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02/06/2011

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John

When its comes to history or political science, Judge Posner is as much out of his element as he is with economics. He should just stick with the common law, where he has infrequently has had a real insight. AMPAT/Midwest v. Illinois Tool, 896 F.2d 1035

The fact is that all human institutions are subject to becoming brittle and imploding, including democratic ones.

What is most interesting is that Posner omits the greatest failure of any human institution, which was the Unite States Constitution and its still uncorrected brittleness that lead to the Civil War. The South before the Civil War meets the "tests" offered to identify an authoritarian regime.

The Sherman compromise that gives each state two senators is the most anti-democratic and brittle institution yet devised by a democracy and, unless soon abandoned, will lead to the destruction of our Union. It has no political or other redeeming virtue. All it has been since adoption has been a bulwark against modernity.

No one can identify a single instance where the existence of 2 senators for each state has lead to effective governmental action.

In fact, the election of 2012 is shaping up to permanently rupture the Union. The right wing stole the election in 2000 with a morally and politically repugnant and result oriented decision by the Supreme Court, and it appears very likely that Obama will: (1) win the popular vote; (2) have better public approval than any Republican; and (3) loose in the electoral college because there are enough small states with 2 electoral votes to swing the election.

Today, the demand for open, honest, effective government is at its highest and instead we have minority rule re-enforced with unlimited corporate contributions (and the most dishonest Congress money can buy). (Citizens United) When you have judges who are personally profiting from their decisions like Thomas, the only fair conclusion is that large parts of our government are as corrupt and brittle as the Egyptians.

Lorenzo from Oz

Prof. Posner makes reasonable points, though much of it was said or implied by ibn Khaldun c.1400. Of course, ibn Khaldun presumed autocratic government as the norm.

John's comments manage, by contrast, to get almost everything wrong. Equal representation by state/province or whatever upper houses are hardly a US peculiarity and has fine longevity. That the US Constitution has been operating longer than the current French, German, Italian and Spanish constitutions combined, and managed to survive a Civil War, is actually a sign of considerable institutional resilience.

The pre-war South was certainly a limited franchise, but was hardly authoritarian for its non-slave citizens. On the contrary, electoral politics were lively and competitive.

The Anglosphere countries managed to fight two World Wars and preserve their democratic institutions. It is true there was "wear and tear" but they bounced back. Indeed, the extension of the franchise to women, the elimination of racial bars extended their democratic credentials.

For all its peculiarities, the Electoral College system has denied the winner of the plurality of the vote the US Presidency about once a century. There is simply nothing in current US politics with anywhere near the divisive power of slavery. While one can reasonably argue that US government is more broadly responsive to popular wishes than European government: certainly, the US lacks the level of riotous disaffection you see in Europe.

Weshah Razzak

The point that dictatorships tend to be bad on growth is not true. Egypt and Tunisia experienced tremendous growth over the past 30 years. They are the leading Arab countries in growth. In my calculations, productivity growth measured by real GDP per hour has been spectacular, not significantly different from Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. Over the past 30 years Egypt had about 3% and Tunisia 2.4%. Singapore is not really a Western democracy, but it too had an amazing growth record. And, finally China which is the most powerful dictatorship in the world have been growing faster than any country I have known.

Weshah Razzak
www.razzakw.net

Jack

Weshah: Perhaps -- if a nation is lucky enough to get a "good one" in a non-democratic process. Posner has it about right that politics and the closely related economy are a bit like plate tectonics in that CHANGE is going to take place over time, with a democracy being far more likely to produce small quakes and as we see in Egypt this week, un-democratic process building pressures (and huge inefficiencies and corruption) until a huge dam-busting quake finally occurs.

He's right too, in that it's very tough and unpredictable to "create" democratic process if it is not a tradition and in the minds of the people.

I thought a lot about this after the USSR imploded. While in the US we've a long tradition and general familiarity with the law and what is expected of each party when a pair of shoes, or a home is purchased, an apartment or car leased, while in post communist Russia there would be no such tradition nor nearly universal understanding. I hoped, at the time that the US, NATO, the UN and others would have helped to facilitate the changes in Russia that their commonly owned assets would not fall into the hands of the most aggressive thieves and gangsters. But, well, so much for dashed hopes.

