules, even if they aren’t officially changed.

        • Might may not make right, but as Rome demonstrated to the Carthaginians, it has a way of settling arguments, usually in favor of the mighty. Exceptions to this principle are typically found in fiction and religious tracts where “the right” get help from a deity, aka “MIGHT.”

          I leave it to others to debate whether “sneakiness” is an aspect of might, right or something else all together. Certes, it is a force multiplier, [ref.: Ulysses, Gideon, Br’er Rabbit.]

          • When I write “might makes right”, that’s what I mean – that might “has a way of settling arguments”, or per Thrasymachus, “justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger”.

            I continue to use the blunt formulation of “Might makes Right” because from my perspective I see people who love freedom and the constitution constraining themselves by “Ethics 101” and losing their freedom at an accelerating pace because of those who dislike freedom, despise the constitution, and refuse to be constrained by any sort of coherent set of morals, ethics, or laws other than “Might makes Right”. If we don’t wake up to the fact that the other side lives by “Might makes Right”, the decline of western civilization will happen more quickly, because decline is the goal of the other side and they have the power to make it happen.

            • The beauty of civilization is that we’ve given power to laws. Power to money. Realized the power of the spoken written, filmed or whatevered word. We may backslide, but we won’t ever forget that America is an attainable goal.

      • Ethics are only possible when you have the might and the will to enforce them. Ask the Carthaginians.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Ethics are free-standing. The ability to enforce them is what relies on force or potential force.

          • Ethics without the power to prevent others from forcing you to not live by them are simply pretty fantasies.

          • If by free standing you mean “arbitrary” I think you are refering to rules of conduct (though I am aware that smarter people than me believe there to be basic underpinnings to human behavior divorced from specific cultures that can be described as ethics, but I disagree with them). Either way I have never found that it is possible to enforce belief or ethics by threat of force. You can enforce behaviors or conduct, but using force to enforce ethics would be as counterproductive as using beatings to make people free — not so useful for the beatee, and in the end you don’t get people who believe in freedom, they just believe in beatings.

      • Maybe better to say “might writes the history books.”

        • Yet, inexplicably, the Franco-Prussian war is not told exclusively from the Prussian POV.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Chuckle Chuckle. One Star Wars story had a character repeat the line “the victors write the history” only to be told “but some times the neutrals write the history. You want to know what the neutrals say about what *really* happened to your people?” The first character had been taught that her world had been nearly destroyed by an “unprovoked attack”. Apparently, the neutrals story was that her world was planning to attack other worlds and they attacked first. [Very Big Evil Grin]

          • Probably b/c the Prussians weren’t the ultimate victors. That whole “World War One” thing got in the way.

  9. Just because some people have abused the Constitution does not mean that it isn’t still be best way to organize and run a government. Our problem isn’t the Constitution, but the hoards of bureaucrats and “departments” set up OUTSIDE the Constitution, each of which has grabbed a bit of power away from “We, the People” for their own, and won’t let go short of getting clobbered upside the head with an axehandle. The basic problem is that things aren’t bad enough YET for the People to come together to re-take Washington, DC, strip the Government back to what it was intended to be, return the rest of the government back to the States, or to the people, and enforce the clear delineation of separation of powers. That will take a bit of rope and a tree or three. There is no other way to accomplish what must be done. I’m sure before the end of Obama’s second term, things will get bad enough at least a FEW people will take notice.

    • Clark E Myers

      “return the rest of the government back to the States, or to the people” assumes the existence of States (in the sense of regional governments) that are up to the task. One of the many problems with the GOP has been a tendency to say at the national level that something is properly a state function, at the state level to say something is properly a local function and at the local level to say it need not be done at all but if it must be done then federal money is required.

      Take Back Your Government implies organize locally first for the role of governing. Dr. Pournelle commonly says something similar about the price of good government and who bears the cost – not necessarily paid with money. That’s one reason among many that good government is gift from your choice of deity. (and your choice of deity may impact how good government is defined)

  10. I just want to show support as another person who looked athletic, but was extremely uncoordinated and had astigmatism. I have been hit in the face by footballs, baseballs, softballs, volleyballs, soccer balls, and several other types. When I was in school my gym teachers were not happy with my performance compared to my supposed potential. Plus I wasn’t a premature baby so I don’t know what to blame it on.

    • Having severe astigmatism early in life makes it hard to develop eye-hand coordination or the ability to judge distances, volume, etc. by eye.

      OTOH, you can look at the pretty haloes around lightbulbs at night, and cross your eyes pretty well.

      • Well– true– I still see halos 😉

      • I see El Greco paintings if I take my glasses off – i.e. figures elongate, the edges blur, and nothing is plumb.

        • even with my glasses on, all my people skew upward on left It’s very annoying…

          • I had laser surgery which corrected my blinding problem, but I still have a section to my left that I don’t see (a blind spot I guess). I find it when I use my right hand to spoon up food on the dish. I hit the bottom of the dish, a little to the left. Plus when I shoot, I have to correct by going a 1/2 inch to the right. Thankfully I have a great spotter (the hubby).

