Sunday, August 25, 2019

3D6




1:
Some of my socialist friends have a bad habit of confusing "is" with "ought". Because the Church of England ought not to have any formal influence over secular life, they assert that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a person of no significance. Because the Queen ought not to have any political influence, they assert that she does not have any. 

2:
Mr Nigel Farage is an extremely clever man; and unlike Mr Boris Johnson, he doesn't bother to hide it under a thin veneer of stupidity. (I don't think that Mr Donald Trump is as stupid as he seems, but then I don't think that anybody could possibly be as stupid as Mr Donald Trump seems.)

3:
When the duly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom resigns, the Queen invites another of our democratically elected representatives to take over the role; on condition that he or she can command the confidence of the House of Commons. Mr Callaghan replaced Mr Wilson; Mr Major replaced Mrs Thatcher; Mr Brown replaced Mr Blair; Mrs May replaced Mr Cameron; and Mr Johnson replaced Mrs May. The People elect their MPs, and the MPs choose a Prime Minister from among their number. That's the system. It might be better; it might be worse.

4:
It is very dangerous to say "It is undemocratic for Mr Johnson to be Prime Minister having secured the confidence of a plurality of MPs but without a General Election". 

It is almost equally dangerous to say "It is undemocratic for Mr Trump to be President of the United States, having won the electoral college but not the popular vote." 

Both results show up idiosyncrasies in the two countries respective constitutions. As I understand it, the American system was designed and the discrepancy between "Electoral College Delegates" and "Popular Vote" was written in as a feature; whereas the British system evolved over centuries and the capacity for the Prime Minister to change without a popular mandate is a bug which only becomes apparent under stress.

But Mr Johnson is not the product of a coup. Mr Johnson is the product of the outworking of our unwritten constitution in the relatively unusual circumstances of an all-but-hung parliament. To call it a coup is to say that representative democracy is not real democracy; it is to say that direct democracy is the only true democracy; it is to say that there is such a thing as the popular will which is distinct from and maybe contrary to the results of the constitutional democratic process. 

It is that kind of thinking which got us into the present mess. 

5:
Everyone quotes that essay in which George Orwell complained that people (already, in 1944) were hurling the word Fascist at anyone and anything without regard for what it really meant. Fewer people quote the bit where he says that it's pretty clear what people mean by the term:

"By Fascism they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept 'bully' as a synonym for 'Fascist'."

Well: I think that all fascists are bullies, but I don't think that all bullies are fascists. I think that all fascists are racists, conservatives and authoritarians, but I don't think that all racists, conservatives and authoritarians are fascists. 


A judge was once asked to define pornography, and replied "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." This was not very helpful. 


But it would also be unhelpful to say "Since we can't agree on a definition of pornography, dirty books obviously don't exist." 

6:
Boris Johnson is not a Fascist. 


Boris Johnson is not a conservative, or a liberal, or anything else. I doubt very much if Boris Johnson has a set of political beliefs in the way that Margaret Thatcher and Harold Wilson presumably did. 



Boris Johnson, like Tony Blair, is an artificial construct with no purpose except to become Prime Minister. In 2016, he claimed to be 50/50 on the European Question; but he has chosen to portray himself as a kamikaze Leaver for personal electoral advantage. (Jeremy Corbyn once said, under pressure from an interviewer, that he was 70/30 on the Question; a form of moderation and nuance which the right-wing media still attempts to portray as equivocation.)

It is not clear whether the entire political landscape is reducible to "Boris Johnson believes in Boris Johnson" or whether the Johnson-construct is being deployed on behalf of persons or organisations who do have a recognizable political ideology. 


7:
The Left use the word "Orwellian" to describe the Right; and the Right use the word "Orwellian" to describe the Left. If either of them had taken the trouble to read Nineteen Eighty-Four they would know that Orwell was describing how political power always and necessarily works. The Party is indifferent to individuals and ideology; the Party exists only to keep itself in power.

Orwell also liked a nice cup of tea, and thought that pub landlords ought to keep a supply of second class stamps behind the bar. In Animal Farm, Trotsky is presented as one of the good guys.

8:
I grew up in the 1980s: everyone called Mrs Thatcher a Fascist, but she pretty obviously wasn't. She wasn't even particularly Right Wing by today's standards but that's the responsibility of that nice Mr Overton. Americans might be surprised to consider how strongly Mr Reagan's friend supported socialized medicine and how firmly opposed she was to allowing private citizens to own guns. She personally supported the death penalty provided she didn't have to take responsibility for restoring it; she was a big fan of corporal punishment but it was abolished on her watch. And she was a supporter of the European Union, although she thought it badly needed reform. If you had asked her how much she liked it, I like to imagine that she would have said "Seven out of ten."  

9:
The Right say that the Left call everyone they don't like Fascists. The Right call everyone they don't like Communists. The far Right are probably best thought of as performance artists, acting out a parody of a Left which mainly exists in their own minds. ("We think that you think that everyone you don't like is Hitler, so we will say that everyone we don't like is Stalin. That'll show you!") Rupert Murdoch's front pages, which literally depicted Boris Johnson as the Unconquered Sun are best understood as caricatures of what the editor imagines communist propaganda to be like.

10:
I was quite shocked to hear Mr Enoch Powell's infamous Rivers of Blood speech when it was reconstructed on Radio 4 a while back. I had previously only known it by reputation, and had somehow absorbed the idea that "it made some fair points about immigration and integration in unnecessarily provocative language."

The speech is in fact nakedly racist. It takes racism for granted; as a premise and a starting point. Granted that no-one would want a black person living next door to them or indeed on the same street and granted that no-one would want to rent property to a black person, then it follows that the 1965 Race Relations Act (the one which made "No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish" signs illegal) was as oppressive to white people as slavery had been to black people. This is literally what he said. This is what people who defend Powell as a conviction politician who spoke his mind are defending. 


But for all that Powell was a parliamentarian and a constitutionalist. He had complicated ideas about national identity and how it worked. Not great ideas: his theory of the Virtuous Institutions was only slightly more useful that Mr Norman Tebbit's Cricket Test. But he would not have understood the idea that a Popular Will existed separately from the Crown and the Commons and the Lords.

His essays on the New Testament are still well worth reading. 


11:
Mr Farage has described Mrs May's compromise European withdrawal agreement as "the greatest betrayal of any democratic vote in the history of our nation." He specifically compared it to the treaty of Versailles.

This is very strange language for a British politician to use. An Englishman might very well see Versailles as a disastrous misjudgment: if only we had been more magnanimous after the catastrophe of the First World War than perhaps the rise of Hitler and the greater catastrophe of the Second World War might have been averted. But to describe it as a betrayal: isn't that specifically what the Nazis believed? Wasn't that indeed the whole point of the Third Reich (and the actual reason that they had little skulls on their helmets)?

And then we see Mr Farage walking onto platforms at rallies with air raid warnings playing in the background. This is not how British politicians behave. Give Mr Corbyn his due, he doesn't come on stage to hammers and sickles and the strains of the Internationale. Mr Farage is consciously portraying himself as the Little Guy who will stand up to the bullies and and get his revenge on the politicians who betrayed us in Brussels. 

12:
Folk music is the kind of music listened to by people who say that they like folk music. Science fiction is the kind of literature read by people who say that they like science fiction. Fascism is the ideology espoused by people who identify as fascists.

13:
There are no substantive arguments in favour of Brexit: or if there are, Mr Johnson and Mr Farage are not interested in making them.

The European Union is a very complicated collection of trade agreements and tariffs and employment practices and mutual immigration procedures which a non-specialist can't really have a very strong opinion on. Until twelve months ago no-one without a 2:1 in PPE had the faintest idea what the World Trade Organisation even was.

The entire adventure rests on the theory that the People's Will was irrevocably expressed through a binary referendum in 2016. The principal at stake is not how much ice you legally have to include with a mail-order kipper. The principal at stake is which is supreme: the People's Will or the Constitution. 

Let the United Kingdom split in three; let violence and civil war return to Ireland; allow Britain to suffer Greek levels of inflation and 80s levels of unemployment; all that, says Mr Johnson, would be preferable to saying that Parliament has the right to go against the Popular Will. 

We are too willing to concede this principal. We are too willing to say "Of course the Will of the People should prevail; but the People were misinformed; the votes were badly counted; there was some cheating and corruption; and anyway we know more now than we knew then: so perhaps the Will of the People has changed. Let's ask them."

If democracy means a mechanism by which citizens can sack their leaders and appoint new ones, then I am all in favour of democracy. If it means that the Will of the People is always to be obeyed without question, not so much.

Yes, apparently it really is order to buy a mail-order kipper.

14:
Insert well-known quote from Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" in this space.

15:
Pseudo-Dawkins has been known to wonder out loud whether people who believe in the miracle at Cana or the Prophet's night journey ought to be allowed to vote in elections.

16:
So: there is a job vacancy for a British Hitler. Not an evil goose-stepping Jew-exterminating Hitler, but an heroic Hitler, a Hitler who personifies the Popular Will, who will strike a blow against the bureaucrats who betrayed the country, make the trains run on time, and generally Make England Great Again.

But the Establishment -- the elite, the people who hold the real power, the school teachers and Guardian journalists and nurses and lawyers; not the poor oppressed billionaires who run newspapers and shit in golden toilets -- will never permit a Man of the People to Make England Great Again.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is opposed to the people. The Judiciary are enemies of the people. The House of Commons are traitors. If we are going to overcome the corrupt establishment who betrayed us at Versailles, we are going to have to do it extra-constitutionally.

