TCS Daily


The Democracy Critics Are Wrong

By Melana Zyla Vickers - April 7, 2006 12:00 AM

To an outsider-American looking in on nascent, democratic Iraq or Ukraine these days, the struggle to cobble together a ruling coalition looks messy and possibly even doomed. In Ukraine, the winners of last year's Orange revolution have broken in a schism, and the Russia-backed loser has a chance of coming up through the middle to broker parliamentary power. In Iraq, ethnic-based parties are vying endlessly for dominance, while outside the debate chambers there's a risk of civil war.

Maybe those people aren't meant to have a democracy, it's said. Maybe Muslims need a strongman. Maybe Slavs need an iron fist.

The conclusions are wrong, but perhaps natural -- the U.S. has relatively smooth campaigns, two dominant parties and, with one notable exception in 2000, voting results that can be known quite rapidly. By contrast, those countries have dozens of parties and factions, chaotic races to the finish line, and post-election jockeying that seems to go on longer than the campaign itself. Ukraine's most recent parliamentary elections saw 45 parties vie for seats in the 450 seat parliament. Some 120 parties fielded candidates for January 2005 elections in Iraq. The list goes on: Israel has 20 political parties. Egypt has 14. Taiwan has 23. Poland has six, down from 100 when contemporary democracy was born there almost two decades ago.

But the seeming inefficiency is not an indication of the democracies' poor quality. It's an indication of their youthfulness. And it's evidence that these countries have, or are acquiring, the one ingredient that Friedrich Hayek called essential to democratic governance: personal freedom.

Nothing but a sense of freedom can explain why so many groups and individuals would feel entitled to throw their hats into the political ring.

Efficiency was never meant to be the raison d'etre of democratic governance. Liberal democracy is merely the best of many unattractive means of setting up one group's dominance over all others. People, acting with free will, select among many choices who will dominate them in a limited way for a limited period of time.

If the choices were narrower in such young democracies, things wouldn't smell right: A narrow field would expose the fact that the would-be rulers had been pre-determined, possibly by those already in power.

Alternately, the seat of power could be grabbed and held by force, as it was in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in Ukraine during the Soviet regime.

True liberal democracy, for its part, is neither violent nor pre-determined. But it does demand free choice, and free choice is messy. "The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense," Hayek wrote,

"only if that opinion is independent of government. The ideal of democracy rests on the belief that the view which will direct government emerges from an independent and spontaneous process. It requires, therefore, the existence of a large sphere independent of majority control in which the opinions of the individuals are formed."

In other words, liberal, majority rule is legitimate only when it has emerged from a marketplace of ideas in which people are free to argue and struggle and disagree among many potential leaders or leading parties, and then to settle on the one that has the most votes or a coalition of ones that carry the most votes.

Hence, the mess in Iraq and Ukraine, among other places.

A clamoring of parties and would-be politicians is as natural to young democracies as is a debate chamber that periodically breaks out in fist fights. Both the partisan mess and the pushing and shoving are natural signs of growth. Parties coalesce with the passage of time, just as physical fighting retreats with time. Find that hard to believe? Consider that in many houses of parliament, the width of floor separating the ruling party from the opposition is measured in lengths of a sword.

The author is a TCS contributing writer.

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141 Comments

Old democracies
"If the choices were narrower in such young democracies, things wouldn't smell right: A narrow field would expose the fact that the would-be rulers had been pre-determined, possibly by those already in power."

This appears true in old democracies.

Overall a nice piece indicating democratic governement should not be be efficient.

Is westren styly of democracy sutable to all countries of world?
Today `s democracy is developed first in England and then coped mainly in U,S, in other countries including France Germany Italy lots of experments were done and today also they are struggling,rest of the countries are running here and there. I donot understand why other countries are copying the these two countries style ?Why these two countries imposing their whim on whole world.Take the exemple of India, this one is oldest country they have their civilation of three thousand year old, their philosophy styly of living, their culture is unque in whole world why not India created their own kind of democrcy why Indian thinkers made copy of westren democracy,which is not sutable for their psyces.Today Indian democracy`s parsona may be westren but politcians are running this country fudal way. same will happen in Iraq ans Afganishan. Free of speech is merely buble and nothing else. What kind of effect freedom of speech on President Bush and Prim minister Blir?

