Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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Shem
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Shem »

JasonL wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 10:56
Bluntly we have insisted that the feds do things that we once thought it was pretty clear they weren't supposed to do. Because outcomes.
And the whole idea undergirding checks and balances is the idea that factions will so jealously guard their power that such things won't happen. Which, as we can see, isn't the case.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Painboy »

Shem wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 12:07
JasonL wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 10:56
Bluntly we have insisted that the feds do things that we once thought it was pretty clear they weren't supposed to do. Because outcomes.
And the whole idea undergirding checks and balances is the idea that factions will so jealously guard their power that such things won't happen. Which, as we can see, isn't the case.
Yes when people undermine the system the system is undermined. This is every government everywhere. I don't see how the US is particularly different in that regard.

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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Warren »

Painboy wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 13:00
Shem wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 12:07
JasonL wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 10:56
Bluntly we have insisted that the feds do things that we once thought it was pretty clear they weren't supposed to do. Because outcomes.
And the whole idea undergirding checks and balances is the idea that factions will so jealously guard their power that such things won't happen. Which, as we can see, isn't the case.
Yes when people undermine the system the system is undermined. This is every government everywhere. I don't see how the US is particularly different in that regard.
No but, one might have expected the Congress to jealously guard their power instead of abdicating it to regulatory agencies and the executive.
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JasonL
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by JasonL »

Shem makes a fair point - the incentives appear to be that holding power isn't as good as punting accountability if you are a politician in our system and you have a population that simply goes along with the idea that everything should be reflected in the federal government and the executive in particular.

The thing is, we ain't going fully the other way either with the Feds distinctly running the whole thing. Nobody wants that. It really does start souding like the EU when you talk about it like that. Everyone wants the backstop but nobody wants the governance. Give me the check, I'll blame you when policies fail, but I get to do what my local people want me to do.

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Shem
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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My original point was that the system was actually created with the idea that "accomplishing stuff" shouldn't necessarily be the easiest thing in the world. That it doesn't respond fast and has trouble making all the pieces work in concert isn't a bug; it's a feature. And there are good things about that, but simultaneously complaining that the system works like that while extolling the virtues of our glorious system of checks and balances (as a lot of people do) seems like a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

In fact, that desire is a big source of the executive power creep and consequent Great Buck-Passening we've been experiencing pretty much forever. (The Great Society wasn't the start, it was just when it became impossible for the larger society to ignore. There were, after all, a bunch of Cherokees who walked the Trail of Tears who would have found the idea that "executive power grabs while everyone looks the other way" are a new thing rather dubious.) In our hearts, we really just want to have a Parliament that'll run things until their leadership pisses us off, at which point we replace them completely. Having someone before whom we're "powerless" to fight is just the next best thing.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Painboy »

I guess the part where you all are talking about problems of a specific system, I see as the inevitable decay of any political system. At some point all governments fail. They become overburdened and captured by political factions and stop being able to respond to its constituents. Or at least a significant part of them. At the scale of the US system I'm actually amazed it still works even as well as it does.

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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Hugh Akston »

There may be tension, but there's no contradiction in the idea of a trustworthy government that is kept in check by a balance of powers. There's nothing about checks and balances that prevents any given agency from doing trustworthy things like making realistic promises and following through on them, being transparent about their processes and data, and responding honestly and fairly to complaints and breaches of public trust.

Government shutdowns may be the occasional result of adversarial policymaking, but roping off the Washington Monument is an asshole move.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by thoreau »

Shem wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 16:55
In our hearts, we really just want to have a Parliament that'll run things until their leadership pisses us off, at which point we replace them completely. Having someone before whom we're "powerless" to fight is just the next best thing.
Given that most of the rich, more-or-less-free, more-or-less-democratic countries run on parliaments, I think there's something to be learned.
Painboy wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 17:17
At some point all governments fail. They become overburdened and captured by political factions and stop being able to respond to its constituents. Or at least a significant part of them. At the scale of the US system I'm actually amazed it still works even as well as it does.
In a parliamentary system you know exactly whom to vote out. Whom do we vote out in the US? The President and whichever Congressional chamber is controlled by his party? Or the opposition party that made it impossible to do things? I want to say the President, but in a system of checks and balances the apologists kind of have a point.

