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March 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm #2197ashvinParticipant
But if large institutions like national government or multinational corporations would not disappear, then an equally large constitution is required to restrain them and limit their powers of abuse.
To me, that statement sounds like the classic case of positive feedbacks that end up nowhere good for the collective. You are correct that this dynamic is the one that naturally evolves, as problems of complexity are always confronted with more complexity, until those complex solutions no longer work. You may think that a simple document with simply-worded protections is not a “complex solution”, but it is when considering how those words must be interpreted and enforced in a vast array of different situations.
Good Gravity, Ash, you’re being arrogant and self-righteous to dismiss an entire cultural heritage which was once the last stand against the tyranny of lesser laws.
Look, none of what I’m saying is anything new and is certainly not borne from anything so mundane and simple as my arrogance or hatred of American constitutional democracy. My views are built on hundreds of years of much more brilliant and insightful minds than my own, including Proudhon, Engels, Marx, and a bunch of others that came after them (including the subject of this article). What I’m arguing is only very “radical” to a small subset of people who were taught in Western public schools, including me for the better [or worse] portion of my life.
I understand the infatuation with our founding fathers and the constitutional framework they produced. I have been through the wording and interpretation of the document more times than I’d like to remember, including the first three articles for the three branches of government and the BoR, as well as subsequent amendments. Sure, there has been a vast amount of intellectual firepower wrapped up inside that document, and I may very well find myself relying on one of its protections to save my ass in the future.
That doesn’t change the fundamental criticism I have of appeals to a fundamentally flawed system to guide us through the current predicaments that humanity faces. Don’t confuse centuries of well-reasoned theory and supporting evidence for my personal arrogance or my disdain for some document. I am not the only one with harsh criticisms of this “cultural heritage” that you have nearly deified as the greatest legal framework ever conceived by man, and certainly not the brightest.
I understand you here, you expect all political boundaries to shift inwards or collapse, but if the totalitarian control system doesn’t die off from lack of credit or energy or will make unjust laws to feed itself by unconstitutional justifications, an idealistic frame of reference from a less barbarous age might be useful to navigate towards.
Again, I feel like everything you are arguing here stems from the initial presumption that the US Constitution is a superior framework for governance and protection of individual rights than anything that has come before it, which leads you to claim that 18th century colonial America was a “less barbarous age”. Perhaps by some metrics it was, but certainly not by others.
Do you now feel that the Americans are better poised to fight off totalitarian oppression than the Dutch, due to our superior document, if only we could muster the will power to use it properly? Given your frequent posts referencing the US Constitution, prosecutions for treason, etc. in response to many different issues, I imagine you do believe that. Well, I don’t. And that has always been the disagreement between you and I. Nothing has changed.March 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm #2198Reverse EngineerMember
I stand withAshvin on this topic.
Whatever the value of the concepts are in the Constitution, they are limited by the practical application of those concepts and by the structures developed to “enforce” the rules.
Be it the Magna Carta or the Declaration of independence or the Bill of Rights, the attempt to encode equity in society is always undermined by the fact that those writing the encoding laws are really mostly trying to protect themselves from Tyranny, but the protections themselves are Tyrannical in their own way.
A pure Democracy can be as Tyrannical as a Dictator, since obviously if most people are poor they are going to vote to strip the rich of their wealth, right? The IDEAL Goobemint should balance the interests of all people in the society, but clearly the Constitution as constructed does not do that, and it never has done that. As soon as you create large structures like legislatures and courts and an Executive, you create a dynamic in which any one or all of these structures can become compromised. “Checks and Balances” is a canard, over time these structures do not check agaisnt each other, rather they begin to work in synergy to create the very same type of tyranny that an individual Monarch might create, but worse because it is Timeless under the legal structure. At least with a Despot you can send him to the Great Beyond and hopefully get a better person running the show; if you create a Tyrannical SYSTEM, you can’t ever get rid of it simly by changing the players in the system. The Constitution does not really PROTECT against tyranny even in its pure form, it GUARANTEES Tyranny of the system it codifies.
