Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Factual Politics (1)

After posting on my blog a long while ago on the question Does Free Will Matter? a bizarre anarchist going by the local moniker Benjamin replied in elaborate length denouncing the very concept of all government whatever, insisting that if we got rid of it (all of it), everyone would live happily ever after in perfect harmony. Absurd. But nevertheless. He was insistent. Delusionally, he claimed he had evidence on his side, but he never cites any reliable sources or confirmable facts, just conservative propaganda and hyperbolic armchair assertions and fantasies.

That went so far off the original topic my final reply to him follows here (in several ensuing parts). I'm not even responding to half the insane things he said or claimed, and yet it's still intolerably long for most readers. But anyone interested in political philosophy as a whole, or my political philosophy in particular, will find in the following a useful toolkit for constructing a sound political philosophy from the ground up (whether they follow mine or not), by seeing where crazies like Benjamin go wrong, and avoiding what they do by doing (methodologically) exactly the opposite.


But first I'll catch you up to speed on my basic political philosophy (which you'll find fully spelled out in Part VII of Sense and Goodness without God). It can be summed up as: (1) politics is about the regulation of power; (2) the purpose of government is to organize a collective enterprise for the maintenance of a civil society (in which all can effectively pursue their own happiness); (3) the moderate is the only rational political animal (conservatives and liberals each being right about some things and wrong about most things); (4) every political policy should come with objective outcome measures and be thoroughly subject to empirical test; and (5) evidence always trumps ideology. I have also created a basic reading list, the very essentials, to get up to speed on where any debate in politics must begin. In other words that's what I think you need to know even to make a start at being informed.

Now to my reply. Those who want to read everything Benjamin and I said (I shall only be quoting snippets) can start back where that thread began and read on from there. But be warned it goes on forever. (Even more than the following does!) It is in response to all that transpired there that I take up here.
I've been slowly pecking at this for eight months (!), so that's why there is so much. It has accumulated over time. But I've now gotten it all into an intelligible order, and the whole cycle makes for a continuous and complete argument in the end. The recurring theme is this: none of us can form sound opinions about political matters unless we actually take the trouble to get the correct facts, understand their context, and then reason from both with valid logic.

So here we go...

Dear Benjamin, you're not coming across as wholly sane here. These rabidly long, irrational, fact-challenged posts ignore most of what I said, commit the same fallacies I called out before, and declare illogical ideas as solutions to existing problems. I see no value in discussing this with you. You are not interested in checking your facts or even reporting them correctly when you do. Most of what you keep repeating I've already answered or refuted in Part VII of Sense and Goodness without God. So I write the following mostly for the benefit of others. I'm skeptical you are sane enough to benefit from it yourself. But who knows. Lightning strikes occasionally.

I'll continue in adjoining posts with a selection of examples of why it is a waste of time for us to continue this discussion, which are at the same time examples of what others (who are sane) can learn from it...


Part I
Part II
Part III

23 comments:

B. Dewhirst said...

When I read that you were going to be dismantling an anarchist's political ideas I was worried. In the end, I'm relieved.

Benjamin does not seem terribly well read on 19th or early 20th century anarchism. Benjamin Tucker he ain't.

I do think that the way you've characterized your position as a moderate is misleading at best. I don't believe either 'conservative' or 'liberal' politicians behave in accordance with their stated policies at the present time for either title to have much meaning. (Supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans often... fall short. Supposedly liberal politicians were alarmingly eager to blame 'the professional left' for screwing up). Objective measures of the distribution of wealth in the US at the present time (GINI coefficient, etc.) suggest to me alternate divisions... Elected conservatives and liberals are essentially on the same side, as can be seen from the points on which there is broad, often silent, consensus.

I don't have the time to fully flesh out a better anarchist argument, but I can at least outline one. (Hopefully, I'll at least convince you a self-described anarchist can plan a vaguely cohesive argument.)

Legitimate criticisms of our present governmental system would begin from your premises, and argue that what we have in the United States isn't a government, or isn't a very good one. (Having read Chapter 7, I know you weren't exactly thrilled with it as of that writing, and I assume your impression has not improved.)

Examples in support of that claim might include an alleged disproportionate influence on politics by a minority of wealthy (powerful) interests, alleged gerrymandering and other forms of electoral fraud, suspension of core principles (habeas corpus, judicial torture), as well as actions on the part of the United States Government which don't seem designed to regulate power or maintain civil society (possibly including foreign wars of choice, security theater taking the place of genuine efforts to improve security, etc.)

