Enabling Patriotism

Allusions to the Weimar Republic's twilight can easily be abused in our current political situation, but let's remember why people started using them in the first place. The Nazis did not scrap the Weimar constitution, they merely added to it. They added parts in contradiction to the spirit of the earlier parts, but technically still legal. And the dark cloud that gathered over Germany did it slowly over several years.

What the Patriot Act does has so far been validated by the judicial system as legal, but it's clearly against the spirit of our piece of founding paper. And what its apologists say are analogous to what proponents of the German government's centralization of powers said. Example par excellence:

The war on terror can't wait for more debate, Republicans said.

“Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead,” Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., told the Senate.

If he even knows it himself, and we have no reason to believe that he really does, he'd like you to ignore the fact that the odds of a terrorist attack in Kentucky are infinitesimally small, and only slightly greater in other areas. If only anyone would ever tell Jim Bunning that life does not mean much when you are a slave.

I'll take my chances as a free man.

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While I tend to agree with

While I tend to agree with you that the PATRIOT act is against the spirit of the consitution, we should remember how our rights to freedom of speech and privacy were won. The latter was never in the consitution and the former wasn't, for all intents and purposes, for 150 years. Hate democracy all you want, but we have these rights not because of the wisdom of a bunch of dinosaurs, but because of the popular struggle this century that won them. Organizations like the ACLU and the NAACP and SNCC were responsbile for achieving these rights through popular democratic struggle. These things will change when we relax the pressure on our elected representatives to uphold them.

One of the great propaganda achievments has been to convince people that we didn't/don't win these rights, but that they're just given to us by some benevolent god. It's because of this that we simply sit on our thumbs wondering about the behavior of certain representatives and recalling the civil rights movement as something that just struck the fancy of LBJ. Why do we have a right to privacy that the PATRIOT act violates; why is it even controversial? Because people like you and me fought for it and believed in it 40 years ago.

Democracy works- or it doesn't- because of you and I.

We have these freedoms

We have these freedoms because appointed judges, unaccountable to voters, have struck down laws that infringe upon them---laws passed by democratically elected legislatures, and signed by democratically elected executives.

Judges don't come up with

Judges don't come up with these ideas on their own. Legal movements are funded, new ideas are put forth which the lawyers can draw from, and society reacts in a certain way to judgements. For all your anti-state sentiment you believe that it was blind benevolence of unaccountable political leaders who gave you the right to privacy? I don't know why you aren't more of a fascist then if you believe in that sort of magic.

If you're interested in seriously discussing the matter, pick an issue or a case and we can discuss how the right came about.

Matt, what the people want

Matt, what the people want is rarely more freedom. Of course, politicians rarely want more freedom either.

Matt: Judges don’t come up

Matt:
Judges don’t come up with these ideas on their own. Legal movements are funded, new ideas are put forth which the lawyers can draw from, and society reacts in a certain way to judgements.

You're right, of course, and I agree that the ACLU and similar organizations played an important role in the process. My point is that there's nothing democratic about special interest groups lobbying unelected judges to overturn laws passed by democratically elected legislatures.

For all your anti-state sentiment you believe that it was blind benevolence of unaccountable political leaders who gave you the right to privacy?

Ultimately, yes. Judges are free to rule as they choose, and even the inccreasingly feeble pretense they make of finding justifications for their rulings in the Constitution is strictly a matter of convention. Various interest groups and their lawyers can try to sway their rulings one way or another, but ultimately, when the Supreme Court overturns an infringement on civil liberties, it's because at least five of its members want to.

I don’t know why you aren’t more of a fascist then if you believe in that sort of magic.

Try to stick to words you understand. You'll make more sense that way.

ziiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

ziiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

Brandon: My point is that

Brandon: My point is that there's nothing democratic about special interest groups lobbying unelected judges to overturn laws passed by democratically elected legislatures.

This argument presupposes two things: (1) that how "democratic" a constitution is depends purely on the procedural question of who passes the law, and not on any substantive questions about what spheres of sovereignty and authority the laws that are made give to individual ordinary people; and (2) that having laws passed by a select legislature is a democratic procedure.

But why accept either claim? "Democracy" means the people ruling themselves, not the people choosing who rules. (The Greeks, who knew something about democracy, had a word for a system on which the people got together every so often to pick a ruler for the polis. But they didn't call it "democracy;" they called it "tyranny.") There's a good argument to be made that laws produced by elective oligarchies deserve no special respect as any more "democratic" than the reasoned rulings of judges; and there's another good argument to be made that democracy simply does not exist, anyway, to the degree that laws (however they were made) compromise the substantive political equality between ordinary people and government officials (by, for example, trashing civil liberties and treating people as if they are permitted to live their lives only at the pleasure of the Authorities).