Yes
Look at how the immigrants of the world have adapted to western democracies in UK, Canada, US, Austrailia and European countries.
Even muslims can live in peace in the west, if they choose to.

What is western style democracy?
If you can't see the many and huge differences between American democracy, and British, and French, and Isreali, etc., then you either aren't looking, or you aren't paying attention.

Or perhaps you just prefer something other than democracy.

A fumbled attempt
It would appear that something vital is needed for a country to gain stability besides democracy and freedom. Iraq has had free and fair elections, and personal freedoms are virtually complete: the place is in a state of primal anarchy. Yet four months following the election, they still have not been able to form a government.

Further, one of the few things they have done is to designate a prime minister. And a prime task for the United States ever since has been to convince them to fire him. Something's not working.

Perhaps if we hadn't deconstructed the place to a condition approximating Europe in 1945. Perhaps if one of our bold planners had had some plan for continuity in government instead of just destroying the old one and starting from Year Zero. (They did-- the State Department's plan was summarily scrapped in the march toward invasion.)

I gues this has been a learning experience, just as Katrina was for Homeland Security. Next time, let's hire professionals with some experience for the job of running the government.

Forgiveness
All we could do is take away a tyrant. They will have to learn to live together.
As realized in former Yugoslavia, an external lid cannot be kept on forever.

Three controls on democracy are necessary, but we only have two
Consider these words of James Madison, one of America's founding fathers:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Madison and the rest of the founding fathers screwed the pooch because they forgot the absolutely necessary third control: The government and the governed must control each other and themselves, such that small groups of the governed and the government cannot collude to lavish boons on some few, lay burdens on some other few, and bring the conduct of public affairs down to the level of the political state of nature, where it's every special interest group against every other special interest group, but all special interests and the government preying on the whole herd of taxpayers.

Without that third control, democracy becomes a political state of nature (a pluralist democracy), where the people either divide up into various special interest groups to get their own cut of the boons at others' expense, or bear all the burdens for only a few of the boons.

America's got this problem, just as every other democracy the world over. Democracy can never be more than one-man-one-vote, for it can never purify human political behavior.

Kid Galahad
Of course, the Iraqis weren't asking us to take away a tyrant, so it's a little different than Bosnia.

Plus, the war was never presented to us as our opportunity to take away a tyrant. It was all about Saddam's threatening us with WMD's. Bush kept saying he had the proof-- which he didn't share with Hans Blix-- who never found any proof. Then it turned out there never was any proof, only bits and pieces that had been dressed up for the public's consumption. The CIA took the heat for it, when their original sin was to tell the man pointedly that there was no proof.

Checks and balances
The FF's didn't forget about the need for government to control itself. They expended quite a bit of energy on the mechanics of a system of checks and balances. And I'm sure they expected future generations to continue to fine tune it so we could keep it working well.

They certainly could never have expected a scenario in some future United States where a timid public stood by and watched an administration dismantle the system and replace it with some theory of a Unified Presidency.

The FF's didn't let us down. We let them down.

We let ourselves down
Perhaps you didn't understand what I wrote earlier, so I'll restate it: We Americans compete against each other for government benefits, and the government is only too happy to facilitate this competition.

A political war of all against all is what our democracy has become, and it has become a political state of nature because we Americans can't restrain ourselves from creeping to DC on our bellies to beg for handouts from Uncle Sam. So, if we Americans want to improve our democracy, then we'd better darn well get control of our own appetite for free government goodies.

See, the FFs didn't imagine what a craven lot of self-domesticating cattle their issue would become. Indeed, the FFs predicated our government on the belief that America would always enjoy a virtuous citizenry. Look around you, Judge Bean. Is that the case nowadays?

Here's a proof for you: The size of government, the national debt, and the annual budget are directly proportionate to the citizenry's demand for security less virtue, where virtue provides the maximum amount of possible security.

What is needed is time
Wow 4 whole months after an election and no government.

I seem to remember my history.

It took the US about 10 YEARS to form our current government. Remember a little piece of history call the Articles of Confederation, which was our first attempt that got scraped. We are still “forming” our government after 200 years.

