« Something worth watching | Main | #Arab Spring - a Tour »

10 April 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I think Adam Silverman is a straight shooter and I'm afraid the American "leadership" and public have lost the essence of what it takes to keep our nation afloat. We desperately need to get our act together and march forward as Americans period! - not an extension of some other group (Israeli Zionists).

Bill H.

This raises a good point. The discussion revolves around what we are spending and not what we are spending it for.

When we are negotiating to buy a car, do we talk about nothing but the price? I think not, we talk about the features of the car, what the features cost and whether or not the cost of the features is worth the additional cost.

And yet this discussion is not about the values of any programs or services, not about the needs for what we spend the money on, merely about the amount we spend.


I agree whole heartedly with your sentiments Dr. Silverman.

However since the entire American legislature can be bought and paid for at ridiculously low prices, and the media channels are also bought, this discussion is not going to happen except in small forums like SST. Even that is under threat from a net neutrality roll back.

America is salvable, and in Ten years could be well on the way to the sunlit upland pastures once again.

However it isn't going to happen. What is required is an economic slash and burn campaign to get rid of the cosy deals and backward legislation and backward thinking that is slowly strangling America.

For example it it possible yet for me to bring a single G3 cell phone to the U.S. and have seamless voice and data coverage across America like I can in Europe? More examples on request.

The rest of the worlds economy seems to be accelerating away from America. Special interest groups have their feet jammed hard on your brakes. (14 lines)

cat man

henning needs to read baram's explanation of where us financial assistance goes, it goes back to the us,nevertheless israel shd wean itself from us support eventually as it is self defeating in the long run, it is almost there, a large number of what you term israeli zionists want to end that in favor of improved autonomy both financial and military, at present it is prevented from doing business with many excellent trade partners because of demands from usa private sector and one can see how israel army is being held back from defeating the militants who target school buses. i believe it will happen one day but it will probably be discouraged by those who benefit from the status quo. obama did not throw israel under the bus as intended, what went wrong, cold feet, warm heart?

RAISER William

Silverman is right on in both the need for the discussion and our unwillingness (unpreparedness? deliberate action of the power elite to keep away from the discussion?) to have such a discussion/dialog. I find it somewhat amusing that such a dialog may be occurring at the senior levels of the military.

William R. Cumming

Dr. Silverman again has thoughtfully hit the nail on the head of one of current American life's unwillingness to focus on what is important.

Ask yourself which party is most likely today to promote the village green concept of sharing. Should we allow individuals to profit from the commons?


Dr. Silverman,

Thank you for an excellent post. But why have you not mentioned the idea of "Justice" (as in a just social order)? Don't all social contracts ultimately rest on people's ideas of what is and is not just?
The Preamble to the Constitution mentions "establishing Justice" second, but for some time now any discussion of social justice (i.e. what means a just society) is dismissed, usually as leftist fetish.

In other words, my point is that our nation is unable to discuss or even comprehend social contracts because we have largely expunged discussion and understanding of Justice.

JT Davis

I have read that Garrett Hardin (The Tragedy of the Commons) regretted the title of his famous essay and after the fact wished he had titled it "The Tragedy of the UNMANAGED Commons". And it is clear to anyone who has read it that he was of that mind. As with many thinkers on economics, a certain segment of the population tend to cherry pick the ideas that appeal, or create them out of whole cloth. A case in point is Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand". I suggest anyone who thinks that metaphor was a keystone of Smith's thinking read: "Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth" by Gavin Kennedy.

Furthermore, when I read this speech, "The Founding Fathers and the Economic Order", given to the Economic Club of Indianapolis in April, 2006 by ultra-conservative Forrest McDonald, a Professor of History at the University of Alabama, I was quite surprised to find that one of the basic tenets of republicanism as the Founders understood it was relative equality of property. Jefferson did do away with the laws of primogenitur and entails. Or as we'd say today, he imposed the first "Death Tax".

JT Davis

Dr. Silverman may be referring to one of my favorite Jefferson quotes from a letter to Samuel Kercheval. An abridged version is on Panel Four of The Jefferson Memorial.

