The Nature of Fascism and Democracy

Mark Mazower (FT “Fascism revisited” 14 April 2018) labors through a number of books on the ideology of fascism in your Weekend issue. As he notes, a variety of social movements in the past have been described as fascist that were ideological composites of left and right. One should recall that Mussolini had been a socialist, a member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party from which he was expelled for promoting intervention in WWI. He opposed ideas of egalitarianism and class struggle and believed he created a form of corporate capitalism based on national identity that transcended the political philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries. In many ways, Mussolini’s frustration and rejection of the current politics of his time is reflected in the confused attempts of the authors of the 5 books Mr. Mazower reviews, to make sense of what has happened in the last half of the 20th century. They also display problems in definition.
Finchelstein’s focus on the failures of democracy is a retreat from the difficulties of understanding forms of democracy: direct democracy vs constitutional monarchical democracy as in the UK, or representative democracy as in the USA or one party democracy as in the USSR. Albright and Riemen believe fascism and popularism are linked as is their view of democracy but in both cases they cannot make a clear case for what is popularism and when it is fascist or democratic or if fascism can be democratic. Is the suppression of millions of African Americans, or slaves on English plantations around the globe in the 18th and 19th centuries a form of democracy as in Athens when slaves were common? Is inequality a necessary component of democracy and fascism? Riley and Hett both describe the collapse of governments and the rise of the control of society by militant groups but what makes a society based on law when every society has forms of law legitimized by state power? Once Hitler was in power was it a nation ruled by law, whose law is legitimate is the central question in how a society is structured and how consent is given. Is depriving thousands of Loyalist American colonists the right to vote on separation democracy, or the seizure of power from a “democratically elected government” in a coup by pro-EU forces in Ukraine democracy? Were Juan Person’s descamisados democracy in action? Is the anarchist idea of complete consensus true democracy or is that really the tyranny of the few who refuse to agree?
We are left with the ethnic Greek, Roman citizen Polybius’ scheme of social evolution. Power devolves through the disintegration of consent and the demonstration of failure, so that a society moves from democracy to aristocracy to oligarchy to monarchy and back to democracy. The central question is who owns society and what is the nature of the validity of the control of social institutions. If we note that in ancient Greece a general idea was that the people owned society and, in theory, the surplus of production and the spoils of war were the property of the polis to be used for public good, then that seems a communist idea, but it is rather in practice a communal ideal. If klans or lineages conquer the state and form an armed unit to dominate its institutions, they then own the state. The same is true for an oligarch or king. In the overthrow of a tyrant the mass of the people regain ownership of the state and their participation in control of its institutions is demonstrated by their use of its wealth and power. Whether we call this communism or fascism is immaterial. Whether the agents of change use symbols of communism or fascism from the past or simply national identities is a detail. Mussolini rejected the idea of class struggle as weakening a nation and national identity as a vehicle for social progress. The main problem in all of this is: what are the goals, what programs do “populists” or fascists have? If people can call Venezuela’s president a fascist, or Hungary’s Orban a racist and nationalist and Trump and Putin fascists though they all got elected, then what is the quality of democracy we are missing? What percentage of America’s African Americans have to be prevented from voting or voting districts become so gerrymandered before we can no longer recognize the outcome as that of a democratic society? If Stalin’s USSR, Erdogan’s Turkey or Xi’s China are authoritarian states, can an America formed by less than 5% of the adult male population (who voted for the Constitution and union) by design of the few who organized the election as Charles Beard has noted) with hundreds of thousands of slaves be a free country with democratic principles?
Perhaps it is time to bury the terms “fascism” and “popularism” and instead attempt to define what we mean in practice for there to be a consensus of a functioning and healthy democracy.

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Has the Fed’s expansion of capital only driven speculation? And are we really in a asset-driven recession?

 

 

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that US bank deposits have soared as the Federal Reserve has “printed money” (increased liquidity) since 2007 (see chart from the Financial Times Oct. 3rd 2017). Data from the US Census demonstrates that the U.S. trade deficit has expanded since 2008 (see chart). This appears to support ideas that stock market growth is limited to speculation in a few large companies and non-productive unprofitable entities like Uber. Data from the Small Business Administration shows that loans to small businesses have declined, while large companies have off-shored profits like Apple.