Ultimately, the rule-by-sortition you describe in Chapter 7 is a lot closer to the (left) anarchist ideal than to unfettered free market capitalism. (I, for one, don't see any archons in it...) Proudhon, Goldman, Kropotkin, et al. weren't arguing for disorder or chaos.

The only successful modern experiments with the sort of political anarchism I am in favor of were Anarchist Spain (only parts of Spain, only for about a year, not able to stand up to Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin at the same time mostly on its own-- see Orwell's Homage to Catalonia for a first hand account) and historical Israeli Kibbutzim* (which you could justifiably argue hasn't been shown to scale). Mondragon and Gore-tex are big companies rather than governments, but both have very flat hierarchies bordering on anarchism.

* though illustrative, I'm not suggesting I'd want to live there

Serious left anarchists believe that in order to build the sort of government (perhaps postgovernment) envisioned would take decades of preparation, organization, and education... and existing governments are not exactly interested in sitting around and letting them organize and educate.

Ultimately, I think we're both with Mark Twain-- better a French Revolution than rule by French monarchs, nobles, and priests.

Benjamin said...

Dr Carrier, before I read let me say that I enjoy these kinds of discussions, but I think I did in fact handle a lot of it in way that isn't optimal. I'll take an honest read into everything you have to say and I will respond. You've declared your response to be final, and that's fine. All the more reason for me to reply with much more vigor and professionalism. However, let me emphasize that my goal isn't to 'win' like before.

I'm kind of intrigued by the time you take responding to a complete stranger. My impression of you was that you're a historian who engages with big trumpeters of ideas - not casual readers of your work like myself. I wonder if you feel like your followers will see your lack of a reply and infer that you can't defend your ideas and so therefore they're questionable.

Benjamin said...

B. Dewhirst, you're right. I'm a baby anarchist you can say.

Lord Victor 'Bones' Bishington said...

Benjamin said:

"I'm kind of intrigued by the time you take responding to a complete stranger. My impression of you was that you're a historian who engages with big trumpeters of ideas - not casual readers of your work like myself."

From my limited experience on Dr. Carrier's blog, I've gotten the total opposite impression; in that, there is virtually only a hand full of comments that Dr. Carrier hasn't responded to.

*Shrugs*

Benjamin said...

Lord Victor, you wish to suggest that my impression is wrong without being confrontational about it, but I have no issue with being wrong about my impression. I just find Richard intriguing. How many authors will actually spend months picking apart what a critic says on their blog? Especially one they consider nuts? My views aren't even representative of any dominant public group.

I don't think his motives are what he says either. His story is that it will benefit others (and he probably believes it). But I have different opinions.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Benjamin,

I'm not sure exactly what "motivated" Richard to engage in such a lengthy dialogue with you, either.

I once say a cartoon of a guy at his computer, with his wife trying to usher hime to bed and his reply to her was, "I can't go to bed... Someone on the internet is WRONG!!" Maybe that sheds some light on this dialogue?

BTW, what sort of anarchist are you? Do you truly believe in no govt. or are you one of those quasi-anarchists who believes that there should be large private companies (DROs) doing what the govt does now?

I think both are a little nutty, but I am curious about which view you hold.

Benjamin said...

AlGBusted, that cartoon is funny but it can't really shed light. It's just making fun of those urges that some people have and is not inherently empathetic.

For Richard it's probably very complicated and mixed with other ideas in his psychology, but I suspect that essentially he has subconsciously integrated the idea that responding to critics is in and of itself somehow virtuous, and so he has the emotional urgency to do it even if logically the payoff for the investment is little to none. I could understand if I had a following or something. But I'm just some young dude new to the scene with rudimentary influences to work with.

I feel like my views are easily misconstrued, and maybe that's because in the heat of the moment I don't take the time to be clear. I intend to make an honest endeavor to be in my next round of responses which probably won't appear for quite a while.

I'm an anarcho-capitalist. I suppose by your impression I'm a quasi-anarchist. But that doesn't click well with my understanding of what an anarchist simply is: someone who opposes the existence of governments. Other institutions (like DROs) may perform replacement functions but as long as they don't compel people to pay for them by initiating force in a territorial region, they aren't governments. And so anyone in favor of these is still an anarchist in the fullest sense of the term.

