Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Citizen and representative democracy

As a people we recognize our in-born, self-evident and inalienable rights and liberties as individuals to be those granted to us by existing in the Law of Nature. We give up some few of those rights and liberties to exist with our fellow man as citizens. That thing is called 'society' and is the basis for commonality amongst men, even if there are different ones across the world, the ability to put a few rights and liberties and invest them in society gains the benefit of common work done to the benefit of all, and the removal of wasted time and energy by helping our fellow man to survive. As animals have done this since the first schools of same back 400 million or more years ago, doing this gains a positive feedback for the individual: It feels good.

That needs no higher piece of explaining or logic behind it, but there is a purpose to 'feeling good' in helping your fellow man or achieving for yourself. It is a self-reward that reinforces society and organisms in society to help all of society to survive by lessening tension amongst individuals by allowing selfless acts to gain an internal reward and, often, external praise. Do note that not everything done that makes one feel good is praise worthy, but those that gain social appreciation become stronger for the praise of those one helps and your fellow man. As we have seen throughout history there is no guarantee that the actual activity is, itself, 'good' or 'nice': Aztecs cemented their society together with blood rituals which were necessary to appease their gods, Romans indulged in self-fulfilling debauchery that was supported (for a time) until the general decay of the Empire turned that into a counter-survival concept. Society, itself, is our investment of ideals and a modicum of liberties and rights to ensure that those ideals and beliefs are passed on, that is a neutral system with positive feedback: it ensures the state of beliefs but does not ensure the longer-term survival of them. Many a 'good' society has been over-run or lost to history, from those who were wiped out in the Aegean who had achieved hot and cold running water and sewer system for homes to small communities of Christians that wanted to directly believe in God with no intercession of any Church or authority, save God's, their ability to survive was not ensured by their society and how it fared with outside events.

From these events we gain wisdom that a stronger thing is needed to support society, and we invest more of our negative liberties in that man-made construct so as to protect that society. That thing is called a 'State' and serves as functional unit for discrete societies that are seeking furthered survival. States are unitary, by and large, they have a single society either via ethnicity or commonality of single place with single society, such as a City, as their focus. An outgrowth of a single, dominant and expansive State is one that attacks and conquers surrounding societies and States, which gains the name of Empire in that doing. States can also form alliances and have a structured framework of shared interests amongst them to form a stronger and shared self-protective capability while remaining wholly independent. When this shared, multi-society grouping unites into one, common form of government, that is called a 'Nation', thus the work begun by Philip of Macedon was completed by his son, Alexander, who not only welded the Greek States into the Greek Nation, but also formed an Empire ruled by Greeks. Thus the form of Empire also includes a Nation State ruling over other States, and even Nations as the limits of what it means to be in the original Nation has its bounds and limits given by ethnicity and culture. When Rome expanded its umbrella of protection, being a 'Citizen of Rome' was a very important thing that would allow one to have freedom and liberty above others, and to have the backing of Roman protection wherever one went. This idea was passed down to us via the Black Book of the Admiralty and became a cornerstone for understanding that ships were parts of their Nation: wherever a ship went, so long as it could claim access to the open seas, so did that Nation go. Thus the protection of Citizen when abroad is extended to ships as sea and planes in the air.

Born as humans we have full liberty, full freedom and no protection. As part of our understanding of shared culture, we give up some negative liberties to protect ourselves and to act in common under such authority which is created by the common culture and can enforce that upon us. We then give more negative liberties up to the State and give it the right of taxation to support itself. We also give up Public War to the State, so that it may more broadly protect society than the agreement to fight in common amongst individuals that was only present in common culture. To form a Nation we give up our right to Private War to the Nation and give it further power to extend laws made across all parts of the Nation to be enforced by that government. Throughout history, each of these negative liberties has been turned upon society by individuals or smaller groups of same, or seen lax use of them that puts at peril the society, State and Nation until it collapses. To be a citizen of a State or Nation, we agree to the necessary limitations to have common law, common protection and common enforcement of the law, and it is that trust that is abused by dictators, tyrants, despots, oligarchs and numerous forms of self-interested individuals and groups that corrode that trust to their own ends. Amongst the great discoveries of mankind was that a form of democratic government done via representation over large geographic areas would create conditions that would lead to social oversight of government and a modicum of protection from it. Of course that dispersed power basis was still liable to those seeking to concentrate power in the hands of the few to be used against the many, and democracies have failed throughout history.