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), July 12, 1816


Thank you Dr. Silverman for a thought-provoking article. I think your musings hit the nail on the head.

In so many ways, our nation is in decline. What I cannot understand for the life of me is how the folks who are profiting from it (call them what you will, the elite, the banksters, etc.) fail to realize that in the long term (which is fast approaching imho) they themselves will be better off and more secured in their positions by recognizing some form of national common good which strengthens the nation as a whole.

@Mr. Cummings:

"Ask yourself which party is most likely today to promote the village green concept of sharing."

Neither one in my opinion.

"Should we allow individuals to profit from the commons?"

Very few bits of social policy exist in the US that do not allow a private middleman to profit from the delivery of the "commons". Exceptions such as SS or Medicare are increasingly under attack.

Patrick Lang


I think we should not fall into the trap of believing that the United States is in fact one ethno-national community for which a single social contract works well. Gun control and abortion are perfect examples in which the social contract accepted on much of the coasts is simply not acceptable in most of the country. Why should it be? pl

Byron Raum

I am not quite sure I understand your point, sir. From what it seems to me, it essentially reduces down to that my gun-totin' neighbor's wife is not allowed abortions whereas I am not allowed to carry a gun, both contracts submitting to each's ideals. But that works for neither one of us. To him, I am a baby-murderer and to me, his guns are a threat. What is the middle way?


What the government should provide?

# A 'level playing field" in all aspects would be first.
# Equal justice.
# A social policy that represents a 'civilized' society.

It's not impossible to have policies based on what is 'most fair to all' and still live up to the obligations of a civil society to it's less capable and fortunate.

I don't know if our recent governments are a reflection of our society or our society is a reflection of our government. But it's obvious both are mucked up and in decline.


That sort of performance-based budgeting has never been practiced seriously in the U.S. Most government expenditures seem to grow as a result of bureaucratic evolution and Congressional fiefdoms rather than an objective weighing of objectives and how to use limited resources to achieve them.

That's why we have duplications for so many programs because each agency needs to have one of whatever it is or each Congressional subcommittee needs to defend its turf.

William R. Cumming

Steve! Agree!


I live in France. I'm not afraid of being shot.

About 350 people die in France each year from gunshot wounds (population 66,000,000).

Half of them are hunters and a disturbing number of the rest are police who commit suicide.

Is my freedom restricted. Yeah, I don't have to worry about getting shot.

Hunters obviously can get guns, and, in fact, France is a nation of hunters (and poachers too). But you have to jump through some hoops to get a hunting license.

France is the antithesis of a homogenous society.

Silverman for President. Quick.

Farmer Don

Col Lang and readers,
The US will not make any great progress with the problems mentioned in Mr. Silverman’s article until forced to.
The US is in the fortunate position of having the world’s reserve currency, and is in the happy position that it has had no problems getting all the loans it needs at a low interest rate. This means that the US can borrow money all the money it wants in it’s own currency. If the US dollar goes down, it’s no problem as the loans can still be paid off in lower valued dollars with no penalty. Any other country must constantly be aware of the international value of it’s currency with regards to getting loans. And so other countries have to pursue sound monetary policies or suffer the consequences.
The US because of it’s past domination of world business, has yet to have these constraints on it. It can spend freely for wars, bail out bankers, lower taxes, run unbalanced budgets, give foreign aid, lower education standards, send good jobs overseas, then pay for unemployment benefits, all with borrowed or printed money.
This will change. Maybe in a short dramatic fashion (run on the dollar/high interest rates), or more slowly like post war Britain. When it does and the new situation finally becomes clear to a majority of the citizens, politicians will get to the frount of the parade and only then make the hard choices people will see they can no longer put off.

Norbert M Salamon

Thankl you Dr Silverman for the clarity of your explanation.

IHMO that the essential of the social contract was in tatters in its most basic form, education, at the time of Sputnik. With a samll resurgence of K-12, for a few years it was rivived, then lawyer promoted decline begun, the culmination of this sorry lawyerese effrect was Black V Topeka, wgere the USSC defined educational opportunity in the vein of racial mixing [which itself is cokmmandable] withoput demanding equal 0pprtunity to all in erqual quality curriculum with equally [inas much as possible]capable teachers.
While the racail issue is somewhat solved [though suburban v core, vs, rural is very great] the issue of the equality of opportunity re curriculum re teacher quality is completely neglected.

