Don't trust your government much, no matter how good it is

One of my themes in regard to civil liberties is that even IF you trust the present government, you better do NOT trust it with the power to spy on you, keep you arrested without judge's consent based on criminal laws et cetera. 

Democracy may have a hiccup and a future government may not be benevolent, it may instead try to establish an authoritarian regime - and then the people shouldn't be accustomed to an authoritarian regime's methods, nor should its tools be in place already.

Even worse; technology may drastically reduce the popular support required to sustain a dictatorship. Electronics-supported spying may be much more personnel-efficient than the old school surveillance state. The DDR collapsed when it ran out of men willing to defend the regime by shooting at the people. In a not-so distant future robots could massacre people at a political demonstration, with minimal popular support required.

Well, a some journalists have pointed out similar views and concerns since Trump's election.



  1. Obama also hollowed out State Department. In these days foreign policy is esentially made by WH advisors not sufficiently controlled by Congress.

    Liberal media people deserve much blame. In unrestricted lovefare on behalf of iconic Democratic president they ignored really dangerous concentration of power, which goes both against division of power + checks and balances.

    1. U.S. Senators as state delegates was a system with rampant corruption; the seats were bought.
      The Korean War lasted three years and was funded by Congress.

      I'd rather trace the ills to racism (which enables politicians to mobilise votes without being up to anything good) and the competition between states (race to the bottom).

      The talk about checks and balances in the U.S. is mostly nonsense; several democracies work fine despite always having a majority of legislative supporting the head of government.

      Fact is they still use a mostly 18th century constitution (the 2nd attempt ever, with some updates) when most other democracies incorporated lessons learned from the 19th and 20th centuries in their constitutions, thus producing better constitutions.

  2. SO,

    A more reasoned critique of U.S. presidential power is: "The Imperial Presidency" by Arthur M. Schlesinger – an old critique, but still central.

    Contrary to parliamentary democracies, the U.S. government was designed to distribute power *equally* between three branches of government the legislative, executive, and judiciary. If any branch is “more equal” it is supposed to be the legislative bodies. The design for “gridlock” was intentional with the default skewing power to individual states.

    Almost every ill of modern American politics can be traced to: 1) the loss of control of the Senate by the state legislatures (popular election of senators), and 2) the concentration of executive control of government in the presidency.

    Number one above is critical, because it disenfranchised the states, who no longer had a body representing them. Prior to the 17th amendment, U.S. Senators were selected by state legislatures, which in turn allowed the states some degree of control of the Congress. This cumbersome, gridlock prone system forced governance by consent amongst the state and federal legislatures, and prevented ridiculous taxes.

    Number two above reached dangerous proportions under Franklin D. Roosevelt, a democrat, whose first action was nominate a supreme court justice who was a lawyer for the Klu Klux Klan, a violent racial organization notorious for murdering African Americans, and who later usurped many powers by declaring an unending national emergency. Congress ended the national emergency, but his successor Harry Truman, also a democrat, took the nation into the Korean War without Congress declaring war – a huge usurpation of the U.S. Constitution.


  3. "18th century constitution" is based od calvinist political anthropology. Famous dictum of Lord Acton embodies its main piece of wisdom.

    In these days we can see global wawe of political irrationality. Lonely crowd pushes supposedly "charismatic" leaders to power, and this supposedly "stronger than usual" legitimation tends to dismantle institutional frames.

    I wonder what kind of "progress" we really made in the last decades, if not centuries.

    Traditional calvinism surely isn`t good guide in everydays life, but in politics...

    By the way, main changes in Western European constitutions were made in the fifties and this effort mostly reflected ills of Weimar constitution.

    1. The German constitution is from 1949 and the constitution of the Weimar Republic wasn't to blame for much a tall. The republic's main weakness was a lack of support for democracy combined with the severe damaged done to society and government finances by the world war.

      Democracy sometimes elevates the wrong people to power because they can deceive and charm enough voters. This kind of occasional failure is still better than authoritarian regimes which have no sensible approach to select people for positions of power at all.
      Authoritarians dream of a powerful benevolent dictator that still respects them, but they cannot point out how to more reliably find a benevolent personality for ruling other than through elections.