The German government was not completely formed until 1949. That’s 4 years after the end of WWII.

The Japanese government took even longer. Mainly because the US ran it directly until the 50’s and wrote and imposed the government we wanted them to have.

The current English government took between 200 – 400 YEARS, depending on which date you consider as the most important. (Magna Carta or Cromwell)

The current French government… oh well, guess we shouldn’t open that can of worms.

The list does go on and in each case the time period for any SUCCCESSFUL government formation is measured in years not months. In the era of heat and serve dinners we want heat and serve governments also. We tend to forget that good things take time to prepare and make.

Come back to me in 4 YEARS and complain that no government has been formed in Iraq and I will BEGIN to say that there is an issue.

The deconstruction to a level similar to Europe in 1945 was probably the best way to do it. I wish we had leveled the US in 1945 and had the chance to start everything fresh. Germany and Japan is the powerhouse they are today because the where wiped clean in 1945 and forced to start fresh. While we STILL use factories and manufacturing facilities built in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, these two countries started with the most current facilities and technology when rebuilding their governments and economy bases.

Iraq will have the advantages of doing the same thing with 21st century facilities and technology. They can build their government from the ground up with the ability of having their people have direct access and information sharing with members of government. They will have the ability of having their communications and economic bases built upon 21st century equipment and technology. The will have the ability to have their manufacturing bases built with the newest tech. If they do manage to pull thought this beginning struggle with democracy and form a firm government I will be willing to bet that in 20 years they will be knocking on our doors as one of the powerhouses of the world and we will be the country with the backwards economy and lifestyle.

The old saying is still true “Rome was not built in a day”.

WMD Chicken
[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998

"This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to refine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer- range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." -- From a December 6, 2001 letter signed by Bob Graham, Joe Lieberman, Harold Ford, & Tom Lantos among others

"Whereas Iraq has consistently breached its cease-fire agreement between Iraq and the United States, entered into on March 3, 1991, by failing to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program, and refusing to permit monitoring and verification by United Nations inspections; Whereas Iraq has developed weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological capabilities, and has made positive progress toward developing nuclear weapons capabilities" -- From a joint resolution submitted by Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter on July 18, 2002

"Saddam's goal ... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed." -- Madeline Albright, 1998

"(Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983" -- National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Feb 18, 1998

"Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement." -- Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability." -- Robert Byrd, October 2002

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat... Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He's had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001... He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we." -- Wesley Clark on September 26, 2002

"What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad's regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs." -- Jacques Chirac, October 16, 2002

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security." -- Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

Deploring the fact that Iraq has not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure, as required by resolution 687 (1991), of all aspects of its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than one hundred and fifty kilometres, and of all holdings of such weapons, their components and production facilities and locations, as well as all other nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to nuclear-weapons-usable material,

Deploring further that Iraq repeatedly obstructed immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), failed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with UNSCOM and IAEA weapons inspectors, as required by resolution 687 (1991), and ultimately ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA in 1998,

Deploring the absence, since December 1998, in Iraq of international monitoring, inspection, and verification, as required by relevant resolutions, of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, in spite of the Council’s repeated demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), established in resolution 1284 (1999) as the successor organization to UNSCOM, and the IAEA, and regretting the consequent prolonging of the crisis in the region and the suffering of the Iraqi people,

Deploring also that the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism, pursuant to resolution 688 (1991) to end repression of its civilian population and to provide access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in Iraq, and pursuant to resolutions 686 (1991), 687 (1991), and 1284 (1999) to return or cooperate in accounting for Kuwaiti and third country nationals wrongfully detained by Iraq, or to return Kuwaiti property wrongfully seized by Iraq,

http://www.un.int/usa/sres-iraq.htm



Bosnia never asked us to remove a tyrant
After living in Bosnia for three years I can tell you that CLinton and the UN bungled this worst then anything that has happened in Iraq.

After 5 years of war and 10 years of US/EU enforced peace, Bosnia is at the same point it was before the war.

ALso by the way Bosnia still does not have a functional unified government after 10 years of working on it.

Clinton's War
Clinton can do no wrong.

