Philosophy, then, is Reason exercised upon Knowledge; or the Knowledge not merely of things in general, but of things in their relations to one another. It is the power of referring every thing to its true place in the universal system,--of understanding the various aspects of each of its parts,--of comprehending the exact value of each;-- tracing each backwards to its beginning, and forward to its end,--of anticipating the separate tendencies of each, and their respective checks or counteractions; and thus of accounting for anomalies, answering objections, supplying deficiencies, making allowance for errors, and meeting emergencies. It never views any part of the extended subject-matter of knowledge, without recollecting that it is but a part, or without the associations which spring from this recollection. It makes every thing lead to every thing else; it communicates the image of the whole body to every separate member, till the whole becomes in imagination like a spirit, every where pervading and penetrating its component parts, and giving them their one definite meaning.John Henry Newman, Oxford University Sermons, Sermon 14, section 29.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
My recent little rant about political philosophers and their ignorance of the basic practical principles of historical constitutional theory put me in mind of a fictional constitution that I had been thinking through for a while, during a period in which I was thinking about constitutional theory, and that I had written up. I put up fictional short stories and fictional poems, so why not a fictional constitution for something different? If I were to do a fictional constitution for a republic, it would probably end up rather like the US Constitution, differently organized with various modifications and expansions. So for more of challenge in thinking through constitutional principles, I came up with the following in an attempt to combine several principles of constitutional monarchy that are out of political fashion while getting a result that, if even very roughly doing what it should do (since you should never design a constitution for ideal situations only), would nonetheless give a society that would likely be much more free than many societies we think of free societies, and that would have a chance at being reasonably prosperous. Whether I succeeded I don't know, and probably never will, unless there is some country in the world that wants to call on me to be its Lycurgus. But I think the result is very interesting to think through theoretically, at least, in its fractal character, in the way it is built on principles of superrepresentationality and pluralism of societies, in the way it uses sortition, in the way it uses juridical entities, in its attempt to capture a notion of militia that might work something like Scottish Enlightenment philosophers wanted it to work. Of course, I also partly cheat: it's a two-layer constitution, one of which would be the following and the other would be a 'General Code' basically worked out by the old compromise and horse-trading of committee, so I don't need to cover everything. And it's easy to fictionalize a constitution for a country so malleable that it doesn't even have a name except 'N.', 'insert name here'. But what do you think? What would definitely need to be in the General Code? Do you think there are any definite problems with the formulations (unintended consequences of formulations are the doom of many a constitutional scheme)? What conditions of society do you think would be required to make it work in the intended way? Are there any things that would doom it? Thinking through questions like this is why someone might be interested in this very strange fictional genre.
Instrument of Governance
1. Under God and for the common good of the People of N., the Sovereignty of N. is vested in the union of Crown and Council.
2. The Constitution. The Constitution shall consist of the Instrument of Governance for N., the General Code of N., and the General Codes of the Provinces. All actions of government must be according to the Constitution.
2.1 The Instrument of Governance, and amendments thereto, must originate with the Prince and be ratified by at least three-quarters of the Council of N., or else by at least two-thirds of the Council and fifty-five percent of a popular referendum called by the Crown for that purpose during a time of election.
2.2. The national General Code, and amendments thereto, shall have effect when passed by at least three-quarters of the Council of N. and ratified by the signatures and seals of both the Prince and the Steward, or else by at least two-thirds of the Council and fifty-one percent of a popular referendum called by the President of Council for that purpose during a time of election.
3. Interpretation of the Constitution. The ultimate authority for all interpretation of the Constitution is the explicit agreement of Crown and Council on the relevant point of interpretation.
4. Constitutional Oath. No one shall hold any office of the state or appointed by Crown and Council without taking an oath to act in accordance with the Constitution, to respect the dignity of Crown and Council, and to work for the common good of the People of N.
1. The Rights and Freedoms of the People. The People of N., both individually and as families and churches, have rights and freedoms in inexhaustible abundance deriving both directly and indirectly from God and therefore the failure of the Constitution explicitly to attribute to them some specific right or freedom does not thereby imply that they lack such a right or freedom, nor that such a right or freedom is unimportant.
1.1 The Council may pass such laws as are required to preserve the freedoms of natural persons, and the People as a whole, from unreasonable encroachment by anyone, and has the responsibility to do so in order to preserve those freedoms that are required for the pursuit of virtue.
1.2 The Council shall have the authority to pass laws determining the requirements of juridical persons and their rights and privileges under law.
2. Self-Governance Powers. The People shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good, nor from voluntarily forming corporate bodies and associations to develop, maintain, and protect their goods and customs in a peaceable manner, nor from applying to Council or Crown by petitions or remonstrances for redress of their grievances.
2.1 The freedom of citizens to express their views by speech or by press shall not be restricted by law except to prevent the harms of obscenity, defamation, fraud, or incitement to violence, and any such restrictions shall be only according to law and apply only so far as is required to prevent actual harm arising directly from the act of expression itself.
3. Search and Seizure Protections. The right of the People to be secure, both individually and as families, in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be infringed by any act of the state.
3.1 No warrants for search or for seizure shall issue save upon probable cause supported by oath and particularly describing what is to be searched or seized, and all such warrants must be obtained and implemented in a manner consistent with law.
3.2 Property seized under warrant shall remain the property of the owner, and shall be returned intact when the process of law is completed, or in perishable cases replaced with an equivalent in kind or money as determined in court of law, except where the owner has been convicted of a crime specifically involving the relevant property or where it has been established according to law that the relevant property is dangerous to the public.
3.3 No property shall be taken for public use without just compensation.
4. Due Process Protections. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
4.1 In criminal prosecutions, all people have a right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, and to have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury chosen from a vicinage determined by prior law.
4.2 In any trial, all people have a right to confront any witnesses against them, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for their defense.
4.2 No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury except in militia cases in times of war or emergency.
4.3 No person for the same offense shall be twice put in jeopardy for life, limb, or liberty.
5. Restrictions on Punishments. Punishments and penalties ordered or administered by the state must be public, definite, necessary, and determined by law, and no punishment shall be given without an explicit and public justification of the punishment as meeting these requirements.
5.1 No punishment may be inflicted save by virtue of a law in force at the time the offense was committed.
5.2 Laws may not inflict severe punishments on actions that prior to the law were part of a longstanding or widespread custom.
5.3 Citizens may not be subject to extradition without their consent.
5.4 The Crown shall from time to time audit and review the state of punishments in N. and its Provinces and provide a report on it to Council and to the People.
6. The Rights of the Family. The state shall in all actions recognize the natural family, formed by bonds of marriage between man and woman and of generation between parent and child, as a natural, moral, and religious unit of society pre-existing itself and having the right to be preserved; it shall also recognize in its actions that members of families have responsibilities to their families, independent of any obligation to the state, which the state must respect and for which it must make allowance.
6.1 No spouse shall be required to report or testify against the other in any criminal or civil violation, nor shall parents be required to report or testify against their children, nor shall children be required to report or testify against their parents.
6.2 Parents have the right to protect, support, raise, and educate their children, and children have the right to be protected, supported, raised, and educated by their parents.
6.3 Families shall have the right to receive income, own property, and engage in such actions as are appropriate under law, distinctly from the income, property, or actions of their individual members, in such a manner as shall be established by law.
6.4 The Council, whether provincial or natural, shall have the right and responsibility to establish laws concerning the determination of paternity, the protection of inheritances, and the formation and rights of juridical families, in accordance with the Constitution.
7. The Rights of the Church. The civil rights of no person or family shall be abridged on account of their religious belief or worship.