Such a scheme would be nutty without certain assumptions in place. The main one for me is that a culture upholds the nonaggression principle. When that happens, institutions form in accordance with it, and a society flourishes - and there actually are historical examples of this. And I admit there are also historical examples of anarchy that you definitely would not want to find yourself in.

Since our culture is still primitive in its understanding of human psychology, the nonaggression priciple is only upheld half-assedly sort of speak. This is why I don't advocate the government being overthrown by anarchist groups, but its emergent disintegration through the transformation of a culture through ideas.

I can understand why my ideas seem nutty to you though.

Jacob Aliet said...

Richard,
Just some 3 typos:
1. "Government is therefore the necessity of organizing..."
2. "it did not involve any spending whatever"
3. "all at exactly the same monthly outlaw as ever"

Otherwise, nice debate. I think Benjamin is a poor representative of anarchist ideology.
Looking forward to reading your book on HJ Methodology.
Jacob

Richard Carrier said...

Benjamin said... I wonder if you feel like your followers will see your lack of a reply and infer that you can't defend your ideas and so therefore they're questionable.

No, rather I found the issues your arguments and claims raised were sufficiently interesting, and not fully dealt with in my work so far, to deserve exposition (the same thinking behind my elaborating on other ideas here before, e.g. Epistemological End Game or The Ontology of Time). And the arguments and claims you made were typical enough to use this as an opportunity for educating people in how not to develop their political philosophy.

All of which I deem especially important now given the way things have gone politically these last ten years, which very definitely matters to me and mine. How you vote can literally kill people or ruin millions of lives. It is therefore of the utmost moral responsibility to have a responsibly developed political philosophy.

But I must say the sobriety of your reply so far has me rethinking my opinion of you. Usually cranks fly off their rocker at this point. Your armchair psychology is silly. But the mere fact that you are self-conscious enough to pause and dial back indicates you are exceptional, and that gives me hope.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... I don't believe either 'conservative' or 'liberal' politicians behave in accordance with their stated policies at the present time for either title to have much meaning.

You may be delighted to know that I say exactly the same thing (Sense and Goodness without God pp. 371-72). Arguing with a conservative is a wholly different thing in practice from arguing with conservative philosophy. But the latter always has merit no matter how many conservatives make a habit of betraying their own principles (the more so as I deem politicians are self-selected to be liars pretending at an ideology, and therefore they do not represent the actual voters who believe in those ideologies; an incongruity I wish voters would one day notice and do something about).

What we have in the United States isn't a government, or isn't a very good one.

The first statement is semantically false (our government meets any conventional definition of a government, no matter what one's opinion of it may be or how lousy it may be). But you are right I agree the second statement is substantially true.

But on a scale of best to worst, ours is nowhere near the worst, and as the whole lower half of that scale would consist of various near complete absences of rights or democracy, I wouldn't put ours near the middle either, just not near the top by any means. Compare our government with Mexico's, for example: by any informed comparison, we're vastly better off, no matter how screwed up our system is, and yet Mexicans by and large have human rights and democratically elect their leaders and legislators.

Everything you go on to list as the faults of our present government I completely agree with. With one exception: having worked in tactics, I can assure you "security theater taking the place of genuine efforts to improve security" is more of a journalist's take on what is in fact sound strategy (I'll revisit that in a later comment).

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... The rule-by-sortition you describe in [Part] 7 [of Sense and Goodness without God] is a lot closer to the (left) anarchist ideal than to unfettered free market capitalism.

I don't recognize that as anarchy, however. Anarchy means absence of rule. Rule by sortition is by definition the presence of rule. A completely unfettered free market would be the absence of rule, and thus anarchy. But obviously no system could ever remain in such a state long enough to be enjoyed by anyone. Some strongman would just move in and set up some system of rule. Thus only by establishing a system of rule that is strong enough to prevent the imposition of strongmen can any system remain stable (especially a "free market" in any practical sense), which is why anarchy is not a viable political theory.

The sort of political anarchism I am in favor of were Anarchist Spain (only parts of Spain, only for about a year, not able to stand up to Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin...

Exactly my point. No such system is sustainable. Therefore no such system is viable.

Only a system that can stand up to a Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc. (and that means both externally and internally) is viable.

