Archives for category: democracy

Can we do without it?
And if not, how much of it?

– If ‘no government’, then who would pay for the army we need to defend ourselves?

Ooops… you’ve just answered the ‘why does Russia ‘encourage’ the trolls who push ludicrous libertarian ideas’ question. Which trolls attempt to achieve two things at once. Weaken the concept of free government and give libertarian-ism a bad rep. Transforming libertarian-ism into yet another form of extremism.

Let’s get serious and try to find an answer to ‘why, and how much of it, do we need government?’

The boring one would be: ‘Whenever one government falls, another one takes over. The interregnum is always bad so… let’s get used to it’.

‘Getting used to it’ works only for very short expanses of time. Left on its own, all ‘government’ becomes sloppy. So sloppy that it soon becomes such a burden that even the most ‘used to it’ lose their patience.
Government, all of them, need to be kept on a tight leash. Otherwise it will soon cease to perform as intended.

– But if you have to keep it on a tight leash, why bother with any in the first place?
Can’t we do without such a bothersome pet?
What’s the point of the whole thing, anyway?

Instinctively, we’re against ‘government’ for two reasons.
It costs us a lot and it used to represent the interests of the ruler.

Until 10 000 or so years ago, we didn’t need ‘government’.
People were living more or less like the modern day Sun People still do. In the Kalahari desert… small bands roam the place, living of the land. The bands are small – so that they might find sustenance, they don’t have any ‘private’ property to protect, hence they don’t need government. Neither did our ancestors.

As soon as people ‘invented’ agriculture – raising ‘tame’ animals at first and working the land soon after, things had changed dramatically.
The advent of agriculture brought two things. An increased productivity and private property.
Soil has not been born equal. Both pastures and arable land can be good, passable or bad. People wish to have the best. Those who already have it are willing to defend it and those who don’t are willing to steal it.
Increased productivity means that those who produce are able to hire people to protect their ‘means of production’. Their property. As a consequence of fighting for it, some people accumulate more and more of it.
More and more ‘means of productions’ – property, means an ever increasing need for ‘management’ and an ever increasing need for ‘protection’. Soon you have a very ‘wealthy’ owner – the lord of the place, call it what you like or use the name given to him by his subjects, the people who perform the day to day management of the ‘whole-sale property’ and those who protect it from ‘marauders’. Both the ‘managers’ – read ‘government’, and the ‘protectors’ – read ‘army’, used to be under the direct supervision of the local lord.
For a while – for as long as the lord kept everything in balance, everybody was happy. The ‘peasants’ were happy because thy were safe, the ‘managers’ were happy because the wise lord used to appreciate their work and ‘compensated’ them accordingly, the ‘protectors’ were happy because they were well fed and taken care of. According to this article, the great Egyptian had been built by willing people, not by slaves.
https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html
But soon enough, the lord had become estranged from his people. Government had become an instrument used to extract more and more wealth from the peasants while the army was used to protect the government against the people and, whenever possible, to increase the property of the ruling lord by stealing some from the neighboring ‘lords’. The ’empire’ was born.

But this development could take place only in certain circumstances. Where those below the ruling lord had nothing more to do than to obey. Where the best subject was the disciplined one. Where autonomous thinking and imagination were frown upon by the ruler. Where one mind was enough.
Whenever the ‘environment’ mandated the individuals to remain relatively autonomous, proto-democratic forms of self government had been experimented. From the nomadic pastoralists of the Central Asia to the sailing communities in Ancient Greece and Medieval Scandinavia. Those driving herds or sailing ships need to be a lot more independent-minded that those who just tile the earth. No offense intended here! Simple observation will notice that where the geography of the place had allowed it, somebody had ‘built’ an empire. The Nile Valley, the Middle East, the Russian plain, China, Mexico…
Where ever the geography of the place was fragmented enough by sail-able sea, proto-democratic forms of self-management had been developed. The sailing Ancient Athens versus the land-locked Sparta, Medieval Scandinavia versus Medieval France…

Fast forward to present day.
When we have two forms of government.
The more or less democratic ones. Those under whose ‘guidance’ discussions like the present one can happen.
And the more or less authoritarian ones. Which actively discourage autonomous thinking.

Mind you, there are no ‘perfect’ governments.
There’s no perfectly democratic arrangement anywhere on Earth. Because we are imperfect human beings.
And there’s no ‘perfect’ authoritarian government. Because no government can survive for long if it attempts to centralize the decision power. The closer a government gets to being perfectly authoritarian, the smaller is the crisis needed to topple it. Unless it is supported from the out-side but that’s another topic.

