The Perpetual Difficulty of Opposing A Corrupt Political System

The Perpetual Difficulty of Opposing A Corrupt Political System

And it is certainly plain that the man who gains by maintaining corruption is likely to make great habitual efforts to keep up a corrupt system, while the man who opposes it, who gains nothing by opposing it, but who gives up his time, his quiet, and his ordinary business, for the public good, is tempted at every moment to relax his efforts. This failure of continued energy is just what Demosthenes complains of in the Athenians of his day; and experience does seem to show that here is a weak side of democratic government. To keep up under a popular system an administration at once pure and vigorous, does call for constant efforts on the part of each citizen which it needs some self-sacrifice to make. The old saying that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business becomes true as regards the sounder part of the community. But it follows next that what is everybody’s business becomes specially the business of those whose business one would least wish it to be.

Edward Augustus Freeman, An Introduction to American Institutional History (1882)

Of course, we are faced with the exact same problem today, except it is now much worse because the corruption occurs at the national level, and frequently under color of law. It is indeed a perpetual “weakness of democratic government.”

What concrete steps can we take to mitigate this weakness, especially under modern conditions?

Jim Bennett and I cite to Freeman in our upcoming book, America 3.0.

Cross-posted on America 3.0.

14 thoughts on “The Perpetual Difficulty of Opposing A Corrupt Political System”

  1. In Iraq under Sadam it was common for family members to get government jobs. Then family members protect the family. If you count second, third, fourth…tenth cousins as family then this approach can be very meaningful. Some jealous locals label this family approach ‘corruption’.

    Americans totally misunderstand the family approach to government even though it is widely used in blue states. Given the power of government how else can an individual be safe from arbitrary or even malicious use of government power.

  2. I think one effort is to place direct term limits onto the elected positions (or perhaps “soft ones” — 50% to get elected first time, 55% to get reelected, 60% to get reelected a second time… etc.), and to require turnover in all bureaucratic positions (with absolute limits on how long you can serve in a goverNment position at ANY level… after, say, 10 years in public service, go get a REAL job. You can’t serve as Dog catcher, much less any other work). Hell, require the individual actually LEAVE the vicinity of the capital (State/Federal) and not live within 100 miles of it ever again.

    This helps limit the kind of chicanery that too much time in office instills.

    Another is that the entire system gets wiped out every so often, every single law, not just a few. And no big-ass “rubber stamp” bills, make them re-vote on EVERYTHING, even laws regarding murder. That way, they’re busy dealing with the BASIC laws and not building up a massive (tome)tomb of the unknown legal codicil.

    Or require that the entirety of federal law must fit onto so many pages of 8.5×11 paper on 10-inch type– ONE LAYER of text… LOLZ. You want to put something more in? Take something else out.

    Taxes/Revenues — limit to ‘x%’ of the GDP. To be adjusted year over year. STARVE government. Pass all the laws you want, if you can’t pay anyone to do anything about them, it’s a waste of time.

    And then there was a nice suggestion by Robert Heinlein — in “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”, or perhaps “Starship Troopers”… Two bodies, like it is now, but one house passes laws with a 2/3rds majority. The other REPEALS laws with a 1/3rd minority, the reasoning being that, if 1/3rd of the people don’t want it to be law, then it probably isn’t a matter for Law at this point.

    Note how the lawmaking activity quickly gets to a standstill, as it should be.

    I’d also place a constitutional limit on things that the people can’t do that the government CAN. That is, capital punishment, foreign war, a few other things like that, usually involving the government power to kill. ALL OTHER actions, you can’t give government the power to do unless the people ALSO have the power. Make that initial list right, and make it a matter of adding to the Constitution if you want to add some power for the government but not the people…

  3. Oh, and prioritize the budget. everything gets assigned five classes. If a shortfall occurs, then the lowest class gets up to a 25% cut. If still short, now start cutting from the bottom TWO classes until they hit 25/50%. Keep going, to 25/50/75, and so that, before you even TOUCH the top class, you’ve zeroed the bottom class items.

