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Sunday, May 03, 2009


From The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Professor Bernardo de la Paz' speech to the Lunar constitutional convention near the end of part 2

"Like fire & fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom - if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant. Move slowly, be hesitant, puzzle out the consequences of every word. I would not be unhappy if this convention sat for ten years before reporting - but I would be frightened if you took less than a year.

Distrust the obvious, suspect the traditional ...for in the past mankind has not done well when saddling itself with governments. For example, I note in one draft report a proposal for setting up a commission to divide Luna into congressional districts and to reapportion them from time to time according to population.

This is the traditional way; therefore it should be suspect, considered guilty until proven innocent. Perhaps you feel that this is the only way. May I suggest others? Surely where a man lives is the least important thing about him. Constituencies might be formed by dividing people by occupation ... or by age ... or even alphabetically. Or they might not be divided, every member elected at large - and do not object that this would make it impossible for any man not widely known throughout Luna to be elected; that might be the best possible thing for Luna.

You might even consider installing the candidate who got the least number of votes; unpopular men may be just the sort to save you from a new tyranny. Don't reject the idea merely because it seems preposterous - think about it! In past history popularly elected governments have been no better and sometimes worse than overt tyrannies.

But if representative government turns out to be your intention there still may be ways to achieve it better than the territorial district. For example you each represent about 10,000 human beings, perhaps 7,000 of voting age - and some of you were elected by slim majorities [Ed-he is clearly speaking of a FPTP rather than proportional electoral system] Suppose instead of election a man were qualified for office by petition signed by 4,000 citizens. He would then represent these 4,000 affirmatively, with no disgruntled minority, for what would be a minority in a territorial constituency would all be free to start other petitions or join in them. All would then be represented by men of their choice. Or a man with 8,000 supporters might have 2 votes in this body. Difficulties, objections, practical points to be worked out - many of them! But you could work them out ... and thereby avoid the chronic sickness of representative government; the disgruntled minority which feels - correctly - that it has been disenfranchised.

But whatever you do do not let the past be a straitjacket!

I note 1 proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent - the more impediment to legislation the better. But instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a 2/3rds majority ... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere 1/3rd minority. Preposterous? think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command 2/3rds of your consents is it not likely to make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as 1/3rd is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative" Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies ... no interference, however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation ... no involuntary taxation. Comrades if you were to spend five years in a study of history while thinking of more and more things that your government should promise never to do and then let your constitution be nothing but those negatives, I would not fear the outcome.

What I fear most are affirmative actions of sober and well-intentioned men, granting to government power to do something that appears to need doing. Please remember always that the Lunar Authority was created for the noblest of purposes by just such sober and well-intentioned men, all popularly elected. And with that thought I leave you to your labours.
Thank you"

Off topic, but related:

I want Arizona to have an elected supreme court like Texas. This would require a constitutional change here, but it would be worth it.
If the elected court's only role was to declare laws unconstitutional this would be similar to having a 2nd chamber to repeal laws.
Kinda, the state supreme court is just what its name states, the High court. The AZ supreme court can strike down laws, remand cases back to superior court for retrial, and all of the things associated with the federal supreme court. The courts powers would remain the same even if the method of selection would change.

Originally, the courts in most states here in America were elected, not appointed. The legal profession has waged a long term jihad on elected judges, especially small claims judges (justices of the peace) that do not have a law degree. Here in AZ the two most populous counties have had their superior cour judges appointed since the mid 70's which is a child's garden of diseases. Rural counties are considered unimportant and as such the capital clique doesn't care if local pols nominate judges for election.

An appointed state is a bigger danger than an elected one. About fifteen years ago the state SC found that AZ's method of funding schools (local taxes) was a violation of equal protection of law, since different districts spent different amounts. Right now judges are selected in a closed process dominated by the local legal profession. A committee picks a series of names that are supposed to be the most qualified, and then sends them to the governor to be nominated. The governor nominates one and sends the name to the state senate. The whole process is rigged.

As a side note, Texas had its out of control lawsuits brought partly under control by a newly elected state supreme court.
Good for Texas. Punitive damages allows lawyers to get the rest of society by the balls.
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