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Response to trublu992 (Reply #6)
Mon Apr 8, 2013, 10:06 PM
Bucky (45,006 posts)
10. Baron Montesquieu predicted this
You should remember Charles-Louis, Baron de Brede et Montesquieu (Chucky for short) as the guy who identified the three basic functions of government--legislative, executive, and judicial--and who had such a powerful pull on some conventioneers in Philadelphia in 1787. He's more important for the Constitution than John Locke is (Locke more inspired the Declaration). But Chucky had some other, more important observations about how men & the three types of government (Republic, Monarchy, or Despotism) interact. Yes, he always thought in threes.
In his view, a true republic requires a public and culture that has a love of virtue, that is, a society in which people (particularly leaders) put their love of country and the welfare of the community above their own personal needs. Think about everything we revere George Washington for and now compare it to, say, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, that clown from Alaska, or Rand Paul. But this character must exist among a nation as well. When a people lose virtuousness, they begin to lose their republican form of government. We pause now for this important commercial message.
Now back to Bucky's rant.
We're in post-democratic America. According to ol' Chuck Montesquieu, it's not just the character of the people, but also the size of the state itself, that encourages or prevents certain forms of government. A small state tends toward Republic because the rich and poor are neighbors; they see each other at the market or one works for the other, person to person. There is shared commonwealth because they see one another's person & thus one another's rights. A medium sized nation tends toward monarchy; when you lose neighborliness with your fellow countrymen, you lose common-feeling. You need a strong man to enforce the law so that all have an equality of (now reduced) liberty as allowed by the unifying state. But a large nation, an empire--a Russia or a China--will never be a true democracy. The size of state itself requires a despot to hold united all the conflicting interests of a vast land. Even with elections, Putin is still a strong man, a crowd manipulator and a godfather to racketeers who kill inconvenient journalists for him. An iron grasp has always unified Russia; when Gorbachev loosened that grasp, the factions tore the nation apart.
But let's look at the mote in Uncle Sam's eye. For two generations we've bemoaned the imperial presidency--tho mostly when there's a Republican in office. On the other talon, our compatriots at RedState.com only seem to gin up their love of the non-Second Amendments during the Clinton and Obama presidencies. These are two nice data points of what losing one's virtue looks like. Not as pretty as losing one's virginity, is it? When it's not the president taking over legislative functions, it's the Congress thrusting legislative decisions onto his desk. Remember all those pass-the-buck sequestration proposals the Republican caucuses came up with? They were dodging their responsibilities (just like with fobbing on the debt extension votes) because experience showed the members of Congress lacked the discipline, the capacity to compromise, in a word, the virtue, to pass a budget that split their differences.
Judges, too, demonstrate at least a check-and-balancing expression of despotism. Activist judges on the left and right assume more and more power... but this mostly happens when the most representative branch of the people, the legislative, fails to handle its core responsibilities. It is a failure of republican governance (small-r), demonstrating a failure of public virtue. Congress doesn't deliver it because the people don't demand it. And the people don't demand it because they want their MTV more than they want their communities serviced by their public servants.
We've not lost our republican yet, we may never lose it in full, but against Ben Franklin's possibly apocryphal advice, we're not really keeping it up to snuff lately.
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|Freddie Stubbs||Apr 2013||OP|
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Baron Montesquieu predicted this
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