John: After the ugliness of FL in 2000 it was tempting to want to throw out the Electoral College if only because Floridians were in a statistical tie in which no counting tech of the time, or today, could discern a "winner" by a margin of 500 votes. Essentially FL's showed no preference. But ugliness abounded well beyond the electoral college that year.

In my state of Alaska, in theory we have the most powerful individual vote by, as you point out, electing two Senators and one Rep for only 700,000 citizens.

But much is balanced out as our lone Rep is swamped in the House, where most bills are born, or killed in committee, by 25 or so Reps from CA and other large states. It's true that Senators of small states appear to have inordinate power, but the way things actually work with party caucuses etc. much of the arithmetical power seems to get dispersed.

As for electing presidents by nationwide popular vote there are lots of problems. One is that of a candidate attempting to win a nationwide "beauty contest" could garner more votes, more cheaply by campaigning in, and pandering to voters in Pasadena or Chicago than to bother with those in AK or Montana. As it is, our 3 electorals have only drawn RFK, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader (whose first PIRG was organized here) in part, I suppose as AK has become so predictably Republican in the presidential elections.

And what a MESS if a nationwide popular vote ended in a statistical tie! With the whole works having to be recounted?

I do have to agree that with an average tenure of 25 years or so, and a turnover rate of 3% and often stodgy Senators from smaller states, the Senate IS a stodgy body! But what to do? Suppose the "more modern" of the major cities had imposed, say gay rights and marriage on the states that elect the stodgiest Senators at an earlier time before they were "ready" would our union be strengthened, or more divided as some felt "those West coasters or NYer's imposed this on us?"

Robert Johnson

Another reason that dictatorial regimes tend toward long term instability has to do with Bruce Bueno De Mesquita's concept of the selectorate - the body of individuals who collectively hold sufficient power to maintain a figurehead in power. In dictatorships the selectorate is small, just a handful of privileged people who control commerce, media, and military powers. Under democratic institutions the selectorate is, perforce, very large. Often as much as 20% or more of the national population (depending on voter turnout).

With a small selectorate, only a few individuals need to defect to an opposing side in order for the figurehead to be weakened and removed from power. In the short term, this is balanced by the powers the figurehead wields to dispense patronage and punishment. In the long run, the unsatisfied ambitions and grievances of the selectorate create an ever-present threat to the stability of the figurehead's administration.

John

Jack,

At least your post confirms we are not the same person :<)

Your contention is easy to disprove. States are mere abstractions, having no real economic substance. If representing real estate is important, why shouldn't each of the 5 boroughs of New York have 2 senators as well as Long Island? What principled distinction exists between Alaska and Manhatten? None

Second, I am right and you are smart, so when you think about it you will come to realize that eliminating both the Senate and electoral college is imperative.

I don't have time to explain it all here, today, but I will point you in the right direction.

First, the post is about when does a government become brittle and lose its effectiveness. The current form of the federal government is anything but effective and could not be described other than as brittle.

Second, the economic future belongs to cities/regions, as has the immediate past. All real economic growth takes place in or at the city/regional level (ex: Silicon Valley). Government must be aligned with the interests of our cities, if we are going to compete effectively in the future. Pop open a couple of goods writings on urban economics that tackle the question why people move to cities, even though the cost of living is higher. The answer, a city that works allows one to make an income in excess of the increase cost, due to exchange of information.


This problem underlies why Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy are in trouble. People have moved to Germany, where growth is taking place. The Financial Times has had excellent coverage on this during the past 60 days.


In terms of our economic future, greater New York, greater Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA/San Diego, and Washington/Philly are the big leagues. Charlotte, Atlanta, and Texas are secondary. The rest of us, just fly over country.

Read about prospects for the country away from the coasts.

With 15 million people, New York ought to have 20 times the say over national events as Alaska.

Olinhyde

Robert Johnston raises a very important point of failure within autocratic regimes: the selectorate.

Authoritarianism often fosters homogeneity. Diversity is seen as a threat and is thus repressed. Conformity comes with a steep price: It hinders innovation and stability. As Johnston, West and other researchers on innovation have shown, diversity of thought and interdisciplinary collaboration are the pillars of invention. Healthy, sustainable economies depend on a steady stream of innovations and available capital for new enterprises. With rare exceptions (such as Saudi Arabia) it is almost impossible for authoritarian regimes to amass wealth without policies that foster entrepreneurialism by rewarding innovation with access to capital. Singapore embodies this kind of economic success -- where diversity of thought is tolerated within business (but not social, artistic or political) contexts.

toto

The current system of electing the U.S. President ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that only 14 states and their voters will matter. Almost 75% of the country will be ignored –including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas. This will be more obscene than the already outrageous facts that in 2008,, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

2/3rds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections.

Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 56 (1 in 14) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of 3,000,000 votes.

toto

The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as obscurely far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States.

When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

For example, in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

Likewise, under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

The main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

toto

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO– 68%, FL – 78%, IA –75%, MI– 73%, MO– 70%, NH– 69%, NV– 72%, NM– 76%, NC– 74%, OH– 70%, PA — 78%, VA — 74%, and WI — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ID – 77%, ME — 77%, MT – 72%, NE — 74%, NH –69%, NV — 72%, NM — 76%, OK – 81%, RI — 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT — 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and border states: AR –80%, KY — 80%, MS –77%, MO — 70%, NC — 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, VA — 74%, and WV – ‘81%; and in other states polled: CA — 70%, CT — 74% , MA — 73%, MN – 75%, NY — 79%, OR – 76%, and WA — 77%.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA . The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, and WA. These 7 states possess 74 electoral votes — 27% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

toto

The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

A nationwide recount would not happen. We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and recount. The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires. The larger the number of voters in an election, the smaller the chance of close election results.

Recounts in presidential elections would be far less likely to occur under a national popular vote system than under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each separate state).

Based on a recent study of 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 through 2006 by FairVote:
*The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 274 votes.
*The original outcome remained unchanged in over 90% of the recounts.
*The probability of a recount is 1 in 332 elections (23 recounts in 7,645 elections), or once in 1,328 years.

Michael F. Martin

Posner's glass metaphor is actually quite profound. Political scientist Robert Axelrod has inspired many physical scientists to investigate the ways in which models of glasses can be applied to understand the dynamics of cultural dissemination.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0811.3327

The late Benoit Mandelbrot saw glass-transitions in market crashes:

http://brokensymmetry.typepad.com/broken_symmetry/2009/10/mandelbrot-and-the-glassy-state-of-the-economy.html

The first commenter could learn a thing or two from Posner's treatise *Law, Pragmatism & Democracy*.

John

Michael, as to Posner's Law, Pragmatism & Democracy, I must be the only person who has read it. It now ranks on Amazon #709,083 in Books

Judged by the God of the Markets, its not much of a book. I found not any hint of a useful observation on its pages.

The best review I could find of the book said the following about Posner:

Posner’s pragmatic jurisprudence is a sorry affair, bereft of intellectual substance. Why, then, is Posner celebrated as the brightest and most scholarly of federal judges? He is able to absorb with great rapidity large quantities of information on various subjects and to deploy this material, often very effectively, in his numerous books. Readers of Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy will encounter discussions of the legal theories of Hans Kelsen and Friedrich Hayek, John Dewey’s pragmatism, and Joseph Schumpeter’s elitist theory of democracy, which Posner much prefers to the deliberative democracy in fashion nowadays.2

Faced with such abundance, even the skeptical reader seems compelled to admire Posner. Must not even opponents of pragmatism recognize his remarkable merits, just as even the staunchest Austrian economist must acknowledge that Lord Keynes possessed a scintillating intelligence?

Those who probe further, I suggest, will have reason to put aside their initial impressions. Posner’s erudition is at times a contrived affair. What is one to think when Posner tells us that until preparing for a lecture in 2001, "I had never read Kelsen" (p. 250)? This is the equivalent of a specialist in Austrian economics saying, at the height of his career, that he never until recently opened Human Action.

In one area, in particular, Posner’s pretensions fall to the ground.

http://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=275

(Austrian economics blog)

There is a good reason why---we have the lingering problem of the Civil War, when our Government wholly failed. Posner just disregards the 800 pound elephant in the room. I doubt he has ever been to where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain saved the Union and probably the modern world.

I have at least looked at every public publication of Posner. Never ever has he come to grips with the Civil War, asking what doomed so so many souls?

Posner never tackles that Lincoln was a great president because he threw the Constitution to one side and freed the slaves. No more unconstitutional act has ever been committed by a President, except, perhaps, when Lincoln ordered Confederate soldiers picked by lot and shot in retaliation for murders of Union soldiers. The shootings were at a prison in downtown St. Louis.

More recent examples of failures include: 1) a lack of a real energy policy; 2) the wars in Irag and Afghanistan (see Clive Crook in today's FT); and 3) the events leading up to the Financial Crisis and since.

Posner never mentions any of these---he lacks the intellectual heft to tackle a real subject (note that Posner never engages in public debate, where he is subject to question).

Jack

John, Ha! who is NOT Jack! Yes I appreciate your insight, but! we may have some differences on this one. It IS a complex issue and there are many variables that would take a long time to explore. Annnd! I'm not averse to improvements.

To some of your regional concerns, I almost mentioned liking the state of part of my youth, Maine, where the electorals are split. If that were done in large states like TX or FL there would be differences in the tallies. But! It's unlikely to take place as, say the powers in TX KNOW that were they to split electorals, say by urban to rural (or nearly by any means, they'd be giving some electorals to the "left" at no (apparent) gain to the dominant "right". Truth is they'd likely gain political power as some regions would become "battleground" areas.

"First, the post is about when does a government become brittle and lose its effectiveness. The current form of the federal government is anything but effective and could not be described other than as brittle."

jjj: I see the "brittle" lack of response to current issues and the people, but attribute it much more to our having made a HUGE mistake as we moved into Mcluhan's "electronic village". Unlike townships where space was set aside for the commons and townhall we GAVE the entire broadcast spectrum to the merchants. Instead we should have held back 10% for "townhall"; the discussion of public issues, both local and national and space for our candidates to speak to us without indenturing themselves to donors (sponsors?)

"Your contention is easy to disprove. States are mere abstractions, having no real economic substance. If representing real estate is important, why shouldn't each of the 5 boroughs of New York have 2 senators as well as Long Island? What principled distinction exists between Alaska and Manhatten? None"

jjj: Well, as I see it, we are still something of a federation of states, and the stronger for it, as states CAN be places to experiment, and where political input comes from those who know their region. Senators do "represent real estate" while Reps represent people. In your NY borough you could walk from one Rep's district to another while in AK one guy covers more three times the area of NY State. As for distinctions between Manhattan and AK? I have to stumble a bit to think of what commonality exists.

"Second, the economic future belongs to cities/regions, as has the immediate past. All real economic growth takes place in or at the city/regional level (ex: Silicon Valley). Government must be aligned with the interests of our cities, if we are going to compete effectively in the future."

jjj; We have THAT discussion within Alaska! Anchorage likes to think it's the Big Apple of economics here, despite mfg being literally non-existent. There are many tall buildings here chock full of well paid folk. What they do is manage oil and other resource extraction that takes place hundreds of miles out in the rural areas. Despite oil being king here, our fisheries that provide 1/8th of US protein employs more people. Some 45% of Alaskans work for one governing body or another...... it's a pretty big ranch to run!

Silicon Valley? It COULD be here, ha! where excess server heat could warm our malls, rather than burning more fuel to run the A/C in CA or anywhere else. Finland, of Nokia fame, is at our latitude and has thousands of hi-tech start-ups, but oil is a curse as well as a blessing that makes many lazy.

The trend toward moving to the "city," if that's what we can still call the mass that crowds our coastal regions, does continue. But will that trend continue, and why? The draw was once mfg which if being turned over to robotics with a decline in the numbers needed. Info-tech? Google? or biotech? While Google's main campus is Silicon Valley they could have creative nodules at any of their thousands of server locations or in between.

For the price of a bungalow in San Jose they could have a ranch on a lake at one of their server locations just north of Tulsa that is there because of low price hydropower, cheap land, and low wages in the region.

For many the wages paid don't come close to paying the costs of huge cities. I once lived in So Cal, and sure if one needs to be near LAX or is a highly paid doc at USLA Med and the like, but if one is a tradesman who likes to ski, why not do the job perhaps for less pay at Tahoe or Sun Vallley? What there in in LA for lower income folk is a ghetto surrounded by wealth and glitter.

"With 15 million people, New York ought to have 20 times the say over national events as Alaska."

jjj As Tip O'neil used to say "All politics is local". Alaska doesn't hold much sway over national issues. Our two Senators split on H/C. And going the other way, drilling ANWR would be a 75 - 25 in favor here, but is blocked by the national majority. (Which is fine with me!) And look deeper, many of those big banks, law firms and corps HQ'd in the NY area fund a huge percentage of the campaign chests for Senators, Reps and Presidents across the nation.