Chart 1

Chart 2

 

  • This is a complex and frustrating problem. Add to this the 2015 article by Jacobs and Shivdasani in Harvard Business Review “Do you know your cost of capital?” and found that about 80% of major businesses use discounted cash flow analysis or “the wrong cost of debt, tax rate or both.” So we find that if this extends beyond the sample survey of 300 companies, a vast number of firms are exposed to significant risk at present.

 

  • I might add that a report by Credit Suisse has found that retail store closings are at an all time high. If one also looks at the historical view (see Phil Wahbra, May 31 2017) massive increases in store closings have occurred during the recent recessions but are dwarfed by 2017 figures (see Chart 3). While ecommerce has been increasing, the increase over the same period has been modest (see chart 4). Combined with wage stagnation and low reinvestment the current situation looks like a recession with only equities showing improvement some what like the run up to the 1938 collapse, but with a number of twists, due to the global financial system, massive off shore holdings of cash and mountains of debt.

 

Chart 3

Chart 4

  • Germany has reported a reduction in government debt for the first time in more than two decades (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 5 January 2018). It is unlikely the USA could weather a Chinese recession at this time, should the Chinese need to call in US debt. The only solution would be a forgiveness of this debt by China or a repeat of the 19th century crisis that led to western invasions (Caldararo, 2017).

 

Caldararo, Niccolo, “Fear of China: Economic and Political Challenge in the 21st Century: A Pacific Society, Weapons, Roots and Trends,” Asian Journal of Social Science Studies; Vol. 2, No. 4; 2017:1-12.

ISSN 2424-8517 E-ISSN 2424-9041

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Free Speech, Berkeley 1964 and Democracy

There has been considerable debate on the issue of free and appropriate speech in the media lately, especially regarding the issue of free speech on the Berkeley, California campus in the 1960s and the nature of democracy. Much of this has been rather confused on the issues. We should recall that free speech in a modern context grew up in the struggle for the freedom to think what one wanted. The term, “protestant” originally meant “I protest,” as thousands of people struggled to express themselves without being punished as heretics.

We should try and keep these articles and letters in historical perspective.  It is certain there has been a lack of freedom of speech among African Americans and Native Americans in our history.  The American union movement suffered violent suppression of the right to assemble and of speech in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In our more recent history, one should note that the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley began with the suppression of the freedom of students and their clubs to place tables on Sproul Plaza and hand out informational flyers on campus.  In 1964 I was a member of the Young Republicans for Goldwater and we had a table on campus.  We had come into conflict with the Young Republicans for Scranton/Rockefeller in the spring before the Republican convention in San Francisco.  Attitudes and anger often boiled over.  Later, campus Christian missionaries clashed with members of the campus Socialist Workers’ Party.

As tensions escalated and the fallout of the convention gelled, the campus was inundated with political activity as the fall semester began.  As usual there was the arrival of new students and their families, but also the diversity of the campus brought conflicting ideas and images.  One was a group of bongo players whose presence began the effort by the administration under Clark Kerr to tame the appearance of the campus.  More detail can be found in a book by Max Heirich (The Beginning: Berkeley, 1964, Columbian University Press, 1970).  The university administration, responding to student complaints, those of rightwing conservatives outside of the campus community and threats from conservative members of the Regents was forced to take action.

It was argued that the political organizing, recruiting of new members for campus groups as diverse as clubs, frats, the US Army, voter registration and socialists and communists, did not belong on campus.  At first it was proposed no one could have a table to recruit or pass out political literature. Then we were banned from expressing our preferences and political ideas along with political groups like socialists and communists as well as religious groups.  Almost everyone who had had tables on Sproul Plaza joined together  to form the Free Speech Movement and thousands of students joined us.  The Regents argued we did not have political rights as students and this become the first mass student civil disobedience event.  We held teach-ins to discuss the situation regarding law and then professors and students held classes in the Administration Building.  For their violation of the ban on political activity some students were detained by campus police, and a sit-in began which led to the occupation of the administration building. The refusal of the Regents to recognize free speech led to the violent attack on the students by police on the night of December 4th 1964. So if we are to refer to free speech on the Berkeley campus we have to start with the fact that in 1964 there was none, we were arrested for trying to have free speech on campus.

