March 20, 2009

Republic or Oligarchy

Most of us, I'm sure, are familiar with the idea that "left" vs. "right" or "liberal" vs. "conservative" are imprecise definitions of political philosophy. What I've promoted instead is that political structures are organized along a continuum from fully collectivized to complete individual liberty.

This excellent video presentation by YouTube's "notdemocracy" describes the balance as one between "total government" and "no government." Five basic types of government cover the spectrum: monarchy - oligarchy - democracy - republic - anarchy. But only two of these are "stable" forms of government: oligarchy and republic. The other three naturally evolve into one of those two. (Hint: Everything becomes an oligarchy except a republic.)

Readers who watch this will understand why I consider it so important to fight for the integrity of the original Constitution, which means removing antithetical amendments to it such as the 16th.

Hat tip: Dr. Ignatius Piazza via jg's friend Russ.

Freedom on the March Government History Philosophy Politics Posted by JohnGalt at March 20, 2009 4:34 PM

Not that excellent. Whoever put this together blindly clings to "law" and does not recognize the concept of peaceful capitalist anarchy, just because it has no "law." So what? We have plenty of "law" today, and what has that done for personal liberty?

When this guy speaks of "law," is he talking about natural law or man-made law? Is he talking about the natural right to defend yourself and your property, which are a priori and need no legislation to enforce or guarantee? No, he speaks of "law" in the sense of rule.

Now, the problem with republics is that they degenerate into democracy. Tytler said, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury." From the very start of our "republic," the federal government practiced wealth redistribution. It was a trickle but increased during the days of "internal improvements," then in the 20th century with the welfare state.

As far as "stability," that exists only with slaves who don't rise up against their masters. Everything else about human society will wax and wane.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at March 21, 2009 4:04 PM

I don't know about this guy, but he refers to America's founders. They attempted to establish a man-made law that codified natural law - and no more. Then they attempted to preserve man's inalienable rights from future man-made laws via the Constitution. The Constitution is the only thing that stood in the way of a natural degeneration to democracy and beyond.

You may be able to cite examples of wealth distribution based on tariffs and fees but I think you'll agree the real heavy lifting wasn't possible until the progressive income tax effectively enacted by the 16th Amendment. That was in 1913. Democracy in America is, therefore, essentially a 20th century phenomenon.

As for anarchy as a desirable political system, I think even Rand would agree with the proposition that "the proper amount of government makes everyone freer." Of course this statement is vague as to quantitization of "proper" but clearly it is more than "none."

Posted by: johngalt at March 21, 2009 7:09 PM

I think that people who watch this video dont realize that the creator pulled a lot from Plato's republic, that book went through these steps in much the same way but what Plato left out was that his republic was in reality not a republic but an oligarchy because the people would be ruled by a guardian class, and that the transitions from republic to democracy usually have to be sparked.

Posted by: caritas at March 22, 2009 1:54 AM

I like the video's rejection of absolute democracy. It's a good introduction to those who don't understand why "one man, one vote" is not the ideal.

It does, however, imply the existence of an ideal law. I appreciate rule by law but suggest we have not yet seen the text of that ideal. The original Constitution we all admire permitted slavery and counted people as three-fifths based on their skin color.

You want to keep all the Amendments but the 16th? Then it is a Republic? That seems awfully capricious. You call shenanigans on Wilson, but Lincoln had Federal troops in place to push the 14th. I think the 12th and 17th do more to degenerate republicanism into democracy. (You'll recall I wanted to rescind both until I encountered Governor Blogojevich, now I am not so sure.)

It is damned difficult to structure law; stop by my HOA meeting or get Sugarchuck to tell you a tale or two about township council. My problem with this video is that it papers over this difficulty. Like Perry, I see it championing a Law that does not exist.

Caritas -- great handle but you have to share it with my test server at work. I do wish I had a webcam to watch Johngalt as he reads your accusation of promulgating Platonicy.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2009 12:25 PM

I didn't take caritas as accusing me of promulgating [word] Platonicy [?]. He said Plato's Republic was an oligarchy. That's more than I know on the subject, but it agrees with what I and the video have said.

Which is not that the 16th Amendment is the Constitution's only problem, nor that the Constitution was perfect. I agree with the idea of an "ideal law" analogous with Perry's "natural law." That this law is "a priori and need[s] no legislation to enforce or guarantee" is proven false by the violation of this law all over the world (including, more and more, here in the USA.)

The Constitution sought to guarantee natural law. It did the job fairly well right up to the point where amendments such as (but not limited to) the 16th were adopted by unconstitional processes.

Some (ahem) have suggested the American people would quickly re-ratify the 16th Amendment if so proposed. I say it was more likely in 1913, before the public really understood what it would lead to. And yet it was necessary at the time to falsify the results in the state legislatures. In the full light of day, with a complete airing of the facts, it doesn't even fare as well as the old ERA (equal rights amendment).

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2009 2:52 PM
I don't know about this guy, but he refers to America's founders.
Well, that in itself means nothing. Many liberals today refer to the Founding Fathers, like when Democrats proclaim themselves "The party of Jefferson."

Even then, which Founding Fathers? Jefferson believed in real liberty, while Alexander Hamilton was a statist who desired one United State government to rule all (which is what

They attempted to establish a man-made law that codified natural law - and no more. Then they attempted to preserve man's inalienable rights from future man-made laws via the Constitution. The Constitution is the only thing that stood in the way of a natural degeneration to democracy and beyond.
Yes and no. The problem with the Constitution is the consolidation of power, and making it absolute law without any ability to question it. If you don't obey, for example, the 16th or 18th Amendments, no matter how bad the law might be, you're a criminal.

Declaring something "the law" does not necessarily mean it is right or proper. Many bad things have been set forth as legislation, statute, etc. Now you might say, by what standard are we to craft law? It's simple: is a particular "law" doing anything for all persons' lives, liberties and property, or is it a bad law that redistributes and/or targets specific individuals or groups?

"The rule of law" does not mean that law must always be obeyed. It means that whatever law there is, it must apply equally to everyone, else it's merely the rule of men.

You may be able to cite examples of wealth distribution based on tariffs and fees but I think you'll agree the real heavy lifting wasn't possible until the progressive income tax effectively enacted by the 16th Amendment. That was in 1913. Democracy in America is, therefore, essentially a 20th century phenomenon.
It most dramatically increased speed in the 20th century, yes, but "internal improvements" began in the early 19th, as did the first income tax under Lincoln. It became a matter of the federal government getting more money from the states, and borrowing more.

All the money in the world doesn't matter if the government has no desire to spend it, and if the people have no desire to elect officials who will redistribute their neighbors' wealth. The "democratic process" took root in the early 19th century as people began asserting their "right to vote," and by the late 1830s the U.S. national debt necessarily increased. It wasn't as much as the 20th century, but relative to the budget then, it was tremendous. The national debt had nearly been paid off under Andrew Jackson, then started going up under Van Buren.

As for anarchy as a desirable political system, I think even Rand would agree with the proposition that "the proper amount of government makes everyone freer." Of course this statement is vague as to quantitization of "proper" but clearly it is more than "none."
Government must exist only with the consent of the people. Not just "the majority" of the people, but "the whole people" constituting everyone. Thus the "proper" amount is the maximum that any given person is willing to give.

Even so, you're talking about a "political system" rather than a government. That's where corrupt favor-trading and wealth redistribution enter.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at March 23, 2009 9:41 PM | What do you think? [6]