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The problem is, though, that the article reflects the opinion of a huge fraction of the population.

The original poster, Marie, for example, presumably thinks that there are trust problems associated with our current representative systems, and I hear this over and over in the U.S. For example, lack of trust in representative government is one of the arguments used to support a continued fight for "lower taxes," even if this gets translated into "lower taxes mostly for the rich" because since no system is perfect, a system that reduces my taxes even a little bit is better than one that raises them.

States in the western part of the U.S. tend to have systems that allow direct representation by citizen-initiated petitions for changes to state constitutions. This is a huge problem in California and Colorado, where the state constitutions continue to grow without bound, often with conflicting amendments that have to be sorted out by the courts, and with financial rules that make it virtually impossible for the legislatures to manage the state budget. Many, many people think that this is a better way to run things than for the citizens to give up control to, presumably, corrupt politicians.

In Colorado, the TABOR amendment has essentially crippled government services across the board. Many people think this is just fine.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxpayer_Bill_of_Rights

If there weren't so many obviously corrupt politicians, the arguments for representative government would be a lot easier to support...

by asdf on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:29:03 AM EST
What I'm trying to say is that there are plenty of people who have problems with representative government. What is the answer to their complaints?
by asdf on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:30:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I talk to people who have had experience of "direct democracy" or "assembly democracy" (for instance, in radical leftist political movements in the 1960's) tend to have a negative impression of it. The breakdown of the initiative and referendum system adopted in several American states during the Progressive Era 100 years ago has been mentioned a couple of times by you and redstar, and I got to experience it when I was in California and I have to agree. The only people who seem happy with their direct democracy are the Swiss, but even in that case direct democracy leads to things like people denying citizenship to neighbours on a racist basis, female suffrage being delayed by several decades, and other "undesirable" outcomes. However, it doesn't seem that Swiss direct democracy (also adopted about 100 years ago) cripples the government to the extent it does in California.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep in mind that there are still big chunks of New England where the local governments are essentially run by direct participation, via the town meeting system. Although in many cases they have moved to representative town meetings--because they had problems making quorum...
by asdf on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:14:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, does direct democracy not scale, is that the problem?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:21:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, because the quorum in a New England town is only a few hundred people out of maybe a population of 10,000--and yet they still can't get a quorum.

The problem is that most people aren't all that interested in politics, so any system gets manipulated by the few who are. I don't think you can get around this problem, actually.

Isn't it true that historically, most societies have had monarchies? Maybe that's the most natural way of running a government...

by asdf on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:30:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the US is a parliamentary elective monarchy with term limits...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:47:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
monarchy

You mean because Bush said Jesus wanted him to run for President or whatever?  PUH-lease.  Sen. Obama's campaign uses different language but is easily as religiously inspired as Bush's was.  Compare and contrast.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 01:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I think that's what he just said.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 01:42:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sheesh...

If I remember correctly, Hamilton wanted the President to be elected for life. Republican Constitutions bear more than a passing resemblance to the monarchies they replace an the US system rather resembles the enlightened monarchies of the 18th century.

Not that I expect you to agree...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:18:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One could argue that Hamilton's elected president for life is little more than a dictator.  However, to argue that he is a monarch, is to suggest that the source of the authority of office is both divine and hereditary.  

That is precisely the opposite of what Hamilton proposed, and even that was enough to get him smeared as a monarchist.  In any case, Washington prevailed in that argument, until a certain Progressive, FDR, thought he knew better.  He didn't.  Now Bush will leave office, and neither his relatives, nor anyone from America's other, parvenu royal family (the Clintons), will replace him.

That suggests to me that even Hamilton's non-monarchy idea remains a fairly rare meme in the American memepool.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 03:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to argue that he is a monarch, is to suggest that the source of the authority of office is both divine and hereditary

I said elected monarchy. You might be interested in knowing Germanic tribes (among others) used to have such a system. A monarch doesn't have to be hereditary or by divine right to be a monarch.

You mentioned FDR - see also De Gaulle.

How many US american elected politicians are children of political families, by the way? The dynastic principle is active.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 03:49:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and I also disagree with

One could argue that Hamilton's elected president for life is little more than a dictator.

Hamilton's President for Life still needs the Congress to enact laws, appoint the Supreme Court and pass the budget. Unless he chooses to rule by executive order. And even then he can be impeached.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 04:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All I meant is that if you had called the Presidency an elected dictator with term limits, you would still be wrong, but not as wrong as calling it an elected monarchy with term limits :-P

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.
by John in Michigan USA on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:11:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but were the voters in these Germanic tribes noblemen themselves?

