January 21, 2004

John Quiggin Needs to Read the Declaration of Independence

John Quiggin needs to read the Declaration of Independence in order to avoid key philosophical errors like the one he commits below when he privileges democracy over liberty:

John Quiggin: "I’ve been arguing for a while that the only sustainable course in Iraq is that demanded by Ayatollah Sistani, that is, early elections which will, almost inevitably, produce a Shia majority government and some form of official Islamism. The occupying powers have no legitimate basis to resist this demand. Admittedly, legitimacy is not a major concern for Bush, either at home or abroad, but the lack of it produces practical adverse consequence. No serious decision can properly be made under these circumstances. The occupiers have already found this out in relation to their economic agenda of privatisation free-market reform and so forth.

Now there’s the news that the ‘Governing Council’ appointed by Paul Bremer has revoked a lot of Baathist laws protecting the civil status of women. If Bremer overrides this decision, he’ll be exposing the Governing Council as a sham. On the other hand, since the Governing Council is a sham, a decision by Bremer to approve the revocation is, in effect, a decision by the US to deprive half the Iraqi population of civil rights without ever giving them a chance to vote on it.

It seems likely that the government produced by an election would adopt similar policies. But, although this would be undesirable, it’s the typical outcome of democratic government in countries where religion is taken seriously - divorce and contraception have been banned wherever Catholicism is dominant, for example. Just as the US would not have been justified in invading Ireland to reform its divorce laws, it is not justified in denying democratic self-government to the Iraqi people because they might pass illiberal laws.

A government--however democratic--that is set up in such a way that it will enslave Blacks, subject women, deny religious freedom is no legitimate government at all. Majority rule needs to be curbed by minority (or, in the case of the subjection of women, majority) rights. The Declaration says:

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted... that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A Bonapartist or a fascist or a theocratic dictatorship is not a legitimate government, no matter how large are its plebiscitary majorities and how enthusiastic are its crowds. The only governments that have even a possibility of being truly legitimate are those that maintain an underlying liberal order--which means protecting minority (and women's) rights.

Posted by DeLong at January 21, 2004 05:56 PM | TrackBack

Comments

"No government--however democratic--that is set up in such a way that it will enslave Blacks, subject women, deny religious freedom is no legitimate government at all. Majority rule needs to be curbed by minority (or, in the case of the subjection of women, majority) rights."

I agree that the fullest range of liberties, including protection of minority rights, is highly desirable. But the U.S. violated many if not all of those tenets thoughout the Articles of Confederation and some of them well into the 1960s. Surely, its government was legitimate?

Could a radical Islamist government be considered legitimate if the vast majority of the citizenry fervently wished one? I'd think so.

Posted by: James Joyner on January 21, 2004 06:28 PM

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The tension between majority rule rights of the minority has been around for a long time, as shown in TJ's first inaugural address:

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

Madison said that an oppressed minority always retained it's basic right -the natural right of revolution. That is cold comfort.

If the previous post's argument is that unjust majority rule is OK now because majority rule in the US was (in hindsight) unjust for many years, then I wouldn't agree. If oppression and cruelty reaches beyond a certain point, I would have to question the legitimacy of the government, majority rule or not. Don't ask me what that point would be.

A gold star to anyone who can solve this puzzle.

Posted by: jml on January 21, 2004 06:41 PM

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It is true that our ancestors struggled with the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, just as we do today. Garry Wills argues that it was Lincoln's Gettysburg address that brought slaves into the meaning of the phrase "all men are created equal".

The broader point is that the "We" in we hold these truths to be self-evident, is meant as a statement of universal principle. Jefferson intended to embody the best thinking of his time in one of our founding documents. We have worked with this guidance for over 200 years. Our experience with this principle, and our stance as a nation in the world, give us the right and duty to insist on the principle. This is not a place for cultural relativism. Our view of this issue is more likely to be right.

As a practical matter, it is unreasonable to believe that the men of Iraq have some monopoly on the ability to govern themselves, to the exclusion of the women of Iraq. Just as the men have to emerge from the blight of Hussein, so do the women, and they had better do it together.

