I propose to be your next Governor of Indiana.
Let me clear that I do not expect to be. I intend to raise no money and seek no endorsements. I intend to create a platform here in writing and also likely audio files for sharing.
I propose this space as a locus of becoming. I intend to offer my ideas but I require your assistance to clarify them and give them body. I require your assistance to lend me your own hands and feet and mouth and arms and legs and chest and heart to make this creature in our likeness; perhaps seeking to represent an ideal but always grounding that in our common experience.
Commonwealth: the body politic organized for the general good with disinterest.
I further propose that, if acting as your governor, you should expect my actions to be found to spring from the tenets shared and molded to a common understanding in this written space.
I should start with some brief biographical detail.
What I Am Not or Have Not Done.
Be advised I have not worked in a corporation as a VP or Director; I have not worked in the financial industry; I am not and have not been a banker or a gambler who wages against your prosperity; I have not been in the military; I have not been employed in the church or by the church; I am not a lobbyist; I have not served as an unelected member of any private or public board of overseers. I do not own a property; I do not have financial interests, other than food and a living wage. In short, I have not been a person interested in telling other people what to do or how to live.
What I Am or Have Done.
I am a father; I am a husband; I have been a teacher of high school English; I have gone to college and have a graduate degree in teaching; I have worked in sales and marketing for large conglomerate publishers; I have worked for a non-profit science society in the publishing division; I have served as an elected member of the library board in Glen Carbon, Illinois. I am from Illinois. My family is made of farmers, carpenters, teachers and librarians. I have made Bloomington, Indiana my home since 2009. I write a blog: The Common Errant. You will find much active thinking in it with which you will likely agree and disagree very strongly. And if you read it the positions offered here will not surprise you though I have never attempted to frame any before.
I should offer now a beginning. I believe I might start with a philosophical perspective. I hope you don’t object that I will bring much of my positions “out of the mouths” of our shared past, or what is our history of thinking about living together and apart and how much of our lives are defined by those two distinct ways to be.
Proposal One: “That government is best which governs least.”
This comes from the pen of Henry Thoreau who acted politically primarily in his writing, though he famously stood against being taxed under the auspices of a warring and enslaving national government.
He goes on to say that the best government is none at all. But as we might imagine, that is a complex statement though rendered so simply. Here it is in full at the beginning of his essay on civil disobedience. This essay was originally a lecture that Thoreau gave on January 26, 1848, at the Concord Lyceum called “The Relation of the Individual to the State.”*
I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
Expedient: Appropriate to a Purpose
Emerson also offered this in his essay of 1844, “Politics”: “Hence, the less government we have, the better, — the fewer laws, and the less confided power.”** As you already are well aware, Emerson’s statement is far from the fact. We have more laws and more confided power.
Confide: To give responsibility or put into another’s care.
Government is a requirement as “men are not prepared” for it to be removed. However, the government we want, we do not have. As a basic statement of the role of a government I would offer this:
A state government must protect from harm every individual.
We will have to go further and define “harm” but perhaps it can accrue some meaning as we think about other defining characteristics of government that will create its impetus to action as a state. I would assert that we ought not provide a government or laws that will protect some more than others from harm.
I also believe that Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Speech for each individual must be protected as vigorously as Freedom from Harm; that these spring from that protection.
I will argue against the idea that money be considered speech in any fashion. I will argue against privileging money in any way as proxy government. For that is what we have at present.
I must be clear though from the outset that we are never “singular” actors in our civic lives and that the organization of the political bodies to which we adhere as places of political and civic action, namely the city, must be founded upon the concept of community. I will expand on this in future.
But you will find something cantankerous and often impractical about my thinking that will, as I said above, require your work and thinking to “leaven” it’s idealism. One example likely among many:
I abhor contract law. This may be a necessity in many ways that detached interests are now transacted, but its very foundation is distrust. The person who wants a contract wants the power of coercive force to stand for trust. I cannot “erase” the fact of contract law; but I would offer that its very existence is a kind of abdication of community. It is akin to Emerson’s “confided power.”
I will offer daily extensions of this attempt at becoming a thoughtful governor: I intend to cover as much ground as thoroughly as I can so that you can know as much as you can about my thinking and can use these words both for and against me as you see fit.