Starting over, the NEW new form of government thread

These are wonderful summaries, thank you!

As to our discussion, and where I had jumped in…

Assume that there is a country under a parliamentary system with an entrenched constitution. There is this one hot-button issue, the question of whether X is a basic right. Every couple years, the political majority changes - by a razer thin margin - and so does parliament’s answer to that question. The constitution is silent on this issue, despite having an entrenched bill of rights, because there has never been a strong majority one way or the other.

My question for you is this: will this country find itself constantly flip-flopping on a question of basic human rights, as Trinopus described in post #43?


All I can say is that I’m not aware of that happening in a parliamentary country. I suppose theoretically it could, but I’m drawing a blank.

In Canada, the most important basic right issue that I can remember was whether sexual orientation should be included in the federal and provincial human rights codes. Those are ordinary statutes, not constitutionally entrenched, and apply to both the public and private sectors. They can be amended by ordinary statutes. A constitutional amendment is not needed.

Each jurisdiction tended to have a major dispute about including sexual orientation as a protected ground, and sometimes the political disputes got very heated. However, once sexual orientation was included in a code, all the hubbub tended to die down in that jurisdiction. I don’t think any jurisdiction has taken sexual orientation out of their human rights code, once they’ve added it to their code.

That is a little reassuring. I can’t rightly say we would have that problem in America with regards to abortion, but I think it could easily end up being a problem especially given our history of stepping backwards on basic rights of coloured people, even with the entrenched constitution.


This is an excellent exchange. May I suggest the difference here as to maybe-basic right X in general and abortion as a basic right in particular is not so much a matter of parliamentary system vs. some other.

It’s a matter of whether religion is a large source for the publics’ perceptions of morality. By the standards of the USA, religion plays a tiny role in the public political discourse of any of @Northern_Piper’s example countries. Said the other way, those countries find these questions to be conventionally secularly political, whereas the USA finds them to be issues of Holy Writ.

Compromise on issues of Holy Writ is always hard for humans. Doubly so given mass-market commercialized religion. There is always cash money, political hay, or both to be made by religious leaders stirring the issue whenever their side appears to be losing in the popular secular-based world.

Interesting theory. Is it reasonable to expect the US to continue to liberalize as we become a more secular nation?

I certainly expect so. I think you can look at the history, even in the last 100 years, and see a strong correlation from the federal to local level between secularization and liberal politics.


A minor point: if the argument is ‘is a blastocyst a person’, then your claim isn’t even applicable. It’s presumed that it’s persons who have a right to choose.

The major point: all rights potentially, and often in practice, conflict with other rights; therefore your argument would have to mean that nothing is a right.

A right to free speech conflicts with any right not to be libeled or slandered, not to be harrassed, not to have people stand on your front porch screaming in your windows. A right to practice religion conflicts with itself, because some peoples’ religions require them to attempt to prevent people from practicing other religions. A right to life conflicts with others’ rights, not only to control their own bodies, but to live at all, in the cases of organ transplants, access to scarce resources, a military draft in wartime. A right to have sexual relations of one’s desiring conflicts with others’ right to not cooperate with them. And so on. I don’t think you can name any right that societies don’t have to constrain because it conflicts with other rights, or even with itself.

Personal Rights do not extend from you to me, only to you, so most of what you listed as “effects other people” do not extend to others.

The analogy that he gave is a weird case because it is two persons in one. So when you do identify the embryo, blastocyst, baby etc as a person, you are left in the quandary we have now, which personal right holds precedence. But I don’t think your other examples hold the same water.

The right to freedom of thought?


Can you phrase that differently? I don’t understand what you mean, or how it’s supposed to apply to what I posted.

I certainly think that’s the long term trend. But …

For a cautionary note, consider Iran under the Shah followed by the Ayatollahs, Turkey under Ataturk, et al, up to now Erdogan, and Egypt under Sadat followed by Mubarak and now Sisi.

In each case a secularizing government along with a secularizing largely urban polity was initially succeeding in their efforts to relegate religion to a matter of minor personal conscience, not a default public morality enforced (at least around the edges) by secular law.

Then the backlash hit. Enough of the religiously conservative populace said “this is too much too fast.” Largely the more rural, less educated, and older folks at first. Who then attracted the attention of some fraction of disaffected youth highly susceptible to online proselytizing rabble-rousing. Soon enough a suitable authoritarian champion in (semi-)clerical garb duly appeared to jump to the head of this mob and lead the country back into a theocratic Dark Age from which none has yet emerged.

To be sure there are significant differences between these 3 countries. Iran is nakedly avowedly theocratic; the authoritarianism comes second and flows naturally from the tenets of the official religion. Turkey is authoritarian with theocratic credentials; AK derives its legitimacy from its claims to be pious and always has. While Egypt is using a theocratic excuse as a (very) thin fig leaf for plain old military kleptocratic authoritarianism. Yet the thin fig leaf still sells in the ultra conservative quarters of society;

All three of these are of course Moslem countries, which the USA is not.

Poland is a similar example to Turkey but fully within in the Christian tradition. The rural hinterlands represent a hefty chunk of the voting power, are overwhelmingly Catholic, and have roundly approved the current batch of semi-authoritarians who’re using appeals to cultural/religious orthodoxy as a large part of their claim to governing legitimacy. Orban in Hungary is all the same with an especially nasty overlay of ethnic prejudice. Poland is too ethnically homogenous for that particular hate-mongering to get much traction. Not so Hungary. I don’t really need to explain how well ethnic hatred sells in the USA.

