Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Real Change 3

I read three chapters in Newt Gingrich's Real Change: "Chapter Six: Replacing the Old Order: America Has Done It Before and We Can Do It Again"; "Chapter Seven: Becoming a Citizen Leader"; and "Chapter Eight: Replacing the Old Order: Lessons from Britain and France".

1.  What stood out to me in my reading of Chapter 6 was Newt's references to the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration states: "whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends [of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness."  Newt then spends this chapter discussing systemic transformations throughout American history: the American Revolution, the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with a strong central government, Jeffersonianism, Jacksonianism, Lincoln Republicanism, the progressive movement, the New Deal, and Reaganism.  Regarding Lincoln Republicanism, Newt says on page 71 that it "shifted the focus of American political philosophy from the Constitution back to the Declaration of Independence".  He probably means that Lincoln Republicanism did so by highlighting the Declaration's principle that all men are created equal, in its opposition to slavery.  The Constitution, however, did not treat slaves as full human beings, as well as mandated that runaway slaves be returned to their masters.

Newt is probably a strict constructionist, one who wants for judges to be faithful to the text and original intent of the Constitution, and so I'll be taking the thoughts in the above paragraph in a direction that Newt most likely did not intend, and probably would find abhorrent.

During the health care debate, conservatives were telling me that the federal government has no authority to do anything about health care, for the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that the federal government can only do what the Constitution explicitly states, while all other powers are reserved to the states and the people.  I found such reasoning to be troubling.  There were people in the United States who were suffering and dying at the hands of America's health care system, and my conservative friends were appealing to some archaic notion of federalism to argue that the federal government should do absolutely nothing about that problem!  That made me think: the government is meant to serve us and to promote the general welfare.  If it is set-up in such a way that it is doing the opposite or hindering this, then there is a problem.  I think of government the same way that Jesus in Mark 2:27 thought about the Sabbath: The government was made for humanity, not humanity for the government.  In my opinion, if the Constitution is designed to prevent the government from helping people, then there is a problem with the Constitution.  I'm NOT calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Government, mind you, but I'm just saying that I'm wary of conservatives who put an archaic notion of federalism above the lives and well-being of American citizens.

2.  I enjoyed some of the advice and the stories in Chapter 7.  Newt talked about a 174-page book that he has read and reread since 1969, Peter Drucker's The Effective ExecutiveNewt states that, according to this book, being an effective leader is not a matter of "intelligence or looks or charisma".  Rather, it's a matter of sharing your vision with others, and of listening to what they have to say with openness.

Newt also talked about Albert Einstein, who had a hard time getting an academic job and had to be a clerk in order to support himself.  But that ended up being a good thing, for Einstein was not held-back by the group-think that pervades academia, and he could approach issues in fresh ways. 

In a sense, what Newt says about Drucker and what he says about Einstein are contradictory: we should be a team-player working with others, and yet we should strike out on our own and see problems in fresh ways that the herd's radar does not pick up.  Perhaps there's a place for both.  After all, Einstein's work had to interact with other scientists at some point, otherwise it would not have been accepted and put to use.

3.  Chapter 8 essentially lauds Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who took steps to liberate their respective countries' economies from things that were holding those economies back (i.e., statism).  Newt talks about France and how its workers have had a short work week along with considerable vacation times, and he doubts that they'll be as productive as countries where people work long hours (i.e., China and India).  The result, according to Newt, could be a decline in revenue in France, which is so necessary to pay for the French social programs.  But Newt states that Sarkozy has sought to encourage work.  For instance, Sarkozy proposed that overtime pay be tax-free.

I'm all for people working.  At the same time, it would be nice if they had time to spend with their families.  I know a lady who moved to Italy from the United States, and she says that she likes Italy because at least she can have lunch with her family.  In the U.S., she was always on the go, and so she couldn't do that.  I hope that Europe's way of doing things is not as perilous as Newt says.  But I'm far from being an expert on this topic.


  1. Thatcher implemented very destructive ideas, as also did Reagan. How about blogging on some books on world economics, James! We could all do to know more about what truth or otherwise there is in it when right wing politicians and bankers and business people tell us there is no alternative to their being in charge and receiving vast sums of money for their trouble, whilst everybody else has to cut back.

  2. I'm not sure when I'd get to that project, but it would be an important one. I hear so many contrary ideas about what works and what doesn't----that I wish I knew more about the justifications for those ideas.


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