The main idea of this book is to present the new method of collective decision making that author calls Deliberative democracy and convince people that it is the direction in which society should move to overcome multiple deficiencies of existing competitive democracies. This deliberative democracy consist of decision making by randomly selected representative group of citizens who have time for deliberation on issues and contemplate the most appropriate decision to resolve these issues. Such deliberation would be conducted with support of experts and author presents a number of experiments when such method achieved the best solutions, obviously author believes that he knows what is the best.
Part I: Introduction
Author starts with brief discussion of democracy and expresses his believe that it should be closely connected to people, but in real life it is generally not that connected. He defines the problem as difficulty to define “will of people” in environment of massive and well-funded advocacy by special interests, which are also quite adept in capturing support of people’s representatives and/or bureaucracy of the state. Author believes that the solution is deliberate democracy, which he defines as the system in which detailed deliberation of issue is conducted by a group of people selected for this purpose and is based on real arguments and facts. Author makes point that this book is not that much about theorizing as about real life experiments in deliberate democracy that he and his team conducted over the years in multiple places.
- Party Competition and Its Limits
Here author reviews existing patterns of democracy when two or more political parties compete in election and then winner makes political decisions controlling society. He points out that typically such democracy considered a guarantor of civil liberties by virtue of elections, but deliberative democracy kind of turns it upside down putting liberties and ability to think and discuss issues freely ahead political freedom of election. Another point author makes is that government can achieve legitimacy either via process such as democratic elections or outcome – economic prosperity even in illiberal system of government. Believe in former is in decline and author believes that deliberate democracy could stop and even reverse this decline.
- Deliberation and Reform
Here author expresses believe that democracy has fundamental contradiction between two main objectives: political equality and deliberation. The first one tends to empower people who have neither inclination nor ability for deliberation, resulting in deterioration of the second and low quality of decisions. He then adds the third issue – participation, which is an issue because impact of a voter on final decision is so small that it does not make sense for him to waste time on deliberation. Then author claims that Deliberate Democracy is the way to achieve all three principles: political equality, participation, and deliberation.
Part II: Can the People Rule?
1 Four Criteria for Popular Control
Here how author defines it:
Inclusion: all adult citizens should be provided with an equal opportunity to participate.
Choice: the alternatives for public decision need to be significantly different and realistically available.
Deliberation: the people need to be effectively motivated to think about the reasons for and against competing alternatives in a context where they can get good information about them.
Impact:the people’s choices need to have an effect on decisions (such as who governs or what policies get enacted).
2 Four Forms of Democracy
Here author defines four forms of democracy with Competitive, being a typical elections with political parties, Elite deliberations, being a selection of representatives with filtration such as US senate in original constitution, Participatory, being all kinds of referendums, and finally the one author promotes – Deliberative, when decision makers randomly selected and deliberate on solution under experts tutelage. Author provides table that breaks down their relation to principles:
- Popular Control in Competitive Democracies
Here author discusses how this form is deficient because it limits public influence only to really big issues, leaving lots of space for special interests capturing of political power.
4 Is There Democracy for “Realists’’?
This is discussion of research that demonstrate requirements for real democracy that could not be met in areas such as:
- The citizen must express an opinion on an issue (“cognize” the issue).
- The citizen must have knowledge of current government policy on the issue.
- The citizen must have knowledge of the policy alternatives offered by the competing parties.
- The citizen must feel sufficiently strongly about the issue to make use of the aforementioned knowledge in casting his vote.
It short “will of people” could not be obtained when individual people recognize that they have little impact of political decisions, which does not worth effort of deliberation or sometimes even effort of vote.
These are just a few examples of what author believes is manipulation of voters via advertisement and media.
6 Elite Deliberations and Popular Control: Madison’s Filter
This is discussion of Madisonian ideas of elite deliberative bodies where elected representatives filter out elite individuals for deliberation. Author seems to be sympathetic to these ideas, but at the end has to admit that it really did not work as designed.
7 Participatory Democracies and Democratic Control: From Town Meetings to Referenda
This is about direct participation whether in town meetings or referendums, which carries the same limitation that democracy always has: quantity of people and quality of decisions. It just does not work in complex societies because it is not scalable.