Let the losers fall under the chariot wheels
That may just be our competitive streak, rb. As a nation we seriously undervalue cooperative approaches, and instead choose the zero-sum alternative every time. Naturally this slops over into the big Neo-Darwinian mosh pit, politics and the economy.

Look how we prefer to view election coverage, for instance. No thorny issues to debate. Just a straightforward horse race. Winner take all. No matter if the 51% gets to lord it over the 49%. Screw them.

We have imported this governing style to Iraq, which really would have been much better served with a parliamentary approach emphasising broad ruling coalitions. Instead, what do they get? Civil war. The last one surviving gets to rule ruthlessly over the rest.

Your thoughts on the out-of-control debt, runaway government and security at all costs are spot on. We're both looking at the same phenomenon.

Unified Presidency
Bush has not used any powers that are not in the Presidential realm.

In fact Presidential power has declined in the pass 50-100 years. Much is place on the War Powers in limiting the President, when in fact that is a relatively new concept.

If you look at the powers invoked by earlier Presidents, it was much more then what the last few have used.

From a military point, past Presidents could deploy troops and navies anywhere they choose without even asking Congress. It was not until the War Powers Act was enacted that he even had to inform Congress of these moves. Congress has always had to “declare war” and vote to fund the operations.

Most historians and scholars have point to the lose of Presidential powers over the years not of the consolidation.

The whole purpose of a President is to guide and direct the country with a unified vision and goal. While the purpose of Congress is to guide and support that vision with the input of the will of the people. Finally the purpose of the Supreme Court is to make sure that vision is not in conflict with the goals and vision of the Constitution.

In the last 50 years this has been forgotten and the duties have been scuffled and redefined. Congress is trying to guide the country while the President is trying to control them. At the same time the courts have begun to form and impose new law.

It time we had a President that puts the office back where it belongs. Hopefully the next one does the same thing also. I don’t have a clue who the next one will be or what policies he or she might be pushing, but they have to remember that they are at the top of the pyramid and act accordingly. The President is head of the Executive branch of the government, which by definition means he is the leader, not Congress.

Why?
"A political war of all against all is what our democracy has become, and it has become a political state of nature because we Americans can't restrain ourselves from creeping to DC on our bellies to beg for handouts from Uncle Sam. So, if we Americans want to improve our democracy, then we'd better darn well get control of our own appetite for free government goodies."

I would argue this occers because personal integrity in our society is not longer valued. Why has this occured? Modern liberal and communist attacks against moral values and integrity have weakened the courts, voters and politicians.
So before all you leftys get too bent out of shape about right wing religious nuts, they may have something to offer.
Finally the Catholic church is taking stands against abortion and homosexual marriage. And these are important to the issue at and becuase they do weaken moral standards. And I would submit the Catholic church fell victim to the left's immorality and permited the sex abuses to occur.

Only if you believe you should govern yourself
"Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on Residence Bill, 1790. ME 3:60

"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:320

"The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Everett, 1824. ME 16:22

"[The] voluntary support of laws, formed by persons of their own choice, distinguishes peculiarly the minds capable of self-government. The contrary spirit is anarchy, which of necessity produces despotism." --Thomas Jefferson to Philadelphia Citizens, 1809. ME 16:328

http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0600.htm

Laws
"[The] voluntary support of laws, formed by persons of their own choice, distinguishes peculiarly the minds capable of self-government. The contrary spirit is anarchy, which of necessity produces despotism." --Thomas Jefferson to Philadelphia Citizens, 1809. ME 16:328

When government is too big, too many laws are written and ignored permitting selctive enforcement weakening all laws.
Solution: a court and legislature that respects federalism and the Constitution, as written.

The function of time is to bring symmetry to deeds and misdeeds, both.
"We're both looking at the same phenomenon."

Indeed we are, good Judge. But here's the thing: Whether the costs of beggaring thy neighbor accrue gradually or rapidly, they will always occur at some time. A slow beggary is nevertheless a beggary, and time will eventually assess the cost of a beggary's payoff. For the function of time is to bring symmetry to deeds and misdeeds, both.

