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Posted by Eric Parks on 12/16/2012 at 08:01 AM in Congress, Constitution, Eric Parks | Permalink
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Thanks, Eric, for this very interesting video that contains lots of ideas worth pondering.
Aristotle considered a society of more than 100 000 an impossibility, as the cry of the herald (proclaiming the will of the ruler)cannot reach, he thought, a crowd larger than that size.
I suspect, the gentlemen in the video tend to share implicitly Aristotle's assumption: that people need to be governed in the sense of being micro-managed.
I venture to hypothesise that scale per se is not only not a problem but even a boon. After all, our civilisations have by and by progressed by growing immensely in scale. Coordinating millions of people and getting millions of strangers to cooperate is not an impossibility, and in fact, an integral feature of societal improvement.
The fundamental problem is the compulsive idea that people have to be governed in detail, that they need to be micro-managed by authorities in a growing number of specific areas, that mass participation in politics (via representatives) is and ought to be of necessity tantamount to serving the purpose of micro-managing policies.
The matter is different if the topics a mass electorate is called upon to decide are chosen from outside of the micromanagement paradigm: general principles that we as a people are or are not willing to committ ourselves to; or the choice of a government micromanaging certain tasks (handling foreign policy, or immigration issues, or calls for tenders relating to public projects etc.) strictly unter the law, where elections do not empower arbitray ad hoc policies but effectively assess the duplex question of (a) efficiency of government in fullfilment of a given task AND (b) its degree of compliance with the rule of law.
This is the challenge that classical liberalism has chosen to take on.
Georg Thomas |
12/16/2012 at 10:34 AM
I actually agree with the premise of this video. I have long argued to students (just ask 'em!) that one of the problems of our current system is that our representatives don't really have to represent us.
In Nebraska, our current ratio of state senators (we only have one house in our legislature) to citizens is about 1:35,000. That's getting to be a little on the large side, but it's still manageable. And, of course, the advantage is that government is more local, so far more of our representatives continue to live with those whom they represent.
I occasionally run into my state senator. We're on a first name basis (even though--or maybe because--my dad ran against him 8 years ago). He's roughly my age, and while I can always run up to see him at the Capital during the session, I will occasionally run into him at WalMart, or at other events that we both happen to be at. In smaller scale legislatures, it's far more difficult (I would suggest) for legislators to get too far separated from their constituents.
The solution? Dissolution of the Union? Return to sovereign states who bind together in sort of an "American Union" confederacy for purposes of trade and defense? Problem is, it's tough to put the genie of big, centralized government back in the bottle...
12/16/2012 at 10:33 PM
Kind of like this post: http://redstateeclectic.typepad.com/redstate_commentary/2010/03/an-answer-to-the-tired-old-system-thirtythousandorg.html.
I disagree. There are multi-national corporations that get business done with 80,000+ employees. We could do the same here. There'd have to be more delegations of duties. Congressmen would actually have to do work and not just beg for dollars while making their staff or the lobbyist write bills. With Congressmen
living in their home districts and telecommuting to do the work, they'd be in your community at your church, at your kid's school, in your grocery store and thus couldn't run to DC and hide from you.
What disturbs me about this video is the idea that death and the culture of death is a means to reducing our country's population so that it is more "manageable". A very elitist overtone.
Triple Hash |
12/17/2012 at 10:16 PM
Good to hear from you, ###. Where was the death idea, or are you inferring this from the discussion of population?
With regards to big corporations, it is true they operate with large numbers but grow and shrink more efficiently depending on market circumstances, and many use the state to shield them from smaller competitors who, if allowed to compete, might shrink them considerably. I wonder what their size might be without corporatist protections? Who knows? There's a possibility that they could be even bigger due to things like economy of scale.
Finally, regarding congressman having to do work and government streamlining, I've often wondered why government does things the same as always when they could all telecommute or, heck, everybody just vote at kiosks or something. Given that government hasn't changed much reflects its power and its inefficiency, along with an acceptance by the citizenry of traditions which are long overdue for change but too entrenched and complicated to attempt.
Eric Parks |
12/18/2012 at 06:36 AM
However important scale may be - and it is, as the video does demontsrate to some extent-, the more fundamental question is what do I mean by, what do I expect from political representation, which problematic I have tried to address in my above comment.
If we have no useful definition, yet high expectations of a (in truth badly circumscribed) notion like "representation," it is inevitable that the phenomenon will be considered ridden with problems.
Even a 1:1 ratio of representation can easily produce severe problems between the reprensentative and the represented, if the principal-agent relationship is inadequately established.
I think, the point I make in my first comment is crucial in the sense that everyone can utter and demand (even hard to fulfill) expectations of representation without there existing a clearly defined contractual relationship between political principal and political agent.
This whishy-washy arrangement admits the expectation by the represented (including, it seems, the gentlemen in the video) that representatives should be able to micromanage any number of issues of any degree of detail in the interest of the represented.
That way, the represented can feel important (as the system ought to be geared to him) and mostly gain little, while the representative has an excuse to amass power, only the better, supposedly, to be able to serve the demands of the represented.
Georg Thomas |
12/18/2012 at 02:12 PM
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