I Never Bought It, Anyway


The US Constitution is not a special document. It’s traditional for Americans to say something flattering about the great political geniuses who devised the US political system, but I don’t think they were so hot: after all, the country they built didn’t last 100 years before it fell apart in a vicious civil war. The democracy of the republic is a multi-levelled sham, first because something like 70% of the population (women and slaves) were disenfranchised, secondly because the franchise was mooted by the superimposed electoral college.

for-caine

“In case you need the paper”

Politically naive Americans, about half of the voting electorate (i.e: 17% of the population or thereabouts) seem to venerate the constitution, while simultaneously cheering on those who have promised to further gut its provisions. Who cares, anyway? It was always just a document enumerating the protections that the wealthy and powerful were expecting to enjoy – they have always ignored them, otherwise. It seems silly to be worrying about “cruel and unusual punishment” when prisoners are regularly subjected to social deprivation torture, or in more extreme cases like Gitmo forced feeding by having food pumped up their anus. But that’s little stuff – constitutional rights don’t mean much when cops can gun you down, lie about shooting you in the back and say you were running toward them, then get away with it. And the “rule of law” doesn’t mean much when the congress, who are supposed to govern when the country goes to war, writes blank checks without looking at them, and the executive branch deploys assassination squads of special forces all around the world with no oversight at all. The intelligence arms of the government surveil everyone, citizen or not, and the political class bleat helplessly about Russian hackers who fooled them into clicking on a rather obvious phishing email. Meanwhile, the media fawn like submissives, trading their integrity and their vocabulary in the name of “access” – it’s disgusting, it’s all disgusting.

The US oligarchs have selected a president modelled after W.C. Fields’ stage persona from “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.” Fields also penned the quip that defines the 2016 election for me: “She drove me to drink. That’s the one thing I’m indebted to her for.”

It’s not the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning. It’s just another helping of the endless grind. The only thing that changes is the dreams of progressives which spring anew, only to be dashed in due course. Aesop’s fable of the mice voting to bell the cat encapsulates all we ever need to know about the relationship of authoritarian power to the well-being of the people.

Happy inaugration 2017!!!

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war    – The Who

Comments

  1. destry says

    I pretty much agree with everything in this post except “a rather obvious phishing email”. Even bad phishing is only obvious to computer security personnel. The rest of civilization? Not so much.

  2. dobby says

    Some things people forget:

    There was much disagreement about the Constitution. Some founding fathers, like Patrick Henry, were extremely opposed to it. Henry would not even run for Congress because of the oath of office. Thomas Jefferson wanted it to be torn up every 19 years. Two states had not ratified the Constitution when it went into effect.

    The same founding fathers supported the Articles of Confederation, which came close to bankrupting the nation.

    Long before the Civil War there were moves by a number of states to leave the union.

  3. cartomancer says

    I’m not hugely familiar with US history. Has this fetishisation of the constitution document been a constant since it was put together, or was there some impetus for it later on (is it, perhaps, a post civil war phenomenon, of a piece with public holidays like Columbus Day, arising from attempts to provide unifying national symbols and patch over the decades of estrangement?)

    I wonder this because our own Magna Carta has a similar history. We’re far less invested in blowing our own constitutional trumpets these days (when we were Empiring it up with the best of them we were all about having the Mother of Parliaments and all that nonsense), but we do sometimes hold up Magna Carta as some kind of seminal foundation stone of parliamentary (and hence popular) power. The thing is, we only started doing that in the 1630s when the lawyer Sir Edmund Coke revived the document from a centuries-long obscurity in his attempts to make constitutional arguments against Charles I’s absolute rule. Our modern fetishising of the charter owes everything to civil war sensibilities and little to the sensibilities of the Barons’ Revolt. As well as glossing over the fact that almost nobody had heard of Magna Carta between 1300 and 1630, we also completely ignore the traditions of charter-writing and legalism from which the 1215 document sprang. Henry I issued a similar charter in 1100, binding himself to rule according to the laws and customs of England. But when Magna Carta became a battle standard for the Parliamentary cause it also became a magnificent creation ex nihilo that changed the world forever.

    Likewise, I get the impression that US constitutionophiles tend to forget the tradition of Enlightenment English political thought, Renaissance Florentine political thought and Classical Greek and Roman political thought that went into their beloved founding document (along with all the 18th century expediencies, compromises, prejudices and experiments).