Theoretically, it would be best if we could persuade them to do this themselves. But, we did not do that in Japan, and we should not do it here.

Posted by: masaccio on January 21, 2004 06:59 PM

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jml

"A gold star to anyone who can solve this puzzle"

Umm..not every problem has a solution! Moreover, one characteristic of wisdom is knwoing how to avoid situations were problems without solutions need to be solved.

Posted by: CSTAR on January 21, 2004 07:30 PM

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Noone has been arguing against a little American guidance in writing the Iraqi (or Afghan for that matter) Constitution. What puts people off is to talk the talk of democracy, and then not to walk the walk of elections. How do you think this resonates like to the ears of the so-called Arab World?

Now, IMHO, the preferable option would be IMHO to make Iraq a federation. Of course, Turkey wouldn't be happy (but, seriously, who cares?) Of course, there is the risk of Shias (or one of the others, perhaps) spliting etc.

But my personal bottom line is that, at one point or another of foreable history, these regions WILL split. They are simply not a natural nation, however much the Western colonialist has always wanted to believe it

So, my point is: why not think a little bit ahead of our times, just as Jefferson did? Failure to do so, is a 99% sure reciepe for later trouble. Otherwise, I doubt we would see a Velvet Revolution is that part of the world as we know it now. Anyhow, it is not a gamble the US wants to take, given its self-inflicted moral responsability with Iraq. Colonize at your own risk...

I say this as a Belgian who has lived through decades of political waste until Belgians finally admitted to themselves the obvious. We are different people -with commonalities, for sure- living under one roof, so to pursue the analogy, we all need our own room, even if we can probably manage to share the kitchen...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 21, 2004 07:39 PM

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"not every problem has a solution!"

In theory, this is a truism. In social and human matters, this occurs most of the time because of a failure to allocate a value to partially alleviating a constrain...

example: "This is not a place for cultural relativism. Our view of this issue is more likely to be right. "

... or simple lack of imagination.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 21, 2004 07:46 PM

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The Iraqi Governing Council is not legitimate, there's no question about that. But Sistani's demands for immediate direct elections are perfectly reasonable and just. Remember, his demands are for direct elections of the group that will write Iraq's constitution. As it stands, the proposed system is caucoses -- and to get on the ballet, you have to be confirmed by the Iraqi Governing Council (11 out of 15 votes). This is absurd, and something which the Shiites have seen before (from the British, for instance). They have a long history of being denied their fair share of legitimate power. This is a window of opportunity for them, and they are unlikely to let it slide by.

There is room within an Islamist government for freedom of religion (there are strict rules in the Qur'an about the protection of Jewish and Christian religions) and also about respect for women and all individuals. Islam is not a bad religion; and while Sistani does insist on Islam being recognized in the constitution (something most Iraqis would want) he has not argued for a Islamic-cleric run state.

I think people are afraid that Iraq is going to turn into another Afghanistan, but I simply don't think that's the case. Our fears are unfounded. What is a far scarier proposition is what happens when we do try to de-rail the Shiite political process and end up turning them even more against us.

They have seen us try to force that sham of a leader Achmed Chalabi down their throat and they are unlikely to trust us in our desire to institute a true democracy, however sincere we may really be.

Posted by: Tom Flanigan on January 21, 2004 07:50 PM

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I think that Quiggin point was not about which would be the best government for Irak or the balance between majority rule and minority rights but about legitimacy. "The only governments that have a possibility of being truly legitimate are those that maintain an underlying liberal order." Under this criteria, many, maybe most of the world's governments would be illegitimate and as such worthy of "regime change". That is a bit extreme and impractical too. If the majority of the population doesn't want a liberal order, trying to impose it it's probably counterproductive. In fact simply too many governments aren't even elected (at least in real elections). Maybe we could settle for elected (but illiberal) regimes as the least of two evils and a transitional step to democracy? The situation in Iran suggests that it may work (in the long term).

Posted by: Carlos on January 21, 2004 07:54 PM

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I sense some terminological confusion here. There's a difference between calling a government "legitimate" and calling it "OK"; a legitimate government--i.e. one that commands the consent of the governed--can indeed be far from OK. Such was indeed the case with the U.S. through much of its history [in the case of blacks, well into my own lifetime]; but note that if one concludes from this that the U.S. government was *illegitimate,* you are saying that it had no right to continue to exist--that it should have been overthrown. I don't think you want to go that far, Brad.

Posted by: David on January 21, 2004 07:57 PM

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Well, how often does it *really* happen that democracy and liberty are in conflict? The most often-cited case I've heard of is that of Adolph Hitler. This isn't a very convincing argument to me because Hitler never won elections until he became chancellor by Von Hindenberg's fiat when he balked at the idea of appointing a Socialist/Communist chancellor, the coalition of whom had a legitimate majority, and when you have a government like the Nazis, saying that they managed to get majorities AFTER they had control over the levers of power is more a condemnation of them than of democracy's compatibility with liberty.

I've also heard Ferdinand Marcos mentioned, though he stopped being democratic or liberal in the middle.

There's Hugo Chavez, who is genuinely a democratic leader with a quite shoddy record on liberty. I suppose there's a point there...

Israel -- well, the people who generally condemn its human rights abuses the most generally don't admit it's a democracy, and the people who trumpet its democracy the most generally try to play down its human rights abuses, but I think there is a point there.

Still, I'm often suspicious of "limited democracy" arguments, because they often excuses for giving power to powerful minorities with no more concern for liberty for all than the majority. When I talk about the electoral college or Senate, for example, people sometimes say "The U.S. is a republic, not a democracy. We value liberty for all, not strict majoritarian rule." Well, okay: that's a case for constitutional protections, and might even be a case for requiring supermajorities for a lot of legislative acts, but how does it justify giving a certain minority more power?

The case that democracy leads to majoritarian oppression seems rather thin to me.

You all have probably read this, but I think it's worth posting anyway:

http://www.matthewyglesias.com/archives/001997.html

Posted by: Julian Elson on January 21, 2004 07:58 PM

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I made a typo above: it should be that Islamic law specifically stresses the importance of Jewish and Christian communities.

I guess my point is that we look at these mass Shiite demonstrations, and much like how old world Europeans must have shivered in their boots to consider the idea of an uneducated lower class seizing political power, we think "religious fanatacism" and question the wisdom of deposing Saddam for a government which may in fact truly be sympathetic to Al'Qaeda (as opposed to being a mortal enemy, as Saddam was). But I think in this case conventional wisdom is wrong.

This is about an under-represented group demanding their fair share of power and self-determination. Let them elect their delegates. Let them directly have a voice in the creation of their constitution -- and, yes, let them put in mention of Islam.

I do not advocate that the US completely withdraw. We could send in our Iraqi exiles as "super-delegates," perhaps. But if we continue to resist Sistani's and the Shiite population's demands we will have some real trouble.

Posted by: Tom Flanigan on January 21, 2004 08:05 PM

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All this high-falutin rhetoric got us into this mess. Iraq is going to be occupied and roiled by guerilla war; oppressed by a secular strong man or oppressed by theocracts and roiled by civil war; or some combination of the above in the coming decade. One thing is certain, Sunni women will be worse off a year from now than they were a year ago.

What could be worse than an Iraq ruled by Saddam? How about an Iraq in the aftermath of a western invasion and occupation.

By the way, the tree of liberty here in the US could use a little water these days.

Posted by: CMike on January 21, 2004 08:23 PM

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>There is room within an Islamist government for freedom of religion
>(there are strict rules in the Qur'an about the protection of Jewish
>and Christian religions)

If it's anything like the way the Islamic Republic of Iran treats its Christians and Jews suffice it to say I don't think much of it.

>and also about respect for women and all individuals.

The testimony of women is equal to 1/2 of men in courts. Women would be stripped of much of the rights if the IGCs attempt to eliminate secular personal status laws and replace it with religious laws (and in particular Sharia) suceeds. Just read the numerous complaints about how Iraqi women would be affected if secular personal status laws were to be replaced by Sharia.

>Islam is not a bad religion;

We aren't saying it is. But it is what it is.