And that's a problem, because at the head of the British constitution sits the Queen and the one thing you definitely aren't allowed to do is speak one single word against the Queen. Even actual republicans, like Tony Benn, were very reluctant to say anything personally against Her Majesty. In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn stood politely to attention during the singing of the National Anthem while those around him were mouthing the words. Civilization very nearly came to an end there and then.

17:
On August 12th, Mr Farage made a speech during which he pointed out that the Queen Mother had a relatively unhealthy lifestyle (she smoked, drank gin, and was overweight) but still lived to be 101. So, said Mr Farage, let us hope that our present Queen who appears to live a much healthier lifestyle will survive even longer -- perhaps forever -- because that way Charles will never be King.


Because that way Charles will never be King. 

As long as it is impossible to criticize the Monarch, you can't go too far in asserting the Will of the People over and above Parliament. The Queen has very little personal power, but the whole Constitution depends on the idea of the Crown. Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition: one day soon he will kiss the Queen's hand become her First Minister. You can't deny his legitimacy without denying Hers. If you set Parliament against People then you set People against Monarch. Oliver Cromwell understood this. 

But the Queen is now over 90. It is not too unkind to suppose that her reign may not carry on indefinitely.



So it is clear why someone positioning themselves as The Man of The People would want to lay the groundwork for attacking the next Head of State and the next Head of State but one while still appearing to praise our present Queen, may god save her. 



So how did the newspapers, even the ever so slightly republican and leftish newspapers, report the speech: 


Not "Nigel Farage criticizes Prince Charles".

Not "Nigel Farage hints that he may not accept the legitimacy of the next titular Head of State".

Oh no. To a man, they report "Nigel Farage says the late Queen Mother was fat."

18:
Farage incorrectly referred to the Queen as "Her Royal Highness" as opposed to "Her Majesty." He believes that Prince Harry is third in line to the throne (after Prince Charles and Prince William) whereas in fact he is number six. 






I'm Andrew. I write about folk music, God, comic books, Star Wars and Jeremy Corbyn.

Or consider supporting me on Patreon (by pledging $1 for each essay)





78 comments:

  1. i think blogger just are an interesting comment, could i have it back please? sorry....

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  2. "I don't think that Mr Donald Trump is as stupid as he seems, but then I don't think that anybody could possibly be as stupid as Mr Donald Trump seems."

    He really is.

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  3. the capacity for the Prime Minister to change without a popular mandate is a bug which only becomes apparent under stress.

    Actually, far from being a 'bug', it's the normal way of doing things. Since 1900, of 28 changes of Prime Minister, only eleven were the result of a general election. The rest, including Boris, became PM as a result of some process within the governing party.

    Source: https://fullfact.org/news/unelected-prime-ministers-common-or-not/

    Boris Johnson is not a conservative, or a liberal, or anything else

    I would actually say he is a liberal, of the Cameroon, Notting Hill type. For instance I am sure that on all social matters (eg abortion, divorce (obviously), sexuality, drugs) he is instinctively on the liberal side. Sometimes he is open about this (during his leadership campaign I saw one debate where he was directly asked to support restrictions on abortion and he said flat out that he would not), others he is more cagey about (I'm pretty sure he is personally in favour of legalising at least some currently illegal drugs, but he keeps quiet because he knows that would not go down well with the majority of the public, or the vast majority of his party).

    On matters economic I think he's more a pragmatist than anything else: he will do whatever is necessary to get the votes, including spraying cash around if necessary. So he's not a conviction politician like, say, Thatcher, who would not increase public spending on things she thought the state shouldn't be doing even if that is what it would take to win the election, because she thought it was wrong.

    And [Thatcher] was a supporter of the European Union, although she thought it badly needed reform

    That would have been difficult, as the European Union did not exist until a couple of years after she had left office (and arguably she may have been forced from office because she would not have supported its formation; 'No! No! No!' and all that).

    Give Mr Corbyn his due, he doesn't come on stage to hammers and sickles and the strains of the Internationale

    He doesn't now, but are you sure he never has?

    Of course the Will of the People should prevail; but the People were misinformed; the votes were badly counted; there was some cheating and corruption; and anyway we know more now than we knew then: so perhaps the Will of the People has changed. Let's ask them.

    And if the same answer comes back? Will you accept it then? Or will you, like the leader of the increasingly inaccurately named Liberal Democrats, simply decide that the answer only counts if it is the answer you wanted (in which case, why bother asking the question)?

    (I'm not sure what 'more' we are supposed to know. Everything that has happened since the referendum was mentioned during the campaign. the Irish border. Trade agreements. threats of food and medicine shortages. All were deployed as arguments prior to the 2016 vote, and it went to Leave. So why would a new vote be any different?)

    ('the votes were badly counted' — really?)

    He believes that Prince Harry is third in line to the throne (after Prince Charles and Prince William) whereas in fact he is number six.

    Well, that was true until about six years ago; perhaps he just hasn't kept up with the news.

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  4. Sorry to criticize you here. I am, by nature, a critical person, so I will start by saying that I probably agree with almost everything you said in this post.

    Now to nit-pick:

    Fascism only makes sense in the period between the two World Wars. The Fascists looked at World War I and said, "This is how we should be all the time - a nation under arms all pulling together for a common cause." In other words, they took literally both Randolph Bourne's "War is the health of the state" and Mussolini's "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." After the U.S. explodes two atomic bombs, this seems self-evidently crazy to everyone, so we have a hard time wrapping our heads around that belief, but it really was what they believed. They said so many, many times. This is why there are no fascist parties after World War II and why no modern authoritarians or nationalists or racists call themselves fascist or actually are fascists. (Fascism doesn't even have a necessary connection to racism as Italian Fascism only became racist ca. 1938 and the Germans derided it before then as "Kosher Fascism.")

    Fascism was also certainly not conservative (how could it be, given that it was calling for the radical transformation of all of society?), though it was right-wing (i.e. virtually all the converts to fascism came from the right except for the founder, Mussolini himself, who began on the left). In order to become a fascist, one had to abandon conservatism. We have been witnessing a similar sort of civil war on the American right between the conservative establishment and the radical right populists. Many of the latter still call themselves conservatives, but they can only do so because they have never understood conservatism and were never really conservatives themselves.

    Conservatism, of course, is also relative to culture. In 21st century America, I am a conservative. Move me to Saudi Arabia or early 19th century America and I magically become a radical left-winger, even though my opinions have not changed at all.

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  5. It is almost equally dangerous to say "It is undemocratic for Mr Trump to be President of the United States, having won the electoral college but not the popular vote.”

    I have read this through a couple of times but afraid I make no more sense of it. I assume you’re not saying “the electoral college is intentional, so is therefore above criticism”. But then that leaves me with no idea what you do mean! It’s institutionalised vote-rigging, that’s clear enough, isn’t it?

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  6. ”Fascism only makes sense in the period between the two World Wars”

    And yet here it is, marching down our streets. Fascism needs to be made sense of in terms of its purpose, rather than its ideology.

    ”"This is how we should be all the time - a nation under arms all pulling together for a common cause.”

    Not wrong, but only half the picture. The countries with the strongest or purest fascist movements were Italy and Germany. (Spain and Portugal had strong fascist elements but also symptoms of military dictatorship.) And what did they have in common? They had only recently been unified.

    And capitalism, the institutionalised war of each against all, is very bad at unifying. The reason it racks up the rhetoric of nationalism, to a greater degree than any previous era, is largely because it must make up in form what it lacks in content. Fascism is useful to capitalism as a kind of social glue, which unifies the whole of society – forcibly if necessary. It evokes a tribalist nationalism, in which others are inherent enemies. (Not necessarily racism, at least in the extreme sense of a ‘counter-race’ that must be hunted down. But always this.)

    But we need to add the other half to the picture. Extend the scope to countries where fascism rose to power, and this time we do bring in Spain and Portugal, also Hungary. Intrinsically, these countries would seem to have little in common. Germany and Portugal?

    But what they did have was strong left-wing uprisings which needed putting down. As fascism, with its readiness for street thuggery, seemed the best placed movement to do this it soon became bankrolled by big business. Countries which didn’t have such a left-wing ‘threat’ normally had the fascist street movements, but they were never given the flow of cash required to take things up a notch. (Britain would be a good example.)

    This task meant that fascism must physically defeat leftism while at the same time stealing its talking points. Which of course made fascism fundamentally incoherent. Zizek described it as “a conservative revolution.” But it’s a mistake to thinks this matters. Fascism doesn’t want to be coherent. Fascism wants to be victorious.

    Today, of course, things look quite different. But we see a variant of this same one-two. First, it’s surely no coincidence that the resurgence of the far right has happened after the financial crash. Many were surprised by the relative lack of left-wing movements which emerged in its wake. But then why react when you can pre-empt? Why not get your reaction in first?

    Further, Neoliberalism took the war of each against all to a whole other level. Nationality was fast looking like an irrelevance in a globalised world. But that could be borne when your wages were still being paid. Since it crashed the rhetoric of tribalist nationalism, the seductive sense of ‘belonging’ to an in-group, needs to be reintroduced. And it has.

