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Old 18th July 2022, 08:14 AM   #1
Trakar
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The results of a new political revolution in America

A major and fundamental political reform in the US could easily lead to calls and demands for a new Constitution as an essential element of ground-up infrastructure necessary to address the convoluted legislative bloat that is the anachronistic modern American Legislative and Judicial system. As a lead in to these considerations, I'd like to offer the National Constitution Center's efforts looking at several aspects of democracy and a variety of Constitutional documents they have generated from a variety of modern mainstream US political perspectives.

While I am most intrigued by the Center's Progressive Constitution ideas, it really should probably be looked at in comparison to their ideas regarding Libertarian and Conservative constitutional ideas1.

To be honest, there is much to like, and hate, in all of these perspectives but though I've always considered myself to be a primary proponent of democracy in the abstract, one of the more troubling issues of reading through these considerations is the questions they've raised in myself regarding how to balance the freedoms of as much democracy as we can tolerate with the personal and societal responsibilities that must be tied to such freedoms in a mature and sustainable society

A few teasers

-from the Libertarian Constitution
Quote:
- This was probably an easier project for us than for our conservative and progressive counterparts because the current United States Constitution is fundamentally a libertarian or, more precisely, classical liberal document. So much so that, at the outset, we joked that all we needed to do was to add “and we mean it” at the end of every clause.
- Unfortunately, many parts of our fundamentally libertarian constitution, particularly those that limit federal power, have been more often ignored or cleverly evaded, than honored, especially by court decisions that have perverted the actual meaning of the document’s text. Our task was therefore largely to clarify and sharpen those provisions— most notably the Commerce Clause, which has been transformed by legal interpretation into a charter of expansive federal power far beyond what the framers envisioned.
- Then there were some technical fixes. We updated capitalization and punctuation, and we incorporated today’s amendments into the text rather than appending them at the end. Of course, we didn’t include all of today’s amendments; libertarians generally agree that most Progressive Era changes were no good, so you’ll find no equivalents to the Sixteenth (income tax), Seventeenth (direct election of senators), or Eighteenth (alcohol prohibition) Amendments here.
From the Conservative Constitution
Quote:
- As conservatives, we were tempted to leave the Constitution largely unchanged, amending only those provisions most obviously in need of alteration. However, in the spirit of the NCC’s project, we attempted to think more boldly and propose changes that we believe would improve the Constitution to meet the exigencies of our era. Above all— and this is the real point of the exercise— we hope that our efforts will spur constructive discussion of the purposes of a constitution for a free people dedicated to the experiment in self-government.
- Today, we still confront the perennial conundrums of popular government, of which the problem of faction yet constitutes the disease “most incident to republican government,” as Madison warned. Simplistic adherence to pure democracy, unleavened by constitutional checks and balances, is therefore still undesirable. The good of the people is all too easily hijacked by self-interested and ideological factions that promote their own objectives at the expense of the long-term interest of the whole. In short, the goal of refining and enlarging the public views to achieve what Publius called “the reason of the public,” is not working as our Founders hoped it would.
- We also sought to revise or extend some provisions to accommodate modern practices where the Constitution does not speak clearly to such practices. Most radically, we sought numerous institutional and structural changes— to the Senate, to presidential selection, to judicial and executive appointments, to the legislative process, to the role of the states in national affairs, and to various provisions touching modern administrative government— where we thought the Constitution has not worked as well as it could be made to work. Such structural changes, however, were made in the spirit of advancing the Founders’ own principles. In many instances, we return to ideas (or variants of ideas) that were proposed but not adopted at the time of the Founding.
From the Progressive Constitution
Quote:
- When we were asked to draft the “progressive” Constitution, we recognized that the task came with baggage. Progressives’ relationship with the Constitution has long been fraught. At various points in history, progressives have loudly complained that the Constitution ratified in 1788 was designed for an agrarian society of slaveholding white males. It created sclerotic political institutions that are frightfully ill-equipped to meet the demands of a modern, global, and pluralistic society.
- With that in mind, as we embarked upon this exercise, we wanted to make clear our own view that the Constitution, as drafted in 1787, is not completely incompatible with progressive constitutionalism. Indeed, in our view, the original Constitution establishes a structure of divided government that is a necessary precondition for a constitutional democracy with robust protections for individual rights. Accordingly, we took this exercise as an opportunity to strengthen those structural protections for democratic government that we believe serve the exercise of individual rights. This draft progressive Constitution is written in the spirit of the Virginia Plan, with a recognition that debate and refinement must follow. And similar to the framers in 1787, we also are focusing on the structures of government over developing an exhaustive set of rights. We believe that embedding democracy more effectively in our Constitution will better protect rights than an explicit description of each and every right.
- But even as we have recognized that the democratic process will and should be the main determinant of policy outcomes, we have in some circumstances provided for explicit protections for equality, liberty, and democratic institutions that were not contemplated by the original document or its amendments.
All commentary and discussion is welcome, I have a personal perspective, and will unabashedly share it, but I'm interested in developing a more diverse feel for the takeaways and considerations of those who don't necessarily share my own outlook.

