Tom Rexton

More effective form of government?

35 posts in this topic

The form of government that seems to be, for the most part, the most effective in protecting individual rights is a republic with a structure that is congressional-presidential, parliamentary, or a combination or variation of both.

Is there any form of government that is superior to and radically different from these existing forms (in protecting individual rights)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I anticipated that I would get almost no answer.

But I find it difficult to believe that such forms of government are the ultimate forms. Afterall, the specific structures, operations and procedures of governments are like the complex parts that make up a machine (whose purpose is to protect individual rights). And a machine can certainly be improved upon.

Is the liberal*, representative democracy model truly the ultimate form of government?

*liberal in the classical sense, of protecting individual rights as the purpose of government

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I anticipated that I would get almost no answer.

But I find it difficult to believe that such forms of government are the ultimate forms.  Afterall, the specific structures, operations and procedures of governments are like the complex parts that make up a machine (whose purpose is to protect individual rights).  And a machine can certainly be improved upon.

Is the liberal*, representative democracy model truly the ultimate form of government?

*liberal in the classical sense, of protecting individual rights as the purpose of government

I was going to reply with that kind of answer then I wondered if that would be a 'radically' different form (which is what you were asking). A radical change is a change at the root of the thing itself, which would then make it something other than a government that protects individual rights, no?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

what about a system with no elected officials of government, where all citizens can directly vote on-line only for such issues that are specifically denoted by a strictly worded constitution that explicitly protects individual rights?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To clarify, I liken your original question to this:

Are there radically different squares (which have four straight sides) other than the ones we have now?

Since 'four equal sides' is one of the root properties of squares, well, you cannot radically change that and still call it a square I guess.

Drop the word radical from your original post, and I would answer:

"yes, there are probably better forms of government that protect individual rights, but we have not discovered them yet. If by radical you mean really, really different structures, well that is possible, but I would remind myself that it has taken mankind 2,000 years to get this far, so I doubt any one man could improve too much by sitting in his arm chair and pondering alternatives."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
what about a system with no elected officials of government, where all citizens can directly vote on-line only for such issues that are specifically denoted by a strictly worded constitution that explicitly protects individual rights?

Why vote? Just have an even more strictly worded constitution that algorithmically tells the society what to do for every forseeable situation (and of course protect individual rights).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A truly democratic system where every issue is voted for electronically by citizens leaves me thinking two things:

a) it would be a good thing because people would very quickly see the results of their own decisions/lack of decision making/influence of the media

:) it would be a disastrous thing because of the decisions people would make given the current situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why vote? Just have an even more strictly worded constitution that algorithmically tells the society what to do for every forseeable situation (and of course protect individual rights).
Statutes unfortunately are too often unclear as to what they are supposed to do.Section 1001, Title 18 of the US Code kind of states that lying is a crime, and it was apparently intended to cover the situation where officials are investigating a crime and are interviewing people, who are not under oath as they are in the courtroom. Of course there are many things that the government investigates that it should not, but let's take something that isn't murky, for example murder. I don't know if you feel that it would be acceptable to lie to investigators, in order to impede justice, but I don't believe that it is (so I'll assume we don't disagree on whether it's proper to require people to tell the truth in an investigation). I hold that it is entirely right and just that there is a requirement that, when the government is investigating a violation of rights and they need to ask you questions relevant to that matter, you should not lie and you should be penalized if you do. This b.t.w. does not preclude refusing to answer, it simply means that if you do answer, you should tell the truth. However: if you look at the wording of the statute, it does not expressly indicate any restrictions on who you make false statements to, and therefore being very strict about what the law says, not only can I be imprisoned for lying to FBI agents who are investigating a murder, but I would even be subject to imprisonment if I lie to my granddaughter (who is 6 years old and not a federal agent) about the matter.

This law needs to be interpreted non-algorithmically as implicitly being applicable only to statements made to people acting on behalf of the government, and not to all statements. (Even though I think lying is bad, I do not think that you should be imprisoned for lying to your granddaughter). Let's explicitly amend the law by adding to subsection (a) the words "in any statement to a representative of the government" just before the part "shall be fined under this title..." (recognising what has been practice, anyhow). Now we run into the Yermian problem: suppose you make a false statement to a person who is indeed a representative of the government, but who has not identified themselves to you as being a government agent. Are you then in violation of the law? Is the "to a representative of the government" clause within the scope of "knowingly", or not? 5 out of 9 people applied the algorithm and concluded that it is not. However, Scalia was not one of those 9, and my bet is that if he had been, that case would have turned out differently.

