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Dean's "Common Sense for a New Century"

It's time to fisk Howard Dean's pamphlet Common Sense for a New Century.

1. Where We Are

Our country is on the wrong track, and the reason is clear: our government is no longer serving the interests of the people.

Stop! It isn't the government's function to serve the interests of the people. That's much too broad. A quick perusal of the Declaration of Independence is sufficient to remind us that the purpose of our government is to secure individual rights: "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government".

When the government violates individual rights, it's acting against its own purpose, even if it's violating those rights for the alleged goal of "serving the interests of the people."

The takeover of our politics by what Truman called the "special privilege boys" has been a decades-long process, but it has culminated with the Bush administration. Our executive branch has become a private club for large corporate interests.

For something to "culminate" is for it to reach its highest point. Does Dean really believe that the Bush administration represents the highest point of special interest power? Even greater than, say, Labor in the 1930s? And why is he talking about the executive branch at all, rather than the legislative? They're the ones who control the money. If Dean wants to be President, he should know enough to place blame on the correct political body!

Increasingly, large multinational companies write the rules of our economy in Washington, DC for their own profit, while the American people are left to compete for lower wages.

This I can partially agree with. Businesses shouldn't be writing the rules of the economy… but neither should politicians like Dean! Capitalism — real, laissez-faire capitalism — only requires that the government protect individual rights and then stay out of the way.

His quip about lower wages is mysteriously unexplained, making it simply a smear against business, but he's probably taking a petty swipe against globalization. As I've argued at great length, globalization is good and benefits everyone because it's simply the natural effect of economic competition. The unemployed in particular should support free labor markets because that's the best way for them to get a job! Protectionist measures to stifle globalization are guaranteed to backfire by making American companies unable to compete with foreign ones with lower cost structures.

Meanwhile, the executive branch has been consolidating more and more power for itself, running roughshod over the checks and balances our founders established. In October of 2002, our Congress abdicated their power and responsibility to declare war. The political process failed, and now we are paying the price.

If Dean identifies the fact that Congress abdicated their power and responsibility, why does he blame the executive branch?

It's time to put the meme that "we never declared war" to bed. The bill was H.J.RES.114.ENR and specifically stated that it was "specific statutory authorization" under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. If Dean wants to accuse Congress of abdicating its power and responsibility, he should target the 93rd Congress for passing the War Powers Resolution, not the 107th for using it!

The Patriot Act takes away too many rights from ordinary Americans — rights we had come to expect. Nor should John Ashcroft be allowed to detain American citizens without charge and without legal representation.

Shocking! Outrageous! No, I'm just kidding, this is something I can actually agree with.

Except that there's no reason to make it personal. The only reason to say "John Ashcroft" instead of "The Attorney General" or just "The Government" is to smear the individual, which isn't very Presidential behavior.

We are losing our role as a world leader. John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war." But President Bush has made that truth a lie. This president has implemented a foreign policy characterized by dominance, arrogance and intimidation. His brand of diplomacy has driven a deep wedge into the alliances and the security organizations we established to safeguard our freedoms and our safety.

The United States didn't start this war. Al Qaeda did. The military effort in Iraq is not a war by itself, rather it's one (important) battle that's part of a very large war with the ultimate aim of reforming the Middle East to defang the brand of Islamic extremism that is unwilling to tolerate the existence of the United States.

I'm surprised Dean would make a statement like this, because I've listened to him in the Primary debates and I know he understands the larger issues at hand, he's said that Wahhabism is the problem.

I can't offer much except plain disagreement with Dean's assessment of Bush's foreign policy strategies. Our willingness to use force has won concessions from Iran and Libya, and our strategy of "engaged apathy" (to use SDB's term) in North Korea has been working well. Dean evidently thinks that the rocky relations between ourselves and our European allies like France and Germany are issues of our creation. They're not. France and Germany have behaved like enemies and that's how they deserve to be treated. They're allies only on paper.

The problem is simple: those at the top are gathering more and more power for themselves, and taking more and more power away from everyone else.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, "Every special interest is entitled to justice full, fair and complete … but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench or to representation in any public office."

The American people have a history of proving that the most powerful interest of all is the common interest.

Dean is absolutely right — the government has far too much power. I wonder how he plans to fix this problem? What parts of government, specifically, would he scale back? And by how much?


Whew. I'm tired. Somebody should've told me that fisking was so much work. I don't know if I'll finish the job — there are two more pamphlet pages with ideological material on them — but I think I've made a good start.

Does Bush have anything like this posted? I think I would get more enjoyment from ripping apart Bush's terrible economic policies.

Tiny Island