So. It is fairly simple to understand how authoritarian governments fail. Too much ‘stiffness’ makes it impossible for authoritarian governments to evolve. To find solutions for whatever challenges pop up constantly.

But what can go wrong with the collective forms of self-rule? With the participative forms of social self management? Otherwise known as democracies?
Lack of enough popular involvement. Due to a sense of apparent safety, initially. And to a feeling of apparent impotence, soon after.
Lack of enough fore-sight. Those who should know better become distracted, for whatever reasons.
Too much opportunism. More and more of the ‘insiders’ use ‘the power of the government’ to fulfill their own, private, goals instead of making sure that ‘government’ works properly.

And what does that mean?

A government works properly when the community which self manages itself using that particular (form of democratic) government survives in the long run.
When those momentarily working inside the government make things happen for the community at large.
When people, both inside and outside the government, follow, in spirit, Kennedy’s words.

Am I being naive?
Maybe… But wouldn’t it be a nice thing to have?
A nice thing to chase, anyway?

And what better way to chase ‘it’ than voting for people who at least pretend to be honest? Who at least make the ‘right’ noises? Whom we can hold accountable whenever they break their promises?
Instead of voting for those who promise barrels and barrels of ‘pork‘?
https://grammarist.com/idiom/pork-barrel/

Ideological pork or hands-on pork, I don’t know which is worse…

Isn’t the other party always the guilty one?

Or, otherwise put, Musk – who in 2008 was left of center, currently finds himself in a moderate conservative position because the woke progressives have displaced the center. To the left of where Musk was in 2008. And where he still is…

This might have not been uttered by Churchill but nevertheless rises some questions…

‘If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.
If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.’

What? The cartoon wasn’t Musk’s to share in the first place? He had just ‘borrowed’ it from somebody else?!?

And here’s what ‘Big Data’ has to say about the whole thing.

To make sense of that we have already passed through?

What does ‘worst’ mean in this circumstances?
Until now, I was under the impression that ‘critics’ were good.
That in a democratic setting, the critics are those who pull at our sleeves when we go astray.
That the critics are those who bring us back to the straight and narrow.
How can ‘critics’ become ‘bad’? Let alone “worst”…

“”Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of mankind are debated” said Mr. Musk. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by…””

As many of you already know, I grew up under a communist regime. In Ceausescu’s Romania.
That was were I learned to decipher messages transmitted using the ‘wooden language’.
Or, in Orwell’s parlance, “newspeak”…

Here’s what I make of Elon Musk’s words:

‘From now on, the “digital town square where matters vital to the future of mankind are debated” is mine. Mine to make what I see fit of it. To “make better” under my own terms. And if you don’t like it, keep ‘barking’. There’s nothing you can do to me. I’m going to make Twitter ‘private’. A.k.a. free from any ‘market interference’. Furthermore, your ‘barking’ will only increase the traffic. Hence the money I’ll be making on the back of your ‘free speech’.’

Twenty four years ago, in 1998, I spent a fortnight visiting Tunisia. I still remember the discussions I had with my wife. In our native Romania, we – the country, not the two of us – already had a couple of malls – which were quite new for us.
Each time that we entered a Tunisian suk – also known as a bazaar, we felt like strolling through a mall.

In the Middle Ages, a suk was the property of the local sheik. Even if each ‘stall’ was operated as an individual business, the whole thing was run at the whim of the local ruler.
According to the laws of the land, but still at the mercy of the landlord.

Each mall, the building, is owned by a company. And, the business, operated by another. Usually by a chain. Hence the ‘freedom’ of the individual businesses ‘housed’ by each mall is ‘defined’ by the rules put in place by the owners and the operators. Under the laws and by laws valid for the physical location of the building but still at the ‘mercy’ of those who own/operate the mall.

From now on, the “digital town square where matters vital to the future of the mankind” are ‘freely debated’ by us will be owned and operated by yet another one of Elon Musk’s enterprises.
Who, for now at least, promises to welcome his “worst” critics, whatever that might mean.

And an after thought.
A way shorter translation of Musk’s words might be: ‘Freedom of speech means being able to say ‘those who criticize me are bad people”. With the corollary that some are worse than others…

Just came across this meme.

It was shared on a FB-wall and somebody had commented that “Institutionally they are not your friends.”

My ‘jerked’ comment was:

“Institutionally, cops should be your ‘last resort’ friends.

The fact that too many of them are not, and the fact that too many of us consider them, as a category, to be unfriendly, is proof of how dysfunctional our society has become.

