Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Open Thread: Are We Ruled By Our Government?

Hi. I'm too busy to blog anything substantive. But there are some interesting ideas floating around in the comments on this post that's about to roll off the screen, so I thought we could continue the discussion here.

Here's my two cents, to keep the ball rolling. The Declaration of Independence clearly says that a just government derives its power from the consent of the governed. Little Cicero seems to think this means that we consent to be ruled by whomever is in power. (I'm interested to see if his argument moderates itself under President Clinton in 2009.)

I am, not surprisingly, disinclined to agree with that particular interpretation. As Americans, our allegiance is to the Constitution, not to the President. The nation's chief executive was intended by the Framers to bound by the Constitution and accountable to the other two co-equal branches of government, as well as to the people. I am trying to impress upon him that I think there is a significant difference between governing and ruling. Thoughts?

Also, feel free to continue along the thrust of the thesis of the original post: Is our President insane?

47 comments:

little-cicero said...

Allow me to restate my argument as clearly as possible on this thread:

Rulership is the essence of governance, and government distinguishes itself as it is the organized system of rulership. Rulership, as opposed to freedom, is as a leash by which subjects are restrained. The leash serves to keep big dogs from harming little dogs, and to keep little dogs from getting too close to big dogs (and keeping horny dogs from humping each other) (: This is the egalitarian role of government- as it shortens the leash, government equalizes the weak and the strong in this way. By extending the leash, security is decreased but the innate desire for freedom is satisfied, as well as the ability to become stronger. All the while, the leash is there, and that leash is agreed to by the public through unwritten social contract, as they know that the leash is thus necessary. This is the basic nature of government, yet as government grows more liberal (in the classic, non-egalitarian sense) the ruled become more and more the rulers of themselves. Keep in mind, rulership never ceases, only the hands of rulership. In the most democratic of governments, the ruled directly dictate the length of their leashes, and if they are liberty-loving, they will lengthen it, yet as long as they do so within a government-framework, the leash will always exist. The leash of rulership can reach an infinite length, yet it will still exist unless if it is entirely broken by revolution (then it will likely be replaced by another leash).

Why do I use the distasteful word "ruled" for government? Because every time we make a law, we ought to be aware of the consequences of breaking the law- which, when resisting punishment is taken into account, ultimately come down to death. Every law is another gun to our heads- another shortening of the leash for the sake of equality or morality. We ought to acknowledge the seriousness of legislation in this light, and we can only do so by acknowledging that government rules us, for when it comes time for them to enforce the laws that we played a role in resisting or supporting, our role in government is inconsequential. When the warrant is out for your arrest, your future is at the hands of your peers in a jury, but not your own hands! You are ruled by everyone but yourself during that moment of truth.

I do not mean to say that rulership lies in the executive branch, or any other such nonsense, but in a democracy, it clearly lies in the majority, which shifts yearly. Politicians come and go- they merely transfer rulership from The People, but those people, with their constantly shifting ideas, rule one another in our democratic system. The leash is longer and more complicated than that of a tyrant, but it is a leash to be sure.

Gino said...

damn... how'd i miss all that?

helluva thread, andy.

little-cicero said...

I'm going to repost this at my blog, since I have been desperate for a political theory post.

Andy said...

Not all laws are in place to limit freedom, Little Cicero. Many of them are in place to maintain freedom.

Here's part of the difference between "ruling" and "governing," as I see it. In our democracy, our leaders are meant to be bound by the law. Yes, they have legislative power to create or abolish or amend laws, but they don't get to do it just at their will. It must be done within the constraints of the Constitution. A ruler, as I see it, could make laws at whim, and offer as justification his own authority. We have a whole set of laws in place about who can make laws, why, and how, as well as limits on their intended effects. For example, as Romer v. Evans (among other cases) showed, you can't create a law that disadvantages a group of people just because the majority wishes it so. We use "majority rule" as part of our democratic decision making process, but that's why it's different than "ruling." There's actually a process. There are limits on power. In fact, the greatest constraint on our liberty imposed by the Constitution would be one's power to rule.

Yes, there is authority in the government, and authority in the executive branch. But think of the government as "coordinator," instead of "ruler."

I wouldn't say "rulership lies in the majority," either, because our Constitution contains numerous guarantees of civil liberties protections for non-majorities, and that was by design of the Founders. They specifically didn't want a system of government where a majority of people had all the power. They set up the government so that we would, quite contrary to your assertion, NOT be ruled by the majority. The majority has decision-making power, but again, only within the confines of the Constitution. And nowhere does it say that those not in the majority, or those not in agreement with the government, have to just bend over and take it quietly.

Truly, I think you have some strange ideas about our country.

DJRainDog said...