7.1 Churches and very similar bodies shall themselves be recognized as being juridical families, with rights and privileges arising therefrom, and the state shall recognize in its actions that members of churches have responsibilities to the churches of which they are voluntary members, independent of any obligation to the state, which the state must respect and for which it must make allowance.
7.2 Hospitals, schools, charitable foundations, and other entities formed by churches for their eleemosynary work shall not be subject to any restrictions that are not required of all other entities of a similar kind, nor shall they be in any way restricted from operating according to their religious principles, as long as clear communication of those religious principles are given to the public.
7.3 The right of the Catholic Church to exist shall be recognized, its sees as juridical persons, and the freedom of the Catholic Church to perform its ecclesial functions through property, speech, press, and assembly in accordance with its own canon law shall not be infringed.
8. The Rights of Labor. Workers shall have the right to form, in accordance with law, trade unions, guilds, livery companies, and professional associations for protection, for encouragement of quality of work, and for assistance in matters related to their work, and no employer may terminate a worker’s employment on grounds of their membership in any such union, guild, company, or association.
8.1 No employer may terminate a worker’s employment on grounds of their political or religious opinions, or on any grounds not directly connected to the performance of their work, nor may they do so ever without prior notice providing the explicit grounds for termination in a manner determined by law.
8.2 No employment contract may explicitly interfere in any way with people fulfilling their legally or customarily recognized civil, familial, or ecclesial obligations, and all employers must provide reasonable accommodation for the fulfilling of such obligations.
8.3 All employers must make reasonable accommodation to the known disability of any qualified applicant or employee, if by doing so the work could be done effectively and competently.
8.4 The life and time of each employee remains their own even in employment, and no employer may make demands on them other than what is required to perform the duties of the work.
8.5 Neither slavery nor any other involuntary servitude shall exist in the realm.
9. Citizenship. All those residing in the territory or jurisdiction of N. at the ratification of this Instrument shall be natural citizens of N. unless they formally declare otherwise in a manner provided by law, as shall their descendants born within the jurisdiction of N. or to parents who are citizens who are traveling or temporarily arising abroad, as well as all those who shall be naturalized as citizens according to the laws of N. No one may be naturalized as a citizen of N. without being sponsored by someone who is already a citizen of N.
9.1 All natural citizens shall be either major citizens or minor citizens. Major citizens shall be citizens sixteen years of age or older who can exercise their civil functions as determined by law. Minor citizens shall be citizens younger than sixteen years of age or who otherwise cannot exercise their civil functions in their own right and shall require a guardian who is a citizen.
9.2 The Council of N. shall have the authority to make all laws governing juridical, that is to say, honorary, citizens.
9.3 No one who is not either a natural citizen or a juridical citizen may hold any state office, whether national or provincial, whether active or advisory, except where treaty with the state of which the person is a citizen makes explicit provision otherwise.
9.4 Citizens of N. may not be deprived of their citizenship unless they came to have it through their own fraud or through their own violation of the laws governing naturalization.
10. Members of the Militia. All major citizens who are younger than sixty years of age are members of the Militia, as well as non-citizens who would otherwise meet this requirement and have made explicit declaration of their intention to become citizens; all members of the Militia are responsible for providing reasonable service in times of insurrection, invasion, natural disaster, or declared emeregency as called to do so in accordance with the legal order of the Commander-in-Chief, Militia Command, or the relevant provincial Commander.
10.1 Every member of the Militia who is physically and mentally able must from time to time receive training with regard to basic matters of survival, first aid, defense, weaponry, and the like as shall be deemed appropriate to the general population by Militia Command. Every member of the Militia shall receive training in the safe handling and storage of weaponry. Militia Command shall provide opportunities for further training for those members who wish to train further.
10.2 No member of the Militia shall be required to engage in service specifically contrary to his or her civil, familial, or ecclesial obligations, and all members of the Militia have the right of conscientious objection with respect to any service where lives are not endangered from their refusal; but any such members may be required to provide some other form of reasonable service to fulfill their Militia responsibilities.
10.3 Any member of the Militia may volunteer at any time for services which are needed for the proper functioning of the Militia and for which they have the relevant skills. No member of the Militia shall be required to serve without compensation for service as determined by law, and no such service shall extend for more than a few hours a week over the course of a few weeks except by direct order of the Commander-in-Chief or Commander in accordance with laws established by the national Council. No law shall create a standing military force separate from the Militia.
10.4 No law shall infringe the right of any member of the Militia to keep and bear arms for legal hunting, for self-defense, for training, or for performance of Militia duties, although the Council may require that the manner in which the arms are kept and borne shall be consistent with the same purposes, and members of the Militia using them in a manner inconsistent with such purposes may be charged with violating their Militia duties.
11. Elections and Sortitions. Without exception, every major citizen who has completed at least some form of Militia training prescribed by law and who has not been convicted of treason, espionage, sedition, insurrection, murder, or rape shall have the right to vote in all elections and to hold office if chosen or drawn for it.
11.1 Every voter who is drawn for office by sortition is required to serve in that office unless they are otherwise ineligible for that office under the Constitution or receive a special exemption from the Council in which they have been drawn to serve; but the Council shall be the plenary and final authority on whether the person drawn has adequate grounds to receive an exemption, and those who are denied exemptions must serve, notwithstanding any other obligations.
11.2 The Council may impose an exemption for official service even against the consent of a person drawn or elected if the person is guilty of public acts indicative of moral turpitude or gross violations of the generally recognized duties of citizens and members of the Militia, but only if these acts have not been pardoned.
11.3 Persons undergoing punishment for crimes or misdemeanors who are drawn for office but not exempted from service by the Council shall not be exempted from punishment without receiving such an exemption from the Crown, but any form of punishment that would be inconsistent with their serving in office may be delayed or restructured by the Council such that they may receive their punishment consistently with service.
11.4 No voter may be threatened, penalized, or punished for voting or for their choice in voting in a manner affecting their property, livelihood, or survival by the state or by any entity constituted by the laws of the state, and laws shall be made to prevent voters from being threatened, penalized, or punished on the basis of their votes. Any non-citizen resident in the jurisdiction of N. who is convicted of any crime or misdemeanor that involves threatening, penalizing, or punishing voters in this way shall be deported. For any citizen to commit such an act has grossly violated their duties as a citizen; multiple such attempts shall be conclusive evidence, unless there is clear evidence otherwise, of an inability to exercise their civil functions in their own right.
12. Restrictions on Taxation. Councils, national or provincial, shall have the power to levy and assess taxes on any income, wealth, property, sale, or activity of any entity engaging in financial or economic transactions within its jurisdiction, except that it may not tax actions required for fulfilling civil, familial, or ecclesial obligations, and it may not tax the income of either individual citizens or families of citizens.
12.1 No tax may be levied on citizens at all except on the grounds of general maintenance of the state in fulfilling its constitutional obligation, of providing specific services for the People of N., of alleviating specific risks to the People, or of ameliorating specific harms that have been incurred by the People, and no laws imposing taxes shall go into effect, nor any taxes collected, without an explicit declaration of these grounds.
12.2 Every citizen shall loan at no interest a portion of his or her income, as determined by law, to the state, in a manner determined by law, which loan shall be repaid in full no later than five years after the state collected the loan.
12.3 Laws imposing taxation shall be concerned only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein concerned with any other matter shall be of no effect whatsoever.
13 Enforcement of Laws. Laws shall be enforced in accordance with the requirements of the Crown and the Council.
13.1 All local enforcement of laws, whether national or provincial, shall be reviewed by a reeve resident in the vicinage, as determined by the laws of the relevant Council, who is appointed by the Crown with the consent of the relevant Council and who shall assess and report to Crown and Council on whether the enforcement is consistent with the Constitution and the rights and freedoms of the People. The reeve shall have power to enforce penalties under law on those responsible for enforcement of the law for violation of law, and for any other abuses or failings of law enforcement that he or she is given power to assess by laws of the relevant Council.
