While I was gone, Devin, Aretae and AMcGuinn had some interesting formalist/libertarian exchanges (see here, here, here, here, here and here – Alrenous also had some thoughts related to one of Devin’s posts).
This is all interesting stuff, but I’ve become much less interested in describing the ideal system of government lately. I find it more interesting to try to figure out what sort of government system we currently have.
Let’s be honest. If the rest of this post included a detailed blueprint of the best form of government the world has ever seen, only about 1,000 people would read it and, the next time you wen to the airport, you’d still have to drive through virtually lawless areas of your city to have your balls fondled by TSA. Also, it’s a purely speculative exercise. History is our only guide and there just aren’t that many people that know enough about various historical periods to make the discussion interesting. I’ve read enough old books to know that: 1) people who used to write books were really smart and 2) it’s almost impossible for me to learn to think like someone who lived 500 years ago.
Let’s be honest about our own government as well. We have a pretty poor understanding of how it actually works. For example, most people would tell you that the US is a democracy. However, prior to 50 years ago, basically no one who thought about politics believed that democracy was a stable form of government. So, you’re left with two propositions 1) everyone who thought seriously about politics from Plato to 1960 was wrong about democracy or 2) the US is currently not really a democracy. My money is on door 2).
Who predicted that under our new President, the USG would make the TSA touch your balls, start a war in a Muslim country and treat big banks exactly the same way they were treated under the old President? Not very many people, yet very few people have changed their ideas about how USG works. We have basically no understanding of how the USG post New Deal actually functions. Given this state of affairs, talking about modern politics is impossible. You simply cannot have a reasonable discussion about Rome post-Caesar if you try to analyze it as a Republic, but that’s basically what we’re doing with the current USG.
How many people have an understandable, non-crazy working theory of the current USG that can occasionally predict its actions?