We can revisit other examples:  During the San Francisco State Student Strike in 1968 the San Francisco Police invaded the Daily Gater student newspaper breaking down its door and destroyed its equipment, files and furniture.  They claimed they had received a call there were weapons stored there.  None were found.  Or where Peter Camejo, a leader of the Anti-war movement in Oakland and Berkeley and later a founder of the Green Party, was detained by the Oakland Police in the middle of the night before he was to address a major anti-war march in the 1970s.  One can also note the way the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue blockaded Planned Parenthood offices in the 1980s, intimidating and preventing women with appointments from attempting to enter the clinics.  The violence of this group and its tactics led to murders of doctors and bombings of clinics.  What of the free speech of the women who wanted Planned Parenthood’s services or of the doctors and nurses who worked there?

While I certainly support the right to free speech I do not see hate speech as acceptable.  When people espouse murder, slavery and the degradation of other citizens, we must recognize that is violence and not speech.

I take offense by Foroohar’s statement that some professors in “the past few years” who did not “spout the party line” were not allowed to lecture on campus.  Such lack of fact is a general problem today, but does she know of how many people lost their jobs in American universities over rumors they were communists, socialists or anarchists? Has she ever heard of the loyalty oaths people were forced to sign to keep their jobs in the 50s and 60s?  In California, the Levering Act was passed in 1950 and 31 professors  lost their jobs in that  year because of it. In 2008 California’s loyalty oath for all employees caused a Quaker to sue.  Other states have similar oaths.

One cannot defend the right of paid propagandists like Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos to speak as part of an intellectual exercise to widen the scholarly environment of the Berkeley campus.  Their ideas are clearly dogma and historically aligned with the agency of discrimination, sexism anti-semitism, white supremacy, racism and National Socialism.  Do we have room for these ideas to be taught on campus?  Would we allow Hitler or Saddam Hussein to speak, would Bannon support bringing Kim Jong Un on campus?  What these people are doing, under the cover of the idea of free speech is making a mockery of democracy.

 

Niccolo Caldararo

 

See:

Morris, Arval A., “Academic freedom and loyalty oaths,” Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 28, No. 3, Academic Freedom (Summer, 1963), pp. 487-514

“Black lists and loyalty oaths,” Science News, v. 97, n. 2, Jan. 10, 1970:36-7

http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/loyaltyoath/

“Pacifist Cal State teacher gets job back,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2008

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Uber, Taxis, Buses and the Big Ripoff

