[EM] language/framing quibble

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km-elmet at broadpark.no
Tue Dec 30 05:09:04 PST 2008

Fred Gohlke wrote:
> Good Morning, Kristofer
> re: "I agree with your first point [that extending the rights of
>      humans to non-human entities is a flawed concept], but the
>      precedent seems to go all the way back to 1886."
> Precedent has a place in our lives but it ought not, and need not, be 
> the noose by which we strangle ourselves.  Is it not sufficiently 
> evident that the laws and governing bodies that allowed, nay, 
> encouraged, the excesses that led to our present financial debacle were 
> enacted and supervised by the politicians selected and financed by those 
> immense non-human entities that control our existence and decimate our 
> environment?  From whence came the notion that some corporations are too 
> big to fail?  In what way is their existence a benefit to the people?
> The 100-plus years that have elapsed since that precedent was set have 
> given us time to understand the evils of not discriminating between 
> human and non-human entities.  But, have we the courage to change it? 
> How can we do so as long as we let political parties serve as conduits 
> for the corruption that ensures our laws are dictated by, and our 
> government controlled by, the same non-human entities that owe their 
> existence to that vile concept?
> We should never forget that morality is a top-down phenomenon.  Our 
> parents set our initial moral code.  As we mature, we adapt our code to 
> accommodate the will of those who control our existence.  When 
> unprincipled people achieve leadership positions and control our 
> destiny, they infect society ... as has been so clearly demonstrated 
> throughout history and, most recently, by the extraordinary breakdown of 
> our economic system.
> If we want to improve society, the first step is to improve the quality 
> of those who represent us in our government.

I agree that the precedent shouldn't have been set (and it seems to have 
been set in a rather indirect manner); what I am saying is that in 
trying to change it, those who put value on precedent will use that 
precedent as an argument. That said, things are not hopeless. Some towns 
have taken the more direct route in countering the precedent by direct 
law - see 
_a_freed_slave.html .

> [The following continues our examination of corruption among elected 
> officials.]
> re: "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 sorry, but I don't know what a 'long run limit case' is, so I can't 
> comment on that.  However, the first (or, as you mentioned, selection) 
> phase is incomparably more competitive than the most competitive 
> traditional election method because the participants must persuade 
> competitors for the same position that they are most deserving of 
> selection.

What I mean by "long run limit case" is the case in which a competitive 
traditional election method is left to run for as many elections as 
possible: as one approaches the "limit" of infinite time, the difference 
between the two systems vanish. The point is to say that if Practical 
Democracy can be divided into two parts, then one can treat the first 
part as if you had some magical election method that was, as you put it, 
more competitive than the most competitive traditional election methods, 
and that further, Practical Democracy really then has two parts - the 
selection phase and the continuation phase. It might be possible to 
improve one of the phases without having to improve the other, thus 
making the reform more continual (if the opposition is too great to do 
it all at once).

> re: "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."
> The Practical Democracy method ensures (to the maximum extent it can be 
> ensured) that the people we elect to public office are honest ... people 
> of high principle.  This differs from partisan electoral methods which 
> elevate unscrupulous people by design.
> Those elected by the Practical Democracy method will have a 
> pre-disposition toward integrity.  However, once people have achieved 
> public office ... by whatever means ... they are still humans; they will 
> pursue their own interest.  If we want them to maintain their integrity, 
> we must provide an environment in which integrity can survive.

Some part of this is connected to the first step of Practical Democracy, 
so I suppose I contradict myself now. Keeping record of the pyramid 
structure for later message passing, for instance, would be one such 
part. Yet other parts may be applicable to all types of representative 
democracy; for instance, staggered elections (such as having different 
election periods for different areas of the nation, so that the council 
changes gradually instead of all at once), or the term limit feedback 
we've been discussing earlier; or for that matter, diminishing lobbying 
as we're currently discussing.

> re: "How would you group people as lobbyists if you're to prevent
>      contact between lobbyists 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."
> Lobbyists are already a 'hidden branch' (you've come up with a 
> wonderfully descriptive term for this aspect of our government).  The 
> problem is not lobbying, though, it is that lobbyists have free access 
> to our representatives.
> They (the Jack Abramoff's, and others of his ilk) operate outside the 
> system.  They influence our representatives during private social 
> events.  In addition to donating huge sums to political parties, 
> lobbyists suborn public officials with favors.  They wine them, dine 
> them, provide them with exotic vacations, hire members of their family, 
> promise them future employment and, by more subterfuges than I can 
> relate, guarantee their fortunes.  The free access lobbyists have to our 
> representatives, when added to the commitments made by party 
> fund-raisers, do, indeed, form a 'hidden branch' of our government.
> There is no need to group lobbyists, the group we must protect are the 
> people we elect to represent us in our government.  The best, indeed, 
> the only way, to protect them is to prevent access to them.  Those who 
> wish to influence legislation must present their arguments, publicly, in 
> the hearing rooms provided for the purpose.  That must be the absolute 
> limit of their interaction with our elected representatives.  That is 
> best done by maintaining our elected representatives at government 
> facilities during their term of service.

How do we do that? Public officials gain some knowledge of the direction 
of politics by interacting with the world, so even if it were 
permissible, we couldn't just stick them all in the council building 
until their term is up. How do we keep the officials free while still 
limiting the influence of lobbyists, when this influence is outside of 
the system? Outright bribery can be limited (as long as we don't 
consider money free speech), but the more indirect means... that's not 
so easy.

Perhaps trying to close off the means is a wrong approach, and what we 
really need is radical transparency when dealing with "the public 
official as public official". If he proposes a law, let all know it. If 
he objects, or proposes amendments; the same. What he does in private 
wouldn't come into it, and lobbyists could exert their influence, but 
the moment the public official acts upon that influence when in his 
capacity as a public official, the effects will be noted; not just by 
the idea of accountability, but by that "he represents us, so all of 
what he does as representative is our business". This would still 
require vigilance, though, and perhaps some attenuation mechanism so 
people can make sense of the enormous amount of material that would be 
produced. Also, one would have to be careful not to turn it into 
relentless populism (there's that too-safe versus too-responsive thing 
again) where the official would have to waste lots of time appearing to 
do the right thing every single moment to please the voters, even if 
that appearance is ultimately inconsequential (as in acting a certain 
way when being in the council).

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