Monday, October 23, 2006

Sausages and Legislation

The New York Daily News (via Drudge) and no doubt other New York news outlets are reporting that some person named John Spencer, who is running as a Republican for the Senate in New York, against Hillary Clinton, says that Senator Clinton "used to be ugly," and speculates that she had a bunch of plastic surgery. "You ever see a picture of her back then ?" Mr. Spencer asked. "Whew" he added, in case you didn't get his point.
El Jefe confession time: I hate politics.
Yes, you read that correctly. I really despise politics, politicians and the whole business of office seeking. I understand it well enough, and can perform political calculations in my sleep, but I think the electoral politics business -- gladhanding and mudslinging for votes -- is unspeakably sordid, inherently dirty, and generally repulsive. I suppose that's why I'm basically a monarchist. I'm always glad when election season is over for a time.
I'm interested in government: in the development of legislation, and that sort of politicking -- mostly. I'm fascinated by foreign and military policy, and interested in the treasury, and useful things like roadbuilding, the promotion of commerce, cool public works, fiscal policy and all that goes into building up a strong state and great power. But Jack Politico promising Mrs. Snodgrass that her taxes will go down and her benefits go up (when he have no ability whatever to deliver); and telling her that his opponent Mr. Green is really a no-good who sends IM's to pages ? No thank you. When I hear political speechifying, I usually change the channel.
Now I don't know anything about Mr. Spencer. He may well be a worthy individual. But what kind of fool shoots off his mouth like that ? Besides which it's just boorish to talk like that. But it's worse than boorishness, it's a mistake.
Mind you, although I think that pigs will fly over the Moon before Mrs. Clinton loses, I'd love to see her beaten, because I think the defeat of Democrats would be better for the aforementioned priorities I listed above. Otto von Bismarck is reputed to have said that two things one should never see made are sausages and legislation. Prince Bismarck never saw a US election. Politics, however necessary an evil, is reasonably sick-making.


hank_F_M said...

El Jefe

You know what they say about democracy.

It is a bad system of government- just better than all the others.


Have you ever read Paul Anderson’s “High Crusade.” It is a science fiction story about a medieval English village that gets shanghied on a one way ride on a spaceship and takes over the alien empire. They try to explain the feudal system of lords coming to power by inheritance. The aliens understand this as genetic selection of leaders who have the best qualities to be a leader. A hilarious example of two sides of a conversation who think they are talking about the same thing.

If we can ever do that monarchy will go up considerably in my estimation.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I've read some Poul Anderson...but not that one. Sounds like a good story.

Along those lines...selection of "leaders with best qualities," think about that for a moment. That is what we expect of the "republican form of government," "liberal institutions" or, if you must, although it's wrong in political science terms "democracy." But consider the raw power involved in such a government. With the people's will behind it, there is very little that cannot be done, or maneuvered, by the simple fact that the government is backed by the popular will. Here in Houston, our city council has just voted to ban most indoor smoking in commerical establishments. Nationally, we allow ourselves to be governed by entities across the continent that specify the degree of spoilage allowed in particular types of food, the amount of particulate matter that may be put out by a lawnmower engine, and whether whooping cranes may be hunted.

Now all this may be necessary and good to have regulated, but that's beside the point. The REASON it can be regulated is that the legislation, ordinances, regulations, or whatever, are put in place by a democratic government, in theory (but not so much in practice), accountable to the citizens at large. Accountability is very cumbersome, and rarely demanded, but the basic fairness of this means of enacting controls over society is recognized by most, and virtually beyond dispute. Yes, we complain about specific acts...but the law is the Law, and can only be modified or changed by our use, in theory, of the democratic process.

But this doesn't happen, in practice. The overgovernment of media, academia, the lawyers and all the other chattering classes are in power forever.

Now consider, say, the government of George III. An "absolute" monarchy, or any other kind of monarchy, or autocracy in general does not depend on the suffrage of the citizens, or any kind of affirmative support to stay in power. It was based on little more than tradition, and gasbag theories about the divinity of kings that nobody understood, and, as time went on, fewer accepted -- leavened by military power when the peasants got too revolting.

My point is (and I do have one) -- is that George III or any other monarch, on his worst day, wouldn't have used a TENTH of the autocratic power today's EPA does; or the City Council of Houston does, or any other governmental body you care to name.

The old monarchies, or feudal systems, or what have you, were largely concerned with negative consent. They wanted people to stay quiet, pay their taxes, report when they were drafted...but they did not DARE ask too much from their subjects, for fear of producing revolts. Fredrick the Great, for example, considered warfare the personal business of himself, his soldiers, and the state bureaucracy -- his subjext weren't even supposed to know the king was at war. By contrast, the Federal Republic of Germany, where people are supposedly freer, regulates in minute detail how people recycle their trash.

Louis XVI, shortened by a head for being a tyrant, didn't have a tenth of the real power the Directory of the French Republic had.

Deploying and controlling all this power requires our electoral process. Yes, it's necessary, and yes, I'm glad we can engage in this every couple of years, and overrall, it's for the best we have this system. But tradeoffs -- the death of traditional society, and abandonment of feudalism, paternalism and, yes, monarchism,implies certain trade-offs.

Candidly Caroline said...

Hmm. I don't know anything about this but what you said, but it's pretty ridiculous for politicians to be calling each other ugly as campaign strategies. Are we in third grade? And hideously mean?
I am the last one who would ever stand up for Hillary, too, believe me!

El Jefe Maximo said...

Speaking of 3rd grade...Rereading both my post, and my response to FM's comment is further proof, if more were needed,that I should invest some time in proofreading. . . ;-)

louielouie said...

i thought the context of the bismark quote was, "if you like law or sausages, you should never see the two made." the intent being once seen in the making, you will subsequently not like either.
if you dislike either to begin with.......

one characteristic that monarachies do not share with constitutional republics is the capacity for the later to eat itself. once the populace realizes that all it has to do is vote itself into a nanny state it's pretty much over.
that is what investors are currently doing with southwest airlines. watching the contract negotiations with pilots to see if they take the first bite.
personally, i despise the nanny state, and/or anyone with a bad comb-over usurping and spending my money.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I think Louie-Louie's right about the Bismarck quote, but my books and papers are at home, so not sure. As an aside, I just finished Edward Crankshaw’s very good biography of the first Reichschancellor, which I very much enjoyed. I keep meaning to write a brief review.

I agree with LL also about the tendency of republics, at least those with universal suffrage, to serve the voters ice cream right on into bankruptcy. The great defect of the democratized republican form of government, and generally of states based on universal suffrage: is their myopic focus on the present; without consideration of perspective offered by the past, and without much concern for the future. This is completely rational behavior: as John Maynard Keynes is reputed to have said, “in the long run we will all be dead.” Today’s baby boomers, who will actually get Social Security, will have a cosseted and well provided for old age, compared to their outnumbered and overtaxed children.

To some degree, other forms of government: particularly aristocratic republics (Rome before the Gracchi, for example, or the early American republic); and some monarchies, avoid this problem, in exchange for others. Unlike straight republics, to a degree such governments have a greater ability to demand sacrifices in the present, in the name of benefits to be realized generations later, because they are dependent on popular acquiescence, not popular support. But there is a cost: over the long run, their ability to demand sacrifices in general is much less: squeeze the citizens too much and they revolt. Such systems also punish political mistakes much more severely (e.g. the Kaiserreich and the First World War).

Now your other point: who DOESN’T like sausage ?