Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I don't get the Russian Interference accusation.

OK, didn't Clinton supporters tell us that there was no issue in regard to her e-mails? Yet it seems that any Russian interference relates to her and others around her e-mails being made public.

I think anyone who said that Hillary's (and other Democratic Committee members) e-mails weren't an issue should be precluded from saying there was Russian Interference.

We don't even need to get into the likelihood that the e-mails weren't hacked, but were leaked by a DNC insider.

The next question would be how did Russians rig the election if it wasn't the e-mail thing?  Were they responsible for Bernie Sanders treatment?

And if I remember correctly, most of the leaked e-mails showed how the DNC screwed Bernie and wanted Trump as an opponent because he would be easy to beat (which he was in terms of the popular vote).

The other possibility is they somehow rigged the voting, yet HILLARY WON THE POPULAR VOTE! I'm going to keep hammering on how the Electoral College distorts the vote and is supposed to thwart the popular vote.

For there to have been local interference, the Russians would have had to had their hand in the choice of voting machines that were not auditable among other things.  But the US is neither an Republic nor a Democracy in that it does not really have free and fair elections.

You can't blame the Russians for that.

It would make far more sense to assess the US process of elections than to blame the Russians.

See also:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Respecting The Flag and Service

The Flag of the United States is a symbol of the United States.  There is an unofficial flag code that says you should stand for the flag as it passes by.  There is also a request that you stand during our national anthem.  None of these are laws.  Not doing so is, perhaps, rude.  To some, it's disrespectful to the anthem (or the flag). 

I served in the US Army (and reserves) for 12 years (the vast majority of that was reserve time, full disclosure).   One reason I did so was to help pay for school, but the other, the more important is that my family (and I) have deep and long-standing feelings that this experiment, this democratic example, represented something special.  It represented a nation committed to protecting the rights of  those who were unpopular, a nation committed to making sure people were represented without restriction, were free to speak, free to vote, and where they could grow up believing the government acted, in general, with good purpose to protect everyone and pursue democracy FOR everyone, regardless of race, or religion, or ethnicity, or creed.  One which, the vast majority of time, acted with integrity because WE, Americans, for the most part, did so, and expected nothing less from our government.  I felt that was honorable and something to be preserved, even at the cost of life, even my life, if needed.

The foundation of that system of government was a Constitution which was elegant in it's simplicity, yet rich in meaning.  There were letters and words which constructed the stated rights, but more importantly, there were ideas behind the words which expressed an intent.  That intent may have been more (or less) limited due to the age in which the words were drafted, but equally clearly, the drafters expected views to evolve.  They expected not just that the document might be altered to adjust to the times, but that the understanding and application of the words would evolve.  That's not a point for debate, they said exactly such, especially Jefferson who did much of the authoring.

A fundamental protection which ensures the preservation of that democracy, that ideal, is that people have the right to protest without fear of reprisal by the government.  Reprisal doesn't have to take the form of overt use of force against those who are dissenting from an action by the government to be sinister and effective in shutting down dissent.  Putting people on black-lists, saying they should never be able to work in their field again (as Joe McCarthy requested) is tremendously effective in shutting down the voices of others who might have spoken out against the government.  Saying the employer should turn over the comments which employees make in private, on social media, to the government and then having some governmental representative request some sort of reprisal by the employer, would have the same effect. 

In the case of the President of the United States asking employers to fire those who do not agree with his opinion about the "flag code" would, equally, have the same effect.  It will, if he were effective, would result in those who would otherwise want to protest anything, refrain from doing so.  In fact, we've seen that effect with Colin Kapernick.  Capernick was a moderately capable NFL QB who was the first to show his displeasure with the state of policing in the US by declining to stand during the playing of our national anthem.  His employers, NFL owners, decided to act against Capernick, by failing to continue to employ him.  They said it was due to his lack of talent, and that may be part of the reason, but when others, others who were clearly talented enough to be employed, chose to do so, the owners were put in a bind, either fire those (or suspend those) who were speaking out (and potentially embarrassing the NFS in the owners' minds), or, as they have done, acknowledge their employees often come from a rough background, and in some cases, the neighborhoods they grew up in, and the neighbors they still know and love, might be being subjected to profoundly unfair treatment by the police (and by the courts), and so, by the government.  So, they were using the form available, the forum MOST likely to reach people, to protest. 

