Thursday, July 30, 2015

Commentary on a Patriotic Essay, Installment I: Considerations on Representative Government


In this first installment of my new blog series, Commentary on a Patriotic Essay, I will be reading through John Stuart Mill's Considerations on Representative Government. I hope to achieve an atmosphere similar to Mystery Science Theatre, but darker and more cynical. These are troubled times for the American people.


Those who have done me the honor of reading my previous writings will probably receive no strong impression of novelty from the present volume;
Admit it. You haven't read anything like this before, or if you have, you certainly didn't enjoy it. Well, I hope to make this a little more exciting for you by being an asshole while you read it. Wish me luck. I will be skipping Mill's wordy bullshit and giving you the meat of his writings.
Several of the opinions at all events, if not new, are for the present as little likely to meet with general acceptance as if they were

There's hope! John Stuart Mill was largely ignored or disputed, just like you and me.

It seems to me, however, from various indications, and from none more than the recent debates on Reform of Parliament, that both Conservatives and Liberals (if I may continue to call them what they still call themselves) have lost confidence in the political creeds which they nominally profess, while neither side appears to have made any progress in providing itself with a better.

 Politics was fucked up back in  Mill's day, just like it is today. The two competing political factions even called themselves the same things! Even more extra-ordinarily, they had been corrupted in exactly the same way. They caught a horrible case of the hypocrisy pox.
Yet such a better doctrine must be possible; not a mere compromise, by splitting the difference between the two, but something wider than either, which, in virtue of its superior comprehensiveness, might be adopted by either Liberal or Conservative without renouncing any thing which he really feels to be valuable in his own creed.
Mill was an utter idealist, who makes the claim that creating an effective government is possible, and he says we should demand one and not compromise. Wow, well, that idea preceded basically every failed Utopia ever conceived, including Communism. But let's read more about what this terrorist has to say.
When so many feel obscurely the want of such a doctrine, and so few even flatter themselves that they have attained it, any one may without presumption, offer what his own thoughts, and the best that he knows of those of others, are able to contribute towards its formation.
 This is the conclusion to the Preface. Mill says that when everyone realizes that the Government is a corrupt piece of shit, anyone can point it out. Good point, Mill. 

 Chapter I - To What Extent Forms of Government are a Matter of Choice

John Stuart Mill describes two competing conceptions of government. This is the first:
Government, according to this conception, is a problem, to be worked like any other question of business. The first step is to define the purposes which governments are required to promote. The next, is to inquire what form of government is best fitted to fulfill those purposes. Having satisfied ourselves on these two points, and ascertained the form of government which combines the greatest amount of good with the least of evil, 
This conception of government sees government as being a kind of scientific machine or computer. It's wholly the invention of men and does not arise naturally. Basically, if we lose our Constitution, we lose our Government entirely and it is replaced by a different Government that fulfills different functions. The USG is such a different Government from the one founded by Jefferson and Adams.
 They look upon a constitution in the same light (difference of scale being allowed for) as they would upon a steam plow, or a threshing machine.
 Government seen at this angle can be interpreted as similar to a material machine made out of metal or wood. And the Constitution is like its blueprint, its DNA. Today, our Constitution has been scrapped and replaced by secret rules. Most Americans do not and are not allowed to know how the Government really works. There is no transparency, no accountability, and no representation! Don't believe me? I have powerful evidence. Princeton recently published a paper (2014) demonstrating that the votes and political opinions of most Americans do not affect the outcome of political decisions in DC. There's technically and literally no representation for most Americans.
To these stand opposed another kind of political reasoners, who are so far from assimilating a form of government to a machine, that they regard it as a sort of spontaneous product, and the science of government as a branch (so to speak) of natural history. According to them, forms of government are not a matter of choice. 

Mill's second conception of government sees it as a natural phenomenon that arises and cannot be designed or changed. The government is a sort of expression for the collective of people and their environment, and a People's form of government only works for them and would not for anyone else.
It is difficult to decide which of these doctrines would be the most absurd, if we could suppose either of them held as an exclusive theory. 
Well, what a dick. After having spent two very long paragraphs discussing the two different philosophies he says people have about government, he goes on to say that those people are all imaginary and almost all people believe some mixture between those two conceptions. Government is both natural and designed. Why didn't he introduce government with a singular conception? We'll never know. But to keep his ideas intact, I had to include all of it.

 But the principles which men profess, on any controverted subject, are usually a very incomplete exponent of the opinions they really hold
 How interesting. Mill makes the bold claim that people invent most of their positions and actually hold most all opinions all at once. Well, maybe that keeps happening because people fail to realize that it's possible to hold a single opinion that includes two smaller opinions. In my opinion, light acts as both a wave and a particle. No, Mill, sadly, people are really that narrow-minded. They believe only the partial answer. I appreciate your optimism, but it is unwarranted.

No one believes that every people is capable of working every sort of institution. Carry the analogy of mechanical contrivances as far as we will, a man does not choose even an instrument of timber and iron on the sole ground that it is in itself the best. He considers whether he possesses the other requisites which must be combined with it to render its employment advantageous, and, in particular whether those by whom it will have to be worked possess the knowledge and skill necessary for its management. 

In this third and true conception of government, government exists as whatever was best for those whom it represents according to the materials available to construct it. It arose naturally from the limitations of the environment and artificially by having been invented expediently. In this way, greater human capital or technology can improve (or at least strengthen and optimize) a government. This opinion implies that changing the form of a government is possible, but requires new technology or more skills.

 But, though each side greatly exaggerates its own theory, out of opposition to the other, and no one holds without modification to either, the two doctrines correspond to a deep-seated difference between two modes of thought; and though it is evident that neither of these is entirely in the right, yet it being equally evident that neither is wholly in the wrong, we must endeavour to get down to what is at the root of each, and avail ourselves of the amount of truth which exists in either.

Apparently, those aforementioned conceptions were the schools of thought on government that dominated the mid 1800's. Who knew? But as Mill points out, both are wrong by nature of being incomplete. And just like today, vociferous people fought to defend the incomplete ideas as if they were the total answer, even though the total answer is simply some combination between the two. It wasn't popular to take the middle ground, then, as it isn't now. One of us. One of us.

Like all things, therefore, which are made by men, they may be either well or ill made; judgment and skill may have been exercised in their production, or the reverse of these. And again, if a people have omitted, or from outward pressure have not had it in their power to give themselves a constitution by the tentative process of applying a corrective to each evil as it arose, or as the sufferers gained strength to resist it, this retardation of political progress is no doubt a great disadvantage to them, but it does not prove that what has been found good for others would not have been good also for them, and will not be so still when they think fit to adopt it.
I made this section light blue because it's so important. Read the section highlighted in pink. That's us. We are being prevented by the outward pressure of our police state and its attendant military, both the domestic one and the foreign, from giving ourselves back our Constitution. We cannot correct the problems that are arising in our government because of external corporate rulers. Mill goes on to talk about what can be done once such external rulers have been removed, and he mentions that, even if we shuck these fascist pigs, we'll have suffered political retardation from their vampire influence. The road in front of us is long, difficult, and full of peril. However, there is hope! Once we regain control over our government, it is possible to restore its representative attribute.

No comments:

Post a Comment