*yawn*
The Abrasive One (for which I make no apologies -- I'm abrasive because my patience with all the idiots in the world -- and no, little-cicero, I'm not counting you among them, though sometimes I wonder -- has completely run out) tires of semantic arguments.
Wake me when it's over.

Jeff said...

Some points, which should resolve this whole discussion.

(1) In our country, sovereignty ultimately comes from the people.

(2) The process by which the Constitution was ratified is crucial. Because "the people" ratified the Constitution in specially-convened conventions in each state, the members of which conventions were elected *expressly* for the purpose of voting on whether to ratify the Constitution, and because those elected representatives did vote to ratify the Constitution, the Constitution is sovereign. The Constitution is sovereign because the people entrusted their sovereignty to it through that very special process. We are bound to it. So are the people we elect.

(3) The Declaration of Independence did create our independence; but other than that, it is only an aspirational document and has no legal force. It was superseded by the Constitution. If we wish to get rid of the Constitution, we have to do so through a process set forth in the Constitution itself (see Article V). If we wish to get rid of the people we elected, we also have to do so through a process set forth in the Constitution (i.e. impeachment).

That about sums it up.

little-cicero said...

To Jeff's first point: Exactly. Rulership of the self occurs without government, but the sovereignty found in government is a common rulership of society, in which each person holds the leash of sovereignty.

What I'm trying to say, Andy, is that the limitation of freedom is essential to maintaining freedom- and therefore so is rulership, as long as the reigns of rulership are not limited (to a group of people), liberty is thus protected.

I suppose I might have made this clearer in the part about the purpose of the leash- it protects weak dogs from strong dogs. Specifically, it protects the weak dogs' "life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and property" from the strong dogs. A beagle hardly has any guarantee of life, liberty or pursuit of happiness when it finds itself nestled in the jaws of a Doverman!

The leash analogy is a flawed one, I know, but it's all that I have at the moment.

Terri said...

I have never commented on Andy's blogs before, but I've been reading (and enjoying them) for about 6 months now. I'm afraid I'm far to uneducated to have an opinion, or perhaps I have an opinion and can't figure out how to get it down on paper. I did want to comment, however, on Andy's statement that "As Americans, our allegiance is to the Constitution, not to the President." As nationals of any state, do people really owe allegiance to a document they didn't help create? I just happened to be born in the U.S. I didn't choose it. So because of this chance happening, do I now owe my allegiance to the Constitution? And if I were born in Pakistan? Would I then owe my allegiance to that state's document? And to take it to a "spiritual" level, I'm a Christian and feel that my only allegiance, regardless of where I live, is to Christ. Am I just young, naive and ridiculous?

little-cicero said...

That's a very well put and stimulating point, Terry. Come to think of it, our allegiance to the constitution is sort of secondary- we pledge allegiance to the Republic, which is composed of officials. Those officials pledge to the Constitution as well as the Republic. As a matter of fact, it is that primary allegiance to the Constitution that ought to separate the governing from the governed. We do not pay allegiance to the document as we vote for officials- the officials make that oath. And all that it takes for you or I to become a public official is to take an oath to a Constitution.

So I guess the beauty of living in this country is that you don't have to pledge allegiance to anything- you have only to follow the laws of this country, which is not allegiance so much as it is compliance. Personally, I would enjoy the idea of everyone pledging to the Constitution, but such a mandate would defeat its own purpose.

Thanks for that comment, as it triggered a great deal of thought in this corner.

Jeff said...

Hah, look at Little Cicero, standing in the corner! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Terri - you make an excellent point. I actually read a book last summer, Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution, which makes a similar point: he says that because we ourselves didn't have a voice in the Constitution's ratification, that document needs to be interpreted in as libertarian a manner as possible, so that it won't intrude on any of the natural rights of people who themselves had no say.

Do you "owe" your allegiance to the Constitution? That depends. "Owe" implies obligation, which implies a set of rules. I guess you don't really owe allegiance to it. Then again, the Constitution really only speaks to the structure of government and to what government can and cannot do, which is why LC correctly points out that government officials swear allegiance to it but the rest of us don't.

If you're asking whether you have to follow any laws that are validly created under the Constitution - no, you don't have to; you can break the law and suffer the consequences. :) That gets into the much larger question of why we have laws in the first place, but that's a whole other can of worms.

The Law Fairy said...

Wow, Andy, I sure missed quite a discussion.

The leash example isn't just imperfect, lc; it's pretty bad. For one thing, there are MANY reasons people leash their dogs -- very few of us consciously think as we put on the dog's leash that we do this to keep the dog from attacking weaker dogs (indeed, in my dog's case this would be kind of ridiculous -- he weighs all of 20 pounds and would lose a fight with a cat within seconds). I leash my dog because 1) I do not wanting him running out into the street and getting hit by a car whose driver is not paying attention, or has no time to stop; 2) it's the law in many parts of Los Angeles, and I don't want a citation for not keeping my dog on a leash; and 3) it speeds along our walks, as my dog is VERY easily distracted and letting him wander where he wants without the occasional tug to signal "ok boy, we're moving on" would make for a walk that looked like something out of a Family Circus cartoon.

