Birth of Neopopulism: We are Civil Disobedience
It is Neopopulism’s birth-day today – February 11, 2008. Recall the dictionary definition of birth: it is the process at the end of a human pregnancy that results in a baby being born. It represents an end of a 10 month long pregnancy and the beginning of life. Similarly, Tom Dahlberg and I have privately labored on Neopopulism for about 10 years and now we are proud today to announce the birth-day of Neopopulism.
To begin, we should tell you what Neopopulism is not. Neopopulism is not a political party. Our birth-day is not similar to the Independence Party founding in Minnesota in 1992 or the Republican Party’s founding in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854.
Neopopulism is not an ideological movement. Our birth-day is not similar to the launch of the modern conservative and liberal movements in the 1960’s. In fact, Neopopulism’s essence is a rejection of partisanship and ideology.
Like the students screaming in the movie “We are Marshall,” the Neopopulist rally cry is, “We are Civil Disobedience.” Neopopulism’s civil disobedience is in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau’s imprisonment in 1846 and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s imprisonment in 1963. Like Thoreau and King, Neopopulists -- in the face of the government’s absence of the rule of law – will rebel even at the risk of imprisonment.
Thoreau and King did not merely play the role of rabble rousers – they redeemed a lawless government. Thus, Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” serve as the modern Gospels for Neopopulists.
Neopopulists are pragmatic realists who will impose the rule of law on government. The enemies of Neopopulism are mediocre and mendacious bureaucrats – often called experts.
Neopopulists are upset when publicly-available evidence of bureaucratic mediocrity and mendacity is available and the bureaucrats keep their jobs. Think of bridges collapsing, space shuttles exploding, tigers jumping out of zoo cages.
The federal and state constitutions offer no protection for the people from mediocre and mendacious bureaucracies. For example, Minnesota’s Constitution was written to principally protect the minority from the majority. Minnesota’s Constitution was never intended as a response to today’s greater threat – protecting the people from the bureaucrats.
Neopopulists admit, along with British philosopher John Stuart Mill, that bureaucracies are necessary for a “skilled” democracy. Yet, the problem with bureaucracies is that by their very nature, they tend toward rules, routine and therefore mediocrity. As Mill stated in his Representative Government (1861), bureaucracies “perish by the immutability of their maxims; and still more, by the universal law that whatever becomes routine loses its vital principle, and having no longer a mind acting within it, goes on revolving mechanically though the work it is intended to do remains undone.” Mill’s passage describes with precision the current mediocrity and mendacity of our modern bureaucrats. Just review the publicly-available evidence.
Our opponents – the partisans and ideologues -- will say but which of their rules of law applies? But, for Neopopulists, it is the people’s rule of law that applies. Unlike partisanship which is owned by the DFL and GOP parties and unlike ideology which is owned by the liberal and conservative elites, Neopopulism is owned by the people.
Further, our opponents will say there is no Minnesota conspiracy to violate the rule of law. Neopopulists agree – but if there is a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy of mediocrity. A conspiracy of mediocrity based on the bureaucrats’ unwillingness to do more than do their job – to be excellent.
Even further, our opponents will say there is no absence of rule of law in Minnesota. That’s false. In recent memory, as documented at the Neopopulism.org website, in over twenty published court decisions, every branch of Minnesota’s government has recently violated the rule of law: Minnesota’s Supreme Court, Minnesota’s executive branch agencies, now Minnesota’s legislature and, of course, county and local governments.
As Karl Llewellyn, a great University of Chicago law teacher, once said, morals without technique is a mess while technique without morals is a menace. Don’t tell the people that the Minnesota government isn’t at the same time a mess and a menace -- it is.
What else could explain the hundreds, nay thousands, of pages of self-contradictory, vague and/or ambiguous statutes, rules and ordinances on the books? Even fishermen now contend with pages and pages of Department of Natural Resources fishing rules. Aren’t these statutes, rules and ordinances in themselves an abuse of power?
Bureaucrats, beware, it is the people who suffer due to your mediocrity, your mendacity, your meanness.
Neopopulists say that the people’s only response is rebellion. Civil disobedience – using all means of available political participation to impose the rule of law on the people’s government -- is the rally cry for the people.
Finally, as Neopopulists with the will to impose a political agenda, we admit to an internal disposition of hope. We are optimistic. Due to this hope, we have faith that we can make a difference – even though the situation, without us, would be rather hopeless.
Erick G. Kaardal
General Counsel for Neopopulism.org
495 Ridgeview Circle
Hamel MN 55340