Freedom in America died

Freedom in America died decades ago. Everything since then has been technicalities.

Roy W. Wright: Freedom in

Roy W. Wright: Freedom in America died decades ago.

"Decades ago" millions of people in the United States lived under conditions of government-enforced apartheid.

For freedom to have "died," it first had to be alive. And when was that?

Good point, that. Now we

Good point, that. Now we live under government-enforced "diversity." But yes, you make a good point. Minorities used to be much less free than whites. Now we're all fairly equally unfree.

Rad Geek, From "the people

Rad Geek,

From "the people ruling themselves" we could favorably read "each man/woman ruling him/herself," but this idea is something of a fantasy. The unavoidably common interpretation of democracy is "the whole body of people ruling the whole body," and this can only really be done as it's done now, by picking some people democratically who make decisions undemocratically. It might be a leap in the strictly logical sense to take our Congress as an example of democracy in action, but in the practical sense it's what democracy produces.

Randall McElroy: From "the

Randall McElroy: From "the people ruling themselves" we could favorably read "each man/woman ruling him/herself," but this idea is something of a fantasy.

I'm not sure what you mean. That this doesn't currently exist, or that it's fantastic to think that it could? Of course it doesn't currently exist (the least invasive states in the world are mostly elective oligarchies). But I think it's hardly fantasy to think that it could; as a libertarian, it's the political system that I aim at fully and completely realizing. What about you?

That said, while I happen to think that libertarianism, and indeed anarchism, are implicit in democratic values, that's not the point I was making.

Randall McElroy: The unavoidably common interpretation of democracy is "the whole body of people ruling the whole body," and this can only really be done as it's done now, by picking some people democratically who make decisions undemocratically.

What you're suggesting, then, is that democracy is for all intents and purposes impossible, not that democracy is expressed through elective oligarchy. Elective oligarchies are closer to democratic values than appointed ones, and some methods of electing them closer to democratic values than others, but as long as they hold exclusive or supreme legislative authority you just haven't got a democracy at all, but rather something else.

That said, I have no idea where you're getting the idea that elective oligarchy is the closest approach to democracy possible. There have been lots of examples of more directly democratic political systems than the U.S. style of oligarchy (classical era Athens, contemporary Switzerland). Since actuality entails possibility, I conclude that there really are ways that democratic governance can be done other than picking rulers to make the decisions for you.

This also doesn't touch on the second issue, viz. that democracy is not a purely procedural notion, but that substantive political equality between government officials and citizens is a necessary component of democracy. If that's so, then knocking down laws that violate that substantive equality, no matter how those laws were enacted, and no matter how they were knocked down, has to be considered a promotion of democracy, not an undermining of it.

Rad Geek, Each man ruling

Rad Geek,

Each man ruling his himself is what we're both for, and it may be that we're just throwing semantics at each other, but this means we're not for democracy. What I'm calling democracy, the people as a group ruling the people as a group, and anarchy, each man ruling himself, are both possible interpretations of your broader definition of democracy. What I meant to say earlier was that while you're looking on the bright side—calling true democracy what I call anarchy—what everybody else means when they say democracy is the other one. And leaving aside the problem of proof by induction, that one will always lead to elective oligarchy or worse.

I grant that other historical examples may be closer to what you're calling democracy than our current political position has, but while we're fantasizing about our possible future, let's go the full nine.

I hope that clears my position up. I'm open for further comment.

Radgeek did a pretty good

Radgeek did a pretty good job, but I'll answer too in hopes that I'll have a chorus of non-contributors who'll write "ziiing" whenever I skirt around a point in favor of an insult.

You’re right, of course, and I agree that the ACLU and similar organizations played an important role in the process. My point is that there’s nothing democratic about special interest groups lobbying unelected judges to overturn laws passed by democratically elected legislatures.

mobilized groups of the populace are not special interest groups. Special interest groups are groups which attain their influence on the basis of money-power, not popular power. In the news people pushing for change (the way democracy works) are called "special interests" and small bands of moneyed corporations are called "the national interest." That doesn't mean we should believe it though. Sometimes a situation like the one you describe is anti-democratic, and sometimes it's the essence of democracy- we can pick a case if you like. You can't argue this generally, because the supreme court has done a lot of different things.

Various interest groups and their lawyers can try to sway their rulings one way or another, but ultimately, when the Supreme Court overturns an infringement on civil liberties, it’s because at least five of its members want to.

