Some more instructive glimpses of the processes of Nebraska state politics:
This video is also helpful to get an idea of how law is made in Nebraska:
Some more instructive glimpses of the processes of Nebraska state politics:
This video is also helpful to get an idea of how law is made in Nebraska:
Reports Hit & Run:
Today Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado, arguing that marijuana legalization there is having spillover effects on neighboring states and should be reversed because it violates federal law. The two states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that Amendment 64, the legalization measure that Colorado voters approved in 2012, is "unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause" because it conflicts with the Controlled Substances Act.
Make sure to look at background information, especially on the Supremacy Clause, in this article entitled Nebraska and Oklahoma Sue Colorado.
And The Washington Times reports here.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 12/19/2014 at 03:19 AM in American Culture, Congress, Constitution, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Health Care, Laura Ebke, National/International Affairs, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
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With Laura Ebke, senator-elect, less than a fortnight away from taking up her duties at the Nebraska legislature, I get increasingly interested in issues concerning the states, the federal government, and federalism in modern politics.
Michael S. Greve writes about
the somewhat strange emergence of state AG offices as key veto and opportunity points in American politics. How did that happen? [...]
Long story very short (the snark is mine): this wasn’t started by corporate honchos but by their foes. When the federal government embarked on de-regulation way back in the 1980s, pro-regulatory constituencies migrated to the states. State tort law and prosecutions under state and federal law became substitutes for regulation, and state AGs formed a symbiotic alliance with the plaintiffs’ bar. The corporate fixers are just fighting back. And note that the deck is stacked against them. The trial lawyers need only a single state AG to unleash a prosecutorial firestorm on a national basis. To stop it, the corporate guys and gals have to run the table.
The AG-trial bar alliance has proved lasting to this day.
Make sure to read the entire article at the source.
Toward the end of the below video Frank Morrison, Nebraska Governor, says:
The best guarantee of good government is the character, the vision, and the intelligence of the people who operate government.
Get used to her new workplace:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 12/09/2014 at 06:17 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Constitution, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Laura Ebke, Republicans, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)
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Continued from Why It Is Not True That ... (2/3)
The black-and-white aspect of politics also encourages people to think in black-and-white terms. Not only do political parties emerge, but their supporters become akin to sports fans, feuding families, or students at rival high schools. Nuances of differences in opinions are traded for stark dichotomies that are largely fabrications. Thus, we get the “no regulation, hate the environment, hate poor people” party and the “socialist, nanny-state, hate the rich” party—and the discussions rarely go deeper than this.
No doubt, partisanship can be exaggerated to the point of becoming dangerous and destructive. I am not going to repeat what I said above about political dichotomies being the very rationale (among other rationales) of practising politics, and the many features of a modern political order dedicated to attenuating the most detrimental effects of radical antagonisms. My purpose is not to reject out of hand the authors misgivings about politics, but to show that in their criticism they are looking at only one side of the overall story.
We tend to indulge in a rationalistic perception of politics, which is natural as we are apt to assess most political arguments in as rational a way as we are capable of. For this reason, we may not feel particularly inclined to recognise "the sense in the nonsense" that much of politics may bring about, the symbolic, ritualistic and sublimational functions of politics which help build and structure, maintain and develop multi-ideological communities.
Symbols and rites can serve the function of ordering society, i.e. keeping it in a working condition especially by preventing violence and oppression. The symbols and rites of bipartisanship may well serve the purpose of a war dance that replaces the need for outright war.
I believe, it is necessary to focus far more than is customarily done on the spontaneous order of politics and the state, which may well contain features that turn politics into a valuable part of modern civilisation without anyone intending the system to work and have effects as it does, thanks to overall results achieved by human action but not by human design.
As in the spontaneous order of the economic world, ignorance is a key challenge that needs to be met by the political order for a modern civilisation to emerge. We are hugely ignorant vis-à-vis the countless topics that tend to occupy the political mind. Some of that vacuum of ignorance can never be filled with secure knowledge. We resort to unreliable, woolly, and non-scientific ways of filling the void. Sure, we begin to tell one another stories that may be well on their way to scientific respectability, but many of them may have no hope to ever become more than just-so stories.
Politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans, and often worse because politics is more morally charged. Most Americans find themselves committed to either the red team (Republicans) or the blue (Democrats) and those on the other team are not merely rivals, but represent much that is evil in the world. Politics often forces its participants into pointless internecine conflict, as they struggle with the other guy not over legitimate differences in policy opinion but in an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice.
Again, in human communities, especially in large ones, we cannot help but face fundamental differences of some kind or other in our views and objectives. We shall hardly be able to ever get rid of that phenomenon. In fact, freedom encourages diversity of opinion and vision.
I cannot see how anyone, including us libertarians, should be able to determine for the rest of us what counts as legitimate differences in policy opinion - it is part of politics to compete over this question. Also, I cannot see that we libertarians refrain from an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice. We are part of the symmetric pattern that is being formed by opposing discussants. Political opposition has an experimental side to it. We need to find out, what it is that we disagree about and what avenues may open up to resolve differences. Furthermore, political opposition has a ritualistic side to it (see also my remarks under section 8 above). There are a number of powerful reasons to form partisan groups (see below), and if a population is divided among two or three major, traditionally viable camps, this may be a sign of stability, especially if being part of a camp means that (a) one's strongest convictions and political feelings are powerfully represented in the political system and that (b) therefore there are overwhelming incentives to keep the competition non-violent, non-oppressive, and open for challenges and new developments. Being part of a very strong camp can be a "relaxing" experience, i.e. encouraging trust in the prospects of non-violent negotiations, alternating preeminence (in government) and compromise (on the level of the operative bureaucracies in which political fiat is ultimately hammered out).
So what matters is how we deal with antagonisms. The principles of liberty are one of the means by which we attempt to keep the level of tension reasonably low among millions of people with different and even incompatible preferences.
Why do we become partisans? A political agent that is powerful - intellectually and in the exercise of influence - can be helpful in reducing (subjectively experienced) rational ignorance and strengthen one's sense of responsibility and engagement - "alone I cannot do anything about outrage X, but as member of a larger group, I can." In that way, partisanship creates leverage that people will always seek, for better or worse. Having said that, we should expose such leverage to criticism where it malfunctions, but we should also be sensitive to instances of success, which certainly exist - a partisan community improving ones's knowledge and furthering a worthwhile cause. Also, there are natural and legitimate reasons to feel drawn to this group rather than that one, and thus there is a expansive need to manage legitimate partisan differences.
As for "politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans:" I happen to support the soccer team of my hometown. I am pretty sure, had I been brought up in a different town, I would be supporting a different team than today. Social outlooks and political affiliations too are often a matter of upbringing and, in principle, no less worthy of tolerance than other core elements of a person's socialisation that - like her religious faith - appear to be largely determined by location/accident of birth.
How can this be? Republicans and Democrats hold opinions fully within the realm of acceptable political discourse, with each side’s positions having the support of roughly half our fellow citizens. If we can see around partisanship’s Manichean blinders, both sides have views about government and human nature that are at least understandable to normal people of normal disposition—understandable, that is, in the sense of “I can appreciate how someone would think that.” But, when you add politics to the mix, simple and modest differences of opinion become instead the difference between those who want to save America and those who seek to destroy it.
The authors make a distinction between two fundamentally distinct worlds:
For reasons explained above, such a complete separation of political views and the world of politics is unconvincing. However, this artificial dichotomy is rather characteristic of the libertarian view of politics, which latter is deemed to be essentially an admixture of malice and evil.
This behavior, while appalling, shouldn’t surprise us. Psychologists have shown for decades how people will gravitate to group mentalities that can make them downright hostile. They’ve shown how strong group identification creates systematic errors in thinking. Your “teammates” are held to less exacting standards of competence, while those on the other team are often presumed to be mendacious and acting from ignoble motives. This is yet another way in which politics makes us worse: it cripples our thinking critically about the choices before us.
Research shows clearly that we live in a far more peaceful world than our ancestors, and that the movement toward open access societies with their avenues for mass political participation is a movement toward less violence and more peace. The big challenge that needs to be dealt with successfully before modern civilisation can unfold are violence and trust. We need to reduce violence and increase trust to such an extent that people can become productive, immensely productive compared to most of mankind's history. We achieve this by a co-evolution of (a) economic relations and (b) conducive political structures. Politics is also a grown order, yet adapted to different tasks than the economy. It would seem to me that a presumption in favour of the civilising function of politics is a more promising hypothesis (to be challenged in a thousand ways) than the preconception that politics is the big spoiler of advances in our civilisation.