We can argue whether they should do so, but we CANNOT/MUST not shy away from the reality that it is not the government's place to act against them.  If we want to maintain our democratic institutions, we have to push back on the government when it starts acting to squelch dissent. 

So, to me, it's FAR more important to stand up for people's right to speak out than it is to worry about wrapping ourselves in a symbol (a flag) or an anthem.  Those symbols pale to irrelevance next to the value we embrace and preserve when we stand up for people's rights to protest, and stand up and speak out against an unfair (or even brutal) system which we, the people, have allowed to develop in response to our fears.  Freedom is often a balancing act of weighing our individual safety against the rights of other individuals to act as they chose.  Freedom is rarely ever needing to choose between individual rights and the trappings of nationalism.   That choice is normally only required in states which lack freedom, in totalitarian states.  Mr. Trump is asking our citizens to boycott the business where people are protesting brutality.  While I'd embrace Mr. Trump's right to do so if he were a private citizen, once he becomes President, it instead looks like the government seeking to limit speech and in specific, Mr. Trump looks to be squelching dissent about himself.

Standing up for the rights of those with whom we disagree is, therefore, to me the far greater respect for our flag and our country and our ideals than any number of people standing up when a song is song will ever provide.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Good resources on the electoral college and how it distorts the vote.

The first one is this report from the Pew Charitable trust on how the Electoral College distorts the

The second is this map at which demonstrates that Green voters did not sway the election.  Yes, I could have wasted my vote on Clinton adding to her popular vote victory, but it would have done fuck all in the long run other than piss me off.

The lesson of Bernie Sanders was the US system of elections is anything but free and fair, which means the US is neither a democracy or a republic.

FairVote has a really good section on the Electoral College and how it does none of the things it is claimed to do.  It doesn't give the smaller states any equality and it doesn't create a national president. In fact, the 2016 campaign was pretty much in 4 states!

And let's not forget that the Electoral College was to prevent incompetents from being president as well as foreign powers somehow influencing the election.

Seriously, the Electoral College needs to go along with a lot of other electoral reforms before you can say this is a republic or a democracy.

Monday, September 18, 2017


That sounds pretty dumb doesn't it, but that is sort of what happened if you listen to the Clinton supporters.  They liked playing the woman card in both 2008 and 2016.

Remember "Obama Bros"?  And there is talk that the Barack Obama was a Kenyan Muslim began with somebody from Clinton's campaign back in 2008.

Given that the ad hominem attack is the sign somebody is losing the debate, we could indeed say Clinton lost before she even started running.


People need to ponder the significance of this picture since it pretty much sums up what is wrong with politics in the US.

While Hillary's running wasn't the main reason I voted Green, it was one small factor in that decision.

And it reflected that the current state of US politics is broken.  Hillary was the symptom, not the disease.

ANYONE who isn't aware of this and discussing what the real problem is can't really make an accurate statement about what went wrong.  So, they are going to say silly things like "misogyny caused Clinton the election", "Jill Stein and the Greens caused Hillary the election", or "Russians stole the election".

Even if all those reasons are total BULLSHIT.

The Fact is Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with 65,853,516 (48.5% votes) to Trump's 62,984,825 (46.4% votes), but lost in the electoral college by receiving 232 (43.1%) of the electoral votes to Trump's 306 (56.8%) votes.

That means the only thing which made Donald Trump president was the electoral college, an institution created by the US Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2-4). 

