“The American Form of Government” Video ~ Political Science Revisited

The video’s argument is convincing, but only if you accept the premise that the extreme left of the political continuum is big government, and the extreme right is no government.

March 26, 2011 — A good friend recently brought to my attention a video that’s been making the rounds lately: “The American Form of Government.” Knowing that I had taught social studies subjects in Texas, including history, government and economics for serval years, he was interested in having my opinion about it. He asked, “Does this sound right? Is there something missing? Below is the video.

After watching it, I told my friend that I had found the video to be very interesting — enjoyable to watch, actually. I was impressed by the quality of its production and by much of the historical examples used to substantiate the video’s thesis, i.e., that more government is necessarily bad and less government is good. But the objective, the whole purpose of the video, I told my friend, had obviously been to correct so-called “elitist” teachings and to spread instead conservative propaganda.

The conclusion the video makes, that “big” government is in-league with communism and other forms of oligarchy like fascism is fallacious on several counts and laughable to me. Notwith- standing, this is a popular conservative theme that’s being propagated these days. To this end, the video could be called effective. It’s effective because the argument  is presented in a authoritative, simple manner. But it distorts established political science theory.

This, or something like this, will undoubtedly be taught in Texas high school government classes as soon as the new textbooks can be printed, purchased and distributed, thanks to Governor Perry’s State Board of Education. But political science is not at all as simple as the producers of this video would have viewers believe.

The video’s argument is convincing, but only if you accept the premise that the extreme left of the political continuum is big government, and the extreme right is no government. This is in contradiction with traditional teaching, to wit, that that the left of the established continuum is progressive (desiring change) while the right is conservative (resistant to change). Notice in the graphic below, which represents a much more sophisticated view of the political spectrum, where anarchism and fascism are plotted. Similar graphics depicting this are included in most current political science text books.

I suspect (and I am nothing if I am not the consummate conspiracy buff) that this video lesson was produced by those whose wish it is to see the recent trend of corporate deregulation restored to the benefit of big business and stock holders’  interests and to the disadvantage of middle America and the environment alike.

Some, including myself, are of the opinion that this country is already perilously close to being an oligarchy, a special kind of oligarchy, one that’s called a “corporatocrcy“. It is my bottom line is that it’s not the size of government that matters so much as it is the quality of government. What is it that a nation’s or state’s government purports to do? Is it to, as the preamble of our Constitution says:  to form

a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity?

Or is it to simply secure our borders, protect our economic national interests, and ensure that corporations have all the freedom they need to continue making the richest of Americans even richer at the expense of everyone else?

Please feel free to comment, whether you agree with me or not.

Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 3:23 am  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for your post and the helpful graphic. I’m a high school English teacher in Wisconsin, and I recently started my own blog that I’m using with my seniors. I’m trying to get people to engage in conversations beyond simple right and left arguments.

    I found your blog when I did a Google search for “political continuum.” We have a new governor who is fixed at the extreme right. Gov. Walker seems incapable of understanding that public interests and corporate interests are different. Our state signs at the border now say “Open for Business” at the bottom instead of “Forward.” One of my biggest fears is that he’ll succeed in his efforts toward privatizing our public schools. How do we convince people–especially politicians–that public and private interests need to be balanced?

  2. How do we convince people–especially politicians–that public and private interests need to be balanced? I am of the opinion that passion trumps reason every time for people who have a conservative mindset. Therefore, reasonable people have to also be passionate about what they believe. But for a teacher teaching in a state dominated by the political right, this is personally and professionally dangerous.

    You might also want to read my post, Capitalism — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ~ Teaching Students How to Think vs. Teaching Them What to Think.

    Thank you Joel. Keep up the good work. Our kids need you.

  3. I enjoyed your post alot. It shows just how uneducated we (US citizens) we are when it comes to politics. I am Political Science Major @UTSA. And we wonder why US has one of the lowest voting average in the world? This was a good video, but even a better comment from you. I loved the way you used the preamble and put it todays text. I believe that very same thoughts on “big corporation”. They should get taxed at a higher rate, why because they have taken jobs from us and our money. Having red states versus blue states, is that not having extreme right or extreme left? Think about it. I do not totally agree with either.

