Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Principle: When the public interest (wholly construed, including the effects of this decision and the philosophy behind it, making this a kind-of-recursive principle) conflicts with the presumed public vote on a matter (not considering ways to frame the issue that would alter the result), attempt to find a means to serve the public interest rather than the democratic expression - we define the public will as what the public would want were it to be fully informed and considerate of the issue (leading to the possibility, which which we must become comfortable, that the will of the people so defined would contrast with the democratic expression of the same people). I think this is necessary, but I am uncomfortable with leaving it without giving subexamples/ideas that begin to flesh out an intuition of when/why the difference in judgement may occur - specifically, when in a broadly democratic system is it approriate to overrule the (presumed) democratic expression of the masses with our conception of the will of the mases? As noted above, in some cases the very act of not offering for vote some matters would impose a cost on society not worth the specific gains aimed at - if the government's basic function would be impeded by widespread resistance/revolt/loss of credibility or similar, this will need to be considered in the analysis. Moving beyond that, we should consider two particular areas where the will of the people may need to override the democratic expression - these are not exhaustive but provide substance to the flavour of situation where this may be necessary. First, there are times when the democratic expression may lead to expressions on matters traditionally handled by some permutation of academia and reasonably independent news media (both of which I assume to be a fundamental enough basis of advanced civilisation that any conception of an advanced society must have them - the "reasonably" qualifier above to note that news media by and promoting views of factions beyond the pale, e.g. theocratic or genocidal factions of society, may be supressed as part of general supression of such groups and not per se relating to their news coverage). For example, if we consider cases where the democratic majority would shape what is accepted as true and taught in history books regarding times of trouble (consider for example Turkey regarding the alleged Armenian genocide under the Ottoman empire, Israeli and Arab accounts of the transition between the Palestinian Mandate and the State of Israel, or the Japanese controversiality of the atrocities in Nanjing, Korea, etc), in contrast with historical consensus, especially as this may lead to marking of truth as heresy in contrast with the idea that historical consensus is the best tool to understand history, the will of the people may overrule the democratic expression (similarly with science - science as a subgroup of society with methods generally considered superiour (statistically superiour, not strictly superiour, but statistically is enough) to democratic expression in determining truth is in the same boat, provided said science does not embed values that threaten its claim to truth. Second, when the society managed by the state has been given by democratic expression dictates that either conflict with each other or with reality, the state should not permit society's expression to lead to self-destruction. An example of this might be budgets - if it is fiscally impossible for the state to continue providing programmes without cutting budgets or raising taxes, and both of those are prevented by other bills, it is the duty of the state to reject at least one of the incompatible constraints given to it. This still leaves plenty of potential areas when democratic expression may not be heeded, including large notions of the public good - hopefully they demonstrate both that even for those for whom democracy is a primary virtue of a state, it cannot be taken as absolute without dire consequences as well as begin to provide a framework for determining how it should interact with other interests within my style of political philosophy.

None of the above should be construed to indicate a preference for general or particular democratic systems of governance. My current thoughts on ideal transitinal (as in, what should happen next) broad structure of the state still consist of a dual-parliamentary system with a guardian council (vaguely modeled after the Islamic Republic of Iran):

  • Guardian Council - Self-selected, composed of lifelong wards of the state pulled from academic and philosophic circles with no prior political office or business ties, serve primarily to determine the political pale, vet political parties for the upper house, in order to serve the dual aims of liberalism and socialism.
  • Upper House - socialist parliament, composed of temporary wards of the state (term+10 years, plus bars from anything that might resemble personal profit/ties to actions in parliament, foregoing any expectations of privacy with heavy obligations of disclosure, and a potential penalty of death for corruption) organised into a pluralist party system (candidates and parties must not be hostile to socialism or liberalism, as judged by the GC). Jurisdiction is primarily matters related to socialism and liberalism.
  • Lower House - open/rotating general parliament, organized under at-will instantly-recallable representatives of regions and social/trade groups. Does not necessarily have a flat structure.

I've been reading more of the law books that I was left - I'm increasingly impressed with the structure of our legal system and the thinking that went into it. Remnants of prior patterns of thought are irked - I once really believed in the "Right to Private Contract" - feels odd to be reading about limitations on it despite my wholehearted opposition to it as a principle (or even an ideal) nowadays. Despite not liking a number of specific principles and conclusions it seems to have embraced, the reasoning is clear. If anything, I think the strict constitutionalists are negligent towards the duties of the state towards its society - the law (and state) exists to adapt desire to serve the public good to the need of consistency, and to give excessive weight to the responsibility for consistency is to miss the point of the state - while a satisfy-first framework is inappropriate, the public good is the higher concern - law and order exist to promote the public good, not for their own sake.