Take Old Europe, for example. Those who began Old Europe's class wars are either in or soon for the grave. Yet they've left behind them degenerating generations, degenerating because they've neither had to compete nor create for their daily bread. But these decrepits now face competition from hordes of eager Asians and a sorrowfully depleted capital stock of every type, particularly human capital. So, they've got a hefty price to pay for the wealth their elders took from those who knew how to create wealth, namely, the wealth that was consumed instead of created.

But here's the best part: The class warriors enjoyed great popular support. In other words, class war was agreed across most of the voting populace. Nevertheless, their issue must now pay the costs accruing to class war. Therefore, democracy can never forestall the costs accruing to misdeeds, but only gradualize them. So, perhaps America is better off with its precipitous democracy, for in a precipitous democracy the costs of political misdeeds accrue rapidly.

I agree, but on different terms.
We Americans crawl to DC on our bellies for handouts because we know we'll get them. Apart from free markets and personally exercised human compassion, government provides access to scarce goodies and services, which government makes available to those whose political behavior merits them. Such political behavior includes, inter alia, whinging, grovelling, sneaking, and cheating.

Now, as a Christian classical liberal, I consider whinging, grovelling, sneaking, and cheating to be below a virtuous man's moral station. This is why the preeminence of politics in every American's life distresses me so.

So, Marjon, refute my (revised) proof:

The size of government, the national debt, and the annual budget are directly proportionate to the citizenry's demand for security less personal virtue, where personal virtue provides the maximum amount of possible security.

Perspective
To whom does the money belong?

"We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity;"

http://www.constitution.org/cons/crockett.htm

I don't disagree, but I would add that those elected to public office have no incentive from our culture or our institutions today to be virtuous.
And that is battle currently engaged and I have faith in the majority because people know what is fair.
Now that the liberal media monoply is broken by the internet, opportunities abound for spirited debate and political accountability.
The internet helped to defeat Daschle and to elect GW, for all his faults, he is helping to change course with more conservative judges like Janice Rogers Brown.
And unlike most losertarians, I like the advice Hugh Hewitt provides, elect those running who are at least going in your general direction. What chances do classical liberals have with Kerry or Dean?

US Parliment
If the House of Representatives had been expanded so one Congressman represented 50,000 instead of 600000+, there may be more opportunity for better representation in Congress.
SD, my home state would have 12 Congressmen instead of 1.
The shear size of it alone would take years for them to pass any more laws. And would that not be a good thing?

Well whaddaya know
A very complete piece of scholarship, marjon. I'm impressed. I guess he had them after all.

Isn't it strange that all these very well informed people thought he had them, while it was only the flaky-crust left who didn't think so and the UN inspectors who were allowed free access in 2001-2002 who couldn't find them. Maybe we should have been in charge, and this whole mess could have been averted.

Bosnia
Sadly, the way history happened there, there is no way Bosnia will ever have either a lasting peace or a stable government. It was a tragedy unfolding for several years before anyone did anything about it. Events made it impossible for any reconciliation to ever have taken place. What would have been needed was an immediate use of overwhelming force to stop the killing as soon as it started. And there was no heart for such a thing, either in the EU or in America.

Having said that, the icing on the cake was Srebrenica. But other than that terrible failure of nerve, I don't think we can fault anyone for doing what they did. We can fault them instead for not doing more, and sooner.

Electoral reform
That's a thought. But to my way of thinking, the problem is not whether you have one congress person or twelve. It's that the vote of one bag man whose PAC can bring in a briefcase full of funds can outweigh the vote of every citizen in your district.

True, there are problems with the electoral system as well. When it comes to electing representatives, one voter from Wyoming has a vote equal to 4-1/2 Californians. And in all but a couple of states, no matter if the vote is 800,000 to 800,001, your vote goes to the majority candidate.

Flaky-crust left
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security." -- Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

Your fearless leader thought Iraq presented a WMD threat.
Maybe when one is actually in a responsible position and not in the peanut gallery, one begins to take threats seriously.

Money
If you want real monetary electroal reform, their should be no limits on how much money anyone can give directly to candidates.
The only rule is that it must be documented and available for all to see.

