Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. We the People Are Failing Our Government

 

Airplanes fly because the people who design them understand physics. They know how pressure changes as air flows over a curved surface. They understand lift and drag, and how force and mass relate to each other to determine acceleration. They’re experts in the science of materials, in finite element analysis, in instrumentation and control systems and combustion and ten thousand other arcane details of science and design and manufacture.

None of this means that they get it right every time, as Boeing’s recent travails remind us. But they get it right often enough to make air travel the safest means of transportation.

Imagine for a moment that all those aeronautical designers and engineers were hired by people who knew nothing about aeronautics, and who were neither competent to evaluate the resumes of their potential hires nor to evaluate the work done by them once they were hired; and, worse, that the candidates for the positions knew that their interviewers were clueless. How would that affect the quality of the men and women employed? How would it affect the viability of air travel once a generation or two of wholly unvetted “engineers” had been allowed to fiddle with the existing designs?

Our founders gave us a government. It is a complicated yet elegant machine composed of interlocking parts intended to work simultaneously in concert with and opposition to each other. It was created by men who were experts in the theory and practice of government, men who had diagnosed the failures of numerous prototypes and, based on those diagnoses, designed a new form of government, a constitutional democratic representative union of independent states: a republic with formal restraints on both the reach of the government and the whims of the people.

We the people are tasked with hiring the men and women who staff the critical positions in that government. If we know little of how our government was intended to function, we have no sound basis for evaluating the people we vote into office nor the policies they propose. Today there is ample evidence that we are a nation of civic ignoramuses. How many understand what the much-maligned electoral college is, how we got it and why it’s important? How many understand the damage done by the 17th Amendment to the carefully balanced tension between the House and Senate? How many are equipped to see the sheer lunacy of the Green New Deal’s call for a broad usurpation of our rights as citizens? How many understand even the idea of a constitutionally limited central government that is not merely prevented from performing certain tasks, but rather that is constitutionally authorized to perform only a small number of specific tasks?

We are failing to provide a competent civics education to our children, and have been for generations. We have a population ignorant of the most basic aspects of government but which we nonetheless exhort to vote, as if merely standing in the booth were the totality of civic duty. A large proportion of the electorate has the legal right to vote but lacks the moral standing to do so because it knows nothing about the thing for which it has a sacred duty of stewardship.

We can not blame the children for the failures of their teachers, who themselves know next to nothing about the nature of our government. I don’t know what it will take to trigger a rebirth of pride and interest in our nation’s history and in the framework on which it was built and the ideas behind it. But if we reach the point where we’re analyzing the wreckage following the crash, it will be too late.

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There are 76 comments.

  1. PHCheese Member

    Great post. We are letting ten year olds drive a Ferrari when ever we elect Democrats and some Republicans.

    • #1
    • January 19, 2020, at 12:44 PM PST
    • 1 like
  2. Tex929rr Coolidge

    What could validate your premise better than a badly educated 30 year old bartender as a congressman?

    • #2
    • January 19, 2020, at 12:52 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  3. Petty Boozswha Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    What could validate your premise better than a badly educated 30 year old bartender as a congressman?

    It’s much worse than that – she graduated fourth in her class from a fairly prestigious university with a degree in economics.

    We have consistently debauched the educational system in this country since the 1960’s on the altar of student’s self esteem, and will be playing the price for many decades to come.

    • #3
    • January 19, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Unfortunately our votes aren’t worth a sack of beans regarding the administrative state. So we have incompetents selecting even less competent people to do their dirty work. And we have little to nothing to say about it.

    • #4
    • January 19, 2020, at 1:57 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Unfortunately our votes aren’t worth a sack of beans regarding the administrative state. So we have incompetents selecting even less competent people to do their dirty work. And we have little to nothing to say about it.

    That is a further consequence of our national incompetence at choosing representatives. 

    • #5
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:06 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. The Reticulator Member

    You couldn’t ask for a government more competent than the one we have now. The problem is that it is competent at the wrong things.

