A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

Wikileaks’ Vision

posted by Gus diZerega
Wikileaks and Julian Assange have certainly caught the attention of the world, for which I applaud them.  Looking around, I discovered Assange has his own blog, and it is well worth looking through.  One of his most fascinating essays is available at cryptome (scroll down, the formatting sucks).  I discovered it by being led to a very interesting discussion of Assange’s vision an zunguzungu.
In addition, I just discovered an interview with Forbes Magazine where he describes his plans for our corporate masters.  Should be fun. Balloon Juice gives us a short piece of it.

The guy is brilliant.
A lot of loyal ‘American’ serfs and subjects of the crown are complaining that this makes our government’s job harder.  
Yes!  And we should be grateful at this point because the government is no longer in any sense our servant.
We are citizens who, constitutionally, have HIRED these jokers to serve us.  They have so gamed the system that our Founders’ initial vision has been turned on its head.  The rapid spread of secrets combined with the proven illegal and dishonest acts of our elected ‘representatives’, even at the highest levels, is evidence that the public’s employees have seized control from their bosses.   The actual stealing has been done by those who hide what they do from us and would make it a crime for us to discover it.
I use this unfamiliar terminology for two reasons – to remind Americans that this was the original vision behind our founding, and second, that today these guys exploit us as much as the banksters exploit their customers and shareholders.  Indeed, as Obama and Bush have shown us, gangster politicians and gangster executives are indistinguishable.

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posted November 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I’m impressed, you’re actually starting to sound like a libertarian. Now we just need to get you proclaiming that we must shutdown the “Fed”. Good post.

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Gus diZerega

posted November 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm

For you to be surprised at the points where I agree with libertarians, having once been a moderately well known one, suggests you should read more of my stuff!

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posted December 1, 2010 at 4:07 am

This is exactly why I don’t like government secrecy. The government is meant to serve the people, not the other way around. What servant keeps secrets from his/her employer?
I’m personally enjoying the drama over Wikileaks. “He’s compromising national secrets!” Good. There are too many of those.

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posted December 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

I think that Julian Assange has helped in saving our collective “a’s”. The ‘revelation’ (which many of us suspected anyway) that the Middle Eastern gov’s all want America to attack Iran (but ‘pretty-please’ leave them out of it – they can’t afford to get their hands dirty) may just have thwarted getting us into yet another war. Yes, something must be done about Iran’s nuclear capability but now those governments have to take the risk and deal with the fallout (no pun intended). This might shift popular political anger in the Mid East away from the “Great Satan” and place it squarely onto the Arab peoples’ own governments – much of where it should have been for the past half century. America has certainly done wrong in many areas but the Arab people need to see where else the blame lies. Maybe then there can be real change for the better in the Mid East.

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posted December 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I’m a fan of Wikileaks as well, but what I want to comment on is Gus’ invocation of the founding fathers.
I find appeals to the founders’ vision to be a bit hollow. While they did have a number of great ideas, accountability of government being first among them, remember also that they had a number of terrible ideas. They believed that half of all government representation, the Senate and the Supreme Court, should not be elected by the citizenry. They allowed for human beings to be bought and sold like livestock. They thought the right to vote should be restricted to land-owning males.
Moreover, the nation they created is only barely analogous to the one we live in today. They lived in economic world dominated by subsistence farmers, a world in which the fastest form of communication was to go one’s self on horseback and in which the most dangerous military technology was powder-fired artillery.
They could not have conceived of universal suffrage, let alone modern communications technology, international banking, nuclear warfare, space travel, global warming, modern medicine and all the attendant political and social concerns that accompany them. They would never have believed that the forty-third inheritor of George Washington would be Black.
Did the founders have a vision that has served our country very well, certainly they did. That vision is great on it’s own merits, specifically the part that allows for it to be amended and adjusted as times and concerns change. But, we must always remember that said vision is not great because of the men who created it but rather creating that vision is what made them great.