Israeli Kibbutzim (a) Not anarchies. And (b) completely dependent on the Israeli government (and, incidentally, U.S. military power) even to exist. Thus, not a relevant example, even were the model desirable to live in. You may as well cite Amish country. Sure, if you want that life, by all means live there, but don't pretend you are getting that life for free: we're buying it for you with cops, armies, pollution laws, etc., in other words the actual U.S. government (federal, state, and municipal) is necessary for Amish communities even to exist. That's why there is no Amish community in Zimbabwe (or anything the like).

Ditto "Mondragon and Gore-tex": they could not exist but for the governments that have their back and protect their economic and human rights and interests. Thus they are not valid political models. They may work fine for social communities within a political system, but we want to know what covering political system to institute, and Mondragon and Gore-tex simply wouldn't cut it as systems to protect our rights from all available threats.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... ...security theater taking the place of genuine efforts to improve security...

Security theater is actually a valid military strategy (it's one of the oldest in the book; you'll find versions of it in Sun Tzu, and in any modern strategy manual).

The purpose of security theater is to produce stress-inducing uncertainty in any would-be terrorist attempting to pass, and that stress is readable by trained security professionals, and increases the frequency of errors (such as erratic or inconsistent behavior) that can also be detected, and reduces confidence in making tries (and thus reduces the number of tries). All real, desirable effects.

Terrorists faced with this system do not know whether or to what extent they may be scrutinized, and because there is no profiling, they have no way to reduce their risk of being selected (by, let's say, looking like a nice old white lady, or what have you), thus leaving them with no strategic move to make, which increases their stress further. Even their strategic planners will more often decide (than they would otherwise) that the approach is too risky to devote assets to (which is true, even knowing full well the odds of being scrutinized are low), and thus divert assets elsewhere (usually to other countries, which is tragic for them, but ultimately, sad to say, our second-best objective).

Security theater is thus a very cost-effective way to reduce a threat (in contrast with, for example, fully screening every single traveller, which would cost a hundred times as much for very little real gain; or, conversely, having no security theater at all). Security theater has been so effective, in fact, that no one has even tried bombing the security pass (an obvious target that would produce as many casualties as downing a plane). That proves terrorists are not substantially rational, but then if they were, they wouldn't be terrorists.

Security theater has also not been imposed "in place of" genuine (i.e. other) improvements in security. Many irrational decisions were made in the Bush era (their attempt to Patriot Act total access to all emails and phonecalls in the country is a vast waste of resources that can't possibly produce gains worth the enormous expense of processing that data, much less running down the leads it generates), and political paralysis (now the result of an irrational refusal to spend any money, even when we really need to) has prevented or slowed rational moves (such as improvements in no fly lists and profiling procedures).

But it's not all disappointment. One major and important improvement has been the active enhancement of diplomatic ties to foreign intelligence groups (which has actually stopped most acts of terrorism on U.S. soil--which have been more numerous than the sensationally lame attempts that made news coverage), and the (finally) rational move to actually develop new security technologies and test them (in a nation known for its rapid innovation, the drag in that industry has been shocking). Projects finally launched at the turn of this century are now reaching field test phase, and will probably be in place within five years (e.g. muon scanners, facility-wide electronic nose networks, etc.). The backscatter x-ray is one such development now at implementation phase that has made news recently (as social issues it raises are addressed), but it will increasingly become a standard weapon in our security system.

B. Dewhirst said...

If I had been rigorously applying your conventions regarding the definitions of words for use while discussing philosophy, I would have substituted something like 'leftist governmental systems involving the minimum hierarchy and minimum application of coercive force.' Lgsitmhamacf-ists would describe themselves as opposed to rulers, rather than rules. Perhaps, Proudon's ancient Greek needed some work.

Lgsitmhamacf-ists, in general, have not had much luck (or interest) in persuading dictionary writers to include a more nuanced definition. They have had somewhat better luck with encyclopedias, however. (e.g., Kropotkin wrote the article on anarchism for the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the entry in Wikipedia is pretty good.)

Lgsitmhamacf-ists have had more influence on the world stage than is immediately apparent, influencing feminism, the gay rights movement, the anti-war momvement and anticolonialism to various extents.