"In terms of our economic future, greater New York, greater Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA/San Diego, and Washington/Philly are the big leagues. Charlotte, Atlanta, and Texas are secondary. The rest of us, just fly over country."

jjj: "Fly over country?" Yeah, that's how a popular vote for the nation would view our bread basket, mining areas, and Alaska would be "a fine place for a ten day cruise", etc. Also truth is southern and southwest "flyover" is where growth is fastest and those areas are gaining Reps lost to states of static or declining populations. There's as much capital based in Santa Fe, NM as in Westchester County NY.

Is "growth" (that drove me out of what was once the paradise of So Cal) and economics THE thing in representation? Maine, which routinely elects an atypical sort of Repub has largely not sought economic growth, and Vermont seems pretty particular about who and what they attract. Alaskans may block a huge "world class" gold and copper mine in favor of the pristine wilderness and risk of damaging the world's largest sockeye salmon run. "Growth" oriented Seattle, a very livable city 20 years ago, is now gridlocked in traffic for much of the day, and the way their "freeways" wind through the city and waterfront it looks impossible for them to catch up.

Aaah 'tis a complex subject!


John

Lorenzo

You just make stuff up

Pre-civil war, in the South, electoral politics were neither lively nor competitive. Name a prominent anti-slavery politician elected in the deep South post 1815

Michael F. Martin

John,

The excerpted review seems to fixate on a superficiality. The argument advanced -- i.e., that nonproportional voting like we have for senate and presidential elections -- is an essential mechanism for breaking political deadlocks that would otherwise result from our human need to maintain a coherent ideology and avoid cognitive dissonance. (I'm taking some liberties with that one-sentence summary, but I think it adequately sums up why a reviewer for the Mises Institute wouldn't cotton to the pragmatism Posner favors.)

One more reference on glass ---

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/267/5204/1615.5.citation

Michael F. Martin

Oh, and Posner has taken exactly the kind of position on the Constitution and civil liberties that Lincoln took. And for what it's worth, I disagree with his view on Korematsu.

Jack

Toto: Ha! I often "counsel" my Republican friends here in Alaska to vote Democratic so as to even the voting enough to become a battleground state. Needless to say, it's not working.

But in the presidential race, we and other states may not see the candidates, have much money spent etc. but we're not "ignored" we're simply pre-counted. And we too have television and see the "air war" which is most of what a presidential campaign in a nation of 300 million is anyway; those few in NH who shake hands et al are no more "deciders" than anyone else, but largely props in a reality ad tailored for 10's of millions of others.

As you point out with the popular vote differing from the electoral so infrequently, the method doesn't count for much in that aspect.

But our wise founders were after more than the popular whim of the day, that of protecting the rights of the minority. They already had large and more populous states having to be mixes with smaller or lesser populated states. That may serve us well at times today, say in the case of "fly over" country land or water issues not at all understood by suburbanites that populate the 50 miles next to our coasts.

Lastly there is that one unused aspect of the E. College, of say the electors having found we'd elected something of a scoundrel with a cast of neocons poised to take us into "pre-emptive" first strike against a nation halfway around the world that would be well down on a list of nations posing a threat to us.

Let me ask you something. Currently the state have quite a bit of autonomy in the methods they use to elect Senators and Reps, and also some autonomy in how they handle the presidential election, such as FL giving leeway to different precincts in how they count their votes, and ME, and one? other state splitting their electorals. If your bill carried a "majority of the electoral votes" would it be Const binding on all states?

My take on 'getting rid of the EC' is that of amending the C, and the virtually impossible task of having it ratified in a majority? 2/3rds? of the states.

John

Martin,

Posner doesn't favor pragmatism---he just spouts such as a defense for making every possible ruling he can to favor the rich, entrenched, and powerful

You are such fool for giving any credit to what someone says. Look at actions, who wins and looses in his courtroom.

Do you seriously contend that the would have supported Abraham Lincoln? Forget about it. The case books are full of Posner opinions where he has been given the choice to support modernity and, on every step, he has ruled the opposite.