8 Reflections on the Athenian Case
Here author discusses failure of Athenian democracy that lead to disasters of Peloponnesian war and corrections implemented to improve opportunities for deliberation by creating additional filter of randomly selected citizens to deliberate on decisions in some depth.
Part III: Making Deliberation Practical
- Designing Deliberative Democracy
This is about defining specifications for selection of individuals for deliberation. Here they are:
1) Demographic representativeness;
2) Attitudinal representativeness;
3) Sample size.
4) The opportunity to engage policy arguments for and against proposals for action in an evidence-based manner.
5) Knowledge gain.
6) Opinion change.
7) Whether or not distortions in the dialogue are avoided.
8) Whether or not there are identifiable reasons for considered judgments after deliberation.
2 Deliberative Agenda-Setting: California 1n One Room; 3. Mongolia: Deliberative Participatory Budgeting; 4. Applying Deliberative Democracy in Africa: Uganda’s First Deliberative Polls; 5. Deliberating European-Wide?
These are descriptions of test cases in different places when Deliberative Democracy technic was applied.
Part IV: Reimagining Democratic Possibilities
- Designs for Deliberation: Where and How?
Here author returns to 4 types of democracies to restate his opinion that the first 3 are not effective and only deliberative democracy meat the requirements he defined. However he understands that replacement of existing system is not that feasible, so he suggests moving ahead by supplementing it with increasingly frequent use of deliberate democracy processes to solve specific problems.
- It Works in Practice, But Does It Work in Theory?
Here author replies to critic of deliberate democracy in these four domains:
- Domination by the more advantaged
- Lack of citizen competence
- Gap between mini-publics and the broader society
3 From Thought Experiments to Real Experiments: Reflections on Rawls and Habermas
Here author discusses reason for concentrating discussion on Deliberative Polls and his preference for analysis based on real experiments rather than thought experiments typical for philosophers. He discusses in some details ideas of Rawls and Habermas and their implications fro Deliberative Democracy.
4 Deliberative Democracy and Candidate Selection; 5 Texas: Connecting Public Deliberation to Policy Elites; 6 Connecting Deliberative Designs to Participatory Democracy; 7 Deliberating Before Ballot Propositions: Reflecting on the “Australian Republic”; 8. Japan: Deliberation for Hard Choices;
This is another bunch of examples of using Deliberative Design for discussing a specific issue. In this case author specifically link this design to existing laws in regard to referendums, presenting it as effective way to improve participatory democracy.
9 Deliberation Day
Here author moves to practical implementation of Deliberative Democracy, suggesting creating “Deliberation Day”. The idea is to scale up process so the final Deliberation will be completed after serious preparation including such conditions as:
- a) Diversity in the small groups;
- b) A mechanism to ensure equal and mutually respectful discussion;
- c) Briefing materials that can serve as the basis for the discussion;
- d) Plenary sessions with competing experts to answer questions from the small groups;
- e) Accepted ground rules for the discussions that protect individual opinions from the social pressures of consensus;
- f) A context that effectively motivates deliberators to participate on the merits.
- Connecting Deliberative Democracy to Constitutional Change
This is contemplation on how to implement Deliberate Democracy and change the Constitution without going through constitutionally defined method of amendments.
- Speculating on New Institutions
Here author spells need for the new institutions and Constitutional amendment to create them. One such institution would be 4thbranch of government something like “civic jurors” selected for deliberation. Another one would change the process of amendment itself so it would be easier to implement based on deliberation day resolutions. Author looks at few such suggestions in some details.
- Mongolia Deliberates on Constitutional Change
Here author describes actual process of deliberate democracy as constitutional amendment in Mongolia. He seems to be optimistic, but it was not a done deal at the moment of writing.
13 “Deliberative Authoritarianism”
This is an interesting combination that was discussed in China. The point here is that authoritarian one party government allows deliberation, but instead of decision making as in democracy it would be just polling and recommendation. It was somewhat tested in China and Singapore and author claims that it mainly complied with requirements of Deliberation, albeit without decision making it is very limited.