Looking at the historical function of the supreme court, Arthur Selwyn Miller makes the clear point that the court rarely acts independently of the political climate. The revolutionary decisions are nearly always the result of lots of business support (the 'coporations are people' ruling in 1891) or lots of popular support (the 'punumbras' privacy case, Griswold v. Connecticut.) There are a few cases (especially new deal-era) in which the courts acted as vestiges of an earlier age, but overall the function of courts is not politically independent. First we should accept that as an historical fact and then we can argue about why that's so, because you keep getting confused.

Is it technically possible for a judge to act independently? Yes, but why doesn't it happen very frequently? Judges make decisions from a body of thought which dominateds the cultural-political sphere for popular or moneyed reasons. Judges are elected by people who represent either moneyed of popular interests or both, and who choose the judges and their positions accordingly. Judges hear cases when a group with enough money and/or popular support can get sufficient lawyers to bring them forward, and in some cases (the aforementioned 1891 ruling) the case has to be repeatedy brought before the court before things will change. So that's part of why. We can fight over that, but be clear when you respond whether you're disagreeing over the facts or the reasons why.

Ziiiing!!1!

Try to stick to words you understand. You’ll make more sense that way.

No really. If you think unlected rulers have the potential to be such rights-granting philosopher kings, then why aren't you a fascist? After all, fascism was very business-friendly (Mussolini charaterized the movement as "corporativist" in fact.) Your analysis of the courts shows more respect and admiration for the unaccountable state than most statists I've read.

Matt

"If only anyone would ever

"If only anyone would ever tell Jim Bunning that life does not mean much when you are a slave."

I would like to know, precisely, what provisions of the Patriot Act might enslave us. That's a serious question. Are you being hyperbolic, or can you give us specifics?

Matt27- What Mussolini meant

Matt27-

What Mussolini meant by "Corporatist" is the same thing meant by the Catholic Church when they say "Corporatist" - the idea that intermediate social bodies are important and should be the organizing loci of society, not that Mussolini liked capitalism or business or big business, etc. Mussolini, after all, was originally a international socialist before deciding they were weenies and going his own way (the "third way", as it was called. The irony of Blairites and Clintonites also calling their quasi-market statism the 'Third Way' is apparently lost on those that use it.).

Mussolini just took the Catholic concept one step further and said the unitary central state was (a) itself a social actor, (b) the most important social actor, and (c) that all of society was subordinate to its goals and that all of society must adopt the goals of the state as their own. That he allowed for intermediary bodies ("corporations") is not evidence of Mussolini's supposed friendliness to big business. If anything he was a syndicalist.

Tom- In Ye Olden Days of

Tom-

In Ye Olden Days of Merry Olde England(e?), a man was considered a slave if a third or more of his produce was taken by a lord as rent/tax/etc.

Given that for most people a 33% tax burden would be a welcome change of events (tax relief!), by the standards of our "ancient liberties" pretty much all of us are slaves, except for the really poor.

I concur with Randall that a

I concur with Randall that a definition of democracy that necessarily overlaps with anarchy is too broad to be useful (i.e. it is not a connotation accepted by 95% of the people using the term).

Brian, my question was about

Brian, my question was about the Patriot Act. I agree with you about tax enslavement, though I think "tax theft" is a more accurate description of our present system. When it comes to the U.S., I reserve "slavery" for what went on in the South. Tom

"Is life so dear, or peace

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry

“Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead” -- Jim Bunning

Which of these two would YOU call a patriot?

Tom, When American citizens

Tom,

When American citizens can legally be held indefinitely without being charged with crimes merely on the President's say-so, I can't see how anyone can wave a US flag and still look a decent man in the eye.

Randall: What I'm calling

Randall: What I'm calling democracy, the people as a group ruling the people as a group, and anarchy, each man ruling himself, are both possible interpretations of your broader definition of democracy. What I meant to say earlier was that while you're looking on the bright side--calling true democracy what I call anarchy--what everybody else means when they say democracy is the other one.

Doss: I concur with Randall that a definition of democracy that necessarily overlaps with anarchy is too broad to be useful (i.e. it is not a connotation accepted by 95% of the people using the term).

I've been a bit unclear, so to clarify, I don't think that "democracy" ("true" or otherwise) just means "each person ruling herself" or "anarchy." What I think is that core democratic values (in particular popular sovereignty and political equality) strictly followed through, require a libertarian and, in the end, an anarchist society in order to flourish, because the only way you can end up with a polity of equals is ultimately through anarchy. I have no idea whether that end state is something appropriately called "true democracy" or "democracy" fully realized, or whether it's something other than democracy.

