Hic Sunt Dracones

Author: Gary Hart

The Hunt-Lenox Globe, built in 1502, carried this phrase, “Here there be dragons”, in an area of uncharted maritime waters.  Since then what dragons there be, great whales, or who knows what, have been sighted and cataloged (that is unless you are among those still searching for the Loch Ness Monster.)

Where United States foreign policy is concerned, however, we may be entering an era described by that globe.  Based upon proclamations by the new President and some around him, there is reason for concern that post-World War II political, economic, and security alliances may be headed for the dust-bin and we are steering into seas whose dragons may be only vaguely visible.

The South China Sea.  Multiple Southeast Asian nations lay claim to maritime territories in the region.  They include Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and most notably China, among others.  China is constructing makeshift islands on coral reefs to establish […] Continue Reading…

How We Got Here

Author: Gary Hart

If current leadership is intent on dismantling a series of institutional arrangements that have provided relative political, economic, and security stability among democratic nations, we should first understand the forces that have led us into this current cul-de-sac.

The most obvious economic tsunamis in recent decades have been globalization and the rise of the information economy.  Historically, we have to go back to the late 19th century to find precedents.  The industrialization of America, that shifted our economic base from agriculture to manufacturing, began in the first half of that century but was most powerfully felt in the 1880s and 90s.  The dislocations caused by Americans leaving farms and small towns and migrating into cities to work in factories most closely parallels the late 20th century decline of steel, auto, textile, and other manufacturing activities and the shift of the economic center of gravity from the industrial East to the […] Continue Reading…

America: Headlines from 2020

Author: Gary Hart

The Russian Ambassador to the United States has renewed his lease on a top floor suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The author of The Art of the Deal has just announced an agreement with the Peoples’ Republic of China that he will withdraw the U.S. Seventh Fleet from the South China Sea in exchange for exclusive rights to place hotels and casinos on its newly created man-made islands.

The United States has just signed an agreement to join the recently formed League of Populist-Nationalist Euro-Atlantic states pledged to defend its members against any resurgence of “decadent liberal democracy”.

Since the abrogation of the Joint US-Iranian nuclear control agreement by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan have announced that they will follow Iran in developing their own nuclear defense forces.

The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that, according to a recent report by two unnamed scientists, the […] Continue Reading…

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 – Emma Lazarus

Matters of Principle

Author: Gary Hart

The most important things are often the most obvious.  Wouldn’t you think it appropriate if someone set up a conversation site called “mattersofprinciple” that this individual should state his or her own principles?  Joel has just asked whether the host was inclined to do that.  So, with several caveats, an attempt will be made.  Caveats: the following list is not exhaustive.  So, in response, please do not adopt the “I notice you didn’t mention…” fallacy.  The parameters of this site are not boundless.  Also, one man’s principles that follow are focused on government, ethics, and public policy, not spiritual, religious, or moral matters directly.

Matters of principle:

One: All men, that is to say all humans, are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;

Two: The United States Constitution remains our best blueprint for governing in days to come;

Three: The First Amendment to the Constitution requires special attention and […] Continue Reading…

The public discontent, now being commented on so extensively in political circles, did not suddenly emerge in the last year or so.  It dates at least to the mid-1970s when the first waves of globalization and automation began to wash up on our shores.  Everyday citizens, especially in traditional manufacturing jobs, began to make their concerns known to office holders and office seekers.

The recurrent theme, often unstated, was: I’m losing control of my life.

There was, and still is, a sense that our national government either did not know how or did not care to deal with the seismic shifts being felt not just in Detroit and Buffalo but in the heartland and the West as well.

With apologies for the personal references (and the “I” references that dominate the opinion section of the New York Times), my reaction to this building disquiet was to re-examine our Constitutional structures for evidence […] Continue Reading…

Technology and Its Discontents

Author: Gary Hart

A word to all concerned, especially the faithful commentators:  In its wisdom, the host of this website, tierra.net, has chosen to “upgrade” the server for this site.  When this happened a week or so ago, I was unable to access the site myself.  So, predictably, I contacted tierra.net’s Support office to ask for help.  It turns out I have to coordinate my php with their php, then stand on my head, then wander off into a bizarre tech world I don’t begin to understand, then I can access my own “upgraded”  website.   When I explained to Support that I was of the pre-technology generation that came along just after the invention of the electric light bulb and thus could not implement the crazy procedure required by the “upgrade”, Support recommended that I hire a webpage designer.  Being a man of modest means, to say the least, I’m not […] Continue Reading…

In Praise of Modesty

Author: Gary Hart

One of my most admired friends, Billy Shore (founder of Share Our Strength), has a kind habit of sending me books.  Most recently it was American Ulysses, a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  Upon his death, movingly described at the book’s conclusion, his funeral procession in New York City stretched nine miles.  As the Union’s general-in-chief and later President, he was proclaimed by the press as inhabiting the pantheon with Washington and Lincoln.  His memoir, concluded as he was dying, is considered a classic.  Yet today, he is seldom spared a thought.

Grant possessed that rare combination of inner self confidence and modesty seldom witnessed in today’s era of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.  In recent times Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman also come to mind in this respect.  Like Grant, they had inner strength but enough self-awareness, including about their own faults, not to lapse into self-promotion.

Perhaps the entertainment industry, […] Continue Reading…

The Center Must Hold

Author: Gary Hart

In The Second Coming, W. B. Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold: mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

He did not have in mind the kind of centrism so popular in recent political history, the avoidance of hard choices and strong leadership.  He had a more important center in mind, the kind of center that is hewn out of the marble of human experience, the garment woven of sacrifice and honorable compromise, the foundation upon which a viable and noble society might be built.

And he did not dismiss the chaos of anarchy; he diminished it as the alternative to the hard business of governing a complex community.  Anarchy is easy if you do not care about its results.

The center for early 21st century America, as Yeats would have it, is composed of years of struggle to control the spread of nuclear weapons, two decades of debate […] Continue Reading…

The new year and those thereafter offer many unfamiliar tests.  First and foremost is the test of the resilience of the United States.  Based on recent evidence, the new President will take dramatically different courses at home and abroad.  The Rooseveltian consensus on a social safety net and more recent progress on a variety of other public programs will be tested.  The post-World War II world order based largely upon the Atlantic Alliance is also being seriously challenged..

Nominations for cabinet offices in Departments having to do with public housing, environmental protection and climate change, health care, education, and energy, among others, have gone to those with outspoken antagonism to current law and policy and more enduring traditions such as public education.  These nominees are committed to reverse course and destroy the respective consensuses that brought us to today.

Our commitment to broad based public education traces to Jefferson who made […] Continue Reading…