- “Deliberative Systems” and Popular Control
Here author discusses expansion to Deliberative system. Here are a few of suggested systems:
- Toward Collective Self-Rule
In this final chapter points out that with all well known deficiencies of existing democratic systems his Deliberate Democracy would be a great improvement over current situation and that its implementation would go a long way to assure more valid collective self-rule than exists now.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I generally find idea of Deliberative Democracy very nice, but highly unrealistic and
I see the problem not in complexity of decision-making, but in reality of human interests. In reality the elite part of population controls continuously increasing share of resources and generally uses it to their own benefits both material and psychological. This means that they would not give up this power for such funny reason as better method of finding solutions for the problems. My approach is that the process of decision-making is a lot less important than the scope of decisions that is brought into domain of “collective”. I think that the only way to achieve real democracy is to decrease collective decisions to absolute minimum by moving as much as possibly to domain of individual decision-making. Take for example drugs use. As soon as decision about this is moved to collective it create need for the huge number of decisions that had to be made by somebody for everybody. Whether this somebody is king or bureaucrat or parliament is not relevant, it still millions of decisions: which drags allow and which not, how punish for drug use, how prevent production or delivery of drags and so on infinitum. However as soon as this decision is taken away from public domain into individual domain, it become distributed between millions of people each deciding for self. Some may decide wrongly, with very negative or even lethal consequences, but as long as this decision is personal, only decision maker would suffer or enjoy these consequences. It is very much unlike collective decisions in public domain when negative consequences of poor decision fall on multitude of innocent people, usually leaving decision maker well protected from these results. In short freedom and collectivism are not compatible and no amount of improvement in process of collective decision-making could improve on this defect. The only real solution is limitation of collectivism to absolute minimum such as: collective defense, personal freedom and property loss, prevention of and punishment for deception, coercion, and violence against individuals.
The main idea of this book is to review history of corporate litigation in USA pertained to legal status of corporation as artificial person. The author’s main point is that over the last 200 years the legal person of corporation obtained more and more rights that actually were relevant only for humans such as the first amendment rights to which author allocates lots of space in his discussion in view of Citizens United.Even more interesting is author’s point that it was not development in one direction, but rather along a complex road with a lot of loops when in some cases it was beneficial for corporation to be considered in possession of human rights, but in other to be a separate entity to which legal framework created for humans just does not apply.
INTRODUCTION: ARE CORPORATIONS PEOPLE?
Author starts with the story of Roscoe Conkling the outstanding lawyer of the reconstruction period, one of the drafters of the fourteenth amendment that granted rights to former slaves. Later, after two decades in Congress, as the lawyer for Railroad Company he managed to apply equal rights to corporations. It is interesting that it become a norm, so up until 1912 there were 312 cases in Supreme Court when it was used to protect corporations and only 28 cases dealing with blacks. After describing misuse of fourteenth amendment early in XX century, author jumps to describing hated Citizen Uniteddecision that extended free speech rights to corporation in early XXI century. After that author points out that the story of corporation acquiring more and more rights is long, illustrious, and that the objective of this book is present this history.
PART ONE CORPORATE ORIGINS
CHAPTER 1. In the Beginning, America Was a Corporation
Here author discusses origin of American colonies, which were created by corporations and were treated as business enterprises. Whether Virginia colony or later Pilgrims, or later on others, they all were extension of British tradition of privateering when king or queen would give authorization to private actors to play role of Navy and obtain colonies. An interesting fact is that in 1590 these activities were responsible for 10% of economy. As result these colonies were set up as corporations and author discusses in details how it happened. One of important consequences was perception by colonials that their rights legally defined by corporate charters rather than by the will of monarch.
PART TWO THE BIRTH OF CORPORATE RIGHTS
CHAPTER 2. The First Corporate Rights Case
This was the case of Bank of the United States v. Deveaux. The case was about corporation paying local taxes. Interestingly enough, corporation won, but the logic was different. Corporation rejected its treatment as a person and asked to be treated only as conduit for rights of its members. The key here was state citizenship of corporation, which had members in several states. Here author goes to history of corporations all way to the Roman Empire, discusses in details works of Sir William Blackstone who identified corporations as “artificial persons”, and strategy of Bank’s lawyer Horace Binney who wanted to pierce corporate veil and instead of claiming corporate identity rights, claimed members rights to sue collectively. The author also discusses another case – Hope Insuranceof the same period, in which the lawyer was John Quincy Adams, who argued for corporate citizenship and right to sue. These two cases established the framework of discussion with personhood and piercing being two different approaches to corporate rights.
