Michael Stuart Kelly

The American Form of Government

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I came across a video on another forum a few days ago and it stayed with me. It is called "The American Form of Government."

I don't imagine anarcho-capitalists will like it much because it does not consider their form of anarchism, but instead presents historical anarchism.

At any rate, I believe this is one of the best layperson introductions to forms of government I have ever seen. It gives people 5 basic concepts which are really easy to understand. From there, people can look at the rest, even something as dry as The Federalist Papers, and it all starts to make sense.

Since foreign policy is almost always couched in some kind of "spreading democracy" jargon, and laypeople rarely think about these things, I think it is great to see a popular video explaining the difference between pure democracy and a republic. On YouTube, this thing has over 400,000 views so far.

That is a really good thing. And whoever did this video did a really good job.

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Michael

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I came across a video on another forum a few days ago and it stayed with me. It is called "The American Form of Government."

I don't imagine anarcho-capitalists will like it much because it does not consider their form of anarchism, but instead presents historical anarchism.

At any rate, I believe this is one of the best layperson introductions to forms of government I have ever seen. It gives people 5 basic concepts which are really easy to understand. From there, people can look at the rest, even something as dry as The Federalist Papers, and it all starts to make sense.

Since foreign policy is almost always couched in some kind of "spreading democracy" jargon, and laypeople rarely think about these things, I think it is great to see a popular video explaining the difference between pure democracy and a republic. On YouTube, this thing has over 400,000 views so far.

That is a really good thing. And whoever did this video did a really good job.

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name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

Michael

That was indeed a very good find, Michael...

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Michael,

The video is okay, but I'm not nearly as impressed with it as you are.

I won't focus on its treatment of "anarchy" except to note the absurdity of claiming that Hitler and Lenin came to power via "anarchy." Hitler was elected in a republican form of government, the Weimar Republic; and Lenin came to power via a revolution. If revolutions are always a type of "anarchy," and if anarchy is always bad, then the American Revolution was also a bad thing.

The video is misleading in its treatment of democracies and republics.

First, "the public thing" (the literal translation of "republic") refers to the public good as the essential characteristic of government, not to "law" per se (though the latter was regarded as an important component of republics). As Thomas Paine put it in Rights of Man, "republic" refers to "the matter or object for which government ought to be instituted . . . res-publica, the public affairs, or the public good; or, literally translated, the public thing."

Second, most of the the Founding Fathers did not view republicanism as antithetical to democracy but as a type of democracy, namely, an indirect democracy, whereby citizens elect representatives rather than vote on laws directly. When they objected to "democracies" by pointing out their bad consequences historically, they mean "pure," or "direct," democracies.

For example, when Madison objected to a "pure democracy" in Federalist Paper #10, he explained: "by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person." By a "republic," Madison wrote, "I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place...."

Madison continued:

"The two great points of difference between a [pure] democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended."

Ghs

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George,

For some reason I didn't think you would like it.

:)

The main value for me is to put into a numbed public mind the difference between rule by law based on rights, rule by despots and rule by lynch mob.

If that part can get implanted and become widespread, the rest of the discourse becomes a lot easier to develop than it has been up to now.

It's a "concept start" video, not a "concept filling" one. I believe little harm is done if the details get corrected later.

It's weird, but I don't believe these concepts exist in the mainstream awareness for Joe Sixpack. They only appear when an expert appears, like on TV. And that's the time when Joe Sixpack stops listening and cracks open a Cold One--right before changing the channel to American Idol.

I think this video speaks to him.

Michael

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Michael,

Here is Madison's more extensive discussion of republics, from Federalist Paper #39:

"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character."

The video, by claiming that "law" is the essential characteristic of republics, gives the mistaken impression that pure democracies were condemned by the Founding Fathers because of their lack of constitutional restraints on the power of the people. (The majority might decide to confiscate your house, take your children, etc.) But that was seen as a different issue, one that pertained to constitutional versus absolute governments.

