Interview With Author of The Myth America Pageant
The Myth America Pageant is the first book from new author Robert Wickes, who shows he understands what the politicos do not, which is how to fix the mess in which we in America find ourselves.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR OF THE MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT
NOTE: Here is the link for my book review of THE MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT:
Book Review: The Myth America Pageant (December 23, 2006)
Over the weekend of January 6-7, 2007, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the author of the book THE MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT, an 'Ordinary Joe' by the name of Robert Wickes. Even though he and I do not share the same political philosophies, we were able to find common ground, in that we both are extremely concerned for the fate of this nation of the USA.
Robert Wickes, author of THE MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT.
Could you begin by telling our readers a bit about who you are and why you wanted to write a book?
I am a humble, "Ordinary Joe" baby boomer. For many years I was, like most people, more concerned with getting my business going and raising my family than I was with paying attention to whatever the wizards who run the country were doing. But the older I got, the more I became aware of all the stupid things these supposedly smart guys were doing. And when I realized that all the stupid things these smart guys were doing in the name of "helping" me were actually making my life worse, I began to look closer. Along the way, I developed a political philosophy of my own which made it easy to develop a consistent approach to dealing with virtually any issue. That same philosophy also helped me understand the direction the country was taking and how it was taking us in a direction away from economic prosperity, political stability, and peace.
I am fat-headed enough to think that perhaps others will be interested.
How did you come up with the concept of the MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT?
I didn't just sit down and decide to write a discourse on American politics. I had actually first thought it would be a lot more fun make my points in fiction, so I wrote a political intrigue novel which proved unsuitable for today's commercial fiction market because it crossed the line too much between fiction and non-fiction. A mix of Allen Drury's Advise and Consent series and Lucifer's Hammer, a novel about a comet hitting the earth, my novel turned political skullduggery into a national financial breakdown, before it's rescued by the good guys (using the ideas in Myth). To make it worthy of publication, I needed to take out a lot of the political diatribes.
But then I needed a new vehicle to serve as my philosophical soapbox. Thus was born The Myth America Pageant. I outlined the entire book on a note pad on the center console of a radio-less U-Haul truck as I was cruising solo across eastern Washington taking furniture to a vacation getaway in Idaho. My original working title was Politics & Idiots: Why We Elect Them & Why We Shouldn't. I still like that title.
How long did it take you to research and write the book?
My education had mostly avoided the subjects that would have given me better insight, so I had to do a little homework -- in areas like history, economics, philosophy, and political science -- before I could finally understand what was really going on. And why. This post-graduate phase of my self-education began around 1998 or so, stopping and starting as I needed background or ideas for the plot of the novel. It probably took about three years to complete the novel, juggling writing with working and the rest of life. It only took a year to put the first draft of Myth together, although I took another year to edit, revise, and subject it to the scrutiny of some trusted associates.
In your opinion, what has been the most damaging thing that our elected officials have done to harm our nation?
That's easy. They've completely abandoned the rule of law and taken for themselves a whole bunch of imaginary powers not granted to them in the Constitution. Then they've spent decades convincing the population that government can solve all their problems, creating an entitlement mentality (for both the population and the business world) in order to justify these new powers. Our country became great not because of what the government did, but because of what the government didn't do. You can trace most of the nation's social and economic ills today to increased government intervention in our lives and in the economy.
I really enjoyed reading the book, and this is because it came from an HONEST place in your mind and heart. Could you explain how you were able to use humor to help explain sometimes difficult to understand concepts of government and the business management of government?
Will Rogers once said of Congress that when it makes a joke it's a law, and when it makes a law it's a joke. No reason why we can't fight fire with fire. Humor has always been a good companion in my life, and although we talk about a lot of serious subjects there's no reason why we can't have some fun with it. As my F-15 pilot son would say, Congress is a "target rich environment."
There are lots of dreary books on government and politics, but I wanted just to have a friendly conversation with other Ordinary Joes. It's the Ordinary Joes of the country who are going to have to step up and take back control of their lives, because, as the Greek playwright Aristophanes said of politicians (probably), "You cannot teach a crab to walk straight."