There are still ways to check and balance in a parliamentary system, but those checks and balances are to rein in excesses, not to block on a routine basis. On a daily basis, there's a party that's in charge, so everyone knows exactly who deserves the credit or blame. And, if you think about it, don't most well-functioning organizations kind of have that principle? On a daily basis you know who's supposed to do what, and going above someone's head or to a side channel like HR is only done if shit's fucked up, not if you're pissed because somebody made a slightly different call than you'd have made.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Mo »

Shem’s point is that in systems where the parties that get elected have relatively free rein (within Constitutional constraints) to implement their agenda, you have more accountability. In Westminster type systems, parties campaign on their manifestos and then are able to implement them. You elect Tories and you get the agenda of the Tories. They can’t blame obstructionists for their policies not working, just reality. As compared to the Dems getting blamed by their base for not passing immigration reform, where they couldn’t do anything about it because Teddy Kennedy died and Scott Brown won.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Painboy »

I get there are advantages to a parliamentary system (I've mentioned before I favor a hybrid kind of system for the House), but there are downsides to parliaments as well. It's not like the ruling powers aren't blamed for things they had little to do with. So swings in party power for erroneous reasons are far from uncommon. Those swings can disrupt things as surely partisan gridlock. Sometimes they can be far worse since there are few back stops to slow the party in power.

I'm also skeptical of parliamentary systems ability to scale. Most governments that are held up as examples are small or medium sized countries. More analogous to a US state than US as a country. There are examples like India of course. But I'm not sure that's one you want to hold up as an example.

These days I'm not that convinced different types of democratic institutions have much actual effect on things though. It may provide the bones but the muscle and organs are the culture and its society. Whatever the style of government, those will have far more effect on a country's direction. Part of the reason people undermine government institutions is they want what they want and so work to get around the rules that prevent them from their desires. It's something that plagues every government out there.

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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by thoreau »

Institutions matter a lot. People everywhere are just people, with similar virtues and failings. But they have different institutions.

Parliamentary systems can work in highly federal countries, like Germany. They work in large countries like Japan. They work in countries based on English common law. They aren't panaceas, but they are at least no worse than ours. And their continued thriving undercuts some of the assumptions of our civic religion around the founders and their wisdom.
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Shem
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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I feel like people think I'm arguing "Presidential System sucks, Parliament rules." I'm not. They both have benefits and drawbacks. I'm saying that some of the stuff people in the US complain about as "government can't get it's shit together" is actually "our government was created with the specific idea that some shit should be purposefully difficult to bring together, so that it doesn't happen unless everyone *really* wants it." That has certain virtues, stability high on the list. But the ability to pull off a quick response to a pandemic isn't one of them, and we shouldn't be proceeding in our planning as if it is.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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You think I'm a rube? That it? That I'll just accept the Shemocracy?
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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Pham Nuwen wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 23:45
You think I'm a rube? That it? That I'll just accept the Shemocracy?
Shhhhhh... It's okay... Shemocracy accepts you.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Shem »

Pham Nuwen wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 23:45
You think I'm a rube? That it? That I'll just accept the Shemocracy?
You may not be interested in Shemocracy, but Shemocracy is interested in you.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Aresen »

Pham Nuwen wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 23:45
You think I'm a rube? That it? That I'll just accept the Shemocracy?
I think a conversation with the ShemPolice will help you understand the benefits of Shemocracy. We're waiting in Room 101.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Eric the .5b »

thoreau wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 18:13
In a parliamentary system you know exactly whom to vote out. Whom do we vote out in the US? The President and whichever Congressional chamber is controlled by his party? Or the opposition party that made it impossible to do things?
Depends on what your complaint is. Someone trying to vote out the Blues because they didn't accomplish socialized medicine (say) would be spectacularly dumb, given Team Red's stance.

Myself, I've listened to people from parliamentary countries talk about their political grievances, trying to figure out who to vote for, recriminating after elections, etc. for the last decade or so on another forum, and it sure doesn't sound any better from their point of view. And that's before they go into what they think are the benefits, which all boil down to, "the government isn't slowed down or stopped by anyone disagreeing with them, blah blah blah".

If anything, I want a system of government that's more slowed down by dissention than this one. One where Trump, say, can't just shut down federal testing aid to states because the numbers make him look bad.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Warren »

Shem wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 22:28
I feel like people think I'm arguing "Presidential System sucks, Parliament rules." I'm not. They both have benefits and drawbacks. I'm saying that some of the stuff people in the US complain about as "government can't get it's shit together" is actually "our government was created with the specific idea that some shit should be purposefully difficult to bring together, so that it doesn't happen unless everyone *really* wants it." That has certain virtues, stability high on the list. But the ability to pull off a quick response to a pandemic isn't one of them, and we shouldn't be proceeding in our planning as if it is.
Which highlights the elephant in the room. Namely, that the government shouldn't be trying to do any of that shit and was specifically constructed, and instructed, to keep it's dirty fingers out of everyone's pie.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by thoreau »

The whole premise of checks and balances is that politicians will not care much about "Shouldn't" statements regarding the limits of their powers, so instead you should set them in opposition to each other and let the limitations emerge from competition and jealousy.