13.2 All citizens shall have the right to file complaints with respect to how a law was enforced against them with the reeve designated by law, and to have an investigation opened by the reeve into the matter.
13.3 Officials subject to investigation by the reeve shall have all rights of due process under the law and the assistance of counsel, and shall have the right to appeal the conclusion of the decision in a Court of Justice.
14. Allodial Right. When a farm or other form of productive agricultural land, as defined by law of Council, which is of sufficient size, which shall be determined by law of Council, and which has been in the possession of its owner, whether individual or family, for at least thirty years, is sold, members of the family shall by an allodial title be guaranteed first option to buy it, with priority determined according to the principles governing inheritance under law.
14.1 If such productive land is sold to someone outside the family of ownership who has allodial right under inheritance law, family members shall have the right to redeem the land, at an appropriate market price determined by an assessment to be paid by those exercise the right to redeem, as long as the new owner has not owned the land for more than seven years. Priority in the exercise of this right shall be determined according to the principles governing inheritance under law.
14.2 Those who exercise allodial right must be resident in N., and by exercising it legally commit to maintaining the land as productive for at least ten years, during which entire time they will be resident in N.
14.3 The Council may extend this right to other productive forms of property by law.
1. The Crown. The Crown, which is whole and entire throughout N., has the responsibility to uphold and preserve the unity and dignity of N., to advocate for the rights, freedoms, and customs of its people, to maintain the continuity of essential functions of government, and to uphold the Constitution.
1.1 Every citizen or member of the Militia is a subject of the Crown and entitled to the reasonable protection of its authority.
2. The Prince and the Steward. The immediate authority of the Crown shall reside in the Prince of N., who shall appoint with the advice and consent of Council a Steward of N. in whom the mediate authority of the Crown shall reside; the Prince may remove the Steward from office at any time for any reason.
2.1 The Steward may exercise any powers of the Crown that the Prince shall delegate to him or her, except where this is forbidden by the Constitution; these acts shall be regarded as genuine acts of the Crown, but the Prince shall have the authority to provide guidelines for, to review, and at any time to nullify the acts of the Steward.
2.2 When the Prince is absent or otherwise incapable of performing the functions of his or her office, the Steward shall continue to exercise the mediate authority of the Crown and may when necessary exercise the immediate authority of the Crown; when the Prince is again able to perform the functions of his or her office, all acts of the Steward during the period of absence shall be explicitly confirmed or nullified.
2.3 When Prince and Steward are both incapable of performing the functions of his or her office, the President of Council shall, in his or her role of High Minister of N., serve as Acting Steward.
2.4 Rules of Succession for the Prince will be determined by law.
3. General Reserve and Privilege Powers. All powers of state not expressly reserved elsewhere by the Constitution, or by such a statute of Council as is consistent with the Constitution, are reserved to the Crown, and may be exercised by the Crown in any manner appropriate to its responsibilities.
3.1 All eleemosynary functions of the state, such as subsidy, welfare, and services of education, health, and culture, as well as all diplomatic functions, are reserved to the Crown, except where the Constitution requires otherwise.
3.2 The Crown shall have sole and plenary authority to declare days of thanksgiving, commemoration, or fasting, including holiday closures of banks and agencies of the state, as long as these do not interfere with responsibilities required by the Constitution.
3.3 The Crown shall be the sole font of honors and awards of merit, although such honors and awards of merit may be regulated or restricted by law of Council.
3.4 The Crown is a juridical person and has the rights, privileges, and powers of a juridical person under law.
4. Emergency Authority. When any agency of the state (of any kind) performing constitutionally required functions (of any kind) is determined by the relevant Council or according to law to be unable to perform those functions, for any reasons, the Crown shall have the authority to do whatever is necessary and consistent with the rights of the People to reestablish the relevant constitutional functions, notwithstanding any other law or norm.
4.1 The relevant Council may at any point terminate this emergency authority by a resolution stating that the relevant constitutional functions have been adequately restored.
5. Prerogative of Clemency. The Crown shall have the power to grant clemency, conditional or unconditional, for offenses or their punishments, whether releases, reprieves, respites, remissions, commutations, pardons, amnesties, or of any other kind, except in cases of impeachment.
5.1 The prerogative of clemency may be exercised in a direct and extraordinary manner by the Crown itself, or in an ordinary manner through the Courts of Mercy as representing the Crown.
6. Crown Agencies. The Crown may exercise its authority either in a direct and extraordinary manner in itself, or in an ordinary manner through a Crown Agency, either national or provincial; and it may exercise in the extraordinary manner any power given by Constitution or law to any Crown Agency, except where explicitly forbidden by the Constitution.
6.1 Every Crown Agency must be consistent in all of its acts with the Constitution and the responsibilities of the Crown.
6.2 The Crown must establish, and the Council of N. must provide support for, the following national Crown Agencies. Except in the case of the Royal Household and the Diplomatic Court, the Director and Assistant Director of each Crown Agency shall be appointed by the Crown with the advice and consent of Council.
(a) The Crown Agency of the Royal Household. The Director of the Royal Household shall be the Prince, and its Assistant Director shall be the Steward; the High Minister of the Crown shall be a member of the Royal Household and shall serve as Acting Assistant Director or Acting Director when necessary and appropriate. The Royal Household shall be the instrument for all supporting functions relating to the maintenance and responsibility of the Crown, and shall include the Office of the Prince, the Office of the Steward, the Office of the High Minister, the Private Purse of the Crown, the Royal Chapel, the Crown Counsel, the Royal Almonry, the Crown Equerry, and the Royal Guard, as well as any other such offices as the Crown and the Council shall deem appropriate and necessary for fulfilling its responsibilities. The Crown shall be the ultimate authority for all matters internal to the Royal Household, except where the Constitution requires otherwise, but the Council of N. may by law govern the interrelations between the Royal Household and other Crown Agencies. The Royal Household is a juridical family, and shall have the rights, privileges, and powers of a juridical family under law. The Royal Household shall be officially Catholic, and its Chapel and Almonry shall operate under Catholic principles.
(b) The Crown Agency of the Diplomatic Court. The Crown shall have the authority to send, receive, and refuse Ambassadors and other public ministers, to recognize or reject the credentials of such ministers and the legitimacy of the states and bodies they represent, to establish embassies, consulates, and missions, and to negotiate treaties, the instrument for which functions shall be the Diplomatic Court. The Steward of N. shall be the Director of the Diplomatic Court; the Assistant Director shall be appointed by the Steward with the advice and consent of the President of Council. Every subject of the Crown traveling abroad who faces some legal difficulty shall receive such help as the Diplomatic Court is able to provide in such a situation.
(c) The Crown Agency of the Public Purse. The Public Purse shall be the instrument for all eleemosynary functions of the Crown in such a manner as shall be provided for and determined by law of Council.
(d) The Crown Agency for Elections and Sortitions. The Crown shall oversee all national and provincial elections and sortitions, all audits and recounts of such elections and sortitions, and the Crown Agency for Elections and Sortitions shall be the instrument of this. The Director of the Crown Agency for Elections and Sortitions shall, after every election and sortition report to Crown and Council on the legality, integrity, security, and accessibility of the means and procedures of that election or sortition.