        • I also have astigmatism and poor athletic skills. 😉

          Fortunately it isn’t as bad as other people here. It gives me headaches when I’m not wearing my glasses, and every time my eyeglass prescription changes, it takes a while for the floor and walls to become flat again.

          Of course, combined with far-sightedness, it did make it hard for me to learn to read until I got my glasses. (And now I need bifocals, sigh.)

          On Tue, Jan 22, 2013 at 9:19 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > ** > TXRed commented: “I see El Greco paintings if I take my glasses off – > i.e. figures elongate, the edges blur, and nothing is plumb.” >

        • Everything is a blur to me without my glasses. The pretty halos even show up a little when I’m wearing the glasses, which I always am, if I’m awake.

  11. I never realized I could have used being premature as an excuse for sucking in gym class. 😀

    Actually though, dodge ball was one of the few sports I wasn’t picked almost dead last in when we made up teams. I never got anyone else out past my first few years of school; but I was able to out think the game in HS. Even the fastest jocks with hair trigger reflexes found it almost impossible to figure out where a volley ball was being thrown before it crossed the width of a basketball court and smacked into it’s intended target; but there was enough time to take a quick sidestep between when they began to throw and when a ball aimed at you slammed into the wall where you’d been standing a moment ago. Since we played to 3 men standing I managed to avoid being hit more often than one game in three or four.

    No-one ever caught on to what I was doing, and the only time it backfired was when a few other people realized I’d managed to avoid being hit for several classes in a row and started bracketing the area I was standing with several balls thrown at once.

  12. No one has mentioned Bastiet yet. He states that societies develop laws to protect themselves, and their properties, but unfortunately they develop governments to enforce the laws; the government take the opportunity to take from one part to give to the other for the greater good. While the stakes are minimal, that is when there is not much power, money or status in being part of the government, there is not much interest in it. However, when the people realize there is money and power in it there is a huge scramble to be part of the government and to say who gets what. Mostly because people either want to be given more of other people’s money or because they need to be in a position to keep their own money from being taken for someone else’s benefit.
    There is just too much money and power up for grabs. I’m afraid it can only get worse.

    One of the saddest days of my previous career was when someone suggested that being a concientious, hard working, even-handed state worker was doing more harm than good since it was people like me that made the whole thing seem like a reasonable exercise instead of a terrible travesty.

    • In that regard I commend to your attention:

      Obama’s Second Inaugural
      By Yuval Levin
      January 22, 2013 1:57 P.M.
      President Obama’s second inaugural address was an exceptionally coherent and deeply revealing speech. Its cogency was impressive: Recent inaugurals, and especially those of reelected presidents, have inclined toward the laundry list far more than this speech did. Obama made an argument, and one that holds together and advances a discernible worldview. It was in that sense a very successful speech, and while it may not be memorable in the sense of containing lines so eloquent or striking that they will always be associated with this moment and this president, it is a speech that will repay future re-reading because it lays out an important strand of American political thought rather clearly.

      But because it does so, it is also revealing of the shallowness, confusion, and error of that strand of American political thought — that is, of the progressive worldview in our politics.


      That modern economy and that free market are simply constants to be taken for granted — they will keep on humming, the only question is whether they will be placed under any restraints or direction. “Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character,” the president said, so we need not worry about how to sustain them but only about how to contain them.


      By espousing that vision more clearly than usual, the president’s speech revealed that inadequacy. It did so first and foremost by showing that (quite ironically, given how it praises itself for keeping up with change) progressivism today is highly anachronistic.


      For conservatives to do better, it would be helpful to understand the left’s failings, and this speech is not a bad place to start. Look at the vision it lays out. It denies the relevance of our constitutional system, the value of civil society, the social achievement that is our culture of individual initiative and economic dynamism, the dignity of every life whether wanted by others or not, and the unsustainability of the liberal welfare state.
      [MORE: ]

  13. A constitution is only as strong as the surrounding society. That is why I am so glad a friend of mine insisted I read De Tocqueville who saw the limits of Constitutional government. Not everything could be foreseen, not everyone is honest. De Tocqueville saw Mexico have almost the same Constitution as America with far different results. The culture could not support it in Mexico like it could in America. He also saw democracy as isolating. Your little vote doesn’t mean much when things are falling apart. Association is key and libertarians talk about everything except that. Want small business, risk takers and personal responsibility? Seek out the people engaged in that and befriend and support them.

    • I submit to you the isolation has been imposed on us, since the enemy, following script, seized the “means of communication” (and entertainment.) We are now reclaiming it. Slowly but faster than I expected.