One noticeably absent subject that was not in your book was the Drug War and the construction of the prison-based economy. Why did you leave this out of the book? Would you care to comment on this subject and how it affects the USA?
The screwier the world gets the more likely it is I will have to write a sequel -- The Myth Universe Pageant -- to cover all the areas I left out in the first. Although I've not yet done specific research on these subjects, it doesn't mean that I don't have some opinions. At the risk of shooting from the hip (and alienating some of my more socially conservative friends) let me share a couple of comments.
First, Myth deals with individual rights and the inherent problems which have ALWAYS developed when one person or group -- at any time or place in history -- imposes their will on another. That ought to mean that if some idiot wants to fry his brains with drugs then by all means let him. Think of it as a form of natural selection.
However, the legalization, perhaps, of drugs cannot be an isolated act. If we tell people have the right to use drugs even though they might hurt themselves, then they have NO right to demand that non-user taxpayers pay for the medical or rehabilitative care of the druggies. In other words, if people want to go crazy, fine, but don't make the rest of us pay the price. Individual rights means individual responsibility and accountability. I suspect that if we just turned our backs on drugs there might be some great initial paroxysm of drug use among certain segments of the population but it would probably die out quickly of its own very serious consequences. I could add that if you are a fan of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, you also know that drugs can be very useful to a government who would prefer that its citizens lose the ability to think or fend for themselves, but I'd hate to start any new conspiracy rumors.
The government's approach to drugs is just like their approach to lots of issues. They declare "war" on it so they can expand their powers to deal with it. The problem is that the war is never over and the new powers never go away. Frederick A. Hayek wrote about this approach in his 1944 book, The Road To Serfdom. That's why there's a War on Drugs, a War on Poverty, a "crisis" in education (which is really ironic, since the government runs it already) and a "crisis" in healthcare. This approach will surface for sure again in a renewed attempt to pass Medicare-for-all national healthcare system.
OK, back to crime and punishment. No question our system is all screwed up. First is the notion of "cruel and unusual" punishment. It's been twisted to prevent almost any meaningful punishment. In my opinion, punishment ought to deter someone from doing the crime again, and if it doesn't it could not possibly be considered either cruel or unusual. With recidivism rates as high as two-thirds, it seems that the justice system isn't doing its job. Take it to the other extreme: If we executed everyone who jaywalked, then pretty quickly no one would jaywalk. To achieve somekind of balance you have to look at the whole concept of crime. A crime is the breaking of a law a society has established and represents some cost to that society. It doesn't make much sense to take someone who was smoking a joint and turn around and incarcerate him at $30,000 a year. How does that repay society? And if two out of three do it again, how can it be considered a deterrent? I think maybe Sheriff Joe down in Maricopa County, AZ might have the right idea about to go about it.
Prison-based industries are supposed to offset the costs of the inmates. But there are hidden costs in the terms of lost jobs and taxes in the private economy. I don't have any data on the relative economic merits. But we're at a point where in many jurisdictions jails and prisons are either full (which means high costs to society) or empty (because it can't afford the costs to jail offenders). Since a HUGE percentage of inmates are in on drug-related crimes, a strong argument can be made to take another look at our war on drugs. It can't be won the way we are fighting it. Temperance didn't work either. There are, again two choices: Shoot everyone who is caught with drugs for any reason, or else give it up altogether. It's like Vietnam or Iraq -- we can't win unless we are willing to be ruthless. If we are not, we shouldn't get started.
Regarding the Federal Debt, are you aware of the concept of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report? This is a report that lists ASSETS held by the various governmental levels, instead of just the operating budget which lists expenditures ONLY. Would you care to comment on the CAFR?