Notice a common thread in those points? I'll point it out to you: leashes are used because dogs, left to their own devices, as a general rule do not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions about how and where and when to walk safely. They're like furry children. They need to be protected.

I don't know about you, but I don't consider myself a child or an animal for the government to control. And if I were an adoption agency, I would not let someone like our government adopt a child; the government has shown many times just how poor a parent it would make. I mean, hell, look at our government-run orphanages. They're horrific. When the government is ACTUALLY charged with the welfare of children, it does a really shitty job of raising and protecting them. Thank GOD I'm not a kid with our government for a parent.

As to the insanity question, I don't know. "Insane" is a convenient word to throw out, but I suspect and fear it may be something much more sinister than insanity at work here. Perhaps if you mean "insane" in the sense of irrational and power-hungry. I suppose, though, he could be a megalomaniac. I do know that he terrifies me. The terrorists worry me. My own president terrifies me. That, to me, says there's something seriously wrong with what's happening in our country.

I despise Bush and his cronies, and his reign of evil seems to me particularly ironic in light of the fact that we impeached our last president for boinking the intern. (granted, Clinton, Bill, is a mildly sexist jerk in a lot of ways, but I'll take a mildly sexist jerk over a guy who effectively murders boys and girls to increase his approval ratings, and who would assert an ownership interest over my reproductive system if that damn Constitution weren't in the way -- which he's also made great strides toward demolishing)

kr said...

Terri--great! I would suggest considering your first allegiance to Christ ... but the rest of the system has to be decided, too. At some level, staying here without protest/attempt to change the govt is a de facto pledge of allegiance ...

Speaking of which, LC,
we pledge allegiance to the Republic, which is composed of officials
???????????????
last I checked, our Republic was composed of states, or perhaps state govts
your weirdass Platonic differentiation between People and Officials, as if there should be a significant difference (there shouldn't, under the original American values system, which was deliberately subverted by the riche in the late 1800s)

and, of course, we went a couple of rounds about the appropriateness of Pledging Allegiance several months ago; you shouldn't speak of pledging allegiance as if "we all do it," grr

I'm with Terri, my first allegiance is to God, thanks. My allegiance is to the govt only insofar as that is coherent with my stronger priorities (probably right now I'd list: God, family, intellectual freedom).

I think LF has a good direction: we are ruled by the govt only if we "need" ruling--ie, if we need someone else to tell us not to do things. Most people probably figure out without murder laws that murder is a generally and probably always bad idea. People should figure out that beating up someone because you think (or know) they are gay is counterproductive--either "gay" exists and you'd better bring your reality in line with that (subconcept: because God said so by its existence), or "gay" can be changed and you are taking away that person's right to discover that ... but in any case beating someone up for it doesn't fix anything and breaks lots of things.

So, yes, I suppose it "rules" us, on those things we do not rule ourselves on. And probably it should--in an ideal (Platonic ;) ) world where the best thinkers or those most in tune with Ultimate Reality ended up in control of the govt.

Myself, I am not so much seeing that happening?

Is it truly your contention that we should hand over our personal moral reins (NOT REIGNS, ARGH) to the folks I think we all more or less agree are elected by "who can be the most corrupt while coming across in the media as the least corrupt"?

kr said...

so lovely, I think that all played out to:
"govt should keep the idiots from being too idiotic"

yep, deep thoughts from kr ;)

kr said...

OH!

but here's what I thought of last night, which is better.

LC: at what level does this mystical rulership thing begin? when do we hand over the reins? President? Senator? SCOTUS judge?
Representative?
Governor?
State legislator?
Mayor?
Councilmember?
Water district official?
Water meter reader?

These are all just people, members of the community, with jobs to do, and answerable, ultimately, to the rest of the community.

The President (or any of the others) would be a "ruler" if they got to make up their job description as they went along. But even the highest levels of authority are, in our country, answerable to a job description that includes firing-by-the-people.

Oops! Except, as far as I have ever heard, the SCOTUS judges. Now, those folks do get a throne of sorts. That might be interesting to talk about, too, because, hey my-current-allies-against-LC, the SCOTUS has no built-in answerability. They maybe could be defined as "ruling." (Hence we all battle to get "our" people in and "their" people banned.)

Thoughts?

little-cicero said...

I just watched "The Old Man and the Sea" with Spencer Tracy, and at the moment, I can't tell whether I feel like the old man or the fish. I guess we'll find out when we continue this tommorrow.