In absolute forms of government -- whether they be monarchies, pure democracies, republics, or whatever -- the sovereign power is "above the law," and can be held accountable for its actions to "none but god." In constitutional forms of government -- which could include monarchies and virtually every other form of government -- the sovereign power was itself subject to the law and could be held acocuntable by "the people," the ultimate source of legitimate power.

According to the Founding Fathers (generally speaking), there could be constitutional pure democracies, but they didn't think these would last long, owing to short-sighted citizens, factions, and other problems. A principal virtue of a republican form of government, whereby citizens elect representatives rather than participate directly in the making of laws, was the alleged fact that these representatives will tend to be wiser and more virtuous than the mass of the people themselves. (One of the Federalist Papers is devoted to this "best and brightest" theme, but I don't recall which one offhand.)

Readers can judge for themselves whether Madison and others were right on this score. 8-)

Ghs

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The video, by claiming that "law" is the essential characteristic of republics...

George,

Just one observation. I would need to see the video again to be absolutely sure, but I distinctly remember that "law based on individual rights" was the way it was put. That's a different connotation than just "law" concept-wise on the level of communication where I see this video. It means that constraints are put on the rulers.

Michael

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The video, by claiming that "law" is the essential characteristic of republics...

George,

Just one observation. I would need to see the video again to be absolutely sure, but I distinctly remember that "law based on individual rights" was the way it was put. That's a different connotation than just "law" concept-wise on the level of communication where I see this video. It means that constraints are put on the rulers.

Michael

They need more constraints. I had a nightmare last night: I was in prison and they weren't.

True story.

More and more I think our constitutional republic was a mistake. After the Constitution was up and running the intellectual energy that made it possible dissipated and the pure politicians sans brains took over with the presidency of Andrew Jackson. I'm not talking about how smart they were but how they used what was between their ears. Lincoln, our worst, most disastrous President, was some kind of genius even. Nixon had a high IQ, Clinton too.

--Brant

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George,

For some reason I didn't think you would like it.

:)

The main value for me is to put into a numbed public mind the difference between rule by law based on rights, rule by despots and rule by lynch mob.

If that part can get implanted and become widespread, the rest of the discourse becomes a lot easier to develop than it has been up to now.

It's a "concept start" video, not a "concept filling" one. I believe little harm is done if the details get corrected later.

It's weird, but I don't believe these concepts exist in the mainstream awareness for Joe Sixpack. They only appear when an expert appears, like on TV. And that's the time when Joe Sixpack stops listening and cracks open a Cold One--right before changing the channel to American Idol.

I think this video speaks to him.

Michael

As I said, the video is okay, especially by YouTube standards. I suspect it was produced by a conservative outfit, and many conservatives annoy me when it comes to the U.S. Constitution.

From a libertarian perspective, there are good reasons why so many distinguished Americans, such as Richard Henry Lee (who made the original resolution for American Independence in the Second Continental Congress), George Mason (author of the Virginia Bill of Rights), and Patrick Henry were adamantly opposed to ratification of the Constitution.

For example, when Antifederalists objected to the lack of a cap on the power of Congress to tax, both Madison and Hamilton (in The Federalist Papers) expressly rejected the idea.

Here is how the Antifederalist "Brutus" put his objection to the unlimited power to tax, which the U.S. Constitution vests in the federal government. ("Brutus" may have been Robert Yates, a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention who left early, protesting that the Convention had exceeded its legal mandate to correct and amend the Articles of Confederation.)

"This power [to tax], exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country -- It will wait upon the ladies at their toilet, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, or will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop,and in his work, and

will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!"

Such predictions, which were common among Antifederalists, were typically rejected by defenders of the Constitution as hysterical fear-mongering. Today we know better.

Glenn Beck has claimed that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God. God apparently had a brain fart when various anti-freedom provisions were approved by the Constitutional Convention.

Ghs

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Glenn Beck has claimed that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God. God apparently had a brain fart when various anti-freedom provisions were approved by the Constitutional Convention.