Nobody cooks the books like the feds. That's why the highly-touted $559 billion dollar "surplus" which supposedly occurred during Clinton's last four years was really a $484 billion dollar deficit, when normal accounting methods are applied. This makes it difficult to get any clear picture of the true financial status of the US government. And the CAFR includes our colossal "contingent liabilities" which are the future debts it owes for Medicare and Social Security. These amount to some $20-25 TRILLION -- of which we have not one red cent socked away. The late, perrenial Libertarian Presidential candidate Harry Browne suggested we close down all the government offices and programs which fall outside the Constitutional responsiblities of the federal government and then sell off all related assets to finance a transition to private retirement and medical accounts. Not a bad idea.
Hillary Clinton has received the approval by the Bilderberg Group to become President of the USA # 44 in 2008. Any thoughts on what type of a President she would make? And how about Bill Clinton as First Lady?!
The Bilderbergs would like Hillary Clinton because she is a first class statist. For someone like me who champions limited, constitutional government and individual rights, she will be an unmitigated nightmare. If the Democrats and a lame duck but big spending President Bush (still pushing a North American Union) don't beat her to the punch, she'll take big government to heights FDR and LBJ never dreamed of. Don't forget her illegal efforts to take over the US healthcare industry in her husband's first term. But she's WAY smarter than Bill. She won't get hamstrung by sex scandals (as if!). And she learned from him that the best way to get elected is to talk like a moderate conservative, regardless of her true convictions. No Senator has been elected as President since JFK, largely because they can't withstand the scrutiny of their voting record. She's making sure that won't be a problem. But someone who is a centrist is either someone who has no strong convictions (which means you don't know what they'll do) or is someone who is hiding their convictions (which also means you don't know what they'll do).
Bill as First Lady? What a joke. I doubt very much he'll be interested in redecorating the Blue Room. He would be more likely to reverse Nancy Reagan's idea and start a "Just Say YES!" program. I think his real interest is in being the Secretary General of the UN. It's the only other job left that gives him an even bigger stage than he's had before.
How does government and politics REALLY affect the Ordinary Joe and Joan?
By applying the Stupidity Factor. Politicians can only justify their own power and policies by making the unfounded -- and irrelevant, I might add -- assumption that we are all too stupid to take care of ourselves and to keep from being exploited by evil corporations. Therefore, they -- being the munificent and all-powerful Oz -- must step into every facet of our lives. The manifestations are myriad: Education, social security, medicare, medicaid, a hundred different federal social and corporate welfare programs and policies, healthcare regulations, tens of thousands of pages of tax codes and regulations, 200 new pages of regulations added to the Federal Register daily, mandates on state and local government. The list is infinite. We can't choose our own retirement, our own schools, our own healthplan or doctors, negotiate our own wages, pick our own charities, or decide if we want to be able to defend ourselves. The free enterprise system is corrupted by the machinations which business and corporations must exercise upon government officials in order to overcome the restrictions, barriers, and interventions created by the same government officials. That disruption of the open market raises costs, inhibits production, and creates anti-competitive monopolies, all of which affect Ordinary Joes and Joans.
The affect is most obvious in taxation -- we must pay $2.5 trillion dollars into the federal coffers every year to keep their machine alive. There is also an indeterminate, but substantial additional financial cost added to virtually every product, service, or activity due to the burden of over-regulation. The hidden effect is the loss of our incentive and motivation to invest, explore, discover, create, or expand. The more socialization we experience the less reward there is for the risk-taking which is crucial to improving our standards of living.
Part Two of the book provides solutions. What can we do to get this process started, in hopes of repairing all that is damaged in our government?
Of course, the greatest barrier to renovation is that those who are in the positions of power capable of making the changes are the same people who have the greatest motivation to preserve the status quo. That means change will have to be inflicted from outside the Beltway. However, 75 years of momentum building big government is likely to be too great to stop. We are seeing ever-greater segments of the population dependent upon government handouts, a trend which makes it increasingly harder to get enough people to stand up and say, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"
The are but two probable paths: Either we can educate voters to effect change via the voting booth, or else there will be a substantial national financial catastrophe which will force us to change. Education is the key, but I'm not talking about the schools, which are hopelessly bound to government decree. Whichever path we follow, I suspect it will take one or two new leaders to show us the way -- someone with vision, principles, charisma, and an understanding of what made us great to begin with. It's ironic to think that in order to restore the strength of America -- the rule of law -- we may be forced to rely on perhaps a solitary man or woman after all.