I'm not sure who or where this was posted in a newsgroup, but it sums up the thinking of the Jill Stein voters:
So let play something out, if we vote for Jill Stein (which we will) and she gets enough electoral votes that it keeps either Hillary or Donald from receiving enough electoral votes to grab the nomination, then Congress will vote from the top three to be the next president. We all know how much both parties hate Donald and that they are to corrupt to vote for Jill. So who does that leave? So in all actuality a vote for Jill isn't a vote for trump. And if we get enough people to vote for her we will get a third party. If everyone voting fear because they are scared of Trump voted for Jill she would win hands down. Here is the true argument we should be telling the fear voters. And if no one gets enough electoral votes, we will then see in full view that it is rigged by the fact both parties will vote for her. So in the least a vote for Jill is a vote for Hillary, at most a vote for Jill is a vote for Jill. Either way we would at the least have a third party nationally recognized from now on. Lets push this talking point. I think it might sway the scared people into voting their conscience knowing Donald won't get the presidency.
I know that my reasons for voting for the Green Party relate to a broken system: and not anything else.

See also:
Why Electoral College wins are bigger than popular vote ones | Pew Research Center

Thursday, September 14, 2017

United States v. Cruikshank 92 U.S. 542 (1875), the "lost" Second Amendment case

The Second Amendment part is short, very short:
The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendments means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government.
One would have to say it is cryptic. At least on first glance.

But, it is quite pithy.  Why would the Second Amendment right only mean that the "right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution"?  Why is it that the right granted " shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government"?

Presser v Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886), discusses Cruikshank, but it doesn't really go beyond what was said above.  Like McDonald, Presser was looking into the application of the Second Amendment to state law, but it came up with different results altogether.

Maybe because the Second Amendment right only relates to Congress' power under Article I, Section 8, Clause 16:

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
This would mean that the first three US Supreme Court cases ALL said that the right related to this power.  Or as US v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), stated:
The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power- 'To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.' U.S.C.A.Const. art. 1, 8. With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia- civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.
The emphasised portion demonstrates that Scalia was correct when he said that Miller was not helpful to his analysis. Prior Supreme Court cases found that the right related to militia efficacy, not private arms or self-defence. Scalia was correct, the case law and precedents of the Court as stated in Cruikshank, Presser, and Miller totally contradict the Heller and McDonald decisions.

By the way, Justice William O. Douglas, who was on the Supreme Court at the time Miller was decided, glossed Miller in his dissent to Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S 143, 150 -51 (1972).

McDonald was an absurdity which I am amazed four justices could tolerate, but it probably came about because the sentiments of the time are to rip the Second Amendment from the constitutional framework of providing for the common defence.

The US Constitution is silent on the topic of self-defence. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.

Anyway, one of the many failings of the gun control side in the Heller debate was its failure to rely on stare decisis since SCOTUS's case law was on board and most of the primary sources support the "civic right" interpretation. Now, we are stuck with two bad legal decisions from a high court to cause mischief. Fortunately, Heller-McDonald was limited, but there is more than enough case law to show "well-regulated" means under strict control (including USC art I,sec. 8, clause 14).

Monday, September 11, 2017

What about the parents?

DACA is Deferred Action for CHILDHOOD Arrivals, which makes me wonder what about the parents?


First off, the parents of these kids are the ones responsible for the kids' lack of proper immigration status, but more importantly what is the status of the parents?  I think it might be safe to assume that the parents are also unlawfully present in the US.

Let's toss in that these caring parents have chosen a path which could lead to the children being deported and barred for anywhere from five, ten, or 20 years, and in some cases, ever being able to return to the U.S. at all. Not to mention that is could mean NEVER becoming a US citizen.

Why isn't that being discussed?

So, we are supposed to feel sorry for these poor children who came here unlawfully because mommy and daddy weren't willing to obey the rules.  The kiddies are being snatched from a nation where they don't have a legal right to be (immigration is a privilege, not a right).

And families are being broken apart.


But if the parents are being deported, shouldn't the children as well?

