France Insoumise

In recent years, smaller parties such as « France Insoumise » [Roughly, ‘France Undefeated*’] have argued that declining voter turnout represents a rejection by the French of the present ‘5th Republic’ and that there must be a constitutional convention to sketch out the ‘6th.’ It’s difficult to argue that they don’t have a point.

On Sunday, France saw the lowest turnout since the sixties of only 75.30% (The current election system dates to 1965.)

I’m envious.

In the last election, U.S. turnout was a measly 55.5%; this is fairly average for the last two centuries, sadly. Clearly, change is needed.

In recent discussions I have detected no appetite for structural change, only a short-term “stopping of Trump.” But let’s look at the big picture so we don’t have this problem again in 4-8 years.

I know that some of my friends may disagree that Trump needs to be stopped but lay that aside for a moment and ask yourself, why did you vote for Trump? Because of structural rot in the system. Because the government was captivated by interest groups and not responsive to your needs. But if we do not address the structural rot that leads to depressing choices that make people not show up this will not even seem significant compared to what is to come.

We must…

  • Switch to ‘ranked preference voting’ for the Executive Offices, including the presidency (AKA ‘Instant Runoff Voting,’ this was recently adopted in Maine and there are videos on the internet which explain how the “instant runoff” works.)
  • Switch to mixed-member-proportional voting for state and House elections. (This is used in New Zealand and there’s a video from the NZ Electoral Commission which explains this very well.)
  • Return to an appointed federal Senate and do away with state Senates.
  • Make voting mandatory and do away with ‘voter registration,’ instead people will be automatically registered on a time-delay when they file for Social Security (I.E. at birth.)
  • Ban legislature controlled redistricting and switch to mathematically defined redistricting such as “Shortest Split Line Method.” (The Left often overstates the degree to which gerrymandering skews elections, but it nonetheless occurs and it is repugnant.) And finally….. the BIG one….
  • Term limits! Presidency: 1 6-year term, no reelection. Senate: 2 8-year terms. House: 3 4-year terms. Supreme Court: 10 years.

* A lot of newspapers are rendering it “France Indomitable,” mainly because it begins with “I,” but that’s wrong that’d be « France Indomptable » . If we wanted to be puckish we could also translate it as “Contumacious France…” 😉

Why Britain should not exit the E.U.

If I was British, I would vote to stay. I say this not because the E.U. is good and nice and stuffed with flowers and candies and such. The EU is a hideous abortion, an unaccountable, dysfunctional clusterjerk, an undemocratic Chancellery of weakness doubled upon futility.

But I say this because reform is not impossible, indeed it has never seemed more possible and in the interim, come what may, the U.K. has a permanent opt-out of the worst part of the E.U.: The Euro. The Euro is economically impossible. You simply cannot have a situation in which fiscal and monetary policy are so wildly unrelated.

For example the European Central Bank (ECB) cannot buy EU-member state’s bonds, except in proportion. Yet each member state sets its own fiscal policy (hello, Greece!) This prevents the ECB from effectively monetizing the debt. This defies the entire economic rational of central banking and fiat money. The situation is not altogether dissimilar to the doomed Bretton Woods System and we all know how that ended*.

Because the U.K. (And, also wisely, Sweden and Denmark) have opted out of the Eurozone (despite being eligible) they are insulated from the worst of the effects that could arise in the event of the demise of the E.U. itself and/or the Euro. The U.K. could mobilize rapidly to contain the worst effects.

However, should the U.K. exit the E.U. it would still feel most of these effects anyway, as Europe—vaguely or specifically—is still to be a huge economic reality for the country regardless of what the vote decides. Therefore, it is best for the U.K. to stay in the union because there are certain advantages that legitimately come from membership. The U.K. benefits enormously from membership in the common market, etc.

Moreover, should Britain leave it could provoke the near-term crackup of the union. Britain leaving a union which survives will be disadvantageous to both. But Britain leaving a Union that then explodes a year-down-the-line would be “mutually assured destruction.” Make no mistake, if the decision is ‘exit,’ and margin of victory is not as narrow as a hair, contagion will erupt. Ugly, illiberal nationalism and racism are on the ascendancy there as here. And, for once, Europe may be further down that road to perdition than we are.

* “The Nixon Shock”

Islamic State

Americans are not really thinking. They suppose we can just bomb IS into oblivion, maybe send in a few commandos. In reality it would be extraordinarily bloody and prolonged urban combat.

There would be lots of youtube clips of U.S. sons and daughters burning alive in cages. And it would all be for nothing. Four years later I.S. would have been replaced by something else in the same way IS replaced Al Qaeida, after we destroyed it and stepped into the power vacuum after we toppled the Hussein dictatorship.

The bombs and soldiers can’t obliterate the underlying social and economic reasons that movements like IS have purchase. People join the Islamic State militancy or tolerate its presence in their communities because these countries we see on maps hardly exist.

Their borders are fictitious colonial remnants. There are little in the way of state institutions, law has no force, bribery and corruption are endemic, the economy is choked, property is worthless, red-tape is everywhere, justice is wanting, the people have no voice, education is unattainable, truth is weak. They despair of their lives.

This is what must be banished. You don’t have to bomb IS, you have to deprive it of a political leg to stand on. You need political and economic development, secular state-building, legal reforms, a market economy which is fair and well policed. You need a dream of prosperity and a reality of brightened prospects. You need aspiration. You need a middle class.

Unfortunately, Congress has no idea how to do any of that.

Scottish referendum

Quite apart from the nuts-and-bolts macroeconomic reasons, the problem with the Scottish referendum is that nations are always infinitely sub-divisible. The Atom of the nation is the Individual but aside from that hard limit there’s no “rational optimal subdivision.” Where do you stop? Maybe extricate London—it could join Hong Kong and Singapore as a great city state—why shouldn’t one split off Cornwall, North Ireland, Wales? Why not have 64.1 million nations of one citizen each? As we observe in our own Congress, focusing on what divides and differentiates a nation does not build steel beams of strength but is the road to endless dysfunction.

Israel

I’m tired of everyone acting like it’s clever to ask “Does Israel have the right to exist?” It’s such a nonsequitur. It reminds me of that moronic yet strangely persistent pop-philosophy 101 question “Does the chair exist?”

It a non-productive question. We never ask, for instance, “Does Gabon have the right to exist?”

Strictly, no state has a real “right” to exist or continue existing in the way a human has the moral right to remain alive. A state is established when certain geopolitical conditions are met and is disestablished if those conditions cease to be.

But in the real world, even if you think the circumstances of the establishment of the modern Israeli state are not just, the fact of the matter is that a stable, relatively free and democratic state that has existed for 66 years and has 8 million residents who actively participate in its polity cannot justly be disestablished by external force!

The “statute of limitations” has long since passed.