Thursday, April 26, 2012
Critique of Democracy
I compare our archaic system of choosing elected representatives with the election systems used elsewhere in the world. In a small country like Israel, members are not elected from individual election districts. Instead, members of the Knesset are elected at large for the whole country. Different political and religious groups sponsor slates of candidates. These groups win seats in the Knesset in proportion to the votes their slates receive. Every faction is represented fairly. I would call the process "democratic." Every voting citizen is represented in the Knesset.
Consider how our system works if we eliminate the effects of money. In each election district, the majority party in that district elects the candidate. The result is that in a closely divided district, nearly half the population is NOT represented in the legislature or Congress. Only in those districts where an overwhelming majority of the voters choose one candidate can one say that the great majority of voters are pleased with the outcome of the election.
Does a system in which every small bloc of voters has at least one representative in the national legislature provide better governance than one like ours in which a substantial fraction of the voters are dissatisfied at not being represented? I don't know. The experience of Israel suggests that a "democratic" election system does not necessarily produce a government and policies that please the majority of the voters. It is my understanding that a majority of Israelis favor a peaceful accommodation with the Palestinians, including agreeing on a border between two separate countries, abandoning Jewish settlements that are on the Palestinian side of the border, making concessions about water rights, etc. It is my observation that the present Likud government of Israel has no interest in doing any of those things. Settlement activity continues. The wall between the Palestinians and the Israelis is routed to isolate small groups of Palestinians from their farm land.
Why does the "democratic" government of Israel not follow the wishes of the majority? It is similar to the effect noted above of the influence of certain coalitions. Just as American candidates have to placate such groups as the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party to garner enough votes to get elected and re-elected, an Israeli government has to put together a coalition of many political groups in the Knesset to form a majority. In both cases, the result is far from ideal.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Religion and Genocide
The natives of New England had never been exposed to these particular viral diseases. They contracted them as adults. Measles in particular is often fatal to an adult who has no acquired immunity. Entire population of villages would come down with measles and would die. The European settlers were actually welcomed when they occupied the villages that had been emptied in this way. No one in those days understood that diseases are caused by tiny living things, like bacteria and viruses. Things not understood were ascribed to God. God was very near. God took care of His people, the people who worshiped the Bible as God's Truth, and punished their enemies. The Bible contained stories of how the Israelites, God's chosen people, had come out of the desert into a fertile land, already occupied by another people, and had slaughtered the occupants to make room for themselves. Arranging for the native Americans to die of measles was thought to be the act of God, who was preparing the new land for his chosen people.
By 1900 the descendants of the Europeans realized that it wasn't the work of God at all but the result of this "European" disease that had killed the native population. The idea that we descendants of Europeans were somehow responsible for a great killing began to take root in our thinking. Today we try to make amends by creating museums devoted to the culture of the now-vanished original inhabitants, recording as much as we can of the native languages and oral literature, and romanticizing the lost people. We congratulate ourselves that at least we admit that we caused the extinction of tens of millions of people. Some of regret what happened. Others believe still that it was inevitable that the superior European culture would replace the native cultures. Perhaps it was. At least we do not censor writers who study this great genocide and report for future historians the facts available about it.
Monday, April 09, 2012
My complaint about the current Primary Race
So, what do we have this year? At present we have three candidates running around from State to State, campaigning for votes in the various primary elections. Do the candidates talk about what they will do if elected President? No. They talk about what a miserable, useless fellow the present incumbent is. Each one talks about what a liar each of his opponents in the present primary race is. From other things each candidate does or doesn't say, I conclude that, if elected, he would try to:
- Abolish the new health care law
- Abolish recent regulations on speculation by banks
- Make war on Iran
- Reduce taxes on wealthy individuals
- Force women to use dangerous methods to obtain abortions
- Encourage the exporting of American jobs to improve the bottom lines of American businesses
- Oppose fair treatment of homosexual couples