Nebraska's F!*?#@ Legislature

© 2020 Last updated: 08/09/2020

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Yes, I used the "F" word to describe our Nebraska State Legislature. It's single chamber structure really is unique amongst the 50 states. Do you know the pedigree of this idea? Nebraskans are taught to believe that its history begins and ends with Senator George Norris. You may think so, but prepare to be irritated (if you aren't already).  Let me forewarn you with this quotation:

Few discoveries are more irritating than those that reveal the pedigree of ideas.
--Lord Acton

This is the quotation that Friedrich Hayek uses to begin the Introduction of his classic book, "The Road to Serfdom."

Nebraska's non-partisan, single chamber, small Legislature was adopted in the 1930's amidst the Great Depression through the efforts of Sen. Norris. It was only natural that during a time of crisis Nebraska responded with what appeared to be a reasonable and rational idea. As Nobel prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, once said:

Only a crisis-- actual or perceived-- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.
--Milton Friedman Harper's Magazine, October 2007.

In fact, the idea of a smaller, non-partisan legislative or parliamentary body had been laying around for some time in the 1930's. It was commonly a part of the platform of a political movement of that era.

Eugen Weber examined these political parties in various European countries at that time in his book, "Varieties of Fascism" (Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1964.)  That's right, this was a "Fascist" idea; the other "F" word. Weber's book ignores fascism in Germany and Italy; we all know that history too well. But many forget that there were fascist parties in France, England, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, the Scandinavian countries and many other European countries at that time.  There may not have been an official fascist party in America but there was certainly a fascist movement with many ardent followers. New York's Madison Square Garden hosted a convention of 20,000 fascist supporters on February 20th, 1939. Even Charles Lindberg was among Hitler's devotees.

Why would the fascists want a small, non-partisan legislative or parliamentary body? At that time the growing fascist movement recognized that they were in a minority and, because of their philosophy, always would be. One of the tenets of "fascism" is that there is a master class or master race that should be in control of a country because they can do a better job of it. Fascists reasoned that one way for this master class to take political power was to reduce the size of the legislative or parliamentary bodies so that a small group of very dedicated people (themselves) would have an easier time of taking over and controlling that political structure. James Burnham called this the "fraction method" from Hitler's "Mein Kampf." (James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, p.198, The John Day Company, 1941).  It is important to understand this simple idea and not get lost in "holocaust blindness." A smaller legislative body is much easier for a small but dedicated group of people to take over and control. 

I don't like using this "F" word because people have been conditioned to react to it with that "holocaust blindness." "Holocaust blindness" is NOT a denial of the holocaust, it is like snow blindness. In snow blindness there is so much white light that you cannot see anything but a uniform white "wall" of light, and not the snow in front of you. Likewise it is the sheer magnitude of the human atrocities of the holocaust that blind people. We cannot see past the reality of these inhuman crimes. We forget what the "F" word really meant. People are conditioned to react by mentally connecting the concepts: "fascist," to "Nazi," to "Hitler," to "holocaust." The idea of why fascists wanted a small non-partisan parliamentary or legislative structure gets forgotten.

The symptom of this "blindness" reveals itself when people will say (or are thinking): "You are calling our state legislators fascists!" No, sorry, their "blindness" has made them miss my point. I am NOT saying OUR Legislators are fascists.  I am saying they don't have to be. Once this structure of a smaller non-partisan legislative body is adopted, then ANY small group of dedicated people have a better chance of taking control of it. They could be the Cricket party or the Mountain Lion party or the Black Robe party; they don't have to be fascists.

If you are paying attention, isn't that what is happening in our Nebraska Legislature today?

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