My leader?
Hilary Clinton would not be a leader of mine. I'm not responsible for her beliefs. To me the important point is that we were led into war by a man who was told repeatedly by the CIA that evidence of Saddam's possession of WMD's was overblown. He badgered them to change the intel to reflect his intentions. And he did so in the face of an inspections regime that was working quite well-- and not finding anything anywhere they chose to look.

Oligarchy
In other words you see nothing wrong with our government being run by the whims of the wealthy. I'd like to hear more. Please support your belief.

Money can't buy an office
Huffington failed.
Forbes failed.
Soros failed.
Perot failed.
Kerry failed.
If you knew Bill Gates was fully funding some candidate, wouldn't his opponent be able to use that information against the candidate?
Or if, in Clinton's case, the Chinese government tried to fund his relection, wouldn't his opponent be able to use it against him? (Oh wait, they tried, but no one cared. http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/05/23/clinton.china/)


National lottery, no elections, one term, lifetime retirement as an incentive.

One can't buy a political office without money
One can't buy a political office without money. Put differently, part of the compensation package the people demand in return for the majority of their votes is a boat-load of scrillah. Other items include a full head of hair, a telegenic smile, the ability to lie convincingly in public, lots of connections with the political power cartels - the political parties, and ideas (slogans, buzzwords, etc.) about government that convince people to believe that government can make them virtuous, smart, good looking, scratch golfers, but most importantly, safe.

That's quite an extensive compensation package, but then American consumers of government can be quite demanding. Nevertheless, one can't honestly argue that money is not the most vital component of every aspect of politics. For politics is nothing more than an alternative means of competing for valueable things, and money stores value.

Is public money your money?
Public money does not belong to taxpayers. To prove this to yourself, don't pay your taxes this year. To say that public money belongs to individual taxpayers is a fantasy based entirely in self-deceit.

As a taxpaying voter, you must demand accountability from your government, for government exists to serve you. But you must also demand accountability from yourself, even to the point of taking the lumps life dishes out to those who make too many bad choices.

But we Americans won't do this. Instead, we'll use politics to compete for scarce goods & services otherwise unavailable to us, particularly when the unavailability is the result of our own bad choices.

So to sum up, demanding and getting accountability from government will fix nothing unless Americans demand and get accountability from themselves as well.

Inspections
Lets look at this from a different angle. Lets say you are a drug dealer. You have been for awhile and there is proof that you have been in the past. How you tell the world that you have changed and are no longer a dealer. You even tell us you will let people search for any drugs in your house. I’m the cop assigned to search your house, but there are a list of procedures I must follow to do this. By the rules I have to tell you were I’m going to search and on day we will be doing this. Also your bedrooms are completely off limits unless you get me the go ahead to search there.

First I call you and tell you that we are going o search your living room next Tuesday.
Tuesday comes and we find nothing.
I call back next week and tell you we are going to search your bathroom, oh and can we please search you bedrooms? You fell good so say yes you may search bedroom number one.
We come and find nothing.
The following week we ask to do a big search of the house. You say great search it all, but no bedrooms this time.
Of course we find nothing.
This goes on for 10 years. During that ten years you make friend with the guy next door.

Finally I get a new boss that says this is crazy and gives you one last chance to let us search you whole house.
You complain about it and say we have not found anything in 10 years so why do you think we should find something now.

My boss says ok Raid the house, but first we have to get the paperwork down. So we tell you we are going to raid you house as soon as we get the paper signed.

I get there break down the door and take over your house.
After searching you house I find: Needles, baggies, syringes, all the chemicals needed to make some types of drugs, notes about how to make the drugs, empty pill casings that can hold drugs. I even find small amounts of drugs that are old and outdated. I find evidence that you might have been hauling something next door to your friends house during the past few months, but his house is off limits to look at of course. I go home looking bad because I could not find you big stash even thought we haul tons of “Drug related” items out of your house.

You on the other hand are setting back laughing at the police for allowing you to shuffle you drugs from room to room for ten years while you setup a plan to store them next door with your friend.

No arguement, but
Spending more or having more money than your opponent does not guarantee success.
And where does all that money go? To the media, the 'watch dogs'.
Here is an example of what should be done with contributions:

"The donations, which are legal and hardly unusual in political races, nonetheless represent continued interest in the gubernatorial race by lawyers and others who often donate to be seen by clients, fellow lawyers, and their firms as influential players in the political process. The campaigns insist their candidates are not influenced by the money."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/04/09/lawyers_bankrolling_candidates/

A clever, couragous candidate running on an anti-lawyer platform might have a chance.