(e) The Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries. The Crown shall have the power to require or to perform financial, legal, and ethical audits for any part or agency of the state whatsoever, except the internal functioning of the Council, the instrument for which shall be the Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries. In addition, the Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries shall perform and provide such research and investigation into any matters that the Crown or the President of Council deems necessary or useful to legislation or governance. The Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries shall also organize and oversee any census or enumeration of the population for purposes of taxation or apportionment of seats on Council.
(f) The Crown Agency for the National Archives. All official public documents of any national state agency, and all records of elections and sortitions, and any laws, shall have a copy deposited in the National Archives according to procedures determined by law. Any subject of the Crown may access any document in the National Archives in a manner appropriate to the preservation of the documents, and may receive, for a fee determined by procedures established by law, a copy of any such document; and the Crown and any Member of Council, whether national or provincial, may receive such a copy without a fee.
(g) The Crown Agency of the Royal Post. The Crown shall have the power to create and maintain a postal service, including creating and designating post offices and post roads, and to regulate the mail, public or private, in a manner consistent with the good of the People; it shall likewise have the power to create, maintain, and regulate similar services of communication and delivery, public or private, such as telephone lines and access to other communication and delivery technologies. The instruments for these functions shall be the Royal Post. The Royal Post shall also establish and maintain emergency communications and delivery for the Militia.
(h) The Crown Agency for Legal Marks. The Council shall establish laws, to be administered by the Crown, governing patents, copyrights, trademarks, seals, coats of arms, heraldic badges, and similar legal devices and instruments for furthering the business of the state and the progress of the sciences and the arts or of social interactions, and the ordinary means for this shall be the Crown Agency for Legal Marks, which shall approve, regulate, and record all such devices as are recognized by law. In addition, it shall provide royal warrants of appointment in a manner determined by the Crown and shall license and regulate notaries and legal scriveners according to the laws of Council.
6.3 The Council of N., and only the Council of N., has the power to create by law any other national Crown Agencies, whether permanent or temporary, but no such Crown Agency shall be formed except by consent of the Crown. The Council of N. may also give to already existing Crown Agencies new statutory powers, but only with the consent of the Crown.
6.4 The Crown has full executive authority to regulate by Crown decree the manner in which any constitutional and statutory functions of any Crown Agency are performed, whether to guarantee the faithful execution of laws, or to bring these functions into more closely in line with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, or to fulfill the responsibilities of the Crown.
1. The Council of N. The Council of N. shall have the authority to make laws in order to establish justice, to guarantee domestic tranquillity, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to the People of N., in a manner appropriate to the peace, order, and good government of the realm.
1.1 No proposal shall become law before it has come before the Crown to be signed into law or vetoed. The Crown may veto any proposal; the Council of N. may override this veto by two-thirds vote.
1.2 Laws that have been signed by both Prince and Steward take precedence over laws that have been signed only by the Prince; laws that have been signed only by the Prince take precedence over laws that have been signed only by the Steward; laws that have been signed by the Crown take precedence over laws passed against veto.
1.3 Treaties shall be made by the Crown, but no treaty shall have the force of law unless ratified by a two-thirds vote in Council and signed and sealed by the Crown.
1.4 Unless the Council provides otherwise, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of Members of Council, including the President of Council, shall be necessary for a meeting of the Council for the exercise of its powers.
1.5 The Council shall have exclusive power to determine the seat of government where it shall meet and do business, and it shall have plenary power over all matters in this location.
2. Membership in the Council. The Council of N. shall consist of the President of Council and Members from every natural Province.
2.1 The President of Council shall be elected; half of the Members of the Council of N. shall be elected from each Province; the other half of the Members of the Council of N. shall be drawn by sortition of actual voters in that election, from each Province; and all in a manner consistent with the Constitution. All elections and sortitions shall be in accordance with laws of Council. Each Member of Council other than the President of Council shall serve for a term of five years, which terms shall be staggered in a manner determined by law, and the President of Council shall serve for a term of seven years.
2.2 On the occasion of death or incapacity of a Member of Council, the Steward shall with consent of Council appoint an Acting Member of Council to serve until the next election, regardless of whether the election is for that seat. This shall also be true of the death or incapacity of the President of Council, but the person appointed must be a sitting Member of Council who is not Acting Member of Council and who is a Minister in the Cabinet.
2.3 The number of Members of Council shall be set by natural Province according to law in proportion to a census to be taken every ten years, but there must always be an even number of Members, not counting the President of Council, and no natural Province shall have less than two Members by election and two Members by sortition, regardless of population. No law varying the number of seats on Council or changing the formula for apportionment of seats on Council shall take effect until the first election after the next census has intervened.
3. The President of Council. The Council shall have the authority to make, revise, and enforce all rules governing its own proceedings, as long as these are consistent with the Constitution.
3.1. The President of Council shall set the agenda of Council, aid new Members of Council in fulfilling their office, and appoint Ministers to Cabinet.
3.2 The Council may override the President of Council’s agenda by two-thirds vote, except that they may not prevent the Prince, Steward, or President from having a reasonable amount of time to address the Council.
3.3. The President of Council shall ensure, and shall have the authority, means, and resources to ensure, that all Members of Council have what they require to engage in their legislative responsibilities, and that Members of Council who have their seats by sortition are treated equally in courtesies, rights, and privileges with Members of Council who have their seats by election.
3.4 Every national Civil Agency shall be headed by either the President of Council or someone appointed as Minister in the Cabinet of the President of Council; in addition, the President of Council may appoint as Minister in the Cabinet, with or without portfolio, advisors to facilitate the work of the President of Council or the legislation of the Council.
3.5 The President of Council may appoint directly as Minister in the Cabinet any Member of Council or anyone who has served as Member of Council within the previous five years. Other non-Members may be appointed as Ministers by the President of Council, but only with consent of a simple majority of the Council, and those who are not Members of Council but are directly appointed may not serve as Ministers beyond the limit of that five years except when granted an extension by a simple majority of the Council.
3.6 At least one-third of all Ministers in the Cabinet must hold or have held their seats by sortition.
4. Additional Powers of the President of Council. The President of Council shall by virtue of his or her office also be High Minister of the Crown and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia of N.
4.1 As High Minister of the Crown, the President of Council shall be chief of every Civil Agency, so that every Civil Agency is headed either by himself or herself or by some delegate that he or she has constitutionally appointed.
4.2 As High Minister of the Crown, the President of Council shall from time to time consult with the Prince and the Steward on matters relevant to the governance of N. and shall serve as liaison between the Crown and the Council of N.
4.3 All acts of the President of Council as Commander-in-Chief of the Militia of N. must pass through a chain of command that includes a Militia Command composed of the Governors of every Province, natural or juridical, who shall advise, interpret, and execute the orders of the Commander-in-Chief in a manner consistent with the Constitution.
4.3 When the Council of N. has declared a state of emergency involving public danger, the President of Council, as Commander-in-Chief of the Militia of N., shall have the authority to issue emergency orders of raising the militia, of posse comitatus, of draft, of quarantine, of search, of seizure, of court martial, or of any actions specifically authorized in the declaration, which orders shall be regarded as having the full force of law for the duration of the emergency; but any such orders may be vetoed and nullified by the Prince, or, in the absence of the Prince, the Steward, or, when the President of Council is also Acting Steward, by a two-thirds vote of the Council of N., if it is deemed that the order is inconsistent with the good of N. or the nature of the emergency.
5. Civil Agencies. The Council of N. shall have the authority to establish any and all national Civil Agencies required to execute its laws, and the Councils of the Provinces shall have the authority to establish any and all provincial Civil Agencies required to execute their laws.
5.1 All national Civil Agencies must be headed by either the President of Council or a Minister in the Cabinet, as the President of Council determines.