Take a look at Dileo v. Ernst & Young (holding that accountants, lawyers, and stock brokers may aid, abet, and encourage fraud so as to make more fees) (where is the place for an honest professional in such a world?) and, my favorite, DECATUR VENTURES, LLC, et al.,DANIEL, 485 F.3d 387 (2007) where Posner and his buddy Easterbrook blessed the entire real estate mortgage industry scam that gave us the present financial crisis, holding that a buyer, who had paid for an appraisal, could not sue the appraiser for either breach of a professional duty of care or fraud

This is nothing but protect the rich jurisprudence. When you say that people aren't responsible for their actions it is not "pragmatism" its "gangster-ism."

John

Toto

Paragraph after paragraph---what's your point?

Mine is simple: 4 years for Congressmen and the President, by direct election, with no Senate and no electoral college. Districts would be based on SMSA's,crossing state borders.

Salaries of people in Congress should be deferred and based upon how much they increase the standard of living of the bottom 20% over their entire term in office.

A rising tide will lift all boats.

Kevin

"Indeed it is likely that if, unlike the formerly communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe, a country has never had a democratic government for more than a brief period, the flowering of democracy in the wake of the collapse of the authoritarian regime will also be brief."

You might want to recheck your history book. The only nation within the former Eastern Bloc which had any successful history of democracy was Czecheslovakia (and even that is arguable, given how Slovak and Sudeten German cooperation with Hitler made Munch--and dismemberment--possible). Might as well do the tally of the others (where democracy collapsed quickly): Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia.

All of these nations became democracies after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Even if one accounts for the messiness of Yugoslavia (and, to a much lesser extent, the Velvet divorce), the Eastern Europe's celebration of liberal democracy in 1989 was fully justified (even given the region's long tradition of autocratic rule).

Fylfot Group of Advocates

Its the democracy which ultimately triumphs as it is by the people, for the people and of the people.We agree with you views, enlightened to read the article .

John

David Brooks on cities

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/opinion/08brooks.html?ref=opinion

DebtcorSA

Interesting to see what your views our on democracy as in relation to how it is here in South Africa, very similar.

Jack

John: I'm as disgusted as anyone with the top to bottom criminality of the mortgage industry. But the lowly appraiser may not be the culprit. First off their appraisal is several pages of disclaimers that all they are selling is their opinion, with that opinion based on 2-3 means of producing a valuation. In residential it's largely based on comps from other appraisers......... so, unless the departure from the comps were "unusual" a court would end up having to chase down the other appraisers.

I know of a man who went to prison during a rapid, local run-up of property prices on a mere "realtor's opinion" though the case may have had more to it than just the opinion.

No, the culprit is the banker as they have a duty to invest their depositor's funds prudently and no one was forcing them to lend 106% of "valuation" in a "market" with an upward curve like a roller coaster. Virtually every bank has staff economists and SOME one should have considered the "wisdom" of supplying mortgage money with negative down to about anyone with a pulse.

Further up the food chain bond rating IS something of a proven science but Moody's and others violated LONG established criteria in labeling junk triple A. An internal memo from a guy who quit them in disgust said "If a cow produced it we would rate it". Yep, "ratings" for sale to highest bidder.

Consider the negligence of selling or buying billions worth of mortgage backed securities but NOT going to that market to spot check the underlying securities.

Take a look at these couple of graphs:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:51_W7BsWWGsJ:mysite.verizon.net/vzeqrguz/housingbubble/+housing+price+graph&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

While a local appraiser can hardly be faulted for reporting existing comps, WHAT of those lending 100% mortgages often by "No Doc" loans of No amortization, or with unaffordable to the buyer, two year exploding Adjustable Rates et al and a packager and seller, and buyer passing this junk around with NO due diligence? but GOBS of "performance bonuses?"

If the property were rentals, the second graph, showing the extreme departure of purchase costs vs rentals would be reflected in an "income based valuation" -- and SHOULD have been of great interest to bankers, as when a mortgagee gets in trouble or has to leave for another job if rental income is close to ownership costs, that's a further safeguard for paying the mortgage. During the run up the figures on rental ratios worsening were even on AOL's trivia news and a warning to anyone knowing something of housing pricing. ie How much higher do we think they are going IF one can rent for half as much down the street?

We agree we should make room in our over crowded prisons for quite a few in the "mortgage industry" but maybe much bigger fish than the local appraiser.

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