Madhumita Murgia’s article on Uber’s appeal for a licence to operate in the city of London in the Financial Times “Uber files appeal against cancelling of London licence,” 14 October 2017), addresses the issue if the company is “fit” to operate there. I would urge the Transport for London board to carefully study the effects this company and other “ride hailing” schemes have had elsewhere.  Even though such providers of transportation use the internet there is nothing different about the service except the helplessness of its drivers and their willingness to exploit themselves.  Like people who rent out their rooms via Airbnb, the edge of homelessness has grown ever wider in the digital age.  How did we get here, will a long history of taxi wars pitting rival gangs of “gypsy cabs” against each other and the police and the suppression of illegal and unlicensed buses (once called “gitneys” here), “Venture capitalists,” who disdain laws (like taxes as Leona Helmsley (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leona_Helmsley) once said, which are for the “little people” armed a force of lawyers to exempt their attack on taxis and the City’s bus service.  With the vision of a world without unions, where people buy their own tools (cars for taxis) and hand over the profits of their work (minus gas and food) to their wealthy owners, Uber’s inventors have demonstrated how to undermine not only unions, city taxes and any responsibility for the effects of their business.  If you do not like my version below you can go to Heather Smith’s which is more complementary to Uber and Lyft at: http://grist.org/business-technology/the-secret-history-of-the-taxi-wars/ see also the article at the end on regulation in Chicago).  It is remarkable.   But let’s look at the consequences first.
A study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority found that 6.5% of the weekday vehicle miles in the city were due to Uber and Lyft drivers, over 570,000 miles daily (see Carolyn Said, “Uber and Lyft cars flood SF streets,” SF Chronicle, June 13, 2017). Getting information from Uber has been difficult for cities and San Francisco has had to sue the State for traffic data supplied under statute to state agencies; but Uber has blocked release of it claiming it as confidential data (see Joe Rodriguez, “SF wants ride-hail traffic data from state,” SF Examiner, 13 April, 2017). City agencies have reported more than 45,000 Uber or Lyft drivers in the city creating a daily increase in congestion with most coming from out of town.
While Uber is yet to make a profit, it has a substantial financial backing allowing it to continue to undercut taxi service and mass transportation while paying no tax to the city. Uber and Lyft have been found to be draining riders from not only taxi service (which pays tax) but from mass transit (Carolyn Said, “Uber, Lyft reduce use of public transit , study finds,” SF Chronicle, Oct 11, 2017). The result of this, while draining public funds from transit service, has been to clog the streets with their cars increasing traffic, blocking streets while picking up or delivering passengers or waiting for fares.
A separate study by the SF Police Department found that Uber and Lyft drivers have been responsible for over two-thirds of all traffic violations in the city of San Francisco (see Rodriguez, Joe, “Uber and Lyft account for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown,” SF Examiner, 25 Sept. 2017).
It would seem to a reasonable person that these are negative impacts and should not be rewarded with a licence to operate in London or any venue. The TfL, however, will likely find itself mired in a considerable legal swamp by Uber. An article in the SF Chronicle by Matier & Ross (“S.F. Traffic Planners missed ride hailing” July 3, 2017) regarding S.F.’s Municipal Transportation Agency’s failure to deal effectively with “ride hailing” or Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber, beggars belief. One need only refer to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) press release of Sept. 19th 2013 which announces the CPUC authority and regulations on TNCs. Not only was this information sent to interested parties in the state (and certainly was received by the MTA, but the taxi companies and unions complained of the TNCs as illegal. The CPUC had sent cease and desist orders to Uber and other TNCs in Oct of 2012 this information was widely disseminated (see for example: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/10/08/ride-sharing-startups-get-california-cease-and-desist-letters/#fdcb551d3fc1). If the CPUC was aware of the TNC’s violation of taxi rules, then certainly the SFPD, which is involved in regulating taxis, should have notified the SFMTA; obviously someone did notify the CPUC. However, the very fact that somehow Uber was able to operate without a licence where strict enforcement of illegal or gypsy” taxis was quite effective is still a mystery.

Niccolo Caldararo, Ph.D.
Dept. of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

The Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
The Regulation of Taxicabs in Chicago
Author(s): Edmund W. Kitch, Marc Isaacson and Daniel Kasper
Source:
The Journal of Law & Economics,
Vol. 14, No. 2 (Oct., 1971), pp. 285-350
Published by: The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business,
University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School
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Reparations and Terror

