November 14th, 2004
|thomryng||02:12 pm - Executive Authority|
"The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength; and the power of directing and employing the common strength, forms a usual and essential part in the definition of the executive authority." (The Federalist Number 74, Alexander Hamilton, 1788)
Chief Executives, or Magistrates, enforce the laws passed by the Legislature. The genius of the American Constitution is that the President is also subject to the law, and is removable for violating it.
Where the Constitution falls down, in my opinion, is in making the Head of State (HS) the same person as the Head of Government</font> (HG). The HS should provide, like the British Monarch, for the continuity of the State, even when the government is in flux or embroiled in scandal. The HG is the person who, like the British Prime Minister, actually provides direction to the government.
In my opinion, these functions should be separated on the British (Parliamentary) model.
So...putting a powerless figurehead at the top of the government makes everybody honest? It doesn't make much sense to me.
We can look at examples such as the UK, where the HS (the queen) does nothing, and everybody knows Tony Blair runs the show. Is Britain crumbling under the weight of Blair's tyranny? Hardly.
Not saying that it makes everyone honest (hell no, we're talking about humans here, lol), but at least it keeps the one who reigns (but never rules) over the country at large out of the ever-fluctuating politics of the country.
Of course, Blair (among other Labour members) is running the politics of the country presently, but again, politics doesn't make the country: its the other way around. So Blair is running the politics, of course, but does he run the country at large? Nope.
So who runs the country at large, then? The Queen? Whitehall? Norman Rotenburg, some insurance broker in Edinburgh?
The country should exist independently of a person if it's going to be a country. The United States has, in my opinion, done a fairly good job of this particular narrow point; it makes the president a sort of head, but puts him in a position subordinate to the state as a state.
I disagree that politics doesn't make the country. I think both make each other, and trying to give one a dominant influence is like Marx and his fixation on economy - it becomes rather dangerously fallacious.
Making the Head of State a separate entity who's meant to represent the country without actually being involved in governance sounds to me like a bait-and-switch technique used to fool the less politically adept of a populace. Anybody who's actually paying attention will know who's really in charge, and will behave accordingly.
In an ideal democracy, of course, no one person runs the government, which is why there is such a thing as a popularly-elected parliament. In fact, as far as the UK is concerned, the PM, theoretically, isn't the one running the country's politics: that's the parliament's job. Besides, since the politics of the UK, which revolves around and acts within Parliament, is liable to a roller-coaster dip and rise every general election, the PM could easily be dumped and replaced (I mean, he himself is a member of Parliament, dude, as are the members of his government/cabinet). So the PM cannot exist without the Parliament, and thus derives his/her power and owes his/her career to the same. And in that case, I take back what I said in the last comment: Blair doesn't run the UK at large. That's Parliament's job.
Also, you're exactly right in the regard that giving more emphasis to politics than the nation/people at large is, well, "screwed", for lack of a better word. And that proves my point: politics is only one major factor in the existence of a nation or sovereignty. Economy is another, as is religion. Giving more emphasis or power to any particular one of these factors is dangerous for the nation et al.
If you give religion more emphasis than politics, you'll have another Iran and Sudan. If you have economy as the greatest factor, you'll have the USSR and China. If history, you'll have Rwanda and Burundi. If politics, you'll have Ethiopia (under Haile Mariam Mengistu) and Argentina/Chile/Brazil/Uruguay (during the Guerra Sucia of the 60's and 70's).
Thus, none of those factors should play the greatest role in the making, functioning, or maintenance of a nation (Heaven forbid). Instead, in a modern democracy, all of those factors (and others) would cooperate and intermix in a democratic manner that would give none of them the greatest role.
And I believe that the citizens should have someone who is above the fray to look up to for some personage of stability, a leader who doesn't change despite the fluctuations of politics or economy, or any other factor in the operation of the country.
The Parliament votes along party lines, with far more discipline than ever seen in an AMerican legislative body. The PM may derive his position from Parliament and the constituency that elected him, but the Parliament, once letting him take the job, is obliged to follow nearly lockstep except in times of a confidence vote.
I don't agree that politics and economics are separate; rather, since politics is, in its most basic sense, about the allocation of resources (including power), economics is simply an integral part of politics. Religion could be fit in there too, if you like. My contention was that the country (ie the populace and the culture) are a major factor in the political realm, just as politics is among the populace and the culture (indeed, perhaps to the point of it becoming one huge morass of interrelation); concentrating on the purely political, or a segment thereof, and trying to exert that part's dominance over all others, is fallacious.