    It’s worth remembering throughout all this that fascism is, has always been and will always be a form of capitalism. To move against capital’s interests is to bite the hand that literally feeds it. So for example in Britain Brexit has been stuffed with quasi-fascist rhetoric about ‘traitors’, ‘elites’, ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ and so on. But this goes, completely incongruously, with ultra-free-market arguments. The EU, actually a set of free market treaties, is called the ‘EU-SSR’ and ludicrously likened to Stalinism. We should also look at what the far right does. It talks the talk against ‘elites’ but then always decides to take it all out on the asylum seeker they spotted down the road.

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  7. I assume you’re not saying “the electoral college is intentional, so is therefore above criticism”. But then that leaves me with no idea what you do mean! It’s institutionalised vote-rigging, that’s clear enough, isn’t it?

    I assume the point is, 'All democracies need rules. As long as the rules are made clear in advance, and everyone agrees that they are fair, and the rules are followed, and to respect the result, then the result is democratic — especially if there are also processes to change the rules, if enough people want it (which there are in the USA, as the electoral college could be done away with by a simple amendment to the constitution at any time'.

    The electoral college makes perfect sense as long as you think — as those who designed it did — in terms of States being entities which deserve representation as themselves, not just as the sum of the votes of their residents. This shouldn't be an alien concept to someone with experience of the EU, which also has a system which combines direct election to a federal-level body with representation by the constituent member-states themselves. The USA's electoral college is a different way of achieving that to the European Council operating alongside the European Parliament, but it's fundamentally the same idea that states matter as well as individuals.

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  8. And capitalism, the institutionalised war of each against all,

    That's a very odd view of capitalism. The fundamental unit of capitalism is the free exchange, which only takes place when both sides are gaining something: when a hungry person buys a loaf of bread, then they exchange something they value less (money) for something they value more (food); while the baker similarly gains something they value more (money) for something they value less (they bread). It's a positive-sum transaction: how is that a 'war'? Is the baker at war with their customers?

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  9. SK writes: "I would actually say [Boris Johnson] is a liberal, of the Cameroon, Notting Hill type."

    Surely you mean "of the pickaninny, Notting Hill type"?

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  10. Conservative = not wanting change; supporting gradual, incremental change.
    Right = Short hand for Conservative

    However, in the UK, "Conservative" implies -- supporting the church, the aristocracy, and big business; as opposed to workers and trades unions; believing in low taxation and correspondingly low welfare spending; believing in deference rather than equality; defending the right of a policemen to shoot people, judges to hang people, teachers to beat people; skepticism towards academics and experts; patriotism and a corresponding dislike of foreigners.

    I remember in the 80s the BBC described the people in Russia who thought that Gorbachov's reforms were moving much too quickly as "the conservative element in the Communist Party." Sure enough Norman Tebbit jumped in and said "The opponents of reform in the Communist party are not conservatives...they are the very far left wing."

    C.S Lewis still used "the right" as a synonym for "conservatives"; so if he talked about "those on the right of the church" he meant "the ones who didn't agree with liturgical reform or new hymn books" not "Christians who also happen to support low taxation and guns".

    The important thing is to be clear in which sense you are using the word and not to use the ambiguity to confuse people. See also "liberal".

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  11. Conservative has a somewhat different meaning here in the U.S. primarily because all Americans are Whigs; we have never had any Tories. Which isn't to say that the conservatives in America didn't share many things in common with the right in the UK. And, for that matter, we do seem to have developed a brand new right in the U.S. which is aping the right in Europe. Blood-and-soil nationalism has only been an American thing very occasionally before and always very small (the Know-Nothings), but it is certainly now occurring. And, indeed, immigration was the signature issue which split the right here (Trump added protectionism, but that wasn't originally part of the fight) - my side (the immigration doves) lost, at least for now, possibly for forever.

    As for liberal, I have always been annoyed that I could not use the word "liberal" (here anyway) to describe myself. My own philosophy is now far more liberty-oriented than the liberalism of my youth. I was glad when the American left took back the term "progressive" which they had previously abandoned after the disastrous Woodrow Wilson administration, so I can reclaim the word liberal for myself.

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  12. Gavin: you'd probably be surprised how much of your analysis I agree with. Marx went off the rails primarily because A) his German philosophy was wrong - there is no grand spirit of history motivating anything - history is always contingent which he would have realized had he been less parochially fixated on Europe, B) his revolutionary French politics were both wrong and destructive, and C) his English economics was slightly wrong, though where it was wrong (the labor theory of value), so were all the other economists at that time. I suppose one could call me a pro-bourgeoisie Marxist. I was born a proletariat and I am still mostly a proletariat today (though a highly compensated one with extremely comfortable and humane working conditions), but I admire the innovation and energy of the bourgeoisie and I am a net provider of capital to the markets.

    I agree with you that, to some extent, we are seeing a replay of what occurred between the two World Wars. What was that Marx said? Something about "first time as tragedy, second as farce." Well this one is certainly the farce. I suppose I wouldn't mind calling the authoritarian, nationalist, racist right neo-fascists or something, removing the belief in perpetual war, though I think that was absolutely key to the original fascism.

    I also 100% agree with your assessment of the deficits of liberal free-market capitalism. It is, as Marx himself admitted (and he hadn't seen nothin' yet) phenomenally good at creating massive amounts of wealth historically speaking. But it isn't natural to us. We are a tribal species who longs for tribalism, whether that's monarchical or socialist. That was indeed our natural economic system for thousands and thousands of years before the rather miraculous capitalist revolution in England, Scotland, and Holland. That system has lifted billions of people out of poverty and works everywhere - even in China and India, as we have discovered in the last 40 years. And I am convinced it is already working in those parts of Africa which have successfully imported it. But, of course, it's purely an economic system. It cannot serve the soul. I don't see why it should. It's just an economic system. I favor Edmund Burke's "little platoons" for that, but I cannot deny the evidence of my own eyes. Capitalism and irreligion, both of which I favor, are unquestionably destroying those institutions. Even family is often hanging on by a thread. (And, no, I don't think gay marriage has anything to do with that.) I see no reason why this must be so, but it's hard to deny that it is so.

    My favorite Republican candidate of 2016, John Kasich, was often mocked and ridiculed for telling people that they should go visit old people in nursing homes, complete strangers if necessary, and help them fill in their lonely days. I don't see why that was so severely mocked, but it was.

    I have no solution on offer. I expect that capitalism may well collapse, taking our current peace and prosperity with it. People think peace and prosperity comes with the air they breathe, but I'm sure that's not true and I suspect I might be proven correct before it's all over.

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  13. Immigration is another issue on which Boris is a liberal: obviously not an 'all borders are the work of the devil, we should unilaterally abolish them' ultra-liberal, but of the range of sensible positions, he is definitely on the liberal end. I'm pretty sure he's in favour of total free movement of labour, for example. And of course one of his first acts as leader was to junk the (always silly) 'tens of thousands' target.

    In fact I wouldn't be surprised if, after leaving the EU, we end up with total freedom of movement of labour from anywhere in the world — probably cunningly disguised as 'an Australian-style points system' where you need, say, 1000 points to get in, so having a job offer gets you 998 and a detectable pulse 3 points, or something.

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  14. On further reflection, I think it's probably best just to retire the word "fascist." During the Obama administration, one of my favorite economics writers described Obama's economic program as "fascist." He meant by this that Obama wished to leave capitalism in place, but give the state virtually unlimited authority to give them orders. Now this is indeed what the fascists wanted and it certainly fit Obama's economic program better than the usual right-wing claim that Obama was a "socialist" (which he most certainly was not - he probably could have tried to nationalize the automobile companies had he wanted to and he did no such thing). But I was still mad at the writer. You just don't throw the word "fascist" around like that. Even if Obama's economic aims were similar to the fascists, he was in no way, shape, or form a fascist.

    Since WWII, virtually nobody has referred to themselves as fascists or believed that they were fascists. This is very different from self-proclaimed socialists and communists who are still with us (not that I am saying that you should call someone a socialist or communist either unless they're willing to own the label). Curiously, there is a vanishingly small minority of people who call themselves Nazis. I assume they do this to be transgressive. As near as I can tell, they are actually just racist and anti-Semitic anarchists and not really Nazis at all.

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  15. I'm pretty sure he's in favour of total free movement of labour, for example.

    Jeremy Corbyn. You're thinking of Jeremy Corbyn.

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  16. Jeremy Corbyn. You're thinking of Jeremy Corbyn.

    I wish, I really wish, I could never have to think of Jeremy Corbyn ever again.

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  17. Corbyn wants a Norway Plus deal, in which we retain free trade and free movement. Johnson wants to come out of Europe without a deal - no free trade or free movement. If the Tory Brexit is not about peoples-legitimate-concerns-about-immigration (i.e a deep loathing of foreigners) I don't know what it is about? (Hanging, flogging and blue passports?)

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  18. Johnson wants to come out of Europe without a deal - no free trade or free movement

    Re-read.

    'In fact I wouldn't be surprised if, after leaving the EU, we end up with total freedom of movement of labour from anywhere in the world'

    You can have freedom of movement of labour without being in the EU. Freedom of movement of labour just means that anyone who has a job offer in the UK is allowed to come and take up that job offer. It's distinct from freedom of movement of people, which is what we currently have in the EU, where anyone can move anywhere for any reason, even if they don't have a job.

    So if the Johnson government, after leavng the EU, institutes an immigration policy where anyone form anywhere in the world — not just the EU — who has a job offer from a UK company can come here to take up that job, then we have total freedom of movement of labour.