CHAPTER 3. The Corporation’s Lawyer
Here author moves along of timeline, bringing discussion to Daniel Webster as a corporate lawyer, reviewing important case of Dartmouth College. This case defined private character of corporations leading to recognition of their rights, which had limited government power over them. After this author discusses later career of Webster when he became much less successful trying to protect the Second Bank of USA against Andrew Jackson and his Supreme Court pick – Taney, who was approved as such only after the second nomination. They denied special rights to elite bank, but greatly expended access to corporate form in more democratic version. The case that was decisive in this regard was Charles River Bridge Company when Webster tried to protect its monopoly. It failed and Taney wrote decision, which stressed narrow reading of corporate chapter to prevent monopolies. Author also discusses issues of corporate personhood in view of comity clause of constitution, which defined equal rights for citizens of other states of the Union that prevented discrimination by local courts. Overall Taney Court accepted corporate artificial personality, but would allow it more limited rights than ordinary citizen, including state option to exclude corporation from their borders.
PART THREE PROPERTY RIGHTS, NOT LIBERTY RIGHTS
CHAPTER 4 The Conspiracy for Corporate Rights
Here author returns to Roscoe Conkling and use of 14thamendment to establish corporate rights. The main point here is Conkling’s assertion of drafter’s intention to read this amendment in the way beneficial for corporations. Author considers this assertion and consequent confirmation of this idea as conspiracy and names four conspirators: Conkling, Justice Stephen Field, Bancroft Davis, and Southern Pacific. Specifically author discusses San Mateo v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the case designed to establish civil rights for corporations. Author describes process of adding 14thamendment in detail clearly, albeit unintentionally demonstrating its dubious legality since it was ratified in some states under military occupation in period of reconstruction. There is also here an interesting story of southern lawyer John Campbell who instead of fighting this amendment managed to turn it to use in southern interest by protecting economic rights of southern small businesses against government intervention (butchers case). Then author discusses ideas of Conkling conspiracy that appeared quite a bit later in early XX century, promoted by historian Charles Beard. Finally author reviews fight between justices Field and White on issues related to business and ethics, with White generally siding with state regulators and Fields with corporations.
CHAPTER 5 The Corporate Criminal
This is discussion of corporation rights in criminal investigation. It starts with case of Tobacco trust and application of 5thamendment rights to corporation. Author concentrates on personalities: Edwin Hale – company executive and prosecutor Henry Taft who argued against such rights for corporations. As it was related to the case, author discusses Sherman Act and its use or lack thereof. The chapter ends with discussion of how attitude to 4thand 5thAmendments changed in courts and how it is actively used now. At the time courts decided not allow disclose of corporate communications, the decision that would not be acceptable in court now.
CHAPTER 6 Property, Not Politics
This is about another case that occurred at about the same: New York Life Insurance Company represented by its executive George Perkins. The case was about financial mismanagement, specifically payments to Morgan’s firm for unspecified services. Prompted by excessive luxurious expenses of individuals related to company it was about the level of freedom the management can or cannot use with corporate financials. In addition to personal excesses, money was used extensively to bribe politicians. Author uses this case to discuss the struggle over ethics and politics of the time and stories of several famous people: Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Hanna, and Louis Brandeis.
PART FOUR THE RISE OF LIBERTY RIGHTS FOR CORPORATIONS
CHAPTER 7. Discrete and Insular Corporations
It starts with reference to the note to Supreme Court decision written in 1938, which marks end of real protection of property rights (Lochner era) and beginning of Brown era– protection of civil rights. Harlan Stone wrote it and author discusses this lawyer and his role in this and his earlier activity as protector of socialists against “red scare”. The same relates to Newspapers and other media that need protection from politicians such as Hue Long. Then author moves to Oliver Holmes and his protection of free speech, especially in its corporate form of media in Grosjean case. The fight was about taxing advertisement that Long was attempted to use against adversary media. The final result was extension of free speech to corporations as a right. This was a precursor to the future Citizen United.
CHAPTER 8. Corporations, Race, and Civil Rights
This chapter is about racial struggle. One case was about NAACP, which was corporation and refused to turn in to authorities membership list. It discusses also issue of corporation’s race, which normally does not have any, but could be contrived as in Johnson amusement park case. The court defined that corporate is separate entity from its members and therefore could not have human characteristics such as race. Then author discusses career of Thurgood Marshall and Hugo Black and their roles in civil rights movement.