5.2 Where the jurisdiction of a Civil Agency, national or provincial, overlaps with that of a Crown Agency, they shall both have jurisdiction, but if there is a conflict, precedence shall go to the Crown Agency except where the Constitution requires otherwise; and likewise when the jurisdiction of a provincial Civil Agency overlaps with that of a national Civil Agency, they shall both have jurisdiction, but if there is a conflict, precedence shall go to the national Civil Agency except where the Constitution requires otherwise.
5.3 In a state of emergency, all Civil Agencies shall facilitate the work of the Militia in addressing the emergency, when that work is relevant to their jurisdiction.
5.4 The head of every Civil Agency, whether national or provincial, must from time to time make reports to the Crown, the Council of N., the Councils of the Provinces, and the Public, as appropriate, on the activities of that Civil Agency that are relevant to each.
6. Taxation Power. The Council shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, in order to pay the debts of the state and to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the People of N.
6.1 All duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform everywhere in the realm.
6.2 No revenue may be used except in consequence of appropriations made by law, and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time. Any continuing appropriation must be explicitly renewed from year to year, except for programs by which Crown Agencies perform their constitutionally recognized functions.
6.3 No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid except on the basis of a prior census or enumeration made for that purpose.
6.4 No tax or duty shall be laid on any articles exported from a Province.
6.5 No law varying compensation of Members of Council shall take effect before an election has intervened.
7. Tribunal Power. The Council shall have the power to impeach any official of the state whatsoever except the Prince for high crimes and misdemeanors, to try all such impeachments, and when the officials are convicted in such trials to remove them from office, and, if it deems necessary, to ban them from all future office.
7.1 When trying impeachments, the Council shall be presided over by the Steward, unless the Steward is being tried, in which case it shall be presided over by the Prince; the President of Council shall have no role in the trial different from any Member of Council.
7.2 While the Prince may not be impeached, the national Council may rebuke and demand public apology and correction for actions it deems inappropriate by nature to the Crown, and if the Prince does not provide such an apology or correction, the Council may by three-quarters vote remove him or her from office, until such a time as he or she agrees to the apology and correction required.
7.3 If there is a dispute about the incapacity, permanent or temporary, of the Prince, the Steward, the President of Council, or any provincial Governor, the national Council shall hold a trial to determine the matter, presided over by one of these it has chosen whose incapacity is not in question, and its determination shall be final.
7.4 The national Council shall be the tribunal which shall hear all cases concerning relations between Provinces.
8. The Right to Address Council. The Prince, the Steward, the Governors of the Province, and Ministers in the Cabinet shall always be granted reasonable time to address any Council, provincial or national, on any matter relating to the governance of the realm.
8.1 Citizens who are not Members of Council may address the Council, whether provincial or national, when put on the agenda by the President of Council or the relevant provincial Governor; and citizens placed on the agenda may not be removed except by the President of Council or relevant provincial Governor, or else by majority vote of Council. From time to time, the Council shall also provide for citizens to be able to register in the hope of addressing the Council on matters of concern to the realm, and by lottery to be given guaranteed time to address the Council; citizens receiving such guaranteed time may not be refused it under any circumstances, and if they are unable to address the Council at that time due to accident or medical problem, they must be allowed to address the Council at another time.
8.2 Non-citizens may not address the Council, whether provincial or national, on any matter unless, at the request of either the Prince or the President of Council, the Council gives them permission to do so by simply majority vote, or unless they are called to testify in some investigation by Council of a matter relevant to specific legislation being considered or proposed.
8.3 Anyone addressing the Council, whether provincial or national, shall be accorded the same courtesies, rights, and privileges as a Member of Council would, for the entire duration of their address. No citizen may be threatened, penalized, or punished for any opinion expressed during such an address.
1. Miscellaneous Agencies of the State. Agencies of the state that are neither Crown Agencies nor Civil Agencies may be formed and shall be operated according to law of Council, and the Directors and Assistant Directors thereof appointed by the Steward with the consent of Council, unless the Constitution requires differently.
1.1 Where the jurisdiction of such agencies of the state would otherwise overlap with Crown Agencies or Civil Agencies, the authority of the Crown Agency or Civil Agency supercedes that of the other agency, unless the Constitution requires differently.
1.2 Such agencies of the state shall be audited and reviewed regularly, and the Directors thereof shall regularly provide reports to both Crown and Council on the activities of that agency.
2. The Tax Bank. The Council shall provide for the formation of the Tax Bank. All entities in the realm that engage in financial or economic transactions shall have an account at the Tax Bank, into which they shall pay their taxes or loans to the state and from which they shall receive any subsidies under law.
2.1 The Tax Bank shall have the authority to invest, to loan, and to engage in other financial transactions according to laws made by Council governing it.
2.2 The Tax Bank may not charge interest on loans except on the grounds of service, alleviating risk, or avoiding loss, and must declare such grounds when it charges interest.
2.3 Any profit by the Tax Bank that is not required for operation will be revenue for the state.
3. Militia Command. The Council shall make provision in law for the Militia Command, providing it the resources and organization required to fulfill its functions.
3.1 The Militia shall include not just its land forces but also the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, and the Civil Air Defense, and the Council shall make provision for the good functioning of all the forces of the Militia.
3.2 Militia Command shall from time to time make assessments of the realm’s vulnerability to various potential threats and emergencies, and shall make recommendation to the national and provincial Councils on how these vulnerabilities may be addressed.
4. Courts. The Council shall pass laws establishing both Courts of Justice, for the trial of crimes and misdemeanors and suits at law, and Courts of Mercy, to assist the Crown in its works of clemency.
4.1 Courts of Justice shall be organized and operated according to laws of Council, but Courts of Mercy according to directives and decrees of the Crown.
4.2 The President of Council shall with consent of Council appoint all judges for Courts of Justice and the Crown shall appoint all judges for Courts of Mercy.
4.3 Judges in the Courts of Justice shall serve for good behavior, but judges in the Courts of Mercy shall serve at the pleasure of the Crown.
4.4 No Court of Justice may overturn any decision of any Court of Mercy; but the Crown may nullify any act or decision of any Court of Mercy.
4.5 Every judge shall take, in addition to the oath that all officers must take, an oath to be reasonable and impartial. Both the Crown and the Council shall make provision for all judges to be audited or reviewed from time to time on the overall legality and reasonableness of their decisions.
4.6 Courts of Justice concerned with violation of Militia responsibilities shall be distinct from other Courts of Justice, and the laws governing them shall be distinct from the laws governing other Courts of Justice.
4.7 The highest court of appeal in the Courts of Mercy shall be the Crown. The highest court of appeal in the Courts of Justice shall be the Constitutional Court, which shall only assess cases that have come before the Courts of Justice in terms of the constitutionality of court decisions, laws, or decrees applied to them. The determination of the Constitutional Court that a decision in a Court of Justice is unconstitutional shall overturn that decision. However, the determination of the Constitutional Court that a law of Council is unconstitutional shall only be advisory unless it is confirmed by a decree of the Crown signed and sealed by both the Prince and the Steward, in which case it shall overturn that specific law; and the determination of the Constitutional Court that a decree of the Crown is unconstitutional shall only be advisory unless it is confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the Council, in which case it shall overturn that specific decree. The Constitutional Court shall be guided in its interpretations by all explicit agreements between Crown and Council on the meaning of provisions of the Constitution.
1. Provinces. The natural Provinces of N. are: (listed by name).
1.1 There shall in addition be a juridical Province, styled (name), which shall have as its Governor the Steward and as its Council members appointed with the consent of the Council of N. from each natural Province. The purpose of this juridical Province shall be to assist the Crown. The juridical Province of (name) shall be given by the Council a token territory or territories which may be suitable for offices and Crown Residences.
