Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Individualism and Solidarity: US Democratic Politics and Teh Blogs

This is a bit of a fly-by-night piece, so I won’t frontpage, and apologies if I don’t follow up with profound comments. I love the polite friendly atmosphere of the Moose, but that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about difficult subjects. Indeed, I have to write something, in my usual British contentious unphlegmatic way, about the Moose/Elephant in the room – the sudden welcome influx of New Moozog (the plural of Mooz).

But first some ground rules. This is not about anybody on any other blog, nor indeed a specific kind of administration, or to relitigate any Obamarox/Obamasux wars on any other site, but to explore the problem of defining loyalty versus individuality, collective strength versus personal conscience.

I think if we stick to these rules of discussing those principles of political pragmatism versus moral purity, we can make sure this isn’t a comment on any other blog or commentator. Just to remind you – most of us cross post at a number of other blogs, and long may that remain.  

Democracy as Social Contract: Part III

Here is the final instalment of my talk to the Bond University Philosophical Society the other night.  I must thank my hosts for a delightful evening.

The subject was, “Is modern democracy really democracy?,” “Is democracy the best of all systems of government?” and “Does it do more harm than good?.”  It seemed like a stacked deck to me at the time:

So here we are, at our dinner hour, considering if this political model, which has been shaped around our dramatic social evolution of nearly two modern centuries, is our best option.  I think this can be dealt with quite simply with the droll but weighty observation of Winston Churchill:

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

And we have tried many.  It is hard to conceive how the alternatives, no matter how thoughtfully framed or benign, are not arguably some form of tyranny by modern standards, irrespective of legality.

So what are the merits of “democracy?”

Democracy has two essential virtues; that it is “just” in the sense of the “common good,” a justice that varies with the appropriateness of the contract and the wisdom and integrity of its executors.  And also that it allows the majority the “arbitrary and reckless” opportunity to alter course, indeed reverse themselves, at some point in the future.  

I can always tell when folks have been reading too much Plato.

Democracy as Social Contract: Part II

Ok, fresh off the tablet?

Democracy, as we currently conceive it, was the inspiration of an optimistic Enlightenment; drawing on a corpus of classical thinking which seemed virtuous or useful while tip-toeing around the thrones of reigning monarchs.  

In classical Athens, on any given day, the enfranchised citizens congregated on the Pynx to listen to their orators and demagogues on the issues and vote immediately with white and black pebbles.  That form of direct democracy is reserved today for our juries, when we convene them, and the annual general meetings of our public companies and social clubs.

It is just as well, one might argue.  The contemporary criticism of Athenian direct democracy was that it was “reckless and arbitrary.”

Arguable I suppose but Left Blogistan was in the back of my mind as much as Athens in that last remark.

Democracy as Social Contract: Part I

The following are my desperate, last-minute notes for a short talk on the subject of democracy for the Philosophical Society of Bond University here in Australia next Monday:

I was frankly humbled to consider speaking in the context of “philosophy” until I remembered that it means merely “love of wisdom” and that’s reassuring; though wisdom, like “common sense,” can seem a bit thin on the ground sometimes.  I tend to credit them about equally and admire both where they are found.

Our notions of democracy, I’ve observed, are often entangled and circumscribed by our notions of our “rights;” the right of assembly, the right of habeas corpus, the right of free speech and the right of equitable and honest election of our representatives to the democratic state institutions we have created.  This is fair and reasonable.  

But rights are clearly a “just claim or title” to provisions of a contract between parties, in this case the individual and the state.  It resembles a matter of tort law and while that is not the ideological frame of reference we usually reserve for these notions the parallels are worth considering.

How are we doing so far?