Where is Joe the Reformer?

December 20, 2014

Many times I have repeated James Madison’s admonition that we need wise and virtuous leaders and have a duty “to take the most effectual precautions” for keeping them that way.  We will not get the “effectual precautions” we need without reform.  So, where is Joe the Reformer?  Who is Joe the Reformer?  I can tell you one thing:  every power factor in America will do everything it can to keep Joe the Reformer in the crowd.  Why?  They benefit from the way things are.  Ask politicians why reelection is their dominant goal.  Ask the IRS why it targets conservatives.  Ask the media why it refuses to hold politicians accountable.  Ask educators why they support unions that put teachers ahead of students.  Ask the wealthy why they contribute so much to politicians whose goal is reelection.  Ask political and economic experts why they are on TV all the time.

The people have the power to dissolve this power behemoth but they won’t.  They have been led to believe the behemoth knows what it’s doing.  This delusion is the behemoth’s Achilles’ heel because, when the delusion is gone, Joe the Reformer takes the mike.

In Fix the System: Reform the Constitution (2012), I said I was neither Pythagoras, Lycurgus nor a Solon.  I think that cryptic phrase deserves some clarification because of its relationship with Joe the Reformer.

In olden times, European cities were states and were called a city-state or polis (e.g., Athens and Venice).  It was not until much later that they combined to form states of broader geographical scope capable of assembling and financing armies to further imperialism and empire building.  Thus, by 338 B.C., King Philip of Macedonia had conquered the greater part of Greece and paved the way for his son, Alexander the Great, to conquer the greater parts of Egypt, Persia and the Middle East by the time of his death in 323 B.C.

The governments used by the early city-states did not evolve as much as they were created.  Pythagoras was known to have reformed the governments of Croton and other city-states to accommodate political liberty.  In the same way, Lycurgus fashioned the government of Sparta and Solon fashioned the government at Athens.  Plato sent many of his students to reform the constitutions of city-states.  For example, Euphraeus, father of Aristotle, fashioned the government at Macedonia.  Phormion fashioned the government at Elis.  Aristonymus fashioned the government at Megalopolis, home of the Arcadians.  It is little wonder that Machiavelli, in his Discourses, concluded that constitutional governments must be reformed by one person.

Socrates was right when he said “if people can’t understand government – how can they live according to its precepts?”  The above history has shown that intelligent and well-educated leaders can help the people fashion a workable government which, in honoring justice and reverence, gives voice to the people and their persistent call for freedom.  It is not an easy task.  All human activity involves finding the right measure between the limited and the unlimited to allow people to live in harmony and diminish the screeching notes of social discord.  The right measure required is like that of the Golden Ratio, a split among the tensions of the world that generate happiness or at least wide acceptance.  Polonius was right when he told his son Laertes, “Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportion’d thought his act.”  Many are working to improve education to insure that future leaders and citizens are aware of these concepts.  Yet, while education is a precaution, it is not the most effectual precaution over the near term.  The condition of America requires more haste.

Preserving the balance is a delicate task and has challenged mankind since its rule began.  We can easily be subdued by a passionate minority which acts swiftly to upend an apathetic and disinterested majority.  Tyranny is always around the corner and feeds on imbalance by enslaving subjects by rules over which they have no say.  This is why Zeus ordered Hermes to give all mankind justice and reverence in the hope that these virtues would allow people to live together and diminish the consequences of controversy.

I make no claim to being Joe the Reformer to remedy an ailing nation.  However, until he or she shows up, I will fill in to further our mission for better leadership by depriving our leaders of powers which seduce them as statesmen.  Better leadership is a mission that should be nourished now and pursued by all those who care about our country.

Imagine how much better you would feel if you knew your elected leaders cared not a whit for reelection and wanted only to do what was right for us and then go home to let another patriot carry on.

John M. Cogswell, President

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