    • #6
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:25 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  7. Mark Camp Member

    This article comprises about 100% of my fundamental political convictions; about 0% is things that are not included in those convictions.

    On any specific policy debate, I of course have specific views. But they all derive from those in this article.

    Specifically,

    1. The American idea* always depended upon an educated populace, in some particular sense of the word that de Tocqueville described well enough.
    2. We haven’t got one, any more. Not enough education for a liberally governed society to survive long without a sustained period of improvement in educational level. We are in a self-reinforcing cycle of decline of education and social degeneration.
    3. I don’t have any popular remedial policy recommendation to offer to a voting population the majority of which is (a) driven by passion to amplify the decline and (b) immune to reason because of this very lack of education.

    *Here I mean,

    • first, self-rule, or equivalently, self-ownership
    • secondly, self rule constructed provisionally on a foundation of mostly English religious and moral traditions, for the special case of this of this mostly English-derived society, until the level of social wisdom improves under Burkean Evolution, or the principalities of this world are finally replaced by the kingdom of heaven.
    • #7
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I agree that Civics education has declined to zero. Economics is much the same. I took an Economics class in 1957 and became a Republican. I’m not sure that would still be the case. People like Stiglitz and Blinder seem to dominate things now.

    Part of the problem is that government has become far too important. Mark Twain could joke that “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when Congress is in session. ” Or, “We have no hereditary criminal class in this country with the possible exception of Congress.” It’s not amusing any more.

    Too much of our political class has become addicted to enriching themselves in office. Bill and Hillary Clinton are only the most egregious examples. Hillary gave us an example of the gross crudity of political kleptocracy with her firing of the White House Travel Office and the attempt to justify it by accusing, falsely, the long time Director of embezzling. For those who might not recall, here is the story again. There are few such stories as tawdry in our history.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_travel_office_controversy Wiki, as usual, treads lightly around Democrats.

    Meanwhile, as a consequence of the FBI investigation, former Travel Office Director Billy Dale was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 7, 1994, on two counts of embezzlement and criminal conversion, charged with wrongfully depositing into his own bank account $68,000 in checks from media organizations traveling with the president[35] during the period between 1988 and 1991.[5] He faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.[36] Dale’s attorneys conceded that funds had been co-mingled, but stated that Dale had not stolen anything but rather used the monies for the substantial tips and off-the-book payments that the job required, especially in foreign countries, and that anything left over was used as a discount against future trips.[5]

    At the 13-day trial in October and November 1995,[37] prominent journalists such as ABC News‘ Sam Donaldson and The Los Angeles Times‘ Jack Nelson testified as character witnesses on Dale’s behalf.[8] Much of the trial focused on the details of the movement of Travel Office funds into Dale’s personal account, and not on the political overtones of the case.[38] The jury acquitted Dale of both charges on November 16, 1995,[4] following less than two hours of deliberations.

    This is by no means limited to Democrats and the impeachment drama might just expose a few others of both parties.

    • #8
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:55 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Just remember if votes actually meant something poor people would not be allowed to do it.

    • #9
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:57 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    • #10
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:09 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  11. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    I think the quality of primary education has declined. I also think more people are voting who should not be voting because they are disinterested and ignorant.

    I absolutely believe that Americans are more poorly informed about fundamental aspects of government and civic life.

    • #11
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:24 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  12. Mark Camp Member

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    A century ago the American electorate was too well-educated to vote for the huge size of government that the current one has. They voted for Coolidge, not the sort of people we have voted for.

    So the effect is the perverted nature of government. The cause is the decline in “education” in the American principle. The post-WW1 generation of parents of the middle class failed to educate their children in the Judeo-Christian democratic principles and thinking ability that they received from their own parents, and so on until what we have today.

    • #12
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You have outlined an argument against universal suffrage. Imagine if a corporation’s managers were elected by janitors and secretaries.