Andy said...

because, hey my-current-allies-against-LC, the SCOTUS has no built-in answerability

Maybe not "answerability" -- and, careful there, hon, you're getting perilously close to the rhetoric of "unelected, unaccountable judicial activists"! -- but there is, clearly, a check on their power. If you'll allow me to steal a line from Little Cicero, it's the court's job to interpret the law, not make the law. So Congress or legislatures have the power to essentially undercut even Supreme Court rulings by simply changing the law in response to an unpopular ruling. In fact -- though, alas, I can't recall which case it was this year -- I'm pretty sure that in one of her dissents that she read from the bench during this past season, Justice Ginsburg basically implored Congress to change the law to thwart the majority's holding. And I think it's highly likely that Kelo (eminent domain) will be overturned by an act of Congress.

** Oh! I found it. The case was Ledbetter v. Goodyear, the execrable ruling from May where the SCOTUS majority determined a woman who had clearly been discriminated against in salary for decades was barred from suing for discrimination because she did not sue within 6 months of the date when the alleged discrimination began. Noting that the discrimination was ongoing, Ginsburg pleaded with Congress to amend the statute.

your weirdass Platonic differentiation between People and Officials

*chuckles*

at the moment, I can't tell whether I feel like the old man or the fish

Those are your options?

The Law Fairy said...

::puts on lawyer cap::

While in many ways it might seem as though the Supreme Court has ultimate power (thanks to the Warren Court's wonderful expansion of our government's conception of civil liberties as embodied in the Constitution), it really doesn't. Like any other branch, it ideally serves as a check on the other two. The reason it might SEEM more powerful than the others is because often it actually does something -- SCOTUS justices have remained much more independent from lobbyists and other people who helped get them into power and stay in power. Because other officials are elected, they have to keep acting to please certain interest groups, lest those interest groups flock to a candidate more favorable to their interests. SCOTUS justices have no such political pressures because their appointments are for life. So in some sense they are free to be more honest in their judgments than anyone else in the country. This is a good thing.

At the same time, it's important that the justices observe the Constitution rather than just making shit up, as seems to be the unfortunate road it's slowly turning down. The other branches' "check" on SCOTUS comes at the front end and the back end: at the front end, from the executive, who gets to choose the lifetime appointments, and on both ends, the legislative, who confirms the appointments and has the power of impeachment.

One other note -- Congress can't write a law to "overrule" SCOTUS. In that sense there's a clear hierarchy, and SCOTUS wins because CONSTRUING the law falls clearly within the court's purview. Congress has tried to do this before -- a particularly interesting case in point is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1994. Congress didn't like the Court's decision in Employment Division v. Smith so it wrote the RFRA to reinstate the holding of an earlier case, contrary to Smith. The Court then held in City of Boerne v. Flores that Congress had acted beyond the scope of its authority. Congress does not have the power to re-write the Court's constitutional jurisprudence.

However, in a case like Andy mentioned, Congress CAN re-write the underlying law on which the decision was based. In other words, Congress can't tell SCOTUS how to interpret the Constitution or the Court's precedent; but it can re-write statutes such that they MUST be construed differently. So its power in this sense depends on the grounds upon which a decision was based. If the decision was based on what a federal law or statute says, then Congress can simply change the statute if it doesn't like the interpretation. If, however, the decision was based on interpretation of the Constitution, it would take a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Court's decision, which Congress does not have the unilateral power to do.

::takes off lawyer hat, turns back to vodka bottle::

little-cicero said...

Again I have no time for a real comment, but to Andy's question:

The only other option I can surmise is that of being the Boy- which would make Andy the Old Man...and we all know how sensitive Andy is about his age, so I'll leave that option aside.

Later we'll get back to my affinity for horribly innaccurate analogies.

(:

Jeff said...

I feel like I'm in a late-night college dorm bull session, because we're all just wanking our brains here on abstract issues. Abstract wanking doesn't really get you anywhere. But hey, it's Andy's blog and he started it. :) So...

Just wanted to point out the following in response to:

The other branches' "check" on SCOTUS comes at the front end and the back end: at the front end, from the executive, who gets to choose the lifetime appointments, and on both ends, the legislative, who confirms the appointments and has the power of impeachment.

Don't forget, Congress can also (1) remove areas completely from the Court's appellate jurisdiction, and (2) change the number of justices on the Court - not that they've done the latter in about 150 years.

The Law Fairy said...

Don't forget, Congress can also (1) remove areas completely from the Court's appellate jurisdiction, and (2) change the number of justices on the Court - not that they've done the latter in about 150 years.

Good point, Jeff, although (1) is actually disputed and its interpretation would be subject to (surprise, surprise) the Court. I remember there was some talk in the past few years about removing a particular issue from the Court's jurisdiction... and now for the life of me I can't remember what it was. Maybe abortion? Anyway, I remember talking about this issue in federal jurisdiction class and the conclusion was that (because in the law, words sometimes -- even often -- mean something other than their apparent clear meaning, which is why lawyers have to be specially trained, to even make sense of this ridiculousness :)) we don't know whether Congress could do that, because the issue hasn't been brought up and tested in front of the Supreme Court, who has the final word on Constitutional interpretation.