*1. CONSTITUTION DRAFTING PROJECT
https://constitutioncenter.org/debat...afting-project
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Old 18th July 2022, 11:49 AM   #2
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While I understand the reason for moving this thread, I had similar concerns when initiating it, but, as the re-structuring of the US government would have impacts and considerations that go far beyond merely the US and its citizens, and I, personally, am as interested (if not moreso) in the opinions and considerations of those who are not American citizens regarding such potential changes in how American governance can be improved. It is difficult to learn new things when you are only open to those who are already embedded within the current system. Hopefully, despite this transition, a significant non-American participation and involvement can help to enlighten this discussion.
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Old 18th July 2022, 01:43 PM   #3
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I'm amused by this bit from the Conservatives: "The good of the people is all too easily hijacked by self-interested and ideological factions that promote their own objectives at the expense of the long-term interest of the whole. "

They should know plenty about that!

Not a debate in general that I want to get involved with, though, as I don't think any new Constitution is in the offing, and if it were, it would make a streetfight look dignified.

But since this is about the US Constitution, I think it belongs in USA Politics, no matter who comments. Plenty of non-USA correspondents weigh in on USA Politics, as is appropriate, but that's still the subject under discussion.
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Old 18th July 2022, 07:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I'm amused by this bit from the Conservatives: "The good of the people is all too easily hijacked by self-interested and ideological factions that promote their own objectives at the expense of the long-term interest of the whole. "
Yeah, before those selfish people with their self-serving objectives came along, you Republicans were hyperfocusssed on the long-term interest of the whole.
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Old 19th July 2022, 05:05 AM   #5
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As someone living next to the Sleeping Elephant (qv), I decided to try an understand this subject of this thread and read a few chunks of each of the proposed(?) constitutions and then a bit of the real thing. What immediately struck me was a parallel to Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon which amusingly seemed to be written in the English of the King James Bible.

Would they all read better if they were written in modern English and not a mock 18th century version?
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Old 19th July 2022, 08:59 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Would they all read better if they were written in modern English and not a mock 18th century version?
Yes, but then it might not leave sufficient ambiguity to get away with doing whatever you want anyway and saying it's constitutional. Which is the whole point of this exercise; to get their foot in the door should something like this come up and present conservatives as the constitutional middle ground between the fringe extremes of everyone to the left and right of them.
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Old 20th July 2022, 02:29 AM   #7
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Frankly, and from an outside-of-the-US perspective, I think that this effort totally misses its target. And I also see no "political revolution" at all there; rather, it is a "more of the same" feeling I got.

First, it seems to me that a constitution, being the base document on which the political structure of a state is defined, should be as neutral as possible regarding the left-right spectrum. Such a neutrality is necessary to ensure that regardless of what citizens may chose as a tendency (left, center, right), the institutions defined by the constitution would allow those tendencies to be expressed without constraints.

Second - and I think this point is even more important - the projects presented there are not really new constitutions; they are mere variants of the current one. Significant parts of the texts are copypasta from the current US Constitution.

Third, from both the texts and the explanations they give on each proposal, it doesn't seem that they looked outside the United States to find ideas to solve the various issues. A lot of work has been done in various democracies around the world during the last two centuries, and various political issues the US encounters have also been encountered in other countries; why not have a look at what works and what doesn't? Maybe the authors actually did, but that doesn't seem obvious in their comments.

And finally, none of the texts really tackle the issue of the "binary party system". A lot of the issues seen today are the result of the opposition between two strongly polarized sides, which mostly comes from how the various political bodies are populated.

