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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 ]

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