What I'm arguing here is the more limited point that democratic values, as they are popularly understood, do entail a lot more robust protection of individual liberties and undermine the claims of elective oligarchies to govern "democratically." You might object, "But look, democracy as almost everybody understands it just means elective oligarchy." But I think that the problem here is that people are using the term confusedly: they use it in a way that appeals to certain values (like direct participation in political matters that affect you, sovereign individuals as the ultimate source of authority, political equality, etc.) while also applying it to institutions that (unbeknownst to them, because most people haven't thought it through very carefully) betray those values.

If that's true, there's two different ways you could approach talk about "democracy" and "democratic" things. You could make it consistent by reducing the term to fit what it's applied to: elective oligarchy under a mixed constitution. Or you could make it consistent by holding on to the more robust values, citing actual democratic historical precedents, and denying that the pretenders to democracy are what they are commonly claimed to be. If you do the former (which is what most libertarians do), then "democracy" is probably subject to most of the charges laid against it. If you do the latter, then whether or not it amounts to anarchism in the end, or amounts to something else, it's susceptible to the charges commonly laid against it. Whether it's susceptible to other charges is of course a further question.

As you mention, this may just boil down to an argument over whether to use the letters D-E-M-O-C-R-A-C-Y one way or the other, and if so maybe it's not very important as long as we just make sure we understand each other. But I'm not sure that's quite all there is in the debate. A lot of people happen to attach a great deal of rhetorical weight to the idea of "democracy" and "democratic" decision-making, and I think they have both good (individualist) and bad (tribalist) reasons for doing so; I think that challenging them to think harder about the concept, and dialectically encouraging them to favor their better instincts over their worse, may be worthwhile.

It may also be strategically useful as part of an argumentative and political strategy towards getting what we ultimately want: but that's because I specifically think that encouraging an attitude of insolence towards professional politicians, enacting specific limits on their official powers in favor of greater popular control, and generally fostering more suspicion towards elites and more trust in ordinary people, is likely to get us closer to liberty than following the contrary strategies and hoping to educate the elites. (Because, roughly, most of the dangers to liberty right now are posed by arrogant self-appointed elites, and systematically undermining their claims to special authority and dignity is one of the best ways to deal with them.) Now, that's a substantive, partly empirical claim about the predicament we're in and likely to be in for the next several years, and I realize that I haven't given my argument for it. But I do hope that it clears up a bit where I'm coming from.

Brian- workers rights to

Brian-
workers rights to strike were outlawed, profits were left alone, businesses weren't widely nationalized- and this was during a time of war. They ran a state capitalist show, and the treatment of workers was exceptionally friendly to business- moreso than other comparable societies. Many businesses in the US were attracted to Fascism, some fully embraced it, and many traded with the fascist countries even after the laws against it were passed. In fact, if you believe the sham about voting with out dollars, it would make all of us on this board Nazi supporters and collaborators because we've certainly purchased from these businesses since (Texaco was one.)

bago: "Is life so dear, or

bago:

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry

"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead" -- Jim Bunning

Which of these two would YOU call a patriot?

Neither.

Bunning is obviously a snivelling tyrannical creep. But Patrick Henry, who personally held slaves, deserves no admiration for his hypocritical panegyrics on the liberty he steadfastly opposed for his black slaves, or the grotesque irony of condemning life lived at "the price of chains and slavery" when he daily inflicted actual chains and literal slavery on others. He was a hell of an orator and perhaps a useful agitator, but as a person he was nothing more than a hypocritical scoundrel, deserving of contempt. A speech like the one attributed to him is worth a lot as a speech, but if the question is how patriotic, virtuous, or admirable Patrick Henry was, on the basis of that speech, then in his mouth it is worth less than nothing.

Matt27- Profits were

Matt27-

Profits were regulated by Mussolini (via maximum and minimum prices) and industries were regulated heavily for price and production quotas. Unions were "done away with" because there were alternate state-run workers corporations. All business actions were subject to state review and veto. Not sure how any of these facts can possibly square with the bizarre notion that Mussolini was somehow involved with "state capitalism." State Capitalism = Japan in the 1980s, not fascist Italy. Just because someone keeps the superficial labels does not mean it is so. After all, Chavez claims he's for the people and a liberator, yet neither of these are so in reality (plunderer of the poor and enricher of cronies, perhaps, but certainly not the former). Likewise with Il Duce.

RadGeek - Another of my

RadGeek -

Another of my troubles with the definition provided is the idea that Athenian Democrats would look at what we have now and call it tyranny, but in fact what they practiced *was* elective oligarchy- only rich men of the polis (not slaves, not women, not outsiders) could vote and the votes were binding on the rest of the population who had no say. I can't see how Athenian Democracy can be held up as a counterexample to the modern day.