      • Raymond Jelli

        Maybe but I am very disgusted with the Republicans. To me they are a con and believe me I wanted them to win. Now I think I have learned more by seeing them lose. They are really a brand not a party which is why the low information voter could kill them. When two brands consist of being cash cows with poor service, little interest in innovation or its end user then the one that advertises better wins. When a product really delivers advertising alone by a competitor doesn’t work. Starbucks doesn’t advertise. True political parties need to advertise but somehow a street corner presence would be more valuable. Yes, we did lose academia but mostly because many people use their degrees as a form of pedigree and care more about the name and not the product and this includes so many old-school republicans. Personally all I see from the Republicans is 1 1/2 years of silence and then a please send me a donation campaign so we can have another Mccain or Romney outcome. Who in sales would want to sell that product….pocket the donations sure but to sell it? Not me. Not now.

        • Then DO something. By G-d, are you going to go quietly into that good night?

        • Kitteh-Dragon

          Very easy to sit on the side of the street and point fingers. Get the Hell up and make a difference. 1) Do you live in the United States of America? 2) Are you a citizen with voting rights? If either of those is answered with a ‘No’ – then shut the function up.

          3) Did you attend your local precinct caucus or the equivalent in order to have a say in who was going to be nominated for office? Did you make sure you were a delegate to the next higher convention (district, usually)? Did you make sure you were a delegate to the state convention? If not, then you have no right to criticize whoever the wonks run for office, because you stayed home and *let* them.

          4) Do you communicate with your local, state and Congressional representative about what you see as being important for the country? If not, then you’re part of the problem. They’re of limited ability, God knows, but expecting them to be **psychic** is a bit much, don’t you think?

          Go out, and make a difference. And if you haven’t tried, don’t snivel and let snot drip down your face and try to dissuade other from taking a swing at it. Pewling, do nothing whiner.

        • Raymond,
          Apparently you’re prepared to see the final part of the long slide of this country into a police state. Some people – alas not the Republican power-brokers who are more interested in keeping their little sinecure than in doing what they should be doing – are fighting with whatever resources they have. They’re coordinating themselves to remove long-term incumbents in the primaries. They’re volunteering on the grounds that a McCain or a Romney is still orders of magnitude better than an Obama or another Marxist-in-all-but-name.
          You’re not going to be able to stand back and not be involved for much longer, Raymond. The wannabe-Marxists won’t let you. For them, you’re either on their side in everything or you’re the enemy.
          Your choice.

          • Kitteh-Dragon

            Wayne, aren’t from Canada? What’s it to you? I don’t see Americans getting all involved in your political structure.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Wrong Wayne. I’m in Ky. 🙂

              Understandable confusion. Not a whole lot of Waynes out there. I’ve only ever worked with one other in the same place.

              • Kitteh-Dragon

                I do apologize. It’s never good to accuse someone, unprovoked, of being a Canadian! (We have a cousin named Wayne, and my name is one of the most common in the US in my age group, so I really should know better). I hate it when Wayne-dyslexia strikes!

            • NOT this Wayne. Wrong Wayne, Lin.

          • I knew that. BUT nothing, nothing, nothing explains why the RNC is pushing mail-voting which is the cause of RAMPANT fraud. I said before and I’ll say again, in our precinct which was safely Republican, 1/3 the people were told they already voted, and were allowed to do “provisional” ballots — but those are only counted if the record DOESN’T show you already voted by mail, which I’m sure it did.

            Also, and btw, early voting is for the birds. They must NOT know what hit them. That’s what got the win in 04

            • “Also, and btw, early voting is for the birds. They must NOT know what hit them. That’s what got the win in 04”

              On this I must disagree with you, I believe we will lose many more conservative/libertarian votes through the stopping of early voting than we would liberal/progressive votes. For the very simple reason that most conservatives/libertarians work for a living; as opposed to sucking on the government teat. I know personally that their would have been several elections I wouldn’t have been able to vote in if my only option was to vote at the polls on election day.

              Now vote by mail, yeah I agree with you, I used to use it when I lived in Washington because that was the only ‘absentee’ option available, but it is an invitation to rampant fraud. (which of course is why Washington has went to a strictly vote by mail system, it is easier for those in power to stay there with that system). Here in Idaho early voting consists of stopping by the courthouse, saying you want to vote, showing them your drivers license (egads, picture ID? how are all the illegals supposed to vote?!), they check against a list of registered voters, mark you off the list and hand you a ballot, you fill it out in the booth, seal it in the envelope, and it goes in the ballot box.

  14. Sarah, I don’t have time this morning to read through all the comments, so if repetitive, apologies. I agreed with your point, but think your description of Prohibition screwing the pooch is poor and missing some of the important points of Prohibition. If my work ever lets up for me to finish it, I’m hoping to put out one of my “weekly” blogs about a different point where I use Prohibition as an example of the dangers of passing laws with “good intentions” without trying to think through the myriad of unintended consequences. Prohibition was actually quite successful. It also changed a lot of rules that people never intended or expected — more Calvin Ball I’d say.

  15. Tenth Amendment is quoted wrong. Should be “The powers NOT delegated to the United States by the Constitution…”

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