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Part 1, Birth by Janice Stensrude Part 2, Present by W. Keith Rabe
published Uptown Express, June/July 1996
A transcript of the interview with John Hagelin is available for your reading (just click on his name). The transcript of the Mike Tompkins interview was not available. Information was also used from a transcript of a 15 December 1995 interview of John Hagelin on Glen Mitchell's The Evening Talk Show broadcast in Dallas, Texas.
In March, 1992, college professor Mike Tompkins was aboard a British Air jet watching a news clip about current happenings in Great Britain. "I remember very distinctly about five minutes of it was devoted to this upstart new political party making waves, called the Natural Law Party. A group of people there had been fed up with the choice between the Conservatives and the Labor Party and just decided to base a party on the idea of solutions for better government," Tompkins says.
For several weeks Tompkins was in England watching the election drama unfold. The new Natural Law Party failed to win any seats in Parliament, but Tompkins read an article in the Independent, written by one of Britain's leading conservative political thinkers, indicating that the effort had indeed had impact. The article noted that in some sense the Natural Law Party was the true winner of the British election, because they were the only ones who introduced the idea of consciousness and that there was a change in political consciousness happening in the country. "That showed me that this idea was very much in tune, not just with what I felt, but with what a lot of keen, acute political observers felt," says Tompkins.
Upon his return to his home in Fairfield, Iowa, Tompkins conveyed his enthusiasm about what had happened in England, and a small group of "mostly professionals and business people" formed the Natural Law Party (NLP) in April, 1992.
NLP's 1996 presidential candidate, physics professor John Hagelin, discusses the meaning of the party's choice of names: "The founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence talked about founding the country on natural law, on the laws of nature and nature's good. They had a healthy respect for the intelligence of nature. And I, as a physicist--I'm not a lawyer, but you could say I'm a natural lawyer--my expertise is nature's government, the laws of nature, how nature coordinates and governs this complex universe. In our own complex ecosystem, with 6 million species mutually interacting and nourishing each other, that organizational intelligence of nature is brilliant, it's unsurpassed. The Natural Law Party would like to apply some of nature's supreme organizational confidence to the realm of human government. The founding fathers felt that if the citizens of America, through education, could conduct their own lives better and in greater harmony with natural law, with fewer mistakes and problems leading to ill health and environmental damage and problems for society, then the role of the federal government could be small and efficient. So the theme of self-government through natural law is a very American idea."
"We're not stingy with our programs," declares Hagelin. "In 1992 we gave our platform to candidates Bush and Clinton. Clinton, at least, read our platform and started to expound and quote extensively from it beginning with the second presidential debate. As far as I could tell, Bush never read the document, because he never said anything subsequently that indicated to me that he was aware of any of our programs. Unfortunately, Clinton was better at expounding than he was at implementing, and after his inauguration, none of our recommendations and proven programs were implemented. It became clear to us that neither Republicans nor Democrats were willing to stop and take a fresh, deep look at innovative new solutions to problems that are not yielding to the conventional approaches of more prisons, more police, more punishment. So our new attitude for 1996 is: 'If you can't join 'em, beat 'em.' Grow our own political party, run a thousand candidates on the ballots in 50 states, take our ideas directly to the people, give them something or someone to vote for."
W. Keith Rabe
Another third party? Actually, it's become more and more popular these days. Parties that have sought placement on various state ballots this year include Ross Perot's Reform Party, Libertarian, Green, American Independent, Environmentalist, Constitution, Humanist, Patriot, Puritan, Real American, The Down With Lawyers Party (this writer's personal favorite), The Rock and Roll Party (runner-up), and The Natural Law Party (NLP), the one that seems to be gaining real momentum, most likely because of the way it distinguishes itself.
The problem politically, at least historically, with such third parties is that they do not offer a broad-based philosophy that addresses a wide range of society's ills, but instead concentrate on single issues. This in itself is frustrating to voters. Voters are also angered and frustrated with the political process itself and simply disgusted with the way our political leaders conduct themselves. It is here that the NLP and its candidates distinguish themselves with a refreshing new approach.
On the matter of ineffective government, Tompkins, political scientist and the party's vice-presidential candidate: "The Cold War is over, but has anything changed in our approach to government? It's still crisis management--throwing money at full-blown problems. Crime has taken over from communism as the public enemy, and we should make war on it. Likewise in healthcare. Our system is disease care, not healthcare. Government is worthy of the name only if it has the ability to prevent problems; otherwise, government itself is a problem. The Natural Law Party is introducing a new approach based on this new definition--not crisis management, but truly preventive government."