We are reaching a critical point from which we will be unable to retreat. Using even our official national debt numbers, our debt to GDP ratio now exceeds two-thirds -- twice what it was when we first hit a trillion dollar debt landmark. Our exploding deficit spending appetite is fueling foreign ownership in our debt, which makes irresponsible fiscal management a national security issue.
If we DON'T get going and make people understand what is happening our republic will flounder and we will decline to a point of world irrelevance, leaving the next great era to feature a struggle between the Muslims and the Chinese.
Separation of Church and State -- a good thing, or a bad thing? Why is it good or bad?
Civil libertarians point to the Taliban and say if we don't eliminate nativity scenes in public parks the next step will be genital mutilation of our youth. The separation of church and state is largely an imagined crisis. I'd rather see the separation of education and state, but that's another issue. The fact is that religion has largely been a positive factor in the establishment and growth of America. It would be very difficult to point to any widespread suffering that has occurred in this country as a direct consequence of prayers at school graduation, putting a Christmas tree in the entry of city hall, or the posting in courtrooms of rules that say you shouldn't murder, steal, or hit the local fleabag motel with your neighbor's wife.
If, on the other hand, your are a dedicated statist who believes that the state is more important than the individual and that any person or organization that threatens the power of the state or the allegiance of the people to it ought to be marginalized by any and all means possible. So an argument can be made that perhaps the separation of church and state movement is less about avoiding an American Taliban than it is about reducing the influence of religion as competition to the state.
What role has the Internet played in the awakening that is going on at this moment in time? Are you happy to contribute to this?
The Internet may be America's best hope for educating the public. The mainstream media are well-controlled and overly biased, so that the pretense of honest reporting has vaporized. When CBS was caught lying in the Bush national guard memo affair, their response was that they went ahead with it because it was "representative" of the truth. Right. But the Internet has unleashed thousands of intrepid truth-seekers. There is a lot of bad information that gets put out, but it is overwhelmed by the good. And if my ideas are sufficiently thought-provoking then the Internet provides an opportunity to reach a wider audience, and maybe that will spur a few more people into action. That would be extremely satisfying.
What's next for you as an Ordinary Joe?
If I generate any interest in Myth, I may start my own public policy analysis and voter education group. I'd call it The Orsis Institute, but you'd have to read the book to understand why that would be consistent with my twisted sense of humor. It would require a huge investment of time and money, so I may have to find a well-heeled, like-minded sugar daddy to make that happen.
My next writing project is to get my novel out. I originally envisioned it as a trilogy, so the good guys could take their ideas into the global arena. I recently decided instead to make it a four-part series, where the last two books would provide alternative scenarios for what happens to the country -- one where the good guys successfully turn the country around, and one where the nation reverts back to its old ways with horrible new consequences. Since I'm an Ordinary Joe, I still have to work for a living, although I have begun to think about retirement. Retirement, however, would simply mean I could take up writing full-time. The timetable for this may depend on the success of The Myth America Pageant.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to conclude our talk here today? Any pearls of wisdom from what you have learned while writing this book -- THE MYTH AMERICA PAGEANT?
Don't take anything you read or hear from the government at face value. Question every study, every statistic, every analysis, every rationalization. Don't be afraid to challenge convention. The most destructive phrase today is, "But that's the way it's ALWAYS been." Maybe so, but that doesn't make it the way it OUGHT to be. Finally, don't make the mistake of not being involved. Hold your representatives feet to the fire. If they act differently in office than on the campaign trail, don't reward them with re-election. If you don't keep an eye on the tiger he will pounce on you.
© 2007 Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
Book Review: The Myth America Pageant (December 23, 2006)
Myth America Books website
Myth America Books
Myth America Pageant