Thanks to you and to Jane Q. Public for indulging my curiosity. You've given me a lot to think about and the the states' rights position (or whatever it's called) seems a lot less like a caricature to me now. I share your view that policy problems should be addressed at the appropriate level. Anyway, I've taken in about as much as I'm going to right now about a better distribution of powers in the US. Still, I'd like to make a couple of small points on things you bring up, from my perspective in International Affairs.
First off, I don't know what you'd call having "willingly given a power back" in politics. Almost everything is contentious and comes as a response to a claim; power doesn't shift out of apathy. All the same, here's an example that seems to fit the bill: devolution in the UK of government powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Also, any revocation of war powers, such as temporary income taxes in 19th century America.
That point aside, I'm not willing to grant that power tends to accumulate in a few central hands. Not exactly. Instead, looking around the globe today, I'd say that the most powerful states like the US have achieved their positions through the establishment of large bureaucracies and standing national militaries. They're successful partially because they're centralised and those states that aren't, can't compete.
You don't have to look far for other patterns, however. There are territories in today's world without any functioning government, such as Somalia and Western Sahara, and many more with weak central administration. There are also sources of power, such as transnational corporations, that are more diffuse than sovereign states are. What's more, taking a historical view, in the past, for example in the Feudal period of Europe, many kings were dominated by the nobility and could muster only very weak central control. Finally, back in the modern world, keep in mind that despite the success of sovereign states during the 20th century, because of the collapse of a few empires there are more than twice as many countries now as there were in 1900.
My conclusion is that power doesn't always stick at the top, but gathers in different ways in different situations.
Talking about details, you assign all of the agency to the US federal government in one form or another. We see the same pattern of centralised power. What surprises me in your account, what's different from the way I'd understood things before, is that the national government could have seized power, however slowly, without the participation of other parts of society.
For example, it seems to me that American states compete with each other through the central government. They vie for access to federal funds, thereby strengthening central authority. Maybe that's a effect rather than a cause, but it raises a question in my mind whether US states with more autonomy would do something other than replay the same drama.
I'd also like to make a point about the will of the people and how most of this happened with the consent of the governed, but fatigue and hunger keeps me for formulating it.
But beyond the details I still feel a question goes begging: why states? As long as you're going to speak for the devolution of the powers of the US government, why devolve them to the states? Are North and South Dakota so different that they can't govern together (maybe they are, I don't know)? Are the farm lands capable of standing on their own without federal subsidy? What's so right about the political unit of a US state?
I can only argue that when we were more of a loose federation of states, our economy was more robust and our place on the world stage that much more prominent.
That's a surprising idea. What general period are you thinking about? Before the American Civil War? Before the FDR administration? Intuitively, I would've said American wealth and power grew compared with other countries throughout the second half of the 20th century. Anyway, wealth and security are always basic preconditions for government, but they're not the reason for wanting to loosen the bolts on the US republic.
This brings me back to my struggle to understand the values behind the devolutionary impulse. You talk about a 'robust' economy, which I hear as growth instead of wealth, and in your previous post you describe diversity that fosters political evolution. I hope you don't feel I'm trying to pin you down or nit pick, especially when exchanging ideas informally on the internet, and anyway, contradictions are creative motors. But at the same time as you hold up the potential for progress, you refer back to earlier periods in American history as models for the future. So is one of the core values here a government framework that allows continual change? Whereas, you see the US institutionalising in a way that doesn't allow further political innovation?
...the only historical examples we have are from our own past...
I came into the exchange with an understanding of a dynamic process of great power ascendancy that involves bureaucratic centralisation. Crudely: wealth and military power work sometimes in concert and sometimes in competition to preserve countries and allow them to flourish. This kind of framework stimulates me to think of many ill-fitting examples in the past and present.
This is very interesting and it's helping me understand US devolutionists (or states' rights advocates or whatever you call them) better, and the history of America. Why do you believe that what's emerged isn't just the result of two and quarter centuries of that dynamic of individual State experiments playing out? I guess the answer to that has something to do with the income tax and the direct election of US Senators.
I also wonder how it would work internationally. Centralised sovereign states dominate the international economic and military landscape, and have for some time. Wouldn't an ecology of loosely federated states, in some form of moderated competition, have trouble representing its concerted interests on the world stage, undermining America's wealth and security?
I don't mean to bombard you with questions. This is an opportunity to pose questions about this position I've had for a while. Although I'm studying International Affairs now (with a smattering of Political Science and Sociology) I'm weak on history and on theories of government. That's just by the way, to let you know where I'm coming from.
Ok, you've successfully identified a state that doesn't use a proportional voting system. You're one up on me there, dude. Now, do you have any view on whether one system is better at reflecting public attitudes than the other, or if that's the point of a democracy?
Big picture, what's the virtue in the USA governing itself more through states instead of the Federal government? I've read the historical point below (the US started that way), and some tenuous predictions about how this would somehow improve the incentive structure for representatives, but what's the big argument? Is it a progressive libertarian programme starting at the top of the government food chain? Do units the size of a US state (between 600k and 37M) govern themselves better? Is it local chauvinism? Or is there no argument on principle and is it just a particular argument about specific US governance failures? Why favour states over federal government?
There are other ways to participate, maybe more effective ways. For example, you can give money. You can protest. You can write policy suggestions. You can even write laws and try to find a representative to sponsor them. Or get hired by the bureaucracy. Most importantly, you can run for office yourself. Most of these are more difficult than voting but I bet you they have a greater effect on policy.
There's no exhaustive list of how you can participate in government. Voting is a small part of real participation. And no kidding, idealism aside, one vote really doesn't mean a heck of lot.
What a great claim. Do you know any research that backs that up? I'm sure someone has tried to compare representativeness in Europe (maybe UK and Denmark) to that in the US? My experience in the UK was that party representation didn't track terribly well to popular support, with the Labour party maintaining large parliamentary majorities for many years with less than a majority of the popular vote, but I don't know the technicalities.
Although, to get really good data on this you'd have to do a huge longitudinal comparative study of multiple issue areas and policy solutions over a long period of time. It might be hard to get funding for that kind of research. After all, who really wants to know the answers?
Anyway, I bet you what has more effect on well policy reflects public opinion, rather than any particular form of government, is public participation.
This is my experience too, especially on first hearing. Toward the beginning of the piece I recognise some roughly similar rising motifs spanning the keyboard. The human brain is better at finding patterns than Scott Rickard credits.
Similarly, music isn't only about internal repetitions. There are also patterns that we recognise because we're used to listen for them by experience, theory, and tradition. For example, I hear a tonal resolve between about 8:38 to about 8:48 and another even more striking one between 8:53 and 9:05. There's also a nice one right before the end of the piece.
By the way, everyone should appreciate the difficulty of playing a piece like this, without the aids of meter, harmony, or any awareness on the part of the composer of the limitations of human hands. It takes real skill and focus and Michael Linville does an excellent job.
Wikileaks has taken on the two most powerful kinds of organisations in the world, the pillars of the international political system and the global marketplace. It directly damaged the interests of the government of the world most powerful sovereign state (still the USA) and made noises about hurting corporate financial institutions. That's a tall order for any organisation.
Wikileaks put itself in a particularly hard spot because it hasn't played well with others. It took an 'our way or the highway' approach to disclosure. It also released information that no one was asking for, so it didn't make allies with its disclosures. Moreover, it didn't support or enable calls for specific kinds of disclosure from existing organisation. Now it's isolated and atrophying because no one can operate at that level without allies for long.
Ok, sorry for suggesting it. I guess just like with politics, it's too easy to fall into an unfair mistrust online as well.
Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy