We have hit our 100th episode of Holistic Survival and want to thank all of our listeners for your continued interest and dedication to our show, as well as all of our guests who have helped us make this show a success with their interesting stories and insights! To celebrate our 100th episode, Jason Hartman interviews American humanities scholar, Clay Jenkinson. Clay is well known for his portrayal of Thomas Jefferson, and is a co-host of The Jefferson Hour on public radio. Jason and Clay take a look back at the original intent of our Founding Fathers, clearing up some of the common misconceptions about our Constitution. Clay discusses how many of the issues of our time require judicial activism, letting jurors stretch to interpret how the Constitution can be applied to each issue. He points out the one-sidedness of the issues, explaining how everyone invokes the original intent of our Founding Fathers as it suits them. Listen at www.HolisticSurvival.com.
Clay also makes an important point about how the technology and speed and interconnectedness of our modern-day world fundamentally alter the intentions and desires of Jefferson and other founding fathers. In a strictly libertarian world, there would be no air traffic control, no pharmaceutical or food safety regulation, building inspections and codes, etc. It would truly be a “buyer beware” situation. Clay and Jason address different views of the regulatory environment, unnecessary incentives for corporations that are taking their businesses overseas, and the problems of money in politics. Clay offers his own Jeffersonian solution for elections and contributions for our complex world.
A cultural commentator who has devoted most of his professional career to public humanities programs, Clay Jenkinson has been honored by two presidents for his work. On November 6, 1989, he received from President George Bush one of the first five Charles Frankel Prizes, the National Endowment for the Humanities highest award (now called the National Humanities Medal), at the nomination of the NEH Chair, Lynne Cheney. On April 11, 1994, he was the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event when he presented Thomas Jefferson for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. When award-winning humanities documentary producer Ken Burns turned his attention to Thomas Jefferson, he asked Clay Jenkinson to be the major humanities commentator. Since his first work with the North Dakota Humanities Council in the late 1970s, including a pioneering first-person interpretation of Meriwether Lewis, Clay Jenkinson has made thousands of presentations throughout the United States and its territories, including Guam and the Northern Marianas.
In 2008, Clay became the director of The Dakota Institute through The Lewis & Clark, Fort Mandan Foundation, to further expand his humanities programs with documentary films, symposiums and literary projects. He is also the Chief Consultant for the Theodore Roosevelt Center through Dickinson State University and conducts an annual lecture series for Bismarck State College.
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival. Your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, and we have a big mile stone today. I want to thank all of you so much for listening for so long and this is our one hundredth episode. Yes, episode number 100. It’s a big mile stone, where we continue to talk about protecting the people, places, and profits you care about in uncertain times. And as such, every tenth episode we go off topic and we discus something that’s just of general life enrichment. And the one hundredth episode is also a tenth episode at the same time, so we will do that again today, as we have great guests for you.
Also, I just want to encourage you to check out my other shows as well, like the Creating Wealth show. Remember the three pillars of holistic survival are people, places, and profits. Profits are obviously a very important part of this; the financial side of life, the economic side of life and how it integrates with holistic survival as one of those three pillars. So you can find the Creating Wealth show at JasonHartman.com or if you’re an iTunes user, you can find all of my shows in the iTunes store.
We have 15 different shows that we produce through the Hartman Media Company and you just go to the iTunes store and type in “Jason Hartman” in the search and you’ll find all the shows. Of course, everything is free. I do another show a lot of people that listen to Holistic Survival like quite a bit. It’s also about the profit side of things. And that is the Speaking of Wealth show. Strategies for podcasters, small business people, infopreneurs, authors, publishers, coaches, etcetera. So a lot of good stuff there for you and I interview all of the leaders in each of their respective fields on the Creating wealth show, the Speaking of Wealth show, and all of the shows that I produce.
So without further ado, let’s jump into a tenth episode and also the one hundredth episode today. And thank you so much for making the show such a big success, telling all of your friends, family and associates about the show, and helping people prepare because there will be much less of a need to prepare for things in these uncertain times if more people are prepared. Because there won’t be a crisis if people prepare in advance. So let’s talk about protecting the people, places and profits as we go into the one hundreds on the future episodes, and again, thank you so much for listening. We’ll be right back with today’s guest.
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Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Clay Jenkinson to the show. He is one of the most sought after humanity scholars in the United States. He’s a cultural commentator and he studies extensively Jefferson and original intent. So I’m looking forward to hearing more about the founding of our nation and learning a lot about it today and getting a lot of history. Clay, welcome. How are you?
Clay Jenkinson: Jason, it’s great to be on your program. Thanks to you and to your listeners.
Jason Hartman: My pleasure. So tell us a little bit about your background if you would.
Clay Jenkinson: Well, I’m a North Dakotan and I came from the agricultural background that is really the heritage of North Dakota. I studied at the university of Minnesota and then Oxford University, and my degrees are all in literate but I’m basically now a historian, with a deep interest in the Lewis and Clark expedition and in the life and achievements of Thomas Jefferson.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. When we talk about Jefferson and the other founders, what is it that we are maybe so misguided about today? Maybe that’s a good place to start, is talk about some of the misconceptions that people have about Jefferson, and some of the other more prominent founders.
Clay Jenkinson: Well I think the main misconception is that the founding fathers had a single vision which they offered to the future of the United States. That’s completely wrong. The founding fathers were men like other men and they disagreed about a great number of issues. And the constitution that was drafted in 1787 was a compromise document. Compromise between large states and small, compromise between people who wanted a centralized national government and those who preferred the state’s rights; a compromise between the north which wanted to outlaw slavery, and the south which wanted to keep it; the north which wanted to be a more industrial capitalist region and the south which wanted to remain an agrarian one.
And so you have these extraordinary men from all over the original 13 colonies coming together in Philadelphia in 1787 to try to hammer out a constitution. And they produced one, and a great one, but it wasn’t a unanimously accepted vision of this country. And the constitution contains all of these fault lines which continue to be a source of political and constitutional tension in the United States. So I think that’s the main myth.
The second myth that I’ll say more quickly, is that many people believe that the founding fathers intended the United States to be a Christian nation. Many of the founding fathers were Christians of course, some of them very pious Christians. But the constitution itself never mentions God or religion, except that it outlaws [0:06:40.8]. You can’t say to a political candidate, you must swear to be an Anglican or you must swear to not be a catholic in order to run for office. But beyond that, the constitution is absolutely silent on questions of religion. So we can attempt to infer what the founding fathers had in mind with respect to religion, but we can’t find any doctrine within the constitution itself.
Jason Hartman: Well, some argue that the reason that God is so conspicuously, maybe some would think left out, is because of the Church of England and their experience with that. Some would argue that they certainly didn’t intend to have such a large, for example a Muslim community over in the US. It was obviously a very different world then. Some say that maybe they would have said something about the national language. It’s impossible to see 230 some odd years into the future of course, but what are your thoughts when you hear things like that out there? I’m sure you didn’t hear them from me the first time just now. What are your thoughts about those?
Clay Jenkinson: Let’s start with original intent. If the subject is original intent, then we have to go to the constitution and the notes we have of the deliberations and debates and the notes that we have from the ratification events, symposiums and conferences and conventions that occurred around the country. And try to figure out both what the constitution actually says and what the founding fathers said about it when they were debating it. So that’s where you start. And since the constitution doesn’t say anything about English being the national language of the United States, and nor did anyone in the debates, then if we lack original intent, we can’t go back and say well I assume that if they knew then what we know now, they would have wanted English to be the official language of the country. That’s a violation of the very concepts of original intent.
Original intent means you go to the document and the debates that surround it and you say, what’s there, and what’s not there, and if you believe that we should operate according to original intent, then we have to adhere to what’s in the constitution and it’s immediate surroundings but not impose anything on it that we think the founding fathers might have wanted had they known who we would be.
Jason Hartman: Fair enough. I couldn’t agree more. However, people want to interpret things by saying, well the context in which the document was drafted and the context of their thinking at the time was of course a much different world, without travel and so forth at the time. Everything was massively different. Populations were much lower, etcetera. And they want to sort of interpret, well what would they have done today? I guess that’s maybe the more proper way to frame the question.
Clay Jenkinson: Right. Of course. And the minute you do that, let’s take something like cloning, or DNA research that enables you to determine whether OJ Simpson murdered his wife or not, or cyber pornography; these were things that not only didn’t exist in the age of the founding fathers, but they could not even have imagined them and none of the founding fathers could have imagined the genetic code and that somehow DNA would enable us to decide questions of paternity or determine whether somebody had committed a crime. They couldn’t anticipate these things. And so they didn’t write about them.
And now, we’re stuck with this constitution, it’s a great one, but we’re stuck with it more than 200 years after the fact. And when the courts, say the fifth circuit or the ninth circuit takes up a case about DNA and its relationship to the fourth amendment or the fifth, then the courts have to step back and say well, what would you do, what would you take from the constitution that could be somehow seen to fit this set of circumstances that none of them could even have imagined in their wildest dreams? You can see the problem there, that it forces jurists in our time to stretch an 18th century document from a 3 mile per hour world, and to try to fit it to a 21st century culture that travels at 186 miles per second.
So how do you do that? It requires what conservatives like to call judicial activism. But you either have to do that, you either have to let jurists stretch the 18th century text to fit 21st century conditions, or you need to tear up the constitution and write a new one or amend it to face questions of cloning and DNA and biogenetics and pornography and so on. So it’s a paradox, isn’t it? There isn’t an easy way to do this.
Jason Hartman: No, there’s no easy way to do it, of course.
Clay Jenkinson: And every time the supreme court says, well we guess that the 9th amendment gives you privacy rights to contraception or we think that the implication of the 4th amendment is that you must have the Miranda rights read to an accused person, then people squawk and say that’s not what the founding fathers intended! How dare you tell us that the founding fathers meant that when they never said anything about it. So both sides. The conservatives principally, but the liberals from time to time too, say hey these jurists have absolutely no right to take an 18th century phrase and pretend that they know what it might mean in a 21st century context. So everyone complains about every judicial decision which is against their own set of principles and applauds every judicial decision which seems to resonate with their principles. And it creates an enormous amount of national frustration and confusion and I hasten to add again that it’s from both sides. The conservatives do it more often than the liberals but the liberals do it every time they’re annoyed with a Supreme Court decision.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Maybe, just in fairness and defense of conservatives just for a moment here, maybe the reason conservatives do it more is because their philosophy, certainly could be argued, is more based on constitutional thinking. Limited government, states’ rights, etcetera, than the left side of the isle. Is that a fair way to view that?
Clay Jenkinson: Well, you’re right of course up to a point. But just take the recent rise of the tea party, and I have a lot of respect for the tea party by the way, but you hear them talking about taxes and regulation, and big government and government intrusion and states’ rights and the tenth amendment, and these are all sort of rallying cries of the movement and they’re good ones. And yet, you don’t hear them saying that wars that we’re fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have never been declared by the house of representatives or renditions, extraordinary renditions where we send prisoners to foreign countries for torture, or Guantanamo or any of these things, or the CIA, or the national security agencies or any of the surveillance regiments that we develop…you never hear the tea party people saying and those things by the way are also fundamental violations of the original text of the constitution of the United States. So there’s this one sidedness.
I agree with you that conservatives are more likely to want to adhere to the Jeffersonian limited government, light regulation, low taxation model that Jefferson so beautifully espoused, but they’re inconsistent in not condemning the CIA and Guantanamo and so on. So that bothers me because you need to be consistent. And so do the liberals, but everyone invokes the original intent so far as it suits their purposes and no farther, in my view.
Jason Hartman: Fair enough. Of course they do, and that’s human nature, right? And I guess the only few people out there that do condemn those things are of course Ron Paul and Lyndon LaRouche, frankly.
Clay Jenkinson: And Buchanan.
Jason Hartman: Well, and Buchanan.
Clay Jenkinson: I gave a Jefferson performance. I sometimes perform as Thomas Jefferson and try to portray him as accurately as I can. I gave a performance before a group, a retreat in Pennsylvania, and a prominent United States senator came up afterwards and said, hey Mister Jefferson, you’re Pat Buchanan. You’re an isolationist, you want limited government, you believe in state’s rights, you believe in individual responsibility, you’re against the centralized states, you’re anti-tax. He said you’re not Thomas Jefferson; you’re Patrick Buchanan. I think Ron Paul is the most prominent and I think the most consistent living Jeffersonian and he rubs a lot of republicans the wrong way, and virtually all democrats by the way, but he rubs a lot of republicans the wrong way because he says, well why are we giving help to the people of Afghanistan and why do we invade Iraq? And why do we have 750 military bases scattered around the world? And what sense is that the intent of the libertarian founding fathers?