1.2 The Council of N. may provide by statute other juridical Provinces for any purpose it deems appropriate; but every juridical Province shall be made on the model of (name), with the Steward as its Governor and its Council members appointed with the consent of the Council of N. from each natural Province, and every juridical Province shall have a token territory and every juridical Province shall have the same powers and privileges as a natural Province over its territory and officers.
1.3. The Council shall provide support for the constitutional functions of the juridical Provinces.
2. The Crown in Province. The Crown being whole and entire throughout N., and the Council of each Province representing the People, every Province, whether natural or juridical, has a sort of sovereign authority in its own right, but this authority shall be exercised in a manner consistent with the higher authority of the national Crown and Council.
2.1 The Crown in its immediate authority shall be the same for all Provinces, whether natural or juridical; the mediate authority of the Crown shall be exercised in each Province by the elected Governor of that Province, or the Steward in his or her office as Governor in the case of juridical Provinces. The Crown is one and entire; it wields the same inherent powers, whether reserve, emergency, diplomatic, eleemosynary, or otherwise in nation or Province, except where otherwise required by the Constitution, but the exercise of its powers in their provincial form shall in every respect be subordinate to and consistent with the exercise of its powers in their national form.
2.2. The Governor of each Province may exercise any powers of the Crown that the Prince shall delegate to him or her, except where this is forbidden by the Constitution; these acts shall be regarded as genuine acts of the Crown, but the Prince shall have the authority to provide guidelines for, to review, and at any time to nullify the acts of the Governor on behalf of the Crown.
2.3. When the Prince is absent or otherwise incapable of performing the functions of his or her office, the Governor shall continue to exercise the mediate authority of the Crown and may when necessary exercise the immediate authority of the Crown; when the Prince is again able to perform the functions of his or her office, all acts of the Governor on behalf of the Crown during the period of absence shall be explicitly confirmed or nullified.
2.4. When Prince and Governor are both incapable of performing the functions of their offices, the Steward of N. shall, with consent of the Provincial Council, appoint an Acting Governor.
2.4 The Crown must establish and each Provincial Council must provide support for the following Provincial Crown Agencies in each Province.
(a) The Provincial Crown Agency of the Royal Household.The Director of the Royal Household shall be the Prince, and its Assistant Director shall be the Governor. The Provincial Royal Household shall oversee supporting functions relating to the maintenance and responsibility of the Crown in its provincial acts, and shall include the Provincial Office of the Prince, the Office of the Provincial High Minister, the Provincial Private Purse of the Crown, the Chapel of the Provincial Royal Household, the Crown Counsel for the Province, the Royal Almonry for the Province, and other such offices as the Crown shall deem appropriate and necessary for fulfilling its responsibilities. The Crown shall be the plenary and ultimate authority for all matters internal to the Provincial Royal Household and all matters between provincial and national Royal Households, except where the Constitution requires otherwise, but the Provincial Council may by law govern the interrelations between the Provincial Royal Household and other Provincial Crown Agencies.
(b) The Provincial Crown Agency of the Public Purse. The Public Purse shall be the instrument for all eleemosynary functions of the Crown in such a manner as shall be provided for and determined by law of Provincial Council.
(c) The Provincial Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries. The Crown shall have the power to require or to perform financial, legal, and ethical audits for any part or agency of the state except the internal functioning of the Council through the instrument of the Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries. In addition, the Crown Agency for Audits and Inquiries shall perform such research and investigation into any matters that the Crown deems necessary or useful to legislation or governance.
(d) The Provincial Crown Agency for the Provincial Archives. All official public documents of any provincial state agency, and all records of elections and sortitions, and any laws, shall have a copy deposited in the Provincial Archives according to procedures determined by law. Any citizen may access any document in the Provincial Archives in a manner appropriate to the preservation of the documents, and may receive, for a fee determined by procedures established by law, a copy of any such document; and the Crown and any Member of Council, whether national or provincial, may receive such a copy without a fee.
2.5 The Provincial Council, and only the Provincial Council, has the power to create by law any other Provincial Crown Agencies, whether permanent or temporary, but no such Crown Agency shall be formed except by consent of the Crown.
3. Provincial Councils. Each Provincial Council shall have the authority to make provincial laws in order to establish justice, to guarantee domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to the People of N. who are resident in that Province, in a manner appropriate to the peace, order, and good government of the Province.
3.1 No proposal shall become provincial law before it has come before the Crown to be signed into law or vetoed. The Crown may veto any proposal; the Provincial Council may override this veto by two-thirds vote.
3.2 Provincial laws that have been signed by both Prince and Governor take precedence over provincial laws that have been signed only by the Prince; provincial laws that have been signed only by the Prince take precedence over provincial laws that have been signed only by the Governor; provincial laws that have been signed by the Crown take precedence over provincial laws passed against veto.
4. The Governor of the Province. Each Provincial Council shall consist of the Governor of that Province, who shall be the President of the Provincial Council as well as Steward of the Province and Provincial High Minister of the Crown and Commander of the Provincial Militia, and Members of that Provincial Council.
4.1 The Governor and the Members of the Provincial Council shall be elected in a manner consistent with the General Code of that Province.
4.2 On the occasion of death or permanent incapacity of a Member of Council, the Governor shall with consent of Council appoint an Acting Member of Council to serve until the next election; on the occasion of death or permanent incapacity of the Governor, the Prince shall with consent of Council appoint an Acting Governor to serve until the next election.
4.3 The powers of the Governor as President of the Council shall be determined by the General Code of that Province; the powers of the Governor as Steward of the Province shall be determined by the Crown.
4.4 The Prince shall have the power to impeach the Governor for high crimes and misdemeanors and remove the Governor if he or she is convicted for said high crimes and misdemeanors by the Provincial Council, or to remove him or her with the consent provided by a three-quarters majority of the Provincial Council, or to remove him or her with the consent provided a two-thirds majority of the Council of N.
5. Additional Powers of the Governor. All other powers the Governor shall be exercised in cooperation with the Crown.
5.1 As Provincial High Minister of the Crown, the Governor shall be chief of every Provincial Civil Agency, so that every Provincial Civil Agency is headed either by himself or herself or by some delegate that he or she has constitutionally appointed.
5.2 As Provincial High Minister of the Crown, the Governor shall from time to time consult with the Prince on matters relevant to the governance of the Province and shall serve as liaison between the Crown and the Provincial Council.
5.3 As Commander of the Provincial Militia, the Governor shall be part of the national Militia Command, and shall be responsible for advising, interpreting, and executing the orders of the Commander-in-Chief in a manner consistent with the Constitution, especially the General Code of that Province.
5.4 When the Provincial Council has declared a state of emergency involving public danger, the Governor, as Commander of the Provincial Militia, shall have the authority to issue emergency orders of raising the militia, of posse comitatus, of draft, of quarantine, of search, of seizure, of court martial, or of any actions specifically authorized in the declaration, which orders shall be regarded as having the full force of law for the duration of the emergency; but any such orders may be vetoed and nullified by the Prince or by two-thirds vote of the Provincial Council, if it is deemed that the order is inconsistent with the good of the Province, or the good of the People of N., or the nature of the emergency.
6. Relation Between National and Provincial Council. The authority of each Provincial Council to make laws derives from its representation of the People and not from the national Council, but in all matters where the latter or the Crown is fulfilling a function that the Constitution explicitly requires of it, the laws of the national Council shall take precedence.
