Monday, September 30, 2013

Robert Heinlein's Worst Idea



Well, not his per se, but he put into the mouth of one of his most protagonistic and Heinleinish characters.  

And turns out, it's pretty damn stupid.
I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent — the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

-- Professor Bernardo de la Paz, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
A minority of a minority with the power to block, stop and defund anything they please (under threat of blowing up the economy) is exactly what we have now.

How much are you loving it so far?

6 comments:

Batocchio said...

Yup. Half of this system is in effect in California and elsewhere -- taxes can only be raised with a two-thirds vote. The problem is the whole system assumes sanity and wise judgment. It breaks down quite easily when the stupid, the evil, and the crazy add up to a mere third and largely agree.

If you do the math on the U.S. Senate (I'll have to hunt down the article), an even smaller number can shut things down. A small number of senators, representing a tiny percentage of the country, can halt everything. Madison intended the U.S. Senate to be a conservative institution in that it would somewhat resistant to change, but he never intended it to be intransigent or obstructionist. Nor did he or anyone else foresee a nation where states would vary so much in population, yet Rhode Island, Wyoming, and California have the same number of senators. When the nation is mostly sane and the members of Congress are mostly representative, it's not so bad, but neither is the case. Add in gerrymandering and Citizens United, and we've got serious problems…

David Fetter said...

I'm loving it about as much as I love any political opinion the guy espoused after he ran off with that ultra-right-wing home-wrecker he later married, which is to say not in the least.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

Well, if Dune has taught me anything, it's that this will only be solved when one of the Obama daughters is married off to one of the Republicans' kids...

...when they're old enough, of course. But we can arrange the marriage today...

...cuz da Spice.

Enjoy your day.

---Kevin Holsinger

Blotz said...

Oddly, Diane Duane (no liberturkey) set up the Vulcan government very similarly in her excellent "Spock's World", one of my favorite Trek novels. The difference being that Vulcan Republicans are at least logical. In fact the bad guys in "Spock's World" are kind of the equivalent of the Vulcan Tea Party, waging a fight in the legislature designed to repeal laws to repeal the law allowing Vulcan to join the Federation.

*Spoiler Alert

It's all a scam to make a big land grab by the Vulcan equivalent of the Koch brothers. This was published in 1988...

Spock's World also has one of my favorite Spock lines. When asked by a skeptical McCoy whether the world wide referendum would have high participation, Spock reveals that the Vulcan word for "Idiot" is derived from a much older root word meaning "one who does not participate in public affairs.

Lawrence said...

@ Kevin
The Dune analogy I see here is the Spacing Guild telling Boehner "Break the Hassert Rule or you will live out your life in a pain amplifier."

Lumpy Lang said...

[i]"Spock reveals that the Vulcan word for "Idiot" is derived from a much older root word meaning "one who does not participate in public affairs."[/i]

This is drawn from ancient Athens - the Greek word 'idiotes' referred to a private citizen - 'one who does not engage in the life of the polis.'