So I like his consistency but you see, however much we all kind of smile and admire him, we’re not about to let that be the governing doctrine of the united states in the 21st century. So it’s a sort of, we have this nostalgia that Ron Paul beautifully articulates but we’re not actually going to return to that model, are we?
Jason Hartman: Well, no it’s…I mean arguably in today’s highly interconnected world, you can’t be so isolationist like that. That argument has some validity but at the same time, my personal opinion is that we’re massively over reaching. So I fall somewhere in between. But I believe it was Washington who was quoted as saying, “Avoid foreign entanglements”, right?
Clay Jenkinson: Actually it was Jefferson. But both of them were relative isolationists and Jefferson really believed, and this is where I have my greatest historical expertise, but he believed that the 3000 mile ocean between us and Europe was a moat that protected north America and the western hemisphere from the madness and the havoc and the class struggles and the chaos of the old world, and he once said that he wished the Atlantic ocean were an ocean of fire. He wanted us to be a separate national experiment in human happiness and believed that the less we had to do with Europe and the rest of the world, the better. Well that makes sense when a large boat is essentially a yacht. And if napoleon had wanted to invade the United States, he would have had to send the troops on these tiny boats, they would have taken 6 or 7 weeks to get here, by then they would have scurvy and they’d be malnourished and we could just pick them apart at the shore. But today, a cruise missile can leave, let’s say Tehran, or for that matter, Norfolk, and 30 minutes later have brought havoc to a people across the planet.
And so, we have to realize that the technologies and the speed and the pace and the electronic communications and satellite technology and so and so forth of our time, have sort of fundamentally altered this set of things. Or to go to one other area; take Ron Paul’s laissez faire idea, let the buyer beware, let there be a free economy. I’m not sure that I want there to be no air traffic control, and yet in a strictly Retarian world, there wouldn’t be. And I’m not sure I want when my daughter has a throat infection, to go in to a pharmacy and see 700 different cures and not knowing whether some of them are carrot juice or arsenic or actual antibiotics. But in a strictly libertarian world, there’d be no food and drug administration, there’d be no meat inspection, there’d be no air traffic control, the buyer would have to beware in all circumstances. I don’t think you want to live in that world, do you?
Jason Hartman: You know, I don’t. And a lot of libertarians say everybody’s sort of got their three things. I don’t want to live in a world where I walk into a building and I’m not sure whether the structure will fall on my head and kill me or not…
Clay Jenkinson: We need building inspection and code.
Jason Hartman: Fair enough. So hey, you brought this up Clay, so may I run an idea by you that I’ve had for a long time, and I talk about it with some people from time to time, and you’re a historian so this is maybe not exactly your thing, but with what you just said you seem like the kind of person to run it by. I can’t seem to poke too many holes on this idea. So just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m pretty libertarian, I believe in very small government. I think the government, at least at the federal level could be about 70% smaller and I think we’d be a more prosperous better society. But everything you say, I almost never in my whole life in all these years, get sick eating at a restaurant because we have health inspectors and laws and so forth.
But here’s a thought about that: for everybody who wants to produce something in society, whether it be a drug or a building or to serve food to people, instead of having government be the one that regulates and controls and so forth, government would simply make a law that would say if you want to do this, you have to have insurance. And then the insurance policy, the insurance company would then be the inspector. They would be the health inspector, they would be the building inspector and you would basically privatize inspection.
Now, just so you know, many years ago when they talked about privatizing prisons I was in favor of the idea but I have read and heard a lot of things about that going badly already. And we have this hugely incarcerated population, especially in California. And I think prison’s becoming a business. But then again, government becomes a business too. Giving out parking tickets and fines to businesses becomes a business of government where they can produce revenue. So government kind of goes into business against its own citizens too sometimes.
Clay Jenkinson: Well let me respond to that; first of all I like your idea. I heard a speech by Newt Gingrich once on television that is, on CSPAN and he was saying why is it that Few Ex and UPS work so brilliantly and efficiently…
Jason Hartman: And they can’t do posting.