Cops used to be ‘unfriendly’ when I grew up. In communist Romania. When the cops were used, by the communist state, to preserve their power. The communist power over the entire society.

In the free countries of today, the cops are the sole barrier separating our persona and private property from the hands of the criminals.

Without their presence…

Or, putting it the other way around, we have but the cops we deserve. Train and motivate them properly and you’ll have good cops!”

At a second glance, I had an inkling.
Is it possible for the whole thing to be nothing more than a ‘marketing campaign’? Organized by the only people interested in increasing litigation?

Interested in altering the relative stability of our political establishment?

The police, by properly performing their duties – the world over, not only in the communist countries, contribute to the political stability of those respective countries.
For the police to properly perform their duties, there must to exist a proper trust between the general population and the police itself. The population must see the police as their friends of last resort while the police must see the general public as both their employer and their responsibility.
The population must be open in their relationship with the police while the police must treat respectfully every individual, including the suspects and the convicts.

In the communist regime I grew up, the police couldn’t fulfill its duties. Exactly between there was a ‘trust’ barrier between the general public and the police. Between the oppressed and the armed hand of the oppressor.
The communist regime I grew up under, in Romania, had eventually collapsed.
Exactly because of the malignant mistrust between the general public – The People, and the government. The police being nothing but a portion of the government itself.

Who is interested in the collapse of the democratic regimes?
Who is mostly interested in wedging apart the government from The People?

This beautiful – but almost empty, park is in Bucharest.
In Bucharest, Romania.

By the look of it, by how empty it is, it could have been anywhere in Ukraine.

Which reminds me of Churchill’s words.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Currently, the Ukrainian people defend not only their freedom but that of the entire Europe.
And that of the Russian people!

Who now have the opportunity to conquer theirs!

My late mother used to quote a co-worker:

After you get used to it, being hanged becomes bearable.

Let me give you some context.

I live in Romania. You know, that country which shot its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, on the Christmas Day 1989.

I was drafted to the army in October 1980. When I left home, you could still find food to buy. Soap, chocolate, washing powder, toilet paper… you name it. Nothing fancy but life was ‘normal’.
Nine months later, in July 1981, food was already scarce.

In 1985, things were already bad. You had to queue up for anything you needed. For all of the above mentioned items.

By 1988, things had become even worse. On top of what I had already mentioned, rolling blackouts were common. Those of us who lived in apartments connected to central heating were ‘enjoying’ running hot water for only a few hours a day/a few days a week. And shivered during the entire winter.

I’m telling you all these because in December 1989 most of us were hugely surprised when communism had fallen. With a bang.

We’d become so accustomed with what was happening to us that we were convinced our lives were ‘normal’.

Compare that to what you see below.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that we had only 1 (one) TV channel. Which was on for 2 hours each working day from Monday to Saturday and 12 hours on Sunday. And 80% of what was churned out was pure propaganda.

Quite a lot of people around the Internet are considering that ‘Ukraine is of little interest for the US’.
Even some of the Europeans are considering that isolating Putin’s Russia from ‘SWIFT’ is a too steep price to be paid, by them, for Ukraine’s independence.

I remind them, all of them, of what Martin Niemoeller had to say on this subject.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

… to cover up for our goals!

Having no previous intel about this guy, my ‘jerked’ reaction was simple.

‘Leaving aside any principle, a society which cuts ‘fallopian’ tubes will have a lower birth rate while that which vaccinates its children will notice a decrease in healthcare costs. And a lower mortality across the entire age spectrum!’

OK, let’s calm down and google. To find out who was this Oliver Wendell Holmes, after all.

“In that long span of (30) years on the Supreme Court he became acknowledged as one of the most notable jurists of the age—in the opinion of many the foremost. Often he has been called The Great Dissenter because of the brilliance of his dissenting opinions, but the phrase gives a falsely negative emphasis, and his penetration and originality are seen as fully in the opinions in which he expressed or concurred in the majority view of the court as in those in which he was in dissent.”

