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  1. #11
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by james5001 View Post
    Also showed how DeValera reneged on the commitment to bring in Direct Democracy.
    It's quite a nice video (a bit of a coup for this group to get Ferriter to do this). Dev publicly supported the mechanism and was perfectly happy to use it to try to abolish the Oath of Allegiance. But when he himself was in power and wrote his 1937 constitution he conveniently left it out (the duplicity of politicians! ).
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  2. #12
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by roc_ View Post
    I have to say out of all the delusions that seem to have Irish citzens in their thrall today, this is one of the most pathological.

    In fact it is the most sublime example of trying to fit a solution to the wrong problem. - It must be one of the best illustrations of the Irish self-denial so pervasive today.

    For, what was the problem we had? - That lead to the need for a "solution" in the first place?

    Oh no, it wasn't that during 1997 to 2007 "Irish people" voted repeatedly for high salaries, increased welfare, and their own equity worth, on the backs of those who would come after them, who would pay through increased indenture to property...

    Never was it a general acquiescence in living high off of the "economic-rents" of this country; living high off of the promise of the future labour of our children, and their children...

    Hey, let's not mention that in 2008 there was hardly a whimper sounded about the twin strokes pulled in that year (the Guarantee and NAMA flagged a week later), to try and rescue the above status quo...

    Let's all pretend it's not a cringe-worthy matter that only around 2012 did any form of real protest movement emerge in this country, and they were protesting against site tax and water tax, and essentially a couple of euro as week to pay for what needed doing for our future in terms of our infrastructure and duty to future generations...

    (While we're at it, let's all blind ourselves to the fact that site tax and water tax actually consist the market underpinnings of reversing the very thing wrong in this country 1997-2007 that lead to the inevitable...)

    The problem in this country is a peasant-minded status quo, revisionism, populism, and related. By "peasant-minded" I mean single-minded egocentricity, being concerned solely with one's own short-term interest, understanding only coercion and thus kowtowing to any established authority, childishness, deceitfulness, meanness, greediness (if someone else is paying), and indeed stoicism in a certain sense. In a word, being completely self-centred.

    This idea of "direct democracy", as currently advocated, is intentioned towards the belief that the problem does not lie within ourselves, but that all can be blamed on outside parties, so all we need to do is "take control", and force them to do the "right thing".

    It is a recipe for further disaster. Never mind that this impulse towards blaming outside parties will end up where it always ends up. (Which trajectory can already be clearly observed in this country, thus the bulk of my posts on politics.ie.)

    I'd agree to an extent with your views on political culture amongst both our politicians and the electorate. They remind of a talk by the late Irish political scientist Peter Mair; the first half of that talk was fairly scathing regarding how politics works here (a transcript of that talk can still be found here). Mair coined the term "amoral localism" to cover this (his Irish counterpart to the term "amoral familism" previously coined by others for Italian politics):

    What he meant by that is that if you look at the ordinary Italian, the ordinary Italian will do anything he or she can possibly do to benefit his or her family. And you forget about everything else, even if it is at a cost to the State. The primary thing is to benefit your family, to advance your family and for your family to do well. You are family orientated but you have no morality in anything else you do. Now we have a bit of that in Ireland, too, but what we have also in this electoral system of ours is something you might call ‘amoral localism’ which means that you do anything you can to benefit your locality and your constituency and your district, and your TD will do anything he can to benefit your locality and your district and your constituency and, in a sense, damn everything else.
    Much of this talk is a diagnosis of what's wrong with Irish politics, e.g.

    We have been so busy as citizens in ensuring the representation of our own interests and those of our constituencies that we have lost sight of the broader, collective interest and we have lost sight of it a long time ago. We exert great control over our TDs but we have never sought to exert any control over our governments. And the result was a huge vacuum in terms of responsibility and in terms of authority right at the centre stage of government. As citizens, we never held our governments accountable for their policies. We were too busy holding our TDs accountable for their local activities.
    However, he proposed a number of remedies also. He described a three fold strategy:

    1. Create meaningful local government:
      We need to give real power to local government. We need to properly resource local government and we need to require and demand strong local engagement in local government and citizen engagement in local government.
    2. Dáil reform:
      we need to change the Dáil and engage in Dáil reform. We need to put an end to the quiescence and the deference of TDs to their governments. We need to end the quiescence and the deference of the Dáil to the Government itself and to the Executive. We need to end Executive domination. We need much more dialogue and much more sharing of powers between the Executive and the Legislature.
    3. Change the electoral system:
      I am more and more convinced of this, we need to reform our electoral system. What sort of electoral system we get instead is more open to question but we need to get away from this multi-seat constituency competition which ensures great representation of Irish voters but also leads to ‘amoral localism’ and this aggregates our voices. Michael D. Higgins once said that Irish politics disaggregates the poor. It doesn’t just disaggregate the poor, it disaggregates everybody except the special interests. It encourages us to look at the trees and to forget about the forest. We need to change that system.