Clay Jenkinson: And the post office system can’t. He said why when you go to the DMV to get your driver’s license or to renew your tags, is it like being in Dante’s Inferno and you’re sent back after three hours because you don’t have a recently canceled stamp on a letter to your home or whatever? And yet if this were done by Fed Ex, we know it would be extraordinarily efficient and customer friendly. You have to understand that the private sector is just much better at this than the public sector. And I was just really taken with that. And I do think you’re right. But there are some issues of course, and one of them is equality of access. The post office has to deliver to every domicile in North America.
I know places where Fed Ex won’t go. So you’d have to work in some distributive justice, saying you have to serve everybody. Maybe it costs a little more if you’re living in Richey, Montana but you still have to serve them.
So the one issue is distributive justice. With prisons I share your new view. I think prisons should never be done for profit. There’s just something philosophically repugnant about a corporation profiting from the incarceration of men and women. That I think is something that government should reluctantly do by itself. But I’ll take your bate; I think we should privatize absolutely everything that can be privatized, with a certain number of exceptions where severe health and safety issues are at stake, as in air traffic control and so on.
Jason Hartman: Air traffic control is probably too big for any one private entity to take on. Gosh, talk about a problem with too big to fail.
Clay Jenkinson: I bet Fed Ex would do it better though. I don’t doubt that they do it better, but questions of these deep security questions I think have to remain in government. Just as we don’t have mercenary armies, although in fact we do. Our main defense program is non mercenary and I think that’s essential too.
Jason Hartman: Sure. But just in the example of say food or building inspection, can you address your thoughts on that? I mean, have the insurance company and the insurance company would have to inspect and continue to inspect and the law would be that you have to have a policy or you can’t be in business.
Clay Jenkinson: I can see it. I think there are many paths to good ends. And the Fed Ex analogy works for me in many different zones. But I don’t see anything particularly appalling about a county in California, let’s say San Bernardino County having its own building codes and building inspectors. You can privatize it if you wish and you might gain a more streamline system that would be more customer friendly in certain ways, but I don’t think that when we’re talking about examples of tyranny or wild misuse of government that building inspection is one of them. And there are public safety questions involved here that I think go beyond. If you take your model, you could say that a company would say, well we’ll build 17 high rises in San Francisco and we won’t make them earth quake proof because the statistics show that the earth quakes only come once every X number of decades and they never take out 7 different neighborhoods at the same time, so probably 5 of our high rises will survive, and if we work out the math we can…
Jason Hartman: They start doing actuarial totals, right.
Clay Jenkinson: Yeah, we can pay for the damages for the people who die in high rises 1,2 and 7. A purely capitalist model can’t be counted on to do that extraordinary thing which is to say our duty, our mission is to protect everybody, irrespective of the cost and I think that’s important.
Jason Hartman: That’s a good example you just gave because it’s the Ford Mustang exploding gas tank; that business decision was made at the peril of people unfortunately. And it was just an actuarial decision. It was a cost/benefit analysis.
Clay Jenkinson: I like regulation. I just think we need to do what Al Gore tried to do in the Clinton administration, and when it comes up from time to time we need to go through and say alright, which of these regulations is actually costing us enterprise? Which of them is impeding the economy? Which one is needless; how can we stream line this? What groups can we bring together to tell us which ones work and which ones don’t? are there ways to combine these and to limit the amount of bureaucracy? I think in a complex, industrial urban society like ours you need a regulatory environment. The question is at what point does it stifle free enterprise? But you have to ask on the other end of that, Jason, how many red wood trees would be left if Theodore Roosevelt hadn’t created Timber Protection in the United States. Corporations do not have, from the 19th and 20th century historical perspective, a very good record of self-regulatory activity.
Jason Hartman: Agreed. Especially now, because it seems that in the not too olden days, and I’m really talking 15 or 20 years ago before globalization took hold, corporations were like the home team. They were much better citizens in the past I believe. Now they just go from border to border, they just hop, skip, jump wherever the tax code is better and the labor is cheaper. And there’s something to be said for that form a capitalist perspective of course, but it’s like they have no corporate citizenship anymore. And the same thing has happened in sports. I’m no big sports fan by any means, but the concept of free agency. In the old days, you had sort of a home team and it seemed like there was just a lot more loyalty and care and we’re going to set an example. People took ownership.