George,

One of the major cracks I see in our Founding Father's concept of individual rights is that they claimed that individual rights were bestowed by God. These rights might be inalienable with respect to other men, but it seems obvious to me that, if this standard is used, whoever speaks for God holds sway over the rights of everyone.

I want to mention why I am interested in the Joe Sixpack form of discourse. There's nothing really deep about it. I just look and see that Joe Sixpack's vote has the same value as my vote does, and the same value as that of America's greatest genius. So I think it's a good idea to speak to him, not down to him, and speak to him in a language that will not make his eyes glaze over.

Other people have learned that lesson, especially a large faction of the Progressives and other power-hungry folks.

They even make a folksy virtue out of "GIVE! GIVE!" :)

Michael

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The following is a slightly edited version of a message that I posted on Atlantis II over a month ago. This was written while I was encouraging people to read the writings of the Antifederalists, i.e., opponents of the Constitution.

The "necessary and proper clause" and the "general welfare" clause were the primary targets of Antifederalist criticisms of the Constitution, and they accurately predicted that both would be used to dramatically increase the powers of the federal government.

An excellent collection of Antifederalist writings is Herbert J. Storing's one volume edition of The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution. (The unabridged edition, which is very expensive, takes up seven volumes.) And if you get this -- or even if you don't -- you should also get Storing's excellent book What the Anti-Federalists Were For.

Also excellent is the Library of America two-volume collection of writings, edited by Bernard Bailyn, The Debate on the Constitution. This is an extensive collection of both Federalist and Antifederalist writings.

Antifederalist objections to the "necessary and proper" clause were addressed in considerable detail by both Madison and Hamilton in The Federalist Papers. Both claimed that it is a logical implication of granting powers -- any powers -- to Congress. If Congress is empowered to achieve certain ends, then it must also possess the means to achieve those ends. Hamilton went so far as to claim that this is a logical truism, and Madison said essentially the same thing.

I discuss the objections to the "necessary and proper clause" in the two Knowledge Products tapes that I wrote on The Federalist Papers during the 1980s. This set is still available (as Blackstone audio CDs) on Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Federalist-Library-Supporting-Deitschman-Narrator/dp/0786173254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262535109&sr=1-1

I also discuss the "necessary and proper clause" in the four KP tapes (narrated by Walter Cronkite) that I wrote on the U.S. Constitution. (These were part of an eight-tape series that became the official bicentennial presentation in 1988.) The first two tapes are The Constitutional Convention, and the second two are The Text of the United States Constitution. The last time I checked around a year ago, both of these sets are also available from Amazon as Blackstone CDs.

Ghs

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As an anarchist I think this video is good for the most part. It is right when it talks about those people who are not anarchists but use the name of anarchism to overthrow the existing system and install their own. The world has not however had anarchy for thousands of years. I find myself correcting people who say "look at somalia is that what you want? thats anarchy." No somalia is a tribalist country. What I really find interesting is when I bring up the idea of letting us (the anarchists) try our experiment. Let us have a plot of land and then have no government. Worst case scenario is we all kill each other. Rand was right on the idea of competing governments but anarchy does not allow competing governments.

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The essential thing is the degree of statisim in operation.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Look at all these competing ideas of governance(including none.) I think that alone is trying to tell us something.

There is a principle, a characteristic of resilient systems-- we see it all the time. "Pure" iron -- monolithic iron -- is not all that strong; it is not 'steel.' In order to be 'steel', it needs deliberate imperfections in the lattice of material making up the material. The effect of these imperfections is to prohibit 'micro cracks' from propagating through the entire lattice. Think of micro cracks as a local failure, or, in the case of our federalist republic of states under a federal government, the propagation of really bad ideas.

Another example is, a bridge suspension cable. Look at it. It is not 'a' cable. It is a strand of many cables, and each strand is a strand of many smaller cables, and so on, down to wires. It is not 'a' cable. It is not a source of single point of failure.

Look at the Sear's Tower in Chicago(or whatever it is called these days.) It is not 'a' tower. It is 9 towers in a bundle, standing together, ' like a stack of cigarettes(the inspiration for the designer.)

This principle is captured in ideas like "All our eggs in one basket"... "One Size Fits All"...."Single Point of Failure." And the American founders were brilliant in embracing the concept of -federalism- as an attempt(a today long failed attempt)to distribute models, plural, of governance, as opposed to enforce a single 'totalitarian' form of national governance. 13....15...eventually 50 state experiments running in parallel with completely free association between them; the ability for the nation to vote with its feet, fleeing towards or away from whatever our definition of insanity is.

For most of the history of America -- for the -entire- history of adding stars to our flag -- our federal government was a mostly -outward- facing institution, as it was intended to be. Even as recently as JFK's America, the federal budget was over 50% national defense, reflective of the purpose of our federal government. When the New World matured-- when we stopped putting stars on the US Flag -- the process of our federal government turning increasingly inward looking accelerated. This process began with the Civil War, was amped up in the 20th century, and has accelerated virtually unchecked ever since. We no longer can be said to have a 'federal government', we now have a dominant national government which is endlessly demonstrating that principle described above.

When we attempt to impress massive uniformity over a wide scale over the entire nation, we risk creating a 'lattice' that can fail all at once, with greatly reduced means of stopping really bad ideas from ripping through the whole structure. In a federal system of 50 states in parallel, free people with the ability to vote with their feet are a natural check on insanity -- and this is important, no matter how each of us defines insanity. Worse, when we succeed in impressing a national uniformity with no means to freely associate-- where we are unable to flee bad ideas impressed by local governance, by increasingly turning every issue imaginable into a nationwide steel cage death match struggle for national domination, 51% to 49%, we tear this nation apart rather than unite it. The American principle is "United We Stand" not "United It Stands." A free America is a plurality -- a 'we' -- not a totalitarian 'it.' And our tribe and its weasel magnet Cronyfest in DC is inexorably on a Holy Crusade to turn what was once a free America into the latest tribal pisshole 'it' on a national scale.

This used to be the nation of free people who fought against totalitarianism, not embraced it. So from where this national rot, the source of our national decline? Because what was once an external threat to American freedom has long -- for decades long before any of was born -- been turned into an internal threat.

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The advocates of our own form of national totalitarianism like to criticise federalism on the basis of the Civil War and the issue of slavery.

Think of the irony in that. The difference between '12 years a Slave' and '3 years until my 15 year Pin at the Firm' is precisely the issue of free association, and -that- is their basis for advocating a nationalized imposition of forced association?

A federal government empowered precisely to inhibit all forms of forced association -- including slavery -- especially by itself is precisely the purpose of the federal government in a free nation of states.

It is not 'Either Slavery or Totalitarianism.' That is their argument.

Nonsense. It is neither Slavery nor Totalitarianism.

It is either free association or forced association. Freedom or Totalitarianism.

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The world has not however had anarchy for thousands of years.

Black market [Wikipedia]

Defacto anarchy

Justice without government

Scoundrels and pirates

I worry about the mental health of ungovernable freemen, unless the function of morality is understood. I hereby certify that the law cannot catch or deter a clever evildoer. That's not the purpose of law, which exists first as a means of restraining mob violence, ignorant prejudice, and statist tyranny. [COGIGG, p.66]

Motor vehicle thefts are generally well reported because the victim may need to make the report for an insurance claim, while domestic violence, domestic child abuse and sexual offences are frequently significantly under-reported because of the intimate relationships involved, embarrassment and other factors that make it difficult for the victim to make a report. [Wikipedia, see also Dark figure of crime]

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As an anarchist I think this video is good for the most part. It is right when it talks about those people who are not anarchists but use the name of anarchism to overthrow the existing system and install their own. The world has not however had anarchy for thousands of years. I find myself correcting people who say "look at somalia is that what you want? thats anarchy." No somalia is a tribalist country. What I really find interesting is when I bring up the idea of letting us (the anarchists) try our experiment. Let us have a plot of land and then have no government. Worst case scenario is we all kill each other. Rand was right on the idea of competing governments but anarchy does not allow competing governments.