  4. Grey,

    The root of all American corruptions is the educational system. From Kindergarten to PhD they have corrupted Sea to Shining Sea.

    Our mitigation begins when we discover fire.

    Our mitigation’s goal should be the complete separation of school and state, a wall between government and education.

  5. To solve the problem do not petition the problem.

    In other words you have a pervasively corrupt government that successfully and elegantly sidestepped the Demos 80 years ago.

    That is the essence of the New Deal, they don’t bother with democracy, democracy is hoodwinked by consensus.

    The consensus being of course amongst themselves…we are thrown chew toys of “lets have a national conversation about guns” for instance when it’s actually the same conversation a parent has with a child – and spoken in the same tones.

    Their consensus – the real decision – is what all right people are thinking.

    It remains for process liberalism to “manipulate the procedural outcome.”

    If you want solutions then power to the demos and so fall the New Deal.

    Begin by understanding the actual situation, you have no power, you have no actual vote. You cast a meaningless lot. You have more of a vote in PowerBall.

    When the Demos has Tribunes that convince them of this, and further that the actual holders of power have ruined them, and HATE THEM, if the Demos has anything left the rest will follow.

    So first the Tribunes. Which is not of course running for office. Do no such thing…unless it’s your plan to betray trust as the office holders do..

    First the Tribunes.

  6. And here is the incomparable Moldbug..deconstructing 20th century governance…

    “When we look inside the magic box of public policy, we see fields such as law and economics and ethics and sociology and psychology and public health and foreign policy and journalism and education and…

    And when we look at the history of these fields, we tend to see one of two things. Either (a) the field was more or less invented in the 20th century (sociology, psychology), or (b) its 20th-century principles bear very little relation to those of its 19th-century predecessor (law, economics).”

  7. More Moldbug, same Outer Party he means the Repubs, by Inner Party the Dems, by Cathedral he means the University/Government complex.

    “There are all kinds of scary polls that can be conducted which, if they actually translated into actual election results in which the winners of the election held actual power, would seriously suck. That’s democracy for you.

    ===>**But power in our society is not held by democratic politicians. Nor should it be. Indeed the intelligentsia are in a minority, indeed they live in a country that is a democracy, indeed in theory their entire way of life hangs by a thread.** <==[emphasis mine] But if you step back and look at history over any significant period, you only see them becoming stronger. It is their beliefs that spread to the rest of the world, not the other direction. When Outer Party supporters embrace stupid ideas, no one has any reason to worry, because the Outer Party will never win. When the Inner Party goes mad, it is time to fear. Madness and power are not a fresh cocktail.

    And thus we see the role of "democracy" in the Progressive period. Stross says:

    Democracy provides a pressure release valve for dissent. As long as the party in power are up for re-election in a period of months to (single digit) years, opponents can grit their teeth and remind themselves that this, too, shall pass … and wait for an opportunity to vote the bums out. Democracies don't usually spawn violent opposition parties because opposition parties can hope to gain power through non-violent means.

    This is the theory. But since elected politicians in the Cathedral system have, as we've seen, no real power, what we're looking at here is not a pressure release valve, but a fake pressure release valve. The regular exchange of parties in "power" reassures you, dear voter, that if the State starts to become seriously insane, the valve will trip, the bums will be thrown out, and everything will return to normal.

    In fact, we know exactly what Washington's policies twenty years from now will be. They will certainly have nothing to do with "politics." They will be implementations of the ideas now taught at Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. There is a little lag as the memes work their way through the system, as older and wiser civil servants retire and younger, more fanatical ones take their place. But this lag is getting shorter all the time. And by the standards of the average voter forty years ago, let alone eighty, Washington already is seriously insane. What is the probability that by your standards – as progressive as they may be – Washington forty years from now will not seem just as crazed? Fairly low, I'm afraid."

  8. The thin thread that is emphasized is this: that the charade that democracy and hence the people rule in America is absolutely essential to the New Deal’s continued rule.