Clay Jenkinson: Absolutely. Jefferson here again has something to say. He loved agriculture, and he loved farmers and he famously said that those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God. And when he envisioned an American republic that was happy and free, he always thought that the great majority of the people would have to be family farmers. Well, that’s no longer true. Fewer than 2% of the American people are now farmers and most of them are agro-producers rather than family farmers in any meaningful sense. So that’s gone. And Jefferson in the same essay in notes on Virginia said merchants have no country. And that’s what you’re saying, that if I’m Monsanto and I have a plant in Pierre, South Dakota, and I’m producing something that’s quite valuable, but then I realize that I can cut my labor costs in half or maybe by 90% by going to Taiwan, then I’m going to do that. And when we allow corporations to do that, which they have every right to do, we need to at least realize that we don’t need to give them economic incentives to do that.
And so we have, as I think you will agree, we have such a deep corporate welfare problem in this country. It’s as large as the private welfare problem that we have. Everyone’s at the trough, corporations and individuals. And we’ve got to correct that. We’ve got to say hey, you want to take your factory offshore, go ahead but we’re not going to give you incentive and tax rebates and other forms of remuneration for doing something that actually erodes the common wealth of the United States.
Jason Hartman: Let me take a brief pause. We’ll be back in just a minute.
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Jason Hartman: What would the founding fathers have thought about lobbyists? Because like you just said, it’s all about the lobbyists and that is just the scourge of our society I think. That’s what brings about corporate welfare, all these special interests, it seems like they’re just destroying the system. The lobbying has just got to…
Clay Jenkinson: Well it’s lobbying of course, but there’s always been lobbying since the beginning of the republic there’s been somebody out in the lobby who says, I think that the New England mills need a better tariff situation, otherwise the British mills will defeat us. And that’s always been the case. And it’s not inevitably bad. I think we demonize lobbyists a little more than maybe we necessarily ought to. I think they provide a good information basis for legislators. But the problem of money in our politics, especially since that ridiculous supreme court decision I think is going to ruin us; I have a plan for this and I’ll see if you like it. No one likes it, but it actually is very Jeffersonian.
Jason Hartman: And you’re talking about the Supreme Court decision from, I believe it was last year, right? And just remind us of that decision. I think it was so big corporations can donate unlimited amounts of money or they raised the…
Clay Jenkinson: The large corporations can give unlimited amounts of money, there’s no limit, not to a candidate, they can’t give it to Mitt Romney, but they can give it to a super pack that you and I create some afternoon as Colbert has on the Colbert Report and then we can have a billion dollars in that super pack and we can give that to campaign flights, to rallies, to advertising, to television, so we can’t give it to Romney or to Barack Obama, but you can give it to you and to me and then we can spend it on those very candidates in any way we please. The court found this decision based on the notion that free speech is free speech and if I have one dollar to spend, why is that different from having a billion dollars to spend? And that speech is money in a media society, and money is speech. I get their decision but it’s a ruinous one.
So here’s my solution. You’re from California?
Jason Hartman: Originally, yeah.
Clay Jenkinson: You have two senators in California. Instead of running for the senate, a group of ten people or twenty people would run for the senate pool. So you’d have all these people, you and I would run and Barbara Boxer and so on and so forth. We’d all run and if we won we’d get into the pool. And the pool would consist of ten or twenty. But at that point, dice would be thrown and one of us would be named senator. This way, there’s a disincentive for any individual or corporation to give very much money to anybody because there’s a random element in it.
But the people created almost like the Electoral College. They create a college of prospective senators and then from that a couple of them are chosen more or less by a random generation machine to actually serve. If you did this, why would Monsanto Corporation or Chevrolet General Motors give a billion dollars to any of them. They wouldn’t dare. They’d have to spread that money so thin. Or you could do what European countries do and simply say there will be no private campaign donations. That’s how the media, because it’s partly state owned or state governed at least, will supply X number of minutes to each candidate between September 1st and November. But that would shatter the capitalist system. There’s more money being spent on the campaign of 2012 then is spent in the budget of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona combined.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s a very interesting idea and as long as that’s layered in with term limits. But I guess those are automatic term limits. Did you say, and pardon me if I missed it, the amount of time after they are randomly selected?
Clay Jenkinson: What I would do, because it’s random so you have to stand for reelection so you still have to go back into the same dice throw and if you do any statistical theory…
Jason Hartman: But is it on the same terms with 2 and 4…
Clay Jenkinson: Yeah, but I would add some weight. Let’s just say its 6 years. So the first time you’re on a random generation, maybe to honor incumbency, the second time we give you two throws of the dice but the third time, back to one and the fourth time a half a throw.
Jason Hartman: But why should be honor incumbency? That’s an interesting point right there. Why?
Clay Jenkinson: Well, if you want to live in Jefferson’s sort of Athenian world, where every year we gather 535 people from around the country and put them into congress, there would be some wonderful virtues to that. I can imagine how almost extraordinarily welcoming that response would be when they looked at things that no are so height bound and route bound that they’re never touched. I would love to see the fresh air of all of that. But the fact is that you and I, or I’ll speak for myself, if I had to describe exactly how a cell phone works, or exactly how a heart pace maker works, I couldn’t if my life depended upon it.
We are now in such a complex society that one senator like Ted Kennedy will become an expert on health care welfare rebates and another senator will become an expert on air traffic control and a third senator will become an expert on foreign military bases or the cruise missile. And you almost need, in the complexity of our culture, to have one of two things: either some senior statesmen who have given their lives to one or two great issues with all their complexities, or you need a British style bureaucracy filled with life tenured bureaucrats who become experts on all of these subjects. But I don’t think that a pure citizen legislature would be able to swim its way through DNA testing, for example. They’d have to call an outside expert.
Jason Hartman: Well, you know who those outside experts are? They’re called lobbyists. No, they’re lobbyists. And if you think about it, lobbyists know more about their way around Washington than the actual people in government do because they’re there for life usually. Unfortunately a lot of the politicians are too.
Clay Jenkinson: The problem with that is the lobbyists are saying we don’t want any more clean air standards, that would destroy the coal industry and we don’t want any crop rotation systems put in our national forests because that would make it impossible for us to cut timber and make a profit. You can’t them run the world. You have to have the check of who’s not in the profit mode.
Jason Hartman: Hey, remember I was the one who said I didn’t like lobbyists at all.
Clay Jenkinson: Jefferson would say, let’s just stay with Jefferson, Jefferson would say take 535 people randomly generated from the 330 million Americans and put them in congress. And you will get better government, which is more respectful of your sovereignty, your private rights, and your hard earned tax dollars than any system that we now have. And Jefferson would absolutely believe that A, the people are up to it, and B, people that are not tied to big money are much more likely to actually legislate on behalf of their fellow citizens in a rational and virtuous way. So if you want to be a true Jeffersonian, he just tends almost towards Athenian style democracy. Jefferson believed this was a paradox. But Jefferson believed that the people are always right, even when they’re wrong.
So in other words, if you and I had a Jeffersonian legislature, we might write a bill which erodes freedom of speech. Jefferson’s view would be that’s not good because that violates the first amendment, but better that the people wrestle with this and come back next year and reform and clarify it. Better that than the 9 unelected and unaccountable members of the Supreme Court who sit outside the process and decide what’s law and what isn’t.
Jason Hartman: I agree with, wasn’t it the case in the early years that all of our government representatives, senators, congress, weren’t they all part timers that just, they ran businesses and did jobs and had careers and just did the government thing part time? It was never really a full time thing before in the old days.
Clay Jenkinson: No it wasn’t. Jefferson himself as president said that he would refuse under any circumstances to stay in Washington DC, the new capital, in August and September because it was a malarial climate in an age before antibiotics and certainly it was an age before air conditioning and dehumidifiers. [0:39:15.2] was in session for a handful of weeks per year back in that era. In fact later, when Theodore Roosevelt became the Vice president to the United States, he presided over the senate. He presided over it for 5 days in the spring of 1901, and then they adjourned until December. And Roosevelt went off and wrote books and climbed mountains and shot things.
Well, it was during that period that McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt during this almost endless congressional recess became the 26th president of the United States. So we were a part time legislature until very recently. And you know what Jason, we still are. Here’s the horrible truth about things today. Senators are in session, our representatives, between Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Friday they fly home to California or Oregon or Mississippi, spend the weekend raising the two million dollars they need to stay in office that month, and then they go back on Monday and then on Tuesday the turn up…the reason we have no collegiality, and no friendships and no sense of community in Washington is that we have too much mobility.