It seems to have not played out.

Checks and balances mostly make it hard to legislate, which sounds great, except that executive branch bureaucracies are perfectly capable of doing what they want with either no legislation or vague legislation. If anything, making it hard to legislate makes it hard for the legislature to push back. (I grant that executive branch bureaucracies are capable of ignoring the push-back, but ignoring a law very directly aimed at a particular shenanigan is easier than ignoring/creatively interpreting a less direct instruction.)

I'm not convinced that parliaments are panaceas, but I push on them in part because their very real (but not perfect) strong points highlight the holes in our Founding theory. Americans of all political stripes love to cite the Founders' theories, but rarely ask how well the theories align with subsequent observations. It's more religion than either a social science driven by empiricism or a philosophy honed by argumentation in the face of critiques. There are positive points about the American Civic Religion (e.g. our free speech protections are still, for the most part, better than in peer countries) but there are also downsides (e.g. we never consider weak points in our theories).

I think the biggest weakness in the theory was that they over-estimated their ability to avoid the formation of parties. We're a tribal species. We're gonna form parties.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Aresen »

The biggest weakness of a Westminister style Parliament is that a Prime Minister with a majority government has full control of the legislature. There is no check on his/her power to legislate save what his own party will tolerate. (see below)

It's biggest strength is the requirement that the PM be a member of Parliament and must answer questions put to him/her in the House.

There is also the fact that the Members of Parliament can bring down a PM with a simple vote of 'No Confidence' - no need for a trial or conviction. Party revolts are fairly common, especially when an unpopular piece of legislation threatens the Members' re-election.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Jennifer »

Aresen wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 10:21
The biggest weakness of a Westminister style Parliament is that a Prime Minister with a majority government has full control of the legislature. There is no check on his/her power to legislate save what his own party will tolerate.
OTOH, the same holds true in America: a president with a majority in the House and Senate has pretty much full control sans checks except what his own party will tolerate. And without the parliamentary advantages I cut from your comment, too.

But it appears (just from casual observation/chats with Brits, esp. when I was writing for the British blog), at least a parliamentary system appears less likely to calcify into a de facto two-party system, the way America has? (Not to outrage any libertarian purists, but: as a practical matter, when you're voting for president, any third-party vote likely IS going to be "wasted" because, between our two-party system and the EC, the realistic chance of a third-party candidate being elected POTUS is nil: you can win the EC with a minority of the popular vote (as the GOP's done twice in the past five elections), but not with super-scant minority vote percentage third-party candidates get.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Mo »

The problem is that it often, though not always*, gives tiny ass fringe parties a disproportionate say. If you’re 3% of seats from a majority, and some fringe party gets you over the top as long as you give in to their single issue that they care about, they’ll push it.

* Though the Tories still threw the DUP under the bus in Brexit despite the alignment.
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Shem
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by Shem »

Mo wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 18:28
The problem is that it often, though not always*, gives tiny ass fringe parties a disproportionate say. If you’re 3% of seats from a majority, and some fringe party gets you over the top as long as you give in to their single issue that they care about, they’ll push it.

* Though the Tories still threw the DUP under the bus in Brexit despite the alignment.
You can avoid the worst of that if you make sure the total vote requirements for being allocated seats are high enough.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

Post by thoreau »

And parliamentary isn't even synonymous with proportional representation, let alone nationwide proportional representation. If you have districts of, say, 5 seats, you need around 20% of the vote to get a seat.
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Re: Corona(virus)? ITS NOT EVEN BEER DAMMIT!!!

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Jennifer wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 17:23
But it appears (just from casual observation/chats with Brits, esp. when I was writing for the British blog), at least a parliamentary system appears less likely to calcify into a de facto two-party system, the way America has?
As I have quipped before, the weaknesses of America's presidential system are shown by the fact that every single president has come from one of the same two parties since 1853. In Britain, they have a much more robust parliamentary system, as shown by the fact that you only have to go back to 1916 before you find a prime minister who wasn't from one of the same two parties...
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