  4. Dunc says

    cartomancer: The veneration of Magna Carta is also difficult to understand if you actually bother to read it…

  5. Jessie Harban says

    It seems silly to be worrying about “cruel and unusual punishment” when prisoners are regularly subjected to social deprivation torture

    The Constitution only forbids subjecting someone to punishment which is both cruel and unusual. If people are regularly subjected to torture, then it’s not “unusual” so it doesn’t matter how cruel it is.

    The only thing that changes is the dreams of progressives which spring anew, only to be dashed in due course.

    Don’t worry, there’s nothing Trump can do that most progressives won’t be OK with when a Democrat does it in 2024 or 2028. Because lesser evil.

    I first started reading blogs like these during the Bush era because I was completely floored by how the mainstream media treated W’s atrocities as if they were normal and it was nice to see progressives speaking up to inject an ounce of sanity. Then starting in 2008, many of those progressives started defending the Bush atrocities because now they were the Obama atrocities and if we didn’t accept them then a Republican like Trump might come in and make everything worse. The same people shouting that the Iraq war would be a disaster back when we had the chance to prevent it are now meekly stating that while we shouldn’t like the Iraq war, we should limit our opposition to muted criticisms of it all while working to give more power to the people responsible for it.

    The Bush years were tough but back then I was able to organize and fight and I had a movement of progressives to fight with. Now I can’t organize, I can’t fight, and I know most of those progressives only oppose Trump because he’s a Republican and would happily campaign for a Democrat who was just as bad.

    Lesser evilism is the ultimate short-sighted strategy; it treats every single choice as a single isolated incident and picks the best option under the circumstances with no regard for how it will effect future choices. Obama is a “lesser evil” than Romney— until you consider that Trump is a direct result of his failure. I’m not regretting my decision to vote for Stein in 2012 rather than back lesser-evil Romney, but it would at least be nice of some of the lesser evilists could acknowledge that for a great many people, Trump was the lesser evil.

  6. says

    Dunc@#3:
    The veneration of Magna Carta is also difficult to understand if you actually bother to read it…

    No fish weirs on the Thames!!!!

    (I may be mis-remembering. There was a game of Avalon Hill’s ‘Kingmaker’ we were playing back in 1976 or thereabouts, and one of the issues we decided to trump up was the revocation of the MC because of the fish weirs. It was a high-schooler’s view of politics, which nowadays is probably pretty accurate)

  7. says

    dobby@#1:
    There was much disagreement about the Constitution.

    Yes! And there still is! Apparently some people want to venerate it as holy writ while simultaneously arguing that “states’ rights” should prevail.

    I hate to say it but some Americans seem to think it’s kind of like the bible: inerrant and perfect. And, like the bible, the people who feel that way usually haven’t read it.

  8. cartomancer says

    Perhaps if the US constitution had more in it about fish weirs you wouldn’t be in this mess. Terrible thing for a country, unregulated fish weirs.

  9. says

    cartomancer@#2:
    Has this fetishisation of the constitution document been a constant since it was put together, or was there some impetus for it later on

    I don’t know of anyone who’s done a good treatment of the topic and I’m not sure I want to do the research (and I’m not sure how) (but now I’m thinking about it…) My guess would be that it’s a reaction to the civil rights movement and gun control, which happened at more or less the same time. Some reactionaries sought for and latched onto certain parts of it that could be seen as justifying their political agenda.

    Actually, come to think of it, there was an episode of BackStory Podcast where they touched on some of that: the 2nd amendment wasn’t considered a big deal until gun control came in, naturally. The 1st wasn’t a big deal either until the porn wars and censorship in the 70s. Most Americans didn’t care about free speech clearly, since the US had already passed plenty of laws abrogating it, such as the Sedition act of 1798.

  10. alkaloid says

    @cartomancer, #2

    “I’m not hugely familiar with US history. Has this fetishisation of the constitution document been a constant since it was put together, or was there some impetus for it later on (is it, perhaps, a post civil war phenomenon, of a piece with public holidays like Columbus Day, arising from attempts to provide unifying national symbols and patch over the decades of estrangement?)”

    That’s a good question. I’d say that no, it wasn’t a constant. Several prominent abolitionists were vehemently anticonstitutional for fairly obvious reasons (the constitution protected slavery in all sorts of ways in the antebellum period). I’d say that it really started taking off after World War I and Wilson gutted leftism in the United States, but ‘liberals’ really started buying into it after FD Roosevelt and decisions like Brown vs. Board of Education which began to end legalized, universal racist segregation in the United States.