You wil never achieve an equitable society by adhering to the Constitution. Large3 Goobemint structures will never be responsive to the needs of the people they represent, they are always controlled by a small cadre of people, power seekers who gain control over such structures. The bigger it gets, the worse this problem is.
Overall, Human Society probably cannot support any Goobermint structure greater than 10,000 Human Souls and remain equitable in any significant manner. Because of that, as the energy nececessary to hold such large Goobermint structures disappears, we will see a break up of the One to the Many over time. The FSofA and in fact all Nation States are the construct of accessing ever more energy over time to combat the entropy driving these societies apart. Once this energy is not available to access, the society sizes and Goobermint structures will have to shrink accordingly. Once shrunk so, it is not a Constitution that binds the people together, but their dependence on each other to survive.April 1, 2012 at 10:50 pm #2224AnonymousGuest
Good arguments, I’ll incorporate them to improve the consistency of my position, or they might reveal the untenable inconsistency of said position.
Yes, it does trouble me that the self-evidence of human equality did not extend to the native americans, slaves, or women, that the framers were mostly slaveholders who redefined and demarcated mankind according to the exploitability of certain groups. But even a total hypocrite may speak true words. That they did not believe or follow what they wrote doesn’t make it false.
I believe that they defined themselves to be created at least equally to the King of England, rejecting the rule of the crown, not necessarily meaning that their slaves were created equally to their masters.
The DoI was mostly a declaration for sovereignty and self-determination against the monarchy and the bank of england.
I felt that Ash rashly crumpled up that DoI because of the grandiose formulation of those notions; ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident’.
You’re not a redcoat, are you Ash?
But the French constitution mentions similar ideas, maybe less clumsily; liberty, equality and fraternity are only possible if people are equal in that way, most constitutions reference equality before the law.
Its better than writing nothing of equality for the task of rejecting the moral authority of the crown, and its certainly better than writing the opposite; ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; men are created unequal, that slavery is the natural state, that slaves are justly subservient to their masters, that the strong should harm the weak in accordance with their ability to do so,’
Look at that long list of usurpations and abuses by the king, of course they would reference the idea that the king is not God in their declaration against him, this idea that rich white landowners might be created equal in moral status to the crown served them well.
My mother is english, she taught me to be proud of the Magna Carta as the most important contribution to legal civilization made by the english, stating the notion that the king is not God and limiting divine rule by rational political discourse in the King’s court. The Declaration of Independence might have served a similar purpose for the founders.
“That doesn’t change the fundamental criticism I have of appeals to a fundamentally flawed system to guide us through the current predicaments that humanity faces.”
True, because the planetary predicament for humanity is a multivariate function with only a few parts interfacing with law and legislation.
Yet the appeals to constitutionality are mostly just direct appeals to the rule of law. The rule of law doesn’t always equal justice, sometimes its opposed to justice, but in select cases, the constitution of a people by itself is enough to define why certain laws are just or unjust, why certain actions of government are legal or criminal.
In that way, tis cruel to remove from the american people their moral compass and legal frame of reference, to defame its foundational ducument while only the constitution defines that the POTUS is guilty of treason [if he was a citizen at least], no other legal document defines the precise nature of the administrations crimes, constituting an absolute boundary to the rule of law which separates legal barbarism from civilization.
Sometimes its better to have a flawed device like this than nothing at all, at least while the federal government survives. But then said government also survives because of it, feeding off the people by the powers malvested in the body politic.
But what is the core of that flawed constitutional system?
A constitution must define a citizenry as its principle actor, none of its values would apply to anyone else. This is also why a negative identity excluding and persecuting non-citizens as non-persons may follow, or a positive political identity could be established instead, if the citizenry is equally proportioned to its moral actorship within shared humanity, not only within shared nationality.
That’s what I got from the opening article; that the historical identity of american citizenship may have created more aspects of negative political identity for dehumanising outsiders and distancing non-citizens, than elements of positive identity made to respect others.
Perhaps, if a constitutional system is hoplessly flawed, it would be the conception of citizenship therein that carries the greatest burden of moral failure.
The french sociologist Alain Touraine accounts for three fundamental aspects of democracy in his book ‘What is Democracy?’ ; unconditional acknowledgement of human rights and civil rights, equilateral political representability and equality before the law of all citizens, and the nexus of political citizenship, allowing all humans as moral actors to become citizens of equal value. I haven’t found a better summation of democracy.
