[EM] language/framing quibble

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km-elmet at broadpark.no
Sun Dec 7 11:16:00 PST 2008

Fred Gohlke wrote:
> Good Morning, Kristofer
> [The following relates to the corruption of elected officials after they 
> take office.]
> re: "... make the system so competitive that the pressure to be
>      honest is greater than that to become corrupt. I don't think
>      it can be done by the latter, at least not alone ..."
> I agree.  Our ultimate goal must be a system that harnesses our 
> predilection for pursuing our own interest.  In doing so, we must 
> recognize and respect the power of that inclination.
> It is an asset during selection when the value of being (perceived as) 
> honest exceeds the value of being corrupt, but the pressure to maintain 
> a mantle of probity diminishes when the competition ends.  After that 
> point, the pursuit of self-interest can become a threat.  Indeed, there 
> is a self-justifying argument that, having exercised restraint before 
> achieving office, one is entitled to the rewards the office makes possible.
> Stated more simply, Practical Democracy harnesses our natural tendency 
> to pursue own interest, but that vital characteristic of the method 
> disappears when the selection process ends. Thereafter, we must find 
> other means to restrain the adverse effects of the excessive pursuit of 
> self-interest.

We could thus divide Practical Democracy into two phases: the selection 
phase, and the continuation phase. The first involves the triads (or 
larger groups, as I have suggested with PR variants). The second 
involves the parliament (or other body), and the support architecture of 
the "shadow pyramids" (that message bubble up along, and that handle 
referenda and recalls).

If what you're saying is correct, does that mean that the first phase of 
Practical Democracy has the same effect (or nearly so) in the long run 
limit case as does a very competitive traditional election method? I'm 
wondering about that because you say that the problem of keeping the 
elected/selected candidates honest is one that applies to both Practical 
Democracy and more traditional solutions.

> re: "Perhaps representatives should have strict limits as to what
>      they can accept, so that overt bribery is weakened ..."
> This approach is not usually successful.  As I mentioned last week in 
> relation to the attempt to curtail 'Pay to Play' in New Jersey, the laws 
> intended to impose 'strict limits' are enacted with loopholes that limit 
> their effectiveness.  Protecting a valuable resource by surrounding it 
> with thieves is not the best way to ensure a satisfactory result. 
> Instead, we need a structural change that limits incipient corruption.

Perhaps the approach could be strengthened by an approach similar to 
that of Congressional wage structure setting: the law only applies to 
those who follow you. If that limit was set, then representatives (as 
long as they are closer to the people than to their own "class") could 
improve the law without being in the conflict of interest position that 
these improvements would cut off their own advantages. Then, on the 
other hand, maybe not; if candidates are only parts of a party, then the 
party could prevent them from doing so, and in any case, the corrupting 
influence of lobbyists would still be present.

> re: "This [limiting what representatives can accept] might be
>      difficult in the United States, though, because of court
>      decisions setting spending as free speech (more or less;
>      I'm not familiar with the details)."
> This issue is loaded!  It is worthy of careful examination in its own 
> right, but I shall only make a few comments about it.
> * The notion that the rights of humans extend to non-human
>   entities is fundamentally flawed.  It sets the stage for a
>   plethora of anti-human abuses.
> * By definition, the idea that one may use their 'money as free
>   speech' gives the loudest voice to those with the most money.
>   That is no less perverse than restricting the right to vote to
>   land-owners.
> * Laws implementing the 'money as free speech' concept make a
>   distinction between 'hard money' (money given directly to
>   individuals, which carries limits) and 'soft money' (money
>   given to political parties, which is virtually unlimited ...
>   and makes parties the conduits of corruption that plague us.)

That sounds very strange. If money is free speech, then it should be 
consistent - there's no such thing, for ordinary speech, as "hard 
speech" and "soft speech". Also, I agree with your first point, but the 
precedent seems to go all the way back to 1886.

> re: "If lobbyists are used (ideally) as a shortcut to the
>      opinions of those that have different positions in the
>      community, maybe this could be formalized."
> It is formalized (in the U. S.) in the sense that legislatures schedule 
> hearings during which lobbyists present the positions of the community. 
>  The flaw in the formal system is that there are no restraints on the 
> access lobbyists have to legislators outside the hearing rooms.  As a 
> result, the lobbyists suborn legislators, sub rosa, out of the public 
> eye.  The only way to stop this is to implement a structural change that 
> denies those with an interest in legislation access to those who 
> deliberate on and enact legislation, except in public hearings held for 
> the purpose of informing the legislators.  All other contact between 
> lobbyists and legislators must be prevented.

How would you group people as lobbyists if you're to prevent contact 
between lobyists and legislators? It seems possible to me that the 
lobbyists would merely get a "hidden branch" that would deal with the 
legislators, taking the "out of the public eye" nature further.

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