Psychologists have shown for decades how people will gravitate to group mentalities that can make them downright hostile. They’ve shown how strong group identification creates systematic errors in thinking.
That may well be. But the story does not end here. Civilisation is all about finding ways around dysfunctional kinds and levels of hostility. Civil society is one big complex set of arrangements to challenge tribal uniformity and foster individualism, pluralism, and a permanent and multi-pronged onslaught against strong group identification. Practicing group identification in a free society is a totally different exercise from what it used to be in closed access societies or tribal formations. Politics is the driver behind the dynamism that constantly challenges what shapes of group identification may be forming at a certain point in time. We are witnessing tremendous fragmentation and turn over of group identification thanks to our pluralistic political order. Group identification can succeed best in a stable world with strong taboos against or simply an absence of critical challenges, such as they are being organised by modern politics. It would seem that the great distinct paradigmatic blocks in politics are more like tectonic plates that grate one another, rather than one plate slipping over and thereby subduing the other plate.
This is yet another way in which politics makes us worse: it cripples our thinking critically about the choices before us.
Taken altogether, I have great difficulty to see how the political culture of a free society can be characterised as predominantly, even essentially crippling our thinking critically about the choices before us.
The human ability to think critically, express dissent and positive opinion, advertise one's own view and challenge adversaries, along with the means that support critical analysis (like the internet) has never been surrounded by a more friendly and conducive environment than today's pluralistic democratic political order.
The issues that politics must deal with are often extremely difficult and many can never be resolved harmoniously, but why should we feel entitled to indulge in a stabilised harmony?
What’s troubling about politics from a moral perspective is not that it encourages group mentalities, for a great many other activities encourage similar group thinking without raising significant moral concerns. Rather, it’s the way politics interacts with group mentalities, creating negative feedback leading directly to viciousness. Politics, all too often, makes us hate each other. Politics encourages us to behave toward each other in ways that, were they to occur in a different context, would repel us. No truly virtuous person ought to behave as politics so often makes us act.
It would be helpful if the authors explained more fully what they mean by politics. What I read suggests that to them politics is exhaustively described as the business of fomenting hate between human beings.
Also, it is not uncommon even for people who live or work together for long periods of time to feel strong antipathy for certain traits and habits in another person, without ending up in a radical conflict. When playing the game "being a soccer fan," I do not appreciate my brother-in-law cheering for the opposing team, but when playing a different game like "exploring the cultural treasures of Barcelona," we get on like a house on fire.
My impression is that in general people are quite capable of making a distinction between political divergence and other modes of human interaction. In fact, it is rare that people hate me for my political convictions; some of my friends think of me as a right winger and, notwitstanding that ugly wart, go on having a great time with me.
Again, I feel that our political culture tends to encourage tolerance and the avoidance of extreme and pointless confrontations, both among the broader population and among activists, the more confrontational among which being too easily mistaken for the larger numbers of reasonable participants in politics.
While we may be able to slightly alter how political decisions are made, we cannot change the essential nature of politics. We cannot conform it to the utopian vision of good policies and virtuous citizens. The problem is not bugs in the system but the nature of political decision-making itself. The only way to better both our world and ourselves—to promote good policies and virtue—is to abandon, to the greatest extent possible, politics itself.
The last two sentences have merit in that they give us an incisive summary of the wrongheaded approach to politics that is unfortunately predominant among libertarians, even defining the libertarian.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 12/03/2014 at 12:40 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Congress, Constitution, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Liberty Laid Bare, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Continued from Why It Is Not True ... (1/3).
But do we really want to live in a world where politics is so important to our lives that we cannot help but be politically involved? Many, both on the left and the right, answer yes. A politically engaged citizenry will not only make more decisions democratically but also be better people for it. From communitarians to neoconservatives, there’s a sense that civic virtue is virtue—or at least that individually we cannot be fully virtuous without exercising a robust political participation. Politics, when sufficiently unconstrained by crude individualism and sufficiently embraced by an actively democratic polity, makes us better people.