    If Tribunes point out to this demos in particular that this is fraud, and that the inheritors of this fraud are bent on ruining them with pure and sure malice and mens rea, then the jig is up. What happens next is not pretty but it is necessary.

    And you’ll not get to any America any American would want without the necessary happening first.

    So First the Tribunes, then the necessary. Then you may have America 3.0, or rather the people will…

  9. It is very possible that Ukrainian programmers, working in the Ukraine, hacked into the network that runs the computers that each voter uses to vote. The Ukrainian and Russian hackers changed enough votes so that Obama won. Now Obama owes Putin.

    Local hackers fixed local elections. Some were very obvious – such as the many precincts that went 100% Democrat. Even Castro never produced a vote higher than 99.999%.

    We can stop hackers from fixing elections by using paper ballots (no punch cards, no computers, no machines). We have developed over the last 200 years procedures for catching voting fraud during recounts. We can start using ‘purple fingers’ to prevent people from voting early and often. And we can make government too small and unimportant to control by amending the Constitution to outlaw any form of regulation.

    Otherwise we can look forward to programmers in Russia, the Ukraine, and other places telling us who won our elections. Computer security is too important to leave in the hands of the government. And politicians cannot be trusted to count votes.

  10. This is an excellent question. It is the question of our times.

    I wrote a short essay in response to this query: “Changing a System That is Rigged Against You”

    I will quote the conclusion here:

    …the entire discussion is quite useless if the first step detailed above – convincing the ruled that they have the power to change the system – is not attained.

    This is the central problem facing those who want to “mitigate the weakness of democratic government [under] modern conditions.” It is the central crisis of modern American democracy. Augustus Freeman is correct to warn that democracy requires a large group of citizens devoted to the common good if it is to survive. Sociologists like Robert Putnam have amassed volumes of research that a devotion to the common good and sense of common identity is exactly what Americans have lost. Three generations of Americans have largely given up on self governance. Ibn Khaldun would call it a decline in asabiyah, Alexis de Tocqueville described it as the despotism of individualism, modern sociologists call it a crisis of social capital. [4] No matter what we name it, is strikes at the heart of the American people’s ability to work together to solve their own problems or to fight back against ruling class power.

    Concrete steps to fix the weaknesses of democratic government must start here. Resurrecting civil society and local autonomy will do more to change the character of American democracy and empower her citizens than any sweeping changes at the top could. The power to rig the system from the top is what we are trying to eliminate, after all. That means there is no universal answer. There is no quick fix. Each concerned observer must turn to his or her own community and its local concerns to see what could be done to give its members practical experience with real citizenship.

  11. There is no need for them to defraud the elections. The elections themselves decide nothing.

    Madly they do anyway.

    Yes it’s incompetent to have 100% Obama voting districts, and for partisans of Liberty you should be cheered that they’re so maddened by what little power they have that they allow the all important and critical narrative to fall.

    Elections affect the personal fortunes of the elected and their associates. This is no small number of people, but this is the only matter elections affect.

    So let the hackers hack away. They’re hacking at a straw man.

  12. T. Greer,

    Resurrecting civil society and local autonomy will do more to change the character of American democracy and empower her citizens than any sweeping changes at the top could.

    Or to put it in the terms that I normally use, “A society will get the worst government that it is willing to tolerate.” (I don’t think that quote is original to me, but I can’t find who said it first.)

    Ultimately, culture is king, because it determines the boundaries within which would-be tyrants must operate.

  13. }}} Ultimately, culture is king, because it determines the boundaries within which would-be tyrants must operate.

    Indeed, this is at the heart of the PostModernist Liberal cancer: Destroy all the underpinnings of classical Greek Thought at the heart of reason and rhetoric, and substitute Moral Relativism for society’s Judeo-Christian moral underpinnings.

    This leaves no stable base against which one can draw a line and say “No. Here, and no farther!!!” — what follows such a statement is weasel words that question everything used to justify that line being THERE, and not somewhere else.

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