6.1 Every Province must have a Provincial General Code that will, with this Instrument of Governance, be its Provincial Constitution; this Provincial General Code, and amendments thereto, shall have effect when passed by at least two-thirds of the Provincial Council, approved by a two-thirds vote of the Council of N., and ratified by the signature and seal of the Crown.
6.2 As the Crown is one and entire, every Province has the power to make interprovincial compacts, compacts with the national government, and treaties with foreign powers according to its General Code; but no such compacts and treaties shall be admitted or have force of law without the approval of at least a simple majority of the national Council, and no such compacts and treaties shall be interpreted or enforced in a manner inconsistent with national treaties and compacts.
6.3 No Province shall mint its own coins, print its own monetary bills, or create its own stamps for mail without the consent of at least a simple majority of the national Council.
6.4 The Council of N. shall be the ultimate tribunal of authority in all matters of dispute between provinces.
6.5 The Provincial Councils may form other Provinces, whether natural or juridical, subordinate to themselves in the way the Provinces are subordinate to N., but only with the consent of the Council of N., and the Crown shall be one and entire in all such Provinces.
6.6 With regard to matters falling entirely within the territorial borders of the Province or with regard to the offices of the Province, and where the national Council or the Crown is not fulfilling a function that the Constitution explicitly requires of it, the Provincial Council may explicitly declare in an act of legislation that a provision thereof will be operative notwithstanding its inconsistency with a specific provision of national law or a specific decision of national court, or may add such a provision by its own authority to any law that has gone into effect; in which case it shall in fact be operative in that provincial jurisdiction notwithstanding the national law or decision, which it shall supersede within that province, but this operative status must be renewed every year that the inconsistency remains.
Friday, January 22, 2021
A Tree Song
by Rudyard Kipling
Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.
Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs,
(All of a Midsummer morn!)
Surely we sing no little thing,
In Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Oak of the Clay lived many a day,
Or ever Aeneas began.
Ash of the Loam was a lady at home,
When Brut was an outlaw man.
Thorn of the Down saw New Troy Town
(From which was London born);
Witness hereby the ancientry
Of Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Yew that is old in churchyard-mould,
He breedeth a mighty bow.
Alder for shoes do wise men choose,
And beech for cups also.
But when ye have killed, and your bowl is spilled,
And your shoes are clean outworn,
Back ye must speed for all that ye need,
To Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade:
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He will take no wrong when he lieth along
'Neath Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But -- we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth--
Good news for cattle and corn--
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs
(All of a Midsummer morn):
England shall bide till Judgment Tide,
By Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
The Longest Johns have a nice adaptation of this to music:
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Richard Marshall has an interview with Walter Horn at 3:16 on 'democratic theory' in philosophy. In light of politics being on everybody's mind, I was interested in this portion:
The U.S. Constitution may have been a model for government systems a hundred years ago, but now it’s more like a funky Leibnizian calculating machine that nobody sensible has any interest in except as a historical oddity. I say that it’s too much because it has silly, imaginary “rights” bandied about in it as if they were real, but that it’s also too little because the things that do require absolute protection, like freedom of political speech and association, are guaranteed only against encroachments by the U.S. government. Corporations, for example, are not required by anything in our Constitution to allow free political speech or association. I think the document may even be consistent with companies forbidding their employees from voting. And, as can be seen from the circus going on here over the past year, it doesn’t have nearly enough in it about how elections must be conducted.
Even allowing for hyperbole, this is unfortunately a good example of the looney-tunes kookery that too often passes for political philosophy. Anyone who said such a thing outside of academia would be regarded as a crackpot and fringe extremist; this is the political philosophy equivalent of the tinfoil hat. To say that "nobody sensible has any interest in" the Constitution "except as a historical oddity" is not just false but obviously absurd; to imply that the Constitution, whatever defects you may think it to have, is not in fact often taken a model for constitutions even today is obviously false. The rights in the Constitution are not imaginary -- it's not as if the Founders were just brainstorming ideas. Every right in the US Constitution is there to address a practical problem or set of problems with which people had actually wrestled. None of them are made up (which you do occasionally find in constitutions that are more aspirational); they are real practical solutions to real practical problems of governance. (This is arguably one of the reasons for its durability relative to other constitutions.) You can argue that there are much better solutions to the same general problems than the ones given, but imaginary they are not. (And it's worth noting that except for the copyright and patent right, which are said by it to be due to statute, all the rights explicitly mentioned as such in the Constitution are in the Amendments, and include things like various rights to vote or rights that were already recognized prior to the Constitution's ratification. Which of these are "silly" and "imaginary"?) That we don't take corporations to have a responsibility to allow free speech or association is in fact a relatively recent notion; it's obvious that the fact that we don't is a matter of the statutory and judicial interpretations we've come to accept, not of anything the Constitution itself requires. There are obvious reasons why corporations -- which are created by statute and effectively governed by judicial interpretations in such a way that their nature changes over time -- should be held responsible for these things at the level of statute and judicial interpretation, not directly at the level of a constitution, which would write them into a status as constitutionally recognized entities. The US Constitution doesn't say much about elections for the obvious reason that elections are governed by the states, so if there are constitutions that need more work with respect to elections, it's obviously the state constitutions. And it is very notable that the process laid out in the US Constitution is, if anything, the one part of our election process that has in recent times consistently worked the way it is supposed to work.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
I didn't watch most of the Inauguration, but I did watch Amanda Gorman's reading of her Inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb" (which is found here), which is the fifth Inauguration poem to be delivered. I commented rather critically on the last one, Richard Blanco's wordy "One Today" in 2013. So how does Gorman's poem measure up?
Like many Inaugural Poems it would benefit from being more concise. And it shares with "One Today" a tendency to jumble images in a way that saps their force. Consider the opening:
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
The chain of sensory images we have here is: day comes -- never-ending shade -- carried loss -- sea -- belly of the beast -- quiet -- dawn. The move from dawn to dawn is excellent, but it's difficult to get anything out of the movement here, image-wise. Mixing metaphors is perfectly fine if the metaphors carry each other forward; but we start with a shade that is never-ending even though the poem goes on to tell us later that it is not. The shade -- or perhaps the lack of light in it -- is a loss we are carrying; we can make sense of that, but we could make more sense of it if more were done with it. Instead we move immediately to a sea, something very deep and impassible; this perhaps gives us a conceit about 'never-ending light', which is good, but we find that this sea is one that we wade, which is what you do with something shallow, not deep. Something could be done with this. The poem overall is a description of a particular kind of situation -- we seem to be faced with inextricable trouble but this is only when we look at it in a partial way -- that is nicely suited to being captured in paradox. So we can have shade that is actually dawn (thus not shade), a sea that we are actually wading (thus not sea), etc. But it's all jumbled together here, meaning that the relevant images are not reinforcing each other. From the sea that we are wading we find we have been in the belly of the beast. It makes sense to have a beast whose belly we must brave if we are in the sea, but 'wade' cuts against this, too.
Metaphors can be jumbled in a powerful way (we see this in Shakespeare all the time), but you have to do it in such a way that the images strengthen each other. This is difficult to do, and I think it's clear that the opening falls down on this point. The ending is much, much better. The ending is so far superior in getting its images in alignment, in fact, that the best I can handwave for the beginning on this point is that we start with confusion and end in clarity. Again, as with the paradox, this is something that could be done with the poem, but the poem's structure doesn't lend itself easily to such a reading.
However, this is far from the whole story. This is a more vigorous poem than Inaugural poems have tended to be; it has a declamatory character, and in service to this makes some excellent use of alliteration: "To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man", while not the best alliteration in the work, shows the skill with which it is done -- that is a lot of alliteration extended over a long line yet in such a way that it sounds fairly natural to the ear.