    The third point is the most controversial, but I think there's something to it. Personally, I'd add as a fourth point a citizens initiative mechanism with safeguards to allow constitutional change. Irish politics is deeply moribund and resistant to change. Incumbents benefiting from a system (no matter how many problems it might have) are unlikely to want to change the system. Political systems in general have too much inbuilt inertia. Even if for no other reason, allowing some system where voters can occasionally shake up the rules of the game is no bad idea.
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  3. #13
    roc_ roc_ is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finbar10 View Post
    ... a citizens initiative mechanism with safeguards to allow constitutional change. Irish politics is deeply moribund and resistant to change. Incumbents benefiting from a system (no matter how many problems it might have) are unlikely to want to change the system. Political systems in general have too much inbuilt inertia...
    I would agree with you this is the change needed if we were in the kind of economic climate we had twenty years ago.

    But at this point in time we probably need to put in constraints on mass sentiment and peasants with pitchforks. Even, we may need to go somewhat towards dictatorship, and away from democracy.

    That may sound counter-intuitive and scary, but as someone thoroughly imbued with twentieth century history, I have little doubt that more "democracy" of the type we're recently seeing, will lead us eventually to outright and unrestrained dictatorship and totalitarianism. - It will become a necessity due to the economic disaster that "democracy" will have lead us to, as per my previous post above, and as per the current anti-austerity, self-centred, short-term, peasant-minded "democracy", on the rise in a different manifestation today.





    Mature self-reflection and introspection. That's wise rule (-kratia). Not this. Not this blaming of everyone else as long as it is not ourselves.
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  4. #14
    Ratio Et Fides Ratio Et Fides is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by roc_ View Post
    I would agree with you this is the change needed if we were in the kind of economic climate we had twenty years ago.

    But at this point in time we probably need to put in constraints on mass sentiment and peasants with pitchforks. Even, we may need to go somewhat towards dictatorship, and away from democracy.

    That may sound counter-intuitive and scary, but as someone thoroughly imbued with twentieth century history, I have little doubt that more "democracy" of the type we're recently seeing, will lead us eventually to outright and unrestrained dictatorship and totalitarianism. - It will become a necessity due to the economic disaster that "democracy" will have lead us to, as per my previous post above, and as per the current anti-austerity, self-centred, short-term, peasant-minded "democracy", on the rise in a different manifestation today.

    Mature self-reflection and introspection. That's wise rule (-kratia). Not this. Not this blaming of everyone else as long as it is not ourselves.
    Are you saying this because you have concerns about the growing feeling that a lot of Jewish influence has negative consequences?
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  5. #15
    realistic1 realistic1 is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finbar10 View Post
    I'm not sure actually (though I might ask r48 themselves about that). They did contact some of the major newspapers before Christmas with the aim of getting some coverage for this (without success I think).
    Only seen any real coverage on Facebook. The Green party, People before profit and various Independents seems on board for reinstatement of article 48. Mainstream media and Establishment political parties seem very quite on the issue.
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  6. #16
    saab900 saab900 is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by roc_ View Post
    But at this point in time we probably need to put in constraints on mass sentiment and peasants with pitchforks. Even, we may need to go somewhat towards dictatorship, and away from democracy.
    Agree wholeheartedly.

    Democracy is a political sacred calf. We elevated it to mythical status in the aftermath of World War II, but it has now become a prison, a dictatorship of ignorance which is manipulated by the rich and powerful to give credibility to their greed.

    People tend to rule out alternatives because they think that the only alternatives are involve totalitarianism, when in fact, there are viable alternatives to democracy. Technocracy is a frequently seen alteration to democracy. We had a spell of it here when the Troika were setting the agenda, and probably made more progress in terms of reform than we had in the previous 20 years.

    On the other end of the scale, you have sortition, where Government is chosen by lottery.

    If you accept the principle that the people you need to keep away from power are the people who want it most, then democracy will never be a good idea.
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  7. #17
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by realistic1 View Post
    Only seen any real coverage on Facebook. The Green party, People before profit and various Independents seems on board for reinstatement of article 48. Mainstream media and Establishment political parties seem very quite on the issue.
    Yes, very little coverage outside social media. R48 do seem to be organizing a poster campaign (currently fundraising on their website for the modest sum of €2500 to print 300 A0 posters that they plan to put up in prominent locations). The constitutional convention actually discussed citizen initiatives in the module looking at the electoral system. A large majority of its members backed such a mechanism "with adequate safeguards". Though there was quite a few column inches in the media on its conclusions on the voting system, the only coverage on citizens initiatives as far as I could see was the sum total of 2 sentences in the Irish Times!
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  8. #18
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by roc_ View Post
    I would agree with you this is the change needed if we were in the kind of economic climate we had twenty years ago.