CHAPTER 9. The Corporation’s Justice
In this chapter author moves to discuss Nixon judges and their role in moving Supreme Court away from liberalism of Warren Court. Author provides detail look at career of Lewis Powell who fought “excessive tolerance” that created crime wave, attacks against business for environmental and other reasons. A lot of attention author pays to Powell’s role as promoter of corporate political speech and active participation in politics overall as necessary to protect shareholders interests. He discusses details of Powell’s memorandum for business leaders named “Attack on American Free Enterprise System” and its consequences.
CHAPTER 10. The Triumph of Corporate Rights
The final chapter is mainly dedicated to discussion of Citizen United and overall polarization of American. It also includes discussion of corporate money in political campaigns and personality of lawyers such as Jim Bopp who fought and successfully rebuffed campaign finance laws. Author also discusses the process of how Supreme Court became more conservative with appointments of judge Thomas, Alito, and Roberts.
CONCLUSION Corporate Rights and Wrongs
Author conclusion mainly comes down to the idea that corporations are people, at least in many aspects as Supreme Court defined it over years. Author points out to the latest move in this direction – Hobby Lobby case that defined that corporations cold have religious rights. At the end author brings in reference to Leo Strine – Delaware Chief Justice and his lecture on corporate governance in which Leo discussed corporate governance and impossibility of shareholders to control corporate political speech or any other actions for that matter. This makes the idea of corporate personhood that was continuously expanded somewhat damaging, since it resulting in actual infringement of rights of real people.
Author ends his conclusion with the story of a small Mora County court, which decided to ban fracking on its territory. The case was whether Shell Company could challenge the ban in court as violation of its constitutional rights. The Court sided with Shell, once more confirming constitutional rights for corporations.
MY TAKE ON IT:
As the great many other things American jurisprudence went way beyond original Constitution by establishing precedents and confirming laws that have no relation to original text. It is a pity because the idea of constitution was to restrict power of politician and bureaucrats to creation of explicit laws directly, instead forcing them to base laws on written Constitution so these laws could not be expanded beyond its limits. The corporate personhood, establishment of which author describes in great detail, is one uniquely demonstrative example of such legal expansion way beyond constitutional limits.
I personally would like to see complete elimination of all this unconstitutional legal structure and establishments of explicit constitutional article that would define meaning and rights of corporations, similarly to the way it defines rights of human citizens. In my opinion the existence of corporations has dual purpose: limitation of individual responsibility and combination of resources of different entities under one control. The limitation of liabilities could have two sides: material loses and negative consequences of some action or inactions by individuals. Correspondingly it should be two different types of corporations – Business Corporation with no political rights whatsoever and Political Corporation with no business activities whatsoever. The first would have neither first amendment nor any other human rights, while second would not be able to sell anything, only use collected money for political activities. As to legal standing, instead of current arrangement when corporation can sue or be sued, providing money flow away from shareholders to both corporate and adversarial lawyers, I would like to see corporate resource allocation to human beings who would curry legal responsibility for use of these resources on behalf of corporation and in the amount of allocated resources.
The main idea of this book is to use two popular phrases / notions: America First and American Dream and then trace their appearance and use from the very beginning to our time. It is also seems to be stressing the use of these phrases in contest of isolationism, racism, and consumerism when “America First” was mixed with ideas of 100% American as WASP, with all other being less than 100% and isolationism, while “American Dream” developing from strive to get new land to strive to get more goods. Another part of the main idea is to link the worst ideas related to these phrase to Trump and his supporters.
Prologue: First, America First
It starts with description of two simultaneous demonstrations: one by Italian fascists and another by KKK in New York in 1927. There was violence and police had some people arrested. Author stresses that among detained was one Fred Trump and, while some others were identified as Klan members, Fred Trump was not. Author notes that it meant nothing at the time, kind of indicating that it does mean something now.
PART ONE 1900—1920
- The American Dream 1900-1916: The Spirit of American Dreams 4
Author starts this part with the first mentioning of American Dream in 1900 in context of “resentful multimillionaires that would kill American dream”. Author points out that here American Dream meant equality and rich would undermine equality and therefore kill the dream, which is opposite of current American dream that came to mean be successful and become multimillionaire. In support of this author brings multiple examples from newspapers and other literature of the progressive period. She discusses quite intensely work of Walter Lippmann and his critics of American individualism and Americans’ “naïve” believe in democracy unburdened by expert control and regulation. Author mentions abundance of Americans dreaming about their own advancement, but together with authors of progressive era, she seems to see it as ugly impediment to implementation of beautiful collective dream.
