Sunday, July 8, 2012

LETTER TO HAROLD

Harold:
Couldn't sleep in this morning, as my mind kept rolling over your email.

Lord Acton's famous 1885 quote, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" was not the first such observation. William Pitt made a similar statement to the English House of Lords in 1770.

The Founders of our nation who met in Philadelphia were equally aware of the evils of political corruption.

And they knew that the sin of greed is not unique to the rich and powerful. To be sure, Wall Street is greedy, but so is Main Street. History proves that democracies carry the seeds of their own destruction. When people believe they can vote themselves comfort and security, their collective decisions will bankrupt the government.

Our founders knew that no democracy in history had survived more than 200 years. They didn't trust democracy and they didn't intend to create a democracy.

When the constitution was written, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government we were to have, and he replied. " A Republic, Madam. If you can keep it."

Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution says that the United States shall guarantee that every state shall have a republican form of government.

What is the difference between a democracy and a republic?

In a democracy, the people rule. There are no restraints on the majority. Public opinion is the law.

In a republic, the people are ruled by their elected representatives.

In both cases, the people make the constitution which is the blueprint for government. In theory, constitutions are made by the "whole people" and not just a majority. Some constitutions are created by force, in which case the winning side presumes to speak for the whole people. Others, like our federal constitution, are created by super majority plebiscites.

One problem with a democracy is the attitude that "if the people made the constitution, the people can change it or simply ignore it." In a republic, the officials are sworn to uphold the constitution, which only the people can change.

The United States of America is a unique nation in that it is a federal republic consisting of fifty separate and sovereign state republics. I know of no other modern nation which is so constituted.

The first person to label the United States as a democracy was Woodrow Wilson, who lead us into the first World War "to make the world safe for democracy."

We call ourselves a democracy to be distinguished from totalitarian regimes where dictators come to power and remain in power by force.

More accurately, we are a "democratic republic" that is, a nation wherein the people have agreed to be governed by popularly elected officials who are constrained by a popularly adopted constitution.

I share your concern about the corrupting effects of large amounts of money in politics. The numbers you cite are mind numbing, to be sure. But they are largely the result of the growth of our population.

When a Congressman represents 700,000 people, he or she has to spend a lot of money to be reelected. And so does the candidate who seeks to defeat him or her.

Communication at that level is expensive. TV, mass mail, staffing, expert campaign design and advice all cost money. To suggest that you can cut the cost by forbidding donations or spending is a fool's errand.

And the worst thing to do is to provide public funding for political campaigns. Public funding laws are written by incumbent politicians. Why would anyone think that such laws would not favor incumbent politicians?

Mandatory voting laws are also an illusory benefit. Just watch Jay Leno interview the man in the street and you can see the level of public sophistication about our government. Mandatory voting laws are another reelection guarantee for incumbents. Witness the 99% turnouts in countries ruled by dictators. People who go to the polls at the point of a bayonet are most likely to vote for the guy with the gun.

Enough for now, Harold.

Cordially,

TEB

9 comments:

  1. Judge - than you for a good read. I am sure you could write a better legal finding than Justice Roberts - he seem to have lost his way in the fog of Usurpation.

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  2. One definition of "democracy" which is worth noting:
    According to some theories of democracy, popular sovereignty is the founding principle of such a system.[11] However, the democratic principle has also been expressed as "the freedom to call something into being which did not exist before, which was not given… and which therefore, strictly speaking, could not be known."[12] This type of freedom, which is connected to human "natality," or the capacity to begin anew, sees democracy as "not only a political system… [but] an ideal, an aspiration, really, intimately connected to and dependent upon a picture of what it is to be human—of what it is a human should be to be fully human."[

    This becomes meaningful with the changing conditions within our society. We have a controlled press which functions to limit and direct the knowledge of the democratic body by lying. We have elected official who are mostly corrupted and do not speak the truth either. We have a court system that is also controlled by money. We have lost the citizen's grand jury process due to the 1946 Congressional bill to Standardize the Judiciary and placed this inalienable right of the people to judge their government under the control of a states attorney.

    Without a free and truthful press, with a Congress that has no honor, and a bought court system which will not investigate crimes which would threaten to expose TPTB, the tools of an informed public to run their country have been usurped.

    Counter this with the internet which allows inexpensive and instantaneous communications to multiple sources of information and people, and it allows, for the first time since the small family unit of government, complete participation in "direct democracy". This is similar to the evolution of the organism when peripheral nerves communicate directly with the brain. Hit your finger with a hammer and you will regret having not paid more attention to your lowly digit.

    Direct democracy practiced under the shared commitment to a code of honor and a constitution, a body of laws, of inalienable rights, and you have a new system that is more perfect in its ideal... of the people, by the people, and for the people.... along with protections for minorities and equal rights.