Of course, nearly *all* political (in the literal and figurative senses) decisions in Athens were put to the Demos (the rich greek freemen of Athens), including administrative and judicial, whereas the Republican system of Rome (by contrast) elected the oligarchs periodically and outside of major decisions the assemblies did not regularly meet, nor did the Senate engage in routine administration (delegation and whatnot to elected individuals).

For me, I favor liberal civil society vs. democracy (or politics in general) so to an extent I don't care, but to the remaining extent that democracy is used as a stand-in for liberal society I'm for it, though quite receptive to efforts in decoupling the two notions. Generally speaking, collective decisionmaking should be (a) rare and (b) as nonbinding as humanly possible, as I think politics is a Bad and scales to Worse exponentially with population; as we've said on the blog before, true liberation is when the personal gets to be apolitical...

well, this is a pretty

well, this is a pretty pointless debate, because it's just a debate over classification. I think you're quite wrong about Chavez (though I'm no fan of his, he's certainly doing enough for the people that they're happy with him.)

RadGeek- You are too hard on

RadGeek-

You are too hard on Patrick Henry. He *is* an American Patriot, and the force of the convictions he stood for fueled the moral resistance to the hypocrisy of the day. I think it is somewhat unfair to him to judge him by today's standards, and I don't think hypocrisy per se is a major sin or vice (depends on the consequences). The very fact that he condemned slavery weakens his *objectively offensive* matter-of-fact positions (chattel slaveholder), hypocrisy notwithstanding. What cause is he championing in his hypocrisy? the liberal or illiberal one? On that matter there is no doubt, and he deserves credit for speaking contrary to "interests."

Matt27- He's beating them

Matt27-

He's beating them (the poor) in the streets, destroying their jobs and livelihoods, materially and objectively lowering their standards of living (in a time of record oil prices Venezeula's economy is *shrinking*), and eliminating their rights to redress, property, speech, etc. The reason they "love" him (to the extent that is not also a put-on by Chavez' thugs) is because like most brutal and vulgar tyrants, he trots out a demonized Other for the Chavezian version of the 2 Minutes Hate and says "the reason your lives suck is because of Bush! Bush Bad! Look over there! Bush! BAD!!!" which sadly works quite a bit of the time. Most people are not economically savvy.

I think it is literally impossible to mount an intellectually honest liberal or even 'progressive' defense of Chavez, but you're more than welcome to try.

And as to classifications, it is not simply semantics- I believe it is more than reasonable for an economy to be called "state capitalism" to actually exhibit *any* substantive similarities to Capitalism-as-we-know-it (or have known it). But that's just me and my odd notion that if the State claims absolute authority over your place of work, absolute authority over *all* decisions made, absolute authority over who you can and cannot hire, AND can remove you at whim, then you are owned and run by the state, and the rest is details. De facto v. De Jure and all that.

Randall, is indefinite

Randall, is indefinite detention a Patriot Act provision? I thought Bush was asserting the right to detain an "enemy combatant" under his "inherent authority" as commander in chief, pursuant to the AUMF following 9/11. The Patriot Act, as I understand it, allows non-citizens to be detained for seven days. Maybe I'm missing something. I'm just trying to pin down your specific objections to the Patriot Act -- those provisions of that act which actually "enslave" Americans. Tom

Or, rather than presenting

Or, rather than presenting one as a patriot and the other not, we could look at the sentiments espoused by each and decide which set of ideas is more about liberty. Patrick Henry may have been a slaveholder, but by the standards of his day he was far more radical in his political views than the majority of us in this discussion. Bunning, on the other hand, would fit into almost any pro-authoritarian group nicely. If I have to choose, if my two choices are only Bunning and his ilk, or Patrick Henry and the other "hypocrites" of the American Revolution, there's no contest.

Matt27, the Venezuelans are

Matt27, the Venezuelans are happy with Chavez, and the Germans and Italians were happy with Hitler and Mussolini. Does being happy with what your leader is doing make them actually a good leader? Does being happy with them suddenly absolve them of all their crimes? I'm astounded at such a set of thoughts. Looked at objectively Chavez is a very poor leader by most measurements (see the discussion by other folks, I won't repeat it). A review of how Chavez and his government behave as well as keep and maintain power is suspiciously similar to Hitler and Mussolini, who were also re-elected quite often.

Our belief in democratic selection is simply a substitute for our former belief in divine selection. Being selected by a majority of voters no more makes you a good leader than divine selection did. There is, in fact, little reason to believe that representative democracy is a good way to run a political system and many reasons to believe that it is actually an awful method that leads to authoritarian oligarchy, sooner or later.