Sun Tsu was big on applying force judiciously and on not fighting long wars... while he might approve of the idea of security theater, I'm less certain he would approve of our implementation of it. I'm quite certain he, you, and I don't entirely approve of our ongoing military stance.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... Sun Tsu was big on applying force judiciously and on not fighting long wars...while he might approve of the idea of security theater, I'm less certain he would approve of our implementation of it. I'm quite certain he, you, and I don't entirely approve of our ongoing military stance.

Of course. But those are two different things. Just because our foreign policy is stupid doesn't mean our airport security is useless.

The single most effective thing we could do as far as increasing our security against Islamic terrorists (and I've said this on my blog before) is require all American corporations working in foreign nations to obey American labor laws and distribute the equivalent of their American-soil tax rate toward local community improvement initiatives (e.g. infrastructure development, schools, medicine, reliable access to clean food and water, etc.) rather than dumping the equivalent sums into the pockets of local oligarchies. The single greatest threat to our national security has been and remains our corporations' abuse of peoples and their lands, and the resulting hatred our corporations' greed and callousness has thus caused to destitute regions. They are literally creating terrorists.

People who think that sounds like liberal whining or conspiracy mongering simply haven't read any foreign newspaper, and don't know what is actually happening in regions like Nigeria or Saudi Arabia, and how much money and resources Americans are taking from those countries (and kicking back to their anarcho-fascist elites) while giving essentially nothing back to starving and oppressed populations, who do not fail to notice what a colossal dick move that is coming from the so-called Land of the Free. The vast scale of resentment this generates produces a dividend of violent lunatics. Dial back the dickery and we'd dial back the resentment which would cause a directly proportional reduction in violent lunatics gunning for us.

I agree that's the path forward. But until American voters get their heads out of their asses, we need to hold the wall as best we can. Security theater is just one weapon we have for that.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst said... If I had been rigorously applying your conventions regarding the definitions of words for use while discussing philosophy, I would have substituted something like 'leftist governmental systems involving the minimum hierarchy and minimum application of coercive force.' Lgsitmhamacf-ists would describe themselves as opposed to rulers, rather than rules.

But rules have to be enforced. And enforcement requires rulers.

Moreover, hierarchy-free decisions regarding what rules to enforce leads to mob rule which leads to deprivation of individual rights. The U.S. Constitution is a good example of placing a hierarchy in place to limit what the majority vote can do (as well as what the elected "rulers" can do), with the checks and balances of the three branches (those who decide what the rules will be are separated from those who decide how to interpret those rules and whether they conform to the decided constitutional limits who are in turn separated from those who enforce the rules, probably a necessary hierarchical structure in any successful system) and the enforced difficulty of changing the Constitution (the people can't just "decide" you have no rights, they have hoops to jump through, and rulers in place to require them to do so).

Any time you deal with the real problems of implementation and sustainability you always end up with some complex hierarchy. Therefore minimalist hierarchy either becomes nonviable, or just a trivial way of describing a refined version of the system we already have. Which is called a "constitutional democracy," not anarchy.

B. Dewhirst said...

According to the closest dictionary to hand (merriam-webster.com/ ), a ruler is one who rules in the sense of a sovereign. Under the Constitution, the President is not supposed to be a sovereign authority.

We both agree that the Senate should ideally not be filled by the patriarchs of wealthy families, and have a dim view of large companies owning their own pet congresspeople. Those are rulers. (Apologies if my description of the selection of Roman senators is ahistorical. Even if correct for one point-in-time, I'm sure it isn't correct for others.)

In contrast, jurist-legislators are (would be) public servants. Congresspeople are supposed to be public servants as well. One isn't supposed to be able to point to someone in the US government and say 'he is the ruler of the United States.' (You can say, however, that X is a legislator, Y is a judge in the highest court of the land, Z is the supreme commander of the armed forces and is in charge of the various executive branch agencies...)

At present, apparently I can be kidnapped while abroad, tortured into a confession in a friendly dictatorship, arrested before I re-enter the United States, and locked up indefinitely without charge or trial. If found innocent at trial, I can be locked up afterwards... and both electable parties in the US are implicitly and/or explicitly okay with this.

Gerrymandering is also pretty awful at this point, as are approval ratings for all branches of government and for corporations.

As far as the Constitution goes, the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended is pretty clear, but I don't see it as particularly relevant to our present situation.