    But at this point in time we probably need to put in constraints on mass sentiment and peasants with pitchforks. Even, we may need to go somewhat towards dictatorship, and away from democracy.

    That may sound counter-intuitive and scary, but as someone thoroughly imbued with twentieth century history, I have little doubt that more "democracy" of the type we're recently seeing, will lead us eventually to outright and unrestrained dictatorship and totalitarianism. - It will become a necessity due to the economic disaster that "democracy" will have lead us to, as per my previous post above, and as per the current anti-austerity, self-centred, short-term, peasant-minded "democracy", on the rise in a different manifestation today.





    Mature self-reflection and introspection. That's wise rule (-kratia). Not this. Not this blaming of everyone else as long as it is not ourselves.
    IMO there's a degree of truth to what you say. The Jung quote in your signature embodies that kind of thinking: "Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics". Enlightenment thinking emphasizing equality and rationality (of the kind manifested in the US declaration of independence) could be viewed as being an overly optimistic and naive view on human nature. Perhaps Freud's work on the unconscious (and that of his sometime disciple Jung) could be seen as an antidote to aspects of this. Human nature, no doubt, has its dark and irrational aspects. Though if one carries that thinking to the point of thinking the masses are unfit to govern themselves, who then? Some strong enlightened single leader? That's heading in the direction of fascism. I'd also note that Jung has been accused by some of being overly sympathetic to aspects of fascism. Or maybe the educated elites or bourgeoisie would be better fitted to govern (or "technocrats" or experts as some other poster put it)? That whole period of history didn't show human nature in general in a good light (including the elites).

    Certainly there was "mass hysteria" in 1930s Germany. However, the Nazis never had majority support. A citizens initiative mechanism actually existed in the Weimar constitution, which played no part in their rise to power. In essence, it was an inadvisable deal by bourgeois elements of German society (and by many standards Germany would have been considered one of the most cultured and civilized countries in the world at that time) with the devil that eventually allowed the Weimar constitution to be suspended by a super-majority in parliament. Maybe that part of society thought it could preserve its privileges (under threat from communist factions). Or maybe it wanted to reimpose order (not thinking too closely about or caring about implications down the line). The bourgeoisie readily collaborated/supported fascism in Italy and Vichy France too.

    There are dark elements in human nature. These are not absent in elites either (despite education or privilege). While it might be comforting by some to believe that there are wiser and more benign sections of society more fit to rule that can save the peasants from themselves, I'm not sure that history bears that out. The two primary historical examples of direct democracy, Ancient Athens and Switzerland, are not exactly cautionary tales. Athens, depending as much on sortition as on votes in the citizens assembly, had its flaws. Ordinary citizens seemed to be just as enthusiastic as its leaders in its policy of imperialist expansion (because, I guess, they tended to share in the benefits too). And voting was never extended to women or slaves. There were a lot worse places to live in the Ancient world though! Someone historians actually calculated the Athenian wealth GINI (wealth distribution) from ancient property/tax records. This actually was very close to current levels in Western Europe. There were rich citizens and many poor citizens. However, inequality levels were very benign compared to other societies in the ancient world. Switzerland certainly isn't perfect either; it does seem to be a relatively well run place though. You might, of course, say that citizens initiatives are well and good for some place like Switzerland but that in the hands of an irresponsible electorate here they would be a disaster.

    My view is that our current system infantilizes the electorate. De Valera's 1937 constitution, which borrowed heavily from both Weimar and the Free State constitutions, is solid enough in many ways. It had some glaring deficiencies though. The Weimar constitution and its German successor had well-developed local government and parliamentary structures. A substantial portion of the German basic law is devoted to the structures of federal government (its exclusive and shared competences, its powers etc.). Germany has a mechanism for financial redistribution from richer to poorer Lander that's essentially free from federal government interference. Granted we are a much smaller country, but there was essentially no provision for local government at all in the 1937 constitution. Similarly, for parliamentary structures. There's one or two aspiration clauses alright, but essentially we have a bare-bones Westminster framework in there. I think all German Lander have citizen initiative mechanisms in their constitutions.