Most importantly, though, if there is a state, that exists with a culture and politics and people and all that, why does there have to be one person above the foray? If politics really is, as I would contend, involvement in one's culture and society, whether in a state-style administration or otherwise, why should the crownign achievement of that be one person whom we feel must be extricated from the culture and the process? NOt only does it sound like a bait-and-switch decoy to keep the less-informed distracted from participating in the political and cultural processes, but it also seems like we're simply ostracizing the one guy we put up on the pedestal.
We could make a statue the head of state. It would be far more permanent and stable, and would never attempt to get involved in petty human politics. It would never die, and indeed if properly care for would outlast the state itself, most likely.
Rodin's "The Thinker" for Head of State!
I second the motion for the Thinker, lol.
But seriously, youre saying that the head of state should also owe his position to the tsunami-like fluctuation of politics? That's the reason why presidential republics are generally more prone to dictatorship or some other form of top-heavy control of the country at large than the parliamentary ones. In fact, that's the main difference between the two: parliamentary republics would NEVER have a dictator, not at any time in its history, unless the army came to power and threw out the WHOLE parliament and ruled in the name of the King or President (setting up a military junta in the process).
And youre saying that the economy, religion, history, and things like that are actually all part of the nation's politics? Hmm, never thought of it like that before...
And as far as the developments in the UK are concerned, alot of Britons are actually ALARMED about Blair acting like a HS as well as an HG, including, of course, the monarchists ( http://monarchy.net
PMs in Britain, and other parliamentary democracies, have always acted like that. From Atlee to Thatcher, that's just how it works. The HS has no power - the PM has always written the monarch's yearly speech, makes the appointments the monarch is meant to, and so on.
When the separated HS is little more than a figurehead, overthrowing him isn't that hard - especially when one is elected. Hitler comes to mind.
I think that, perhaps, it might be best to hold parliamentary elections, then allow those who were elected to parliament to compete for the HG/HS combined position. What would you say to that?
So I guess that's why Canadian Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson's Opening of Parliament speech was written by PM Martin, since it's an announcement of the "Government", which is just another word for the PM and his Cabinet. And in that case, the HS serves as a ceremonial stamp of approval for the Parliament and the Government.
Of course it would be easy for an elected HS to be overthrown, since he was just another mandate of the people, like the nation's Parliament. Which is why I think that a constitutional monarchy based upon either parliamentary or plebiscitary rule is, probably, the best idea.
And the idea for Parliamentarians competing for the HG/HS position? Maybe...I mean, I don't necessarily like the idea of a legal tyrant, so I'm pretty wary of the idea.
You want to institute a constitutional monarchy? Just to serve as a ceremonial stamp of approval? If the Government is telling the HS what to do, then how is the HS going to be anything but a stamp of approval, no matter what the Government does? What point is there in a leader who can do nothing but follow his own followers?
|Date:||February 23rd, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC)|| |
If the HS is truly divorced from politics, then he or she can excercise a moral authority, as a moderating influence on the party in power.
As an example: while Hindenburg was HS, he was able to hold Hitler and the other far-right parties in check. He actually had very little constitutional authority (except to dismiss parliament, which I do not believe he actually ever did except when the government failed a no-confidence vote), but because his attitude of disdain towards Hitler was well-known, the Nazis actually lost ground in the last election before Hindenburg's death.
Of course, after Hindenburg died, the Nazis went ahead and siezed power any way, so perhaps this isn't the best example...
Considering how fallible any one person is on moral grounds, and how likely it is that an HS given moral authority might attempt to enforce his or her own brand of moral authority (eg religion and value systems) on those who may not agree with the philosophy thereof, I'd rather the stabilizing moral power of a nation be as diffused as possible, including as many people as possible, thereby providing a much more stable base than any one person could.
Look, all I'm saying is that I'm wary of the fact that a president (who has both HS and HG powers) would have the right to veto an act of his country's legislature (heaven forbid his country's plebiscite), since that would mean that he has been given the power to veto, or reject, the ultimate decision of his country's people, as even the legislature itself is the delegated voice of the people.
Maybe a monarchy or ceremonial HS wouldn't be the best ideas, but the veto thing is the major worry for me, as far as the presidential system is concerned. Any suggestions?
I wouldn't mind seeing a president who is less detached from the legislature - if we make him or her publicly electable from the body of people who won seats in the legislature, then what we get is a hybrid of president and prime minister that should work better, and hopefully relieve some of the constant contention that mangles bills. With a system liek this, we can do away with the veto.
However, this should only be done once there's proportional representation, of course.