      We should consider our democracy as a work in progress and be open for proposals for improvement, though. I actually wrote a couple times about this years ago already (under the "political system" tag).

    2. Article 48 of Weimar constitution was really bad and there weren`t any protection of minorities guarantees included in that basic law. In the fifties minorities protection represented big constitutional innovation. Gay rights etc., thats all only todays extension of this period.

      Surely there isn`t any ideal or definitive model of constitution. On the other side if we now don`t comprehend some details of older political traditions and institutions it dosn`t mean they are automatically outdated or useless.

      European (continental) liberal tradition is really pragmatic, if only power of the ruler is limited by constitutional order.

      But this plasticity starts to be strongly problematic in any populist moment of history like this one.

      As soon as you have to defend constitution (and liberal democracy) against populist majority, you really need very good, non-ambiguous document. It should be really clear if president of parliamentary republic has real powers or not; in Czech context it isn`t so clear and we ended with pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-German and anti-European foreign policy defined by directly elected president, which under constitution shouldn`t have such powers. Austrians have very similar constitutional problem (if not even bigger) and Hoffer is much more dangerous than our Zeman. If he wins...

      So constitution matters. It`s sometimes second (and probably last) defensive perimeter, in case of voters support for liberal democracy is lost and people want "end of politics" in authoritarian rule.

      Both our countries had lost liberty by elections only several decades ago. My teacher in uni in nineties was strongly convinced that given different Anglo-Saxon political tradition and institutions, in the U.S. or UK this scenario is categorically excluded.

    3. Artikel 48 was not relevant to the republic's demise, and it as an understandable article, considering the communist uprisings only months before the constitution was enacted.

      A good thing about the present German constitution (in addition to getting the mechanics of representative democracy largely right) is the prominent "eternal" status of the first 20 articles. One doesn't need to know or like all articles, but there's a strong and seemingly sustainable consensus to uphold the principles of articles 1-20.

  4. If the people wanted an end to liberal democracy and authoritarian rule I don't think it would matter about the constitution there would be no defence to stop them tearing the system apart.

    This "populist movement" as its called is not about undoing democracy, targeting minorities of society.

    It's a kickback agaisnt the political correctness that is a censhorship of speech and thought coupled with corruption/percieved corruption with the current people in charge. There are so many things that could be listed but the simple fact is the current people in charge are not dealing with the situations as the people want. Which is no wonder why an outsider can therefore win elections, which may be a good thing, the problem is they are an unknown quantity.


    1. For the next four years minimum it doesn't matter what the voters believed, just as it didn't matter what hopes the voters projected on Obama 08.

      They voted a narcissistic disorder personality into power, and will bear the consequences together with innocents.

      I'm amazed at the gullibility of the people who think Trump will fight against corruption.

      PC is no political issue. It's a social issue. Freedom of speech is not affected by PC.
      People too often claim that human rights are restricted when they're not. I had trolls claiming that comment moderation infringed their freedom of speech, which was bollocks.
      Freedom o0f speech means the government isn't going to punish you for what you say or write, it does not protect you against other members of society disrespecting you for what you said or wrote. Furthermore, it doesn't entitle you to get your opinion published at the publication of your choice, but it entitles you to set up a publication of your own.

    2. I'd like to add; Trump and (R) exploited the backlash that was described here


      This backlash isn't necessarily rational, or wise, or smart, or proportional.

    3. Anti-corruption Trump is bad joke.

      American liberals and radical left won cultural war against conservatives in seventies and their Gramscian "cultural hegemony" is still there - in liberal press, in the universities. In last year or so, there were several cases when professors lost jobs because PC students went crazy and absolutely intollerant to ANY differences in opinion. Thinks like "safe spaces" - where you suppose not to be "disturbed" be different opinions at all - that`s really mad idea. Totalitarian idea.

      But of course you are mainly right there - you can`t made things better by making them much worse. You can`t give presidency to immature narcissist, especially when his party controls both chambers of Congress.