While I wholeheartedly agree that an automatic, algorithmic application of the constitution is the standard that we must strive for, we don't have that perfect algorithm, and in the interim, we do need some way of making decisions about what we are and are not allowed to do as citizens. Statutes make explicit what particular acts are deemed to be violations or rights or protections of right. We may discover errors, so there should be a means of correcting those errors. Which might involve voting, or simply asking me to make the necessary corrections. It depends on how much you trust me, I suppose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was actually playing devil's advocate, and taking Rational_One's proposal to the next logical level. RationalOne proposed the elimination of all elected officials, and the people would vote directly on all issues.

RationalOne added the point about beefing up the constitution to remove all ambiquity, so I took this notion to the next level and suggested, why not really, really beef up the constitution so that voting itself is not needed. I hoped to illuminate the fact that although we strive for a government of law and not men, to fully implement this would essentially require a algorithmic like document (like a flow chart) to run society. This is in itself is an interesting idea, but mankind is nowhere near the understanding of human nature, society etc... to ever reach this point.

To me, an interesting question is this: Is it in theory possible that mankind at some future point will ever have the knowledge to write such an algorithmic constitution? Or is there some epistemilogical/ethical principle that prevents this possibility..

We need to ask the Borgs what they do. :)

Lying:

Lying in legal contexts should perhaps adopt the model that Objectivism uses to make fraud an indirect use of physical force. Lying (or rufusal to answer) to a police officer who wants to know if you curl your toes when you masturbate should be allowed, as it (i assume) is irrelevant to their investigation. But if I lie about something material in the case, then I am indirectly withholding objective evidence from them, and can be penalized accordingly.

Direct Democracy:

If we vote on all issues without elected officials, who selects the issues? Peikoff critiqued this when discussing Ross Perot (Notes About Tommorow). He said this would make the most powerful position the pollsters who choose the wording for the polling question. "You could get a Yea answer for everything."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just trying to come up with a new, and maybe better, form of government. And I thought getting rid of the politicians would be a good start. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was just trying to come up with a new, and maybe better, form of government. And I thought getting rid of the politicians would be a good start. :)

I think it would be radical for sure. I was chewing the notion with you. I actually think your idea is possible, but only with an extremely well written constitution. I'll expect your first draft in my inbox monday (double spaced, typed of course). :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are some different ways to rule the government in a free society, assuming every government we're talking about here is restricted to protecting individual rights by a strong constitution:

-A $10,000 voting fee, creating a type of natural aristocracy of businessmen to make policy decisions. An additional source of income for a tax-free society.

-Allowing only landowners to vote, with the same intended results as my last suggestion, although this is a fairly outdated idea.

-A constitutional monarchy, with a bloodline as head of state. I don't like this idea since government decisions could be determined by quite a dumb person for a generation.

-Allowing all of those who've served in the military "citizenship status" which grants them voting rights. May lead to more informed foreign policy decisions than allowing everyone to vote.

-The same could be done for retired law enforcement and judiciary. With ex-police being a large part of the vote, and since government would revolve largely around law enforcement affairs, better decisions might be made.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Betsy has recently written a post where she corrects a person for trying to begin his chain of reasoning with abstract notions, and instead suggests he begins with the evidence from the real world. The subject of the best government is usually a place where such advice is needed sorely. The most common approach is to begin the discussion from highest abstractions and try to proceed deductively down to the level of politics; aside from the epistemological weakness of this approach, it doesn't work because it cannot tell which of such imaginary governments will actually work and which won't.

A better alternative to this kind of deductive approach is begin studying the issue from the real world, from one's knowledge of various free constitutions, from their successes and their failures. This means a study of Classical history, the only period in history of man which provides plentiful examples of many successful free and moral societies - Roman Republic, Athenian democracy, Spartan mixed constitution, Carthage, Rhodes, etc.

It was, after all, precisely this inductive approach to politics (i.e. an in-depth study of Classical history) that our Founding Fathers used in shaping their ideas of proper government; from grade school they learned the ancient languages and memorized whole passages of ancient manuscripts by heart, reading and studying the accounts of ancient constitutions of various cities in original literary glory. If we wish to study proper governments, we should begin with knowledge of what free men had tried to build before, and how well they succeeded in doing it. And if we wish to imitate the Founding Fathers' achievement of America, which is wholly Classical in its institutions and governing principles, then we should imitate the means they used to achieve it, if not through ancient languages themselves then at least through translations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was going to reply with that kind of answer then I wondered if that would be a 'radically' different form (which is what you were asking). A radical change is a change at the root of the thing itself, which would then make it something other than a government that protects individual rights, no?

