Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

The Realm of Democratic Decision

Democracy - like with most aspects/design aims of a state, there are nuances and judging them harshly for incomplete conformance to those aims only makes sense if one is deeply committed to those ideals and believes they would make a coherent/workable/better society in a stronger form than they are. A certain kind of dangerous idealism is possible where one is too attracted to "platonic" ideals of this sort and lacks the experience/reflection to recognise that partial systems sometimes work well - I've often heard people use "democracy", "socialism", "capitalism", and the like as binary qualities rather than influences, which strikes me as odd. I've been thinking about possible roles for democracy in the conception of a state, in particular the notion that the realms that they decide upon does not have to be as broad as the entire state system. What are some examples? Why might this be desirable? Iran and Turkey are the easiest examples to discuss, both dealing with the same issue (albeit on opposite sides) - the Guardian Council of Iran serves to protect a particular vision of Islamic society within what is a republican state form - it does this by vetting/invalidating laws and disqualifying political candidates as needed. Turkey's military has a much less structured rule relating to democracy - it proclaims that it will defend the secular nature of the country and Kemal Ataturk's legacy, occasionally removing political leaders who push too far against secularism, in its judgemet. In the United States, we have some structured limits on democracy as well - term limits and electoral standards, theoretically the electoral college (although for whatever purpose it was designed, it may be vestigial now), notions of constitutionality and federal versus state power (this partly belongs to another issue..), etc. I don't believe this is prima facae a bad thing - one of the important tensions in many western systems of governments is a tension between the welfare/interests of society and the welfare/interests of individuals (we can extend the latter to smaller groups as well) - if we don't want the majority of the present to have the ability to achieve permanent dominance over society (by ending democracy in its favour, whichever of the possible majority permutation coalition is to be formed towards that end) or to extend their dominance beyond certain limits (assuming they might have the desire to do so, whatever those limits might be, like politicising the school systems or expelling large parts of the population), then structuring the democratic system towards those ends might delay or stop a majority from seeking those ends. This can cut many different ways though - the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Turkey's very recent political difficulties are examples of this kind of struggle for control of the state apparatus. In a more limited form, the large numbers of nonelected parts of any government are buffered from politics through bureaucracy - imagine what it would take to force a given postal worker or member of the military from their position if they had done nothing illegal - there are ways for it to happen through elected officials, but it would take a lot of effort.

A transitional society moving towards some form of Socialism might establish a Guardian Council of its own, leaving to democracy/troikas/workers collectives decisions that don't threaten the nature of the state, e.g. most matters of noneconomic personal autonomy and some parts of cultural steering, as well as matters of planning and most administrative matters.

I was interested to read some things about Rawls and Nozick's later philosophy of which I was unaware - Nozick's The Examined Life attacks his earlier libertarian positions in Anarchy, State, and Utopia as lacking in empathy, social concern/understanding, and understanding of human nature. Like with any philosopher, people may choose to focus on earlier periods of his work (common with Satre, possible also with art - some people think Picasso's blue period encompassed his best work), but I do find it interesting. I wish I had read The Examned Life earlier - people within the libertarian clique I once belonged to pushed me to read ASU well after TEL was published, with no mention whatsoever of the latter. WRT Rawls, he published a book (Justice as Fairness) not long before he died that summarised and extended his most important contributions to philosophy - it includes an analysis, based on his principles of justice, of possible models of societal organisation (dealt with heavily in Political Liberalism) in which he concludes that of those considered only democratic socialism and a heavily nuanced mixed market democracy can be just, while most instances of communism provide too few liberties/are not pluralistic and both lassiez-faire capitalism and capitalism with a safety net are unjust with regards to inequalities.

I randomly ran into Melissa today on the way to lunch (I didn't know she was back from Azerbaijan, in the area, or anything of that sort). It's been years.. when she has more time, I'm sure there are a lot of stories to be heard..

Confronting people - I will when I have to, but I find it very draining. I also am not upfront about telling people things when there's little or nothing to be gained by doing so and I think it would drive them away from me. This came up twice recently...

Last night: Watched Shaun of the Dead while playing Urban Dead. Shaun reminds me a bit of someone I know.


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