Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Interesting Comparisons (part 2)

[from John] I am going to initiate this as a new Topic although it is an extension of the Some Interesting Comparisons Topic. The following is the last comment from Ira Glickstein from that Topic [in italics]. I am also going to show my comments in blue for clarity.
Thanks, John, for your comments. You probably noticed that I chose King Solomon "dividing the baby" as the image at the head of your posting. The Bible presents him as a benevolent dictator skilled at determining who was the true mother of the baby. For a Capitalist Republic to stand, we need a process that moderates, like Solomon, between the immediate needs (and wants) of the people and the long-term solvency and stability of the government. Somewhere in my studies I was told the reason the Constitution is so hard to change is to prevent impetuous change to address an immediate problem which in the long term may be deleterious to the nation. What comes to mind is the amendment banning alcohol. I would amend one word in your statement …stability of the government to … stability of the nation.
In a pure democracy, once the majority of the voters figure out they can vote for candidates who pay them benefits out of the national treasury, the country is guaranteed to go bankrupt sooner or later. That is the "tipping point" - when fewer people are, on net, paying-in and more are, on net, on the dole. If you tax those who work and give benefits to those who don't, you should not be surprised when more and more people don't work (or don't work very hard)! Unfortunately this also applies to a republic – our Republic!
I think history, as far back as Greece and Rome, and up to more modern times in the UK and USA, shows that the most stable governments are multi-party, where two (sometimes three) major parties coexist and take turns at the head, with the legislature and judiciary and state governments sometimes in the hands of the opposition. I agree with the exception of the judiciary. To the degree humanly possible the judiciary should be exempt of politic especially the Supreme Court whose sole objective should be interpreting the Constitution. Even though we may not agree on all of the choices for the Supreme Court members or all of their decisions I believe they have done a good job over the years.
Looking at the historical record, it is amazing that power is handed over peacefully when a different party wins 52% to 48% or even closer. The only reason that happens in the US is that both major parties have more philosophical and geographic overlap with each other than basic differences. Therefore, both strive to find the middle to pick up the independents and cross-over voters who make the final decision.
I don’t agree. GW Bush’s second election proves my point. Our nation was up in arms and divided through his full last term and has carried over into Obama’s first term. The reason that power has been handed over peacefully is we are a nation of law. We respect and trust the law. Even though there was great resentment when the Supreme Court ruled in that election it was accepted because we trusted them. I might add our nation is stable and economically well to do. While we have pockets of poverty the majority of the people are relatively comfortable economically so there is no underground outpouring of resentment toward the government. Comfortable people do not want to upset the apple cart.
In countries with a larger number of smaller, more narrow parties that are sometimes quite regional, change of government can be threatening and may lead to national strikes and riots. Afghanistan is a good example - tribal law dominates. There is no effective central government or central legal system. Additionally Afghanistan is a poor uneducated nation. Tribal grouping find the optimum stability for the people.
In your original posting, you seemed to be unhappy that candidates are "chosen by two political parties rather than by the people", and, in your most recent comment you ask "How else can an elected representative or senator be almost guaranteed of retaining his seat indefinitely as long as he remains a true party hack?" Well, IMHO, that system promotes balance and compromise within the structure of each party and between them. I personally think things were better when party hacks in the proverbial "smoke-filled room" hand-picked candidates prior to our primary election system. As I said in my previous comment I do not have a better system although I might recommend a change to the present system. I wonder if a tri party system would work better. Our system, as it operates today does not promote balance it promotes partisanship . It is this or that. A principal goal of a party is to seize and retain control. Compromise and balance exists only to the extent that a party must kowtow to the middle to retain power. A tri party system, on the other hand, would tend toward cooperation and compromise because a party’s hold on government would be tenuous, insecure and dependent upon cooperation. The re-election cycle as stated in the constitution would remain.
My other concern about our present system is the ease for an elected official to retain his seat forever thus creating a career path for professional politicians to hold the seats of government. I would prefer term limits. We could argue upon the length of the terms. We would want to give them enough time to understand the needs of our national government without providing a career for elected officials.


Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks John for your new Topic and comments on my ideas.

1) The Supreme Court effectively settled the first election of President George W. Bush where he won narrowly in Florida over Senator Al Gore. The second Bush vistory was over Senator Kerry and by a larger margin with no Supreme Court involvement.

2) I don't see how the Supreme Court nomination process can be separated totally from politics. It is the perogative of the President to pick nominees, and he usually prevails unless there are substantive objections to the nominee's objective judicial qualifications. (The rejection of Judge Bork was an awful exception - he had the objective judicial qualifications but was "politically incorrect" and railroaded out by the opposition party.)

3) A three-party system would probably devolve into coalitions of convenience of two against the third, not totally bad. The problem is that a fourth and fifth and ... party might spring up, and the parties would get smaller and narrower and bring all the issues of a highly splintered government.

Like the making of sausages, it is sometimes best if the infighting part of laws are made out of public view and the public is spared the "blood and guts" and sees only the final product.

Ira Glickstein

JohnS said...

"1. The Supreme Court effectively settled the first election of President George W. Bush." I couldn’t remember and I was too lazy to look it up, sorry.
"2. I don't see how the Supreme Court nomination process can be separated totally from politics." I agree that is why I used the term “to the degree humanly possible”.
I have serious concerns about how the two party system has evolved over the last two hundred years or so. It may be that over time and an election or two we will become less divisive, more open and more willing to reach reasonable compromises. I am sure that many of my concerns such as overly complex bills, irrelevant amendments to bills to insert pet projects and deliberate obfuscation of issues existed long before the present so maybe I should be content.
In days of yore, when the closest radio station was in Minneapolis, 100 miles away and the only other source of media was paper, newspapers and magazines, Washington politics were of much less concern to the average citizen, then we voted party line and we trusted our party to represent us. Laissez faire capitalism existed. The government stayed out of our lives. Income tax was minimal. Until World War II (1939-1945), the income tax did not contribute much to U.S. federal government revenue. As late as 1942, individual income taxes made up only 2 to 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or total national income. In 1943, the U.S. government began to withhold taxes for certain social programs, such as Social Security, from people’s pay, which made tax collection much easier. Today it is different, we are inundated with political fact and fiction; the government has become involved in every aspect of our lives. The income tax and other taxes for social security and medicare etc. strongly impact our income and our daily lives.

Today we live in a socio-capitalistic society. We can no longer dwell in our little niche and let Washington do its will. It is important that we understand the functioning of Washington yet the information we are inundated with is often clouded, vague and incomplete, if not actually wrong. Any thinking American has to be concerned. Any thinking American has to seek clarification, yet it is not available. Today we trust no one. We don’t trust the media, our representatives or the giant bureaucracy of Washington. To me this is a serious problem.