Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Republican "Leadership" Kills 10th Amendment Bills? What Did You Expect?


I noticed that the Tenth Amendment Center had an article complaining that the Indiana Republican Legislative "Leadership" killed a dozen nullification bills in the state legislature, mostly without even allowing a hearing on them.

The second pillar of Localism supports the concept of nullification when states believe that a law or regulation of the central government violates the compact between them (in the case of the United States, that would be the Constitution). If agents of the central government are the only ones who get to determine the extent of their own authority, one should not be surprised if over time they determine that they have vast powers, and that the states have few. For the contract which binds the states to the central authority to have any lasting legitimacy, both parties to the contract must have some say-so in how it is to be interpreted.

As the first localism book points out, I doubt anyone reading this article would be so foolish as to sign an important contract with another under the condition that only the other party may determine what the terms mean! Nor were the states so foolish as to have their representatives sign the constitution under those terms. Nullification was, at first, on the table. Like any power, it can be abused, but unless states have that power then central government power will almost certainly be abused.

What short circuits the process is what Localism calls the "unitary party system". That is to say, the citizens trust the same nation-wide political club to vet candidates for both state offices and national offices. Those state legislative "leaders" who killed those bills without a hearing are part of the same political club that the federal legislators are in. It's a club headquartered in D.C. and funded largely by global interests. It is simply not reasonable to expect people representing that club, vetted by that club, and led by that club, to stand up to the other members of their club in Washington.

Why is the "leadership" of a party the leadership if they keep doing things the grassroots dislike? Its because the top of the hierarchy in D.C. has a large say in who becomes the "leadership." So long as state legislatures are stuffed full of Republicans and Democrats you can expect that this is what will happen to nullification bills because these legislators owe their place to this national club.

The only way to fix this problem, this end-run around the Founding Father's intent that the state legislatures serve as a check and a balance on the Federal system, is for the people in those states to break up the unitary party system. We should seek separate representation in the state government from that which staffs the federal. This would involve running people for state offices as independents, or as members of a single-state political party. This is discussed in more detail in the third pillar of Localism.

We have a systemic problem: the unitary party system undermines the Founder's intent of states serving as a check and balance to FEDGOV. This results in a policy problem: FEDGOV constantly exceeds its constitutional authority and meddles in people's lives. People get exercised about the problem that they see, but they try to fix it without first correcting the systemic problem which is at the root of the policy problem.

People keep marching into the unitary party system because it seems "easier" to them to effect change through an existing political structure than to start anew. In my life I have seen countless hours of effort squandered taking this "easy" path to political action. If only a tithe of the same effort and energy had been expended on a solution which addressed the underlying systemic problem (the unitary party system) then we would already have state legislatures willing to stand up to Washington when necessary. It would be the default setting instead of something that happens on exceptional occasions, only to return to the rule of fraternity over representation.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Canadian Minister says Canadians Can Do Better than "First Past the Post"

Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef says that advanced Democracies like Canada can do better than the "First Past the Post" method of determining the winner. The system is used by the United States and Canada, but few other long-time democratic or Republican forms of government. This chart shows the nations that still use it, but even many of them have run-off elections should none of the candidates get a majority of votes on the first round. The U.S. is one of the few democratic republics in the world that has a "first past the post" method to determine the election winner without a run-off election (except, oddly, for the most local offices where we do have them).

Because Canada is so big, remote, and diverse, and because the Chief Executive is elected through a coalition in the legislative branch, Canada has more than two viable political parties. But Monsef said that was not enough, and that while first-past-the-post might be OK for fledgling democracies like Afghanistan, Canada can do better. A move by Canada to instant run-off or ranked-choice voting (advocated in Localism) would leave the United States even farther behind. Monsef said that, and other ideas, are on the table.

The first past the post method, most especially in the US, artificially restricts voters to two choices for fear of "splitting the vote" and electing their least-preferred alternative. Notice how the Presidential primary is being affected- people are calling for all but three candidates to drop out because they don't want the vote splitting among candidates in their faction to cost delegates. Ranked choice/instant runoff voting in delegate allocation would help that too- not that I care how private political clubs organize their nomination process. My concern is improving representative government by providing more choice- including the choice of a group of citizens outside of any formal party being able to seriously challenge a congressman by a true grassroots effort.

The parties don't even use "first past the post" to determine the winner for their other primary races. Nor do they do so for the selection of their own party officials. They use run offs. They use something like ranked-choice. If its good enough for them, why have they made the rules so that it is unavailable to the rest of us in general elections for all but the most local offices?

Not every problem in America today is a systemic problem. But even if the other factors were in place, our system is still a problem. It would not even require a constitutional amendment to change it. Election law is made largely at the state level.