As a side, MA just passed a law mandating everyone must have health insurance. Wonder how they will enforce this law since not all have mandated auto insurance.

And bty, MA doe not have competition in auto insurance. The state set rates and who can sell insurance. So this legislature is bought and paid for by the lawyers, doctors and incurance agents.

Maybe that is one reason MA population is decreasing.

And that is anther safety valve, poeple can vote with their feet. Next census the NE will loose Congressmen and the SW will gain.

Campaign funding
You're saying that corporate and other contributions have no effect on the way legislators vote?

You're saying that campaign funding is not the central issue to which every politician devotes the majority of his/her time?

You're saying that an absolute majority of legislators in both parties don't spend the majority of their time in pandering to their major contributors, in search of more funding?

You very diligently point out examples you've found of Democratic excesses. Very fine. Certainly you don't expect to convince me or anyone that this is exclusively a Democratic phenomenon. My point is that any person willing re-election to either the US Congress or any state legislative body is in the pockets of someone. The only difference is-- whose pockets?

A modest proposal
You bewail the fact that all the money in politics goes into the coffers of the media, who obligingly help paint rosy pictures of the candidates who buy their services. Is this proof of the bottomless iniquity of that media? Or is it just evidence of symbiosis?

In response, aren't the media happy to portray election campaigns as pure horse races, devoid of much in the way of doctrinal doifferences? Isn't a party or individual's platform innately of less interest to them than, say, the poll numbers? Isn't all of this just catering to the perceptual level of a population more comfortable with sports than with great ideas?

I have a solution I know you will be happy with. Why don't we just cut out the middleman and do away with the popular vote altogether? We can just award the election to the candidate raising the most money. No limits on campaign financing will be any longer necessary, and all funds collected can go into the General Fund.

The drug dealer thing
I like your analogy. So let's say Saddam equates to being a drug dealer. And as a result, the jump-out squad comes to his place one night and busts him for dealing.

They search everyplace. The house, the yard, the garbage, his car... every imaginable place. And come up with zip.

But he is in their eyes a known drug dealer. So they execute him anyway. This is the American way?

Apparently yes. And as a precautionary measure you announce your intent to shoot the neighbor as well, because Saddam may have passed "the drugs" next door to him. Conveniently, this neighbor is someone you have never liked for quite dissimilar reasons.

To bring the analogy back down to earth, is there anyplace in Iraq that Hans Blix's team did NOT have access to?

Let's find out
Yes, that is the point.
Unlimitied contributions with full public disclosure of ALL contributions will do more than McCain Feingold to find out who is funding our politicians.
The current system is a candidate/lawyer's wet dream with all kinds of ways to hide contributions from 'non-profit' organiazations.
You might vote for a candidate who is fully funded by Soros and I migh vote for a candidate fully supported by Steve Forbes. What is wrong with full disclosure?

Lottery
I like the lottery proposal better. I do not trust anyone who would want to run for public office.

But what incentive do the media have in controlling polictial spending when most of it is spent on TV advertising?

You missed the point
Han Blix had access to almost every place, but not at the same time. He had to make appointment to search places. and what do you know nothing was there.

Now if he could of closed each place down and sealed it after each search MAYBE he might have found something.

Back to the drug dealer:

If I search your livingroom today and your bathromm tommarrow... Well it don't take a real smart guy to figure out you stash your stuff in the bathroom today and move it to the livingroom tomarrow. And by the time I get the right to look everywhere at once, you have had time to move it next door.

It like shuffleing the pea under the cup. If you let the person shuffle the cups after each pick your chances of finding the pea goes way down. Add to this the fact that you have dozens of cups and only 2-3 peas and what do you have?


Something for you to think about. After we took over Iraq they found a whole wing of MIG 25's buried in the sand. They where found by accident because someone notice a tail fin out in the deseart. If he could bury a dozen or so fighters in the sand, dont you think he could bury a few trucks also? We are still finding stuff the the NAZI's hide during WWII and thats after 50 years. Iraq's a big place and would take decades to search every place.





