[EM] Democracy

Don & Cathy Hoffard dchoffard at verizon.net
Sat Mar 28 17:28:44 PDT 2009

 Thanks Kristofer for you thoughtful comments.
> Parties may still exist as "groups of common interest"

The first amendment states that they are allow to exist but they are also
"allowed to PROMOTE their common interest."  Allowing them to exist is not
enough.  They must (under the first amendment) be allowed to promote their
common interest.  Want does "promote" mean?  In this context it means, at
least, to speaking to the public about their "common interest". Let us say
the Democratic Party has "universal health care" as one of their argued on
common interest (platform). They should be allowed to promote that common
interest.  I also believe that "promote" means (under the first amendment)
that they are allowed to provide support to their selected candidate.

> but the parties can't use the power that accompanies centralization to
stack the cards 
> against independents.

I also think independents are at a major disadvantages.  Why? Because
independents are not an interest group. People have the right to join or not
join an interest group.  Independents are not a "group or organization" and
they also do not have a "common interest". Also there is no group to
"promote" a nonexistent common interest.  Independents are, thus, not
protected under the freedom to associate clause.  They still are protected
under the freedom of speech clause.  There are three away to fix this major
disadvantage of independents.  1) Change the Constitution and take away in
individual's right to organize (or join) an interest group.  2) Ignore the
constitution and take an organization's right to "promote" their common
interest.  3) Find a way to allow an independent to have a chance to compete
equally with a organized group.  I believe the best approach is not to tear
down organized groups (violating the constitution) but to build up
independents. Independents do not compete in the primaries.  Look at all of
the media coverage the major parties candidates got in their primaries. By
the time you get to the general election an independent (if any decided to
run) would have had zero coverage. There may be a way to have independents
competing in some sort of primary.  This would provide more support and
coverage in their election possibility. I would like to hear other options
that would increase the chances of independent without violating an
individual's rights under the first amendment.

>To use an analogy, one wouldn't outlaw party 
>duopolies when introducing proportional representation; instead, the 
>variety that PR enables lets smaller parties survive so that the duopoly 
>is broken as a matter of course.

I think, in general, proportional representation would not violate the
freedom of association clause.  I would clearly depend on the rules set up
under PR (like selection rights and promotional rights).  Another problem is
that independents are not included in a party type PR. I should point out
that single seat elections are (in my opinion) PR.  Each neighborhood is
represented "proportionally".  There are a lot of way to have PR other than
parties (males/female, blacks/white/other, neighborhoods).  I have less of a
concern about a two party system than most.  The National Rifle Association
(NFA) could start a party, the Right to Life organization could form a
party.  There is currently the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the
Workers Party.  All of these are "Single Issue" interest groups.  You could
name 1000 different special interest groups that believe they should be
proportionally represented.  The problem is overlap.  If a voter votes for
the NRA Party, they are then voting against the Right to Life Party.  Which
one do you want to "represent you".   One way you can get representation in
both is to vote for the Republican Party.  The Democratic and Republican
Parties are not "single issue" interest groups (parties).  I like PR in
general, but have a lot of concerns about what it means to have things

>The problem with trying to gain knowledge from the statements of 
>interest groups is similar to that of trying to judge the best product 
>based only on advertisements: there is a conflict of interest.

I really disagree with you here. Yes, each interest group will support the
interest of their members. But, to said that information you receive from
the Nurse's Association is worth no more than a 60 second ad is insulting.
I'm sure there could be legislative opportunities that could help nurses
provide better care to their patients'.  Even individuals without any health
insurance and do not have the ability to pay for their health care you could
say have a "conflict of interest". It is best to lesson to a entities before
deciding on a course of action.

>insurance companies may know more about healthcare than do lawyers, but 
>the insurance companies would also say that publicly-funded healthcare 
>is a very bad idea, irrespective of whether that's actually the case.

If a congressperson knows that "publicly-funded healthcare" is the only
option and they know the best way of providing it, then they don't need to
talk to anyone.  My experience, in dealing with legislative bodies is that
each one have their own agenda and tend not to lesson other alternatives.

Could there not be laws analogous to "truth in advertising", for 
political campaigning? Any argument against restrictions in the latter 
could also be turned around to be used as an argument against the 
former, unless one uses an argument of the type that one may accept some 
inefficiency in the economic realm (due to restrictions on advertising), 
but that elections are too important and therefore the speech must be 
unregulated (with the implicit assumption that regulation brings 

I have no problem of the current administration regulating "truth in
advertising". Commercial advertizing (products) tends to be nonpolitical and
any administration could do the job effectively.  But do you want the Bush
administration deciding the truthfulness of Obama's campaign speeches?
Another option is to have the courts deciding "what is true".  The problem
is the election would be over before the court could pass judgment.  Also I
would not want the (conservative) U.S. Supreme Count deciding the
truthfulness of Obama's campaign speeches.  Congress did pass a law
(Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) which did limit some kinds of
"political speech".  In June 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court did gut some of the
teeth of the 2002 act (see Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to
Life, Inc).  Currently the media has played a part in the truthfulness of
political speech. The TV station allows untruthful ads to be put on the air
but in the news points out that the ad is not true.  The same happens with
newspapers.  Both say that the ads are free speech and it is not there job
to sensor.  But they feel they have a public responsibility to find out the
true of an ads and inform the public.    

>I agree that the influence of money is detrimental. More generally, the 
>problem is that it's possible to influence people by using certain types 
>of power (such as money, but also by owning media, etc); and that those 
>who have this power can make deals with politicians, where the 
>politicians then repay them greatly once in office. Both the "seller" 
>(whoever has power) and the "buyer" (the politician) gain - at the 
>expense of the people.

You seem to agree with me that "Money buys votes".  Most government official
who take "bribes" go to jail. I guess taking "bribes" is ok if you are a

Don Hoffard  

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