To be clear, the dispute is over what the Exceptions Clause in Article III means -- clearly it does mean Congress can remove SOME cases from the Court's jurisdiction, but the question kind of centers on whether it can remove entire areas of substantive law, or whether it's limited to procedural restrictions and the like.

Andy said...

Thank you, all, for keeping my blog alive while I'm stuck in my horrible temp job.

Jeff: don't knock abstract wanking, it serves its own purpose. As for the college dorm bull-session, we can look at it as a prep-class for LC who starts college soon. I hope he has some dormmates who are as stubborn as we are.

Terri: thanks for commenting, and yes, like everyone said, you raise a GREAT point. That's one of the scary things about what Andrew Sullivan calls the "Christianists," this conservative political movement that seems to think that God's real chosen people are the Americans, and that is our unique, God-given duty to spread both Christianity and democracy around the world. These are the folks that actually parse the symbols of Revelation to try to figure out what role America will play in the Apocalypse. I agree, we should think of ourselves as Christians, as citizens of the world, before we think of ourselves as Americans. Absolutely.

Nonetheless, we are Americans. : ) And I chose my words inauspiciously. No, we don't "owe allegiance" to the Constitution. I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance back in elementary school when I was actually something of a little Christianist bastard myself, because it struck me as positively fascist (though, I wouldn't have known to use that word) to make people stand up and pledge their allegiance to a flag. I figured if America wanted my allegiance, it should earn it. : ) And it has.

I was just trying to find a way to counter my understanding of LC's argument, which is that we are "ruled" by our government somehow, and that "laws" are best defined as rules that impair one's freedom. Maybe what LC is getting at is the idea of a "social contract" -- is that Rousseau? (LC, are you going to be a philosophy major?) I think I may be able to agree that far. (Philosophy classes were SO long ago, I can't speak with any confidence on it.) Anyway, I think we're getting at the idea that living in a Democracy involves, to some extent, surrending your autonomy for the general good. But that contract extends to our elected officials, too: in fact, it's their job, as I see it, to work to maintain a healthy balance between individual liberties and the greater good. And so, while they do indeed have the power to limit our freedoms in important ways, I don't see them as "ruling" over us.

I also see that as a distinctly Christian worldview, that we have a moral responsibility to put our desires second to the well-being of others.

little-cicero said...

Let's try this again. Forget the individual politicians for a moment- they are the figureheads of rulership. That is the case in most forms of government: In aristocracy and republics alike they are all-too-often the useful idiots representing special interests. Even ideally, they are the representatives of the majorities that voted them in to power- they must serve the minority as the majority demands. Take a microcosmic government composed of people with names starting with "J," If it was solely a matter of Joe voting for Jack, Joe and Jack would be of equal consent, but the fact is that Jeff and Jerry can be in equal consent with Jack, and Joe will be ruled by that majority. THAT IS THE RULERSHIP to which I refer. I apologize for not clarifying that. I do ask, how is majority rule any less a "rulership" than the rule of he whom the majority elects. It is the same thing- during that period of time, one group/individual is making decisions that affect a non-consenting group/individual by the authority of the scepter of government. Without that ruling authority, it is only a systemized anarchy. The essence of government is in the answer "Because I said so," When a parent utters this phrase, it is surprisingly profound: It undermines at once liberty, morality, reason and equality; and for what? For Government. That is rulership. Government is merely the medium in which this element plays out.

Frankly, I believe replacing "govern" with "rule" was my only radical act in this debate. No one wants to think that they are compliant with rulership, but the fact is that at any given moment, government has greater authority than us- they rule us through their respective functions even as we rule them through voting, special interests, popularization of public offices and the jury system. On a more practical level, sugarcoating the nature of governmental authority is not likely to have us take seriously opportunities for involvement- rule by a few can only happen in the country if the masses do not involve themselves. There is a potential for "ruling ourselves" but if any one wants to restrict "rulership" to "I rule me, You rule you, that's that" then that person ought to move to a place void of any government- like, say... Iraq. (: (Throwing a bone to those liberals- chew away fellas!)

kr said...

LC, didn't this all start way back because you said the President ruled us?

being "ruled" by a set of laws is WAYYYY less arbitrary than being ruled by a person

and it is WAYYYY easier to force laws to change than to force people to change

(I think you have changed your basic thesis, what "rulership" you were trying to define ... I think you have made it more reasonable, but I object to your implication that you were saying that all along ...)

little-cicero said...