If I grew up and lived a life facing no prospects of punishment and other forms of resistance constraining my behaviour, it would be rational and natural for me to steal, kill, and lie, just when it suits me, and do a lot of other things that under the real circumstances of my life I find abhorrent and would never engage in. Politics is about organising, defending, enforcing, and changing the constraints that we must observe while living with other human beings. Sure, tradition and other evolutionary processes play an important role, but man is always faced with the challenge to establish by conscious effort which values and taboos are to count as socially preeminent. People cannot take a permanent holiday from working on the normative frame by which to live.
There are no super-markets with products on their shelves like a can of "being nice to everyone" or a bottle of "total mutual agreement in America."
The forms of political participation are multifarious (especially in a civil society), they can be expected to be shaped by tendentially efficient structures such as a division of labour among more or less politically active members of the community, and, most importantly, political participation ought to be free for every citizen inclined to join the competition for political influence. It is not unreasonable to assume that an open access political order is an important prerequisite for conditions that induce and constrain people to treat each other as if by this they have become better people than in a society less concerned with the individual's desire to be represented or otherwise effective in the political world of her community.
It is mankind's lot to live in a world where politics is so important to our lives that we cannot help but be politically involved. We cannot change that condition, but we can hope that he who has a need for it will be free to get involved in politics. No less than the free market, politics is all about competition; you must get engaged and fight hard to get your objectives recognised and acted upon as intended. If you want something of a political nature to happen, there is got to be someone who cannot help but be politically involved.
Too many terms are used as if they had only one meaning, when, in fact, they can be used to point at very different situations. Political apathy is one such term. Some of the political apathy that people remark upon may indeed be regrettable, but a lot of it is to be welcomed, as it is an indication that the political system works reasonably well and that there are hard workers at it, so called politicians, that practice political participation in a way that leaves us more content than we are willing to concede. The political division of labour works - tolerably well.
It is intrinsically difficult to seek for a political system where (a) high levels of active mass political participation are not required, leaving people free to pursue other goals, AND (b) expect that politics must be free from decisions that any given non-participant among that huge majority may feel not to be representing her. In a word: you cannot have suitably low levels of mass political participation without systematic and chronic attacks on the fairness and effectiveness of the political system - which is one of the lasting imperfections in politics. More direct democracy has limits of feasibility that make themselves felt quickly as a study of the counterproductive outcomes of direct democracy in the Greek polis reveals.
Yet, there is a huge difference between both systems.
Yet the increasing scope of politics and political decisionmaking in America and other Western nations has precisely the opposite effect. It’s bad for our policies and, just as important, it’s bad for our souls. The solution is simple: when questions arise about whether the scope of politics should be broadened, we must realistically look at the effects that politics itself has on the quality of those decisions and on our own virtue.
We might need a new epithet to describe the partisan propensity to regard an instance of what appears to them an important political defect as being part of a chain reaction that inexorably leads to a dystopian state which is bad for our souls.
How about the domino illusion?
True, there are dominoes that fall, but they do not fall in a perfect and fatal cascade, some remain errect, some are being picked up again, and new ones are set up as well. In paragraph 3 above, I have already tried to convince my readers that the increasing scope of politics and political descisionmaking in America has aspects to it that no one of us would wish to miss. So this is a real option, too: politics may increase in scope and the world is getting better for it. It is not helpful to ignore this important fact. Indeed, there can be no good political theory that does not take cognizance of the full range of significant effects achieved by politics.
the effects that politics itself has on the quality of those decisions and on our own virtue
I have noted in paragraph 4:
an open access political order is an important prerequisite for conditions that induce and constrain people to treat each other as if by this they have become better people than in a society less concerned with the individual's desire to be represented or otherwise effective in the political world of her community.
Politics takes a continuum of possibilities and turns it into a small group of discrete outcomes, often just two. Either this guy gets elected, or that guy does. Either a given policy becomes law or it doesn’t. As a result, political choices matter greatly to those most affected. An electoral loss is the loss of a possibility. These black and white choices mean politics will often manufacture problems that previously didn’t exist, such as the “problem” of whether we—as a community, as a nation—will teach children creation or evolution.
I am tempted to coin another term - the ice-berg fallacy, i.e. for the full picture one must dive deeper, the top of the ice-berg is not the whole story. Politics is concerned with political scarcity, meaning: it is about coping with the socially destructive potential of mutually exclusive partisan positions. In other words, the discreet outcomes that the authors claim to be the unwarranted product of politics are often residuals of social tensions that cannot be resolved by other means, such as market transactions. I am in favour of nuclear energy. And you are not. What next?
