Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Context, Context, Context

Wow. Some folks over at Daily Kos have themselves all upset. They quote me, from a debate in 2009.

“The United States is not a democracy and shouldn’t be,” said Michael Munger, Duke University’s Political Science Department chairman and a 2008 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate attacking it at a League of Women Voters forum. “There is NO moral force in the majority. It is just what most people happen to think.”
The Corporatists/Christianists/CU have NOW spoken what and why many of us 99% are fighting against. They said that we, the 99% Have NO MORAL (christian values???) force. We don't know how to pick and choose between good and bad LEADERS?

Um....some context, folks.

1. It was a DEBATE. The League of Women Voters wanted a debate, with one side arguing FOR the Electoral College and one arguing AGAINST. I drew "for" the EC, and argued it. I could just as easily have argued "against." I am actually agnostic on the question of the Electoral College. But for the sake of a debate, I was willing to argue the case for the Electoral College. That's not a policy paper I did, it's a DEBATE. Quoting those claims and attributing them to me is pretty dumb, even by the standards of Daily Kos.  It would be just as wrong to have attributed to me the claims I would have made if I had drawn the "against" position.  IT. WAS. A. DEBATE.

2. I do stand by the "majority does not define morality" point. Two examples:
  • First Amendment to the US Constitution. Just because the majority happens to be Christian doesn't mean that the majority gets to impose Christian prayers in schools. Morality has to stay separate from Majority.
  • Second example: Roe v. Wade. Suppose a state has a majority that wants to outlaw abortion. Roe v. Wade says they don't get to. Roe v. Wade says, "No democracy on this question. It is an individual rights question."  There are lots of other examples.  But presumably the Daily Kosoids actually agree in those two instances that majorities should be prevented from forcing their will on the rest of us.  That's the American system.  We are NOT a democracy, because of the Bill of Rights.  Majorities cannot trample the rights of individuals.
So....it was a DEBATE.  I don't care much one way or the other about Electoral College, but as an intellectual assigned to a debate position I am capable of arguing either side, to help the audience make up their own minds.  That's the tradition of debate.  And the idea that majorities are not always right is enshrined in the 1st Amendment, and in the Roe v. Wade decision.

Let's just assume this was a simple misunderstanding....


Anonymous said...

Did you punk out on this one? What about other restrictions on our liberty beyond abortion, free speech, etc? For example, where do you stand on Lochner?

Brad Hutchings said...

Well, the Daily Kos is a notoriously bigoted web site that has endorsed, among other things, California's Prop 8, which was approved by a majority of voters, but overturned today by a Federal Court.

Anyone else wanna play this game?

Mungowitz said...

Sure, yes, economic freedoms also have to be protected from majorities. So of course my anti-majoritarianism is much deeper and more thorough-going.

But even the ACLU is anti-majoritarian on 1st, 4th, and 5th amendment grounds.

I'm not so sure whether Lochner was rightly decided. I do know that the "Slaughterhouse" cases that overturned it seemed to have been focused on putting ethnic butchers out of business, so that the large corporations that paid big $$ to the Democrats could make more profits.

A better example of economic anti-majoritarianism would be the Kelo decision. There you have a corporation dominating a city council. So the city just takes private land and gives it to the corporation. The rights of Ms. Kelo and neighbors should have been protected.

As "punking out": My main hope in life is to be able to satisfy the standards of anonymous blog commenters. If ONLY I could have your approval...THEN perhaps my life would have meaning.

(NOTE: This comment was edited)

dangph said...

The light bulb almost flickers on for one of the commenters at the Daily Kos. He says that Republicans are content to let gay rights be a democratic issue because they know that the general public don't care about gay rights. Unfortunately he didn't manage to extract the broader lesson from that insight because he was too busy making a partisan point.

Richard Stands said...

You're in good company:

“There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.”

- James Madison

Of course, I prefer the pithier version I first heard from Penn Jillette:

"9 out of 10 people supported the gang rape."

Michael said...

Here's my 2012 rule for political commentary. If the speaker identifies himself as one of the 99 percent, they are claiming to speak for people who don't agree with them.

What could be a baser call for simple majority rule than that?

John henry said...

Re the electoral college:

Doesn't this get to the very core of the being and concept of the United *STATES*?

Our founding fathers understood the word "state" to mean a separate, independent, self-governing and sovereign body. They understood it as being synonymous with the word "country".

The US is organized with all power residing in the states and in their people.

The federal govt has some powers that the states have delegated to it.

The president works for the states, not for the people. He (or she in the future) should be elected by the states in the manner they see fit. If that is democratically by popular vote, fine. If it is winner take all or proportionally by some means, I am fine with that too. If is involves no popular vote at all, I am fine with that too.

It is up to the states, not to the federal government, to decide.

John Henry