    I liked this post. Perhaps the author might be interested in “The Frozen Republic” by Daniel Lazare, who wrote a lot against the constitution in recent/current times from a leftist perspective.

  11. Brian English says

    It’s been said before, but authoritarians love themselves some talisman to authoritarianise on.
    I’m sure there was some guys in Ancient Rome talking about more Ancient Rome and how some thing about the Senate was something and damn those effette Greek foreigners and their new fangled ways.
    Or it could be the bible being used to keep down the new fangled ways and bring back real men.
    Or the US constitution keeping real men armed against those effette liberals.

    Some people just love to hang on the a past that never existed to control the present and future.

  12. says

    Brian English@#10:
    It’s been said before, but authoritarians love themselves some talisman to authoritarianise on.

    It’s a dodge for getting around those obnoxious “why?” questions.
    “BECAUSE! THAT’S WHY!” Because it says so in the { constitution, bible, deck of cards against humanity }

    Some people just love to hang on the a past that never existed to control the present and future.

    It’s interesting you mention that because just the other day I was asking myself “what is a ‘conservative’?” It turns out that even conservatives don’t seem to know what they are conservativing about. But in the glorious past, conservatives, uh, something something didn’t have to answer pesky questions about “what is a conservative?”

    The reason I was trying to figure that out was because, if “the past is better” is conservativism, then at what point in the past? At some point in the past weren’t all conservatives progressives? “Damn you radical whippersnappers, we want to keep living in caves!! That newfangled agriculture stuff.. You’re just doing it so you can make beer!” I suspect that asking conservatives if they can tell you at what period their values were progressive – would be kind of like crossing the proton pack beams.

  13. says

    Jessie Harban@#4:
    The Constitution only forbids subjecting someone to punishment which is both cruel and unusual. If people are regularly subjected to torture, then it’s not “unusual” so it doesn’t matter how cruel it is.

    I can just as easily say that the constitution misspoke. The framers meant to say “cruel OR unusual” What are you some kind of constitutional literalist?

    Solitary is both cruel (social deprivation hurts) and unusual: not all prisoners are in solitary. If we want to play word-games. That’s the problem with these systems: they fall quickly to linguistic nihilism attacks.

    Don’t worry, there’s nothing Trump can do that most progressives won’t be OK with when a Democrat does it in 2024 or 2028. Because lesser evil.

    Yeah, I have been pretty depressed by how people reacted to Obama’s expansion of the police state. Because he was more articulate about it, I guess, it’s okay. Or something. Actually, drone-striking a US citizen (Al Awlaki) would be an impeachable offense, except for in this bizzaro world we live in. Authorizing the NSA to do unconstitutional data collection, likewise.

    Eh. It’s all irrelevant. The constitution is toilet paper (I won’t flush it because I’m on a septic)

    Lesser evilism is the ultimate short-sighted strategy

    It’s a predictable strategy, which means it’s always susceptible to game theory. When your
    strategy is transparent, you allow your opponent to manipulate your inputs, which means
    you give them control of your outputs.

  14. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The Constitution only forbids subjecting someone to punishment which is both cruel and unusual. If people are regularly subjected to torture, then it’s not “unusual” so it doesn’t matter how cruel it is.

    I don’t have the citations to support this, but I would wager that “cruel and unusual” meant roughly the same thing back then that it means today. Namely, the phrase is an idiomatic phrase. It’s a whole unit that has a particular meaning, which is separate from and distinct from the mere conjoining of “cruel” and “unusual”. For comparison, take the word “girlfriend”. The word has a particular meaning that is separate from the mere conjoining of “girl” and “friend”.

  15. Jessie Harban says

    Marcus Ranum:

    I can just as easily say that the constitution misspoke. The framers meant to say “cruel OR unusual” What are you some kind of constitutional literalist?

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    I don’t have the citations to support this, but I would wager that “cruel and unusual” meant roughly the same thing back then that it means today.

    I’m thinking I should have added a sarcasm tag to that comment. Poe’s Law and all that.

    @Marcus Ranum, 13:

    The constitution is toilet paper

    The Constitution is a tool. It has a use.

    Having a hammer doesn’t mean the nail will be driven in on its own if you can’t be bothered to do the work of swinging the thing. Having a hammer doesn’t guarantee that a given nail even can be driven in no matter how hard you try. If you want a nail driven in, you don’t technically need a hammer; you can use a rock (or even your own hands if you have the time). And a hammer in the hands of the wrong person can be, well, hazardous to your health. But if you want a nail driven in, it’s probably better to have a hammer than not.

