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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Political Class

There is nothing essential in the theory of the state that requires a "political class" to exist or requires that this class exploits a "productive class." Nonetheless, it must be said that, in practice, this structure may arise. And the (possible) existence of this structure seems to be a major brief in the case people like Tom Knapp make against the state.

So here is a question for Tom, and others in his position: let us say we had a state very like ones we see around us today, but where political office was assigned by pure sortition, i.e., a lottery or something of the sort. In that circumstance, there could not be anything like a "political class": everyone has an equal shot at office, and will rotate in and out of politics as his or her name is drawn. There are no lobbyists throwing around cash to finance elections, because there are no elections.

Would that state be OK?

13 comments:

  1. Certainly not for our place and time.

    When I think of certain career politicians such as Donald Rumsfeld, I realize he is in that position because he spent a good deal of his life negotiating face to face with Arab leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Hafez al Assad.

    If any ordinary person were asked to face Saddam Hussein in person, he'd break out in cold sweat out of nervousness. He'd be paralyzed into inaction, fearing the international consequences of what he says to an Iraqi dictator.

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  2. Gene,

    I've actually taken some past interest in questions similar to the one you pose, and the answer I've come up with is that such schemes would neither eliminate, nor significantly weaken, political classism -- in fact, they would quite likely strengthen it and exacerbate some of its more visible problems.

    First, a couple of disputations of premise:

    1) "The political class" and "elected political officials" are not an identical set.

    2) Lobbyists attempt to influence the election of officials as a means to an end getting the kinds of policies they want). Randomly selecting, instead of electing, officials would slightly narrow one of several avenues leading to that end. It would not cut off that avenue, and it might widen other avenues.

    A couple of assumptions:

    (1) That randomly selected political officials would be, on average, no more or less corruptible than elected political officials; and

    (2) That this government run by randomly selected political officials would do the same sorts of things as the existing state (i.e. we are just changing a personnel hiring policy, not making an immediate, radical change to the assumed functions of political government).

    If (1) is the case, it seems to me that randomly selected officials would have an incentive to rake off as much as they could as quick as they could, instead of spreading their graft over decades-long careers. So to the extent that outright corruption ("you get the vote you want on that bill if I get my brown paper sack full of cash") is involved in political classism, that would tend to escalate in intensity.

    If (2) is the case, then less experienced politicians would be forced to rely more on, and have more of, allegedly "non-political" bureaucrats to keep the machinery running -- and those bureaucrats are just as much part of the political class as elected officials, just as corruptible as elected officials, and positioned to maintain the continuity of a perpetual class.

    (1) and (2) are both soft spots for lobbyists representing the bulk of the political class (corporations and other entities which seek their rents/profits through political means rather than market competition) to get their hooks into and seek the policies they are after.

    It's not so much that a theory of the state requires a political class as that the political class requires a theory to justify its tool, the state.

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  3. Good answer, Thomas. Personally, I've never yet seen anything approaching a rational argument in support of ANY sort of "state."

    When some people are given power over other people, against their will, tyranny is the inevitable result. Recorded history bears ample witness to that.

    MamaLiberty

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    Replies
    1. "Personally, I've never yet seen anything approaching a rational argument in support of ANY sort of "state." "

      Not looked much though, huh?

      "When some people are given power over other people, against their will, tyranny is the inevitable result."

      I was in Switzerland, and boy, was it brutal there: those vast slave mines in the Alps were something!

      "Recorded history bears ample witness to that."

      Here's something recorded history bears witness to: the chaos and civil war that result when utopian schemes to eliminate government are attempted.

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  4. "Here's something recorded history bears witness to: the chaos and civil war that result when utopian schemes to eliminate government are attempted."

    Really? Examples?

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    Replies
    1. All communist revolutions are examples that spring immediately to mind.

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    2. I'm unaware of any communist revolutions which attempted to eliminate government.

      Historical communist revolutions have generally aimed at installing a dictatorship of the proletariat.

      While it's true that a "withering away" of the state is a hypothetical distant consequence of communist revolutions, citing them as evidence for the defects of anarchist revolutions seems kind of silly.

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    3. "I'm unaware of any communist revolutions which attempted to eliminate government."

      But in a couple of lines you admit that *every* communist revolution had this goal!

      "While it's true that a "withering away" of the state is a hypothetical distant consequence of communist revolutions..."

      This goal only became "distant" as it was not achieved!

      "citing them as evidence for the defects of anarchist revolutions seems kind of silly."

      Not paying attention to historical precedents seems kind of sad and reckless at the same time.

      But I know, I know! *Your* revolution will be different! Because good intentions.

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    4. Gene,

      I don't know that I've ever claimed my revolution will be different, or that if it is the difference will be due to my good intentions.

      As far as elimination of the state being a goal of communist revolutions, that's like saying that when I'm planning a trip to Vegas, a side stop for frozen yogurt in Kingman, Arizona is the goal.

      So, once again: Can you name even a single "utopian scheme to eliminate government" that has resulted in "chaos and civil war?" Even one? Pretty please with cherry on top?

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    5. "As far as elimination of the state being a goal of communist revolutions, that's like saying that when I'm planning a trip to Vegas, a side stop for frozen yogurt in Kingman, Arizona is the goal."


      You've got that backwards: the dictatorship of the proletariat was the side trip, while a stateless society was the final destination. For Marx, the state was an instrument of class oppression, and absolutely had to go away for full communism to exist.

      So, done and done.

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    6. Gene,

      Oh, well.

      I really had hoped you would actually be able to provide an example of the phenomenon you were claiming to describe.

      Your inability or unwillingness to do so -- and Marx's unwillingness to cover your ass on it -- doesn't make anyone else's argument, of course, but it does badly break yours.

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    7. Tom,

      Oh well.

      I really had hoped you would actually be able to accept the entirely valid examples of the phenomenon I was describing.

      Your inability or unwillingness to do so, however, does illustrate my point about the irreality of anarchism.

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    8. I don't think you are understanding my point, Gene.

      I'm interested in engaging you on the proposition that "utopian schemes to eliminate government" result in "chaos and civil war."

      But in order to engage you on that proposition, I need examples of "utopian schemes to eliminate government," and you have yet to provide any such examples.

      I have at least real-world example in mind -- one I'd be willing to research and put your proposition up against if we ever get that far. It's the obvious example: The areas of Republican Spain in which anarchists held sway.

      So I was surprised when you tried to fob off the communist revolutions as examples when they are clearly no such thing.

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