Writer's Block: I'm just a bill, yeah I'm only a bill - Jay Maynard

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Monday, 20 September 2010


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0827 - Writer's Block: I'm just a bill, yeah I'm only a bill

If you could change or create a new law, what would it be, and why?

I can't claim credit for this one. It comes from H. Beam Piper's novella Lone Star Planet.

I'd make it legal to kill practicing politicians if a jury of one's peers agrees that it was deserved.

No, don't run away screaming or giggling.

The biggest problem in the US today is that politicians are only loosely accountable to the populace, if at all. Once they're elected, they have to screw up royally in order to get thrown out of office. Huey Long's "he'd have to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy" is not that far from the truth. The result is that they pass bills while saying with a perfectly straight face "we'll have to pass it to know what's in it", and Mark Twain's "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session" is far too true.

Piper's answer is to make it legal to kill politicians. Not all of them, just practicing politicians. The book doesn't define it, but I'd say that anyone holding elected office or influencing the selection process for those who do would qualify. The justification has to be sufficient. You can't torture or maim, either; you have to kill. This isn't about cruelty. It's about saving society from a politician run amok. The job has to be done neatly and quickly.

The objections are twofold. First, there's the obvious one about the taking of a human life. I agree, in large part, but I also support the death penalty. There are some crimes for which no lesser penalty is appropriate. Shouldn't the same be true for crimes against society committed by politicians? The second is that this will deter people from doing things that the people may oppose but are good for them. Well, you know, that kind of thing is supposedly what a democracy is supposed to prevent.

Only true, dedicated statesmen who care for all of the people, not just one constituency, will sign up for jobs under this system. Not only that, but they'll be loath to do things that aren't widely seen as necessary throughout the populace. Personally, I'll happily take both results.

Another possible problem is that good politicians would die for doing things that a small minority would see as bad, even though the rest would say it was necessary. There are two answers for this: first, that's why there's a jury involved, and second, if a change isn't worth dying for, is it worth making?

Will this ever happen? No. It would require politicians to pass it, and the ones in office today are exactly the ones this kind of thing would target. Still, it's pleasant to think about.

current mood: [mood icon] contemplative

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:kazriko
Date: - 0000
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Man, that would make it easy for a secret cartel to dispose of any politician that was seeking reform...
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From:thecanuckguy
Date: - 0000

Requisite protest from the left wing

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On the whole, I like it (despite the fact that I am, as of today I guess, a politician, as I just filed my papers for school trustee!) but I will point out that this, like most other ideas from the right, is ill thought out.

The simple reason is this: once you kill a politician, another one is there to take its place. They're like the Terminator. (Well, not quite, it's another movie that I'm thinking of, but I'm sure you understand.) I'm sure that we've all seen politicians, either actually murdered by their constituents (Milk, JFK) or just otherwise died in office (Harrison, FDR) being replaced by another politician. Name me *one* politician that replaced a dead one that was any good and listened to their constituents. I thought so, none. (Or few, I can't hear you from here, you know!) So, we keep replacing them and replacing them until we run out of politicians, either because everyone's dead or, more likely, people realized that serving the public = instant death sentence and don't want to serve. No politicians = anarchy. You don't seem to be the anarchist type to me, Jay.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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I'm not an anarchist, but I do believe firmly in the idea that government should be reduced to its absolute minimum, kept "as small, starved, and inoffensive as possible", and "that government governs best which governs least". This would accomplish that goal.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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... in the same way that a guillotine would accomplish the goal of curing a headache, I suppose ...
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From:kazriko
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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I can agree with the goal, though the method may not work. I think the original idea of preventing the government from controlling too much was a good one, it's just that they accidentally made the commerce clause overly broad and certain things started getting interpreted too widely. If the huge corporations cannot force their will on people and their competitors via regulations in the government (because the government doesn't have the power to place those regulations,) then they will send less money to the politicians.