"There is a populist branch involved, as well as a timeless elitist branch and a momentary commander branch, but they conflict with each other in such a way that the government in general is less powerful and less capable of ruling. Yet it still rules in-between elections." -One of my first mentions of "rule" by government.

I was intending "government" the whole time. The government is voted in by a majority, so even insofar as that majority holds power, government is not truly democratic because, in a republic, the majority elects people with whom I disagree and do not share interests or views, but they hold power over me any ways. Call it rule by the majority or rule by those that the majority elect (all branches of government included, whether this happens directly or indirectly).

Which brings us back the the original argument: If some madman becomes an official in government, whether President, Congressman or Justice, the nature of government dictates that that "Is My Official" no matter how much they represent my views or interests.

The original use of the word "ruled" a week or two ago somewhere around July 15th was here: "That is a ridiculous proposition- when we form that social contract with government, the very thing we agree to is to be ruled over in-between elections."

little-cicero said...

My more concise reply, KR, is that while I have indeed modified the presentation, I don't see any change in my argument. I was vague in my presentation of the word "ruler" because all members of government are "the ruler," I could have been more specific before, and for that vagueness I apologize.

By the way, in one use of the word "ruler" it sounded especially like I meant the President. I was telling DJRD that by his principle, the ruler would have as much right to kill the ruled over what is best for the state as the ruled would to kill the ruler. I am particularly sorry for this lack of clarity.

DJRainDog said...

Three things, then I'm going back to my gin, and I'll address what's transpired in the last couple of days when I feel like it.

1. HUGE thank-yous to the ladies, specifically law fairy and kr, for coming in and rescuing Andy's blog from what was swiftly becoming an incredible young republican snooze-fest. I always enjoy your well-reasoned and well-educated voices. Also the fact that you're women. (If I'm gay, why do I still LIKE women better than men?!)

2. Nice back-pedaling seizure-o. You left yourself an escape hatch, and for that, I congratulate you. Well done!

3. l-c: At NO point in this dialogue have you previously made the point that you make in your, "I was telling DJRD..." statement above (which, by the way, is so ill-phrased as to have caused me to have to read it repeatedly to understand what you were trying to say). And while you're right -- in my ideal world, the ruler is as right to execute criminals who lie, cheat, steal, rape, and murder -- in THIS world, it would be equally right, for the people of this country, against whom and against whose interests the current administration has lied, cheated, stolen, raped, murdered, and generally acted in bad faith, to drag the members of said administration into the street and give them a righteous stomping. "Aux armes, citoyens!" (As if. Americans are become a lot of eunuchs. Fuck this present state of affairs and the horse on which it hobbled in.)

Andy said...

Fuck this present state of affairs and the horse on which it hobbled in.

LOL.

little-cicero said...

As a matter of fact DJ, not only did you read that sentence- according to your words, you read it a half-dozen times:

"For if you, the ruled, are so richeous (mispelled) in qualifying as such, why shouldn't the ruler adopt the same reasoning against his enemies. You may as well reinstate (misspelled) the Alien and Sedition Acts."

Perhaps if you had read this a seventh time, my argument wouldn't seem that of a tyrannical apologist. Of course, you also would have noticed two spelling errors!

As for my phrasing, could I have been intentionally ironic by being unclear amid an apology for a lack of clarity? (:

If I may critique your writing, even in the sentence criticizing my sentences, your use of selfious interruptus via parenthetical sentences-within-sentences is as grammatically exhausting as any of my faux-pois.

I appreciate the rather catchy sign-off, but your definition of justice is about as simplistic as any I have thus far witnessed. Your argument is for the application of retributive justice to a government's members. First of all, not only are you in favor of the death penalty- you are also in favor of Hammurabi's Code. I suppose if President Clinton commits adultery his penis is at as much risk of decapitation as Joe Six Pack’s.

Taking a more mature definition of justice, such as that of Plato, let's suppose that the just state is one in which the rational element (government- pause for laughter), the spiritual element (military), and physical element (the country and its people) are in harmony- governing one another properly. The trouble, of course, comes when we try to blend democracy with a political philosophy that despises democracy. You want the physical to rule the rational and spiritual, whereas I insist that, as with the human being, the rational should rule the physical and direct the spiritual. The democratic Republic is a compromise- it allows the physical to define the rational, and allows the rational to rule it as long as it is defined thusly.

To be baser in my explanation, I will insist that the Just Man's mind is NOT ruled by his penis. The penis, along with the rest of the body and its hormones, take turns composing and directing the mind, but when it comes down to making an arm move or a heart beat, the central nervous system as a whole runs the show. That is justice.

Call it a false dichotomy between the point of consultation (voting) and the point of action (execution)...

little-cicero said...

Yikes- sorry for the lack of brevity! I think I may have set a new record for comment length. I won't blame you if you skim some of that! (:

DJRainDog said...