So, it seems to me that even if one of those texts became the new US Constitution, it wouldn't significantly improve the current situation. But in any case, that's a highly fictional scenario - at this point, the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers got such a quasi-infaillible status that denouncing any as "wrong" is not acceptable by the majority. In this context, I think changing the constitution is plain impossible.
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Old 21st July 2022, 10:44 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
...I think it belongs in USA Politics, no matter who comments. Plenty of non-USA correspondents weigh in on USA Politics, as is appropriate, but that's still the subject under discussion.
I don't disagree, though there is an issue of whether one is more interested in the view from those within the aquarium, or from those outside of the bubble. To be certain, though, either way the focus is the aquarium.

Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
...Would they all read better if they were written in modern English and not a mock 18th century version?
A supposed positive I've heard, for using "dead" languages in the composition of such a treatise is that their terms are fossilized, so that any translation changes in the compact are attributable to colloquial interpretations.

Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
Yes, but then it might not leave sufficient ambiguity to get away with doing whatever you want anyway and saying it's constitutional...
Indeed!


...I'm a bit rusty at regular responses, it's been a while.
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Old 22nd July 2022, 03:04 AM   #9
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Political revolution? Intellectual devolution!

America is swirling about the drain.
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Old 22nd July 2022, 03:16 AM   #10
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Why not just adopt a parliamentary system?
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Old 23rd July 2022, 11:18 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Why not just adopt a parliamentary system?
While I would think that such would be a major alternative especially given the American penchant for not being able to imagine a system without political parties, ...and to my understanding such would only enhance and encourage individual parties within the system of governance. My personal preference is to outlaw political parties and all private money in the governance systems, but I'd be open to seeing what type of parliamentary system Americans would be actually interested in, if any.
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Old 23rd July 2022, 11:21 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Lurch View Post
Political revolution? Intellectual devolution!

America is swirling about the drain.
Nah. the nation would be fine if at least their voting population were a bit less indulgent of their own arrogant ignorance.
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Old 23rd July 2022, 01:48 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
While I would think that such would be a major alternative especially given the American penchant for not being able to imagine a system without political parties, ...and to my understanding such would only enhance and encourage individual parties within the system of governance. My personal preference is to outlaw political parties and all private money in the governance systems, but I'd be open to seeing what type of parliamentary system Americans would be actually interested in, if any.
But money is speech. Whether I go door to door canvassing, make food to feed door to door canvassers, buy food for canvassers, or give money to someone to buy food for canvassers, it seems each act is an act of speech.
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Old 23rd July 2022, 02:20 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But money is speech. Whether I go door to door canvassing, make food to feed door to door canvassers, buy food for canvassers, or give money to someone to buy food for canvassers, it seems each act is an act of speech.
The examples you give suggest that the connection to the canvassing is explicit and relatively unmediated. But how does that play out in extension? How immediate should this be? Does everything you do for the benefit of a speaker count as speech? To what extent does that separation give you immunity without responsibility? What if the speaker's utterances are treasonous or libelous? Does it matter whether it was ten minutes or ten years before?
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Old 23rd July 2022, 05:41 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
The examples you give suggest that the connection to the canvassing is explicit and relatively unmediated. But how does that play out in extension? How immediate should this be? Does everything you do for the benefit of a speaker count as speech? To what extent does that separation give you immunity without responsibility? What if the speaker's utterances are treasonous or libelous? Does it matter whether it was ten minutes or ten years before?
I think the Brandenburg standard is a pretty good one for questions like this
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Old 24th July 2022, 12:55 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
Nah. the nation would be fine if at least their voting population were a bit less indulgent of their own arrogant ignorance.
If the nation requires the population to be "a bit less indulgent in their own arrogant ignorance", then it means its institutions are not adapted to its population. It is the system that needs to adapt to people, and not the opposite.

A good political system should take as an axiom that the population is, in majority, greedy, sellfish and lazy, and that the main reason why citizens participate to the political life is to push their own self-centered agenda, and not for some vague idea of a "greater common good".
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Old 24th July 2022, 06:51 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by lauwenmark View Post
If the nation requires the population to be "a bit less indulgent in their own arrogant ignorance", then it means its institutions are not adapted to its population. It is the system that needs to adapt to people, and not the opposite.