    I think this is Boris's personal preferred option, and as I say I wouldn't be surprised if this is where we end up (albeit probably dressed up as 'an Australian-style points system' where, as I say, the points values are carefully picked to effectively make the result, 'if you have a job offer you can come; if you haven't you can't').

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  19. So your plan is to allow free movement of non-UK citizens into the UK, while we spurn the existing right of UK citizens of free movement into the EU27 countries? Yep, that sounds exactly like taking back control.

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  20. So your plan is to allow free movement of non-UK citizens into the UK, while we spurn the existing right of UK citizens of free movement into the EU27 countries? Yep, that sounds exactly like taking back control

    None of this is my plan, I'm explaining what I think Boris's plan is, specifically in the context of pointing out that I think he's a liberal when it comes to immigration policy (ie, he would like companies to be able to hire anyone from anywhere over the world any time they like with no barriers or regulations, as opposed to now when they have to jump through extra hoops if they want to hire someone from outside the EU).

    A non-liberal on immigration policy, by contrast, would perhaps have a policy whereby you had to apply to the government for special permission to hire someone from outside the UK and you were only allowed to do so if you could provide positive proof that there was nobody in the UK who could possibly do the job.

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  21. But you're cool with us losing our freedom of movement, right?

    Or are you just saying Boris is?

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  22. But you're cool with us losing our freedom of movement, right?

    Like I say, the article isn't about me, it's about Boris. What I am cool with is not at all the point.

    Or are you just saying Boris is?

    I'm saying Boris is by nature and instinct a metropolitan liberal, that's all, contra the claim that 'Boris Johnson is not a conservative, or a liberal, or anything else'. His views on all social issues, including immigration, sit squarely in the modern cosmopolitan liberal mainstream (unlike, say, Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose views don't).

    I agree that he's not a conservative though.

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  23. All right — so we have established what your point is: that you believe Boris Johnson would like to open up EU-style freedom of movement to EU and non-EU citizens alike coming into the UK, while losing the right for UK citizens to move freely in the EU27.

    Well, you may be right. I think it would be a strange thing for him to want, but I am not privy to his inner thoughts.

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  24. All right — so we have established what your point is: that you believe Boris Johnson would like to open up EU-style freedom of movement to EU and non-EU citizens alike coming into the UK, while losing the right for UK citizens to move freely in the EU27.

    No: not EU-style freedom of movement. I thought I made that clear. Re-read above about the distinction between freedom of movement of persons ('EU-style' freedom of movement) and freedom of movement of labour.

    I'm not privy to his inner thoughts either, I'm basing this on his public statements as well as things he is reported to have said in private.

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  25. You are in error about what EU-style freedom of movement is. Within the EU28, one may move into a another country freely for three months. To stay longer, one must either have employment, or demonstrate sufficient health insurance not to be a burden on the state. It's not a free-for-all. See DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC, and skip down to "CHAPTER III: Right of residence" for the gritty details, but it amounts to "freedom to holiday for three months, and beyond that freedom of workers".

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  26. Oh, forgot the link: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2004/38/oj

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  27. No, you are wrong:

    'Freedom of movement and residence for persons in the EU is the cornerstone of Union citizenship, established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992.'

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/147/free-movement-of-persons

    As you yourself admit, if a person from one EU country has 'sufficient health insurance not to be a burden on the state' then they have right of residence in any country in the EU, whether they are working there are not.

    So while indeed it is not quite a free-for-all, the principle within the EU is that there is a presumed right to residency simply by virtue of EU citizenship which can be curtailed in some circumstances (eg, being a possible burden on the host state).

    That's freedom of movement of persons, not of labour, where the presumption is that you can only move to a country to work if you already have a job offer (eg, if I wanted to move to the USA, I would need to have a job offer in my hand; I couldn't just go speculatively to lok for work, even if I could support myself and not be a burden while I did so).

    But this is getting off the topic of Boris's political beliefs.

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  28. Not being British and only following British politics from a fairly extreme distance, Boris has always struck me as an unprincipled populist. It seems to me that the major difference between him and Trump is that Boris is a very smart man who pretends to be stupid while Trump is a very stupid man who pretends to be smart. (To dovetail with SK, Trump's own political instincts have always been metropolitan leftist, which is why he was a lifelong Democrat until eight years ago when he realized that the Republican Party was a much weaker target and ripe for a hostile takeover. So now the man who tried to convince his second wife to get an abortion when she was his mistress is all of a sudden pro-life.)

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  29. Andrew, S I am not sure I agree with you very much when you are agreeing with me!

    ”…leave capitalism in place, but give the state virtually unlimited authority to give them orders.”

    I don’t think this is a very useful definition of fascism. It fits Stalinist Russia better than it does Nazi Germany. Of course people like to conflate Stalinism with fascism. But they usually end up retreating into moralistic claims they’re “equally bad”, or similar.

    Moreover, I’m not at all convinced it fits fascism in practice. Capitalists are willing to feed the beast precisely because it gets rid of the bits of the state they don’t like, such as labour laws and health and safety regulations, while strengthening the bits they do. Such as sending the goon squad round if your workers try to unionise. (Neo-liberalism did much the same. They also liked that.)

    Currently in America the state is talking about banning Antifa for being “terrorist”, without any consideration of banning far right groups who actually carry out acts of terrorism. It’s too knee-jerk to just say Trump is a fascist of course. But that’s a classic fascist stance to take.

    In general, attempts to understand fascism as a political programme will always fail. Ironically, those who use the term just as an epithet are probably closer. It’s not an insight to say that when the far right criticise others they simply use projection. And the far right are obsessed with dissing “identity politics” (think of Steve Bannon), while of course they are all about identity politics. They virtually reduce to “do you want to be in our gang?”

    ”I think it's probably best just to retire the word "fascist”…. Since WWII, virtually nobody has referred to themselves as fascists or believed that they were fascists.”

    On the other hand, some agreement here. Since WWII fascists tended to pretend they weren’t fascists, for reason including not wanting to share a cell with Rudolph Hess. But it’s more instructive to look at it the other way round. In most countries fascism was firewalled off from mainstream politics. Politicians would go on about respectfully disagreeing with one other, whereas fascism was uncountenanceable and so on. This had the subjective effect of making fascism seem something narrow and tightly defined, like those maps which shrink Antarctica. Yet actual histories of fascism show endless factional wars, with them quite frequently murdering one another.

    That firewall’s now been eroded away, and you get things like Trump saying Jews are “disloyal” if they don’t vote for him. This has the subjective effect of extending a once telescoped section of the political spectrum. The far right often play on this, one insisting they can’t be fascist because another one is and so on. All ignoring their essential similarity, like Russian Dolls pretending not to be Russian Dolls. For this reason ‘far right’ may now be a more useful term.

    It’s also a mistake to see their numbers as the crucial thing. In America they are more numerous than here. But their rallies are still normally outnumbered by anti-fascist counter-protests. It’s widely thought that this is where the threatened banning of Antifa comes from, it’s become necessary for their survival. Which looks to precisely be what’s happening. The crucial question with the far right isn’t how many they actually have in their gang, that’s not how they got into power last time. It’s how useful it seems to state and capital. Right now it looks useful to them. That’s where we are.

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  30. Johnson’s unprincipled populism would be visible from Pluto. Andrew’s original post covers this well enough.

    ”Boris is a very smart man who pretends to be stupid while Trump is a very stupid man who pretends to be smart.”

    Not really. To get this we need to unpack ‘smart’. Trump is essentially a confidence trickster, who noticed he could apply the same tricks to politics as he had been to business. Which involves a kind of predator cunning which doesn’t equate to ‘intelligent’ but could be called ‘smart’. During the election, when he went off to canvas in the rust belt states most commentators thought it another sign of his cluelessness. Whereas in fact he managed to make some advances there.

    Admittedly, it wasn’t particularly significant to the result. Trump won the way Republicans normally win, a combination of the electoral college system and voter suppression - inasmuch as those are different things. But the rust belt vote helped him, not least in the rhetoric about him being the true voice of the white worker.

    Also, my guess would be his earlier Democrat associations were just as much out of opportunism. They were just the people to talk to if you wanted connections in New York.

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  31. I agree that Trump is a well above-average con man. He also has a kind of genius for getting attention and always has had. He played the New York media like a fiddle for 30 years and has been doing the same to the national media for the last four or five years. They don't even notice he's doing it!

    My wife commented on the silliness of Trump's canvassing Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in the last week of the campaign rather than Florida or Ohio. I said that's not silly, that's smart. In order to win, he has to assume he has Florida and Ohio in his pocket. If he doesn't, he can't win. But if he does, he still needs more - he'll fall just short with only Florida and Ohio. So it made all kinds of sense to assume he had won Florida and Ohio and to try to win Wisconsin.

    On the other hand, your American political history is a bit off. There is a talking point on the left about the Republicans' so-called "Southern Strategy." But it's all a bit of myth-making. Nixon did not win the South in 1968; George Wallace did. In '72, Nixon did win the South, but he also literally won everywhere. In '76, Carter won the South. In '80, '84, and '88, Reagan and Bush won everywhere. In '92 and '96, Clinton won big chunks of the South. 2000 was the first election where Republicans won the South, but did not win everywhere else as well. The reason? Guns (as Bill Clinton knew full well). Gore and Bill Bradley had spent the 2000 primary debating over which of them had tougher gun control bills.