More importantly, in their political culture, was the question of who to elect phrased as "to whom shall we delegate our sovereign power?" or was is phrased as "who do we think has the true divine mandate?"  In the former sense, the source of authority is the people themselves; in the later, the source of authority is God.  So an elected monarch would still be very different than an elected president for life.

When I write divine mandate I am thinking of the Asian concept that the ruler rules with the mandate of heaven.

A broader example: In traditional Islam, the caliph was selected by consultation.  This was a form of election, it varied between election by consensus, and election by majority.  Of course, "the people" meant the Community of Believers (Ummah) which excluded women and non-Muslims.  But most importantly for this discussion, they weren't delegating their power to the caliph; all power and legitimacy came from Allah and was delegated by Allah directly to Muhammad.  The Ummah was merely using the "wisdom of the crowd" to decide who was Muhammad's true successor.  In that sense, the caliph could be said to be a sort of elected monarch.

Do you see the difference?

So aside from snarking Bush as some sort of theocrat, which is absurd, I just don't see the utility of the term elected monarch to describe the US Presidency, or even Hamilton's ideas.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:07:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I see the difference.

You focus on the cultural narrative source of legitimacy - is it divine right or the will of the people?

I focus on the functional form of the government - executive heads of state who are also commanders in chief (see US, France, Russia) vs. "prime ministers" who are "first among peers" in an elected parliament under a figurehead (whether the latter is elected or nor is mostly inconsequential).


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 02:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that the elected monarch system continued into Christian times, in the Holy Roman Empire [of the German Nation]. The Emperor was always elected. The circle of electors narrowed down from all free men to the top noblemen, who carried the title Kurfürst (older spelling: Churfürst; c. "elector-count").

I find the last Emperor, Francis II, carried a title reflecting a narrative combining the divine and the will of the people: divina favente clementia electus Romanorum Imperator, semper Augustus = "Roman Emperor elected by the mercy of God, always multiplier of the Empire [sic!]".

Some kings have been elected by assemblies of noblemen in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Hungary, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 04:02:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some kings have been elected by assemblies of noblemen in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Hungary, too.

All kings were elected in the Commonwealth, which also had a strong parliament (Sejm) and weak king system. All members of the noble estate had the right to vote. Since the nobility constituted some ten percent of the population on narrow suffrage grounds you could say the Commonwealth was more democratic than the UK before the Second Reform Act. More broadly that wasn't the case because of indirect voting (the nobles elected provincial 'sejmiki' which then elected the Sejm), open voting, and most importantly the hierarchical patron-client relationships of what was still a pretty feudal society.

by MarekNYC on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 06:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm, I thought the Jagiellons were dynastic, so I went to Wiki... and found

  1. a terminology issue: I was thinking of the Polish-Lithuanian Union (1385-1795), of which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was only the last inception (1569-1795);

  2. the Jagiellons themselves, despite dynastic succession, had to face election:

History of Poland (1385-1569) - Wikipedia
In 1505 Sejm concluded that no new law could be established without the agreement of the nobility (the Nihil Novi act). King Alexander Jagiellon was forced to agree to this settlement. The Sejm operated on the principle of unanimous consent, regarding each noble as irreducibly sovereign. In a further safeguard of minority rights, Polish usage sanctioned the right of a group of nobility to form a confederation, which in effect constituted an uprising aimed at redress of grievances. The nobility also possessed the crucial right to elect the monarch, although the Jagiellons were in practice a hereditary ruling house in all but the formal sense. In fact, Jagiellons had to give privileges to the nobles to encourage them to elect their sons to be the successors. Those privileges reduced king's power. King Sigismund II Augustus was the last of Jagiellon dynasty; he had no sons. The prestige of the Jagiellons and the certainty of their succession supplied an element of cohesion that tempered the disruptive forces built into the state system.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 07:45:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
divine

Well, the monarch may, in theory, be anointed by God, but I'd quite like to point out that in the UK we beheaded the last monarch fool enough to believe it (or at least to act upon it).  And that was over a century before the War of Independence.

by Sassafras on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 07:18:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am very aware and concerned by the flaws of the current representative democracies and I don't hold most of the politicians in high esteem. However, I don't think there are so many obviously corrupt politicians in our countries. On the contrary, they represent a very small share of the numerous local and national politicians who make our democracies function.