A good political system should take as an axiom that the population is, in majority, greedy, sellfish and lazy, and that the main reason why citizens participate to the political life is to push their own self-centered agenda, and not for some vague idea of a "greater common good".
A good point perhaps, but I think Trakar's mention of arrogant ignorance might call for at least a token attempt to address the ignorance. Bread and circuses work better if you don't need a mirror to see the clowns.
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Old 24th July 2022, 07:54 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But money is speech. Whether I go door to door canvassing, make food to feed door to door canvassers, buy food for canvassers, or give money to someone to buy food for canvassers, it seems each act is an act of speech.
So should everyone have an equal amount of "political speech" cash to spend?
If not why not? Cash as political speech makes a mockery of democracy.
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Old 24th July 2022, 08:21 AM   #19
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It would be silly to use outdated concepts such as conservatism, progressivism and libertarianism to update an only slightly older foundational document.

Instead of following certain ideological lines, a constitution fit for a hundred years needs to be above all guided by tolerance and flexibility.
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Old 24th July 2022, 08:36 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
So should everyone have an equal amount of "political speech" cash to spend?
If not why not? Cash as political speech makes a mockery of democracy.
political speech is never equal. It is more valuable to support the position of a canvasser that can convince 100 houses than a canvasser that can only do 10.

ETA: I see it like a school president campaign. Because candidate X can get more friends and put more time into making more posters to commit acts of speech is not justification to restrict the number of school posters permitted by a candidate. Let's not use the Harrison Bergeron process to construct speech laws

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Old 24th July 2022, 09:15 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
...a constitution fit for a hundred years needs to be above all guided by tolerance and flexibility.
A century is a pretty low bar, and all this tolerance and flexibility talk from a self-described maledictorian seems misplaced!

That said, Constitutions are generally more inspirational and aspirational types of foundational documents rather than the cumbersome and convoluted criminal codes that are eventually derived and evolved from them. The problem with a lot of legislation, is that once laws are established they generally stay on the books until they are repealed, or negated by court decisions. This makes flexibility and evolution very difficult, and all too often near impossible. One way to address this might be to require all legislation to carry sunset termination/revision standards.
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Old 24th July 2022, 09:19 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
political speech is never equal...
You say that like it is a divine edict

Outlawing private money from political speech is an equalizer enhancing democracy, not an excluder of anyone.
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Old 24th July 2022, 09:53 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
You say that like it is a divine edict

Outlawing private money from political speech is an equalizer enhancing democracy, not an excluder of anyone.
Money is an equalizer....it can counteract things like name recognition.
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Old 24th July 2022, 10:06 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
My personal preference is to outlaw political parties and all private money in the governance systems,
Even the minorly tinkered constitutions put up by the OP represent pure dreaming so I guess you might as well go all the way.

I personally prefer parties. Independents have a reputation of being a wild card and often do nothing about the issue on which they campaigned.

Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
but I'd be open to seeing what type of parliamentary system Americans would be actually interested in, if any.
The two basic models are the Irish system where the president is a pure figurehead or something like the French system where the president has some powers but can't ultimately thwart the will of the parliament.

I suspect that having a US prime minister might sound too British for the average American.
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Old 24th July 2022, 06:43 PM   #25
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My preferred solution comes in two steps.

1: Break the country up into several large chunks. At this point, it wouldn't matter which side introduced the bill in Congress; plenty would vote for it on both sides. This has the advantage of being a far more realistic and achievable goal than the kind of massive overhaul our government needs otherwise.

2: Each of the new resulting countries, being a new country that never existed before, no longer needs to treat our old Constitution as a starting point, or even pretend to. Talibama might want to anyway, but that's Talibama's business and not my problem. But what about the northeast, my home and native land? We wouldn't even need to bother coming up with our own new version of a government. Other countries have already done it better before and their systems are public knowledge, so all we'd need to do is pick another country's system to adopt... like maybe the one we'd already have a border with. It would only need the tiniest technical tweeks, like changing "ridings" to "counties", getting rid of any references to kings/queens, and not including that hokey excuse for an anthem. We could even ask to simply join, although I'm not betting which way the answer would go. It's not that I'm swearing theirs is better than, for example, Norway's, but it's just the simplest, quickest, easiest route, saving us the trouble of choosing between Bokmål and Nynorsk.
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Old 24th July 2022, 07:12 PM   #26
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Yeah, this would be a really, really bad idea, which may be why the Constitution makes it pretty hard. A new constitutional convention can arguably be called for via Article V:

Quote:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress...
So two thirds of the states could call for a constitutional convention and (say) outlaw abortion and just for fun rescind every right except for concealed carry, and oh, no more right to vote for candidates deemed too leftist.