Thinking about the kinds of questions asked in law books - am wondering if, as a person committed both to the public good and to a certain amount of law and order, pretending I ever became a lawyer, whether I would feel obligated (not legally, but as a person with values) to offer a second set of advice to my clients that, properly marked as my personal non-attournical advice, would be aimed at pushing people towards the most societally reasonable/positive decision. This advice would presumably go against the "tooth-and-nail-go-for-all-you-can" style advice that attourneys are presumably supposed to give (just like a corporation, they're as I understand bound strictly to maximising benefit to their clients and not pursure social justice per se). Would this just be spitting into the wind? Would it be illegal or risky? I think people in "the system" are supposed to believe that the system as a whole produces justice - I think I'm just as incapable of that kind of faith as I am of belief in gods. I suppose given that I shall never be a lawyer in this judicial system, it's all academic.

In any case, I heartily recommend, just as with any field where people have disdain for an active field of human endeavour, people get foundational textbooks and read a good number of current products of the field to further their understanding of the discipline, ideally talking with some practitioners of the field as well. Hostility and strange ideas about psychology as a research field and the same for law seem to be common (I confess that, despite several lawyers in the family, I had strange and childish ideas about law as a field and tradition when I was younger). Disdain from ignorance or (worse) faddish fuck-the-system mentality may be very easy, but it's not respectable.

Other stuff:

  • My friend j from Boston shares more ideas about the meaning/role of blogging.. (her blog is about blogging, librarianship, society, and ideas between)
  • A long time ago, before using NCSA Mosiac, I played with Viola, the first graphical web browser. I didn't find it that interesting (there seemed to be a lot less content for it than Gopher), and I didn't find the basic idea exciting until Mosiac. Recently I went back to play with it again, and, at least according to Wikipedia, Viola was quite advanced and prophetic for its time (much moreso than Mosiac, although I still think it's a huge pity that Website annotation never caught on) - Viola has stylesheets, a Javascript equivalent, and object embedding. It was apparently meant to be a wedding of gopher, hypercard, and the internet. I wish I had seen the big picture back then (although I guess I was a lot younger, my access to graphical Unix systems was limited, and I had more of a naïve hacker mentality).. In any case, kudos to Pei-Yuan Wei for writing something so awesome.
  • The train between ROK and DPRK is running empty - there's nothing presently to carry between them. It's still running because the symbolism in a running train is seen as worthwhile - somehow the symbolism in said train being empty is much more funny to me.
  • I found another interesting blog, Eboo Patel (a Mughal) writes on interfaith matters. See particular this post for an interesting start. I (no surprise) don't find myself agreeing with him that much (in particular, his talk of a "core ethos of Islam", especially in contrast with plain meaning of text in the Qur'an, seems questionable to me), but he's interesting, literate, and so (mostly) are the people who read and comment on his blog (or newspaper column, if you want to see it that way).
  • As Tom mentioned, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (part of Fox) swallowed the Wall Street Journal. Like with the push in the FCC to loosen media ownership rules in the United States, this is very worrying. There's the usual offer for a token "oversight board" (sound like LiveJournal?) to distract people. To whatever extent traditional media is still important, I hope it becomes less so very quickly - that WSJ should fall to the quality of Fox's programmes and the American public lose one of the better newspapers it has is tragic. The state of traditional media in the United States is already poor enough..
  • The United States buys Peru...

A recent conversation has ideas about how I'd design a replacement to Unix from scratch, given the opportunity, floating through my head again - everything from learning from Microsoft's PowerShell and Apple's AppleScript to performance/feature improvements throughout the system...

Also, Miguel de Icaza is making moves within the GNOME community that may cause a very ugly project fork - his efforts to make C# the standard language and push .NET everywhere need to be stopped though, and if he can't be sidelined, it will be necessary. He's almost as dangerous as Microsoft to the free software movement...

Tonight: Had pizza at the gourmet place opposite the 61c café -- it was, as I remembered, very good and very expensive.

Still in a terrible mood though.... Black with purple sparks...

Tags: philosophy

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