Happy?
Why do you think I would be happy with eliminating the popular vote?

Eliminate Pockets
The first step is to reduce the power of Congress by Constitutional amenement repealing the income tax and instituting a national sales tax.
That would clear out a significant number of lobbyists.
The next step would be to eliminate many cabinet positions.
Starve the beast and cut of its heads.

One key difference
Illegal drugs, which may be fatal to individuals, is only considered to be a crime by the government.
Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons can be fatal to millions of individuals and should be considered a national defense concern, not a criminal offense.
Previous administrations considered terrorists acts to be criminal, until 9/11/01.
Many still consider terrorist acts to only be violations of criminal codes, not a national security threat.

Overall, I liked the analogy.

Taking stands
This will require people to take a stand.
For example, if you oppose affirmative action your are called racist. I am no longer tolerating such slander, and while I want to respond with 'expletive deleted' the best response is to comment that 'You don't have a rational cogent response then?'
Too many challengers to the welfare state, illegal immigration, environment, etc, are cowed by accustions of intolerance.
We need to have confidence in our opposition and continue to challenge the socialist agendas.

Jury Duty
I like HL Mencken's suggestion best: Let's select our politicians like we do our juries. Everyone eligible to vote will have his name put in a hat for every public office. Only a few excuses will be accepted for being relieved of the duty to serve, such as terminal illness.

On mandatory health insurance, I applaud MA (and Switzerland, which has similar laws). Why the heck should the law encourage citizens to arbitrage their health risk to the state? By spending their health insurance premiums on anything but health insurance and then suckling up to the public teat when they get sick, folks get access to medical care without having to pay what it costs. A law that requires people who own and operate a body to insure it against break-downs is the most rational and proportionate response to uncivil risk arbitrage.

As to enforcement, a mandatory health insurance law is just as easy to enforce as a bad debt.

Socialism: The beautiful lie
Now you fully see the contours of the problem, marjon.

However, we needn't fear confronting socialism if truth is our weapon. Socialists hide behind past evils such as slavery to justify the present and future evils they advocate. But hiding behind the past or using it to obscure the present is the refuge of a weak and cowardly mind. We need only accurately describe the current state of the world as well as how things really work to overcome socialism.

For example, I was just thinking today about how socialists believe that the welfare state offers them so much more security than the free market ever could. But since the state can raises taxes, slash social benefits, and add charges and fees at any time, the truth is that the socialist welfare state replaces one risk array with another, thereby providing no net reduction of risk to individuals and society.

Just plain truth and valid logic are enough to dismantle socialism. The way forward lies in finding better and more accurate arguments relying on these.

Anti-capitalist
In addition, many on the left are anti-capitalist and selectively attack companies like Wal-Mart who do not toe the line.
My response is "don't shop there".
And when monopolistic activities are accused, as was with Mircorsoft, I respond with buy an Apple or use Linux.
With governent and government backed businesses (monopolies) there is NO choice.
Yes, the truth works, but it takes time.

That wasn't my message
Naturally I was joking. Determining the winner by measuring the amount of money behind each candidate would make us an oligarchy, not a democracy-- a prospect, may I observe, that you seem very enthusiastic about.

We can already tell who is funding the various incumbents by looking at the policies they promote. I really don't think you'll find the George Soros p.o.v. represented among members of Congress.

What a set up
Of course the interesting thing about all this is that the only time we know beyond a doubt that Saddam was not just making and stockpiling but using chemicals (and possibly biologicals) was the period when he was our client. That was during the Reagan and Bush administrations, when we backed him in his war on Iran. Not only did we provide him with military intle, including satellite battlefield info, we-- ahem-- facilitated his access to lines of credit for weapons purchases, and looked the other way while he purchased type specimens of biological agents from our standard type collection.

As Mark Russell observed, "We know the guy has WMD's-- we have the receipts."

All objective evidence says that his WMD programs were phased out by 1995-96, when it had become more of a problem to him than it was worth. That was the information the CIA reported to the Preesident, and it was sent back repeatedly for a rewrite until we got the dummied up version used in the SOTU speech.

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