- America First 1900-1916: Pure Americanism Against the Universe
The other notion: America First author mainly links with WWI and American initial neutrality. In addition to kind of external direction of America first author bring internal direction when it meant “melting pot” assimilation and tensions over hyphenate Americans of various kinds. It was linked first and foremost by fear of immigrants taking jobs, pushing out native business by better goods and services and cheaper prices, and, very important, fear of being pulled into European war that was practically irrelevant for majority of Americans. After reviewing more or less relevant literature and speeches of the period about immigration and assimilation, author moves to additional topic of the idea of 100% American, that obtained popularity at the time, often having Darwinist character of superior and inferior races, culminating in rebirth of KKK, and mass culture glorification of the Lost Cause of Confederacy, accompanied by occasional lynching. Author provides number of 3,436 people lynched between 1889 and1922, majority black. It is interesting because 1888 was the first year when majority of victims were black. Statistics exists for earlier times, but then majority of victims were white so author avoids it.
- The American Dream 1917-1920: What Do You Call That But Socialism?
This chapter starts with review of changes in American dream presentation in press from equality to liberty and democracy that were prompted by war propaganda. After the war the same propaganda machine switched to promoting socialism with American specifics, which somehow would be very different from murderous socialism of Russian Revolution. Once again author stresses that “ the American Dream was about how to stop bad multimillionaires, not how to become one”.
- America First 1917-1920: We Have Emerged from Dreamland
This chapter starts with statement that idea of America First moved from isolationism to jingoism, when main point became how different and better is America than other countries. Author provide an interesting example of America creed definition that won contest and remained popular for decades and even become official in 1945:
After that author discusses struggles for/against League of Nations and Americanization of immigrants. The former ended with America staying out of League, while latter with potential immigrants kept out of America. Author also links it to KKK and growth of racism.
PART TWO 1920—1930
- The American Dream 1921-1923: Salesmen of Prosperity
Author decided here to allocate separate charters to 2 years of Harding administration, which practically deconstructed Wilsons’s super big government and returned to normal, when middle class prosperity was the American Dream. Author discusses in details emerging anti-middle class literature like Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt”. After that she moves to immigrants, their communities, and their fitness or not for America. Author also found that in literature and ideology of the time American dream of liberty was coming in conflict with dream about equality and justice.
- America First 1920-1923: The Simplicity of Government
For America first part of discussion for this period author looks and Harding’s attempt to simplify government and make it more business like and therefore more efficient. Big part of this effort was to remove government from activities that where not proper for its interference. It also included America First approach to international trade with tariffs and increasing isolationism. She also constantly refers to literature produced by leftist authors and discusses KKK and American fascist movement that were growing at the time.
- The American Dream 1924-1929: A Willingness of the Heart
This is about period of Calvin Coolidge administration and author starts it with Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby”. Only after discussing the book that was supposed to demonstrate moral bankruptcy of American capitalism, she moves to Coolidge and his declaration that “The chief business of American people is business.” Author also links it to Calvinist religion, which hold that productivity is religious duty and points out how out of this mix start emerging individualism, which discounted equality, rejecting the idea that there is something wrong when different ability, effort, and luck lead to different a results, sometimes dramatically so.
- America First 1923-1929: A Super Patriot, Patriot
For “America First” of this period author once again concentrates on KKK, racism, but also adds a new theme: corruption of Harding administration. She also discusses election of 1924 when democrats ran on anti-corruption platform, while supporting racism and KKK, albeit not without tension between Northern and Southern wings of the party. The republican response was to legislate anti-immigration laws that stopped mass immigration by linking ability to immigrate with country of origin in order to keep American population at the existing ethnic proportions. Author does recite Coolidge speech against bigotry, in which he stated that bigotry and racism contradict idea of “America First”, but she finds it strange, moving on to KKK claim on this slogan and 100% American notion being racist.