    The current electoral college/popular vote bifurcation is caused entirely by California. New York was once as or more dominant in terms of population and wealth, but in those days it was evenly split politically. Thus, Grover Cleveland dominates the South and wins the popular vote in three straight elections. But in one of those, he narrowly lost New York and lost the Electoral College. We have never had a state as populous and wealthy and politically one-sided as modern California. The ex-California Electoral College vote and the ex-California popular vote have agreed in every Presidential election since 1888.

    The Electoral College has always been a boon to Republicans though. Because Lincoln won a plurality in 1860, people think of him as the real winner of the election due to the split in the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party's split happened precisely because it didn't matter. If you give all the votes of Lincoln's three opponents to one candidate, Lincoln loses the popular vote 60-40, but he still wins the Electoral College. (Check for yourself.)

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  32. I probably didn't make my point clearly. The Electoral College protects against vote suppression. The reason why Lincoln won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote badly is because he wasn't even on the ballot in most Southern states. This was okay though since he didn't need to be competitive in the South in order to win. You want to see vote suppression? Make it matter in one-sided political states by, say, letting the popular vote winner win the Presidency. Also, unconstrained plurality winners is a terrible, terrible idea. I give the benefit of the doubt to the anti-Electoral College crowd that they'll have some sort of system (run-off voting or whatever) so that it's not just an unconstrained plurality. (Though my sense is that most of them have never given the matter any thought at all, unlike the writers of the U.S. Constitution.)

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  33. In general, attempts to understand fascism as a political programme will always fail. Ironically, those who use the term just as an epithet are probably closer. It’s not an insight to say that when the far right criticise others they simply use projection. And the far right are obsessed with dissing “identity politics” (think of Steve Bannon), while of course they are all about identity politics. They virtually reduce to “do you want to be in our gang?”

    Totally agree. I refused to vote for Trump in 2016, not only because he is personally reprehensible and completely ignorant of policy and economics, but because if I had wanted to vote for a huge federal government, identity politics party, I would have been voting Democrat all along.

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  34. On the other hand, Marco Rubio correctly pointed out in the 2016 debates that if Trump's father hadn't been rich, he'd have been selling watches on Fifth Avenue. This is rather obviously correct. All of Trump's cunning would have meant nothing at all without his Daddy's money.

    And, of course, the Bannonites will tell you I'm an elitist, cuckservative, RINO, squish race traitor. They are, of course, 100% correct.

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  35. The whole "voter suppression" thing has always been a case of projection on the part of the Democratic Party. I defy anyone to point to me to actual real evidence of widespread voter fraud/suppression on the part of the Republican Party which has impacted an election anywhere. On the other hand, it is extraordinarily easy to find such examples in the Democratic party from the Solid South to the Northern urban machines (even to this day, in places like Chicago and Philadelphia).

    The examples given are always either common practice (purging of the voter rolls of people who have moved away/cannot legally vote which is done everywhere by everyone for very good reasons) or occasionally stupid, but entirely legal practices by Republicans in the South now that they have power, such as ID requirements. (Which again is an obviously good idea, but should always be paired with free government IDs for non-drivers and I agree it is reprehensible of those state Republicans not to add that law in tandem with the ID requirement.)

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  36. Perhaps it’s just me, but I confess to not being sure where the Southern Strategy comes in, or what either “politically one-sided” or “unconstrained pluarality” might mean. Then again, I didn’t follow Andrew R’s original comment about the electoral college either!
     
    “ The examples given are always either common practice (purging of the voter rolls of people who have moved away cannot legally vote which is done everywhere by everyone for very good reasons) entirely legal practices by Republicans in the South now that they have power”
     
    (My emphasis.) Don’t want to get too deep into this, which seems a bit of a tangent from the original post. But for voter suppression to work voting has to be suppressed. Whether this is officially legal or not is irrelevant to the argument, and ultimately is a way of talking across the point. Many aspects of segregation were legal. In Hong Kong it’s the protestors who are breaking the law. And so on.
     
    ”I defy anyone to point to me to actual real evidence of widespread voter fraud/suppression on the part of the Republican Party which has impacted an election anywhere.”
     
    Two quick things:
     
    North Carolina, who are often a pack leader in voter suppression, have admitted during a Court case their changes were about suppressing the black vote.
     
    The Tories now want to bring in voter ID regulations over here, despite an almost complete absence of evidence of voter fraud. They’d scarcely be bothered doing that without solid evidence it was working elsewhere.

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  37. Gavin:

    Some people say that Donald Trump's election and Boris Johnson's accession were "undemocratic".

    This is true only if you limit "democratic" to mean "directly elected by an absolute majority of individual citizens."

    Neither the US nor the UK constitutions count individual citizens: the US go by states and the British go by constituencies.

    On this definition, very many US and UK incumbents have been elected "undemocratically".

    I think that we should use "democratic" in a wider sense -- to include "representative democracy" and indeed any system in which there is a mechanism by which a fairly constituted electorate can remove or change the government. I think that, in so far as the people have a will, as opposed to lots of little wills, that will is best expressed through representative democracy and a constitutional system.

    This is important for two reasons

    1: Because the only argument being put forward in favour of Brexit is that "the popular will" must always be obeyed without question, to the extent that newspapers are talking about a "people vs parliament" election. I deny that the "popular will" exists in that sense.

    1.1 It might be possible to talk colloquially about the "popular will" when there is overwhelming support for something -- e.g there is still a huge consensus in the UK in favour of constitutional monarchy; so if you said "An government who tried to replace the Queen with an elected president would be going against the popular will" I would know what you meant. As we have frequently said, over the years, lots of Very Good Things have been done by parliament in the face of of the Popular Will.

    2: Because there is a genuine danger that the present British government may in the near future attempt -- in the name of the popular will -- to do genuinely undemocratic things, e.g prorogue parliament, deselect rebel MPs, game play the date of the election, lie to the monarch etc etc. Better to save the word "undemocratic" for when people really start to do undemocratic things.

    2.1 Similarly, supporters of Farrage and Yaxley-Lennon have insinuated that if the European question doesn't go the way they want, they would actively use violence to try to overturn the decision of parliament. I think that we should save the word "coup" for when we actually need it.

    As I said: both the British and American systems have strong points and weak points. I don't know at want point you stop using the word "democratic". I would be inclined to say that a country with free and fair elections in which all women over a certain age were allowed to vote, but in which males were denies the franchise was still a "democracy" (the electorate can sack the government) although I would campaign strongly for votes for men. But that is probably a linguistic question.

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  38. On the meaning of "democratic", Andrew, I broadly agree with you. I deeply lament the election of Trump, but he did with a majority of electoral college votes, which means that by the specific democratic laws of that country he was lawfully and democratically elected president.

    I think it's much less clear cut in the case of Boris Johnson, who was elected by less than a hundred thousand people; and arguably even less clear cut in the case of Theresa May, who didn't even win a Tory leadership election. (Isn't it quaint to think that only three years ago Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the leadership contest because she made a slightly ill-judged comment about being a mother. These days you can rave on about watermelon pickaninny letterboxes and beat up your girlfriend and it makes bugger all difference. We have come a long way in three years.)

    On the word "coup", I don't agree with you at all. Given an administration that is making every effort to shut down Parliament, that has had two separate ministers give TV interviews that say the government will only obey the law if it suits them, and that has explicitly said it will deselect its own MPs if they disagree with policy, we pretty clearly have an executive that is trying by all means, legal and otherwise to assume supreme power. Just because physical violence is not (yet) involved, I'm not prepared to withhold the obvious description of this as a coup.

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  39. Boris Johnson was duly elected by the people of Uxbridge. All the other MPs were duly elected by their respective constituencies. A majority of those MPs (so far) want him to be Prime Minister. When he loses that majority, subject to a certain amount of jiggery pokery, he will cease to be Prime Minister. This is, as has been pointed out, the normal way of doing things. The fact that the Tory party MPs have decided among themselves to also give their supporters a say doesn’t make it less democratic.

    You could replace the people elect MPs/MPs elect PM system with one where the people directly vote for an individual , but that is the shortest route to President Farage.

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  40. I feel a bit queasy about the convention that a party which has formed a government can just parachute a new Prime Minister into place and there's nothing the rest of us can do about it. The same would of couse apply for the anointing of Gordon Brown as successor to Tony Blair. I'm far from certain about this, but my inclination is to think that if a governing party decides it wants to replace the PM, it should have to put that new PM to the test in an immediate general election. But I'm open to the possibilities that this sensible-sounding rule might have unforeseen consequences.

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  41. I feel a bit queasy about the convention that a party which has formed a government can just parachute a new Prime Minister into place and there's nothing the rest of us can do about it. The same would of couse apply for the anointing of Gordon Brown as successor to Tony Blair.

    And John Major. And James Callaghan. Alec Douglas-Home, of course did fight and win a by-election (but not a general election) about three weeks after becoming PM; what do you think of that? Macmillian, though, also didn't have an election for two years. You have to go back to Eden to find a PM who, on becoming PM, did immediately call a general election.

    I'm far from certain about this, but my inclination is to think that if a governing party decides it wants to replace the PM, it should have to put that new PM to the test in an immediate general election. But I'm open to the possibilities that this sensible-sounding rule might have unforeseen consequences.

    It's one of those things which sounds very sensible when you're in opposition but suddenly sounds less sensible once you're in government.

    However I would note that there is a process for this, which is that usually a new adminsitration is expected to prorogue Parliament and then put forward a Queen's Speech, which gives the House of Commons a chance to vote on whether they have confidence in it. If the Queen's Speech is rejected then a general election follows (I think that's still the case even after the constitutional vandalism of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act?). So it's not quite the case that a new PM simply gets to take over without passing any vote other than the one in their party.

    (Of course now apparently having a Queen's Speech is 'undemocratic', so clearly Humpty Dumpty has been placed in charge of constitutional interpretation).

    What do you think about MPs who resign the whip of the party for whom they were elections: should they be required to fight a by-election? Sarah Wollaston thought they should and even put forward a bill designed to force them to. Then she did it and we haven't heard a peep out of her. Strange, that.

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  42. Yes, I know there is a long tradition of PMs parachuting in. I don't think that's necessarily evidence that it's a good thing. Your line "it's one of those things which sounds very sensible when you're in opposition but suddenly sounds less sensible once you're in government" has the ring of truth, but I don't think it applies in this case, since I am pretty much opposed to the present Opposition as well as to the Government.

    I also agree it seems wrong for sitting MPs to defect to another party and not have to stand for re-election. Perhaps the best way to handle this would be to say they can leave their party and keep their seat as an independent; but that if they join another party, they have to hold a by-election. (And, yes, I say this even though such rules would at present favour the Tories, who are the ones in danger of losing a ton of MPs.)

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  43. (Andrew R., can you turn off the idiotic new "prove you're not a robot" thing? It now often takes as long to get through the tests as it does to write a comment.)

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  44. Your line "it's one of those things which sounds very sensible when you're in opposition but suddenly sounds less sensible once you're in government" has the ring of truth, but I don't think it applies in this case, since I am pretty much opposed to the present Opposition as well as to the Government

    Anyone not in government is in opposition; that includes minor opposition parties like the Liberal Democrats.

    What do you think of the old convention that any MP appointed as a minister (I don't know if it applied to people moving ministires or only becoming a minister for the first time) was considered to have taken an office for the Crown and therefore had to fight a by-election? I thought it sounded quite cool but I can understand people getting fed up of being dragged out to the polling station time after time.

    Now of course we see the spectacle of the main opposition party possibly voting against a general election. How they think they can do that and still say they are a credible government-in-waiting escapes me.

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  45. I'd not heard of that convention. It would certainly help to cut down on all the meaningless reshuffling-for-reshuffling's-sake, and I guess also the punishment demotions. Would a more stable set of ministers make for a better government? I am inclined to think so — but once more this feels like an area ripe for unanticipated consequences, so if anyone out there knows more about how it worked in practice, I'm happy to learn.

    As for Labour opposing the calling of a General Election: right now, in the present ludicrous and unique consequences, that makes perfect sense. The very last thing the country needs in the very very short available period running up to 31 October is to burn what little time we have available playing that game. I've seen it suggested that Corbyn might propose an amendment, that a GE can be called provided that a six-month extension is secured from the EU in which to hold it. That would be reasonable enough.

    And now, once more, I submit myself to the dreadful "I'm not a robot" check. Given how labourious this has become, this will probably be my last comment on this thread, so thank you to all of you who have contributed and goodnight.

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  46. On your head be it. Enjoy all the e-mails from people offering to write students essays for them for money.

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  47. Thanks for clarifying your point, Andrew. In brief, I think the opposite to Mike. I expect there are people who found Johnson succeeding May “undemocratic” who weren’t similarly troubled by Brown succeeding Blair. Which is just the equivalent of shouting “where’s your specs, ref?”

    The Electoral College is quite different in that it always benefits the Republicans. Without it, there wouldn’t have been a Republican President since the Eighties. You can argue about the original intent of it, but that’s what it does now. Furthermore, it has frequently been tweaked to further benefit the Republicans. It’s not “you go down snakes and up ladders”. It’s “you go down snakes and I go up ladders”.

    When the question is “why does there need to be this rule?”, “well we have to have rules” doesn’t seem a sufficient answer.

    Of course what I would like to see is neither Prime Ministers nor Presidents but a federation of autonomous workers’ collectives whose decisions at bi-weekly meetings are ratified by… (contd. P. 47).

    I have started to wonder if anyone ever, at any point in history, has used “the people’s will” not to mean “what I want and I’m sure most good, sensible-minded people agree with me if I were to check.” It’s enough of a logical fallacy to have its own name. Its only useful function is to tip you off the speaker is not saying anything worth hearing.

    I too have fallen foul of the “prove you’re not a robot” check. “Wait, what if you weren’t a robot before, but suddenly became one in the last one-and-a-half seconds? Better check again. Okay, howabout now?” I understand this is the rule, but is it possible to question it nonetheless

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  48. I have started to wonder if anyone ever, at any point in history, has used “the people’s will” not to mean “what I want and I’m sure most good, sensible-minded people agree with me if I were to check.” It’s enough of a logical fallacy to have its own name.

    That page on the wiki-p├Ždia is not quite the same as how the phrase is used in the debate around leaving the EU, though. That page describes a logical fallacy where a widespread opinion is given as evidence of the truth of some proposition, eg, 'everybody knows that Daleks cannot see the colour red'.

    However, leaving the EU isn't a factual proposition which can be right or wrong; it's a question of values and worldviews. 'Ought we to leave the European Union?' isn't a question like 'Are bats blind?' where there's a correct and an incorrect answer. It's more like, 'Do you want to go to the zoo or the seaside tomorrow?' There is no right or wrong answer to the question.

    So when people say, 'we must leave the European Union because it is the people's will' they aren't saying, 'most people thought leaving the European Union was the correct thing to do therefore that must be the factually correct answer, just like how we know that dogs can't look up'.

    Rather they are saying, 'when asked what they wanted to do this was the answer people gave, so it is wrong to ask them and then ignore what they said. Like if you asked a particularly well-behaved class where they wanted to go as a reward and 52% of them voted for the seaside and 48% of them voted for the zoo, it would be wrong to say, 'Well, the zoo is more educational so we're going there instead.' If you were going to do that, if you didn't care what they actually wanted, why even ask the question?

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  49. The Electoral College is quite different in that it always benefits the Republicans. Without it, there wouldn’t have been a Republican President since the Eighties. You can argue about the original intent of it, but that’s what it does now.

    Rules shouldn't be judged on their results, though, but on their procedural fairness. The rules of basketball benefit tall people. That doesn't mean they should be changed.

    (And in actual fact, the electoral college does still do what it was originally meant to do: it means presidential candidates are forced to campaign in, and pay attention to the needs and desires of, all states, even the small ones, out of proportion to their size. If the president were simply elected by popular vote, no presidential candidate would ever bother visiting any state but California, New York and Florida. Maybe Texas. But other than that, the rest of the states might as well not exist for all the difference they would make. You may not think that is a worthwhile goal; but I daresay someone living out in rural Wyoming would disagree with you.)

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  50. actual situation. teacher said “would you like to go to zoo or burn the school down?”. 8 said burn the school down, 7 said go to the zoo, 6 didn't vote.

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  51. Then why ask the question, if you were only going to repsect one answer?

    If that's really what you think then you should have the courage to just tell people you reckon they are too stupid to have a say in their future, and there aren't going to be any more elections in case they get it wrong again. Instead their moral and intellectual superiors are going to make all the decisions from now on, for their own good.

    I'm sure the dumb wretches won't mind.

    (Or if there are elections then they are going to be between candidates carefully selected to make sure that they all have views which are within the ranges deemed 'acceptable'. You could call it, I don't know, a 'managed' democracy.)

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  52. CAMERON SHOULD NEVER HAVE ASKED THE QUESTION.

    IT WAS A FUCKING STUPID QUESTION

    I APPROVE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY BUT DEPRECATE DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

    CAN I MAKE IT ANY CLEARER?

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  53. Why do you approve representative democracy, then?

    If you think that there are questions that the public is too stupid to be trusted to answer, so they should not be asked, then how can you jsutify letting the public elect representitives who might then put to the public questions that you think they are too stupid to answer?

    Or do you mean we should have elections, but also an unelected committee of experts who can veto anything the elected House passes which they deem to be unacceptable (and who therefore would have vetoed the Referendum Bill)? Sort of like a beefed-up House of Lords but without the Salisbury Convention (because the people might be stupid enough to elect a government with 'Leave the EU' in its manifesto, and your committee would need to be able to veto that).

    It is, after all, not direct democracy that got us here but representative democracy: Cameron was losing votes to UKIP, possibly enough to split votes in Labour / Tory marginals and so let Labour become the largest party, so promised a referendum in order to guard against that.

    This is how representative democracy is supposed to work: the parties make offers to various groups of voters in order to get their votes and that is how those voters (in this case, voters who wanted to leave the EU) get their voices represented.

    So I think your distinction between 'direct democracy' and 'representative democracy' here is artificial. If Cameron hadn't offered a referendum, he probably would have lost in 2015. The Conservative party in opposition would then have elected a new leader, quite probably, as a reaction against the Coalition years, a much more Eurosceptic one. It's not inconceivable then that that leader could have produced for 2020 a manifesto promising to leave the European Union and, thus re-uniting the UKIP with the Conservative vote, been elected and ended us right where we are now, but by representative, not direct democracy.

    If you don't think the people can be trusted to make the 'right' decision by direct democracy then they can't be trusted to make it by representative democracy either.

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  54. Representative democracy is when people elect representatives.

    Direct democracy is when epode note directly on particular issues.