While no one would be so foolish as to suggest there are any historical connections between the colonial enterprise of European countries and contemporary terrorism, it seems relevant to review the problems of reparations in light of the recent attempt of the German government to assuage the lingering animosity of former colonies by direct payments.  Germany completed negotiations on this issue with agreement on payment to the Namibian government for the killing of some 65,000 Herero tribes people during the colonial occupation in 1905.
Dr. Dambisa Moyo has described the post-colonial aid of European former colonial countries as not only unhelpful, but motivated by self-interest in the maintenance of paternalist relationships and to protect the assets of the former colonial investors.  She and other scholars have also argued that aid has created institutional corruption and unstable government.  It would be difficult to argue that current economic and political crises in the former colonies are not traceable to colonial polices, or that internal strife is not related to the colonial borders.  Yet it is natural for people to desire intervention as a means of relieving immediate economic crises, civil wars and environmental disasters.
It would seem obvious that some mechanism is necessary that can avoid past problems, yet even where money exists that should be available for development or education as in the case of the Gaddafi fund where disagreements with the institutions holding the funds, and the secret nature of their location, continue to block their use as described by Shane Harris in a 2015 Daily Beast article (http://www.thedailybeast.com/hell-tell-you-where-to-find-gaddafis-missing-billionsif-he-gets-his-cut) see also
, and Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/may/16/gaddafi-insider-accused-of-using-state-cash-to-buy-luxury-scottish-hotels) or ,in the Telegraph in 2013.
Perhaps doing by nothing more to try and create a constructive resolution of post-colonial problems things will just get better on their own. However, if we see the current wave of terror as an extension of the repercussions of colonialism, from Mau-Mau to al-Qaida to ISIS, then attempting a new solution would be appropriate. Creating opportunities for millions of young people across the globe who have little to look forward to and live in conditions that degrade advancement could be part of a solution. Therefore, I propose a tax on corporations, family wealth and individuals who profited from colonial rule.  This would be a kind of reparation, a kind of forced  philanthropic fund that should be substantial, something like 10% of the wealth currently held in both corporate assets, family funds (of all kinds) and distributed wealth (e.g., to charities like churches).  This fund could then be administered by the UN and people in former colonies, especially African nations and those whose ancestors suffered slavery and now live in the New World could apply for educational support, financial investment or their own ideas of community development.  While this might result in some degree of fraud, it could hardly rise to the level of rapine that European colonial countries visited upon the world.
It would not be difficult to trace the money.  Like the sleuthing that uncovered escaped Nazis after WWII, or that has discovered tax cheats in the Panama Papers,dedication, skill and time would be necessary, but technology would make today’s search easier.

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Western Threats Against China: Revisiting the Opium Wars

Gideon Rachman’s article reviewing several books in this weekend’s FT (“The Struggle for Asia,” 1April 2017) informs us as to how little has changed in western scholarship regarding China in the past two decades. 