I'm not interested in persuading you that Lgsitmhamacf-ism is correct, I simply want to make sure you are aware of the distinction. You say it is unproven. You're right. While the system you advocate (sortition-democracy) was proven thousands of years ago, it hasn't been proven to work for 21st century nation states. (I'm not sure 18th century American Constitutional Democracy has been shown to work with 21st century capitalism, either.)

While I'm fine with sortition-democracy, I can't support the leap from that to our Constitutional Democracy (in theory) given what has happened to it in practice.

Richard Carrier said...

Word Waffles

B. Dewhirst said... a ruler is one who rules in the sense of a sovereign.

That's uselessly circular. What then is a "sovereign" if it's supposed to be distinct from some other kind of governor? If all that "Lgsitmhamacf-ists would describe themselves as" is as being "opposed to kings" then there is no difference between them and any other American citizen of any political party whatever. There is nothing "anarchist" about opposing kings. Because "democrats" also oppose kings. Ditto any other definition of "sovereign" you devise. So there is no ground to be gained with word games here.

We both agree that the Senate should ideally not be filled by the patriarchs of wealthy families, and have a dim view of large companies owning their own pet congresspeople.

Yes, you and I agree on that, although do note that the Founding Fathers probably did think the Senate should ideally be filled by the patriarchs of wealthy families, and likely designed the institution with that in mind. Which would be an instance of our validly questioning the wisdom of the Founders, particularly in light of present society, which is so radically different from any they knew or could even imagine. Hence my sortition proposal.

Those are rulers.

They are not sovereigns. So now you are changing your definition of ruler again.

And again, saying you are against rich white legacy males populating one half of the legislature does not make you an anarchist. Because many a non-anarchist voices exactly the same position.

Apologies if my description of the selection of Roman senators is ahistorical.

It's close enough. Access to the Roman Senate was essentially a function of being a Roman citizen of a certain confirmed wealth (one million sesterces of property, traditionally) who had been elected a quaestor (kind of like a treasurer). Even when elections were free, this amounted to the same situation we have now: only rich people got in, and only people of established families (since only they could command enough votes to prevail in an election). Later, under the Empire, they were just appointed by the emperor, which is very different from their still having to achieve public approval. Even when great wealth remains a requirement, there is still a huge difference between being chosen by the people, and being chosen by a de facto king.

Of course I still think a reasonable system of sortition would be better. But I don't conflate elected rich people with appointed rich people. And neither should you. The fault in the elected case lies with the voters, not the "rulers." Thus abolishing "rulers" will have no useful benefit; whereas voters acting responsibly would have all the benefit we would need. Therefore we ought to stump for the latter.

Richard Carrier said...

Drop the Myths

At present, apparently I can be kidnapped while abroad, tortured into a confession in a friendly dictatorship, arrested before I re-enter the United States, and locked up indefinitely without charge or trial. If found innocent at trial, I can be locked up afterwards... and both electable parties in the US are implicitly and/or explicitly okay with this.

No, that isn't true (unless you are not an American?). None of the above has ever happened to any American citizen. And non-citizens are not parties to our social contract. Insofar as it has happened to non-citizens, some of those cases are fully legitimate (e.g. enemy combatants do have to be detained without trial: they are akin to POWs) and others are simply a matter of replacing worse government with better, and are therefore not relevant to the validity of anarchy as an option.

I would caution you against believing any tale you hear, however. Some claims of torture, for example, are fabricated. Anyway, we've been over this before (you might recall here and here). The current status is that Congress is blocking Obama's efforts to close Gitmo. In other words, the people whom voters elected are supporting these injustices. Those same voters would support those same injustices whether anarchy prevailed instead or not. In fact, history suggests they would increase the injustices, if all the hierarchical barriers were removed that our Constitution put in place. Therefore the problems here will never be solved by any kind of anarchy. They will only be exacerbated. Therefore in this case yet again we need better government, not less government.

As far as the Constitution goes, the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended is pretty clear, but I don't see it as particularly relevant to our present situation.

The Constitution says (Article One, Section 9) "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it." A writ of habeas corpus is the right of any American citizen to petition for the release of any prisoner. It is not the right to obtain the release of any prisoner. This is often not understood. It merely means anyone can ask a court to inquire into the legality or legitimacy of anyone else's imprisonment. So far this right remains fully in effect and enforced, despite many attempts by the Republican Bush-era congress to end or limit it. Which in fact proves the greater stability and sustainability of a constitutional democracy, over the mob rule of direct democracy.