>and while Sistani does
>insist on Islam being recognized in the constitution (something most
>Iraqis would want) he has not argued for a Islamic-cleric run state.

No, he just wants to have the clerics to influence government decisions (the most obvious way he wants this is by saying no law may violate Sharia). If anything that makes it even worse. At least in an Iranian theocracy we know the government officials (the clerics) who are supposed to be charge really are in charge. In Sistani's idea of clerical influence, the clerics would have the power through its influence to make and repeal laws, but then they can always deny responsibility for such actions because technically they aren't really part of the government. I find it absurd that anyone would want such non-governmental individuals to have such enormous power.

Posted by: Dan the Man on January 21, 2004 08:26 PM

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Jean-Philippe

"truism" Trivial or tautological? It is certainly "tautological" in the sense that
it is easy to find examples of problems with no solutions a-priore: the equation x=x+1 has no real solution. But it is not trivial, in the sense that much effort is often spent trying to solve insoluble problems.

"In social and human matters, this occurs most of the time because of a failure to allocate a value to partially alleviating a constraint"

I assume you mean a social welfare function or some social decision procedure (for example a dictator, even if benevolent such as Mr Bremer). Sure, but that still leaves us to decide on the procedure. Where does this stop?

Having deliberately gone into Iraq with the explicit intention of upending the existing (and unquestionably perverse) ba'athist order, the US has now taken upon itself the solution of problems which apparently violate moral constraints that it believed it had when it went in.

Posted by: CSTAR on January 21, 2004 08:40 PM

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CSTAR:
Yes, I did say "A gold star to anyone who can solve this puzzle." But it was a joke. I always forget to put in the smiley face.

I agree with your post, especially
"Umm..not every problem has a solution! Moreover, one characteristic of wisdom is knwoing how to avoid situations were problems without solutions need to be solved."

Posted by: jml on January 21, 2004 09:24 PM

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"The only governments that have a possibility of being truly legitimate are those that maintain an underlying liberal order."

So how long do you want the U.S. to stay in Iraq - and having its soldiers killed - so that an underlying liberal order can be established? Wishing for utopia is easy; getting there is the hard part.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 21, 2004 10:00 PM

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Interests Converge for Qadafi and Bush
by Meteor Blades
Wed Jan 21st, 2004 at 05:41:45 GMT

The Bush Administration is already making campaign fodder out of its apparent success at getting Moammar al-Qadafi to end his country’s doomed-from-the-beginning efforts to build nuclear weapons.

See how effective our Iraq policy has been, the administration line goes. Qadafi, so it is said, saw the handwriting on the wall when Baghdad fell and has come groveling to the minions of George Bush to take away his not-yet-weapons of mass destruction. The idea is that in this way the dictator wouldn’t become the Administration’s next target on the Axis of Evil list.

In fact, Libya was barely a blip on the neocon radar.

Qadafi is a monster all right. My wife showed up on a spring day in 1982 on the campus of Al Fatah University in Tripoli, where she taught English for three years, to discover the bodies of dissenters hanging from lampposts. My stepchildren, born in the U.S. but raised in Libya for most of their lives, can tell horrific stories about Libyans who disappeared forever when they were kidnapped to fight in Qadafi’s imperialist schemes in Chad or Sudan. Expatriate foes of the regime have been hunted and murdered as far away as Colorado.

Amnesty International has the lowdown, and, truth be told, its report merely touches the surface. The two major Libyan resistance Web sites - both, of course, based outside the country - can be accessed here in English and Arabic and here in Arabic only.

No fool, Qadafi knew his grandiose ambitions outside Libya were finished long before George Bush started rattling the saber at Baghdad. The colonel began, in his sly way, to mend international fences and ensure his own political survival before Bush even showed up in the White House.

Given Qadafi’s fears about fundamentalism, it was no surprise to long-time observers that he was one of the first world leaders to back the U.S. retaliation against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The trial of his terrorist henchmen in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing and the victim compensation package boosted Qadafi further out of the crosshairs.

So now, what we have, in effect, is a fortuitous convergence of interests between Bush and Qadafi. Bush gets to look tough at home and Qadafi gets to look moderate abroad, helping both to stay in power.

