Home | Author's Note | Foreword | Prologue | Introduction
Book Synopses | Afterword | Indexes | Commentary | About Us|Books


This book is dedicated to the American soldier.

Without the devotion and sacrifice of each dogface, swabbie,
leatherneck, flyboy, and coastie
nothing would be as it is.

Cherish those alive, honor those departed.


Author’s Note

The Wildebeest Effect

            While writing First Principles I was sometimes questioned as to my goal in undertaking this project.  The answer is fairly simple; my intent is to define square one, the place from which one launches any attempt at self-governance.  What I have often observed in the real world is the disconnection between the fundamentals of human nature and experience, and the results obtained when notions of idealistic governance overtake rationality.  None of us should deny the value of idealistic musings; all of us should when necessary recognize their improbability—and act accordingly.

            As I watch those elected to represent the citizenry I find that logic is sometimes present in their action or inaction, but common sense often is not.  I want to describe that rational manner of governance history has taught us but that now seems to be absent, mostly as a result of the effects of politics and the media. 

            Americans, in particular but not uniquely, have only a superficial comprehension of self-governance and the fundamentals of economics.  We understand democracy generally, but the object and workings of representative government and the free market on which it is based we grasp less well.

            This is in part the Wildebeest Effect.  The wildebeest is a large grazing animal that dominates the Serengeti Plain in eastern Africa .  They are counted in the millions and roam in herds large enough to stretch beyond the horizon.  But the wildebeest is fodder for the lion who hunts these massive beasts without fear of opposition or even confrontation.  The reason the victims are such easy prey, of course, is their inability to organize or communicate. They are picked off one by one as they ineffectually run from the predations of their adversary.  But, with the simplest turn of the smallest portion of the herd, and the stomping and stamping of the easily surrounded lion, the wildebeeste could almost effortlessly control their own destiny.

            The modern democratic electorate can be seen as the wildebeeste—literate of course, but wildebeeste nonetheless.  We are cowed by the


theoretical insignificance of the individual,

comforted by the security of the herd, and ignorant of our own power.  We should not be: the system under which we operate is designed to take advantage of exactly that power by using the knowledge at each elector’s fingertips. 

            What this volume intends is to bring to the fore the common sense of self-governance that we knew so well in the past, and to encourage understanding of the simplicity of successful human interaction, of successful self-governance.  Creating the perfect society is hardly the goal for many relatively obvious reasons, but rediscovering a workable model of governing, and then executing that design is.  

            The wildebeeste should rule the African plain: the electorate should govern itself in a rational and just manner.  That the wildebeeste will not rise to that level is clear—nature has not endowed
them with either reason or courage.  The question remains: can and will the people refute their wildebeest existence in the modern era, will they take on the lions in the government mansions and turn them back hungry and defeated because with their power that is an easy thing to do?  Or will they trudge along in the hope that the lion won’t come to their door more than he already has; will they continue in failing to recall that the greatest fear of the elected is the massed will, and sense, of their constituents?

The political class often espouses ideas about economics and self-governance that may seem appealing in the abstract but which disintegrate upon being exposed to the fresh air.  These flights of rhetorical fancy are their primary tools for obtaining or continuing in power.  The bigger problems arise when idealistic concepts are given solid footing in legislation, or bureaucratic rule-making, or in court decisions, before their inadvertent effects can be assessed—often before they are even considered.  In this volume there is an attempt to discuss and explain some of the good and bad ideas of governance that have evolved over the centuries.

            While government is necessary, its role in the United States has expanded beyond the Founders' intentions and history’s prescriptions. Time has taught us that government is to arbitrate among the citizenry while not devolving to directing or controlling them, and to encourage both opportunity and discipline.  In order to be successful in this effort, our public actions (or restraint) must rest on a platform of relatively universal social comprehensions and agreements—the freedom to choose, the obligation to take responsibility for those choices and to perform concomitant duties, and the necessity of respecting one another’s rights.  We must understand that without an ability to trust


one another, in a societal sense, without a mostly uniform sharing of methods and means, and yes, values (which is not a code word here), no system of governance can be functional.

            Our intention is to distill from the political carnage that exists today the original design of the American version of representative democracy.  That system is founded in a written Constitution that protects the rights of the individual, ensures his liberty, and gently directs him toward his duties—that it is hoped will be assumed without need for public intervention.

            The books that comprise this colloquy contain core explanations, those first principles necessary to achieve what was intended beginning in 1776.  The goal is to see what can be accomplished in a real-world setting by looking beyond romantic political idealism.  We also consider the secondary and tertiary effects of public actions—better known as the law of unintended consequences—to evaluate everything that might occur on the way to our objective.

History has shown us repeatedly that freedom is the foundation upon which any society is best organized—mankind is too complex and too idiosyncratic to be governed in any detailed sense.  The human condition prohibits such regimentation save only on very basic levels.  Even at that level, organizing a free society is not easily achieved, for there is often a grand temptation in each of us to tell the next person what we’ve learned and then, with sometimes messianic fervor, to 
ensure they proceed in a manner of which we approve.  This tug between freedom and control is the core issue with which society must continually deal.

            My pursuit of square one, a habit more than a compulsion, has resulted in what is submitted here.  It is an attempt to put things in perspective, then in order.  Each synopsis in First Principles essentially self-selected its inclusion.  What social imperative came first as culture and governance developed, what elements were necessary before the next step could be taken, what negative consequences were experienced that had to be superseded before further progress could be achieved are the substance of what is presented here. 

Perhaps what this book offers will help the reader achieve a sense of understanding and satisfaction as to his or her place and methods and goals.  What I’ve noticed over time is that people who realize what they stand for are often willing to stand up as well.

                                                                                                Thomas N. Tripp

                                                                                                Wilson, Wyoming
                                                                                                March 2013


Back to Top