Rad Geek, Now we're getting

Rad Geek,

Now we're getting somewhere. By popular sovereignty I'm not sure we've really gotten around "the people as a whole ruling the people as a whole," but I'm ready for counterargument. What are (all?) the people sovereign over?

As for political equality, historically speaking that's not what democracy represented either. Ancient Greece (our prime historical example) had a pretty strict definition of "the people." I'm not sure your extrapolation is entirely justified from this context.

We'll get to the bottom of it all yet.

He’s beating them (the

He’s beating them (the poor) in the streets, destroying their jobs and livelihoods, materially and objectively lowering their standards of living (in a time of record oil prices Venezeula’s economy is shrinking), and eliminating their rights to redress, property, speech, etc. The reason they “love” him (to the extent that is not also a put-on by Chavez’ thugs) is because like most brutal and vulgar tyrants, he trots out a demonized Other for the Chavezian version of the 2 Minutes Hate and says “the reason your lives suck is because of Bush! Bush Bad! Look over there! Bush! BAD!!!” which sadly works quite a bit of the time. Most people are not economically savvy.

this is a lot of overblown hysteria. I think there are some freedom issues in Venezuela, but he's popular because he generally takes populist positions. The defense I'd mount of him is that he deserves to be the leader and to do whatever he wants so long as the people of the country like it. This is one of the good things to come out of the Iraq war- normally we'd intervene and take a guy like Chavez out, but we're too weak now and so other countries get granted nominal independence.

His Oil policy in the US is pretty cool, and while I agree that part of his popularity is a result of how bad and unpopular Bush is, he's bahaving surprisingly well for a man who came to power in a military coup. Please cite a source (it seems like I'm always suggesting this to you) for what you think is your absolute best case against Chavez; the best reason to hate him.

But that’s just me and my odd notion that if the State claims absolute authority over your place of work, absolute authority over all decisions made, absolute authority over who you can and cannot hire, AND can remove you at whim, then you are owned and run by the state, and the rest is details. De facto v. De Jure and all that.

Well then no state is capitlist because every state technically claims authority over such things een though it doesn't always use it. Much of what you say contradics things that I've read... from Wiki:

"Schmitt notes that the economy in fascism has been referred to as "planned capitalism." Anarcho-capitalist polemicist Anthony Gregory says that economic fascism is designed for government and business's "mutual benefit: profits for the corporate interests, expanded tax revenue, and augmented central planning powers for the state." [10] Lawrence Britt suggests that protection of corporate power is an essential part of fascism"

Matt27, the Venezuelans are

Matt27, the Venezuelans are happy with Chavez, and the Germans and Italians were happy with Hitler and Mussolini. Does being happy with what your leader is doing make them actually a good leader? Does being happy with them suddenly absolve them of all their crimes? I’m astounded at such a set of thoughts.

oh come now. Chavez is acceptable is long as he's popular and not murdering a large segment of his population and/or invading other countries. How about that? That doesn't make him good, it just means his regime is acceptable, and my applause comes from the mere fact that Latin American politics has mostly featuren brutal unpopular leaders recently and it's good to see them politically inspired. I'm careful to distance myself from his policies (though I've yet to see any evidence that the hysteria exhibited by Brian has any basis in reality.)

Doss: Another of my troubles

Doss: Another of my troubles with the definition provided is the idea that Athenian Democrats would look at what we have now and call it tyranny, but in fact what they practiced was elective oligarchy- only rich men of the polis (not slaves, not women, not outsiders) could vote and the votes were binding on the rest of the population who had no say.

Sure, that's a fair complaint. (Except that, terminologically speaking, what they had was pure, self-appointed oligarchy, not even elective oligarchy; the oligarchs voted amongst themselves, of course, but they weren't elected by the subjects that they claimed the authority to rule over.) That said, I don't think that the sorts of political institutions that the ruling men of Athens participated in depended on domination over an extensive slave class (either of socioeconomic status or of sex). The Athenian men disagreed (they tended to argue that liberty depended on the unearned leisure that they secured through violent extortion), but I simply think they were mistaken on that point; the institutions could and ought to have been opened to everyone in the name of liberty and human dignity. So, while I have no admiration for the Athenian "democrats," I am willing to say some kind words for the democratic institutions that they advocated and built. The purpose of using it as a counterexample is simply to demonstrate that there is another way that popular sovereignty could be and has been practiced, besides just through elected legislatures or parliaments, and to illustrate the point that what democracy and democratic values have traditionally meant is supposed to be something much more direct than "rulers picked by the people." The idea isn't to provide an ideal case, but just to get people to think more about what kind of cases might be on offer.