The partisanship of this affair already stinks from here to Tripoli:
Gadhafi meeting set

Weldon will lead historic mission to Libyan capital

By Hans Nichols

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) will lead a historic congressional delegation to Tripoli this weekend to hold talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

He and other members of Congress will also visit one of the unconventional weapons sites that Libya has agreed to open to international inspectors.

The touchdown of Weldon’s five-member bipartisan delegation aboard a U.S. Navy plane in Tripoli Sunday morning will mark the first official visit to Libya by American elected representatives since relations were severed in 1979.

Weldon, who serves as vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the symbolism of a U.S. military craft entering Libyan airspace “significant,” noting the 1986 nighttime bombing by F-111 Aardvarks ordered by President Reagan.

He plans to arrive with Gadhafi’s son, Saif Islam, the heir apparent, who played a key role in arranging the meeting. …

The Weldon-led trip may eclipse another planned congressional visit to the North African nation by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House International Relations Committee. Lantos, who had been planning his own trip for over a year and was working in conjunction with the Bush administration, was scheduled to leave Friday evening on a commercial flight, on a trip that had been sanctioned by the departments of State and Treasury, said a Lantos aide. …

But it looked unlikely yesterday that Lantos would arrive before the Weldon group. Lantos has tentatively rescheduled his trip for later in February. …

The aide dismissed any suggestion that there’s a race between Weldon and Lantos as to who gets to Libya.

But another congressional aide speculated that Weldon, with his forceful personality and extensive if unorthodox foreign contacts, was able to ensure that he and his delegation would be the first to meet Gadhafi.
There’s another convergence of interests, too. Libyan oil. There are 29.5 billion barrels of proven reserves, and a good portion of the country remains seismically unexplored. Libya can pump 1.4 million barrels a day, making it Africa’s largest producer and a major supplier to Spain, Italy, Malta, Germany, and France. In the New Venture 2000 survey of 76 global oil companies, Libya came up the No. 1 preferred location for exploration and production.

Qadafi, who diverts much of Libya’s $12 billion in annual oil revenue to personal use and schemes like the Great Manmade River Project, is eager for those companies – Halliburton included – to rebuild the sanctions-damaged oil infrastructure so that he’ll have more money to divert and spend on the secret police who are found everywhere in Libyan society.

During the upcoming campaign, every time you hear mention of the administration’s “success” in bringing Qadafi to heel, you can be sure that Libyan democracy and human rights are far from the minds of Bush and his cronies, just as they were in Iraq.

http://www.dailykos.com

Posted by: Cros Strees on January 21, 2004 10:47 PM

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I think there's some confusion about the Declaration in your argument. It does list inalienable rights, but the mechanism to protect them is for the "People" to alter or abolish their government. The Declaration has no ready solution for a majority of the people oppressing a minority, as opposed to a government oppressing the people at large. The majoritarian dilemna was only faced squarely in the run-up to the Constitution. And one could argue its never been solved. Because if the majority's definition of rights is wrong, on what grounds is a minority's better? Who gets to decide and why? See Jeremy Waldron's Law and Disagreement.

Posted by: rd on January 21, 2004 10:49 PM

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"A government--however democratic--that is set up in such a way that it will enslave Blacks, subject women, deny religious freedom is no legitimate government at all. Majority rule needs to be curbed by minority (or, in the case of the subjection of women, majority) rights."

Well then this just defines legitimate government out of existence if a sufficient number of people want to deny freedoms to somebody. Maybe you want a constitution that would deny a simple majority the right to do something oppressive. So require a 2/3 majority... well what if 2/3 of the people support oppression? Repeat for any proportion you can think of, there is always a way to vote in something illegitimate. The only alternative is a dictator that happens to share your views, and I doubt you'd consider a dictatorship legitimate either.

And as others have pointed out... would you call the US government "illegitimate" when it supported slavery, when it denied women the vote, when it denied women equal rights recognition under the constitution, when it denied gay couples the same rights as straight couples? Rinse and repeat...