How would you describe Somalia?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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How would you describe Somalia?

Ba'al Chatzaf

A boil that needs to be lanced.

Next question.

How would you describe Somalia?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The world has not however had anarchy for thousands of years.

Black market [Wikipedia]

Defacto anarchy

Justice without government

Scoundrels and pirates

Lists of ungoverned communities Ungoverned communities
220px-Entr%C3%A9e_de_Christiania.jpg
magnify-clip.png
The entrance of Freetown Christiania, a Danish neighborhood autonomous from local government controls.
Anarchist communities

Anarchists have been involved in a wide variety of communities. While there are only a few instances of mass society "anarchies" that have come about from explicitly anarchist revolutions, there are also examples of intentional communities founded by anarchists.

Intentional communities Mass societies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anarchist_communities

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The world has not however had anarchy for thousands of years.

Black market [Wikipedia]

Defacto anarchy

Justice without government

Scoundrels and pirates

Lists of ungoverned communities Ungoverned communities
220px-Entr%C3%A9e_de_Christiania.jpg
magnify-clip.png
The entrance of Freetown Christiania, a Danish neighborhood autonomous from local government controls.
Anarchist communities

Anarchists have been involved in a wide variety of communities. While there are only a few instances of mass society "anarchies" that have come about from explicitly anarchist revolutions, there are also examples of intentional communities founded by anarchists.

Intentional communitiesMass societies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anarchist_communities

How many of Earth's 7.2 billion folks live free of any government?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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That depends on what you mean. Literally, we are all subject to some government, admittedly. Realize, of course, that the CEO who obeys the speed limit on her way to work is going to choose which government will insure her contracts, which arbitration agency is going to settle her disputes, which guard company is going to patrol her grounds. Outside the USA, especially, those decisions are highly consequential; but even within, whether your credit card contract is interpreted according to the laws of Delaware or North Dakota makes a different to the card issuer, even if not to you.



Shopping for governments just shopping for legal systems. Sounds like anarcho-whatever to me....

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There can be nothing like anarchism logically over a long period of time. It will eventually become tribalism or a mob rule. In absence of government or any proper laws to protect rights of citizens, there is noting to stop one group to subjugate the rights of other weaker ones; and everyone can never be of equal power. So it will only be a matter of time that some or the other distorted form of governance will come up but it will have no objective laws, will keep changing with change in power with different groups, and will resemble a tyrannical dictatorship or oligarchy in relation it its effect on society . What starts in anarchy will generally end in tyranny.

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There can be nothing like anarchism logically over a long period of time. It will eventually become tribalism or a mob rule. In absence of government or any proper laws to protect rights of citizens, there is noting to stop one group to subjugate the rights of other weaker ones; and everyone can never be of equal power. So it will only be a matter of time that some or the other distorted form of governance will come up but it will have no objective laws, will keep changing with change in power with different groups, and will resemble a tyrannical dictatorship or oligarchy in relation it its effect on society . What starts in anarchy will generally end in tyranny.

Welcome (supposition). Always good to have someone restart old discussion threads. If I wanted to avoid working today, I'd spend a couple hours paging through this particular one. That's one of the crazy, lawless aspects of anarchy. No cop telling me what to do with my time. No cop telling me what to eat, whether to shower, which coat to wear, how to treat my dog who's still asleep in my bed or what to feed him. It would be helpful to have a cop tell me how to deal with my wife. Less sure about having a cop tell me what to write, although it would surely simplify matters. Sadly only one deputy on duty in the county, and I rarely see him or her. I think they attend murders and car crashes if summoned by a citizen, but I have never heard of one preventing a murder or a car crash. I pay a ridiculously small local property tax, 90% of which supports a K-8 public school, but I wouldn't send my kid there. Having beaten every Federal tax angle to death, what little is extorted from me isn't enough to buy a hundredth of a second's worth of CVN-75 operating in Syria.

I hope you perceive that tyranny is something governments do. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/world/asia/thailand-lese-majeste-tongdaeng.html

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