    4. 'They voted a narcissistic disorder personality into power, and will bear the consequences together with innocents. I'm amazed at the gullibility of the people who think Trump will fight against corruption.'

      Donald trump wasn't elected necessarily because he would fight corruption, but because he is anti-establishment. He was subjected to the most sustained, vitriolic media attack in U.S. history, and the public took notice. People aren't stupid, sven. They know that 90% of the mass media are owned by just 6 corporations, all of whom had alot to lose under trump. But by treating his presidency in such a biased and dismissive manner (and failing spectacularly), they already suffered a major loss: Their credibility went out the window.

      FYI, hillary clinton is even worse than donald trump. Every negative trait you can (correctly) attribute to him is taken up to eleven with hillary. Worse yet, she was pro-immigration and anti-gun. And with all of the criminal investigations surrounding hillary, it was a wonder that she was even allowed to run for president, much less nominated in the stead of bernie sanders! She was a terrible candidate in every sense of the word, and the democrats set themselves up for failure by selecting her.

      Theres a very good article on this by glenn greenwald, which I recommend to you:

  5. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/10/a-power-struggle-inside-safe-spaces/502859/

  6. If the current class seem to be utterly ineffective what have you got to lose by giving someone else a go? Bearing in mind that there are limits to what they can do. It does matter what the voters believed and want, if this wasn't the case why bother having elections at all?

    How can PC not be a political problem considering the utter vulgar, and badly worded comments by a candidate for president actually won. While i agree with your sentiments regarding free speech, i.e government vs people and publisher having a choice over what they publish, what do you class as society disrepecting that is allowed? I have no problems with members of society to vehemently disagree with someones views and argue them. Though orgasnising campaigns agaisnt them to their social exclusion to my view is an attack on freedom of speech. This is a tactic being used by a vocal minority to shut down views they disagree with. For example a campaign to pressure businesses into not advertisng in certain papers due to their content. The government has also punished people for not being PC, for example reportedly a couple trying to adopt a baby were red-flaged over a comment about the suitability of gay couples being adoptive parents. I do believe the government is being drawn into PC, politicians certainly have and it is having an effect on freedom of speech and the quality of political debate. I do agree the backlash by the majority may be potentially dangerous though only if rational, sensible persons who views, or percieved views, align with society do not stand up and are heard.

    Who knows what will happen, but what is the proportional response? How as an entire society can you have a proportional, rational response when the political parties don't seem to take note? Let alone adjust to the new reality. I would at this point just like to add of the 300m odd Americans i don't believe Trump is the one that should be president but i understand when giving the choice between Clinton and Trump why Americans voted the way they did.


  7. Czech Republic had been on the same way since 2014. People wanted "change" don`t considering potential costs. But want you to end establishment/two political dynasties (Bush - Clinton), or to destroy entire political system? Stay cautious.

    Today our leading constitutional lawyer proposed to put the term "nation" into basic document.

    Czech nationalism is modelled along old German romantic one, so every talk about "nation" bears strong ethnic-racial connotations automatically.

    I wonder how our Slovak, Ukrainian, Vietnamese fellow citizens can feel these days. What about small African, Muslim and of course Jewish communities?

    They stay ex definitione outside the Czech nation. There isn`t any concept of (French) political nation there.

    When former Grand Wizard of KKK David Duke thanks Wikileaks for bringing Trump to WH, I see you are probably in much bigger trouble than I am.

  8. Today: More than 60 Czech MPs, 27 of them Communists, draft law concerning "defamation of head of the state". (It means: Our constantly swearing wino-in-chief glorified by Russian state media.)

    Just two days before aniversary of Velvet Revolution, which is still national holiday, strangely enough.

    Even prime minister for long seen as last obstacle to reversal to the East know supports pro-Russian president.

    So don`t count on Czech Rep. anymore, democratic Germany.


  9. There is little to add. Avoiding too much power for a government, branch, role etc greatly increases the odds for the long-term survival of a democracy.

    Still scarcy stuff happens, even to 'robust' democracies.