The Bondage Of Bad Ideas

What makes a character like Wylie Coyote so universally funny that he transcends time is that he epitomizes the bondage of bad ideas. Even before he sets out on his latest attempt to catch the Roadrunner (who, frankly, doesn’t look like much of a meal to begin with), the Coyote is doomed to fail. The only person who can’t see it is him. People who set themselves up to fail are truly hilarious. Except of course when it’s us. Then it’s full on tragedy. That’s unfortunate for us because, boy, have we set ourselves up to fail in ways even Wylie Coyote couldn’t watch.

Top of the list is standing around while the Republican Party willfully uses the rule of law to destroy the rule of law because they’ve now decided it’s “Permanent Minority Rule Or Bust!” The GOP is so committed to abandoning every democratic principle we have that they allied with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Despite knowing even before they nominated him that “Putin pays Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!”, the Republican Party nominated Trump anyway. They sat in silence a month later – AFTER nominating Trump – when the man they knew Moscow owned said out loud “Hey, Russia, if you’re listening…!” Of course they were listening! Trump saying what he said was Trump doing exactly what Russia was paying him to do: disrupt our democracy as an act of cyber war (which is the exact same thing as war).

That Russia and its allies in America pulled off a “victory” in 2016 needs to be revisited. Russia can’t “win” an American election. Any election that Russia had any hand in controlling can’t be legitimate. And if we don’t punish its illegitimacy, we’ve simply said “Go ahead and do it again; this time do it better”. The instant we start compromising the rule of law it begins to break down. The rule of law can’t enforce itself. It relies on us to do that. The onus is always on us to do the right thing the right way.

Most bad ideas begin with their hearts in the right place. They see a problem they want to solve. Or they see an opportunity to exploit. Or they see a problem that needs solving as an opportunity to exploit the rest of us who just want to solve the problem. Slavery is an example of “the bondage of bad ideas”.

At the nuts and bolts level, slavery is all about stolen labor. The slave master wants the slave’s work output for free (minus the costs of feeding, clothing and housing the slave). Paying a subsistence wage is not much different from slavery. Tenant farming is really just medieval feudalism in newer wardrobe. A non-living wage is almost worse than slavery; at least the slave was getting room and board thrown in (such as it was).

In America, slavery solved a problem. How to profit from the cash crops – sugar cane, tobacco and cotton – that one could grow here. The major obstacle to making huge gobs of money from those three agricultural products was the intense labor each demanded to get from field to factory. What if one could get all that labor for nothing? Hello, slavery!

Many Europeans arrived in Colonial America as indentured servants. The difference between them and a slave was that the indentured servant could, in time, earn or buy his or her freedom. A slave was a slave forever and so was any child they produced. The whole point of institutionalizing slavery was to maintain that free labor pool. Slavery applied a terrible solution to an understandable economic problem. Imagine if slavery hadn’t been an option to the capitalists landing in America. Imagine if they’d been forced to pay a fair market rate for every bit of agricultural labor.

The Confederacy would never have risen. Or, maybe it would have but as the first ever Worker’s Paradise.

Every one of our gun laws is a terrible idea to which the rest of us are bound like slaves. Guns (like Republicans) don’t respect borders. The AR15 purchased by an angry, alienated 18 year old redneck in Texas can easily be transported to any city in America to be turned on People of Color (or just school children). Guns are literal death machines, designed from the ground up to kill living things. They’re not designed to sit in gun lockers. The fact is, no gun “owner” (the word “own” doesn’t appear in the Second Amendment) can guarantee that an accident won’t happen when their death machine is in hand. “Responsible gun ownership” is a conceit, not a reality. Nancy Lanza thought she was a responsible gun owner, right up until the instant her son Adam Lanza murdered her with one of her own firearms before heading over to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Turned out? Nancy Lanza keeping all those guns around – even “responsibly” – was a bad idea that did inestimable damage to a whole community. That same awful idea continues to do inestimable damage to communities every single day as Uvalde, Texas can attest.

Democracy is a great idea that’s hard to pull off because it requires sacrifice. One has to deny what one wants personally sometimes because the Commonweal needs what it needs more than we do. That’s the thing bad idea meisters like libertarians don’t get. Freedom ain’t free. Every single benefit born of liberty comes accompanied by awesome responsibility. Having the right to vote means having to vote. It should at least mean showing up to vote (that’s Australia’s system). Whether or not you cast a ballot is a whole other question. But you have to appear at your polling place. You have to put down a receipt proving you participated. Democracy can’t work otherwise.

Libertarianism is a bastion of bad ideas but then, what is one to expect from a political system based on the talentless scribbling of Ayn Rand? The queen of “rugged individualism” died a pauper. Without governmental generosity, Rand would have died on the street – an object of disgust to every one of her readers.

In fairness, bad ideas aren’t limited to conservatives and conservative thinking. Progressives need conservatives because a civil society needs them. Moderation really is what keeps any bad idea from being too hurtful. It also limits the good good ideas can do but, hey – who ever said life with humans made sense? In the abstract, white hegemony makes sense – if you’re a white person who wants to hold onto power. From everyone else’s perspective, it makes no sense. So – our idea of “good ideas” versus “bad ideas” is entirely relative.

But, if we could put a Red America beside a Blue America and let each America take its most organic impulses to their logical extremes, which America would be a happy, productive nation having followed those impulses? I’m biased, but I’d bet cash money that diverse, Blue America (despite its problems) would be a dynamo of productivity while Red America struggled to keep the lights on.

The bondage of bad ideas doesn’t end with politics of course. If anything, politics are the tip of the bad ideas iceberg. We all have a friend or two who sleeps with their bad ideas.

Photo Credit: 2206213 / Bondage © Lyn Baxter | Dreamstime.com

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