Gee, guess what, no matter what mechanism of government you set up it can always do something you don't like if enough people support that action. So you might as well set up a democratic government, as they've demonstrated the most long term resistance to oppressive actions.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on January 21, 2004 11:17 PM

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I think the answer to the "democracy" (=majority rule) vs. minority rights dilemma has been provided by liberal constitutionalism since the late 18th century (and, more specifically, the declaration of independence and the US constitution). Constitutionalist thinkers have always maintained what De Long said right in the beginning of this thread: Majority rule can turn out a tyranny (De Tocqueville on "Democracy in America" in the early 19th century) - so there have to be "unalienable rights". There has to be a constitution that establishes limits to what "the majority" can do. That's what constitutional democray is all about: A constitution sets certain "rules of the game" - and WITHIN these rules, the majority can decide whatever they please, they can choose a right-wing or a left-wing government, they can change tax laws, the civil code, whatever: as long as they don't touch what we have come to call "human rights" and fundamental constitutional principles.

I also happen to think there should be no "cultural relativism" in these matters. Human rights ARE universal. (By the way, this is also what the International Court of Justice is about, and it is a shame the US do not accept it.)

I agree, though, that you sure can bomb somebody back to the stone age, but you cannot bomb somebody into accepting the unversal value of liberal constitutional democracy. We do have a problem there. It is right for the UN to send troops (based on a security council resolution) to stop a dictator before he commits, say, a genocide - see Milosevic). But the "free nations" cannot send troops whenever single rights, even human rights, are being violated (otherwise, the European Union should invade the US for still allowing capital punishment, which according to the European understanding of human rights is not legitimate).

But what democracies can and should always do is trying to advocate the cause of constitutionalism and human rights.

Posted by: gerhard on January 22, 2004 12:39 AM

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James Joyner:

>I agree that the fullest range of liberties,
>including protection of minority rights, is
>highly desirable. But the U.S. violated many if
>not all of those tenets thoughout the Articles
>of Confederation and some of them well into the
>1960s. Surely, its government was legitimate?

What happened under the AoC is neither here nor there, in terms of how well the US upholds the values enshrined in the constitution that superseded them. But you're right on the broader point: a goodly portion of any US constitutional law casebook consists of eloquent dissents against decisions upholding what we, in retrospect, can only regard as tyrannical acts of the majority.

Still, at the core of the US constitution is the stuff of a Good State: democracy, along with a shield for minorities against the excesses of pure majoritarianism. Think of it in Aristotelian terms: the Goodness of the State is always to some degree in potentia, struggling to achieve actualisation. Even when Americans fall down on the job of living up to their constitution's ideals, the system is legitimate because of those ideals.

Julian Elson:

>Well, how often does it *really* happen that
>democracy and liberty are in conflict?
[...]
>The case that democracy leads to majoritarian
>oppression seems rather thin to me.

If you were able to conduct the experiment of travelling back in time and changing your nationality to become a Roman Catholic living in Northern Ireland a few decades ago, you would gain an interesting new perspective that might thicken that case up a bit.

(In the interest of fairness, I should acknowledge that there was majoritarian tyranny against the minority in southern Ireland as well, though to a considerably lesser (and generally less malign) degree.)

Posted by: Mrs Tilton on January 22, 2004 01:11 AM

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Are you going to tell the Iraqis that they're only allowed to pick a form of government based on the US Constitution or shall I?

Posted by: dsquared on January 22, 2004 01:43 AM

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I vote for Brad doing the telling. I'm sure that Bremer would gladly cede that task :)

Tom Flanigan:

"The Iraqi Governing Council is not legitimate, there's no question about that. But Sistani's demands for immediate direct elections are perfectly reasonable and just. Remember, his demands are for direct elections of the group that will write Iraq's constitution. As it stands, the proposed system is caucoses -- and to get on the ballet, you have to be confirmed by the Iraqi Governing Council (11 out of 15 votes). This is absurd, and something which the Shiites have seen before (from the British, for instance). They have a long history of being denied their fair share of legitimate power. This is a window of opportunity for them, and they are unlikely to let it slide by."

And Sistani would be a fool to accept the current US plan, which calls for the US-appointed council to have the power of nomination (even if the caucuses weren't rigged, which would be a first under the Bush administration). As some machine politician said, "I don't care who does the electing, if I can do the nominating".