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Gus diZerega

posted December 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

Thomas- I’mm not really sure what your objection to what I said amounts to. But I will address some of the criticisms of our Founders.
The most important point is that they had to deal with the society they lived in, not a blank slate. The wisest of them, men such as Madison, Jefferson, and Washington, often disagreed among themselves, but seemed committed to devise a way where government based on the consent of “the people” could work. To accomplish this they had to win the voluntary assent of enough states to make the new system viable.
At the time people’s loyalties were generally far more to their states than to the proposed new government. Further, most states had property qualifications for voting. But not all. They most definitely conceived of universal suffrage for men because it already existed in Rhode Island. (Unmarried women had the vote in a number of northern states. Also free Blacks. Only later did that end.)
All the major Founders opposed slavery. Some owned slaves because in Southern states only people with slaves had the wealth to be able to be political leaders at the national level. Often there were legal barriers against freeing them. By abolishing the slave trade they felt that slavery would die out on its own. They were wrong.
They were also treading politically where no one had trod before, and so proceeded cautiously. But they made the popular branch in charge of revenue bills and an absolutely necessary part of getting anything passed. Anyone could vote for a representative in the House if they were qualified to vote for the most popular branch of their state legislature. That meant in some cases universal male suffrage, and not much later that applied in essentially all cases. (There might have been an exception in the South, I don’t know.)
Were some of their other ideas “undemocratic”? The most important point here is that we almost universally misunderstand their vision. Most centrally, they did not argue that the state is sovereign, they argued the people were and sought to give that more than a slogan’s reality. Their vision was not of majority rule – which even today is a absurd notion to anyone who thinks about it carefully. (Look at how initiatives are manipulated in California where I live.)
In reality there is no majority will except in wartime or some similar emergency, and when there is, what we call democratic protections get thrown out the door. Majority rule makes some sense in a small town, but even there is not constituted by a meeting where all vote. It proceeds continually through processes of discussing issues that then end up at the town meeting where, in reality, unanimity was more often the ideal than majority vote. (see Zuckerman: “Peaceable Kingdoms”)
When you get into large complex societies no one knows very much about most issues and so is largely ignorant. This is as true of “elites” as of the average person. It is a verson of the situation in science where no scientist knows much about science as a whole. A different dynamic is involved, and should be.
Further, when there is a strong majority position it is almost always manipulated by an elite. Democracy for the Founders was a system where as close to unanimity as could be practically achieved was the ideal. This meant different kinds of representative systems elected through different means (In the Senate people elected their state representatives who elected the Senators and judges could be impeached and removed from office by popularly elected representatives.) It did not work perfectly and may well be fatally ill today, but it was an impressive achievement and their basic principles are as essential today for a free society as they were in 1789. That so many Americans seem more comfortable acting like Czarist serfs and subjects of a king than citizens of a democracy is depressing. And self-fulfilling.
This reply has already grown to be quite large. To go farther is well beyond the space of a blog but my book “Persuasion, Power and Polity: A Theory of Democratic Self-organization” explains how the most democratic of our Founders thought.