Admittedly, politics can be used to create discrete outcomes of a deplorably reductionist kind, reducing for instance the competitive processes in the world of management to an artificial either-them-or-us-issue as in decreeing a female quota for executive boards. But then, I challenge any comer to show me, how free markets can get rid of such inordinate politicisation. Again, we need to enage in politics to keep politics within reasonable bounds. There is no escaping politics.
Also, what appear to be binary choices (either him or her, either this or that policy) are often better understood in view of the large hidden ramifications that qualify and counterbalance such either-or: Each candidate must take into consideration the multifarious views and interests of the electorate; her programme and actual politics will reflect a wider spectrum of constraints, ambitions and demands than fit into a neat dichotomy. The politician appears dishonest precisely because she must try to do justice to differing and competing positions within the electorate. Before and after being elected, the politician will have to take into account other institutions of the democratic culture (apart from the elective mandate): authorities, courts, all kinds of associations, all sorts of committees etc whose purposeit is to expose her to wider efforts at exercising influence and exerting control over the politically powerful incumbent. In a society with democratic mass participation in politics, people are influencing each other all the time through exposure to debate, changing and competing views, and practical encounters in the processes of political competition and cooperation. The truly dichotomous choices are embedded in an environment of permanent mutual control, adjustment, and compromise - everyone is free to enter the competition and seek out her opportunities to contribute to supervising, shaping the visions of and cooperatively participating in the political processes. The system creates winners and losers, but they are not always the same people; sometime this party wins, sometimes it loses; such competition certainly does not leave a gilded trail of neat solutions happily endorsed by everyone, but it does produce a trust ultimately recognisable by the public's general peaceful tolerance of the political system.
Oddly, many believe that political decisionmaking is an egalitarian way of allowing all voices to be heard. Nearly everyone can vote, after all, and because no one has more than one vote, the outcome seems fair.
But outcomes in politics are hardly ever fair. Once decisions are given over to the political process, the only citizens who can affect the outcome are those with sufficient political power. The most disenfranchised minorities become those whose opinions are too rare to register on the political radar. In an election with thousands of voters, a politician is wise to ignore the grievances of 100 people whose rights are trampled given how unlikely those 100 are to determine the outcome.
We have just seen that far more opinions and interests have been taken into consideration in a complex process that leads among other things in the end also to a number of dichotomous choices (say, abortion or pro-life).
While the very rationale for engaging in politics is to handle intransigent antagonisms, of which no society can be free, in order to do so politicians - in a resilient democracy - must of necessity be open to compromise and middle-of-the-road-positions, and much of their work before and after getting elected will be heavily constrained by the rule of law and other institutions of a democratic open access society. In fact, it will be in the interest of the politician to comply with and support such institutions, rather than undermining them all of the time. So the authors' general assertion is not true: Once decisions are given over to the political process, the only citizens who can affect the outcome are those with sufficient political power. Democracy as an entire culture of practices and institutions has evolved to protect people with highly differential degrees of political power. To make this point, I like to remind people that Mr. Obama is far from being the richest man in America, and Bundeskanzlerin Merkel is so weak - thanks to our democratic culture - she cannot even dispossess a small baker by political fiat to have her bakery-chain (if she had one) take advantage of his shop's good location and attractive clientele.
But outcomes in politics are hardly ever fair. Can there ever be a world where it is not possible or not endeavoured by any one to reproach others for being unfair?What world do the authors propose to establish, where outcomes are hardly ever unfair? Are they not really coquetting with the nirvana fallacy? "Fairness" - that is one of those infinitely stretchable words. Again, politics is called upon to manage human affairs precisely when people find it hard to achieve congruency of opinion, as when there are diverging ideas of what may count as "fair."
As for minorities, one can certainly observe very small groups achieving disproportionate political influence, while other minorities may be lacking any clout. There are countless reasons for that. By the end of the day, in an open political order, however, impact is ultimately a matter of resolve, perseverance, skill - and luck - but not primarily a function of the number of activists hoping to attain political weight.
As Chris Berg writes poignantly:
Democratic institutions ensure that if you want to alter policy, you have to convince your fellow citizens that change is desirable.
And, because any single vote will not change an election outcome, you have to convince a very large number that your cause is so important they should make an expressive, personal, "irrational" stand at the ballot box.
