Category Archives: Modest Proposals

Simple propositions for reform in this place and time.

Teachers, Universities, Colleges, Neighborhoods

The University should teach the teachers.

The teachers should live among the families in the neighborhoods, and serve them freely.

The families in the neighborhoods should feed the teachers, and send their most apt pupils to the University.

The University should be organized on a scale and in a manner that permits it to thrive on what the neighborhoods send to support the apt pupils and the faculty who instruct them.

This means the University needs colleges (room-and-board facilities for faculty and students) and libraries that are in cities that are mutually supporting–where tradesmen and merchants can have their living enhanced by offering services to the colleges, and where the faculty and students provide benefits worthy of subsidy to the city.

A city should be composed of neighborhoods, and on a scale that permits detached neighborhoods away from the city (the villages) to flourish.

Such a situation would permit both local and aggregated use of resources.

It is both unimaginably difficult to conceive in terms of current structures, and unimaginably simple to conceive if enough of us were to decide, together, to do it differently.

What is lacking is imagination and consensus, linked to the practical know-how that is often kept too busy and too distracted to apply itself to these matters.

We can make these things happen. Wake each other up and start organizing on better principles, friends.

The Citizens and Associations Amendment

[first posted 2012, republished because of a recent conversation]

Resolved, that the United States Constitution be amended as follows:  “The Rights and Privileges secured to the People of these United States by this Constitution shall be accorded to each natural-born or naturalized citizen as such.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any association, nor investing any association with the Rights and Privileges of citizens.  Notwithstanding this,

Congress shall recognize, and shall require the Courts under its jurisdiction to weigh in judgment, the relative privileges and obligations accorded to each member within any association whose explicit covenants or by-laws have been agreed to by each member and published within any State; and

Congress shall have the power to regulate the mutual recognition of associations and citizens between the several States, yet not so as to invest any association recognized by any State with the Rights and Privileges of citizens.”

Yes, let’s do that!

Two responses are needed to the point Douthat raises here:

the modern liberal mind is trained to ask for spreadsheet-ready projections and clearly defined harms, and the links that social conservatives think exist aren’t amenable to that kind of precise measurement or definition. How do you run a regression analysis on a culture’s marital iconography? How do you trace the downstream influence of a change in that iconography on future generations’ values and ideas and choices? How do you measure highly-diffuse potential harms from some cultural shift, let alone compare them to the concrete benefits being delivered by a proposed reform or alteration? How do you quantify, assess and predict the precise impact of a public philosophy of marriage — whatever that even means — on manners and morals and behavior? Especially when there are so many confounding socioeconomic variables involved —

(source: The Wild Ideas of Social Conservatives – NYTimes.com)

  1. How do we go about training people better than this?  It is simply not the case that humans can or should live by the measuring of quantifiable aggregations alone, not least because the overview of the data will never be available to most of them in any kind of reasonable decision-frame, nor can the training be made available to all humans at a quality and cost that will make it worthwhile, nor can the most important things actually be placed on that scale.  Who, given one clear look at the alternative, would choose to live in the foretaste of eternal Hell that we experience in this kind of world?  A world where there can be no devotion of sacred objects which removes them wholly from the economy, no quality of human flesh or fleshy connections which converts them wholly to what cannot yet be foreseen, rather than attempting to recapture them in a metric of the putatively known; a world where the specious present is legally and psychologically compelled to serve as the cash-out of that which is wholly personal, wholly devoted, and wholly eternal and nonetheless never can at all remain privatized, hoarded, or disembodied?
  2. And how do we demonstrate the concrete, visible, manifest consequences of our commitment to what is real, rather than what is willfully pretended?  To goods we can use, make, mend, improve, and share, rather than to demands for expectations for control of our future and the future of others, tentatively measured in dollars payable, dollars owed?  To marriages, rather than shams and fantasies, even among those actually capable of marriage?  To the commingling of financial and legal responsibility, so that there is no more Spouse A and Spouse B, but “one flesh” incorporated fully into the life of the Body of Christ and into living in this Material World?  How can we show this without constantly importing ideologies hostile to the reality we explore into this very research, at the outset–then wondering why we get results easily twisted or ignored?

And that is why it is absolutely vital that we maintain our grip on reality, stubbornly, first and foremost, while also doing our best to lay hold of whatever tools for describing, measuring, and representing that reality (and the consequences of distorting it) that we can.

Mine’s poetry, metaphysics, theology.  Yours might be oceanography, or economics, or anything.  The greeter at Wal-Mart can smile, help you find a cart, and speak respectfully of his wife.  The cashier can speak unapologetically of her husband and their children.  And we can admit it when we are dismayed that our own failures, or those of others, have bad consequences.

And then maybe we can make it better.  Continue reading »

The Citizens and Associations Amendment

Resolved, that the United States Constitution be amended as follows:  “The Rights and Privileges secured to the People of these United States by this Constitution shall be accorded to each natural-born or naturalized citizen as such.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any association, nor investing any association with the Rights and Privileges of citizens.  Notwithstanding this,

Congress shall recognize, and shall require the Courts under its jurisdiction to weigh in judgment, the relative privileges and obligations accorded to each member within any association whose explicit covenants or by-laws have been agreed to by each member and published within any State; and

Congress shall have the power to regulate the mutual recognition of associations and citizens between the several States, yet not so as to invest any association recognized by any State with the Rights and Privileges of citizens.”

The Make Votes Matter Amendment

Resolved, that the United States Constitution be amended as follows:  “The seventeenth article of amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby repealed.  And no State shall appoint any Elector who has promised, sworn, or formally declared his vote for any candidate or party, or who has caused to be published his preference among candidates for President or Vice President;  nor shall any ballot associate the Electors to be chosen with any candidate or party.”

the Honest Tax Amendment

Resolved, that the United States Constitution be amended as follows: “All bills for raising Revenue shall state particularly for what purpose such Revenue shall be appropriated; and no Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of an Appropriation, made by Law, of taxes laid and collected for that particular purpose.”