Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

The US Government in theory and practice.

(Section A.)

A little about government in general.

(1.) One man doesn’t need government.  He rules himself just fine.

(2.) When in community most men continue to govern themselves just fine, but there are some unsavory characters out there.  For them we write law, and create government to enforce law upon them.

(3.) Those unsavory characters can become part of the government and wield the power of the government to promote them selves and hurt others.

(4.) The best way we have found to prevent (3.) is to let anyone who wants to try to be in charge for a set period of time (election) and have other people (also elected) be watching the other elected people (checks and balances).  (5.) Also we make a set core group of laws that all the others ones are based on (The constitution).  The constitution is like the kernel of an OS.  It is the core that determines how everything else works.

(6.) Even elections can be corrupted by bad guys, so part of that constitution spells out who is in charge of what, so that even if a bad guy gets elected he only has power over his little piece of the government. (Checks and balances)

(Section B.)

Conveniently, there is name for this style of government. It’s called a Constitutional Republic, which the US is.

Our government is divided into 3 branches.  The legislative, which writes law. The Judicial, which judges law. And the executive, which executes the law and consists of the President.  Congressmen write law.  Judges judge it. The President does it.  To keep everybody honest, the Judges (Through the Supreme Court) can decide weather the President or the congress is breaking the law, and can declare what they are doing criminal.  The Congress can write law, and overpower the President, if enough of them agree on something.  The President appoint Judges to the Supreme court, and can refuse to sign the laws congress wants, which keeps them from being passed.  Even if the law is passed by both the President AND Congress, the Supreme Court can still say it is wrong, and have it taken off the books.

The President CANNOT write law, or declare war, only Congress can.

The Congress CANNOT appoint Supreme Court Justices,  only the president can.

The Supreme Court CANNOT write law, appoint its own judges, or declare war. It can only judge if the SPIRIT of a law is constitutional or not.

OK.   That is the theory of our government, and its basic operation.  Those are the principals that guide the government.

(Section C)

The reality of government is subtly different in one huge way: Common good.  Everything in Section B is based off of the concept of law provided in Section A.

By that definition, law is only for the unlawful.  Bad people need the law not to stop them (they’re going to be bad anyway) but to punish them for their evil.  This is an ultra-freewill perspective.  Under this perspective a person should be able to do whatever they want as long as it isn’t hurting anyone but themselves.

But thats not how our law works.  By that definition, you should be able to take all the drugs you want.  As long as your decisions are only hurting you, than no one else’s rights are being violated, so its not possible for you to be breaking any law.  Clearly thats not how are law is set up.  The crime of drunk driving is an obvious example.  It is illegal to drive after having 1 drink.  There is no real reason for this, you can drive perfectly safely after 1 drink.   You can’t drive safely after 10 drinks, so in an effort to protect the common good driving with even a minuscule amount of alcohol in the blood is illegal.

(Section D)

(1.) “The common good” is not a very quantifiable concept.  Your idea of the common good and my idea of the common good might be very different. It is this argument for the common good which is (hopefully) at the center of political debate.

Example abortion:

Candidate one says: The common good is best gotten by making sure that every child born is wanted.  Since people are going to be dumb and get pregnant, I think supporting abortion is the best way to make sure every child born is a wanted one.  I think the supporting abortion is the best way to make sure the most good is done for the most people.

Candidate two says: The common good is best gotten by making sure that everyone has a fair shot at life.  I am against abortion, because I think that everyone should have chance to be born.  Some of the children that are born will be born into tragic home environments.  Some will become bad people, but I think that giving them a chance is the best way to ensure that the most good is done for the most people.

You can’t argue with either of these statements.  Replace the phrase “common good” with a random noise, like SHAZAM!, and you’ll see what I mean.  When “common good” has no precise meaning it can have almost any meaning at all.

(2.) This argument about the common good is also where all the disagreement about government spending (and thus, taxes) comes from.

Candidate one says: The most good is done for the most people by taxing the rich lightly.  They will have more money to spend.  When the rich spend more, the people who serve them make more, and the rich people money eventually trickles down to even the very poor.

Candidate two says: The most good is done for the most people by taxing the rich heavily. They make so much money they won’t even feel it, but then we can give the money to the very poor and they won’t be so poor.

Exact same goal in mind: Helping the poor.  Exact same result: Giving the poor money.  Totally different method of getting there.  Both done in the name of the common good.  Neither statement can be proved or disproved.

(Section E)

How does this effect how you vote?

Well, for one, what does the president actually do?  He is the face of the nation to her people, and the world.  He can veto laws he doesn’t like, he has around 5% of the budget to play put where he likes, and he can appoint Supreme Court Justices.

The 5% of the budget one is pretty pointless.  Since the President can’t write law, he is really just he face of congress, so thats not terribly important either.  The 2 issues that matter: the laws he will veto and the justices he appoints.

The confusion you probably having about the election is that you are trying to pick a President for a Section C paradigm when we live in a Section D world.

You have to decide what the common good is, and vote for the person who’s compromises best meet the common good.


September 6, 2008 - Posted by | Government, Uncategorized

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