Anyway, I would rather have someone like Abdi Iftin or a few hundred thousand Rohinga Muslims who are willing to follow the rules enter the country than allow someone who should be barred from citizenship according to US law to be fast tracked into citizenship,

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Wasting votes

I find it odd that people who claim to be liberal and believe in democracy would demonise people who vote third parties.  Especially since that is pretty anti-democratic and authoritarian behaviour to persecute people based on their political leanings.

One of the allegations is that somehow I "wasted my vote". Now, let's look at the result of the 2016 election.

Not the big 306 "votes" for Trump or the 232 "votes" for Clinton, but the real numbers representing the popular vote.

The Fact is Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with 65,853,516 (48.5% votes) to Trump's 62,984,825 (46.4% votes), but lost in the electoral college by receiving 232 (43.1%) of the electoral votes to Trump's 306 (56.8%) votes.

The fact is that the Electoral College is really where votes count, not the popular vote. But there is distortion even when the popular vote sort of aligns with the Electoral College results.

The problem is the anti-democratic Electoral College is not being discussed with all sorts of other silly theories being bandied about.

But, the bottom line is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

Maybe my one vote might have changed the result, but the fact is that is not likely given the nature of the Electoral College.

I should have mentioned that one of the many attractive points about the Green Party is that it was talking about meaningful election reform.  They were also talking about how the duopoly has hijacked the elections. This hijacking is so bad that the League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of the presidential debates in 1988 because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.

But neither party is discussing the real result of the election, which is that Clinton won.

Personally, I know how I felt in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote only to be stripped of the victory by the US Supreme Court stopping the recounts

I don't regret the way I voted and would still do it again knowing the outcome.  In fact, I feel sorry for the people who appear to not realise that the loss was in the Electoral College, not the popular vote.

I think the people who voted for Clinton are the ones who wasted their votes this time.  And they will keep wasting them until real election reform becomes an issue. 

And one of the most important reforms is getting rid of the Electoral College.

So long, and thanks for all the money.

OK, I knew that one of the anti-DACA talking points was BS: that unlawfully present people do not pay taxes.

They do using something called an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). The ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure that people, including unauthorized immigrants, pay taxes even if they do not have a Social Security number and regardless of their immigration status.

The ITIN doesn't grant any sort of immigration status, but many immigrants have them. 

The ITIN is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, for example 9XX-7X-XXXX. It seems to be it would be obvious if someone is trying to work without proper authorisation to the immigration authorities doing a record check.

A lot of countries levy a fine against people who are unlawfully present.  Any funds paid should be considered a penalty for failing to properly comply with immigration status.

So long, and thanks for all the money.

 See also:
 The Facts About the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Friday, September 8, 2017

More DACA Bullshit.

As I said in my last post, I am not anti-Immigrant and I believe in free movement, but one needs to follow the rules. I don't give a shit where the unlawfully present immigrant comes from--they are not present with legal authorisation, they should expect the consequences.

Next. The rule of law means that the law applies to EVERYBODY EQUALLY.  Somebody breaks the law, they should expect the consequences.

Secondly, unless you are a citizen: entering and exiting a nation is not a right, it is a privilege.
The admission of aliens to this country is not a right, but a privilege, which is granted only upon such terms as the United States prescribes.  338 U. S. 542.
I don't get where the fuck people who are not US nationals (or the nationals of any other country) think they somehow they have a right to be in a country where they are not citizens.  The BREXIT thing is showing that the right to free movement can be lost by non-citizens who had a right to free movement.

So, I really don't get people who are unlawfully present somehow believing they have an entitlement to remain in a nation.  Pretty much all the nations in the world will deport: some impose criminal penalties before deportation.

And don't get me into the Palestinian situation (short form: I think people should STFU about supporting US illegals until they step up to the plate and support Palestinian right of return).

So, unless you are a citizen of a country--don't expect to have a right to reside in that country.

The US has been pretty nice to its unlawfully present aliens, but it looks as if the undocumented are now getting a nasty surprise. 

The dream was actually a nightmare.

I don't get DACA and its supporters.

OK, lets start with the silly "people can't be illegal" argument.