With representative democracy there comes the duty of the citizen beyond just obeying the law and conforming to the common government: it is the duty to understand what that government is doing in one's name and to ensure that its activities are discussed amongst your fellow citizens and input into government is sought when it strays. That is beyond merely writing to one's representative or government leader, and includes the franchise right to have say into such government. Like all rights it is exercised with Liberty by the individual who can choose if and when to exercise it within the framework of the law. When citizenry no longer stands up to exercise that right, then oversight of government is not done nor performed and the will of the people is no longer ensured. Mandating that franchise be exercised is an abuse of liberty that can also lead to dictation of the decision of who to vote for, and we have seen that in the sham elections done by tyrants, dictators, despots and authoritarian governments that have such lovely and high turn-outs, with, somehow, only one winner of an election foreordained. Amongst a free people who understand their duty to their fellow citizens, to their society, to their State and to their Nation, the turnout for use of the franchise right by the citizenry is a measure of the health of a democracy.

Our understanding of vital democracy from the time of the founding of the United States as a Nation, was that it was vigorous only when it was done by the majority at the local level of government. The Confederal system that first arose had a very weak National government that could not share burdens across the Nation and, thus, saw unrest as local States exercised the power of taxation and punishment under the law to the detriment of society and the Nation as a whole. To create a stronger system the Federal one was proposed in which the three elements of the Nation would be in mutual check and balance. The Federal would check authoritarianism in the States and ensure that a Common Law was enforced, so that States and localities could not abuse their powers. The States had power of local government and taxation and would use such taxation to support the Federal government and would have direct voice in such government in the Senate. That State power to administer laws within the State were held in check by the People who also held power in the House of Representatives. The States and the People were recognized as having all rights and liberties that were not granted to the National government and the exercise of positive liberty and rights was seen as a great good to sustain society and have a vibrant Nation. In the end all power derived from the governed, and the ultimate check upon all government is the people of a State or Nation. A representative democracy requires a consent of the majority in full to govern properly, and that should be an easy task if government is kept in its place so as not to harm society and its culture. Representative democracy, then, is vital when exercised at its lowest level closest to its source of power, and becomes more dilute and prone to abuse at each higher level above the local. That is why the understanding that all rights are things we are born with is revolutionary: it was not granted by government but government was granted power by the People it governed.

These basic restatements of the concepts founding our Nation are necessary so that we may understand the direction of our democracy as held by our fellow citizen. It is a metric that has actual capability to be measured, and one of the few that speaks on its own once you understand its numerical language. Leading up to the NSDAP coming to power in Germany in 1932 and 1933, we saw a vast turnout of over 80% of the population that gave the party that would come to power a net 32% pure backing by the population by winning 40% of that vote. We count that as a 'sick' democracy due to its social and economic condition and consider the rule of the minority, even when it is the largest in a multi-party system, to be of grave concern because it does not represent the full will of the people.

The idea that a two-party system will always thrive, however, is measured by that exact, same standard: it is not those who turn out to vote, but the majority of society that can vote and have the franchise right that matter in a representative democracy. If we consider 32% to be the barest possible plurality that can govern in any way with effectiveness, then anything below that is dangerous to a representative democracy and points to its foundations not being secure. In the modern era Italy has been tossed and turned via factional government with many individuals in it under the sway of organized crime. Indeed, many a Nation including France, UK, Israel, Australia, India and Japan have each had problems with diverse multi-party governments when that leading part is not a majority. Even worse are the 'governments of National unity' which put no governing capability and set of ideals forth but tries for a vast, full compromise amongst a diverse people which then crumbles under factional strife. And yet the touchstone for each of these is all the same: representing the majority of those with the franchise right. It can be swayed, it can be intimidated and it can be enraptured with a cult of personality, but when that is not the absolute majority of a people turning out, it is minority government, factional government and unrepresentative government.

By that measure, the United States has a sick and ailing representative democracy, as I have written about before. Those numbers do not lie, and they tell a disturbing truth of how ill our Nation is at its most basic level, which is that of the citizen. The point of departure is clear and starts in 1964 with The Great Society and its effort to be 'fair' to the poor black citizens of the Nation. That would lead to Soviet style tenements replacing vibrant neighborhoods and concentrating the ills of poverty into smaller places and segregating it from the larger, wealthier society. Helping our poor is a concern of charity for all citizens, and when National government assumed that role it usurped a right it did not have by trying to minister to a poor segment of society in need of help. By doing so it destroyed vibrant and self-sufficient black culture and turned it into one of dependence. Instead of having local role models appear, the laws disintegrated the basis for those role models, that being the nuclear family, and the more primitive gang system re-appeared and became dominant.

Even once those ill-conceived, ill-planned and ill-done places closed, the society they had brought in had been impoverished and turned retrograde. It is from that marker we can see our fellow citizens becoming disillusioned with the National government trying to 'help' a given segment of society. Instead of uplifting that segment, it cast it further down; instead of fostering strength, it empowered weakness; and instead of bringing the larger population together, it enforced segregation which had been starting to thaw due to the economy and changes that wiped away previous discriminatory laws. No local government, no majority of the population would sanction National government as a charity: and when it attempted to take the role of charity towards our fellow citizens from the population to address a minority, things got worse, not better. America could not have a Great Society when its government does that to any part of the citizenry.