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  55. But isn't your argument against direct democracy that people can't be trusted to make the right decisions on certain questions? That they might, if asked, vote for burning the school down?

    Surely then they equally can't be trusted to elect representatives who will take the right decisions on those questions? They might after all vote for the 'burn the school down' party. I've even pointed out a perfectly plausible way it could have happened.

    I'm sorry, I simply don't see what magic in simply adding one extra layer transforms something terrible and dangerous that should never be used, into something that's a perfectly fine way to run the country.

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  56. REFERENDUM ASK SIMPLE YES/NO QUESTION. EUROPE VERY COMPLICATED. REFERENDUM BAD.

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  57. WHY SIMPLE YES/NO EUROPE REFERENDUM VOTE GOOD BUT SIMPLE YES/NO COURTS AND TRIBUNALS ONLINE PROCEDURES BILL REFERENDUM VOTE NOT SO GOOD?

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  58. Okay, that's a good point. However, I don't think it quite works.

    As far as I can understand your capital letters (and let me knwo if I've misread), your point is that government is complicated, far more complicated than most people, who are after all living busy lives of their own, have the time or inclination to pay much attention to; and therefore it makes sense to hire some people to do it as their full-time job, and let them get on with it. But because they do actually have quite a lot of power, we ought to select these peopel by a general election every so on.

    This then is your argument for representative democracy, I think? And your argument against direct democracy is that it then has people

    But I don't think it works for a couple of reasons.

    First, not all issues in government are actually that complicated. Of course, lots are: whether to build a new high-speed railway to the Northern Wastes, for example, or whether and where to build a new airport runway, or exactly how to fund schools in order to maximise attainment, or how to organise health services. These are questions where finding the right answer is very complicated and requires, well, people doing a full-time job.

    But there are other questions which are of a different nature. It's not just quantitative: they are not just 'less complicated'. these are questions which are qualitatively different, because they are not about the managerial aspect of government but about things like fundamental values, identity, matters of conscience. Questions where there is no right or wrong answer, because they are about 'What sort of a people do we want to be?'. They are not asking how we achieve some goal like educating our children or regenerating the North or providing health care, but asking what values we espouse.

    For example, there isn't a tradition of plebiscites in the UK, but down south in the Republic, they recently had referendums on same-sex marriage and liberalising the abortion laws, and nobody claimed that they should not have been held because the questions were 'too complicated'. Everybody understood that they were questions where there wasn't a 'right' answer, but they were questions which went to the heart of deeply-held convictions about morality and values and identity.

    Indeed the whole point of democracy, when you get right down to it, is to give us a non-violent way of resolving such basic questions. After all if everybody agreed on what our nation's goals should be and the only disagreement was on how best to achieve them, we wouldn't need elections at all: we could just appoint the best person for the job of Prime Minister, pay them like a CEO, and leave them to get on with the job of managing the country. They would be a glorified office manager. Or, if you like, a civil servant.

    So the first reason I think your 'direct democracy bad, representative democracy good, because managing the country is complicated' argument fails is that in fact the most fundamental questions that we want to use democracy to answer, questions of fundamental values, of identity, of matters of conscience, are not in fact that complicated.

    [We could argue about whether leaving the EU is one of these questions. I think it is: it's hard to think of a bigger, simpler, more fundamental question of values and identity than 'do you want your country to be part of this supranational organisation whose laws supersede our national laws?' but this is about the principle, not the particular example, so leave that for now.]

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  59. And the second reason I don't think it works is the one I outlined before: if you think the problem is that direct democracy reduces complicated questions to simplistic ones, well, representative democracy doesn't actually stop that. There is nothing that stops someone forming the 'Simple Answers Party' that claims to have simple answers to all the questions and then getting elected and doing all the things you are saying would be bad about direct democracy. I gave above a plausible example of how representative democracy could have led to the UK leaving the EU. But look also at, for example, Ukraine, where they have just elected a comedian as President — or does a presidential election count as direct democracy? But anyway look at, say, the success of another comedian-led movement, Five Star, in the representative democracy of Italy. Or SYRIZA in Greece.

    So to sum up: if I've read you right and your argument is that representative democracy is good but direct democracy is bad because direct democracy collapses complicated issues into artificially simple questions, then that argument fails because:

    (a) the most important democratic questions are in fact not complicated but are simple questions about values and identity where there isn't a 'right' answer; and

    (b) representative democracy has exactly the same failure mode of collapsing questions that really are complicated (eg what does Greece do about its massive debt crisis?) into simplistic answers, both in theory and in practice.

    Hence, if you are against direct democracy you should also, logically, be against representative democracy. Whereas if you accept that people can be trusted to cope with representative democracy and not vote in stupid parties that have simplistic answers to complicated questions, then you logically should also trust the people to answer fundamental questions of identity.

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  60. YOU SAY EUROPE VOTE ABOUT NATIONAL IDENTITY.
    I SAY EUROPE VOTE ABOUT TARIFFS AND TRADE STANDARDS AND ECONOMICS AND IRISH BORDER AND ON AND ON FOR SIX HUNDRED PAGES.
    POTATO! POTATO! TOMATO! TOMATO!

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  61. Okay, but lay aside the vote about the European Union for a moment. Do you agree that there are some questions (eg, the ones asked in Ireland, or perhaps whether capital punishment should ever be used, or whether Scotland should be an independant country, or whatnot) which are simple enough that direct democracy is a valid (not the only valid, but not invalid either) way of deciding them?

    Because at the moment you seend to have said 'direct democracy is always bad and should never be used', ie, 'the class of things for which direct democracy is a valid way to decide them is empty'. At least that's how I interpreted 'I APPROVE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY BUT DEPRECATE DIRECT DEMOCRACY'. Was I wrong and you meant something else?

    But all your arguments are about whether one particular question (on the UK's membership of the European Union) is or is not a member of that class.

    Now obviously being a good reader of Lewis you will understand logic, and that simply arguing that one thing is not in a class, even if you are right, does not mean that the class is empty or non-existent. If I say, 'there are some three-leged dogs' and you respond 'LOOK THIS DOG HAS FOUR LEGS YOU IDIOT' then you haven't actually addressed the question.

    So can we first establish the existence and possible non-emptiness of the class of 'questions where direct democracy is a valid way to find an answer' before we start arguing about whether particular questions re inside or outside that class?

    To do otherwise — to argue about individual cases before settling the general principle — is cart-before-the-horse logic.

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  62. DIRECT DEMOCRACY ALWAYS WRONG BECAUSE MAJORITY ALWAYS WRONG. SEE IBSEN.

    CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM INCLUDING REFERENDA COULD THEORETICALLY EXIST. SEE IRELAND.

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  63. Okay so you've shifted your argument now? Before your argument was that direct democracy was wrong because the questions we would want to answer were too complicated. Now you're saying that the questions might be simple but we stil shouldn't use direct democracy because the majority are always wrong, even on simple questions?

    In which case I have to go back to asking how you can possibly be in favour of represenative democracy, because each representative is elected by the majority in their constituency. But if the majority is always wrong, then every representative selected must also be wrong.

    So if you are right that '[the] MAJORITY [is] ALWAYS WRONG', then under representative democracy we must logically end up always with a Parliament filled with all the wrong representatives!

    Surely you cannot think that such a system is acceptable? We would be governed incompetently by idiots! (there is a theory that this has already happened)

    So again I think your argument in favour of representative democracy, but against direct democracy, has a fatal flaw if you are basing it on the principle that the majority is alwasy wrong, because that would mean that representative democracy was wrong (because the wrong representatives would be elected) as well as direct demcoracy.

    The idea that the majority is always wrong is an argument against all democracy, not just direct democracy.

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  64. ME CAN BE AGAINST THING FOR TWO DIFFERENT REASONS

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  65. IBSEN WROTE BIG FAMOUS PLAY. SET IN BEACH RESORT. IN NORWAY. ONE SUMMER, PRETTY GIRL EATEN ALIVE BY BIG WHITE SHARK. POLICEMAN WANT TO SHUT BEACH TIL SHARK CAUGHT BIGGEST SHARK EXPERT SAY SHARK DEFINITELY BOUND TO COME BACK. BIG MEETING. PEOPLE WHO SELL ICE CREAM AND HOTELS WORRIED ABOUT LOSING MONEY. EVERYONE HAVE VOTE VOTE VOTE HIP HIP HOORAY. PEOPLE VOTE THAT THERE WAS NO SHARK. PEOPLE ALSO VOTE THAT EVEN IF THERE WAS SHARK, NO CHANCE IT COME BACK. WHAT SHARK EXPERT KNOW ABOUT SHARK BOO BOO BOO. WHAT POLICE MAN CHIEF DO? DO HE OPEN BEACH AND LET BIG WHITE SHARK EAT EVERYONE BECAUSE DEMOCRACY? OR DO HE IGNORE VOTE AND CLOSE BEACH BECAUSE HIS JOB TO PROTECT PEOPLE EVEN IF NOT POPULAR SPOILER: SHARK COME BACK AND EAT CUTE KID. ALSO SYPHILIS. ALWAYS SYPHILIS> STEVEN SPIELBERG ALSO MAKE GOOD MOVIE ABOUT WILD DUCK.

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  66. Of course you can be against things for two different reasons. But the two different reasons you have given so far don't work.

    With regards to the shark attack beach: how did the Mayor get his job? Was it not by… democracy? Because a majority of people voted for him?