It's not the people who are "illegal"--it's their lack of proper immigration status (i.e., tourist, resident alien, or what I am going to call "citizen candidate") that is illegal.

Sorry, I am all for immigration and free movement, but fuck you if you aren't going to live by the rules.  You took your chances, you live with the consequences.

Some illegals pay people smugglers as much if not way more than they would pay a good immigration lawyer. Really fuck them. And I say that for a lot of reasons. The people smugglers are serious criminals.

There are more than enough people out there who are willing to follow the rules, no matter how difficult, to immigrate that I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who want to bypass the system.  As I said above, You took your chances, you live with the consequences.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) doesn't grant any real immigration status, it just defers the deportation status.  These people could be, and now are, being threatened with, or possibly, deported.

The worst part about DACA is that children are being used as pawn in the debate. One trick in propaganda is to use emotions. And what tugs on your heartstrings more than some poor little kiddie whose parents brought him to another country in violation of the law, but has somehow assimilated enough so that returning to their native land would be a "hardship".

They have gone on to:
"Did you know this about DACA recipients: 95% are working, in college or have joined our military, 48% got a job with better working conditions, 90% got a driver’s license or state ID and 12% were even able to buy a first home."
"Joined our military"--that sends bells ringing in my head since the US Military is SUPPOSED to check immigration status--and DACA recipients AREN'T US CITIZENS, they aren't even on a path to citizenship!

I know of at least one case where a woman "self-deported" because she couldn't get federal college funds.

Something stinks about all the pro-DACA reporting, but I can't really put my finger on it.  I think Breitbart did, but unfortunately they are considered unreliable.  I would need some sort of unbiased verification of that story to really cite to it.  My personal inclination is to think Breitbart is onto something.

The problem is that this seems to be a big smoke screen to me for a lot of other things related to immigration policy.  The usual hard questions where the debate is being done in the dark because people are being lied to.

See also
Open Borders: Human Smuggling Fees.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) - Immigration Equality
Raised in America, now back in Mexico: 'The country I loved kicked me out'
Billionaires Petition for Cheaper Workers, DACA Amnesty - Breitbart

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The US is neither a republic nor a democracy

If free and fair elections on a secret ballot are one of the criteria for both systems.
Likewise, five million votes separated Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the popular vote during the 2012 election. It would be a stretch to call the 2012 presidential election a particularly close one with a margin that large. But because of the peculiarities of the Electoral College, a shift in just three hundred thousand votes in four states would have made Romney, rather than Obama, the president. Similarly John Kerry would have defeated George Bush in the Electoral College with a shift of fewer than a hundred thousand votes in Ohio.

I want to post these results since there are people who claim to be "constitutional conservatives" who like the electoral college. I wonder how they can tolerate it when results like the one above are the norm in this system?

The only real reason it continues to exist is that it allows the duopoly ("Republicans" and "Democrats") to control the system. In fact, most electoral reforms would cut into the duopoly's system of control, which is why election reform and voting rights aren't high on the agenda.

So, when you think that the electoral college is somehow "good", just remember how much it distorts the vote.  It works both ways.  In fact, this distortion is more disturbing to me than the 2016 result was, but notice that no one talks about how the distortion of presidential election results is common in US politics.

Even among the "constitutional conservatives" who defend this bullshit.

I should also add that sham elections which are elections that are without any purpose or significance and meant purely for show are a feature of dictatorships. These elections may have choices, but they are meaningless choices which do not truly express popular opinion.  These type of elections are meant to try and establish a sense of legitimacy for an illegitimate government.

Given the results of the electoral college in distorting the popular vote, or totally negating it, one truly has to wonder why people try to establish a false distinction between republics and democracies other than many republics (e.g., USSR, German Democratic Republic, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or Democratic Republic of Congo) are totalitarian states.

In fact, tolerating sham elections and a false democracy/republic ends up creating an oligarchy.