Ah, k. I took those 2 statements to mean 2 different things; I was more focused on the A&S Acts aspect of the former than on the "government can kill its constituents who are enemies of the state" aspect. And incidentally, it can! And in BuCheney's interpretation of things, it can also send the enemies of the state out of the country to be tortured with no real legal recourse! As to the spelling errors, I probably took you to task for them at the time, if only in my head. I've nearly given up on you bothering to actually read what you've written. I'm aware, too, that my sentences get a bit tangential and complex. I've read too much Dickens. And by the way, it's "faux pas" in both the singular and plural forms. You, sir, are in NO position to cast aspersions about ANY kind of maturity, and your physical/rational/spiritual metaphor is WAY off track. I mean, casting the military as "spiritual"?! WTF?! No, I'm not REALLY in favour of either the death penalty or retributive justice against a government's members. I was just firing back at what you'd said with an extreme example. What you're proposing, however, is that the current administration is as above the law as it thinks it is, that its members cannot and should not be held accountable for their actions. And that is just plain wrong.

DJRainDog said...

P.S.: "Thusly"? Are you kidding me?! Thus! "Thusly" is unacceptable (bad/redundant form, adverbialising an adverb). I suppose some of my obsession with the subtleties of language comes from my 12th-grade AP English teacher. I can think of two occasions on which she so cleverly corrected my usage that they've stayed in my head. 1) I said something to the effect of, "I'm so mad that blahblahblah," to which she responded, "Dogs get mad, darling; be angry instead." 2) I: "I'm just going to carry these papers down to Ms. So-and-so; I'll be right back." She: "DJRainDog-darling, you 'carry' pails of water; take them to her instead." You see, I'm not a TOTALLY humourless git.

kr said...

Ah, but would you have accepted those corrections from a man, I wonder ;) ?


LC, the falsehood lies in your continuing insistence that Plato had some grip on actual functioning reality with his typology. His was a utopian vision, for gosh sakes, he didn't present it as "going to happen" and certainly not as "was happening." It was an IDEA, not a psychological study. You like to muck about with ideas--it's a game, not a redefinition of reality!

In real life right now, I maybe think the government is evidencing baser-instinct actions (based in fear, lust, greed, pleasure-seeking) and the populace is evidencing--at least good chunks are--rationality, and also moral outrage. But I think the difference is slight, and I suspect it is merely an artifact of prejudice on the part of the observer (in this case, me), and these things don't split down Plato's artificial lines anyhow.

The concept that the military "should" be separate from the govt/the people is just frightening. I think the military should flow along with the rest of us, thanks very much. Do you really idealize a military bred and raised separately?

Jeff said...

Did I not make a simple point that we're ruled by the Constitution and so are the people we elect?

How complicated can this be?

Why 20+ subsequent comments have appeared is beyond me.

Jeff said...

P.S. Not that I want to discourage people from commenting on Andy's blog. Continue commenting away!

Andy said...

Well, Jeff, because I think we here in the fray established (largely thanks to Terri) that we are not *ruled* by the Constitution. I think Americans (excepting Little Cicero) are generally uncomfortable with this "rule" thing. I think -- correct me if I'm wrong! -- that the consensus we reached is that we are governed by elected officials who are limited by the Constitution, i.e., while they have significant authority, they are not the arbiters of their own power, which makes them not really "rulers."

DJRainDog said...

Andy, sometimes, when I read your copy, in my head, I hear it being read aloud by Stephen Colbert's voice. I'm not saying it's a career avenue to pursue, I'm just saying you should keep your options open.

Andy said...

As long as I could work from home. :P

Jeff said...

Well I think "rule" vs. "govern" is getting too much into semantics, because people aren't always careful with their words, and maybe when LC said "rule" he really meant "govern" and didn't mean to imply a dictatorship. Although I'm still tangled up in his unwieldy leash metaphor.

And I just went and confused things in my more recent comment by saying we're "ruled by the Constitution." It's true, but maybe not the best word choice. What I meant to say (and what I said in my original comment) is that we're *bound* by it and so are our leaders.

I think -- correct me if I'm wrong! -- that the consensus we reached is that we are governed by elected officials who are limited by the Constitution, i.e., while they have significant authority, they are not the arbiters of their own power, which makes them not really "rulers."

And this is also what I said in my original comment... but for some reason this Talmudic discussion followed. :)

kr said...

Jeff: even you can't stop with one ;).

little-cicero said...

Jeff, I think you see why so many comments accumulated just now. It's because the term "rule" is so frightening to liberals such as ourselves (in the classical sense, of course) that we will pull the lever to derail the conversation as soon as we see the word. But what more is governmental authority than "rule," Rule is best explained as the mother's response, "Because I said so," Insofar as the government can say "because we're the government," they rule us- and thank God the times when they can say that are limited.