I believe it is the concept of citizenship itself which is the core of a viable democracy and the rule of law, the citizen is the principle moral actor of the body politic defined within a sovereign political boundary, only the morality of the citizenry produces a moral politic, so that the people and their system of governance may attain shared aspects of a moral memory and cultural heritage.
But no constitutional democracy may formulate an absolute conception of citizenship, because it is a dynamic variable in political ideology; its moral dimensions must vary according to value-systems alligned in political groups or parties. An absolute conception of citizenship would constrict the political spectrum and create a political monopoly on morality, such is done in communist constitutions.
When a citizenry is established as a moral actor in the state, any constitution, however well written, cannot make people act more moral through their political identity than their natural proclivities would allow. The point of the opening article allows for the idea that the moral proclivities of the american people are no more developed than any other people, or that their historical identity of citizenship may have unleashed more immoral forces by resource conquest than foreseen by the framers, manifesting in the forces of empire and statism, not lessened by the constitution but strenghtened by it.
This may be true, but there’s another side to it. Ill get around to that.
“Do you now feel that the Americans are better poised to fight off totalitarian oppression than the Dutch, due to our superior document, if only we could muster the will power to use it properly?””
Partially yes, because the US one is post-revolutionary and denounces tyranny and absolute rule in a way that most monarchist constitutions do not employ. You could more easily misinterpret our con. so that our rights are derived from the grace of the monarch instead of the unalienable humanity of citizens.
But then we have a multiparty system which I think is always better than a two party system for negotiating compromise, since a two party system is only one party away from dictatorship. Yet all our big parties are as centralist and corporatist as the Demopublicans.
I read the french constitution today, its very nice, they call themselves a democratic socialist republic, but most of the good stuff is in there. At least they’re not a monarchy, after that bout of nastyness, and will not allow any constitutional amendments that would undo the Republic, and their constitutional court has awesome powers of reason, apparently.
Some cons. do improve procedurally upon the US con, but its the spirit of the thing that appeals, for defining and opposing legal barbarism within the administration right now.
Also, Reverse engineer makes solid points, ill rethink my position some more, whether the political boundary is scale invariant for moral conductivity.April 4, 2012 at 12:17 am #2271ashvinParticipant
Why is that our public schools mention European thinkers like Locke, Tocqueville and others when discussing the American political/legal system, but never mention even one of the steady stream of thinkers that have been highly critical of those systems over the last few centuries? Shouldn’t we at least get a different perspective when learning about these things, so we can decide for ourselves?
I was not referring to the hypocrisy of the founding fathers earlier, although there was plenty of that, but rather the fundamental flaws of the system they designed with the aid of ideas from the Enlightenment thinkers (which, coincidentally, was very favorable towards property owners such as themselves). Jefferson is actually a notable exception, as he was an anti-federalist and anti-industrialist, so I would hold the DoI in higher regard than the US Constitution. Not that it matters, because the DoI does not constitute enforceable law in the US, and generally is not even used to help interpret the Constitution.
The problem, first and foremost, is that we are socialized to think in binary terms. Either the Magna Carta, subsequent common law and constitutional frameworks are “good” or “bad”. Either the “Enlightenment” age was a huge step forward for humanity, or it was complete rubbish. Personally, I try to take a more nuanced approach and recognize the benefits and the costs of those developments at different scales; the intent, the ideals, the realities, etc.
I have been convinced by the thinkers who cannot be mentioned in public schools that the broad political economic paradigm that has taken root in the West since the Enlightenment-industrial age has imposed very severe costs on humanity as a collective species, even when ignoring the environmental issues. Maybe it’s just because the schools fail to provide this perspective, and I find that very shady behavior. I’d like to think it’s also because the substance of those criticisms just make too much sense, and fit in with everything else I know about complex systems.
So, no, I don’t agree that the US Constitutional system is necessarily or obviously better than previous frameworks, or even that democratic and “rational” ideals borne of the Enlightenment at large scales are better than those of Divine rule by the Monarch. It’s just not that simple… ever.
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