Hagelin says that the party's nonadversarial approach and solution-oriented policies can actually heal some of the rancor currently going on in our government. When he proposed inclusion of documented, proven-effective, preventive healthcare measures to congressional leaders, "Gingrich, fiscal conservative, embraced it because it saved money. Liberals, like Senator Tom Harken, embraced it because it improved the quality of health. So the Natural Law Party solutions are very unifying. They get to the heart of the health crisis, which is poor health, shifting our disease-care program toward a healthcare program."
Another dimension of the disgust with politics, politicians, and the political process is the shift in emphasis from meaningful discussion of the issues to pithy quotes, soundbites, and attack ads. The NLP recognizes the need of the party to address these issues. "Ours is a difficult message to reduce to soundbites," Hagelin says, "but we've got to try." As for attack ads, the NLP candidates say they abhor the practice and simply refuse to participate, instead taking what they refer to as "the moral highroad."
Even in its first year in 1992, the NLP managed to get on the ballot in 32 states, field some 125 candidates in federal, state, and local elections, be granted "national party" status by the federal election commission, and qualify its presidential candidate, Hagelin, for matching funds. In 1994, the NLP ran 100 candidates in 21 states on a platform of "conflict-free politics" and "prevention-oriented government." (They have since added a third hyphenated plank, "scientifically-proven solutions.")
In the 1994 races, NLP candidates averaged 4 percent of the votes, with some local candidates garnering as much as 20 percent of the vote. Danny Corn's 5-percent showing in Oklahoma placed him among the top vote-getters for independents running for the U.S. Senate. The party's goal in 1996 is winning seats. they plan to have a thousand candidates running on the 1996 ballot (including 100 in Texas), and they are well on track.
In the ballot-access drive in California, the party registered 137,000 new members and has been well on the way to gaining access to the Texas ballot. Hagelin appears to believe their time has come. He says, "Remember, Perot pulled 20 million votes in 1992 at a time when less than a third of the American public was interested in third-party alternatives."Natural Law and the Acid Test
So how does the Natural Law Party propose to solve all these recalcitrant problems, and how can that be achieved in a conflict-free environment? Through the application of something called "natural law," or the orderly principles--the laws of nature--that govern the functioning of nature everywhere, from atoms to ecosystems to galaxies.
"Nature is not ridden by problems, its economy is perfect, and it maintains balance everywhere," Tompkins says. "Nature's law cannot be overruled. When we depart from its balance, nature's corrections can be dramatic. Much, if not all, the activity of our government--most of our tax dollars--is spent compensating for our collective violations of natural law. If we could shape our manmade government to resemble the government of nature, we'd have less punishment, lower taxes, more freedom, and much greater satisfaction for everyone."
The whole approach revolves around prevention. So, for example, if we can dramatically cut healthcare costs through diet change, exercise, stress reduction (and the savings are dramatic, over 50 percent according to studies cited by the NLP), then we can revitalize the economy with freed resources, lower taxes, a more healthy, creative population.
The NLP is also big on meditation, touting it as at least a partial solution for everything from crime to healthcare to promoting a sustainable agriculture. This is based on over 500 well-documented, scientifically sound studies, conducted at over 200 universities and by other research groups showing that meditation works for the very problems for which the party advocates them as a partial solution.
This really is the acid test used by the NLP: Does it stand the test of being publishable as scientific research in peer-reviewed journals? And not: Does it fit within an ideology? Hagelin explains it this way, as it relates to healthcare: The "language we've inserted into the health debate says, pretty much word for word, that coverage will be extended to prevention-oriented healthcare programs including, but not limited to, diet, exercise, stress management, and smoking cessation, provided such programs have been shown in published scientific research in peer-reviewed journals to prevent disease, promote health, and to pay for itself to reduce medical costs. So it's not really up to the Congress anymore or any committee within Medicare or Medicaid to say yes or no. It's up to the scientific community. And there are fairly strict guidelines for what these publications, peer-reviewed journals, need. So I have more confidence in that objective standard than in a committee of Congress that may be heavily absorbed by PAC money, and particularly influenced against preventive or alternative medicine."
