In Greek mythology, the story is told of an evil torturer named Procrustes who lured weary travelers to his home where he would force them into his bed of steel. If they were too tall, he’d hack off their arms, legs and if need be, head; if too short he would stretch them to fit the design of his macabre bed. In an article I wrote earlier this year which you can read The Cruel Procrustes Bed of Government Policy we draw the analogy of Procrustes and the bed to an out of control Federal Government that looks to fit the Individual into a macabre social policy formula through central planning in the likes of welfare, healthcare, military interventionism, market regulations and even down to the most intimate social issues like drugs, sexual relations, marriage and food. At the end of the story, Theseus, King of Athens, the son of Poseidon, tricks Procrustes to enter his own bed which ends the reign of terror. The question today regarding the 2012 elections and the financial, moral and general welfare of the USA is, `Can we find a Theseus who could put the State back into it’s own bed of restraint and set the Individual free?’
Thomas Jefferson was the forward looking Theseus of his time, warning that the natural process of government was to grow and stressed the need for restraint. “A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
In the previous article we determined that, “A Procrustes bed is used as a modern analogy of an arbitrary standard by which exact conformity is required. It has been used as comparisons in literature, math and computer science. In his recently released book, ‘The Procrustes Bed: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms’ Nassim Taleb says that it is not only that many times we try to fit into wrong boxes, but that the emphasis is on the box rather than the object. He also points out the danger of overestimating or under estimating variables as in Modern Portfolio Theory that uses risk assessment like Bell Curve distribution sigmas to gauge investment pairing and balancing. In a sense, Modern Portfolio Theory is a Procrustes Bed as it lops off 3rd or 4th sigma risk as inconsequential, only to find out later as we have with the recent financial crisis those variables played a greater role.”
The US through the Constitution was founded with the intention to restrain centralized power and allow for the greatest amount of personal liberty that only could be lost through an act that would deny the liberties of another. Today, that is no longer the case, as the Federal Government has crept into every area of our lives directly and indirectly. In a 2010 article in The Economist, they illustrate the case of George Norris who was 65 at the time and an avid Orchid collector who had his front door smashed in, house ransacked, imprisoned and forced to confess to an unknown to him crime at the time of selling Orchids without a license. He received a sentence of 17 months. The article goes on to criticize US laws and prison system which is complicated and overcrowded.
In the approaching 2012 elections there’s a lot of promises and campaign rhetoric, some of which is good to hear, `Balanced Budgets, Jobs, Spending Cuts and Economic Growth’; but if the Federal Government is Procrustes in the story and the steel bed which causes harm to the Individual is Federal laws and policies, then isn’t what we really need a Theseus and not a revamped steel bed that restrains us and harms us in a different way? Republican solutions of different regulations and directing benefits to their constituencies just like the Dems have done is not what we need, but realigning federal powers back to constitutional designs is the answer. In another article I wrote, Napkin Math, Financial Overhaul Through Constitutional Alignment late last year, it looks at eliminating unconstitutional departments and programs of the Federal Government, phasing some out over a period of time with each state having the choice to take them on and a 35% cut across the board in spending. Oddly enough some of the recent budget proposals have similar ideas.
Suggestions as we turn the corner on 2011 and the campaign really heats up: Become familiar with the US Constitution and use it as a plumbline measurement. Also, find out what the candidates will do and if they have a track record, review it in light of legitimate constitutional powers. Can they actually do it? Like Theseus, there had been many through Procrustes’ house of terror but it was Theseus who was able to restrain him. Who of the current pool of candidates understands what needs to be done and can accomplish it? Who is our Theseus?
Christopher M. Mahon