I thought the context would indicate that I meant a government "radically" different in form*--not purpose. For instance, a semi-presidential system or mixture of congressional-parliamentary structure is hardly radically different from the generic liberal-democracy model.

*Form is "the shape and structure of something as distinguished from its material."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I thought the context would indicate that I meant a government "radically" different in form*--not purpose.  For instance, a semi-presidential system or mixture of congressional-parliamentary structure is hardly radically different from the generic liberal-democracy model.

*Form is "the shape and structure of something as distinguished from its material."

Can I assume you specifically are looking for the best form of legislature? When you say "government," it includes (in the context of Objectivism) the judiciary and executive departments (military, police, etc).

Optimizing our legislature is a provocative idea, since ours certainly isn't perfect. For example, one book I plan on reading (click here) explains how Congressmen secretly insert pork amendments in defense bills - we're talking about billions of dollars that would've been spent on our troops that are instead going to pet projects in the Congressmens' states so they can get re-elected.

Designing a streamlined legislative process that was immune to this kind of corruption would be nice. Unfortunately, I have no experience in this area so I can't offer any suggestions. I will, however, take this time to say how entertaining I find the debates in the British Parliament (House of Commons), shown on C-SPAN. It makes me wish we had one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can I assume you specifically are looking for the best form of legislature? When you say "government," it includes (in the context of Objectivism) the judiciary and executive departments (military, police, etc).

...

No, when I say government, I mean the entire government--including all its institutions. The names "semi-presidential", "congressional", "parliamentary", etc. refer not just to forms of legislature, but to forms of government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, when  I say government, I mean the entire government--including all its institutions.  The names "semi-presidential", "congressional", "parliamentary", etc. refer not just to forms of legislature, but to forms of government.

Would an idea like the one I presented above be such an example?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, when  I say government, I mean the entire government--including all its institutions.  The names "semi-presidential", "congressional", "parliamentary", etc. refer not just to forms of legislature, but to forms of government.

If you include all institutions, are you not including the other things I listed (judiciary, police, military, ...)? A parliament or a congress are specifically legislative bodies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you include all institutions, are you not including the other things I listed (judiciary, police, military, ...)? A parliament or a congress are specifically legislative bodies.

That's right, but governmental forms are often named after their form of legislature. To political scientists, the UK's form of government is parliamentary, and the USA's is known as either presidential or congressional. France's is known as semi-presidential, for it combimes a president and a parliament.

Semi-presidential, congressional, and parliamentary systems are all really subcategories of the representative-democracy/republican form of government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Betsy has recently written a post where she corrects a person for trying to begin his chain of reasoning with abstract notions, and instead suggests he begins with the evidence from the real world. The subject of the best government is usually a place where such advice is needed sorely. The most common approach is to begin the discussion from highest abstractions and try to proceed deductively down to the level of politics; aside from the epistemological weakness of this approach, it doesn't work because it cannot tell which of such imaginary governments will actually work and which won't.

A better alternative to this kind of deductive approach is begin studying the issue from the real world, from one's knowledge of various free constitutions, from their successes and their failures. This means a study of Classical history, the only period in history of man which provides plentiful examples of many successful free and moral societies - Roman Republic, Athenian democracy, Spartan mixed constitution, Carthage, Rhodes, etc.

It was, after all, precisely this inductive approach to politics (i.e. an in-depth study of Classical history) that our Founding Fathers used in shaping their ideas of proper government; from grade school they learned the ancient languages and memorized whole passages of ancient manuscripts by heart, reading and studying the accounts of ancient constitutions of various cities in original literary glory. If we wish to study proper governments, we should begin with knowledge of what free men had tried to build before, and how well they succeeded in doing it. And if we wish to imitate the Founding Fathers' achievement of America, which is wholly Classical in its institutions and governing principles, then we should imitate the means they used to achieve it, if not through ancient languages themselves then at least through translations.

This is beautifully stated and fully correct. Read C. Bradley Thompson's John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty to see exactly how a founder came up with government forms. It wasn't based on just sitting around and making things up, the equivalent of one of Descartes' sensory depravation barrels, it was a careful study of most, if not all, historical examples and a careful look at most contemporary examples about which Adams had knowledge about. It is highly dangerous and incredibly stupid (I am not insulting anyone here, just pointing out that it would be like trying out new drugs on people first with no tests on animals) to just make up governments and then see if they work, one must not only get everyone else to go along (and they are likely to do this once or twice in a lifetime, if that), but without any testing to look to in any way whatsoever you could unleash all sorts of unforseen problems. I think the constitution could be improved upon simply by looking back on our history since 1789 and figuring out what worked and what was abused, and making modifications on that basis, but it is very difficult to amend the constitution. The best way to do it would be to call a new convention to make the proper amendments, but getting the ball rolling on that is going to take a real crisis, which will occur sooner or later if the mixed economy keeps progressing.