    If we want to create a functioning democracy, the Constitution is a useful tool; it specifies separation of powers and guaranteed rights which anyone seeking any power must swear to uphold. It’s neither necessary nor sufficient to create a democracy and it probably needs at least eight major amendments before it’s halfway serviceable but it’s probably more useful than detrimental to the cause of creating a democracy, assuming we ever decide to actually work towards that goal.

    Out of curiosity, do you vote? You seem more cynical than me, and that’s saying something.

    It’s a predictable strategy, which means it’s always susceptible to game theory. When your strategy is transparent, you allow your opponent to manipulate your inputs, which means
    you give them control of your outputs.

    Game theory always runs into practical problems in the real world; if your strategy is predictable and transparent, I know exactly what inputs will yield the output I desire, but that doesn’t mean I can simply create those inputs.

    Which is why I’m far more pissed at the Democrats than the Republicans. Forcing us to choose between a despicably evil Republican, and a despicably evil Democrat requires both parties to independently choose to endorse evil. The Republicans would have done that anyway because it’s just what they do but the Democrats should have known better. I’m not sure how to describe the issue in game theory terms.

  16. says

    Jessie Harban@#15:
    Out of curiosity, do you vote? You seem more cynical than me, and that’s saying something.

    Since I live in what we thought was a swing state I voted against Trump by voting for the lesser evil.

    I’m not sure how to describe the issue in game theory terms.

    In game theory terms:
    – You are presented with two bowls of shit to eat, one has sriracha sauce on it.
    – Of course, you choose the one with sriracha sauce! Because: Sriracha!

  17. Jessie Harban says

    Since I live in what we thought was a swing state I voted against Trump by voting for the lesser evil.

    Is that because you’re hopeful enough to think it’d do some good or cynical enough to think the lesser evil was the best anyone will ever get?

    In game theory terms:
    – You are presented with two bowls of shit to eat, one has sriracha sauce on it.
    – Of course, you choose the one with sriracha sauce! Because: Sriracha!

    The point is that the bowls are presented by two different people; the one who presented the bowl without sriracha is just an asshole who was always going to give me a bowl of shit, while the bowl with sriracha was prepared by someone who knows what things taste good, which makes it that much more galling that they put the sriracha on a bowl of shit because they should damn well know better.

    I’m pretty sure game theory has already established the willingness of people to incur a cost to themselves just to deny a benefit to a cheater.

  18. Brian English says

    Because I’m an unimaginative hack, I’ll just post quotes which might be apposite.

    Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite. Though it is often claimed that the left stands for equality while the right stands for freedom, this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left. Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders. What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality, in other words, is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension, he sees a loss of his own freedom.

    Robin, Corey. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (pp. 7-8). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

  19. Brian English says

    [T]he threat of freedom’s extension looms large. If women and workers are provided with the economic resources to make independent choices, they will be free not to obey their husbands and employers. That is why Lawrence Mead, one of the leading intellectual opponents of the welfare state in the 1980s and 1990s, declared that the welfare recipient “must be made less free in certain senses rather than more.” For the conservative, equality portends more than a redistribution of resources, opportunities, and outcomes—though he certainly dislikes these, too. What equality ultimately means is a rotation in the seat of power. The conservative is not wrong

  20. John Morales says

    Jessie Harban @17 (to Marcus):

    In game theory terms:
    – You are presented with two bowls of shit to eat, one has sriracha sauce on it.
    – Of course, you choose the one with sriracha sauce! Because: Sriracha!

    The point is that the bowls are presented by two different people; the one who presented the bowl without sriracha is just an asshole who was always going to give me a bowl of shit, while the bowl with sriracha was prepared by someone who knows what things taste good, which makes it that much more galling that they put the sriracha on a bowl of shit because they should damn well know better.

    You really don’t get the shit sandwitch allusion, do ya?

    (I know; you’re an ideologue, not a pragmatist)

    I’m pretty sure game theory has already established the willingness of people to incur a cost to themselves just to deny a benefit to a cheater.

    And that’s not game theory — it’s psychology.