Another objective of the NLP is to restore power to the electorate by greatly reducing the power of special interests. Hagelin is blunt on this point, saying, "The Natural Law Party would do what other political parties have proposed but not done, and that's pull the rug out from underneath the special interests, simply by eliminating their ability to contribute financially to the re-election campaigns of your congressmen."
Under the present system, when a congressperson has to raise money to conduct a successful re-election campaign, he or she doesn't look back home to the voters for financial support. He or she looks instead to Washington, specifically to the special interest groups, who, through political action committees (PACs), contribute 90 percent of their funds to incumbents. As a result, government, being the sum of the individuals who comprise government, has become increasingly responsive and accountable to special interests and increasingly less so to the people back home. The Natural Law Party claims they will reverse that, the way our founding fathers meant it to be.Who Are These Guys & What Planet Are They From?
Both Hagelin and Tompkins teach at Maharishi International University, founded by the Yogi himself, in Fairfield, Iowa. Hagelin directs the Ph.D. program in theoretical physics, Tompkin's field is political science. The NLP's emphasis on meditation, and transcendental meditation (TM) in particular, is consequently not coincidental either. But again, the party emphasizes the wide scientific documentary support for the efficacy of TM and other stress-reduction techniques, and not as an ideological solution. Though the NLP was founded by a small group of TM practitioners, the vast majority of the NLP's supporters and candidates are not TM practitioners. The appeal of their platform to a concerned citizenry has drawn participation from a diverse body of disenchanted voters.
As to the issues, where the party stands is derived from the philosophical and scientific approach they have taken. The party platform is two inches thick, and growing, largely because it is replete with documentation, citations of documentary sources, and scientific support for each position. Hagelin encourages anyone and everyone, especially the competition, to get a copy.
Here's a brief summary of some of the NLP's positions:
Healthcare. The party believes that healthcare costs can be cut in half, or more, by simple preventive healthcare programs. The research orientation would be shifted more in favor of prevention-oriented solutions, rather than disease management, and Medicare and Medicaid would also fund preventive health treatment. There is also an emphasis on education, so that healthcare consumers know their options.
Agriculture. Keyed to the income of the farmer, rather than subsidy programs tied to the price of the crop, the NLP would encourage insurance programs that reward, rather than penalize, resource-conserving, non-polluting practices. The NLP platform again emphasizes education to promote healthier dietary practices by the consumer, thereby shifting demand in the direction of health-promoting foods.
Crime. Based on scientific evidence, the party concludes that building more prisons does not reduce crime, incarceration is cost prohibitive, and more police on the streets does not discourage crime. Instead, the NLP proposes that the cause of crime is "the psychological and physiological devastation wrought by constant, traumatic stress." TM is frequently cited as a scientifically documented solution, particularly in high-risk populations and individuals such as prison inmates, drug offenders, even the itinerant homeless. The NLP's literature also maintains that large groups (1 percent or so of the population) practicing TM can reduce social stress and violence in the society at large, thereby reducing crime.
Education. Hagelin, who has worked with inner-city schools, says there are simple solutions to some basic problems in our educational system. One is to improve the nutritional quality of the school lunches, since, for many of the students, this is the only square meal they receive during the day. "Teachers have reported a very significant improvement in attention span and alertness among students who are fed better," he says. The NLP would also like to introduce quiet time, or personal meditation time, in the school twice a day and introduce structured meditation to students who want to learn it. Accordingly, the party advocates transforming the Department of Education to the Department of Educational Excellence, funding a dozen model schools where curriculum improvements of all kinds can be tested and facilitating educators and parents in receiving the information gained in these projects.
Abortion. The NLP favors a right to choose, but would offer educational programs as the long-term answer answer to the "abortion epidemic." "Not just sex education," says Hagelin, "but educational programs that develop far-sighted thinking and behavior, allowing people to create fewer problems for themselves that don't have to be corrected surgically or in other ways."
The Economy and Taxes. The NLP believes that the most powerful economic policy for a government to uplift the economy is to cut taxes deeply and responsibly, without adding to the budget deficit. Hagelin declares, "We're the only political party that can realistically offer significantly lower taxes on the basis of cost-effective solutions to America's problems. We propose a low flat tax that would start at 19 percent in 1997, with a $25,500 floor below which you don't pay tax, which would drop to 10 percent by 2001."