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Oliver-Wendell-Holmes-Jr

“Perhaps his best-known phrase is from Schenck v. United States, where he introduced the ‘clear-and-present-danger’ test as a means of limiting the power of the state to restrict speech and illustrated it by reference to a person’s ‘falsely shouting fire in a theater.’ His later development of this test, coupled with his emphasis on a basically unregulated ‘marketplace of ideas,’ was seminal for the development of modern free-speech law.
His retirement in 1932 was a national event, and he has remained, along with John Marshall, among the best known of all those who have served on the Supreme Court.”

https://www.history.com/topics/us-government/oliver-wendell-holmes-jr

“Few American jurists are as revered as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. A United States Supreme Court justice for close to 30 years, Holmes wrote seminal opinions that were clear and clever and elegantly phrased. It was Holmes who defined the limits of free speech in 1919 by noting that the law did not protect someone “falsely shouting fire in a theater.” And it was Holmes who thoughtfully amended those words a decade later by writing that nothing in the Constitution was more sacred than “the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” By most accounts, Holmes, an upper-crust Bostonian, served the nobler instincts of America’s privileged classes. That is why his reckless majority opinion supporting forced sterilization in a 1927 case remains an enigma. Was it an isolated misstep or something more: an indictment of Justice Holmes and the Progressive movement he appeared to embrace?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/books/review/imbeciles-and-illiberal-reformers.html

“We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
.
.
.

Perhaps worst of all, Carrie Buck was not an imbecile. Both she and her mother were deemed “social undesirables” due to a perception of promiscuity which, in Carrie’s case, partially resulted from an illegitimate child who was the product of incestuous rape. This was fairly typical. The linked article describes how “people as young as 10 in North Carolina were sterilized for not getting along with schoolmates, being promiscuous or running afoul of local social workers or doctors.”

In all, more than 60,000 people—including 7,600 in North Carolina—were forcibly sterilized in the United States in the name of “progress.” Progressives of the time lauded the decision in Buck. Individual rights, they firmly believed, should not be allowed to stand in the way of collective progress. Justice Brandeis called Buck an example of properly allowing states the freedom to “meet modern conditions by regulations which a century ago, or even half a century ago, probably would have been rejected as arbitrary and oppressive.””

https://www.cato.org/blog/one-generation-oliver-wendell-holmes-jr-enough

So.
Who was the ‘real’ Oliver Wendell Holmes?
That one whose teachings we choose to put forward, of course! Exactly as Justice Holmes had done himself.
And why is it our responsibility to choose?
Simple. It’s us, and our children, who will bear the consequences. Who will have to live in the environment shaped by those choices.

In physics, ‘temperature’ measures the intensity of the interaction between the elements which ‘inhabit’ a certain place.
The more energy exists in a certain place, the more intense the interaction. If the place is inhabited by a gas, each molecule is able to ‘travel’ a short distance before actually hitting one, or more, of its neighbors. If the place is occupied by a liquid, the molecules glide against each-other and if we speak about a solid, the components just shimmy together.
The more energy exists inside a place – the higher the temperature, the more intense the interaction between the individual components. And if, for whatever reason, ‘too much’ energy accumulates into a given space the interaction becomes intense enough for ‘change’ to happen. As temperature raises, solids melt, liquids boil and evaporate while gases become plasma.

Adding energy isn’t enough to determine change. Temperature might rise without anything noticeable to happen. Specially when we speak about liquids and solids. If enough outside pressure is applied, the liquid cannot start to boil and the solid stays in place.

Same thing when it comes to a society.
High output societies need a very intense social interaction to make things happen.
To make so many things happen at once… that being the reason for which those societies need to be democratic. Autocracies are too rigid, they cannot accommodate the continuous adjustments needed to ‘absorb’ the huge amount of ‘social change’ warranted by the amount of energy ebbing through the system.

One way to measure ‘social temperature’ – other than the ‘output’ of that society, is to gouge how vulnerable a society is when confronted with a highly infectious disease which is transmitted through direct contact. Cholera will sweep through an entire community which drinks from the same well, regardless of how much contact individual people have with each-other. Covid, and Ebola, need people to ‘touch’ each-other in order to jump from one to another.

But don’t forget to factor in ‘pressure’. And other things specific to each individual ‘place’.
Otherwise the analysis might produce less relevant results.

For knowledge to become actionable, it has to be trusted.
It has to be believed as being true!

In order to cooperate with somebody, you need to trust that person.

But trusting a person is far more complicated than believing that a piece of information is true!

Evaluating a piece of knowledge is a uni-dimensional business. That piece of knowledge either corresponds with (what is considered to be) reality – it is ‘true’, or it doesn’t. Hence it is false.
And it’s only after you have satisfied yourself about an information being true that you may start to ‘own’ it. To act upon it.

When it comes to trusting a person, you are confronted with a bi-dimensional endeavor. Which makes it a real problem.
In order to be able to cooperate with somebody, you need to be satisfied on two accounts.
That that person is qualified enough for the business at hand AND that that person ‘means well’.

Not that simple, is it?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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