PART THREE 1930—1940
- The American Dream 1930-1934: Das Dollarland
This is about period of great depression when in author’s opinion selfishness failed. Author traces changes in American Dream as it was represented in literature and periodicals. The main change was loss of believe in wisdom of business leaders and growing distrust in reality of equal opportunity. Moreover it became kind of identity crisis for the country when individualism and materialism of America was questioned and significant part of Americans bought ideas of collectivism, all knowing benevolent political leaders who implement scientific social planning. This change in ideology opened gates for FDR mass changes in American system that for the first time after civil war moved America to big government system.
10 America First 1930-1934: The Official Recognition of Reality
Author describes America First of this period and increasing reaction to immigration with KKK achieving nearly mainstream status. As to external world, America once again moved to its default status of wishing external world just go away. At the same time multiple various-scale movements continued promoting American involvement in international causes. Author describes in some details one such movement – fascistic “Friends of the New Germany” that tried to promote Hitlerism and his ideas of German (Nordic) racial superiority.
11 The American Dream 1934-1939: The Pageant of History
Author describes this period as the time when American Dream become ubiquitous, saturating public discussion. It got to mean Democratic equality and high levels of activity in inventions and production. However it also started diverging into two separate streams, not necessarily compatible: Equality of Opportunity and Equality of Results. Author discusses work of quite interesting thinker named Herbert Agar who held that the failure of Americanism, as represented by Great Depression, was caused but failure to assign private property to many versus a few. Author goes through multiple examples of American dream as it was presented on meetings, in newspapers, books, and lectures. She also presents the new American dream of getting better off via government handouts, such as in public housing. The Dream also start moving away from dream of individual advance to dream of country prosperity as whole. One interesting statistical representation of this approach is rejection of variance between mean and median, when a few very rich raise mean to the level unachievable to many poor. One point that author makes here is that American Dream would have many variable meanings, but one constant feature: it always applied to all Americans. The final part of the chapter was about defending the Dream, which necessitated defense of democracy, without which its achievement would be impossible.
12 America First 1935-1939: It Can Happen Here
This is about various fascist and semi-fascist movements that happened in America at the time, igniting discussion among intelligentsia whether it could or could not happen here. Author discusses career of Huey Long and his semi-dictatorship in Louisiana, American Nazis rallies, pro-German Bund, and rejection of Jewish refugees. Author also describes in details career of Dorothy Thompson – popular anti-fascist author and journalist.
13 America First and the American Dream 1939-1941: Americans! Wake Up!
This part is mainly about raise of anti-war isolationist movement, Lindberg’s America First committee, which, under circumstances, was basically Nazi Germany propaganda operation conducted in hope to keep America out of war long enough for Germany to conquer Europe and use its total resources to prepare for final victory and conquest of the world. This German Dream of making the World save for “superior race” domination by keeping America neutral ended 4 days after Pearl Harbor, when America First Committee disbanded.
Epilogue 1945-2017: Still America Firsting
Here author narrates a bit about what happened later to these ideas after WWII and to couple of main personalities of her narrative: Hugo Black and Dorothy Thompson. At the end she breaks out of self-imposed restrictions and lets out the full scale of her Trump Derangement Syndrome, which is kind of pity because it somewhat spoils a reasonably decent book.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that ideas of American Dream are alive, well, and are about to blossom as soon as we get out of current restructuring of the mode of resource production and allocation from old industrial mode to the new informational one. The old Dream one way or another was mainly about material wellbeing, while now it could be taken for granted. The productivity achieved now and looming in the near future when AI could make any routine human activity unnecessary, makes this old Dream not just easily achievable, but trivial. We are in the process of switching to the New American Dream when material part could be taken for granted and psychological needs are becoming paramount. There is danger here because there are two types of psychological needs: one is achieving personal satisfactory condition via learning, relationship, thinking, and achieving recognition. And another one: which is achieving power to force other people to do what one wants, regardless of their own wishes. The first one is pretty much aligned with traditional American Dream and it could be easily traced to original dream of having enough food and shelter from one own piece of land and labor. The second one is not American at all. It was brought in from Europe with its tradition of court thinkers telling monarchs how to achieve glory, power, and prosperity. After some 5 generations of government educational bureaucrats promoting this European dream, it seems getting some traction, but there is growing resistance to this and, as usual, waking up after long sleep, American people will overcome this challenge.
As to America First, the current iteration seems to be changing from America First to pay for other people wellbeing to America First to take care about its own people.