    My strong feeling is that if we had had a strong local government constitutional framework, with explicit competences, explicit tax raising powers (local government able to pick from a suite of taxation choices to fund themselves, e.g. property taxes, a small percentage on income tax, higher or lower rates etc.) all together with direct democracy/citizen initiatives at a local level, then voters might have learned self-responsibility. There seems to be a correlation between federal structures, direct democracy and fiscal responsibility. Canadian provinces have a lot of financial autonomy. In theory, a Canadian province can run up huge debts. However, in practice, because of this danger, provinces keep an eye on each other. Canada avoided much of the recent financial meltdown due to its conservative fiscal and banking practices. Something similar can be said for Switzerland. There's a longstanding "no bailout" policy there with regards to local government. One or two regions have gone bankrupt (on a sub-cantonal level) in the past and central government or cantons have not stepped in to bail them out. Cantons have huge financial autonomy. It's unsurprising that all have had various kinds of debt breaks in their constitution for a long time (Germany borrowed the idea of a debt break from the Swiss).

    This goes back to Peter Mair's three points. I also eventually came to the conclusion that Dev might have been better off with some kind of PR list system rather than PR-STV (though I'm sure he would have preferred FPTP if he could have gotten away with it). In theory, PR-STV has some nice properties. One succeeds in PR-STV, though, by being inoffensive to as many people as possible; lower transfers are crucial in getting elected. Every party, in practice, gravitates to an innocuous middle ground (though their policy rhetoric may differ). PR list systems force voters to choose a single party. There's a mutual exclusiveness to the choice. Parties have to target a particular sector of the electorate (all parties cannot crowd into the middle ground). In principle, PR-STV offers voters a very fine-grained system of choice. In practice, particularly in combination with unnecessarily small constituency sizes, we get even less of a choice. I suspect PR-STV compounds the gombeen factor.

    All of this (excessive centralization, non-existent local government, the electoral system) infantilizes the voter. Direct democracy at a local level here might indeed lead to one or two disasters. Voters would quickly learn though. As with child rearing, there are different philosophies. I'd tend to the school of entrusting children with as much responsibility as I think they can handle (eventually letting them make their own mistakes; sink or swim). Wrapping them in cotton wool too long is a mistake. My attitude to direct democracy would be similar. I think the electorate would learn responsibility soon enough. Particularly, if coupled with a strong local government constitutional framework, citizens initiatives at the local government level might be an excellent, if perhaps at times harsh, democratic learning experience. Even on the national level, I'd be prepared to take the risk. I suspect that the electorate if actually give the ultimate choice on some crucial issues would come to the correct decision. Whatever about quoting the half-baked ideas of fringe groups, voters here tend to be conservative. I'd be very surprised if citizens initiatives here at a national level led to anything too wild or chaotic.
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  9. #19
    Niall996 Niall996 is offline
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    Complete unhindered democracy is essentially like letting the production line workers in Mercedes Benz run the company. Recipe for catastrophe. Which is what we get regularly as a result. Most skilled jobs require certain qualifications or educational background. You wouldn't put your medical diagnosis in the ads of the public vote. Or the design of an passenger jet. But we let every hillbilly or closing time polemicist have an equal say in how to run a vastly complex conundrum called a state! Madness.
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  10. #20
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niall996 View Post
    Complete unhindered democracy is essentially like letting the production line workers in Mercedes Benz run the company. Recipe for catastrophe. Which is what we get regularly as a result. Most skilled jobs require certain qualifications or educational background. You wouldn't put your medical diagnosis in the ads of the public vote. Or the design of an passenger jet. But we let every hillbilly or closing time polemicist have an equal say in how to run a vastly complex conundrum called a state! Madness.
    The Swiss system is a hybrid one. There are actually professional politicians who do most of the actual running of the country. The people do get a say too, though, via citizens initiatives and powerful local government. It's very well to have professional politicians. However, in most European countries, politics has been becoming increasingly professionalized over the past few decades. Voters get to choose between a limited number of factions in this professional political class (memberships by ordinary people in political parties has been steadily falling for a long time). If the general interests of this class don't coincide with the electorate on a particular issue, it can be quite difficult for the electorate to do anything about that (other beginning the long uncertain process of starting and building a new party; which funding restrictions favouring incumbents can make quite difficult). IMO a measure of direct democracy could be a useful counterbalance to this. Are TDs really all that more educated than the electorate anyway? Around 30-40% of young people are getting degrees now. Is the typical TD really all that much more educated than the typical voter? How specialized are the decisions being made by TDs anyway (other than the ones being actually made by civil servants)? Most initiatives in Switzerland are rejected anyway (particularly ones not proposed by the established parties). There are quite a few hurdles to jump before getting a proposal put to the people anyway. On your Mercedes Benz point, having a company run by workers hasn't been tried very often! To be contrarian though , how about the Mondragon corporation (a worker cooperative) in the Basque country? That's an interesting example of a successful attempt in this regards! Maybe such things would often work quite well if actually tried?
    Last edited by Finbar10; 14th February 2016 at 08:34 PM.
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