   Rachman begins with Graham Allison’s “Thucydides Trap” theory.   If we examine the theory, however, it immediately falls into ruins.  If the war between Sparta and Athens was caused by Athens’ fear of the rise of Sparta it would come as a surprise from reading Thucydides’ history and that of Herodotus, Aristotle and Xenophon.  In these histories (most Western historians, except a precious few like Toynbee, ignore the Spartan historians though most of their writings like those of Sosibius are lost or simply fragments of a few passages) we find Athens building a political and economic empire.  Their raiding the coast of Asian Minor and desecration of the temples of the cities they sacked, caused the Persians to desire revenge.  That can be seen as the reason for the invasion of Greece under Darius and Xerxes and the defense of Greece by the Spartans (and other Greeks) at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E.
   It was such disregard for honor and humanity that led to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.E.).  Athens built her empire on ruthless trading policies and conquest that threatened all of the independent Greek cities.  Sparta became the leader of the free cities against Athenian hubris and growing arrogance.  In the end, Athenian greed and corruption resulted in her defeat.  Most European historians have found in the Athenians a reflection of their own history, imperialists, mercantilists and slave owners.
   To bring this into a contemporary context one can see the parallel, but it is the obverse of the Greek situation, the US and the European powers have conquered and dominated the globe for 4 centuries.  Their power was broken in two great civil or tribal wars in the 20th century where Europeans and the Americans wasted their treasure and people in years of massacre.  Now in the shadow of that disaster the west fears those it oppressed.  That is only natural, but it is not a consequence of what Dr. Allison’s theory predicts.  It is an entirely eurocentric view of the world.
The views of Howard French, Michael Green, Tom Miller and Bernard Cole are all in the same vein.  The lack of historical context is remarkable, how can one talk of China’s response to the west without noting the colonial war Europe brought to the world?  Here Green is the only stand out.  One must recall that trade up to the mid 19th century with China had drained Europe, and especially England of its silver and was causing a serious economic crisis.  China bought little from Europe, like the past 3 decades, and yet Europe was buying Chinese wares and becoming a debtor.  The solution in the 19th century was first an attempt to swamp China with opium and then when the Chinese blocked this, European armed forces invaded, resulting in the defeat of China and a near century of looting the nation.  In 1903 England invaded Tibet on a similar pretext based on the idea the Russians were going to do it anyway.
Rachman’s comments on Japan follow a similar path of inevitability which Allison’s theory predicts, though masks the actions of the USA in Asia, as his theory distorts and overlooks those of Athen’s in Asia Minor over 2,600 years ago.  While Japan had closed her borders to the west after the arrival of Europeans like Fernao Mendes Pinto and the two Embassies to Europe by Japan in the early 16th century, her attempt at ignoring the threat as China had,  saved her from the contamination of her people by contact with western values.  When forced to open to the west by the USA, the Japanese immediately saw their only survival in becoming like the Europeans and Americans and to avoid being like  those non-European peoples who were colonized and enslaved.  Seeing how Europeans treated non-Europeans was central to this transformation (see my article, “The Origins of the Nation-State in Japan: Destruction of Militant Buddhism and Western Contact of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Implications for the Concept of the State,”American Studies Eurasian Perspective 2016; 1(2): 87-98, DOI: 10.15340/2147349812964 ).
Japan’s rise only took place at China’s defeat and dismemberment at the hands of Europeans. Japan in the late 19th century was unconquered or colonized, a rare position for a non-European people.  They embarked on a program of establishing themselves as equal to European powers then contending for China’s resources.  Japan in 1900 was the only non-European power in the world and its existence was only recognized after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.  As Japan attempted to seize colonies for itself to model its nation as a European colonizer it was threatened by the western nations who saw Japan as a threat to its colonies.  Here the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 was a product of this fear, yet the demonstration by the Japanese in their destruction of the Russian navy in the East and its armies, showed that they could act as a powerful force in a European manner.
After World War I Japan offered that all world powers give up their colonies and  a policy of respect for all peoples be accepted by the victors at Versailles.  Rejected, Japan went on to its earlier program of mimicking European colonial interventions and a decade later, to the Mukden Incident in Manchuria.  This led to the protest of the Allied powers and the 5 Powers Treaty which was ostensibly about disarmament (even as the conference was taking place the USA was building 10 major warships) but really forced on Japan to protect European spheres of influence.  Not satisfied and wanting to preserve western control the USA called another meeting, the 9 Power Treaty, to force Japan out of China.  Billed as a means to protect China which was already divided up, there was no change except Japan exited Shangtung Province and Siberia.
If the west wants to avoid conflict with China then there should be an effort to avoid the last consequence of western debt with her.  In 1839 the west could have worked on a constructive resolution to the silver drain to China and Britain’s mounting liabilities there.  Instead Britain choose war.  Today we find China (and German) accused of currency manipulation when the real problem is a lack of productivity in the west.  While we hear so much about American creativity, we see a crisis of the economy that threatens world peace.

 

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Brexit, Nationalism and Democracy