This question is interesting, but I think the approach of coming up with a whole new system out of thin air, since we haven't been given the superior system and examples of its success, is wrong. Perhaps a better idea is drafting amendments to the current charter and providing arguments for why they are needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is beautifully stated and fully correct. Read C. Bradley Thompson's John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty to see exactly how a founder came up with government forms. It wasn't based on just sitting around and making things up, the equivalent of one of Descartes' sensory depravation barrels, it was a careful study of most, if not all, historical examples and a careful look at most contemporary examples about which Adams had knowledge about. It is highly dangerous and incredibly stupid (I am not insulting anyone here, just pointing out that it would be like trying out new drugs on people first with no tests on animals) to just make up governments and then see if they work, one must not only get everyone else to go along (and they are likely to do this once or twice in a lifetime, if that), but without any testing to look to in any way whatsoever you could unleash all sorts of unforseen problems. I think the constitution could be improved upon simply by looking back on our history since 1789 and figuring out what worked and what was abused, and making modifications on that basis, but it is very difficult to amend the constitution. The best way to do it would be to call a new convention to make the proper amendments, but getting the ball rolling on that is going to take a real crisis, which will occur sooner or later if the mixed economy keeps progressing.

This question is interesting, but I think the approach of coming up with a whole new system out of thin air, since we haven't been given the superior system and examples of its success, is wrong. Perhaps a better idea is drafting amendments to the current charter and providing arguments for why they are needed.

First, I'll begin by saying I think all cases of something being designed should follow Objective principals because Objective principals underlie all things. Whether your designing a book, an idea, or my house you must design from the most current and Objectively best Knowledge available to you. The problem I see with standing on the shoulders of giants is that if you don't connect to objective reality you may someday find that your giant was actually lying down, asleep.If you disagree- Please explain.

I do not think Howard Roark looked at the current and past buildings and amended them. I do not think Ayn Rand looked at the current and past failing philosophies and amended them, either. I think she looked at the fundamental underlying principles and designed from there, as I think she designed Howard Roark to be an example of.Telling him that something is unwise to pursue because it has never been done that way before did not stop him, nor would it stop me, nor do I believe it should stop you or any of us from striving for perfection in any and all things. If you disagree-Please explain.

In my studies of all the great societies of the past I note one definitive trend. They all failed. None still exist or if they do they are mere shadows of their once glorious claims.True, America still stands. Unfortunately, I think the very fact that she has achieved such greatness has put corresponding stress on her flaws. Her bright and glorious existence, however- drew the eye of an equally bright and glorious mind -Ayn Rand. The problem, I think- was that the founding fathers did not explicitly understand what any system of thought, belief and actions must be based on. Ayn Rand did. Do you agree?

Objectivism must be at the base of any system. I think, asking me what type of government I need in an Objectivist society is similar to asking me, "Who does an Objectivist pray to?". A system of Objective justice is merely a system of Objective morality applied to (to paraphrase Ayn Rand) "the act of judging a man's character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available". I do not hold valid any law or "justice" not based on Objective morality.I hope ,neither do you. So who do I believe should pronounce moral judgement? Whose right, privilege, and responsibility do I think it is? Mine.

Most argue that citizens are "slaves" to the people in the government- I think the opposite is true. What would a society where everyone is trained as a police officer/judge be like? Militarily unequaled ,for one.:) This is Self-Government I speak of-so leave your pronouncment of "Anarchist! Bring the scalding tar!" on the table for a bit. I'm not saying Citizens should have the right to the monopoly of force. I'm saying there should be no citizens as they are currently defined. I'm not saying that no one could choose to devote their life to being solely a cop or judge or soldier. I'm saying that no one should Have To.

Allow me to be explicit. I approve of a government of objective law, not men. Heres a few examples why. 1: I can never obey laws I do not know. I have been told several times by police officers that there was nowhere I could go to see merely the U.S. driving laws. If they were Objective they could be deduced but many are arbitrary. 2: Some laws seem literally made to be broken!- see: U.S. tax law.

I think Objective law is not only possible- but our only hope for sustainable human interaction. I think that no society will last indefinitly until its member are each and every one trained in philosophy, judgement ,self-defense ,and warfare- until we realize our constant moral choices have more importance than any number of politicians, judges, police, or armies.Of course ,I realize levels of ability vary greatly but some standards must apply. Mostly in the areas of volitional choice. Not everyone can be a commando but everyone can learn wisdom and good judgement.:) The only society that can last is one where you must, where it is standard.