The USA almost certainly cannot reprise what happened in Iran. But something approximating Turkey, Poland, or Hungary is a distinct possibility. A Trump-like charismatic figure with ties to the military and slightly better faith-based credentials could certainly reprise General Sisi’s takeover in Egypt while being applauded wildly by both the US Evangelicals and the US cultural conservatives. Plus the America First! crowd. Throw in some white supremacy and it’ll sell like hotcakes.

Not addressed to me, but my answer to this question is it wouldn’t happen for the reasons I gave above. No issue can have 51% of the people on both sides. Our system can create the impression that both sides of an issue have a majority because our system of government muddles things up.

A unitary system clarifies what the public really wants because it gives people what they want. It’s designed so a political party essentially says “This is what we will do if a majority of people votes for us. And if we don’t do it, we will be replaced.”

This is true even when there are multiple issues in consideration. Let’s say the majority of people think abortion is the most important issue and gun control is the second most important issue. And 51% of the people are pro-choice and 51% are pro-guns.

So Party A comes along and announces it supports the legalization of abortions and gun control. Party B says it wants to ban abortions and allow people to buy guns. People like half of each party’s position but the majority feel that abortion is a more important issue than guns. So a majority votes for Party A and they enact laws allowing abortions on demand and banning the sale of guns.

Party B sees this. Or maybe Party C, which had no significant support, sees this. So they adopt a platform of being pro-choice and pro-guns. And because this party is with the majority on both issues rather than just the top issue, Party A loses support to this party. The new party replaces Party A in power. They keep the laws allowing abortions in place but repeal the laws banning guns. Political parties have to move towards where public opinion in order to have political power.

The only way political parties can change their positions and stay in power is if public opinions change on the issues. A majority of people may have thought same-sex marriage was wrong ten years ago, for example, but now feel it should be allowed. But changes in public opinion like this don’t happen in a month and they don’t flip-flop back and forth. You won’t see the majority being pro-life one year, pro-choice the next year, and then going back to being pro-life the year after that. People tend to stay pretty fixed in their opinions on important topics and any changes tend to be very gradual.

I’m not sure whether you should chalk this up to secularization, as opposed to radicalism.


I mean, yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of - not that people will flip sides between pro-choice and pro-life, but that they will decide some other issue is more important this year, like not reelecting this one guy. That the winning coalition shifts with the public interest, rather than the public’s opinions on specific issues. I have yet to be convinced that a parliamentary system protects against this, but it has been pointed out, this doesn’t seem to be an issue in existing parliaments…

Possibly excepting Brexit. I don’t know the politics behind that debacle.


It’s very hard to radicalize a contented populace. You need to find something they’re already aggrieved about, then propagandize that up to eleventy.

The cultural changes wrought in e.g. Iran under the Shah were vast. And made complete sense as vitally needed “Progress!” if you were a religiously skeptical urban 8 yo when they started. Fast forward 25 years and a lot of Iranians, even “reasonable” ones, claimed they could not recognize what their country had become. Too much change too fast for most people to absorb.

Into that fertile soil the clerics of Qom started a dedicated effort to mobilize the disaffected via the mosque. It tapped into the zeitgeist and a few years later they took the country.

You can readily recognize the parallels to current US society. We don’t have the same degree of piety, although we do have a strong fault line between the pious, the claiming-to-be-pious, and the “who cares about stupid old piety” crowds. But we have other fault lines, including most particularly the racial one. And a massive economic one about globalization, middle class wage stagnation / reversal, etc. None of which were material factors in Iran.

My point is that demagogues thrive on disaffection, and only need a little to gain the opening to catalyze a lot more with their bounteous propaganda spew of bullshit.

We’re totally primed to go down that rabbit hole. The details will of course differ. But future historians will identify all these same parallels I am. Plus others I’m not perceptive enough to see, or which have not yet emerged from the mists of the future.

I simply mean that personal right, rights granted to you, stop at you.

Ie… your right to punch your arm, stops before it hits my nose.

Free speech comes with the right to be sued if you use said free speech to slander someone (you are free to do so of course)
Religion, you are free to practice religion. Someone else’s religion that requires them to preach against mine? No big deal, A religion that requires physical assault on me, problem?
Do I need to go through all of them as to how the interaction happens?

It’s a balancing act as old as society itself - fix too many problems too fast, or fix too few problems too slow, and the people will overthrow you.


People who have strong feeling about an issue aren’t likely to decide it’s not important six month later. If you’re strongly pro-life, you’re not going to say “Sure, this guy will legalize abortions. But I like his position on trade relations so I guess I’ll vote for him.”

People only act like that is political systems where they know certain positions are safe. Somebody who is strongly pro-choice might decide it’s okay to vote for a pro-life candidate based on other issues because they know the Roe decision will prevent the candidate from actually doing anything to ban abortions. Divided government makes him unaccountable; he can talk up a pro-life position without being expected to actually do anything about it.

Sure, people change over time. A person who was pro-choice might become pro-life. A person who thought abortions were the most important political issue might decide that some other issues are more important. But these changes are gradual; they occur over years not weeks. So there’s no flip-flopping from election to election.

Respectfully, I disagree. There are single-issue voters, perhaps more than I would prefer, but I don’t think there are enough single-issue voters on any given issue to ensure 50%+1. I think a significant portion of voters in my country, probably around 80% or more (pulling this out of thin air, just based on limited personal experience), would seriously consider voting for a candidate that opposes one of their favorite issues.

I vaguely remember seeing graphics from some pollster about the top voter issues in any given election year, and it changes from year to year - significantly.


As you note, we disagree. I feel this is an artifact of our current system. People know that nothing will actually change on most issues so they feel safe in jumping from issue to issue.

If we had a system were politicians actually enacted the laws they promised while campaigning, I feel voters would abandon this flightiness and focus on what they feel is really important.