a thoughtful web.
Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  2624 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Eat Your Ballot

All right I too will do my best to pare this down just a tad.

    That you don't at this point need any of the potential services says less about America, though, and more about you as a healthy young adult in a relatively stable situation, right?

Yeeees, but I still pay taxes equal in some ways to a person who -- well basically the system of taxation has no way of distinguishing between who is paying for something they use and who isn't. Obviously. That's fine, that's how a social democracy works. But I'm still paying taxes and getting less back than many citizens, so there's an argument to be made that I'm going above and beyond there (as is any healthy non-criminal citizen). There's also the idea that as a larger and larger portion of America becomes overweight or obese, those of us who aren't will be essentially funding a giant fucking eating problem. I wonder which politician will have the nerve to make that point in 20 years. Anyway, yes. Yes, you can more or less write off my argument about not needing certain services -- with caveats.

    Now, I'm not going to totally refute this- I will say, however, that it is a highly controversial idea, and one that's only really taken as a given in functioning liberal democracies. There's an interesting book by this dude Mancur Olson called "Power and Prosperity," dealing principally with the issue of the state's role in economic dealings. Essentially, he suggests that governments could be viewed as little more than well-estabilished organized crime syndicates- "stationary bandits." They set up shop in a place, establish a monopoly on power (military might, biggest stick in the room and all that), and then slowly squeeze the natives for cash and resources. In return, they provide protection for those natives from other outside actors, and may even set up infrastructure to encourage economic stability. In so doing, they shore up their power twofold- 1) inhabitants are more likely to play along if they can, on a basic level, count on all their stuff to still be there in the morning, and 2) can, with a stronger local economy, in turn squeeze more resources from their victims, er, constituents.

    What's the point of this diatribe? Not much, other than A) you strike me as the kind of guy who would like that book, and B) if you go by that argument, your original point- "duty of a state to render those services"- is a little off base. It's more like "a really successful/devious state will find it in their best interest to provide these services in order to raise a fatter, tastier herd to eat at its leisure." Duty never really enters into it. A state isn't defined by its duty to the citizenry, that's more of a liberal democratic invention. A state could simply be defined as the regional actor with the biggest claim to legitimized violence, and the ability to use that violence more effectively and with wider scope than all the other guys.

This I love. If you look at all of recorded human history, from around 3000 to about 1700, nearly every single empire entity was exactly this. Kautsky called them traditional aristocratic empires. They, of course, saw it as the duty of the "citizenry" to provide to the elites. Now, I've been playing the devil's advocate sort of with the "duty of the state" argument for the most part, but I certainly like it better than the alternative, coerced "duty of the peasants." Why? Well, it seems better, doesn't it? And you bring up the traditional way empires formed and governments played out, but Kautsky's whole point in that book up there is that something has clearly changed since 1700 when most of the traditional empires died out, so why are we basing our expectations on the archaic past. I don't know. It involves the (extremely controversial of course) idea of a sort of manifest destiny of democracy, which everyone believed in 1955 and no one believes now (and, like you point out, couldn't even be conceived of Iran -- although they've come closer than most realize!).

There's also the middle ground, duty of no one to anyone, which is basically what we have in America, where people and government are locked in constant cold war. Whatever.

    our duty to advertise our personal culpability through voting: "I grant that America does terrible things so that it can keep on being America. I grant that America's continued existence benefits me as a citizen of America and (possible future) recipient of American privileges. Given these premises, it is my duty not only to grudgingly accept these American privileges, but to help select the Chief Bad Guy and thereby own up to my complicity in all of the above."

Ha!

    Just put something on the ballot- if not only because it's louder to voice your non-compliance with a nonsense vote than it is to just drop off the grid, which, after all, is exactly what those assholes are counting on.

They are. I hold out a forlorn hope that if ever we hit a presidential election where, say, only 30 percent of eligible voters vote, or less, (and every county goes 80/20 or steeper because of political pinwheeling) someone will realize that we must have election reform. However, I admit that not voting when currently more than half of eligible voters still vote is just the signal fading in the noise. That's why I'm extremely reluctant to call my apathy here "making a stand" etc. Increasingly I believe there's no solution. You're the voice of reason in this conversation and you just told me to vote for Mickey Mouse.

PS: I share any comment on hubski that looks like it took effort to produce and isn't overtly rude.





user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I gotta read me some Kautsky.

Just read this yesterday, it seemed appropriate to this discussion. There's an awkward conclusion tacked onto it to relate it back to NYC, but other than that, quick, good read:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2013/11/18/131118taco_...

user-inactivated  ·  2622 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    The Times columnist Joe Nocera predicted these dismal results, and he proposed a number of reforms to pump some healthy, less toxically partisan blood into American democracy, such as moving Election Day from Tuesday—an agrarian anachronism from the mid-nineteenth century that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution—to the weekend; opening primaries to all voters; matching small campaign donations with public funds, a system that greatly benefitted both Bill de Blasio and his Republican opponent; and ending gerrymandering by having nonpartisan commissions, rather than highly partisan legislatures, draw up congressional districts. Nocera even implied that it might be a good idea to make voting mandatory, as it is in Australia, where failure to vote is punishable by fine.

In my opinion we've hit a point where trying some of these ideas for the hell of it can't be any worse than the current system.

b_b  ·  2622 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Tuesday voting is certainly silly and really not all that justifiable. But the big fish is gerrymandering. Until that problem is solved, there will be no justice in the voting system (and probably not then either, but at least it would be a start). Look at a state like PA. They have 18 congressional districts, only 5 of which (according to the Wikipedia article I just read) are represented by Democrats, despite the fact that more total votes were cast for Democrats in PA in 2012. What kind of madness is that? And it will be that way until at least the next census, unfortunately. If that is democracy, I don't think I want to know how bad an oligarchy would be.