The problem isn't really the constitution but the general apathy and plurality-one-vote-per-person voting system we have. If we had engaged populace and a system where you could choose from more than Party A or Party 1 which are fairly similar then things might be easier to make better. If you have two groups that both want a bigger government for different purposes, you're going to get a bigger government no matter which one you pick, even if the constitution bends over backwards to say smaller government, they will find any loophole they can to expand the scope. That's why we need more choice in politicians and more people who understand small government to be involved.

Just killing the politician from Party A won't get you a smaller government, but instead you'll just get another politician from Party A or Party 1.
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From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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More generally: every politician must, by his very existence, piss enough people off to make his survival for more than a short while completely impossible.

As a simple example: there are prominent "conservatives" who apparently believe that evangelical christianity should be elevated above other religions in this country. I, and a jury of my peers, would easily determine that this person is working to the vast detriment of me and everybody else who disagrees, and thus this politician would get the death penalty. On the other hand, there are large segments of the country that actually do believe that evangelical christianity is the true religion of this country and should be -- or already is -- the state religion. They would condemn any politician who espouses support for the freedom of/from religion that is enshrined in the first amendment.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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Indeed, something I've long held: a politician should, as Jay mentioned in his original post, care for all the people, but it is physically impossible to please all the people all the time. As a fresh-faced political candidate myself just getting my policies codified, one of them is that I pledge to listen to what all my electorate has to say, but nowhere do I promise to do as they all say. In fact, it stands to reason that the more you do care about your electorate rather than your party, the more people you'll tick off. Thereby proving my earlier point that no one will be a politician and that rather than having a small government, we would be guaranteed no government, making the original proposition a great idea on paper that I like, but completely unworkable in real life (like Communism ;). QED.
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From:kazriko
Date: - 0000

Re: Requisite protest from the left wing

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Actually, another point to make is that peaceful transition of power is one of the greatest things the US has going for it in the political process, and if we lose that one then we're no better than the Roman Empire, where assassinations and paranoia lead to a stream of incompetent and self-serving rulers. Only megalomaniacs who thought they could manipulate and assassinate better than the other guy, or idiots placed there as a puppet would have the reins of power.

That said, I'm with Sam from Freefall. If you remove the ability of people to string you up by your entrails, you're removing them from a very important part of the political process. Without that ultimate backstop of being able to defend yourself from an out-of-control government a government is almost guaranteed to go corrupt and totalitarian in the long run. The problem with this proposal is it seems like it would become entirely too commonplace, while I imagine that this sort of thing would only be needed every 200-400 years or so. The only thing you really need to ensure this capability is to keep the second amendment in full force. There's consequences to this though and that keeps it in check and should keep it from becoming too common.
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From:pokeyburro
Date: - 0000

Gentleman: defend thy thesis.

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Even setting aside the lifetaking issue (as is traditionally done in gedankens such as this), there are other bad ways this could go.

What if a bad politician has a pretty good family? A conscientious civilianry might not have the stomach to do the deed. Which means it'd have to be a pretty bad politician, which might be good. However, now flip it back: a bad politician might consider that family to be a shield.

Flip it again. A conscientious politician whom the public might like on the whole would be dissuaded from running, for fear of having to leave office feet first. Which might result in the people getting a non-optimal choice. Sure, maybe we'd just kill that guy. But still.

The trial would be a circus on a regular basis. And circus means gaming. Jury rigging, jury hanging, assassin cartels - and when the dust settles, the lawyers might end up the winners.

Then there's the cost. Public gets too rambunctious (as we are sometimes known to do), goes on a "replacement spree", and the costs of getting everyone together to vote on a new guy every time slowly runs everyone into the dirt. Not to mention the hassle, and the resulting downturn of turnout.
From:wschluch
Date: - 0000

Will you take this post down today?

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I think it was poorly thought out, especially given the recent news from Arizona.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000

Re: Will you take this post down today?

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No. That world is fundamentally different from this one. Representative Giffords didn't sign up to her side of the agreement I propose, and so should not be subject to it. I was describing a system as I would see it, not the system that exists today.

If Jared Lee Loughner is found guilty of her shooting and the murders of the 6 people who died, he should get the death penalty. I'd even start the IV and push the drugs.

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