[FoRK] Democracy not Democrazy, was: Re: When Democracy Failed (Why ESR is an "anarchist")

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Thu Jun 24 23:38:01 PDT 2010

On Jun 24, 2010, at 9:06 PM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Other examples of democratic fail:  though corruption and election-rigging are rampant in the region, democracy has also in numerous cases, through over-empowered populism combined with very weak constitutional protections, resulted in "popular" dictatorships coming into power in Central and South America.  (The rigging usually happens later when the people, but not the establishment, have had enough.)

I think the critical feature that is generally inadequate in constitutions (some more than others) is a set of robust negative feedback mechanisms.  By "robust" I mean structured and institutionalized in such a way that it is very difficult to simply work around or remove the mechanism.  The US constitution is one of the strongest examples of this, and even then the cracks have been exploited without real limit e.g. the "commerce clause". 

Most constitutions are a laundry list of fairly random state powers (for the people, natch) that can be exploited without real limit combined with weak negative feedback mechanisms to limit runaway conditions. Grand sounding constitutions are rarely good constitutions.

Democracy is itself one of those nasty positive feedback elements. Since, like printing money, people tend to expect democracy from government, strong negative feedback mechanisms are required to keep democracy in something resembling a stable equilibrium. The weakness, obviously, is that democracy is the root password for the regulatory mechanisms. 

I know partially immutable constitutions exist to provide stronger regulation of democracy; I wonder how effective that immutability actually is at containing the random stupidity of democracy.

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