This would be followed by the winners of the election writing the constitution, defining the basic laws of the country. That's got to be nice. Then they'd conduct the next election, under the rules which they had written. Even if they obeyed their rules, it would still be *their* rules.

Any crooked gambler would be delighted if he could rig the game that much.

Posted by: Barry on January 22, 2004 04:11 AM

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While the issue of whether majority rule or (somebody’s) notion of liberty should take precedence is good to raise, I think this is not a debate that is going very far in the Iraqi context. This is one of those ‘realm of the possible’ and 'lesser of evils' situations. This debate has been badly muddled by earlier (badly muddle) debate over whether Mideastern Muslims are capable of maintaining a democratic form of government. The answer to that question will not be demonstrated by what Iraq does now. The question we will soon see answered is, what can the situation in Iraq sustain, right now? If religious zealots care more about enforcing their own beliefs than they do about democracy, and those zealots are powerful, whence comes an impulse for liberty? Is such liberty going to be the standard for allowing Iraqis (a few or many) to rule Iraq? I doubt it. Is some semblance of democracy going to be the standard? Our leaders are certainly trying.

Whatever philosophical error Mr. Quiggen may have committed, he has caught the intentions of the occupying powers fairly well. There will be a semblance of democracy – that’s why we invaded, right? – without regard to the impact on domestic liberties. The new democratic rulers will, of course, have to meet certain geopolitical standards, but so will the French and the Pakistanis, and rulers in neither of those countries like it very much, either.

Posted by: K Harris on January 22, 2004 06:13 AM

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>>Are you going to tell the Iraqis that they're only allowed to pick a form of government based on the US Constitution or shall I?<<

You. Definitely you. Definitely.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 22, 2004 07:48 AM

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I was not interested in invading Iraq in the first place, much less telling them what kind of Government they should have. Their eventual form of Government is probably not one that I would support, but then who's asking. As far as "liberation" or "Iraqi freedom", be careful what you wish for. I have never accepted the principle that we own Iraq, therefore, I cannot accept dictating to them their form of Government, regardless of how heinous. Perhaps we will learn something about the perils of nation building.

Posted by: tstreet on January 22, 2004 09:43 AM

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Brad DeLong: [quoting the DoI] "WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ..."

Do you subscibe to the "endowed by their Creator" part?

Posted by: Michael on January 22, 2004 12:53 PM

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"A government--however democratic--that is set up in such a way that it will enslave Blacks, subject women, deny religious freedom is no legitimate government at all."

So when did the US government become legitimate? At the end of the Civil War? When women got the vote? Or when the Indians are allowed to smoke peyote?

The simple historical truth is that the Constitution (via the Supreme Court) has been somewhat less than a wonder in protecting minority rights. Yes, I know that's the theory, but hit don't work that way.

While I am personally about as liberal as they come, I find Quiggin's assertion hard to refute that "Just as the US would not have been justified in invading Ireland to reform its divorce laws, it is not justified in denying democratic self-government to the Iraqi people because they might pass illiberal laws."

The "liberalism" of our current laws--women voting, Blacks not in slavery--were gains actually sanctioned by the majority.

I have the feeling that the process of democracy is more important than the immediate result. If a truly democratic structure can be established, along with a certain openness of information, it becomes possible for a minority to convince the majority to yield, maybe not in the short run, but eventually. Vide gay rights.

Posted by: Handy Fuse on January 22, 2004 03:57 PM

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Micheael,
as for the "endowed by their Creator":

While I am a non-believer myself, I have no problem acknowledging that in the 18th century, the notion of fundamental human rights was (quite necessarily) based on the "endowed by their Creator"-argument - that's the context, not the substance.

The DoI does not, I think, oblige anyone to be a Creationist. The important bit is "equal" and "unalienable rights".

As of today, over 200 year later, believers and non-belivers can agree that a universally valid Declaration of Human Rights has been established shortly after World War II, and "we hold that for self-evident", and we won*t go back from there.

Posted by: gerhard on January 23, 2004 03:24 AM

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