And you can't have either a democracy or a republic without free and fair elections on a secret ballot.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Brexit v DACA

EU citizens have a Fundamental RIGHT to free movement between member nations.[1] Prior to Brexit, a citizen of Holland could live in the UK or a Citizen of the UK could live in Belgium. You would still have to comply with local registration laws (e.g., Belgium), but they couldn't deport an EU citizen.

Brexit changed that and removed a right guaranteed by Treaties.

With Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, the people in question are "unlawfully present", which means they are non-compliant with immigration procedures. Deferred action:
is a discretionary, limited immigration benefit by DHS. It can be granted to individuals who are in removal proceedings, who have final orders of removal, or who have never been in removal proceedings. Individuals who have deferred action status can apply for employment authorization and are in the U.S. under color of law. However, there is no direct path from deferred action to lawful permanent residence or to citizenship.  And, it can be revoked at any time.
Deferred action doesn't really grant any right or permanent residency status.  In other words, people were still in danger of deportation under DACA. 

I want to add that most nations will deport a non-citizen who is not compliant with immigration procedures.

Deportation in and of itself can create consequences for international travel/movement.
But, there is a big difference between having a right to reside in a nation taken away from you and being deported because you DO NOT HAVE a right to be in the nation.

While it may create a sad tale, most nations do not show the same consideration the US has in trying to normalise people who have been "unlawfully present". There is no right for people to be unlawfully present to become citizens.

It is not racism, it is international law.

[1] Article 3(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU); Titles IV and V TFEU; Article 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gun Control Irony

It would be really ironic if instead of all the mass shootings the US has suffered (my condolences to the victims and their families), that the incident that caused people to realise the US needs gun control is an out of control suburban mother fighting over a notebook in a suburban Wal-Mart.
No, pulling a gun in this situation is not self-defence by any stretch of the imagination.  No one was fearing death or serious bodily injury which would justify even the threat of deadly force.

The woman pulling the gun is committing Felony Assault under Michigan law, Section 750.82.
The offense of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW), is also known as Felonious Assault in Michigan. ADW is felony which is punishable by up to 4 years in prison. ADW is a crime which involves an assault with a deadly weapon (such as a gun or knife) or any other instrumentality which is fashioned or used as a weapon (car, club, bottle) which is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death. A criminal charge or conviction does not require actual physical contact or an injury. The offense is considered complete upon placing another in fear of an assault by a person who possesses a deadly weapon 
Michigan law requires that the defendant "must have honestly and reasonably believed that he or she was in danger of being killed, seriously injured or sexually assaulted" in order to use deadly force.  Additionally, the defendant "may only use as much force as he or she thinks is necessary at the time to protect himself or herself."

While a person may believe he or she had acted in self-defense, the police, prosecutor, judge and jury may disagree.

No shots need to be fired for her to be found guilty.

I'm not sure how the "pro-gun" crowd can defend this action.  I know responsible gun owners don't, but it's time they stepped up to the plate and admitted this shit happens too often with the relaxing of concealed carry law for it to be condoned.

It's time to give Presser v Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886) yet another plug.

One of the many failings of the Heller-McDonald bullshit is that those cases were not cases of first impression, but that post is coming in the future.

See also:

Friday, September 1, 2017

What is the difference between a Republic and a Democracy? (Part II)

Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.

— Che Guevara, 1961
How the founders imagined a republic to work.
Part one was sort of a trick question since both systems embody these rules. It is non-sensical to try and distinguish between these systems in modern times.

This wasn't always the case as the Founders of the United States often criticised democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy, often without the protection of a constitution enshrining basic rights. James Madison argued, especially in The Federalist No. 10, that what distinguished a democracy from a republic was that the former became weaker as it got larger and suffered more violently from the effects of faction, whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger and combats faction by its very structure.

The founders equated "democracy" with what we would call "anarchy", but they were working with ideals, not realities. 

What was critical to the American version of a republic, according to John Adams, was that the government be "bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend."  The rule of law is the concept where the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens which was the important factor in adopting the US Constitution.