  4. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, the Electoral College winner-take-all system is problematic. In reality, we don’t have red and blue states; they’re all varying shades of purple.

  5. It’s not surprising that you’re from a teaching background. Obviously, 30 years in a “progressive” culture has inculcated those progressive/liberal views from which are so ingrained in you that they have become part of your personna – your very believe system. Denying them is to deny yourself and all whom you taught.

    Your arguments are straw men. You keep saying that the premise is wrong (total controlling government vs no government control). But the premise is the premise. You can’t say it’s not just because you don’t like the flow of the logic. And your graph is old liberal dogma presented at if it’s true simply by virtue of its form and because that type of sophistic reasoning has been taught as liberal dogma for decades.

    You keep saying that you disagree with its logic without providing your own. You present “your opinion” as if that’s fact. For example; you say we’re perilously close to being an oligarchy, a special kind of oligarchy, one that’s called a “corporatocrcy“. Would these be those well know bastions of liberalism: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Google owners and executives, Zuckerberg (Facebook), Yahoo, the late Steve Jobs (Apple), Wall Street which has always donated more to the left including record amounts to Obama. Maybe you were talking about Unions who spend billions to influence government to align itself with their particular goals.

    You should limit your arguments to rationale and stop falling back on your “opinions” and established dogma. Just saying.

  6. Given the line of work you are in, Mr. Olson, i.e., Financial Planning and Real Estate, it’s not surprising that you’re so quick to dismiss my offered opinion(s) and reasons for disagreeing with the message contained in the American Form of Government video. Yours is the very sector of our economy that nearly destroyed what was left of the American Dream by the end of 2007. Please don’t try to deny it.

    I was actually more conservative in my political views until later in life, having had one career in the military and another in engineering services contracting for the Defense Department before reinventing myself as an educator. I’ve come by my persuasions honestly, by experience and study. I was a Reagan Republican until I could understand and appreciate what decades of supply-side economics and deregulation in the financials have done to this country.

  7. The video is not propaganda or the least bit deceptive. The premise is clearly defined and defended. The point of it is that it does not accept the “established” warped mess of political theory and offers a useful mental framework to grasp the core roots and logical outgrowths of the core political systems.

    Falling back to the rather unfortunate and misleading labels of “progressive” and “conservative” (who came up with those terms anyway?) is not at all illuminating. So, a “conservative” is a stuck-in-the-mud ignoramus who resists enlightenment and knowledge, and a “progressive” is someone who “desires change”… i.e. responds to scientific and cultural advances for the betterment of humanity, is that the implication? How manipulative and deceptive is that? The paradigm of competing world political systems is much more clearly described in terms of governmental power (as does the video) than the silly notion that it’s the degree of “resistance to change” among segments of the populace that matters. I feel embarrassed for people who fall for and propagate such lazy, and obviously deceptive, left-wing propaganda.

    Liberals are good at making simple things seem much more complex and nuanced than they really are — at least for people who don’t bother to think their corrupt notions through to their logical and historically demonstrated conclusions. Once free from the “progressive” paradigm to which American children are indoctrinated in public schools, the illusion of complexity begins to unravel and what’s left on display is a grasping elite entitlement class undermining productivity in favor of corruption (at which they are much more adept), and deceiving the ignorant masses to put themselves and keep themselves in power.

  8. Dear Mike,
    I appreciate, sir, that you disagree with my assessment of the video: The American Form of Government, etc. I’m afraid, however that we will just have to agree to disagree. I found nothing compelling about your rebuttal to my post.
    In response to your claim that Liberals are good at making simple ideas complicated, I have to say that Libertarians, in my view, are equally good at making the complicated simple. Perhaps this is by design to persuade the simple minded like so many I assess are among the Tea Party “patriots” of today.

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