As far as Platonism and its utopian aspects, I believe that every idea has an element of perfection to it, and that the only difference between a utopian idea and a pragmatic idea is that the latter comes with the disclaimer widely posting faults- the former allows the recipient to judge its degree of probability. The idea that the government should somewhat rule the people (again, no matter the degree to which the people determine govenrment) in the way that reason should rule desire, is utopian insofar as it relies on government officials being rational- just as the mind must be rational to rule over the body. As long as I acknowledge the faults of Platonism (ie government buffoonery) I am being perfectly pragmatic.

I must make clear that I do NOT idealize any ideals of The Republic. There were some ideas in that dialogue that made my jaw drop in horrified amazement (killing babies because they aren't fit according to the state). Rather I point to the framework of the State, because I see the same framework in all of nature. Actually, the term "spirited element" excels in that it doesn't specify "military" (although "Socrates's" elaborations do), rather it points to the part of the population which, by its steadfast and spirited nature, is fit for military service. In the definition of justice, I thought he left the terminology just open enough for flexibility.

kr said...

Pff. Well, I can't argue with you on formal Plantonism/"Socrates"ism, as you well know ;). But I am relieved to see you say SOMETHING directly negative about SOME part of them ;).

On the other hand, perhaps this was a useful excercise for you in being cautious when throwing philosophical terminology in; most folks won't understand the subtleties. Now you can spend a few college yearsfigureing out how to translate philosophical terms, the way I worked on translating Catholic theological terms ;).

I still think you have a fundamental misapprehension of "ruled." Having authority is very very different from ruling--"ruling" implies no choice, "having authority" implies buy-in.

And let me tell you, as a mother, I can say with authority ;) that mothers (and fathers) don't "rule" their children unless they are willing to abuse them. And that is the straight-up truth. No matter how young, children need to buy in or they aren't learning, nor teaching themselves true (thinking) obedience.

In the end, if the government tells me to do something unethical, I will say no.

THAT is what I mean, when I say they don't "rule" me. They can punish me, they can try to persuade me, but it is MY choice whether to follow a law or not. It is not THEIR choice whether I follow a law.

And my buy-in (my general approval of the system, my choosing to remain here, my voting, my door-to-dooring) doesn't mean that when a law gets passed I will necessarily allow myself to be ruled on that matter (although in most cases yes). The choice is still mine.

(This also, though, gets into the sticky territory of "people need to be brought up to think well" ... because the more people just react, the more the system will need to crack down to maintain any sort of order ... a grand cyclical irony of the destruction of American independent thinking is we are actually more dangerous to control the more the government represses free thought ;). )

---

And, btw, someday you will probably run up against a very ugly wall that myself and several other intellectual friends I know have run up against, when suddenly it becomes plain that the "rational(/mind) should rule over the desires(/body)" ideal is actually non-pragmatic, and seeing it everywhere around is a very pretty psychological projection.

Not that anyone believes it until they hit it themselves.

(And yes, people who prioritize experience over rationality hit the wall from the other side : (. )

DJRainDog said...

Now, kr, I KNOW you can't have leveled that last line at moi. Grrrrlll! ;-)

There are a number of things on which kr and I agree to disagree, but this ain't one of 'em. I've lived my life in pursuit of experience. If there are, as S.E. Hinton so simply but poignantly put it, "goers" and "stayers", I've always been a goer, even when the signs said "stay".

I've gotten, and I'll continue getting, my "experience", but I've paid a price for it, and I'll be paying with my last breath. Regret is pointless, though; the thing is to keep moving forward, gathering a little more sense of balance between reason and emotion (The brilliant lead-singer of my band wrote, in one of her songs, "Reason and emotion, they don't talk at times like this."), between sense and sensation, every step of the way.

little-cicero said...

DJRD is a lover of experience as a key to Truth?

So what Truth, or lack thereof, do you find in the experience of a bad hangover?

;)

This has been fun.

kr said...

Apparently quite a number of people find quite a lot of SOMETHING that way ;).

And no, DJR, I was thinking of some others I know ... I did think of you, but you seem to be doing your damndest to hit the wall at maximum speed from both sides at once, and I can hardly expect to be any kind of Voice of Experience (no pun intended) in YOUR life ;). (Voice of Inexperience, perhaps ;). )

LC, oh ye of linear thought and dialectic, tho', take ye heed!

DJRainDog said...

I wasn't really talking about hangovers, but yes, and part of the reason for the irregular timing of my writing is that I'm generally "out there" living life pretty aggressively, not just sitting around picking my nose and thinking about it.

Andy said...

not just sitting around picking my nose and thinking about it.

Hey, I resent that. I like living in the suburbs.

kr said...

not just sitting around picking my nose and thinking about it

Snort.
To use my new favorite euphemism:
Flaming Hula Hoops ;)!

Woo woo :)!

TTy'allL ;)