The problem is that the founders didn't really understand republics, or perhaps were too fond of idealising them. The French philosopher who influenced the founders, Montesquieu, classified both democracies, where all the people have a share in rule, and aristocracies, where only some of the people rule, as republican forms of government in his "The Spirit of the Laws". Montesquieu was combining two very different forms of government into his concept of a republic.

This discussion should have started with the disclaimer that the modern type of "republic" itself is different from any type of state found in the classical world, or during the the concept bandied about during "the Enlightenment". The most important thing about real classical republics, they were either conquered by empires or became ones themselves. This becomes important in refuting Federalist #10: republics are not inherently stable, which was demonstrated in post-revolutionary France (the First Republic).
The reality: "We are not ze democracie, We are ze republique!"

The French demonstrated that the founders concept of republics was a ungrounded in fact at roughly the same time the Constitution was adopted.  Despite a strong guarantee of rights, the Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen de 1789, the First French Republic deteriorated into the Terror and then the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Another point, The term republic originated from the writers of the Renaissance as a descriptive term for states that were not monarchies, which gives a lot of latitude. On the other hand, now one can have a constitutional monarchy that is a democracy. This is important since Democracy comes from the Greek: δημοκρατία , Demokratía, which is literally "rule of the commoners". Democracy in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. I think a lot of people who try to differentiate between democracy and republic are really thinking of oligarchy, which is indeed neither system.

So, republics turn out to be more prone to problems  despite the founders' beliefs as a comparative study of US, French, and British history post 1789 demonstrates. And democracies tend to be far more stable than the founders believed.

The upshot is that the modern definition of a republic (from Latin: res publica, "public matter") is a sovereign state which is organized with a form of government in which power resides in elected individuals representing the citizen body and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. Presently, the term "republic" commonly means a system of government which derives its power from the people rather than from another basis, such as heredity or divine right. But it can even be dangerous to assume a something calling itself a republic, or democracy, truly is one (e.g., Democratic People's Republic of Korea or Democratic Republic of Congo, which both happen to be dictatorships).

While hereditary and divine right were once the defining factor in monarchies, they no longer are. United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavian countries, Thailand, Japan and Bhutan turned powerful monarchs into constitutional monarchs with limited or, often gradually, merely symbolic roles. In other countries, the monarchy was abolished along with the aristocratic system (as in France, China, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Egypt). An elected president, with or without significant powers, became the head of state in these countries. In other words, Constitutional Monarchies tend to be democratic.

If there is any real advantage to a republic, it would have to be that it can eventually evolve.  But one has to be careful how it evolves as the French and US examples have shown.  The French revolution produced a republic that was highly factionalised and unstable.  France's transition to democracy has been a rough road. The US also has its own problems, which includes some people believing there is a "right to rebellion", which is false (US Constitution, Article III, Section iii).[1]

Likewise, the US is ridden with factionalism which can hinder governmental function.  I find it interesting that people who try to make a difference between republic and democracy usually tend to be the ones that support a crippling factionalism. In fact, I find the people who try to make that distinction don't support true republics or democracies, but are more interested in an autocratic system.

Perhaps this shows where their difference comes since the people who wish to hinder government by non-funding parrot the phrase that there is a difference between a republic and a democracy.  They are willing to stop governmental function.  On the other hand, Parliamentary democracies dissolve when they cannot pass spending bills since  in the Westminster parliamentary systems the defeat of a supply bill (one that concerns the spending of money) is seen to automatically require the government to either resign or ask for a new election, much like a no-confidence vote. A government in a Westminster system that cannot spend money is hamstrung,  which also called loss of supply.

Anyway, I worry whenever anyone tries to make a distinction between these two systems since there should be none in practise.  I would add that people who do try to make that distinction are aware of the anti-democratic nature of the US system and are comfortable with it. We should not end up with oligarchy pretending to be a republic.

But a country cannot and should not enforce political systems on others that it does not implement at home. The US needs to start living up to its self image as a democratic-republic.

[1] Which means the proper "threeper" symbol should be "III.iii" for that article and to show they are not patriots following the constitution, but people being seditious and acting unconstitutionally.