The futility of voting means that democracy resists sudden radical change. This is a good thing.
So many people who complain that the "system" is rigged are in truth complaining that most other citizens don't agree with them.
The reason why many minorities, and indeed, majorities, may not feel to be represented as they would wish, is not that people are being oppressed, i.e. denied the exertion of political influence, but the fact that they judge the opportunity costs of political engagement far too high to give up alternative preferences. Which, in turn, I would tend to interpret as indicative of a broad popular concurrence with the present political division of labour among population and political activists.
Continued in Why It Is Not True ... (3/3)
Posted by Georg Thomas on 12/03/2014 at 12:38 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Congress, Constitution, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Liberty Laid Bare, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, research fellows at the CATO Institute, have written an article entitled Politics Makes Us Worse. Below I shall comment on each of the thirteen paragraphs of which their article consists. Powell and Burrus are making many valid points, but they spoil their take by over-generalisation, which is the cardinal defect underlying the libertarian presumption against politics. In that way, the arguments displayed in Politics Makes Us Worse are almost a mini primer containing many of the central misconceptions of politics entertained in libertarian circles.
First, it is in order to comment on the title the authors have chosen: Politics Makes Us Worse. It can be inevitable, and in some cases even useful, to introduce phrases that come over more strongly than the wider message they are intended to support - such as, say, in a socially well-understood and accepted exaggeration (like "Americans are great people.")
Such is the case with the title of my present post - I do not believe that politics makes us better; rather I think politics can make us better, but it also can make us worse. Moreover, politics can have functions and effects that do not relate to the issue of people becoming better or worse. Hence, in the text I qualify the title's bait.
The authors do not make any such qualification whatsoever. I am therefore entitled to take the statement - politics makes us worse - as an absolute. And precisely therein lies the difficulty with their position, which is representative of the attitude maintained by a large number of libertarians. In the below text, the authors' phrasings are
indented and completely in italics,
followed underneath by my comment (without emphasis):
Increasing the sphere of politics leads to bad policy and increased vice.
By and large, the freer a country, the more likely it is to allow political engagement by any citizen interested in such activity, increasing the sphere of politics compared to a closed access society where the privilege of participating in politics is reserved to a small ruling elite. It appears that the absence (as in Mabutos's Kongo) or the retraction (as in Nazi Germany) of such freedom leads to increased vice, rather than the other way around.
An interesting special case might be provided by a class of countries that do not have a democratic political order, yet enjoy the status of favourites in the eyes of many libertarians, such as Hong Kong or Singapore. To begin with, the absence of a Western-type democratic political order does not mean that politics, with all its pluses and cons, is not happening in such countries. The relevant processes may be less familiar to the Westerner, naturally more opaque, or it may be the case that in order for the political goings-on to become more transparent to an observer, she must seek intimate and enduring participation in the social life of the respective countries.
Furthermore, I strongly suspect that Hong Kong and Singapore have benefited from other people having done politics in their stead - namely the British people, who exported practices and institutions of a modern civil society to these two places. Excellent conditions for commercial advancement (enabled by the imported model of a modern Western civil society) combined with an impoverished population eager to take advantage of the opportunities to grow materially more comfortable, the people of Hong Kong and Singapore may have had low demand for democratic politics for a number of decades. They certainly had strong governments whose political orientation and political decisions were decisive for the economic success of both places. Indubitably, politics has made Hong Kong and Singapore better (places to live in).
Even if we try to ignore it, politics influences much of our world. For those who do pay attention, politics invariably leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather. Politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect.
What the authors want their readers to focus on is a part of politics fraught with problems and unpleasant challenges: the divisiveness in politics, the ways in which politics creates division, and enhances or exploits it.
What the authors do not see is that politics is the only way in which we can hope to deal with issues that drive us apart.
What the authors do not see is that we cannot ignore politics - understood as dealing with the inevitable fundamental disagreements that the social order of a viable community must come to grips with.
Politics communicates, resolves or attenuates strife resulting from the manifold sources of significant disagreement among human beings. Bashing politics in total is like rejecting tragedy and drama in human affairs as a needless luxury willfully created by the bored and playful.