Doling out money and telling the citizenry what to do is not the hallmark of a society that is great, but one that is being put under tyrannical rule. During the era of FDR's 'New Deal' government sought to enforce 'social security' by creating a system that would impoverish the young, force the old to retire and raise the taxes of everyone greatly to invest power in government to do what families and individuals had done since the time of the founding: look after each other. This is a direct attack upon the family and its corrosive result can be seen in weaker families today. Further the older population with advances in health care, immunizations and nutrition now live far longer and a larger percentage of the adult life is spent in time not working than at any previous point in our history. And yet the increases in taxation and instability of the system is leading to an entire generation to recognize they will get no benefits, no help and no sustainment of this 'social contract' when they retire as the system will collapse far before then as the non-working will place a destructive burden on the working population. Government sought to intercede where families and society had performed able service and remove such decisions or, at the very least, forced its way into the decision making process as a player in everyone's life. Government bought itself a seat at every family table, every family discussion and every decision that must be made by individuals about their future.

By placing guarantees that removed the necessity of coping with old age and illness, we now see a social security system going bankrupt and a medical system ballooning in cost as everyone feels 'entitled' to health care they cannot afford. Health care is not a right but an exercise in liberty that requires input via working, and measuring costs and benefits. As a society we formed charitable hospitals to tend to the poor and desperately sick, hospitals that are, today, closing as they cannot compete with 'entitlements' and the skyrocketing costs that are fueled by subsidies. The working young find it harder to raise a family, which is the backbone of society, and feel less familial responsibility for their own parents as those parents get 'entitlements' and need no longer ask for help from their young. Just the opposite is happening as the young are finding it so hard to get a start, so hard to raise a family that they need to ask for the support of their more well-off parents for years after they reach full majority. This is not an indicator of a well society nor one that is functioning well, when the young cannot get a place to be a productive citizen and need to seek refuge that should only be a last resort.

These ills have one, and only one, source: government intervention where the people previously had all power.

As was pointed out to me by those who lived before the Great Depression, there were no dead on the streets, the sick were tended to and the poor were cared for via charity. Each person looked to their family for help, and family members 'chipped in' to help and gladly, even offering room and board to a family member who had lost everything. The expectation was, however, that all would seek gainful employment and 'pitch in' to help wherever they stayed. What was described was not cataclysm, but self-reliant survival during hard times by seeking the great boon of family and culture and society for minimal sustenance and then doing one's part to be a light a burden as possible until you were self-sufficient again.

Now the elderly gladly proclaim they are 'spending their inheritance' so as to leave nothing behind them. They are burning the landscape of their good deeds for self-indulgence and saying 'to hell with the younger generation, I got mine'. That is not a healthy attitude towards oneself, not to speak of one's family or society, and for each that does so they leave themselves with a more enjoyable life and are determined to impoverish the next generation and society by not helping either. No one has a guarantee of a long life, and expecting government to pay for one's retirement and one's health care may relieve the burden from *you* of deciding on those things, but puts the burden of oversight and payment on to systems that are not made to handle it. The 'rising cost of health care' is a problem because we all want 'all you can eat', all the time and only when the bill comes due do we see the cost of self-indulgence. And yet the buffet is always open and beckoning... and if it takes a bit of pick-pocketing to get money from the young, well...

In the end this gets an impoverished society that is crippled for lack of knowing what charity is or why it is important. That is because the transient feeling of self-indulgent 'good' when done over and over and over again becomes an addiction that then stifles the other good feeling of being a supportive member of one's family, one's culture and one's society and Nation. The carrot offered by government is limp, it is rotten and it is sugar-coated to make it taste sweet when it is sickening. And once you bite the rush of the sugar swamps the negative feeling, which is often the harness and switch used upon you to make you subservient to government. Soon you no longer think of yourself as your own master and look to government to decide for you in those things that are good, because the sugar is so sweet that the pain of the lashings to 'do good' become an incentive to go after the carrot as it gets smaller, further away and then disappears all together. By giving up the positive and negative liberties to be administered by government, what is left for the people beyond submission, subservience and enslavement to government?

And once the goodies disappear and all that is left is the lash for you to work for government, only then do you mourn your lost liberties and freedom.

Yet they are always there for you to have and grasp, if you don't mind the pain of the lash to stand up as a free man.

It is not the cost of these things that matter.

It is the price of liberty and freedom that does, and when you barter those away for ephemeral 'good' you lose them. And in a representative democracy you doom your children and society to losing them, until the time comes, as we are told in the Declaration of Independence, that we are to stand up and say "enough" and form new government. The cost of the blood in that is high.

The price of eternal slavery far higher still.

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