Justice Anthony Kennedy nailed it when he said the Supreme Court was in uncharted waters when considering same-sex marriage. He might also have said that this means that society is unburdened with myth and legacy on this issue and can consider it almost on it merits; whereas homosexuality is as old and permanent as time, marriage between homosexuals is a new concept in the organization of human affairs.
Actually, the justices are facing something antithetical to their purposes: a clean slate. For the rest of society, a clean slate is almost unachievable. But when it does happen — when law, conduct and invention are unhampered by the legacy of the past and myths that are codified into principles — wonderful things happen. For example:
1. The U.S. Constitution, where the old building blocks of political organization were rearranged into something totally new and marvelous.
2. The computer age, where ideas and inventions — largely because they weren't limited by previous ones — have changed the entire human system of work and communication.
3. Modern art, where millennia of tradition had established rigidities that defined what was art and its production, added to the sum of the medium and allowed a new voice of expression.
4. Rock and Roll, where a new form eclipsed the popular music of the time and was able to borrow from the blues, jazz and other sources without accepting their rigidities. It vastly enlarged the musical firmament.
Brace for a storm of platitudes, recycled myths, and just old-fashioned
It will all start with President Obama when he addresses a joint session
of Congress on Thursday about the jobs deficit. Whatever he says will be
followed by scorn and abuse from the Republicans. All the hoary old claims
about the absence of leadership, wasteful spending, punitive regulation
and the need to cut taxes will be regurgitated.
The president will have a TelePrompTer full of enchantment tales. He also
will talk of cutting some taxes; maybe because he thinks this will endear
him to the undecided voters, or mollify some Republicans, or because he
consistently tries to make his way in a viciously partisan political world
by endeavoring to sound like the voice of detached reason. It will make no
friends and infuriate the Democratic core. It will be another betrayal to
All of the tax ideas, presidential and Republican, will be wrapped in cant
about small business. Oh, do politicians love small business. Apple pie is
good, mom is noble but small business, and small business alone, can cause
the entire Congress of the United States to genuflect.
They love the travel agent with six employees with the same passion that
they adore General Electric. The machine tool repair and maintenance
contractor with 40 employees – he is the very embodiment of American
exceptionalism. The woman with a wholesale jewelry business that she
operates with her husband and grown daughter — they are the stuff of
If Congress knew anything about the small business world, it would
stop forcing the wrong medicine on the patient. Incorrect therapies won’t
help, no matter how vigorous the applications.
To the political establishment, small business is suffering because of
taxation and regulation. Fiddle with these twin bugaboos, the political
narrative goes, and small business will bloom like the bluebells in
Have any of these people ever talked to small business operators? Small
business has many problems, but taxation is seldom one of them. Do they
really think the garment manufacturers on New York’s 7th Avenue are on the
phone, schmoozing about the rate of corporate taxation? More likely they
are talking about why the banks won’t lend, even against collateral, to
heretofore good customers; why imports from all over Asia are laying waste
to their customer base; and why the traffic in the cross-town streets is
Like all small businessmen, they don’t agonize over the frustration of
having to meet OSHA and EPA standards — these are irritants. Instead,
they agonize over whether there will be enough money to meet payroll.
Taxes, if any, come once a year, but the payroll keeps the small
entrepreneur anxious all year. It is the ogre that visits every two weeks.
To many, government is the problem; but not in the way legislators think.
The problem is the growing shortage of federal and state funds. This
affects many small businesses like builders, excavators, asphalt-layers
and the service industries that owe their survival to small contracts:
social service providers, translators, software writers, and consultants
in just about everything.
If you cut budgets, you cut small business.
Then there is the “chaining” of America. Local diners, hardware stores,
pharmacies and other retailing are crushed, annihilated when the chains
move in. The chains are not inherently evil, but they are manifestly
merciless. Walmart is but one of the chains putting small business to the
If those who administer government want to know something about small
business, they should spend a weekend at a strip-mall bakery or any other
firm with less than 50 employees. The experience would radically adjust
the rhetoric. It’s too late for Thursday, but don’t believe what you hear.
–For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate