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Some discussion on law and sociology


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32 replies to this topic

#11 Martini

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 11:29 PM

- Martini, why do you find it repugant? I am not advocating any position or form of government over another. I am merely discussing the basic elements of governance in a way to provoke thought and discussion. What about that is repugnant?


What's repugnant is the proposition that people suffering under an oppressive regime have only themselves to blame for not overthrowing it. That proposition is inherent in your claim.

I am merely deconstructing popularly held beliefs concerning governance for the sake of discussion. Where do you see pure democracy anywhere in history? How is this any different than pure communism, besides property rights? I'd suggest that the term democracy is the result of a somewhat fallacious buildup of societal hope for what the American Republic could (or some would say should) be.


For the sake of discussion it is helpful to group governments into types. If all governments are democracies then that's not a very useful grouping, is it? How would you differentiate the governments of Sweden and North Korea? If "there is no such thing as a non-democracy" then what terms do you suggest we use?

How is this different than the United States? Say I want to smoke pot. The government says no. I can ignore the government, to what effect? Threat of prosecution. I can ignore the prosecution to what effect? Threat of violence from police. I can resist the power of the police to what effect? Ultimately, death. At some point along the equation I can give in to the government and choose to recognize it's power, or I can die. This is true in ALL governments. (I don't use any drugs or alcohol - for the record)


This, of course, is silly in the extreme. If you "ignore" the government, they simply come and arrest you and put you in jail. If you RESIST the power of the government, they may, and or may not, kill you. See Ed Brown for details. But it is unlikely, unless you push the issue.

You equate passivity with choice. To some extent, you are correct. And we can't have it both ways; for everyone who says that the people of, say, Russia were forced to submit, there is someone who says the people of Germany should have revolted (despite the fact that much the same sort of thing would have occurred). But there is a difference between actively participating in a process, and passively accepting a process. It's when people understand that they prefer the former to the latter that dictatorships tend to die.
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#12 Ploper

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 12:24 AM

I still haven't gotten around to reading the wiki article.
Wiki takes forever to load on my computer.

I agree with Writersblock in some ways and disagree in others.
Yeah, the dictator isn't a dictator without someone to rule, and someone willing to be ruled.

but the majority of people aren't willing to be ruled in the dictatorship.
I can't remember but I think you used that word, "willing"
(sorry if i'm wrong)
So it might not be like a democracy.

Yeah, we are a republic though...
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#13 Scraff

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 05:12 AM

Is "the consent of the governed" truly universal, i.e. any government, no matter how violent towards its citizens, only stays in power because the people let it? If so, doesn't this ignore the concept of force multiplication, i.e. if the government has exclusive control of firearms, tanks, prisons and military aircraft, they have the power to maintain control over a much larger population, because a rifle gives one man the ability to kill other men at a distance, at no risk to himself. If there were no machines to give these kinds of advantages, then I guess the population could ignore a government they didn't like, not even bothering to alter or abolish it. Of course, said population is likely to get overrun by neighbors who have such machines.

There's a passage in 1984 of some relevance, in which Winston Smith reflects that the Proles, if they wanted, could toss out the Party with ease. Similarly, an undercover cop character in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three has a fantasy in which all 18 hostages rise as one, responding to telepathic coordination, and overwhelm the four machine-gun-toting hostage-takers. Sure, the governed can toss the bums out at will, but unless they have a means of communicating and organizing that is not under the scrutiny of the government, and unless they decide, hive-like, that they're okay with having their first few waves get mowed down, how do they proceed, exactly?

Are you claiming they're lazy, or something?
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#14 Writersblock

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 08:18 AM

because a rifle gives one man the ability to kill other men at a distance, at no risk to himself.

The problem with this concept is that you only see a 1 to 1 relationship. Take a man with a rifle in a situation where he never knows when a gurilla tactic will take his life, and I will show you rapidly melting resolve. But I take your point. Very valid and great point. I never gave voice to motives behind the consent of the governed and I readily admit that when all force multipliers are in the hands of the government, it makes it that much harder for a majority to reach a consensus that the government must go. It's even harder when the government controls lines of communication, media distribution, and has unfettered access to the private affairs of its people. It also is much harder the closer the majority is to a simple majority. Fear and the human nature of self-preservation are aggrivating factors also. But it remains a truth that the consent of the governed is an unshakeable principal of government. I don't claim the disgruntled governed are lazy, or stupid, or anything else. What I claim is that there are always mitigating factors that create an atmosphere where the majority consent. If they do not, revolution is inevitable.

When there is a violent dictator that holds the reigns of power for a long period, many times the media from outside the dictatorship plays up self/other concepts so that outsiders view the situation with disdain and therefore international feeling is that the "people of the state" over which the despoit reigns want to throw off the regime, when in reality there might be stability or cultural ties that the "people" favor in ways outsiders cannot understand. Therefore they put up with a regime that outsiders feel (and which might actually) threaten them.

Another point that has been touched on but I want to bring up explicitly - consenting majorities can be created through fear, murder, and intimidation. Likewise they can be created by rational thought, pity, empathy, and education. Every society has its break point both for and against goverments. Are some governments better than others? Absolutely. Is any government better than complete anarchy? Absolutely. So the closer things range toward anarchy in a revolution and the more the very fabric of the society are threatened, the more people might reach out to a less than ideal government in order to preserve themselves from the chaos of pure anarchy. Also, the more the mores of a society are breached by the would be government, the less likely they are to have any popular support at all. One man can never be an army unto himself. If he's way off base with his approach to the mores of the people, he will never rule.

Another point to consider: what if there is no majority? What if, for example, three or four nearly evenly matched groups vie for power? Would it be possible to for government if all 4 adamantly reject the rule of any of the other 3? The only possiblity is a mutually acceptable governance that will hold the appeal of a majority.

To address another point-

This, of course, is silly in the extreme. If you "ignore" the government, they simply come and arrest you and put you in jail. If you RESIST the power of the government, they may, and or may not, kill you. See Ed Brown for details. But it is unlikely, unless you push the issue.

How do you see this as silly? It's only silly if you cannot fathom a liberty, a point of principal, a dearly held belief, being truncated by the government. Sure, maybe it's silly I chose pot smoking. But what do you hold dear? What if the government suddenly prohibitted it? You ignore the government at risk of punishment. You ignore the punishment - then what? Deconstruct the power of ALL government and you find the risk of death underlying it all. There is no exception and I'd love to hear of one if anyone thinks there is.

But there is a difference between actively participating in a process, and passively accepting a process.

I wholeheartedly agree. But it still remains that passive acceptance, or even passive resistance with a breaking point, is a form of acknowledging the power of a government. And this is the core of the whole matter - without the majority acknowledging and submitting to that power, there can be no power and no governance.
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#15 Ploper

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 11:39 PM

Yeah, I just looked at the beginning post again.

In a dictatorship, the majority of people don't determine what happens.
They may even love their dictator and do it with a smile on there face.
Though i don't know of any govornments where that happens.
But even if they love what their dictator does, they still don't decide what happens.
They just go along with it...

I don't understand why people are so offended by this.
Writersblock is just showing a point of view, supporting it, and it's not like he isn't sorry for the people who do go through this. (well, that's what I think, i don't really know what writersblock's opinion is.)
I think this is a good topic with a good discussion going...

I started a topic earlier that wasn't opinion, it was me babblin about false things...
THAT'S offensive to people.
But I don't see why this should be
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#16 Martini

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 04:01 AM

Your point seems to be that there is no such thing as Democracy because the law is coercive. And of course the law is coercive as laws against anything, from serial murder to littering or pot-smoking need to be backed by force in order to be effective. But this simple truism does not support your contention that there's no difference between democracy and dictatorship.

Surely you can see the difference between a society where laws, coercive as they may be, are chosen by elected representatives who have to show some concern to the people's wishes, lest they be deposed at the ballot box and one where the laws are merely the whims of a tyrant. And surely you can see the difference between a society that can depose a leader merely by taking a day off work and one where they have to engage in violent revolution, often at the cost of their own lives. And surely you can see a difference between a society where certain rights are constitutionally protected and one where they are not.

If you can't I think you're being willfully obtuse.
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#17 Ploper

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 04:23 AM

But this simple truism does not support your contention that there's no difference between democracy and dictatorship.



No one's saying there's on difference.
Just pointing out a little similarity.

I agree with both sides on some points on this...
So I don't really no who i'm rooting for.
But yeah...
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#18 carlosn27

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 06:53 AM

Still, you have a majority who tolerate the governance. I don't think either one of your examples fits exactly your concept either. No dictator has ever risen to power solely on his own. There is always a group behind him with popular support of some sort. Imagine you or I declaring ourselves King of America. Would it work? Would it work even if we killed thousands? No. Why? Because the people won't tolerate it.


GWB came to power from the support of daddy's money and a few other ruthless a**holes.
plus, he declared himself king of america by doing away with a few of the bill of rights.
and he's also killed thousands plus made others "disappear."

and i'd like to point out the fact that the USA is NOT a democracy, it is a representative republic.
considering the fact that few people actually vote, you cant say that even the majority of the people actually elect our representatives, hence, they do NOT truly represent the majority.
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#19 Writersblock

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 09:37 PM

Your point seems to be that there is no such thing as Democracy because the law is coercive. And of course the law is coercive as laws against anything, from serial murder to littering or pot-smoking need to be backed by force in order to be effective. But this simple truism does not support your contention that there's no difference between democracy and dictatorship.



Ok. I confess. I used democracy (little d) and set it up with a broad definition. I knew by doing this that some people would interpose their own feelings and ideals surrounding Democracy (capital D) and would reject my simple train of thought. I did it on purpose to spark some discussion. My sole point is that no government can exist without the consent of the governed. It's just not possbile. When the goverened cease to be governable, then Anarchy results and there is no more governance. If the people accept governance, regardless of how terrible that governance is or how cooercive the means of establishing rule, then they have had a hand in determining how they are governed. The other option is rejection. There is no other way. Once established, ALL governments rule by power of death, no matter how beneficial the governance is to society at large.

to CarlosN27:

i'd like to point out the fact that the USA is NOT a democracy, it is a representative republic.

Already stated in post.

he declared himself king of america by doing away with a few of the bill of rights

If you really think this is true you don't understand how the Constitution works. I am no Bush supporter, but he did everything with full support of Congress. Congress gave him war powers, which are very broad and have been determined by the Supreme Court very rarely. The Supreme Court has ruled that when the President acts, he acts in three different ways. 1) With the consent of Congress, 2) absent consent of Congress, 3) Contrary to the will of Congress. When he acts in case 1, he acts at the height of his power with the full backing of the Constitution. Very few things he has done are outside his war powers, as evidenced by how few have been overturned by the Supreme Court. With refrence to the detainees, the problem is one of jurisdiction. The administration sold the idea that there is a "war on terror." Before, terror was a criminal act and subject to the Constitutional protections governing criminals. Now that there is a "war on terror," these enemy combatants do not fall under the Constitution, nor do they fit the definition of enemy soldiers under the Geneva Convention. They are in a legal "no man's land" where law has yet to be created. Either way, President Bush has neither declared himself more than President under the Constitution, nor has he done anything that he didn't have a colorable claim to do under the constitution. And remember, CONGRESS PASSED THE PATRIOT ACT. It's not like GW wrote and enacted the thing like a presidental dictate.
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#20 Martini

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 01:44 AM

But you've generalized so broadly that you've obscured reality. When the citizens of a liberal democracy decide their leader stinks, they can peacefully remove him or her at the ballot box. In extreme cases other tactics can be used, like impeachment or a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. In a dictatorship the people can only remove their leader through violent revolution, which is dangerous, bloody, and will fail without the backing of the military.

Read the recent news out of Burma for an example of a government that rules without the consent of the governed.
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