[OT] Are we a democracy or a republic?

Michael Halcrow mike at halcrow.us
Sun Sep 4 08:59:28 MDT 2005

(WARNING: Do not read this if you are easily offended. Just hit
 ``delete'' now.)

On Sat, Sep 03, 2005 at 10:03:26PM -0600, Andy Bradford wrote:
> Thus said Ross Werner on Sat, 03 Sep 2005 10:05:14 MDT:
> > I personally don't think "true" anarchy  is really possible on a large
> > scale. The  moment you  have anarchy, people  will instantly  begin to
> > form  deals, alliances,  police forces,  and pretty  soon you  have at
> > least minimal government in everything but name.
> There would be a difference. First, the associations would be
> mutually beneficial and based on profit/loss.  It wouldn't even have
> the same structure as government because we wouldn't be governed at
> all, instead we would contract for things which we need,

Therefore you need a government structure to enforce contracts. Unless
you are comfortable making contracts with friends of Don Corleone, who
will be happy to take care of the pesky ``enforcing'' details.

> and if we find that one service doesn't suit our needs we would
> could easily vote with our wallets as consumers often do.

This is an ideal free market fantasy. Now try to apply it in some
real-world contexts. As Dave pointed out, the whole military defense
issue gets to be pretty hairy. If we do not keep a strong and unified
standing army sustained by national taxes, then we simply cannot exist
as a nation. Any third world despot would have the ability to wreck
havoc on our country with his own national army.

So we need a unified national government sustained by federal taxes
for at least two functions -- contract enforcement and national
defense. These things are absolutely crucial to sustaining our
free market economy.

Aside from those functions, I hesitate to let the government control
much else. I would like to see schools have the freedom to fail. I see
all kinds of inefficiencies and absurdities in the public school
system in which my wife currently works here in Texas. These issues
would be resolved by immediately converting all the schools to the
private sector and issuing vouchers to parents, so that they can send
their children to whatever school best fits the needs of their own
family. For every problem I witness, I can see a viable solution with
privatization of the educational system.

I myself was educated in a private school (Baptist) -- the only major
failure of that experience was the school's inability to teach me the
difference between religious beliefs and true scientific knowledge,
and that played a part in setting me up for assimilation into
Mormonism for eight years, which later wound up wasting two years of
my education and career in the totally futile endeavor of trying to
convert Italian Catholics into Mormons -- but I digress. If it weren't
for Mormonism, I might still be a theist today, so all's well that
ends well, so to speak. The point is, I would approve of the system of
accreditation applied all the way through the educational system, not
just four-year universities. A high school losing its accredited
status would disqualify the school's students from admission into an
accredited four-year university.

Different accreditations carry different reputations, and so parents
will naturally want their children to go to a school with a
high-reputation accreditation -- and that will do nicely to deal with
nonsense like Intelligent Design. Parents will realize that their
children will have a harder time getting into a reputable institution
of higher learning if the school teaches ID in its science classes,
and that will put pressure on the parents to send their kids to a high
school that is not being run by idiots. I could envision the free
market doing wonderful things for our educational system, and I would
like to see it happen as quickly as possible to save our country from
perishing in ignorance.

Politics corrupts, but it is a necessary evil. One of the best
defenses against the corrupting influence of politics is education. If
the people (a) desire a democratic system and (b) have the
intelligence to use it right, then we stand a pretty good chance of
``making it.'' Nowadays, I worry about both (a) and (b). And I see it
as a self-perpetuating spiral -- politics is now corrupting education,
which results in more corrupt politics. I think one of our great
challenges today is breaking that cycle. Privatization of our school
system may be the only feasible solution at this point. The people
must get fed up enough with the system as it not stands and they must
demand their freedom to have school vouchers.

A near-100% free market economy is one of the best ways we know of to
generate aggregate wealth. So we need to ask ourselves, what do we
strive for as a society? Is generating wealth and preserving
individual freedoms (i.e., right to obtain and hold property) to the
maximum extent possible what we value above all else? Is this really
the best that we can aspire to as a civilization? Is it the best way
to alleviate human suffering while promoting scientific and
technological advancement?

As it turns out, there are no easy answers.

> Even our own form of government was meant to be extremely
> limited. The Constitution was written to bind government officials,
> not the people of the United States. The Bill of Rights is our
> shield against bad governmental policies (or at least it should be).

And what if many of those in power could give a rat's ass about that
these documents say? The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are
pieces of paper with some writing on them; these pieces of paper do
not vote in Congress. By themselves, they protect us from nothing. Our
liberties are under constant assault by lawmakers, who will interpret
these documents in whatever way furthers their own agenda-du-jour. It
is incumbent upon us, the citizens, to be educated, mindful, and
involved in what democratic processes we do have today in order to
sustain our civilization and our tradition of individual liberty. The
Constitution must be written on the American heart before it can have
any effect. Freedom comes from our active defense of it day in and day
out. The Constitution cannot defend itself; it must be defended by
those who revere it.

"Belief far outstrips truth as it soars on the wings of              
 - Paul Kurtz 
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