Doss: I think it is somewhat unfair to him to judge him by today's standards,

1. I don't think of it as a matter of "today's standards" as vs. "yesterday's standards." Slavery was as wrong in the 1770s as it is today; that's a matter of human rights, not a matter of contemporary fashion.

2. As an empirical matter, it's also wrong to suggest that slaveholding wasn't known to be wrong at the time. Patrick Henry, for one, knew it; he said that it was wrong in his letters but never did anything about it when he had the direct and immediate power to do so. Moreover, I think that the idea that the beliefs popular amongst slavers constitute the only "standards" of the time is a mistaken one. Lots of people at the time weren't so keen on slavery; chief among them, the slaves.

Doss: ... and I don't think hypocrisy per se is a major sin or vice (depends on the consequences).

No, but slavery is.

The reason I think that Henry was a scoundrel was that he held slaves. I mention hypocrisy only because it helps explain why I don't think that his posturing in defense of liberty merits any admiration for him as a person (although the speech itself is worthy of remembering, and emulating).

Matt27: "The defense I’d

Matt27: "The defense I’d mount of him is that he deserves to be the leader and to do whatever he wants so long as the people of the country like it."

That works if you think representative democracy and populism is particularly good. I don't. There are numerous examples for why it's not, such as Jim Crow laws in our own country, Apartheid, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and a sad, long list that goes on and on.

Hi Matt. So long as most of

Hi Matt. So long as most of some nation likes a particular guy, are you actually saying that guy has the right to rule all of them? If so, why not extend the same standard to individuals that you do for nations? That is, if zero percent of some individual Venezuelan likes Chavez, why should Chavez be entitled to rule that guy?

For that matter, I'm pretty popular, don't invade countries and haven't committed any murders, ever. Do you recognize my right to rule you? In light of your response to the question above about the individual Venezualan, does it even matter if you recognize that right?

I'm new to this page, so

I'm new to this page, so here goes my first post (be easy on me:)

As much as I hate the Orwellian-penned PATRIOT act, it's more than just a stretch to compare it to anything from what happened to the Weimar Republic. When the Reichstag burned down, Hitler was given dictatorship powers within a month, and he was evading Europe shortly later. With 9/11, the pendulum swung a little towards granting more exective power, but 4 years later it seems like it's swinging back. I know the act is on it's way to being passed again, but the administration's attempt to detain citizens without habeas corpus and indefinitely imprisoning enemy combatants in Guantanamo (for the duration of an undeclared war against a loosely defined enemy) is crumbling. It's more than likely the next president will win the election critizing Bush's quixotical attempt to spread peace and democracy to the middle east (these sects have only been fighting for 100's of years, it's hard to believe it was a bad idea to try and fix it in a few). I guess Bush also won demagoguing Clinton's nation-building, but it's hard to argue Bush would have done all of this without 9/11 (not that he didn't want to). Yes, freedom isn't perfect in the U.S., but the Germans had it a little worse back then.

And on the discussion of the difference of freedom and slavery, I thought I'd post this from Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State, and Utopia". There's definitely truth to this, but it's hard for me to be so pessimistic to consider myself a slave.

"1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three- sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the "vast" range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happenned; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?"

None of them. Slavery is a

None of them. Slavery is a form of injustice, and every one of those scenarios contains some injustice.

That works if you think

That works if you think representative democracy and populism is particularly good. I don't. There are numerous examples for why it's not, such as Jim Crow laws in our own country, Apartheid, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and a sad, long list that goes on and on.

I have plenty of complaints against what I've described as "elective oligarchy" and what you describe as "representative democracy" here, but I don't think that these are very good examples to cite. Just to take a couple of your examples, South African Apartheid and American Jim Crow, were sustained by systematic and near-universal disenfranchisement of the Black population (which in South Africa and in some parts of the South meant that the numerical majority of the population weren't able to vote). They are no more examples of "representative democracy" than the "election" of the Holy Roman Emperor by the Prince-Electors or of the Pope by the College of Cardinals. And in fact both systems were promptly, permanently, and thoroughly destroyed by the simple expedient of enfranchising Black people to vote.

There are lots of crimes and lots of failures to lay at the doorstep of elective oligarchy, but this really isn't one of them. The cases you mention are cases where representative elections, when they happened, destroyed or blocked the power of would-be tyrants, and in which it was only through the ruthless use of disenfranchisement, political repression, and overt terror that pseudo-representative power was consolidated.

Tom, You're right. Turning

Tom,

You're right. Turning men into animals has a long and rich legal history, but the Patriot Act is a discontinous jump.