Doubtless, many of you will disagree.I ask you to show me my errors, if you see any. I'm determined to see the answer on this issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, I just registered and wanted to chime in on this topic, because I've been thinking about it for a while.

First of all, I completely agree that if you want to talk about new and better forms of government , you have to start by looking at what governments have already existed, and how they fared. Of course judging a governments success or failure requires philosophizing, but we're pretty much in agreement there, right :) .

Anyway, it seems to me that, no matter how good the laws are, there will still be decisions that have to be made by the government. So the real key to the success of a government is having good rulers. After all, it doesn't do any good to have good laws if those laws aren't enforced, does it?

So a good system of government is simply one that selects good rulers. That's where we run into trouble. In many countries the ruler is simply the person that can muster the most military force- clearly this is a bad system. In monarchies, a certain family is always rules. This is a little better, since it reduces civil war, and allows the ruler to train an heir, but it makes it easy for a total dunce to become the ruler because of an accident of birth. The current system of simply asking everyone in the country to vote for rulers works surprisingly well. I really can't think of a better way to select a ruler than having people vote.

However, it's also possible for the people to make really stupid decisions. In my opinion, for a democracy to be successful, voting needs to be restricted a bit more than it is now. I was thinking along the lines of a very basic history, civics, and general reasoning test that you have to pass to be allowed to vote. What do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rees-Mogg, in The Sovereign Individual, assumes that it is impossible to reform a large nation-state so that it protects individual liberties appropriately. He predicts that Internet technology will develop to the point that assets and privacy can be protected cheaply from anywhere in the world. He suggests that a number of mini-states will arise offering citizenship "packages" to wealthy or merely well-off sovereign individuals. He cites Hong Kong and Switzerland as examples of highly efficient, extremely prosperous regimes where an individual can now or soon will be able to purchase the protection he needs from the activities of the welfare/warfare nation-states that dominate the world.

I think he's right in that the project of coming up with a scheme to protect individual rights in a large democracy is a fool's quest. What's important is to develop a strategy to protect one's own interests, as one does not owe anything to others. If one could realize Galt's Gulch, why worry about the rest of the world reeling along on its merry destructive way?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

Rees-Mogg, in The Sovereign Individual, assumes that it is impossible to reform a large nation-state so that it protects individual liberties appropriately.  He predicts that Internet technology will develop to the point that assets and privacy can be protected cheaply from anywhere in the world.  He suggests that a number of mini-states will arise offering citizenship "packages" to wealthy or merely well-off sovereign individuals.  He cites Hong Kong and Switzerland as examples of highly efficient, extremely prosperous regimes where an individual can now or soon will be able to purchase the protection he needs from the activities of the welfare/warfare nation-states that dominate the world. 

hmm...these statements seem all too familiar... Now where have I heard this before? But I don't want to be presumptuous. :D

 

I think he's right in that the project of coming up with a scheme to protect individual rights in a large democracy is a fool's quest.

Indeed. What fools the Founding Fathers were! And to think James Madison, Father of the Constitution and 4th president of the United States, refuted this point in Federalist Paper #10. Foolish Madison! How does HE know any better!?

 

What's important is to develop a strategy to protect one's own interests, as one does not owe anything to others.  If one could realize Galt's Gulch, why worry about the rest of the world reeling along on its merry destructive way? 

 

Are you aware that Ayn Rand stated that Galt's Gulch is NOT the model for a fully realized social system? That she actually refered to the US Constitution (less its contradictions) as the proper model for a political system?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hmm...these statements seem all too familiar... Now where have I heard this before? But I don't want to be presumptuous. :D 

 

Indeed.  What fools the Founding Fathers were!  And to think James Madison, Father of the Constitution and 4th president of the United States, refuted this point in Federalist Paper #10.  Foolish Madison!  How does HE know any better!?

 

Are you aware that Ayn Rand stated that Galt's Gulch is NOT the model for a fully realized social system?  That she actually refered to the US Constitution (less its contradictions) as the proper model for a political system?

The founders of this country were no fools and deserve respect for not only fighting against a wrong system but for building a better one.We should do them the honor of continuing that proud tradition.They did Quite well within their context- so did Ayn Rand in her choice of supporting them- with a few amendments of their contradictions.

However , our context is constantly changing and technology is indeed allowing dreams once thought beyond reach to be possible.I will have to check on that book before I can say much more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites