Karp’s take on the restoration of self government

Anthony Del Signore

Anthony Del Signore has just started an internship with the NYC Independence Party and IndependentVoting.org.  Anthony is a political science student at PACE University. He has been reading Indispensable Enemies and wrote a post looking at the last chapter of the book.

Chapter 14 – The Restoration of Self-Government

“Augmenting the Foundations of Liberty”

“Throughout the majority of Walter Karp’s book Indispensable Enemies, the means, structures, and powers of the two major political parties take center-stage in a scathing repudiation of the status quo. Chapter 14, “The Restoration of Self-Government,” on the other hand, takes a much different tone. This tone is hopeful that party collusion, municipal annexation, and ever-powerful party stalwarts can be revolutionarily usurped through an augmentation of liberty and self-governance.  But these ideas are not novel or never heard of before. Karp takes his blueprint from our Founding Fathers, who wrote extensively on the merits of localized self-governance.

To structure his chapter, Karp relies on Thomas Jefferson’s two “fundamental means” to restore self-governance. First, local self-government must be extended to every member of the Republic. Second, “republican education” (or in this sense, a sort of civic engagement experience in which each individual can think for him or herself how to secure freedom). Working in conjunction, they would stem the tide of rapid municipal annexation and bring autonomy not only to the political life of the present, but the political life of the future.

The question Karp strives to answer first and foremost, is, are local assemblies the strength of a free nation? He states:

“… [A] mass of citizens with no direct share in power, no local assemblies, no local political arenas, is easy for political usurpers to control” (pg. 304).

This statement actually has two meanings. The phrase “political usurper” can mean the dominant party bosses of either the Democrat or Republican parties. Or it can mean a “restoration of what has been deliberately destroyed” by a thoughtful and engaged local citizenry (pg. 304).

In 2014, we see both meanings in action. In ever increasing numbers, America is becoming centralized and urbanized politically. More than 50% of Americans live in cities. Now, towns are merging with others to ensure financial survival because of a shift from the industrial economy to the emerging “silicon valley” economy. This is securing party control in state elections as the electorate turns into an “urban mass” disinterested in politics. On the other hand, we are beginning to see pockets of independent, localized movements, able to come together because of the internet. The rise of the Tea Party movement, Occupy Wall Street, and many localized chapters that I am sure many of you are familiar with are only known because of the internet.

Karp goes on to describe invisible “lines” that are drawn seemingly arbitrarily to separate townships from cities and stifle political action at the individual level. To combat this, every citizen should belong to a community which has relevant political power. This community should have localized authority which can speak on behalf of its citizens. Karp carefully states that this does not mean towns cannot merge for financial reasons. However, they should not merge for political ones. I have always been a proponent of the local community boards in New York City having actual power to influence change. A localized approach would give them that power. But, for people to become civically engaged, according to Karp, they have to be taught how to do so. This is where republican education comes into play.

Republican education, at its core, is a study of political history and a dismantling of the education bureaucracy. According to Karp, this is a revolutionary change in teaching from his time or even today. For example, he equates contemporary history lessons to the obliteration of political history. In essence, Karp argues the political “oligarchs” are fastening a message which keeps students disinterested in individual thinking and ensures division so that the parties can further ensure security once these students mature. How this can be changed is through localized control of education. One can only assume that Karp would not be thrilled with such measures as New York State Regents exams and Common Core which standardize requirements for proficiency in a number of subjects for wide swaths of students. However, in conjunction with newly established ward governments, Karp believes the educational pursuits of trade would give way to a more enriching educational experience.

While this may be true, the reality of 2014 is that education is still merely a “vocational training camp.” With higher education being the business that it is, this trend does not seem to be dissipating. Parents and students alike are staring at tuition bills calculating how much they need to make in salary once they or their children graduate to merely get by. Fields once thought to be bastions of security, such as law, are becoming perilous career choices. With localized education, perhaps some of these problems may be solved. However, in an ever-expanding globalized economy, is this solution even viable? Perhaps a more enriching experience can be gained on the internet where thinkers of all stripes can lay their own foundations at very inexpensive rates. Perhaps this is the future of republican education. This blog is a testament to that.

More than ever Karp’s vision in “The Restoration of Self-Government” is gaining traction. The idea that closed primaries are a detriment to our democracy and that funds should not be allocated to those closed primaries is something many people are beginning to understand and agree with. We are at the precipice of political reform. While all of his visions may not come to fruition, a step in the right direction is something he would be proud of.”

I am looking forward to our conversation on Sunday at 7 pm EST.  The call in number for the conference call is 805 399-1200 and the access code is 767775#. 

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