In the 21st century it is perhaps naive to expect politicians to avoid myth and illusion, yet the campaign for Brexit and commentary after its conclusion and results can be characterized as such. Claims of historical precedent and constitutional basis have tumbled together with a mix of sheer ideological cant to produce the confusion we see in the media. The situation is certainly a crisis, with officials in Northern Ireland and Scotland calling for their own exit from the UK. British citizens are looking to accomplish their own individual exit by gaining Irish passports (Vincent Boland, “British citizen swamp Ireland with passport applications, Financial Times 28 June, 2016). There are calls for new referendum and their are constitutional questions, especially regarding sending the results to parliament and whether it is a binding referendum or if the devolved government can block it. But their this calls into question what is the nature of sovereignty in the UK? Since there is no formal constitution, it appears there is a de facto process that has evolved and places sovereignty in the hands of Parliament. Do the people of the UK not understand their history or are they such strangers to their government that they cannot perceive the nature of it? Most arguments in the FT over the past months of the campaign over Brexit, and the last few days since the vote, have focused on money, on the costs of Brexit, but the essential and most important issue is sovereignty.
A book by Richard Tuck (The Sleeping Sovereign, 2016) and the review of it by Paul Sagar (TLS, “Of the People, for the People”) address examples of this problem on a larger scale for Anglo-Americans. Dr. Tuck sets up a dichotomy between the myth of democracyof ancient Athens and the illusion of the effects ofthe Girondin during the French Revolution. He also relies on the metaphysics of Hobbes who invoked a Gnostic-like view of the sleeping sovereign. Rather, we can look to Polybius whose examination of Roman and Greek government and history produced a useful model for the transitions of human society (given Western cultural foundations) from democracy, aristocracy and tyranny. Giambattista Vico built on this model adding an examination of institutions and their elements in the process of government and corruption modifying Cicero’s views, while Douglas North and Amitai Etzioni recently have spend substantial energy studying the role of rules.
The first problem is typical of European historians who saw in the Athenians their image. This was to be expected as the Athenians hadslaves, created and empire and refused participationin law and government to women. So any question of democracy has to begin withassumptions of who this democracy is for. The same problem plagued the partisans of revolution in America, there was seldom presented any ideaof freedom or democracy for African slaves in thenation and the country’s institutions were framed toignore or prevent that participation. The same can be said for the role of women.
Often discussions of Athenian government are contrasted with ideas of Spartan life, but its history was written (with few exceptions, as that of Xenophon) by her enemies. Like Athens she had a representative government, the Ephors represented the mass of the people, elected “kings”and the various classes fought together, even the supposed state slaves, the Helots, who Toynbee questioned being slaves at all.
But European historians have generally seen Athens as the perfect representation of the combination of capitalism and empire, yet her greed and brutality was factors in her defeat at the hands of “communistic” Sparta. Yet how does this inform us of the nature of sovereignty in the UK? There is a considerable debate on this issue, for example, while there is no British constitution, or one that was voted on ever in the UK, there are scholars who argue that one has been given assent by indirect means. See: Turpin, Colin; Tomkins, Adam (2007). British government and the constitution: text and materials.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The nature of the initiative and referendum is idealized by both Sagar and Tuck, it is remarkable that both seem to forget that the U.S. Constitution was ratified by a vote and that many people, including Franklin were opposed to the way it was undertaken. Charles Beard estimated (in his 1913 book) that less that 5% of the American population was involved in the poll. The time allowed for farmers to reach polling places and to qualify to vote limited participation. Slaves could not vote nor women and there were states limitation on voting rights, some based on property or wealth. All 13 states ratified by election by 1790. Again the question is who is the process designed to engaged in democratic institutions?
Certainly the American framers of the Constitution were affected by events in France during the French Revolution, and efforts were made to fashion American institutions so that it would be more stable. Yet, stable for whose benefit? Yet the Girondin had little effect in this, or in latter efforts to create democratic states, the authors of the revolutions of 1848 as Patricia Robertson has noted in her comprehensive book, were more influential in this development. But for the UK, the confrontation at Runnymede that created the Magna Carta was led by a group of rebel barons and was to be governed by a council of them, not for all people in the British Isles. It was annulled by Pope Innocent III and led to the First Baron’s War and to a final confrontation that produced a stripped down version by King Henry III. Later it was established by treaty at Lambeth in 1217. But as time went on confrontations and violations continued until the Civil War when the victorious Parliament seized power by force of arms. Does that power define sovereignty in the UK today? If so, then the referendum is only an exercise in advice and not one of determination.
California has had a referendum and initiative process since the Progressive era and yet today it is largely dominated by big business to subvert legislation passed by the representatives of the people. Therefore, the question facing the UK today is not Brexit, but the nature of government. Can sovereignty be exercised by the people directly, and thus as Tuck argues, is the UK governed by the people, is it a democracy or is it a representative government?

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