Of course, try as we may, we cannot ignore politics - it is part of the human condition. Of course, politics influences much of our world - which is full of dissent and potential for oppression and violence that needs to be kept under control. The compromises of politics will tend to be imperfect, because the more fundamental disagreements among human beings will not go away, when our political arrangements help us to avoid the crassest, bloodiest, and especially destructive forms of battle.
It’s not difficult to understand why politics plays such a central role in our lives: political decision-making increasingly determines so much of what we do and how we’re permitted to do it. We vote on what our children will learn in school and how they will be taught. We vote on what people are allowed to drink, smoke, and eat. We vote on which people are allowed to marry those they love. In such crucial life decisions, as well as countless others, we have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people.
Does political decision-making really increasingly determine so much of what we do and how we're permitted to do it? Can we do less and are we more regimented and patronised than in 1965, in 1912, or in 1860? By what metric?
Is it not the case that we are living in zones of reduced freedom and other zones of increased freedom, many of which may not be easily netted, if this is possible at all? I suppose, as drivers we may be considerably more regulated today than in 1912 - but is this not largely an appropriate response to mass transportation, and a large contribution to personal freedom? Have the regulations to which mass transportation has led been brutally imposed upon us by political decisionmaking, or is it not rather the case that countless institutions of a free society, from the legal world, to the media, to the many events and practices that make up our political order have allowed millions of us to exercise influence on the process by which such regulations get formed?
What do we gain in denying a role for politics in improving our lives?
Continued at Why It Is Not True ... (2/3).
Posted by Georg Thomas on 12/03/2014 at 12:36 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Congress, Constitution, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Liberty Laid Bare, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Rand Paul, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Senator-elect Laura Ebke with (some of) her winning team. Image credit.
Laura Ebke, Senator-elect to the Nebraska legislature, keeps us posted regarding the goings-on during the first days after her victory.
I've always loved Laura's incisive and graphic writing, and it is exciting and a joy to be able to follow her topical accounts from her new life in the world of state legislature. Share in the delight, go visit Laura Ebke's campaign page.
Third day of orientation is over with. I think most of the senators-elect are getting more comfortable walking through the beautiful building that is the Capitol. We've all figured out where the restrooms are (not an unimportant thing in the first floor office spaces that resemble a labyrinth).
We've gotten to know each other--as part of a "class", and I suspect many of us have started to get a feel for hot buttons for our colleagues.
Today, retiring senators--Speaker Greg Adams, Sen. John Harms, and Sen. Annette Dubas--spoke to us. They are leaving--term limited out--as part of the first *big* class of senators post-term-limit passage.
In the next week or so, I will be creating another page, separate from this campaign page, as well as an "official" Twitter account. On that page (and account), I will (eventually) post those things which will be more official in nature. I'll let you know where I've been and what I've done as part of "official duties"--but that's where I'll also post ALL of my votes (with explanations) for constituents and others to follow along.
I campaigned on a promise of transparency--never expecting that everyone would agree with every thing I did, but believing that everyone in the "second house"--citizens of our state--had the right to know WHAT I was doing, and to hold me accountable. I will post a link to the new page here, when I get it set up, and those who are interested in following it, can. This page will then probably go more quiet after the first of the year.
I'm looking forward to it.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 11/15/2014 at 12:10 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Campaign for Liberty, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Laura Ebke, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0)
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For the quick reader, find a summary of my argument at the bottom of the post.
The political philosopher Albert Hirschman coined the terms "exit" and "voice" to contrast the non-political world against the political world. I seem to remember, the terms occurred to him when trying to account for cycles of waxing and waning political engagement in the population. For the libertarian, "exit" means the good world unaffected by political conduct and influence, "voice" represents the mean world of political machinations and imposition. I continue my defence of democracy in an indirect debate with Arnold Kling.
Arnold, you write:
"I just think that the wisdom of crowds is channeled more effectively through exit than through voice. As for democracy, it is a good way of arranging for the routine replacement of high-level officials. It is otherwise much over-rated."
First, isn't the "peaceful discharge" feature of democracy, that you consider its best aspect, just the top of the democratic iceberg? Do we not need a lot of democratic play, interaction, and structure underneath before we can hope to avail ourselves of this feature?
Second, in light of my hypothesis that you need a lot of democratic substructure to enjoy "peaceful succession," what does it mean to say democracy is "otherwise much over-rated?"
Third, is it not a contradiction to favour individual freedom, while at the same time wishing away mass political participation?