    We are evolving into a new world of new ideas, new processes, and with a clearly seen need to enable a more efficient, fair, and affordable government.... whatever it might be called. I call it, direct democratic control of the media, the Congress, the courts, to hold them completely accountable at all times. They do derive their powers entirely from the people in this case: not from contributions, kickbacks, insider trading, and all the other ills that a representative form of government has produced.

    We will restore the grand jury to the people; we will dismantle the press monopoly; we will challenge corrupt courts; we will arrest and try corrupt officials though this process of grand jury which predates the Magna Carta, and is outside the 3 branches of government. We will have truth and there will be accountability.

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  3. A very wise and intelligent letter. i might add a comment from an old family judge and friend, "If you want Justice, go to a whore-house, and if you want to get Screwed, go to the court-house". Is that not True, or What?

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  4. In other words, because collectively we lack the character to produce representatives of good character individually; and because we are too ignorant, complacent and undiscerning to vote intelligently; and because elections take place in a market environment dominated by dollars rather than merit, we're screwed.

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  5. The corrupting effects of money on American politics could have been avoided if the parties and politicians had continued to use grass roots volunteers to spread their platforms and engage other Americans face to face rather than using advertising to attack their opponents and twist the facts. This also would have prevented the diminishing sophistication of the citizenry regarding their civil affairs by educating them regarding the issues in a positive, fruitful way. So, yes, you can and should cut funding and equalize it through public funding laws, forcing the parties and politicians to rely on the American people to work with one another to get their candidates' messages out. In the meantime, revert to the tax policies of the 1950's and 60's that provided money for infrastructure, education, social services and healthcare jobs and get back to the idea of a true 40 hour week so Americans have the time to engage not only in politics but in their family life and community activities. What could be more conservative than a return to those policies that worked so well to make this country thrive and gave us two parties that actually stood for something? As for mandatory voting, it works quite well in Australia, where the folks are just as individualistic as Americans. The last thing we need is to continue to trumpet American exceptionalism. It is that attitude of being different from anyone else in the world that has gotten us into the trouble we are in now. We're like addicts that think they are unique until they start talking to recovering addicts and find out they aren't unique one bit. Justice Brennan does the world no favors by publishing blogs that carry on myths that have put us in the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War. Use your bully pulpit for change, sir. Centered progress is what we need to restore the republic.

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  6. The corrupting influence of money would have been avoided if politicians and political parties continued to rely on their supporters to serve as grass roots volunteers willing to go door to door or attend town halls in their communities to discuss candidacies, issues and platforms rather than using mass advertising to attack their opponents and twist the facts. This also would have prevented the drop in political sophistication among the citizenry because their fellow voters would have been educating them about the issues and candidates and keeping them engaged all along. It is high time we returned to these methods of political campaigning through public financing laws that treat all candidates equally, mandatory voting (not many guns used in Australia, Justice Brennan, but they seem to manage to elect representative governments just fine), more seats in the House of Representatives coupled with reduced funding to congressional offices (just enough to assist constituents), and campaign ethics laws that distinguish between fact and opinion in determining what is permissible free speech. Return to the tax and spending policies of the 1950's and 60's that provided jobs in infrastructure, education, social services, and healthcare and return to the 40 hour work week on a living wage so all Americans can participate not only in their civic culture but also their families and communities. And we can stop talking about American exceptionalism, which has done more to get us in the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War than anything. We are addicts that think we are unique until we talk to recovering addicts that show us we are just like everyone else. Time for America to recover. Time for us to restore the republic. Justice Brennan, please consider using your bully pulpit to further political change needed in this country rather than fighting it.

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  7. As this thread concerns democracy, I have been wondering if we were to modify the Constitution so that the Representatives of the people are not elected, but are chosen by a lottery every two years from the residents of the district who meet some mutually agreed upon criteria.

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  8. How about getting closer to the apportionment of 30,000 as stated in the Constitution (U.S. Const. art. I, § 2, cl. 3.). 700,000 constituents is a ridiculously high amount for a Congressman to represent.

    I certainly understand the logistical hurdles of seating an ever increasing amount Congressmen in the past. However, in this day in age with the communication and technology we have the logistics to handle it because it may not require physical presence in the House chamber for debates and the workings of the House to take place (I am thinking video conferencing, etc).

    The negatives associated with that idea(less congeniality and casual communication between Congressman)are already present and are far less than the negatives of ballooning representation (less constituent communication and more time spent campaigning and fundraising).

    If the House of Representatives is truly the "People's House", it should actually reflect the diverse make up and interests of the people. We have the means to make it that way once again and it won't require a Constitutional amendment to do so.

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  9. Or just finish ratifying "Article the First" which already has been ratified by nine states.

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