The former comes in two forms: one is protecting allies like Europe practically for free over generations, and the second one in form of providing opportunities for developing countries like China to transfer technology and accepting unfair trade. Surely, both methods were based on believe that it was better for American ruling classes: the protection gave them power and security, while developing world was providing cheap labor and place for industrial production without environmental restrictions, which made production cheaper still. Both where at the expense of American middle class, which seems had enough. So Trump or no Trump, this change from “the first to pay” to “the first to care” is going to happen.
The main idea of this book is to translate author’s thinking based mainly on theoretical physics and mathematics into simplified presentation of his views on nature of our world and derive from these views answers to 10 questions that author believes to be the most important for humanity.
Why We Must Ask Big Questions
Here author describes his family and upbringing and how he get involved with science so much. Then he moves to big cosmological question of 1970s: did universe have a beginning. Author found the answer in black holes theory via combination of general relativity (very large) with quantum theory (very small). After that he describes history of his illness and accommodations that were made possible by contemporary technology, allowing him to lead active intellectual live as scientist and author of popular book on cosmology.
Since author designed this book as QA, with chapters being the questions, the best way to summarize is just to include his own answers as they are.
MY TAKE ON IT:
- GOD EXISTANCE:
I believe that this could not possibly be known, unless and until God decides to make it known. Consequently the best way to treat it is American way: leave everybody to believe whatever they want and prevent anybody from imposing his/her believes on others
I actually do not think that it is meaningless question, but I also do not think that it is an answerable one. Our understanding of Bing bang, time, and space came from combination of observable facts in form of various physical phenomenon with mathematical modeling that kind of makes sense of this. This modeling could not possibly be final not only now, but ever because we do not know what other phenomenon would be discovered in the future and what mathematical modeling would be available if our data processing and modeling abilities will increase by factor of billions. In mine humble opinion there were no beginning as well as there will be no end, as it was said before: ”just one damn thing after another”.
- OTHER INTELLIGENT LIFE:
I think it absolutely exists and probably in huge number of variation, but not necessarily that often and close to each other. Therefore limits on travel and communications are way too high, making idea of interaction improbable.
- PREDICT THE FUTURE:
No way. There are too much complexity and variations to have it reliably predictable in details. Probabilistically, however, we predict the future everyday with pretty high level of precision like: it will be one Monday within the next 7 days.
- INSIDE OF BLACK HOLE:
The black hole is the product of our modeling, so description provided by author must be consistent with it. It does not mean that if one tried to inter black hole it is exactly what would happen.
- TIME TRAVEL:
We do it all the time, but only in one direction physically with speed being marginally changeable, but not by much. Psychologically there are no limits.
- SURVIVAL ON EARTH:
We’ll survive for a while, at least until some big thing happen that is beyond our control, like sun becoming supernova. Things like climate change are not a problem at all. The climate had always been changing and that’s why evolution gave apes with bigger brain advantage in survival, so they could adjust faster that it could be supported by DNA change. Besides the way it is presented now is mainly BS, serving to assure wealth transfer to bureaucratic scientists.
- COLONIZE SPACE:
I do not thinks it make sense. Humans are not going multiply indefinitely. Moreover we already can observe shrinking rather than expansion of population, so there are enough places on this planet for everybody.
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE OUTSMART HUMANS:
If question is if non-biological system can do everything that humans do, better, then the answer is yes. However if we consider human being a system that through internal presetting (DNA for example) can accumulate experiences, form self-perception as the entity separate and different from environment outside of border of this entity, set up objectives to achieve, and act to achieve this, then answer is no. It is “no” because such system would be a human, even if it is based not on biological material, but on, let’s say, silicone. However I do not see any reason for creating this new type of humans, except for limited experiment, because we humans love ourselves and do not need any competition. The use of AI as tool, functional, but not conscious would be good enough.
- HOW SHAPE FUTURE:
Technological future is trivial, it will happen. Much more important is social future. Humanity needs to move away from resource creation, allocation, and redistribution via Deception, Coercion, and Violence. Similarly humanity should discard the idea of one individual having power over other to force this other to do or not to do something. If we manage to do these 2 things within the next 50-100 years, we’ll be fine. If not, then some pissed of individual will use technology to create deadly virus or super powerful explosion or something else to end this all.