Gerrymandering is also pretty awful at this point, as are approval ratings for all branches of government and for corporations.

And yet, as in California, we ended gerrymandering by public vote. That's the only solution, to that and all other problems you list: better government, not less government.

Richard Carrier said...

Perfecting Constitutional Democracy

While the system you advocate (sortition-democracy) was proven thousands of years ago, it hasn't been proven to work for 21st century nation states. (I'm not sure 18th century American Constitutional Democracy has been shown to work with 21st century capitalism, either.)

I concur with the latter remarks, but the former is questionable. The system of Athenian sortition "worked" only if you ignore how it still produced the Athenian military imperialism that ultimately destroyed the entire nation (hence, again, anarchy will not solve national criminality, it will just make it easier), and how it was completely incapable of repelling the invasion of the autocrat Alexander, and had endless difficulty fending off various coups (hence, again, anarchy is unsustainable because it cannot effectively defend itself from enemies foreign or domestic). Arguably the Athenian system simply wasn't stable or sustainable. That is not a proof of concept but rather the reverse.

My suggested system of sortition in no way resembles the Athenian. First, it operates in conjunction with the three-branch balance of powers (the Founders were right to take Polybius' advice on this). Second, it is representative, not direct democracy (the Athenian system was direct: any citizen could vote on legislation, they just had to show up; my system restricts voting to a small representative sample of citizens, and to citizens with a minimum of college education and age requirements). My argument that it would be an improvement is based on a straightforward comparison with the present legislative system: my system has every element of the present one except the voting and wealth requirements, which are demonstrably unjust (voters vote incompetently and wealth should have nothing to do with the matter), which it replaces with random sampling, which is statistically guaranteed to put a balance of better people in office (since all groups will be proportionally represented, by gender, race, political party, and every other demographic, and none of the representatives will have been bribed to enter or keep office, and the vast majority will not have financial empires to protect, and yet all members will be college educated citizens of the same requisite age as now).

While I'm fine with sortition-democracy, I can't support the leap from that to our Constitutional Democracy (in theory) given what has happened to it in practice.

That's a non sequitur. You have no better alternative to propose. Therefore it makes no sense to oppose the best available form of government merely because it still has defects. Since no system of government will eliminate those defects (without replacing them with defects that are equal or worse), the only rational option is to support what remains. And that is constitutional democracy. The question then should become how we can move toward the best constitutional democracy (which can be a gradual process, it doesn't have to be instantaneous).

In other words, once we see that there is nothing better to go with than a constitutional democracy, all we have left to ask is how we can achieve better government, not less of it. Except, of course, when we can prove less is indeed better, which is often the case, but is certainly not always the case. As history proves: the comparison of our political history with Athens' is sufficiently informative.

B. Dewhirst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Dewhirst said...

We apparently have serious differences of opinion where evidence are concerned, and so cannot fruitfully discuss politics. As such, I will not be replying further in this thread. (edited to add: I believe you are misidentifying who said what in the earlier thread.)

psychadelicfuse81 said...

I think that anarcho-capitalism is a depraved social theory which can only lead to dystopia and a world deprived of solidarity, egalitarianism, compassion and cooperation. We the people as a whole would suffer unimaginably in a world dictated solely by the profit motive.

I as an anarchist I am extremely skeptical of the claims by government to justify its existence, but I am even more skeptical of free enterprise and unfettered capitalism.

A society run from the bottom up by the participants would be a more ideal world to live in.

I am thinking of a society along the lines of the Paris Commune or what was established after the Spanish Revolutions of the early 20th century.

I am not claiming in any way that this alternative will be of a utopian sort. I think a libertarian socialist society governed by direct democracy (rather then representative democracy) and workers councils will have concrete problems of its own which need to be worked out. But such is the nature of a more free society.

Of course I am still learning and one day I could find that all my views are completely and irremediably wrong. Until then, the revolution will not be televised!

B. Dewhirst said...

Hi psychadelicfuse81.

For your information, the host is concerned with what you can prove based upon evidence. You should assume that he's arguing in good faith, and that (unless otherwise noted, here or in his book), he is using the 'common dictionary English' meaning of words. If you plan to get into a serious debate (with the intent of changing his opinion), I'd suggest defining your terms for him very carefully.

(He and I apparently can't agree on sources for contemporary political events, which is why I've backed out of discussion with him.)