Rather than listing all the provisions, I'd refer you here to see that someone's already done a lot of my work for me.

Eric: That works if you

Eric:

That works if you think representative democracy and populism is particularly good. I don’t. There are numerous examples for why it’s not, such as Jim Crow laws in our own country, Apartheid, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and a sad, long list that goes on and on.

And there are plenty of examples of how it has been good- trust-busting women's rights, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, and the list goes on. Apartheid and Jim Crow laws were ended via populism and both were sustained in part by a lack of democracy- by not letting certain groups be represented. The fact that Hitler and Muss were popular is scary, it's true, but what to do about that? As an historical rule, popular leaders are generally better than unpopular ones, and the rule should hold with the two caveats I added. What the main difference is, is the political activism and movements in the country. In the case of Hit and Muss people were responding to illogical appeals to their passions (much the way the current US voters are.) In the case of Brazil and many other areas of Latin America (including probably Venezuala and almost certainly Bolivia) there are lively political movements based around economic and social interests. It's not black or white but I'd point to that as a major difference.

I would like to point out that you've backed off your point to a more general attack on representative democracy, which means we should be talking in the realm of the theoretical. I might ask why you've chosen to target Venezuela instead of, say, Canada to discuss purely theretical democracy.

James:
So long as most of some nation likes a particular guy, are you actually saying that guy has the right to rule all of them? If so, why not extend the same standard to individuals that you do for nations? That is, if zero percent of some individual Venezuelan likes Chavez, why should Chavez be entitled to rule that guy?

under a democratic structure this is how it should work. My ideal political situation wouldn't have such a ruler problem (it's detailed on thread
http://catallarchy.net/blog/archives/2006/02/28/connecting-the-political-circle/#comment-120283

The reason why this question is workable right now is simply the fact that we've got states that feature much worse forms of government and we're in no position to make such a drastic change as to eliminate problems like this (in fact some people believe that problems like this can't be eliminated: see mons. chruchill "democracy is the worst form of government aside from all the others.)

Let me be succinct. I think you're coming at this from the wrong angle. People are not politically free to a perfect degree- as you've written, there are avenues for political influence but hey aren't perfect. However, even the lowest non-felon on the totem pole can vote, and at least has the opportunity the organize people around him into a voting bloc. However, economically most people are almost completely unfree. They have no voice in their economic affaris, be it the day-to-day or the more general. Can the open their own business? Sure, but that's like solving your other problem by saying that people can become politicians. We shouldn't sit on your thumbs complaining about how democracy isn't perfect- we should be trying to achieve even a modicum of freedom in the economic sphere. Man won't be free until he achieves some meaningful control over economic concerns, and I think that should be the focus of any reasonable justice movement.

For that matter, I’m pretty popular, don’t invade countries and haven’t committed any murders, ever. Do you recognize my right to rule you? In light of your response to the question above about the individual Venezualan, does it even matter if you recognize that right?

Are you in a position of political power making popular decisions that most people like (but that, let's say, I don't.) Sure I'll recognize you, though I'll attempt to sway my fellow citizens. I should also add that under normal cricumstances such a leader should hold real elections.

Matt27: "I would like to

Matt27: "I would like to point out that you’ve backed off your point to a more general attack on representative democracy, which means we should be talking in the realm of the theoretical. I might ask why you’ve chosen to target Venezuela instead of, say, Canada to discuss purely theretical democracy."

Actually, I was responding to an idea you had embedded in your discussion of Chavez that implied that because he was popular all was well.

I'll argue that many of things you are calling out as good, actually aren't good (for example: Trust busting Standard Oil, IBM, Microsoft, etc.) and that others could, and did, come about without populism and representative democracy. Slavery, for example, was brought to an end in most Western and South American countries by the 1880's, but not all of those countries did so due to populist or democratic pressures. In fact, industrialization would spell a sure end to slavery. The pressures of trying to remain competitive using slave labor in the face of the Industrial Revolution is one of the key drivers for the behavior of the South from 1800 to 1865, for example. Those things would have, and did in other countries, brought an end to slavery anyhow. The Southern states used white populism and representative democracy to manipulate the society, law and market to try and keep the "Peculiar Institution" intact.

The point? You used an argument for Chavez that is just not a good one. Just because a leader is popular is no indication that he is a good political leader. I happen to think FDR was a horrible President, yet he was very popular. Abraham Lincoln was never particularly popular, yet he is considered one of the top 5 great American leaders of all time. I'm not particularly concerned about Venezuela and Chavez, but there is definitely evidence that he is not a "good political leader" and popularity doesn't automatically make those negative things null and void, which was the position you put forth.