And we must be careful: claiming that all politicians are corrupt has been a leitmotiv of the extreme-right throughout history (at least since the French revolution)...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 11:58:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the other leitmotif of the extreme right, that of perpetual decline (some shades of which I read in Flipe Gonzalez interview Mig so well captured and xlated, when discussing "decadence" of of the EU states), is another one we should be wary of.

The fact of the matter is the regressive elements in France have been decrying France's decline since Napoleonic times. If in fact France has been in the sort of severe decline the right (and elements of the center-left whose time has alas passed them by) have been supposing since the days of the revolution, I wonder how it is were are still clothed, fed and housed, much less having developed a vibrant mixed economy.

 

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 12:11:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However, I hope you won't deny my leftiness if I say that majorities for right-wingers and the centre-left's continuous shoft to the right is a decline (even if hopefully temporary) :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh no, you are absolutely correct. I am referring to the classic phenomenon of those who see decline whenever progress is made ;-)


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Many, many people think that this is a better way to run things than for the citizens to give up control to, presumably, corrupt politicians.

The initiative referendum was passed at the urging of Hiram Johnson, the Progressive-Republican governor of California, in a time when the Progressives were a part of the Republican Party.  He also championed the direct election of U.S. Senators and women's suffrage.

At the time it was passed, it was a liberal reform. Especially since 1977, with the passage of the infamous Proposition 13 in California, which froze property taxes at the value assessed at time of purchase, it has come to be used by conservative groups with considerable effect. They are planning a referendum to overturn the legalization of single sex marriages this November.  But I expect they will loose.  Times have changed for some things.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 08:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not to gainsay asdf's point about confidence in governments and elected officials in general, but it's an interesting sidelight.

This is from the latest Eurobarometer poll (69) (Spring 2008):

From which it appears that citizens' confidence in their national institutions is lower than in the EU.

Ireland, BTW, polled at 62% trust in the EU. Go figure.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 08:50:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is some apples and oranges here: the equvalent of "the EU" would be "Ireland" or "political institutions of Ireland"; the separate question for EU institutions might be more in place. But not that different:

  • EP: 52% (-3); in Ireland 62% (-1)
  • Commission ("Brussels Bureaucrats"): 47% trust (-3); in Ireland 54% (-6)
  • Council: the fuckers left it out of the first report!


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 01:06:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I admit to not quite understanding your point.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 04:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe if I hadn't left out two words: "But the result is not that different:"

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 01:44:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I still don't understand. Why apples and oranges? Why separate the EP from the Commission and Council?

The question asked above simply cited "The European Union", compared to "[your country's] parliament" and "[your country's] government".

Irish respondents said (see Tables in Eurobarometer69) they trusted :

  • the Irish parliament : 37% (+5)
  • the Irish government : 42% (+9)
  • the European Union   : 62% (+7)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 02:47:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, you're looking at further chapters in the poll on the Commission and EP, the Council not being covered. But I'm still too thick to see what you're driving at.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 02:59:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the apples and oranges part, what is there not to understand? "The EU" is neither a government, nor a parliament, but has institutions that are the equivalents of those; and neither the Irish parliament, nor the Irish government suffice as the equivalent of a prospective Confederation/Federation/Superstate.

Now, does that matter?

It can, in theory: one can have a positive image of something in general while having a low opinion of the particulars. (Witness Bush's job satisfaction ratings as opposed to his ratings on policies a few years ago.) One can have a romantic positive image of a political structure while having a low opinion of its real existing institutions. So, in theory, it may be that some people think the EU is a great thing, but think of nasty Brussels Bureaucrats and alternatively of McCreepy and attempts to take away Ireland's Commissioner when the Commission is mentioned, or think of waste when the EP is mentioned, or think of lack of transparency and horse-trading when the Council is mentioned, whatever.

But in the end, I was not 'driving at' anything, my 'drive' came to an end: my comment meant to say that having checked the numbers, the overall picture doesn't change if the correct comparisons are used, thus the apples-and-oranges thing became a minor quibble.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:24:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, thanks, now I get it. <light dawns>

The interesting point for me was just to indicate that the general perception of the EU (vague though it might be) in Ireland was positive. And (wrt the diary title) the keyword in the question was "trust".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 06:36:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On a point that is less of a nitpick, poll data was collected until the end of April in Ireland - the negative campaign heated up and poll numbers became close thereafter.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 07:31:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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