    So, you think the result of the direct referendum on whether to keep the beach open should not be listened to because the majority is always wrong. Fine. But then you intend to give the decision to someone who has the job because… well, because a majority of people voted for him? So, by your logic, he must be the wrong person for the job (because a majority voted for him)?

    How, logically, can you think it's better to give the decision to someone who is, by your argument, guaranteed to be the wrong person for the job, than to have it answered directly?

    And, presumably, at some point the Mayor will be up for re-election. So if he did make the unpopular decision, he will be challenged by someone promising that if the situation reoccurs in the future, they will make the opposite decision, and that person will be elected (because the majority is always wrong).

    Then next time a shark appears, the other decision will be made. All because you let the majority (who are always wrong) elect the person who is making the decisions.

    So, again, the problem here is not that you have multiple reasons, it's that the two reasons you do have don't support your 'anti-direct-democracy, pro-representative democracy' view:

    (a) your first reason was that questions of governance are complicated, and require people to be employed full-tie to consider and understand them and come to the correct conclusions; therefore busy people with other things on their mind should not be asked about them but they should elect people they trust to act as their agents, giving the questions the consideration they need, and making the decisons.

    But this doesn't work because while a lot of governance questions are of that type, not all are. Some questions are simple and don't have 'correct' answers. So while your first reason certainly restricts the type of question for which an appear to direct democracy is a valid way to decide them, it doesn't support your initial, much stronger, claim, that there are no valid uses of direct democracy.

    (b) your second reason was that the majority, if asked, will always come up with the incorrect answer. This fails for two reasons. Firstly, because there exist questions for which there is no 'correct' answer because they are matters of fundamental values, conscience and identity. There is no 'incorrect' answer to, for example, 'should the state be able to execute criminals?' Your answer to that depends on your fundamental values, and two people who disagree from first principles will never be able to work out which is right because they will be arguing form different premises.

    But more to the point, your argument that 'the majority is always wrong' makes your support for representative democracy untenable. Because in a representative democracy it is the majority who select the representatives, so if the majority is always wrong, they will select the wrong representatives, so even on questions where there is a 'correct' answer, then (following through the logic from 'the majority is always wrong') the wrong people will be making the decisions and therefore the wrong decisions will be made.

    So I don't think you can simultaneously hold the view that 'the majority is always wrong' and also support (free, unmanaged, no restrictions on who can stand) representative democracy. You have to abandon one or the other as the two together lead to a contradiction: they require you to hold that the wrong people, elected by majorities who are always wrong, will somehow reach the right decision. Which is illogical.

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  67. Oh, I misread (diffcult to read large blocks of capitals). So it was the police chief, presumably then not an elected position, not the mayor, who made the decision?

    So the moral of your shark story is that such decisions should not be entrusted to elected officials, but should instead be made by people (such as police chiefs) who don't have to face the electorate to answer for their actions?

    So you're agreeing now that your logic leads to rejecting representative democracy as well as direct democracy?

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  68. YOU NO ANSWER QUESTION

    POLICE CHIEF HONESTLY THINK IF HE OPEN BEACH, PEOPLE DIE

    SHARK EXPERT SAY IF HE OPEN BEACH PEOPLE DIE

    WILL OF THE PEOPLE SAY NO SHARK, OR IF SHARK, IT GONE AWAY, AND PROBABLY GONE VEGAN BY NOW

    WHAT POLICE CHIEF DO

    ALSO WHAT MAYOR DO

    ALSO WHAT KING DO (CHECK AND FIND NORWAY MONARCHY)

    ALSO VERY GOOD MUSICAL SCORE BY JOHN WILLIAMS OR EDVARD GRIEG

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  69. I didn't answer the question because it's the wrong question.

    The question isn't, 'what should be done in this individual instance?', it's 'who gets to make the decision about what should be done?'

    Not 'given these facts, should we close the beach?' but 'Who gets the authority to look at the facts in each individual case (whether it's a shark attack, or a storm, or an oil spill, or whatever) and decide whether to close the beach?'

    It seems to me there are only three options as to who, fundamentally, should make any decision of governance:

    (a) the people, using direct democracy, should decide in a plebiscite.

    (b) the people's elected representatives, or a body or person answerable to them (eg a Chief Constable) should decide, either as an assembled legislature or as an executive body, depending on the kind of question.

    (c) some person or body NOT elected or answerable to any elected body should decide.

    Now, all I have been saying is that your position that (b) is sometimes valid but (a) is never valid is logically incoherent, because all the arguments you have given against (a) either are wrong (the idea that such questions are always too complicated; I've shown that there are some questions which are not complicated and readily admit to direct democracy) or are equally well arguments against (b) (the idea that the majority is always wrong, which if true then yes means (a) is invalid but also, for the reasons I set up above, means (b) must be invalid too and you have to go with (c)).

    So, then, who do you think should get to make the decision in the shark story? Not: which decision should they make, but: who should have the authority to make the decision, and to whom (if anyone) should they be answerable for that decision and its consequences, and how should that accountability work?

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  70. (Or, if you prefer, not 'who has the authority to make the decision?' but 'who has the responsibility for making the decision?' … in this case it amounts to the same thing.)

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  71. NO

    THERE IS A DEAD LADY ON THE SLAB IN THE MORGUE RIGHT NOW

    TOMORROW IS A BANK HOLIDAY THE BEACH WILL BE CROWDED WITH SWIMMERS

    YOU ARE SITTING AT YOUR DESK WITH THE ORDER TO CLOSE THE BEACH IN FRONT OF YOU RIGHT NOW

    YOU CAN EITHER SIGN IT OR NOT

    THAT IS THE SITUATION

    YOU HAVE TO DECIDE

    WHAT DO YOU DO???????????

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  72. No. Back up. You're getting way way way ahead of yourself here.

    The point at discussion is: 'I APPROVE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY BUT DEPRECATE DIRECT DEMOCRACY.' (You, above, on Thursday, the 5th of September, 2019)

    So we're not talking about any one particular decision but about the principle of direct democracy, which you say, you reject, and the principle of representative democracy, which you say you accept.

    In other words, we're not taking about any individual decision, but about the methods by which decisions in general ought to be made.

    You say, if I understand your all-caps rants correctly, that decisions ought never to be made by direct democracy. So we're not talking about an individual decision. We're talking about the process by which decisions are to be made.

    So the correct question is: you are writing the constitution by which the town will be run. You know that there are circumstances under which some events might require the beach to be shut (you might not imagine a shark attack, but there could certainly be storms, for example, or a boat might leak oil into the bay). So you have to put in the town constitution who makes that decision, and by what process they are to make it.

    To whom do you entrust that decision? As above, it seems to me there are only three distinct options:

    (a) to the people: every time the question arises, there has to be a vote of the entire town on whether to close the beach or not.

    (b) to an elected body, either a mayor or a council [they may delegate the decision but they remain responsible and can fire the delegate if they disagree with her decision]

    (c) to an unelected official who can act without having to worry about what the people might think of their decision.

    To whom do you give the power / responsibility over whether to close the beach or not?

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  73. I mean, if your argument (it's hard to tell, a little) is that here is an example of a situation in which direct democracy would have given the wrong answer, so you are right to 'DEPRECATE DIRECT DEMOCRACY' then that's fine, providing a counter-example is a reasonable rhetorical device.

    However, you then also have to, if you want to continue to hold that you 'APPROVE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY', show that in this situation representative democracy would have given the right answer. Otherwise your argument against direct democracy is equally much an argument against representative democracy.

    And as I pointed out above, that's just not the case, because to believe that representative democracy would have given the right answer in this situation then you have to believe that the right person to make the decision would have been elected to the relevant post.

    But if you think that 'the majority is always wrong' then you have to assume that the wrong person would have been elected.

    Therefore representative democracy would also have given the wrong answer in this shark scenario.

    So it seems to me that if you want to use the shark scenario as the basis for your argument then you have to agree that it argues equally against direct and against representative democracy, and therefore leads us to the conclusion that you think that such decisions should be in the hands of unelected officials who can make the correct decision without having to worry about popularity, or facing the voters.

    Would you not agree?

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  74. POLICEMAN PREVARICATES. PEOPLE GO SWIMMING. CUTE LITTLE BOY EATEN BY SHARK.

    HOORAY FOR DEMOCRACY.

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  75. I'm sorry, for most of your all-caps interjections I can sort of work out what point they are supposed to be making, but that one has completely floored me.

    You write, 'POLICEMAN'; does that mean you are saying you do think that the decision should be made by an unelected official who should not ever listen to the electorate because that would be 'PREVARICAT[ion]' and lead to bad results?

    So you are agreeing now that in fact you 'DEPRECATE' both 'DIRECT DEMOCRACY' and 'REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY', and 'APPROVE' executive power being given to unelected officials who never have to worry about facing the electorate but can simply make the 'right' decisions?

    If that's not it then you'll have to explain further I'm afraid.

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  76. IF I WRITE THREE THOUSAND WORD REPLY IN LOWER CASE LETTERING HOW MUCH WILL YOU PUT IN THE TIP JAR?

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  77. Exactly the same as you'll pay me for then replying to your reply, so we can call it quits and then we don't have to give the Pay Pal their cut so we all end up beter off.

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  78. The trouble is I am a semi-professional writer and time spent writing to you is time not spent writing new essays for the people who are sufficiently interested in my work to put a few dollars into patreon.

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