Not ready for a reroll on the constitution myself.
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Old 25th July 2022, 12:29 AM   #27
The Great Zaganza
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Fortunately, the US Constitution has a build-in 250 year sunset provision.
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Old 25th July 2022, 06:48 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Money is an equalizer....it can counteract things like name recognition.
So how do we make sure that every voter and candidate has only an equal amount of money to spend expressing their individual political desires?
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Old 25th July 2022, 07:03 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
So how do we make sure that every voter and candidate has only an equal amount of money to spend expressing their individual political desires?
Why? Why would you want that? what is this obsession with limiting people speaking?
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Old 25th July 2022, 07:07 AM   #30
The Great Zaganza
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Money is an equalizer....it can counteract things like name recognition.
You are presuming that money is equally distributed; actually, you presume that those with little influence have more of it.
Because if money is an equalizer, than equal amounts of money cancel each other out.

In other words - you are wrong.
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Old 25th July 2022, 07:15 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
You are presuming that money is equally distributed; actually, you presume that those with little influence have more of it.
Because if money is an equalizer, than equal amounts of money cancel each other out.

In other words - you are wrong.
What are you talking about? Equalizers are not evenly distributed. If I say this gun is the great equalizer, it doesn't mean everyone has that that gun, or that people with more guns do not have an advantage, or that everyone should have a gun.

All it means is that my weaker self can use the gun to blow the brains out of someone stronger and smarter than me, but without the gun.

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Old 25th July 2022, 07:40 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
What are you talking about? Equalizers are not evenly distributed. If I say this gun is the great equalizer, it doesn't mean everyone has that that gun, or that people with more guns do not have an advantage, or that everyone should have a gun.

All it means is that my weaker self can use the gun to blow the brains out of someone stronger and smarter than me, but without the gun.
Assuming that the stronger and smarter one doesn't have a bigger and better gun.
Guns or money always, always help reinforce the status quo.
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Old 25th July 2022, 07:44 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Assuming that the stronger and smarter one doesn't have a bigger and better gun.
Guns or money always, always help reinforce the status quo.
it is a smart move to get a bigger, better gun. They are great equalizers.


(but their quality as equalizers is irrelevant to the conversation. I'm pointing out I think they are good, while their goodness/badness is irrelevant).

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Old 25th July 2022, 08:15 AM   #34
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As has been said many, many times: if privately held guns could change anything, they would be banned.
Same with personal wealth.
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Old 25th July 2022, 08:18 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Why? Why would you want that? what is this obsession with limiting people speaking?
To limit the plutocratic influence of large donations that tend to supersede popular will or national interest.

Different solutions can be considered, but pushing back on plutocracy seems necessary for a meaningful democratic republic.
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Old 25th July 2022, 08:24 AM   #36
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Quadratic voting would be an equalizer.
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Old 25th July 2022, 09:19 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by gnome View Post
To limit the plutocratic influence of large donations that tend to supersede popular will or national interest.

Different solutions can be considered, but pushing back on plutocracy seems necessary for a meaningful democratic republic.
But why do you out want that? It seems a natural extension of the reality that some people are just worth more to a politician than others (motivation, ability to contribute effort, networking). When does it cross over to bad?
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Old 25th July 2022, 01:20 PM   #38
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To me that's asking the question "why have a democracy?"

So that the wealthy few are not dictating laws to the many less wealthy. Democracy is an effort (however imperfect) to give the population a voice beyond their proportionate share of wealth.
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Old 25th July 2022, 02:31 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Lurch View Post
Political revolution? Intellectual devolution!

America is swirling about the drain.
And, franklyl you are cheering it to go under.
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Old 25th July 2022, 02:34 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by gnome View Post
To me that's asking the question "why have a democracy?"

So that the wealthy few are not dictating laws to the many less wealthy. Democracy is an effort (however imperfect) to give the population a voice beyond their proportionate share of wealth.
But where is the line? Can people canvas for a candidate? What if a candidate has way better canvassers than another candidate?
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