    The Constitution was not based on a notion that the average citizen would understand the procedures of government. Nor is it the basis of our modern regulatory monstrosity. 

    We don’t need most citizens to understand how government works. We need most to understand that private enterprise works better. We need to break the Department of (Mis)Education so that citizens are not fed a statist fantasy that invites them to submit all troubles and hopes to government.

    • #13
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:52 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Thatcher
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Designing, building, and piloting an airplane, that I can conceive of and actual get done. Getting my fellow American to understand the incredible loss in their quality of life if they ever agreed to the energy and economic disaster we call the Green New Eel. That is like flailing at wind mills.

    • #14
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    I think the quality of primary education has declined. I also think more people are voting who should not be voting because they are disinterested and ignorant.

    I absolutely believe that Americans are more poorly informed about fundamental aspects of government and civic life.

    You might look at the California 6th grade reader from 1914.

    https://www.amazon.com/California-Sixth-Grade-Reader-Pournelle-ebook/dp/B00LZ7PB7E/

    • #15
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:14 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Bob Thompson Member

    Here is an article I happened to be reading this weekend that I think just about covers the things that have been allowed to overtake our republican form of government.

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2019/3/prophecies-of-democratic-leveling

    • #16
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:14 PM PST
    • Like
  17. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    It was a different world:

    100 years ago Senators became directly elected; women got the vote; the vote could be limited land owners; youth couldn’t vote.

    Looking at today, when virtually anyone may vote, the number of voting-age persons that are more than just marginally literate is grim: https://www.wyliecomm.com/2019/03/us-literacy-rate/

    Yes, it is possible that voters may be less informed than a century ago.

    • #17
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:17 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    You have outlined an argument against universal suffrage. Imagine if a corporation’s managers were elected by janitors and secretaries.

    The Constitution was not based on a notion that the average citizen would understand the procedures of government. Nor is it the basis of our modern regulatory monstrosity.

    We don’t need most citizens to understand how government works. We need most to understand that private enterprise works better. We need to break the Department of (Mis)Education so that citizens are not fed a statist fantasy that invites them to submit all troubles and hopes to government.

    While I do think we would be better off if far fewer people voted, I don’t think that the founders expected the electorate to be ignorant of the nature of government. I think they expected greater citizen participation, more people stepping out of their normal roles to serve in government before returning to the private sector.

    Government creeps. The only thing that will prevent that is a jealous regard for the documents and procedures designed to limit that creep. We don’t have that. When a substantial fraction of America believes that the word “constitutional“ is a dog whistle for white supremacy, when that kind of idiocy reins in a significant double digit percentage of the population, there is little check to the expansion of government.

    I agree with you that people need to understand that private enterprise is better than central planning. But the principle is greater than that. The principle is limited government with narrowly defined legitimate function. And that’s the principle that has been lost through our paucity of education.

    • #18
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:18 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  19. CJ Coolidge
    CJ

    This is to be expected when political power over a huge nation becomes so radically concentrated in a central government.

    • #19
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:22 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Barfly Member

    You’re right. We’ve ceded the instruction of children to the left for three generations. We have the government we deserve. Keep fighting anyway.

    • #20
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:44 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  21. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette: How would it affect the viability of air travel once a generation or two of wholly unvetted “engineers” had been allowed to fiddle with the existing designs?

    Henry,

    Yes, you have hit on our current nightmare. What happens when the majority of young hires are wonderwoke. The likely outcome is so disastrous it’s better not to think about it.

    Henry, just don’t look.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #21
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:52 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  22. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: How would it affect the viability of air travel once a generation or two of wholly unvetted “engineers” had been allowed to fiddle with the existing designs?

    Henry,

    Yes, you have hit on our current nightmare. What happens when the majority of young hires are wonderwoke. The likely outcome is so disastrous it’s better not to think about it.

    Henry, just don’t look.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Classic episode.