    (Sure, people will cut off their noses to spite their face. As you’ve advocated all along during the recent USA elections)

  21. cartomancer says

    Brian English, #19

    They try to hide it these days, but that was literally and unashamedly the argument that proponents of oligarchy used to make. Here’s a snippet of the earliest piece of prose literature in the Greek tradition – an anti-democratic pamphlet (once thought to be a work of Xenophon, now just called the “Old Oligarch”. written some time between 440 and 406 BC:

    “Then there is a point which some find extraordinary, that they everywhere assign more to the worst persons, to the poor, and to the popular types than to the good men: in this very point they will be found manifestly preserving their democracy. For the poor, the popular, and the base, inasmuch as they are well off and the likes of them are numerous, will increase the democracy; but if the wealthy, good men are well off, the men of the people create a strong opposition to themselves. And everywhere on earth the best element is opposed to democracy. For among the best people there is minimal wantonness and injustice but a maximum of scrupulous care for what is good, whereas among the people there is a maximum of ignorance, disorder, and wickedness; for poverty draws them rather to disgraceful actions, and because of a lack of money some men are uneducated and ignorant.”

  22. Brian English says

    @Cartomancer

    For among the best people there is minimal wantonness and injustice but a maximum of scrupulous care for what is good

    For values values of good.

    Plus ca change

    Such was the threat Edmund Burke saw … “The levellers,” he claimed, “only change and pervert the natural order of things.” The occupation of an hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule. By virtue of membership in a polity, Burke allowed, men had a great many rights—to the fruits of their labor, their inheritance, education, and more. But the one right he refused to concede to all men was that “share of power, authority, and direction” they might think they ought to have “in the management of the state.”

  23. says

    Aw, c’mon. It’s a taut little description of a pretty well thought out system of government! I’m pretty sure they cribbed the clever bits, but there’s no denying it’s a pretty tight bit of work for laying out a whole nation.

  24. komarov says

    Re: catromancer (#22):

    That was interesting, thanks. So all we have to do to get an honest and unabashed political statement is go back before the year zero. One thing, since I’m not so well-read*: Is “popular” meant in the modern sense (well-liked) or somethng more along the lines of ‘commoners’ or ‘plebs’?

    *The colloquial term is, I believe, ‘illiterate oaf’.

  25. Jessie Harban says

    @21, John Morales:

    You really don’t get the shit sandwitch allusion, do ya?

    Not offhand.

    (I know; you’re an ideologue, not a pragmatist)

    Seriously? This nonsense again? You know, I’m starting to think it might be a guilty conscience on your part— at least with respect to the collective “you” referring to the handful of individuals who keep accusing me of being an “ideologue.”

    In 2012, you voted for Obama knowing he’d kill millions of brown people. You convinced yourself that you didn’t have a choice— Romney would have been even worse.

    But when I say I voted for Stein, it shatters the lie. It doesn’t matter how polite I am about it; it doesn’t matter how I say it, it doesn’t matter what arguments I present— I voted for Stein, so my mere existence reminds you that you did have a choice about voting for Obama. You did have the option to deny your ballot’s endorsement to his atrocities. So you have to lash out and make me go away— you dismiss me as an “ideologue” and indignantly declare that if only I could see the complexities of the real world and the necessity of compromise, I would know that you didn’t have a choice about voting for Obama!

    What cliches it, though, is the mass scoffing at the trolley problem— many of the same people who declare that the 2012 election was a trolley problem in which pulling the lever (for Obama) was the only legitimate choice also declare that the trolley problem is an absurd hypothetical so disconnected from reality that it’s almost impossible to conceive of.

    Now, maybe none of that is true for you individually. Hell, maybe none of it is true for anyone. Still, I can’t help get the feeling; if you can think of any reason why I’m individually singled out as an “ideologue” for proposing a pragmatic solution to the far right’s stranglehold of the country by people who want to break it just as much as I do, feel free to share.

    And that’s not game theory — it’s psychology.

    It also touches on philosophy and morality as well. Pedantic nitpicking is pointless.

    The natural inclination of most people to punish cheaters at cost to themselves was discovered through the Ultimatum Game, and it’s something game theory needs to account for in order to have real-world applicability— a choice is “rational” if it gets you closer to your goals, and outside of completely hypothetical thought experiments, people often have goals other than “win the game.”

    Which, incidentally, is exactly the point I was making about the “lesser evil” strategy— if you always vote for the less evil of the two candidates which are most likely to win, you will technically get the “best” result for each election individually but end up with a disastrous result overall because the results of each election determine the choices you’ll face in the next one. Would you have voted for Obama in 2012 if you had known it would mean Trump taking power in 2016?

    Sure, people will cut off their noses to spite their face.

    Do you seriously not understand the importance of not letting cheaters profit?

    As you’ve advocated all along during the recent USA elections

    Seriously, this again?

