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Books Find Me

I have always believed that books find me, seemingly providential, often unexplainable in their timing!

I had recently set out to garner my thoughts on spiritual practicality in a capitalistic society, along with the universal reality of politics in any system where people are involved. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor while cleaning out her bookshelves, attached a note (see image above) and sent a book my way.

Her husband, a brilliant man, literally a NASA engineer had apparently forgotten to return a library book from Westminster College, the copyright 1960. "The Semisovereign People" was written by E.E. Schattschneider, an American political scientist (1892-1971). The book's subtitle, "A Realist View of Democracy in America."

Busy with a couple other books, I glanced at the table of contents and realized it was a study of constructive conflict. Though dated, it sounded timely in its wisdom, so I began reading. I soon realized the writer's pedigree was well above my own in terms of academic preparation.

As I struggled to understand his writing out of respect for my belief that books do find me, I was dumbfounded by its relevance, particularly once I arrived at the chapter entitled, "What Does Change Look Like?"

The chapter seemed the apex of his message, as he had earlier retraced the concept of American democracy as a means of escape from an imbalance of power exerted upon the masses, given a governing system comprised of both a powerful church and a monarchy.

His message, even in the 1960's was that the institutional church had long since given up its position of influence to a system based on business (his term for the economic system in our capitalistic society).

His proposition was that the notion of American democracy as some pristine form of governance, later corrupted by money is a "romantic misreading." The reality being that its very founding was an attempt to "split the political power from the economic power" for the sake of capitalism. Intentionally setting up an "unresovable conflict" which he describes as a necessary "equilibrium" between the two powers of business and government.

The institutional church, though having some influence upon individuals and their communties, now has little direct consequence in terms of controlling the power garnered by either of the other two.

Capitalism has now become the primary power driver, with a "government by the people, for the people" perhaps never the sole intent of America's founders.

His words affirmed a system where business, in a myriad of ways "buys votes" in order to control the growth of government, while government serves only to assure an environment for business to prosper. At times, representatives of the people may attempt to restrain business, (think Amazon) for the sake of the masses, though seldom in reality do the majority control sufficient power to impact either business or government.

"In some ways, the public interest resides in the no man's land between government and business. The public wants to preserve its options, the kinds of options it would lose if either fascists or communist resolutions were adopted."

One last quote from the book: "We are in trouble because we are confused about what is supposed to happen in a democracy."

As I close, I must admit that John Kennedy's inaugural quote does come to mind: "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This was a call to action for the public to do what is right for the greater good.  I have to wonder if that statement cost him his life?

You can now see why I believe books find me. We truly are at the mercy of both business and government apart from another spiritual Awakening across our land. The good news is, that happens about ever 500 years!

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