The just is / justice play in the beginning could in another context be very clunky, but given the overall declamatory tone, I think it actually gives the poem a coffeehouse-ish character that works well for making a comment on a political event. One of the continual problems with Inaugural poems is that Inaugurations are not great political events. Inaugural poems have to mark an occasion that's quite abstract and whose importance is wholly abstract -- not much actually changes in an Inauguration, since it's a purely formal change-over, the only essential component of which is the actual swearing-in. That's one reason why prayers have always worked well and poems haven't -- a poem has to mark the occasion as important, but a prayer can be for making the occasion important. You can easily pray that this purely formal, abstract event will be something we can see later as also a substantive turning-point. That's the sort of thing people pray about all the time. But it's not the sort of thing they write poems about all the time. So how do we mark in a vivid way the importance of this purely formal, abstract event, one that is only really important if you can see what the end results are (which we don't, yet)?
Poetry is built out of solutions to problems. The most obvious way to handle this one is to write about something else. The most successful Inaugural poem (and I think it is so still) is Robert Frost's "The Gift Outright", and it works so well because it is not an Inaugural poem. Frost actually wrote an Inaugural poem that he never delivered because he couldn't read it when the time came, so he instead recited one of his old poems that he knew Kennedy liked. It's a poem that runs through, very quickly and in general terms, the history of how the United States came to be and then briefly looks to the future. It's short, well-constructed, the images are clear; it fits the situation of an Inauguration despite not being about one. We made the United States, discovered it in ourselves, so to speak, which tells us how we got here; we then don't have to put emphasis on the Inauguration itself -- it just happens to be where 'here' is -- and we can continue on from here in continuing what we started when we began this journey. It's about as perfect a solution as you can come up with, even if Frost did stumble into it by a sort of accident.
Gorman goes a very different route. Her poem is explicitly, very explicitly, about the Inauguration. So if we're not going to take the path Frost took by good fortune, what options are there? In a sense we have to argue our point -- we have to give reasons for thinking that there is more to the Inauguration than just a formal transitional ceremony. They don't have to be rigorously logical in organization or even rhetorically persuasive -- going this route makes your poem a propaganda poem, and propaganda doesn't need to prove or persuade, it just needs to establish a particular way of looking at things so that this way of looking at things is now part of our environment. But propaganda does need to provide reasons of a kind; it needs to show that this way of looking at things hangs together, to give reasons for thinking it not chimerical but a substantive view. We'd need a form of poem that would be suitable for this. I think Gorman has chosen her form very well; if your poem has to argue, a looser, declamatory form is often a good idea. The poetic figures you choose need to be able to function as rhetorical figures -- alliteration, repetition, and the like. And Gorman's poem is reasonably successful in this way. It's far from perfectly so. The image-jumbling weakens it, and the argument gets flabby in the middle (a common problem with poems of this length, however well constructed otherwise). The entire section about democracy is just not very good, which is unfortunate because it is actually a major component of the argument:
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
This sits badly in its context, with several long prose-y lines clumped together right where the argument needs to be hammering home a point in a concise and vivid way. This is the one part of the poem where the alliteration trips up the flow of thought rather than easing it. Shatter/share works, but then we hit 'destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy', which does not flow quite so easily off the tongue, and what's worse, we keep going with it: succeeded, democracy, periodically delayed, permanently defeated. D-d-d-d-d-d-d, we find ourselves stuttering along with unexpected polysyllables. We've lost the help of images -- we've a whole series of vague and abstract concepts. And it doesn't even have the justification of telling us clearly what happened -- nobody could guess what is being described if they didn't already know it. That doesn't hurt it as propaganda, but it does hurt it as poem. Thought, imagination, and ear are all tripped up here, and everything in poetry, absolutely everything, needs adequate justification from at least one of the three.
However, for the most part the poem is a good example of what you would do if you wanted a poem to be read aloud rather than, as many poems today are made to be, to be read on a page. Most of the poem is not like the democracy passage, where the propagandizing outpaces the poeticizing; most of the time they are held in fruitful tension. As propaganda poems go, it largely sounds well, and largely reads well, and both count for a great deal in poetry.
There are some things that are arguably not the best choice for an Inaugural poem in general. Introducing autobiography is a bad sign, but it's a sign of Gorman's skill that this is less of a problem here than it would usually be -- it's certainly the case that her handling of it is better and smoother than Blanco's. At one point, she has a passage that seems in poor taste for an Inaugural poem:
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man
My Soul is Awakened
by Anne Brontë
My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring,
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For, above, and around me, the wild wind is roaring
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.
I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray,
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing
And hear the wild roar of their thunder today!
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Etymologies of names are interesting. 'Brandon' has no single etymology; the name and close variants arise independently in multiple languages, sounding almost exactly the same and eventually in time being treated as equivalent but having no common meaning: Prince, Raven or Crow, Broom Hill, Sword. They also get appropriated -- the Irish forms of the name are not originally Irish, for instance; it was a foreign name that became popular. I tend to think of my name as broadly Welsh, but strictly speaking, in my case the name is derived from a surname, which means that in lineage it's probably Anglo-Saxon (Broom Hill, and thus the same as many of the towns and cities called 'Brandon' in the English-speaking world), or French (in which case either Sword or Firebrand).
I've always thought it interesting that we translate Native American names literally rather than latinizing or anglicizing them. Sometimes it's a simplified form, of course. Sitting Bull was really more like Thathangka Iyotake, which apparently means something like Buffalo Watching the Herd. We tend to take Ancient Greek names straight, but they were always given to be meaningful (playing on the meaning of names was very common), so we could often do the same thing with them that we do with Native American names. But you definitely get a different sense of the Iliad (and one that's not really wrong) if you think of it as Chief Might of the People and Chief Great Leader drawing on their alliances with other chiefs to reclaim Chief Might of the People's wife, who had been abducted by Strong Defender, the son of Chief Courageous. A few notable Greek names and what we would probably try to capture if we translated them by etymology rather than just latinizing and anglicizing them. Of course, all of these are rough guesses of varying quality, some purely folk etymologies and some scholarly estimations.
Heracles means Glory of Hera, a meaning that plays a significant role in his legend, albeit ironically. Jason probably means Healer and Medea means Cunning. Menelaus means something like Might of the People; Agamemnon means Great Leader. Hector means Holds Fast or Steadfast, Ajax means Earth. Many of the names in Homer predate Greek, so they are difficult to pin down. The folk etymology of Priam is Buyer, but scholars think it goes back much further and may mean something like Courageous. Alas, we don't know the meaning of Helen (although the folk etymology suggests Torch) or Paris, but Paris's other name was Alexandros, which probably means something like Strong Defender. The names of Achilles and Odysseus may predate Greek, but it's possible that the former means Sorrow of the People and the latter is connected in Greek poets with Wrath.
Socrates means something like Safe Power. Xanthippe means Yellow Horse -- horse names in Ancient Greek are fancy-fancy, and so often indicate old aristocratic family, which seems to be the case here (and may be the reason for Xanthippe's famously nagging Socrates for his lack of ambition). Plato means Broad(-shouldered), with Aristocles (which may have been Plato's real name) meaning Best Glory, and Aristotle means Best End or Best Purpose, as his name includes the telos that plays such an important role in his philosophy. Best End, of course, was the tutor for Strong Defender, son of Chief Lover of Horses. Zeno means Of Zeus, Epicurus means Helper or perhaps Auxiliary Soldier. Gorgias means Grim. Democritus means Judge of the People.
You could do the same thing, of course, with Anglo-Saxon names, e.g., Wulfstan means Stone Wolf, and Alfred means Elf Counsel. That also gives a different flavor to early English history.