    It was defensible before the election results came in, but now that I’ve been completely vindicated you might want to cut it out.

    Before the election, you could legitimately argue: “Trump would be a disaster and Clinton’s the only one who could stop him!” Now that we know Clinton can’t stop him, what do you have left? If we’d all backed Stein instead of Clinton, would Trump double-win and get to serve a single eight year term? Would he win and then morph into Mega-Trump and usher in the apocalypse? Your plan failed— if we’d gone with my plan, the worst that could’ve happened is that we’d be exactly where we are now.

  26. cartomancer says

    Komarov, #26

    The word in Greek is “demotikos”, which means something along the likes of “of the people”. So our Old Oligarch seems to be thinking of those who put the interests of the masses first as a matter of political principle. Some of whom might actually be wealthier than most (perhaps he is thinking of those wealthy aristocrats like Cleisthenes, Ephialtes and Pericles who championed democratic reform). Hence the threefold condemnation of the poor (regular people), the popular (those who think regular people’s interests matter too) and the base (anyone else I don’t like).

  27. John Morales says

    Jessie Harban:

    Which, incidentally, is exactly the point I was making about the “lesser evil” strategy— if you always vote for the less evil of the two candidates which are most likely to win, you will technically get the “best” result for each election individually but end up with a disastrous result overall because the results of each election determine the choices you’ll face in the next one. Would you have voted for Obama in 2012 if you had known it would mean Trump taking power in 2016?

    Remarkable. You write as if voting were the entirety (rather than the culmination) of the electoral cycle.

    I note your assertion that getting the “best” result for each election is disastrous overall because that will result in increasingly worse options in the future is essentially claiming that the “best” result is not actually the best result.

    Your assertion that had Romney been elected in 2012 Trump would not have gotten the Presidency seems rather speculative to me, but clearly your sentiment is that would have been the best (not the “best”) outcome.

    (!)

    It was defensible before the election results came in, but now that I’ve been completely vindicated you might want to cut it out.

    You imagine you’ve been vindicated? Wow.

    (There is one sense in which your satisfaction has merit: your message was a constant appeal to readers not to vote for Clinton, and Clinton did lose the election. You must find it gratifying that the “best” outcome for this election was not achieved!)

  28. komarov says

    Re: Cartomancer (#26):

    Again, thanks. Evidently the Republicans and right-wingers in general are at the very forefront, the cutting edge of modern political thought (Est. 400 BC). Needless to say, I am Shocked And Surprised.

  29. jrkrideau says

    The US constitution is an 18C document, that has not been amended since then

    If you really think 21st Century government works the same as a slave-owning 18C government then good luck.

  30. alkaloid says

    @Jessie Harban, #28

    I might’ve said this before but if I haven’t I just wanted to say that I think that you’re doing a wonderful job.

  31. alkaloid says

    #25, @Andrew Molitor:

    “Aw, c’mon. It’s a taut little description of a pretty well thought out system of government! I’m pretty sure they cribbed the clever bits, but there’s no denying it’s a pretty tight bit of work for laying out a whole nation.”

    Actually: no, it isn’t. Between what’s actually written in the text and how the United States historically developed:

    1) Americans (especially if you’re not white and/or not rich) have had very little meaningful control and only have had political input somewhat respected when the system, by its own nature, crashed so badly that the government was finally forced to make some concessions to us. The rest of the time, not much unlike now, our better welfare is completely ignored or even treated as a sick joke.

    2) The American system of government with the entire combination of factors present here (strong bicameralism, a strong executive branch, strong judicial review, and extreme federalism) is _not_ repeated anywhere else in the world. Particular factors might exist elsewhere like having a president or a bicameral system (although usually one house, and the popularly elected one at that is dominant) but not all of them at once.

    3) The system is remarkably inflexible and remarkably immunized against meaningful public input-when we want anything that is even remotely a leftist demand and lends itself very easily to both feedback loops in which people with power lock out people without power, and the creation of essentially antidemocratic interest groups that while they may change places between ‘parties’ the antidemocratic features that create them are never seriously addressed.

    While it isn’t true to say that the constitution has never been amended very few of the amendments have actually changed the underlying structures of the constitution that make it undemocratic. Out of those few that have they are typically filtered through so many of the antidemocratic mechanisms of the constitution (ie, states’ rights, local control as a weapon against the franchise, lack of direct relevant input, high barriers against extensions of rights, especially economic for the working class) that in practice they’re frequently nullified or even reversed.

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