[EM] language/framing quibble

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Mar 18 17:02:21 PDT 2009

--- On Wed, 18/3/09, Fred Gohlke <fredgohlke at verizon.net> wrote:

> Good Morning, Juho
> I've been on the fence about whether or not it is
> appropriate for me to respond to your last message on this
> thread.  Since I'm aware you "... value many of the
> political systems of today higher than ..." I do, and since
> we've exchanged many thoughts over the past year, I fear
> anything I say may sound more like a harangue than a
> positive contribution.  I have no wish to be
> argumentative.  Still, after considering the matter,
> I've decided to offer two observations:
> re: "... in many democracies people can influence the
> direction
>      of their country."
> I do not believe that to be true.  As Dr. Alasdair
> MacIntyre of Notre Dame University (cited by Dr. Ted Clayton
> in 'The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy') said:
>   "Politically the societies of advanced Western
> modernity
>    are oligarchies disguised as liberal
> democracies.  The large
>    majority of those who inhabit them are
> excluded from
>    membership in the elites that determine
> the range of
>    alternatives between which voters are
> permitted to choose.."

Ok, this may be just a question
on if the glass is half full or
half empty.  Our political systems
do have serious problems but on
the other hand we are somewhat
above "the laws of jungle".

> re: "Of course despite of this the systems have plenty of
> faults
>      and we should seek and implement
> improvements whenever we
>      can."
> It is not possible to 'seek and implement improvements'
> until we itemize the faults.  We must identify them
> before we can correct them.


>  To that end, we might
> consider starting with these:
> * An oligarchic party structure that controls the choices
> made
>   available to the people.

Yes. I'd say that all large
structures have the tendency to
become oligarchic (that covers
e.g. companies, associations
and administrative structures
in addition to parties).

> * Corruption, caused by the parties' need for funds to
> conduct
>   their operations, that leads to the selling of
> legislation to
>   benefit the donors rather than the public

Yes. I have referred to this
problem as the one-man-one-vote
v.s. one-dollar-one-vote problem.
Our democratic principles assume
the former but the practical
systems often have flaws that
allow the latter to take power.
Companies, labor unions and other
interest groups need to be heard
but not become the masters. Good
rules needed to avoid slipping
into bad tracks.

> (like the
> gutting and
>   eventual repeal of the Glass-Steagall Acts, enacted
> to protect
>   the public from the excesses of the financial
> industry; a
>   political act that so obviously led to the
> world-wide financial
>   chaos we now endure ... in your country as well as
> mine!)
> * Incitement of passionate support rather than inspiring
>   thoughtful consideration of public concerns.

Yes. Some passion is maybe needed
and fruitful but I'd much rather
see the political field as a
discussion field than a battle
field. Maybe the corrective means
would include some very
traditional training in good
manners. In these matters
everyone should do his/her part
to get the whole society on the
right track.

> * Defeating the checks and balances intended to prevent
> the
>   excessive accumulation of power.

I'm not sure if I got this point
but my understanding is that in
all systems people will find the
loopholes. We should keep the
system simple and clear, and we
should also enforce the rules
where necessary to minimize the
risk of major leaks.

> If these are, as I see them, serious concerns, what
> specific improvements can we make to prevent their
> destructiveness?

Yes, these concerns are serious,
and we should make our political
systems less vulnerable to them.
New election methods as well as
other means should be used.

>  Practical Democracy addresses and
> forestalls each of these faults.  Other alternatives
> must exist.  What are they and how can we implement
> them?
> Should I keep belaboring you with such questions?

I think there is a great need
for good analysis on these areas.
The solving of problems typically
starts from understanding them.

Here are some more random thoughts
that popped up when I read your
mail. I think many of these themes
cover not only parties but also
other large organizations.

- An organizational hierarchy
typically promotes people who
are eager to climb up

- An organizational hierarchy
typically promotes people who
are good at climbing up

- The Peter Principle

- Montesquieus separation of
powers could be extended to cover
also other areas like economy

I mentioned the laws of jungle
above. We can take that to mean
the bottom level, and see the
evolution of political systems
as steps up towards systems that
are better for its members. Many
tricks have been tried, and often
we have lost the path for a while,
but from this point of view there
surely are still steps to climb.


(P.S. There are also new
opportunities like the ones 
offered by the unforeseen wealth
(= all basic needs met + some
extra money) of the technically
advanced and economically richest
countries. And there are new
challenges like reaching the
limits of the earth to support
continuous growth of the economy
(and our well-being), and the
exponential growth of human
population. These new challenges
and opportunities require also
new kind of solutions.)

> Fred Gohlke
> ----
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