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Robert Mathiesen

posted December 3, 2010 at 1:49 am

To add to what Gus said . . .
Some of the Founding Fathers had read Aristotle and/or Polybius, who claimed that any pure form of government — monarchy, oligarchy or democracy — was inherently unstable, and that only a mixed form had any chance of lasting. If all the power of government was concentrated in a single constituency (whether in the people or in the wealthy or in a single ruler), it would only be a matter of time before that single constituency would raid the common treasury, that is, would take all of the wealth of the state into its own hands and use it solely for its own benefit.
By their design, we ended up with just such a mixed form: a democratic House of Representatives elected by the people, an oligarchic Senate elected by the wealthy through state legislatures, and a quasi-monarchic Presidency elected by an Electoral College, which was an ad-hoc temporary body of statesmen responsible to no one for their choice. This plan assumed that the interests of these three branches of government were inherently in conflict, and that any two would naturally combine to check excess selfishness or greed on the part of the third.
As it happens, they didn’t foresee the rise of a unified, nation-wide means of effectively manipulating public opinion and winning votes on a very large scale. IMHO, the rise of nation-wide media with this capability — first radio, then television, and now even newer forms of media — changed the political game irrevocably. Each of these media was more able than the last to create and enhance suggestibility in its audience, and each was more addictive than the last. They made the difference between a pure and a mixed form of government ever more irrelevant to the big question of how to keep any one constituency from getting all the wealth and power of the nation into its own hands.
But also the constitutional amendment mandating popular election of the Senate, together with various state laws constraining the votes of presidential electors moved our original mixed form of government ever closer to the pure form of a democracy. Had it not been for the rise of the above-mentioned media, this would eventually have given the old system its death-blow. By the 1970s, however, it had largely ceased to matter; the old system had already been fatally wounded by the rise of addictive media able to render their audiences highly suggestible.
Or so it seems to me, who am old enough to remember what politics was like before television . . .

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Gus diZerega

posted December 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I think the similarity between the constitution and the old idea of a mixed government helped make it less threatening to visceral conservatives, but James Madison, I think our most insightful commentator on the constitution (who was also there when it was devised) saw the matter quite differently. Despite the fact that his notes are virtually our only knowledge about what happened, and his writings in the Federalist are regarded as the most perceptive analysis, his opinion here has been ignored almost universally.
The challenge was to create a government when there was only a nation of equal citizens to support it. The risk of majority error or tyranny would be lessened by having different kinds of majorities needing to make decisions. Any single way of electing a majority privileges one bias in selection over others. (To help get a sense of this, I told my students that if your short run desires are all that matter, you might always miss a morning class, to your long run detriment, and if your long run desires are all that matters, you might always study and never enjoy life. Both views are legitimate and a balance between them is what they need.)
All ways of selecting leaders and representatives are ultimately rooted in regarding the people as equals. We had no aristocracy, thank the Gods, and eliminating primogeniture and entail meant that we would not have one. (They did not foresee our current corporate aristocracy – no one could have at the time). Their insight was correct, but we need to apply it to changed circumstances now.
We also had no political parties – they arose out of the logic of a large democratic system, but that had yet to happen. (It happened first in the US.) The electoral college was an attempt to find a way whereby a national executive could be elected with popular support when no one had a national reputation. Pretty much everyone thought Washington would be the first president, but no equivalent figure seemed likely to have such a national reputation afterwards. Hence the electoral college, which never worked the way it was intended because of the rapid rise of parties. It should be abolished in my opinion.
All his life Madison argued that relying on European styles of political thinking guaranteed misunderstanding the American Revolution and its aftermath. Europe had represented societies explicitly based on human inequality, ever since the rise of slavery and empires. America was attempting a revolution based on the ideal of individual equality. I think he was right, and that our rapid looking to Europe for political understanding about what happened here was an enormous tragedy.

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Robert Mathiesen

posted December 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Gus. It’s been about forty years since I read Madison’s Notes, and my memory of his arguments may have become flawed over the years. I’ll read the Notes again and rethink the question. It will take a while, though, as I have to finish another project first — the new edition of Charles G. Leland’s “The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York,” which should be out in a few month.

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posted December 7, 2010 at 8:43 am

Maybe a good thing ….
We NEED proper steering mechanism to survive the global society we created with technology. Transparancy/involvism is needed. It’s urgend, at this moment our society has an obsolete 200 years old steering mechanism. How can a few wise people understand these complex global issues pending ?
Would we have gone to Iraq over Weapons of mass destruction is we were part of the diplomatic cable discussion ?
Better of with more transparency ? Credit Crises / Cable gate shows governments are not so much in control of the global society.
Wasn’t it work of the press to tell us the truth ?
At least the cork out of the bottle. Fact is that secrets are harder to keep anno 2010.
Shutting down is naive. Discuss it is the only option.. Come on free press, have vision ..take the lead.

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