Fourth, "exit" is a cool term, but what does it mean in a free society with no despotic restrictions to political participation?
And finally, personally, as a libertarian, I find it hard to know how to act as the channeller of "the wisdom of crowds."
Democracy, I surmise, is the response by which a free society guards against efforts at such channelling.
I suspect, democracy is not primarily about fostering and utilising wisdom, but about trust-building among millions of people who are ignorant and rationally ignorant about (1) one another and (2) the conditions of peaceful coexistence on a high level of productivity, playing a game called democracy so as to find and test practices of minimal, non-violent trust in mass society.
The outcomes of the democratic game may often be stupid and unpalatable but if condition (2) is consistently maintained, we have achieved a lot.
There was this reply:
Fourth, “exit” is a cool term, but what does it mean in a free society with no despotic restrictions to political participation?
Imagine a world in which many of the services of existing governments — especially large ones — were shifted to some combination of (a) private businesses (b) voluntary clubs (c) social circles and (d) smaller governments, such as municipalities. Then “exit” would mean moving your custom, your membership, your friendship or occasionally even yourself to another partner.
To which I responded as follows:
Politics and the State (P&S) are inescapable – there is no “exit” from P&S.
It seems a case of “déformation professionelle” especially among economists to have a hard time appreciating this.
P&S is more fundamental than economics in that it can control more factors vital to individuals and humankind than can be achieved by “well-behaved” market behaviour. The options for economic behaviour are set by P&S.
One of the very few economists who did understand that there is “no exit” from P&S is the late Armen Alchian:
“To change the move toward socialism, we must change the ability of various forms of competition to be successful. I know of no way to reduce the prospective enhancement from greater political power-seeking, but I do know ways to reduce the rewards to market-oriented capitalist competition. Political power is dominant in being able to set the rules of the game to reduce the rewards to capitalist-type successful competitors. It is rule maker, umpire, and player … But I have been unable to discern equivalently powerful ways for economic power to reduce the rewards to competitors for political power! Each capitalist may buy off a politician, but that only enhances the rewards to political power.”
Armen Alchian in The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian, Volume 2, in Economic Laws and Political Legislation, p.604.
I don’t think that P&S commits us to an unavoidable movement toward socialism, but be this as it may, my fellow-libertarians’ “economistic” disregard and even disdain for P&S isn’t particularly helpful.
SUMMARY: The work of politicians conscious of freedom, like Senator-elect Laura Ebke, and of politically active citizens in capacities other than politician is immeasurably valuable.
See also Herbert Spencer... , On the Importance of Politics, Alchian on Politics, Property Rights, Why the State Persists, Glaciers of Peace, Democracy and Freedom, Two Views of Democracy, Trust and Democracy.
With the hostess of this blog having become a Senator in Nebraska's one house State Legislature, issues related to federalism assume particular interest and topicality to me. As for the post's title and the proposition spelled out below, note, however, Nebraska's Legislature is unusual in that it is unicameral and nonpartisan. But what does that mean, especially in regard to the below hypothesis?
John O. McGinnis propounds an intriguing thesis.
Many people worry about our democracy today because our political parties have become more purely ideological. But federalism harnesses such partisanship and puts it to good use. Because of greater partisanship, we are seeing more states with a unified government in which Democrats or Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature. They are then able to enact a relatively pure version of their parties’ very disparate political positions. With the support of a Republican legislature, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has reduced the power of public sector unions. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has very substantially cut personal and business taxes. In contrast, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy was reelected after raising taxes and making no substantial changes to union power. In California, Jerry Brown was victorious with much the same policies.
Such partisan federalism now gives us the chance to observe the results of such policies over the longer term. At its best, democracy is a system where people vote on the basis of consequences as well as values. On many issues there is substantial consensus as to the goals but substantial differences as to how to achieve them. Republicans believe that a smaller government generally leads to better results in economic growth and broad-based prosperity. Democrats disagree. But both must pay attention to results, which can move independent voters and indeed weaker partisans.
My posts, including the present one, are never coordinated with Laura Ebke, who generously allows me to express my views as I see fit. The responsibility for the contents of my posts lies exclusively with me. The views expressed in my writing are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, any other person associated with RedStateEclectic. Georg Thomas.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 11/10/2014 at 04:15 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Campaign for Liberty, Constitution, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Laura Ebke, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)
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