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View Diary: Unrepresentative Democracy − The House of Representatives and the American Vote Not Represented (147 comments)

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  •  Well, there is something that you don't know! (0+ / 0-)

    It is not unusual for people who do not know the answer to a question to try to change the subject by asking their own question.

    You first.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 01:19:48 PM PST

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    •  Are you more interested in what (1+ / 0-)
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      Madison thought, or didn't think; or in your own project, which seems to turn on the error you ascribe to Madison in structuring the US government as a representative democracy?

      I actually would be interested in hearing about what project you might have for addressing the defects in the "representative" part of representative democracy. As I've said, I do not believe that Madison has the last word, either in terms of his definitions, or in the answers to political questions as he framed them. If you are on track to developing better answers, either in Madison's own terms, or in others, why, fine: let's hear about it.

      But your comment about "changing the subject" suggests to me that you're more interest in playing games. (And I would be happy to be wrong in this supposition.)

      •  Then all you have to do is answer the (0+ / 0-)

        questions I asked.

        But your second refusal to answer is clear evidence that you are not sincere. All you want to do is pick a fight. You are just itching for me to say something that you can attack. So why would I want to waste more time talking with someone who just plays "gotcha" games.

        I was very upfront and clear in everything I said, but all I got from you and others is the usual smart-ass remarks. And that is your right, but it doesn't solve problems, it only creates them.

        I doubt that you would have anything to contribute anyway. Your ego would get in the way.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 02:22:06 PM PST

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        •  I am not interested in attacking you (1+ / 0-)
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          nor in playing games. I am not a first-class expert on Madison, and I do not expect to call you out on your interpretation of his thought. I asked the question in the hopes of moving off Madison per se to address the actual problems we face, since I do not find the Madison to provide the framework we need to do so.

          So, tell me, what problem was Madison trying to solve when he rejected the Athenian model? Did he understand how the Athenian model worked? What was the historical consensus about ancient Athens at the time?
          Off the top: Madison's objective was to limit the role of average Americans (most of them farmers, many of them rather independent types on the frontier; and other unruly sorts) in government because he and other elites feared they posed a threat to their dominance. (David Graeber and others have recently pointed up the role of struggles over debt in 18-century America, comparing them to similar struggles in other preindustrial societies, including ancient ones, in ways Madison might have recognized.) The famous comparison of the Athenian city-state was brought in as a straw man (no one had actually proposed modeling the US after Athens) to point up the need for representation over a huge area rather than a small city-state; but the actual problems with his solutions certainly included a nonrepresenative Senate (malportioned and elected by legislatures); plus the recognition of slavery and the 3/5ths clause, altogether entrenching southern domination of the Republic until the Civil War.

          How did he understand the Athenian model? Probably well by the standards of the day, and not well by the standards of a classical scholar of today. But I don't think that that understanding was in fact key; rather the reference to Athens was shorthand for a defense of elite interests; there's a very interesting discussion in Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.

          Daniel Lazare has a very interesting take on the Constitution in The Frozen Republic. (I don't agree with all his analysis, but I find grappling with it to be a bracing challenge, and useful.)

          •  Good answer. There is one other use for the (0+ / 0-)

            disparagement of the Greek democracies.

            No, I am not trying to apply the Athenian model of "direct democracy" to the contemporary United States.

            But, by trying to understand the differences between a "pure" democracy and a republic as Madison saw them, one can see why our system has failed to control the harmful effects of faction.

            To analyze how the Athenians managed to control the harmful effects of faction serves as a check of the former analysis.

            And in so doing, it becomes apparent that the Athenians had nine features of their democracy that enabled them to succeed in controlling the effects of faction.

            We have none of those nine features.

            The question now becomes, what does one do with that information?

            If one believes in the possibility that the Internet can be a powerful tool for developing complex ideas then one might try to launch these ideas here on DKos.

            One could pursue other ways, more traditional ways.

            Have a nice life.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:29:30 PM PST

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            •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
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              And I will check out the nine features.

              It occurs to me to note that Madison would not have made the distinction we do between direct and representative democracy because the only democracy he was aware of was Athenian. Other states were either oligarchic republics (Rome, Venice), kingdoms with or without estates of some kind representing lords and propertied elites; or the hybrid English Commonwealth, basically the latter without a king. He would have associated the idea of popular rule with the Levellers, Fifth Monarchy Men, or Muntzer's peasant rebels, and I don't think those examples would have aroused any enthusiasm on his part.

              However, I think our differences start with the question of faction, as 18-century American elites saw it (while, of course, failing to see that they were themselves a interest group--doing so would have threatened their core identity as politically interested gentlemen).

              In fact, oddly enough, the US system fails to be responsive precisely because it tries to avoid the political, and in that evasion, fails to produce responsive and responsible government.

              Good luck and best wishes!

              •  Geez. Talking with hestal is like giving yourself (1+ / 0-)
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                a root canal. No matter what you do, you're screwed. If you agree or disagree with him, he attacks and then while he's doing it he accuses you of attacking him. However, it sounds an awful lot like he thinks Athenian Democracy was better. Personally, I don't think that a Republican form of government has served us that poor, especially since we have been getting more and more representative such as the direct election of Senators. Until recently, there were also limits to money in politics. I think, over time, the money will be removed from politics again, the power of the Senate will be reigned in, as well as that of the runaway Supreme Court. Perhaps we will even move to some kind of electoral college reform and national voting standards. Overall, we are moving toward more reprentativeness. But, I doubt we'll get there by abolishing the present system and trying to set up some form of direct democracy.

                Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

                by tekno2600 on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 07:37:08 PM PST

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