What we should say it once we elect you, stay there. Come back once every 6 months but stay in Washington and have friends and have dinner parties and cross the isle and say hello to the senator from the other side. And go out for a drink and take a walk and ride a horse. But don’t be coming home every weekend because when you do, then you just become an isolated atom in congress and you don’t create the trust levels and the community that would lead to conciliation.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, fair enough. Good point. And they’d also make their carbon foot print a lot smaller, too.
Clay Jenkinson: I have friends who are North Dakota US senators and representatives, we have one representative, but they come back on Friday or Thursday, I see them at the airport. They get off the plane and there’s a group from the coal industry or the oil industry or the agro business or something waiting for them, they go out for dinner with these people that say that the republic will collapse absolutely if we charge one more dollar for water than we’re currently charging, then they go to a parade and a bunch of stuff on Saturday, they have dinner with another power group Saturday night, Sunday they spend a couple of hours with their family or do some media and then they get back on a plane to Washington where they bicker with everybody else. This is no way to run a country.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting points. Well hey, give out your website if you would and tell people where they can get your books and listen to your shows and so forth.
Clay Jenkinson: Oh, thanks for that offer Jason. My Jefferson hour, which is a weekly radio program, is available free on iTunes, or on my website which is Jeffersonhour.org. You have all the programs backlogged and they’re all podcastable and so on. I also perform as Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis, and Theodore Roosevelt and Jay Robert Oppenheimer and Steinbeck around the country and I’m always glad to do that. You can go to my website, jeffersonhour.org. I’m also an author and I have a new book, which I’m exceedingly proud of and would love to come back to talk about some time. That’s a book on Meriwether Lewis called The Character of Meriwether Lewis. You can find it on Amazon or in your local bookstore, but it’s published by the Dakota Institute Press, distributed by the University of Oklahoma Press. I’m the author, Clay Jenkinson and the title is The Character of Meriwether Lewis: Explorer in the Wilderness. So that’s probably enough shameless Hamiltonian advertisement.
Jason Hartman: Hamiltonian…that’s fantastic. Well, that’s great. Just before you go Clay, tell us one more bit of trivia or factoid about Jefferson that we may not know.
Clay Jenkinson: Well, here’s one that’s really lovely. Jefferson believed that in Newtonian balance, that that country which has the smallest government which does the least, and remember this is back in his 3 mile per hour world; so he suggested once that there be a mandatory waiting period of one year before the first reading and the second reading of any bill in congress. So if you have a bill to let’s say create a new canal in Mississippi, it can be read today which is May of 2012, but it can’t be brought up for its second reading and debate until May of 2013. Jefferson thought during that time almost all knuckleheaded ideas will simply disappear and only good ones will still be talked about. We couldn’t do that, but that’s a lovely response to the volatility and the faddishness of our congress.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, could we say that maybe it would be a month now, or two months?
Clay Jenkinson: How about a day? How about even an hour? I think we could adjust it, but you see the point. Jefferson’s view was, I’ll close with this, he said in the ancient world of Athens, when Solon was the great law giver, he reduced the number of legislative provisions in Athens until all of them could be written on kind of a billboard, on one placard that was displayed in the public square in the Agora. So that’s the idea. We should have so few laws, and such wise ones that they would be within the comprehension of every citizen and they could be written in plain English so they could be displayed in the public square and everyone would know the law code. Now just compare that for a second to say the US tax code of thousands and thousands of intricate pages.
Jason Hartman: 72 thousand pages or something.
Clay Jenkinson: All giving freebies to people who don’t deserve it.
Jason Hartman: Right. Great points. Clay, very interesting talk today and we’d love to have you back on the show. Maybe we’ll talk about your other work at that time. But thanks so much for joining us today.
Clay Jenkinson: Yeah, if you get a good response I’ll come back and talk more Jefferson.
Jason Hartman: We’d love to hear it. Thanks so much Clay.
Clay Jenkinson: Thanks. Bye.
Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search Jason Hartman on iTunes.
This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed. (Image: Flickr | Roebot)
Transcribed by Ralph
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