Across the Bay

Friday, May 06, 2005

Consociational America!

Reason's Jacob Sullum discusses the filibuster. In my "Cole Buster" post below, I noted in passing the consociational aspects of American democracy (which, unfortunately, Jacob dubs "undemocratic"), and counted the filibuster among them as a form of minority veto.

Here's a slice from Jacob's piece:

Our system of government is undemocratic and obstructive in many ways, including the Constitution's enumeration of congressional powers, the rights it explicitly protects, the types of laws it explicitly prohibits, and the bicameral legislature it created, with one house based on proportional representation and the other giving equal voices to California and Wyoming. The two houses must agree on legislation, which has to be authorized by the Constitution and approved by the president, unless Congress can muster a two-thirds majority to overcome his veto.

The Constitution is undemocratic and obstructive for a good reason: to prevent tyranny by the majority. The Framers recognized that democracy is not the ultimate value but a means to preserve liberty by making government accountable. Pure democracy can be as great a threat to liberty as pure autocracy.

Moving over from Reason to pure insane bizarro world, the Angry Hair wrote something very telling yesterday in reference to Michel Aoun:

I realize that the deep sectarian divisions of Lebanon will impede his fascistic ambitions.

Nevermind the all-too-loose use of the word "fascistic," what the Angry One does here is acknowledge (despite himself!) the same basic virtue noted by Jacob Sullum, only in his usual incoherent and resentful negative tone: consociationalism is a system aimed at preventing the tyranny of the majority, which is crucial in plural societies with a history of ethnic conflict.

So you can add this to the list of Lebanonist points that AAK ends up adopting all while complaining about them being "right-wing" and "ultra-nationalist."

Even Greek Orthodox Archbishop George Khodr, a chronic Arabist, is apprehensive about a premature abandonment of political sectarianism in Lebanon.