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Russell’s Rules vs. Today’s Government Rule

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

This week, on Openculture.com, I stumbled onto a reference of a Bertrand Russell column from 1951. In the New York Times Magazine article, Russell shared his “10 Commandments for a Healthy Democracy”. Now, dismissing for a moment whether he was a classical liberal, a neo-liberal, an English liberal, or American liberal, I would like to allow the commandments to stand on their own.

I propose to take Russell’s rules, and use them to give a simple zero to two grading scale for each of the majorities in the houses of Congress, and for the President and his administration. Along with the grades, I will also list the most significant reasons for assigning the grades that I have. At the end, I will tally the scores, and reveal who has been the most misguided, and most ignorant when it came to Russell’s advice. So, here is Russell’s commandments vs. the United States government’s behavior:

1. “Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

Senate Dems: Senate Democrats were positive that Obamacare was a brilliant idea, and Democrats’ self assuredness led them to believe that the benefits Americans received would help them overlook the massive costs. (0 points)
Obama: “The shovel-ready jobs weren’t so shovel-ready…” (0 points)
House GOP: Republicans were sure that the 2012 election would end in a Romney win, and then, with their increased majority in the House, they could begin repealing Obamacare… (0 points)

2. “Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

Senate Dems: 1450+ days without any budget, while they (Harry Reid especially) claim to hold solutions to the miserable economic conditions. (1 point)
Obama: Benghazi (-2 points)
House GOP: John Boehner claims constantly to hold the line, and be ready to tell the president and Reid that he will not budge. However, after closed-door meetings, he seems to sing a different tune. Just what magic happens behind those doors? (0 points)

3. “Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to do so.

Senate Dems: As Rand Paul held a 13-hour filibuster, in order to get definitive answers on the domestic drone program, Harry Reid sought to quash the filibuster. (0 points)
Obama: Obama was famously quoted, when referring to a great number of his fellow Americans in the Midwest as “get[ting]bitter and they cling to their guns or religion.” (o points)
House GOP: Speaker Boehner infamously warned fellow Republican Congressmen that he was paying close attention to their voting records, and that he will be “…watching all [their] votes.” (0 points)

4. “When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

Senate Dems: Harry Reid claims that the Senate needs legislation that has passed through the House so that they may vote on it in the Senate…While he uses his power as majority leader to table legislation that has passed the House. (0 points)
Obama: President Obama has expressed his want to work without Congress, and he has already signed 147 executive orders. (0 points)
House GOP: Paul Ryan has repeatedly offered a budget that has both cuts and overhauls Medicare, and balances in ten years – but it doesn’t seem able to receive consideration from Democrats. (1 point)

5. “Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

Senate Dems: In the Senate, rumblings have been heard to force changes for filibusters, and  again, I mention Harry Reid’s attempt to override the recent Rand Paul filibuster. (2 points)
Obama: Obama’s czars and heavily regulating EPA, not to mention his non-recess appointments of NLRB officials, reveal his penchant for thumbing his nose at authority and rule. (2 points)
House GOP: John Boehner famously responded to a Harry Reid jab, wherein Reid intimated Boehner was acting like a dictator – “Go f**k yourself.” (2 points)

6. “Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

Senate Dems: Harry Reid’s unwillingness to even allow any up-or-down votes on legislation from the House is within his powers as majority leader (setting the calendar for discussing legislation). (0 points)
Obama: Criticized for purposely avoiding certain media networks, and giving more interviews with networks seen as friendly to his agenda, Obama has used power and access to control many narratives. (1 point)
House GOP: John Boehner’s December removal of Tea Party caucus members from committees, after their election to Congress specifically to usher in a different, more responsible way of spending, really seemed to dismiss the voters’ wishes. (1 point)

7. “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Senate Dems: Senator Diane Feinstein takes the cake here, with her hugely over reaching plan to seize and ban this, that, and the other gun, even as such plans fly directly against the 2nd Amendment. (2 points)
Obama: Joe Biden, famously explaining that the way to get out of debt, was simply to increase spending. (2 points)
House GOP: With his last, and arguably most successful presidential bid, Representative Ron Paul has pushed many ideas to the forefront of American political thought. From illustrating the dangers of fiat currency, to the arbitrary nature of Federal Reserve policy, even though he has retired from the House, he will continue to tour college campuses, and share his ideals. (1 point)

8. “Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

Senate Dems: Perhaps finally realizing how yet another tax may hinder the economy, in December, 2012, 18 Senators and Senators-elect petitioned Harry Reid for a moratorium on the Obamacare tax on medical devices, the repeal of which, had previously been decried as a Republican concern. (2 points)
Obama: As the president has yet to offer any really intelligent dissent to, or passive agreement with much of anything, he receives no points. (incomplete)
House GOP: While there has been much rhetoric bandied about regarding Obamacare, much of which has been intelligent dissent, it has also been coupled with criticisms describing exactly why the healthcare overhaul will cause more pain than benefit. (1 point)

9. “Be scrupulously truthful, even when the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

Senate Dems: Harry Reid had a very credible (but never named) source that said Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in ten years. (0 points)
Obama: The president has shared varying reasons for the Benghazi attack, and the explanation has been hazy on why military backup was never sent to the compound to rescue the Americans who were under siege. Over 30 witnesses are now being kept quiet and cannot share their experiences during the Benghazi attacks. (0 points)
House GOP: House Republicans said they had enough debt ceiling compromises. The time for dealing was over. Boehner et al. had drawn their line in the sand. Then…the debt ceiling was raised. Again. (0 points)

10. “Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Senate Dems: The Senate seems to have little ethical or moral dilemma when it comes to raising taxes on the 1%, or any other income brackets. Without consideration, taking more from those who have more just makes sense. (0 points)
Obama: Obama has frequently compared himself to Abraham Lincoln – despite Lincoln’s presidency spanning with one of the darkest times in American history. Obama seems to relate more to the Lincoln legend than the actual Lincoln presidency. (1 point)
House GOP: The House leadership at times seems befuddled with the left’s ability to command so much of the media, and they definitely seem envious of media’s power to create and direct narratives, neglecting to consider the ability that the media still holds to also destroy at their whim. (0 points)

So, using the arbitrary scoring system, and examples that I have chosen, the final tally is as follows. Out of a possible total of 20 points:
Senate Dems: 7
Obama & his administration: 4
House GOP: 6
Despite their best efforts to score at a “healthy democracy’s” level, all three show themselves to be quite anemic. It is interesting to note that without the president being penalized for the ongoing Benghazi scandal and cover-up, he would be tied with the House GOP. They all appear unable to follow Russell’s guidelines, and, in what should come as a shock to no one, they look ineffectual and like failures.

So, readers – what do you think? What examples, scandals, and failings would you use to illustrate how the government has neglected to follow Russell’s commandments? More importantly – how would you score them? I am looking forward to some interesting and impassioned responses.

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