Without high quality education [incluyding epistomoplogy by grade 10] it is impossible to revive the nation's social contract.

Allen Thomson

> Without high quality education [including epistomology by grade 10]...

But, but, a grounding in epistemology might lead to critical thinking amongst the voters! What politician could possibly want such a catastrophic outcome?

Patrick Lang


Your response on gun control and political culture makes my point. You clearly disagree with many millions of Americans who do not share your view but who are equally sure that they are correct. pl


While the influence of either "side" may wax and wane as political winds change, gun rights and abortion rights have both co-existed in this country for over 35 years.

Some may prefer one right over the other, or champion both rights, or champion neither, but the fact is that the "social contract", in this case perhaps defined as the law, has acknowledged both.


Being sure you're correct and being correct are distinguishable. MQ is sure he's correct and he's got plenty of guns.


Col. Lang,

Your point about States Rights with respect to abortion, Gun control, etc. is well made, as is your post about divergence of individual views.

However I have to point out that these divergences are not without huge costs - transaction costs - the cost of doing business and no one is telling the American people about this matter.

If these costs are not recognised and minimised then America is going to become a Third world nation quicker then anyone imagines. Despite Farmer Dons wishful thinking America is in more financial shit than a sewage farm duck.

America is at the crossroads right now. It is clear that Americans are getting more frustrated with their Democracy. The choices are 1) More of the same. 2) Bipartisan cooperation to make sufficient and lasting changes to the social contract in America that pacifies the masses. 3) Descent into Authoritarianism and Fascism after the 2012 elections.

#1 Will not happen. People are fed up.

#2 Bipartisan? Not till hell freezes over.

#3 A "strong leader" empowered by the people to "cut through red tape and get things done"? More than likely in my opinion.

That slimy little toad Fareed Zakaria is preparing the ground for #3 in his latest essay in Time Magazine.


Adam L. Silverman

Walrus: the answer is no regarding your smart phone. The reason for that is that what we call free markets in the US aren't free. The best chronicler of this is David Cay Johnson, a conservative economist and now a professor of tax law (I think that's what he is) at Syracuse University. His two books on regulations, the tax code, and the market are a must read. Simply put in the US it was determined that if the government set standards for cell phones, and then for wireless, this would interfere with the market. So what's happened here, contrary to Europe and most other places, is that each company has their own networks, each network is a hodge podge, and one's equipment wether cell phone, smart phone, or now tablet, winds up being locked into which ever company is the provider. Until someone with enough clout and muscle comes along and breaks the logjam, then in the name of the free market, but which is actually a rigged market for the providers, we'll have the hodge podge and largely slow system we have. I had hoped Apple would break the dam by releasing iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches that are unlocked, can be bought and then activated on any carriers system, but they unfortunately chose to follow the normal business model of tethering their products to one or two carriers.

Adam L. Silverman

Mr. Cumming: its not that individuals can't or shouldn't be permitted to profit off the commons, but rather that if the commons belong to everyone, then some of that profit needs to belong to everyone as well. This is the model used in Alaska, which I think most of us are aware of as a somewhat Republican state, regarding oil revenue. The oil companies are allowed to explore and exploit on public lands and make a profit off of extraction and refinement, but they also have to pay back to the citizens of Alaska. This, unfortunately, is not the case in many other places where private interests have been permitted to profit off of exploiting public lands/the commons. Not only are waivers routinely granted, but the profits are privatized while the costs are socialized. Environmental damage, infrastructure degradation, etc all get foisted off onto the public, while the private entity profits. I'm not arguing for not allowing exploitation of the commons or innovation or profit, but rather if it belongs to everyone, then everyone should get some benefit rather than a few benefit and everyone else pays for the costs. Recently this has been transplanted onto other business models. Every time some company comes up with a way to avoid paying its taxes, as the recent expose indicated was the case with GE, it means that the rest of us have to make up the difference and that is regardless of if we ever buy a GE product.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad