Editor’s note: this opinion piece would usually appear on the blog. We have decided to feature it on our story side.
In an op-ed on the Huffington Post, former SEIU president Andy Stern decided to get all “Founding Fathers” with his audience. He went back, way back, to the time of male, powdered wigs and the Federalist Papers. His thesis: you know those checks and balances the old guys put in place? Yeah, they’re just kind of getting in the way of change.
“American democracy has layers of power and responsibility, which James Madison rationalized in Federalist, no. 51 as a check against possible tyrannical rule,” Stern writes. “Our Founding Fathers saw fit to divide power between two strata — state and federal. Then, within the federal structure, they codified a trifurcation of power to ensure that no single branch came to dominate government; and while power has ebbed and flowed between branches, the system of checks and balances has provided stability, and kept tyrannical rule at bay.”
But today, he goes on to say, that system is just so, well, old:
Now, however, in the midst of the transformative change of globalization and this third economic revolution, those layers have become an impediment to making the changes necessary to keep America competitive in the world economy. Today, America crawls along at a snail’s pace. [Emphasis added]
I think he just said that our system of government, as laid out in the Constitution, is hampering his vision of a global economy. That would make sense, since Stern in the past has been all about the world coming together, so to speak. Remember, he’s the one who trumpeted the old Marxist phrase, “Workers of the world, unite!”
Stern goes on to name the problem “demosclerosis,” a term he once read in a book. That term means the “government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt, credited as a side-effect of the postwar pluralist political system.”
See, it seems in Andy’s world America is outdated: It’s a 1776 runner trying to compete in a 2011 race. All we need to do is update a little. Give it some new legs. Hint hint. Wink wink. Nudge.
“Our democracy is frozen, calcified like arteries beset by arteriosclerosis,” Stern writes near the end. His remedy is to “recommit ourselves to both the common good, and common sense, rather than self-interest.”
Sure, that may sound nice, but it’s anti-capitalist. Anyone who’s taken an economics class knows that our system is based on self-interest rightly understood (SIRU). Marxists and communists have destroyed countries trying to get rid of self-interest. What Stern and the communists don’t understand is that self-interest in and of itself isn’t evil. It can be used for much good. And yes, selflessness is important, too — and we see it all over the place. But you can’t base an economic system on men being good and generous, because we’re naturally not.
Side note: doesn’t a lesson in selflessness from a former union boss, whose underling (Stephen Lerner) is now trying to collapse the economy, seem out of place? Just a thought.
Stern never returns to his earlier comments on checks and balances. It’s more like a seed, planted early in hopes that one day it will spring up. I’m sure we can expect some watering later. But it seems the more and more we uncover this whole hope and change thing, the more foreign it appears.
Foreign, now that’s a funny word. In Stern’s future, once we’re all “united” and together, it probably won’t exist. Just like the wisdom of those old powdered wigs.