    • #22
    • January 19, 2020, at 4:55 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Henry Castaigne Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    What could validate your premise better than a badly educated 30 year old bartender as a congressman?

    In defense of bartenders, there are many bartenders who already know more than AOC and many bartenders who would have seriously hit the books before and after getting elected. I cannot make excuse for her B.A. though. She graduated cum laude with a degree in international relations and economics and has utterly failed to say anything of note on either.

    Possibly she has unusually high I.Q. or at least has the kind of I.Q. that lets you tell your Professors what they want to hear. That she left college more foolish than when she went in should be a concern for us all.

    • #23
    • January 19, 2020, at 5:02 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Henry Castaigne Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):
    Economics is much the same. I took an Economics class in 1957 and became a Republican.

    For Thomas Sowell it took him getting a government job to become a Republican. Honestly, I’d settle for taking an Economics class and hating central planning. 

    • #24
    • January 19, 2020, at 5:03 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Barfly Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: How would it affect the viability of air travel once a generation or two of wholly unvetted “engineers” had been allowed to fiddle with the existing designs?

    Henry,

    Yes, you have hit on our current nightmare. What happens when the majority of young hires are wonderwoke. The likely outcome is so disastrous it’s better not to think about it.

    Henry, just don’t look.

    Regards,

    Jim

    It’s on Netflix. S5:E3.

    • #25
    • January 19, 2020, at 5:22 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I can’t believe that Americans are less informed than a century ago. Is the problem the huge size of government?

    I think the quality of primary education has declined. I also think more people are voting who should not be voting because they are disinterested and ignorant.

    I absolutely believe that Americans are more poorly informed about fundamental aspects of government and civic life.

    Civics education is not what it used to be. A 100 years ago there was the Americanization movement that helped inject some civics into the population. But despite the decline in civics education in general, the better educated lean to the Left. I am sure the average Warren backer would pass any civics test. This makes me think the problem is not a lack of education, but either mis-education or perhaps that the Cold War and the patriotism of WWII are too far behind us. 

    • #26
    • January 19, 2020, at 5:25 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I am sure the average Warren backer would pass any civics test.

    I know that neither of us has any way of proving our case, but I am absolutely certain that you’re wrong. In fact, I would be surprised if the average Warren supporter could name all three branches of the federal government and describe what bicameral legislature means. 

    • #27
    • January 19, 2020, at 5:30 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I am sure the average Warren backer would pass any civics test.

    I know that neither of us has any way of proving our case, but I am absolutely certain that you’re wrong. In fact, I would be surprised if the average Warren supporter could name all three branches of the federal government and describe what bicameral legislature means.

    Here’s an inscription above the main entrance to a state capitol with a unicameral legislature:

    It reads, “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen”

    • #28
    • January 19, 2020, at 7:42 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  29. philo Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I am sure the average Warren backer would pass any civics test.

    I know that neither of us has any way of proving our case, but I am absolutely certain that you’re wrong. In fact, I would be surprised if the average Warren supporter could name all three branches of the federal government and describe what bicameral legislature means.

    Here’s an inscription above the main entrance to a state capitol with a unicameral legislature:

    It reads, “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen”

    One of my favorite stops when in Lincoln.

    • #29
    • January 19, 2020, at 7:48 PM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Freeven Member
    Freeven Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    While I do think we would be better off if far fewer people voted, I don’t think that the founders expected the electorate to be ignorant of the nature of government.

    This is compounded by an electorate that is ignorant of the nature of people.

    Three institutions were traditionally charged with passing down our societal and cultural genes to each new generation: the school, the church, and the family. All three have been catastrophically undermined by the Left.

    This is why I tend to be pessimistic about the future. While the Right is reclaiming ground on issues like abortion and 2nd Amendment rights, the Left has been steadily eroding our foundations for decades. I don’t see how it ends well.

    • #30
    • January 19, 2020, at 10:22 PM PST
    • 6 likes