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Aristotle’s Constitution of the Americans

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  1. Aristotle’s Constitution of the Americans Song of Seikilos ?200 BC As long as you live, SHINE,Let nothing grieve you beyond measure.For your life is short,and time will claim its toll.

  2. Aristotle’s Constitution of theAmericans Song of Theodorakis Born 1925

  3. PART ONE Description of the Constitution

  4. How Offices are Divided • Three Kinds of Office (‘Separation of Powers’) • Monarchy = single office held by one person (presidents or governors or mayors) in control of carrying out all decisions. Elected by the people • Senate and Assembly = the deliberative office, shared among many persons, in control of legislation. Elected by the people • Courts = another monarch (judge), in control of deciding law cases (with juries chosen from the people), and appointed for life by Monarchs and Senates

  5. How Offices are Appointed • Offices have long terms (2, 4, 6 years) • The same people can be elected many times in succession to the same office • Election is not from all the people but only from oligarchic clubs (‘political parties’) • Offices have power to appoint many other offices without any election by the people • There are long periods of expensive demagogy by the oligarchic clubs fighting each other for votes (‘election campaigns’)

  6. The Constitution is Oligarchic but Popular • Appointment of Offices is oligarchic (power is in the hands of the few who are well-off and privileged) • The people are nevertheless not displeased • all the offices are rivals to each other in power and attack and oppose each other (‘Checks and Balances’), which satisfies the people’s jealousy • the people elect the offices and so are masters of the political fortunes of the oligarchic clubs • the people are flattered and bribed by the oligarchs who are always soliciting their votes

  7. How the Constitution is Democratic I • Democratic in two ways: • First: Election by all the people (as stated) • Second: The people’s unhampered and luxurious life-style • Everyone lives as they like or, as Euripides says, “with a view to what each craves” (‘freedom’, ‘rights’) • Everyone devoted to making and spending money: “The business of America is business”

  8. How the Constitution is Democratic II • Private funds come from friends and the people to the office-holders (‘lobbying’, ‘campaign contributions’), and public funds go from office-holders to friends and the people (‘pork’) • Americans are in love with shopping, and exceed all other nations in making, selling, and buying things • Money is in perpetual flux: some of the poor always becoming rich and some of the rich always becoming poor

  9. How the Americans Win Empire • All nations want what the Americans have • Americans are the most envied and most imitated people in the world • America is naturally fitted for global empire, as it lies opposite Europe and Asia where all nations are settled • Americans do business everywhere and unite everyone to America by self- interest on both sides • [Weapons and wars are secondary]

  10. PART TWO Criticism of the Constitution

  11. The Goal of the Constitution • People come together in political societies for the sake of living well, which is happiness • Happiness is living virtuously not making money • Money is only good for being used, and virtue is what enables us to use money, or anything else, well • Money and business are only instruments or tools of happiness • Americans err in thinking otherwise

  12. The Separation of Powers I • The “separationof powers” is meant to prevent the same persons controlling more than one of these powers at the same time • But it allows the same part in society, namely the rich and privileged, to control all these powers, which is a very bad thing • Constitutions differ according to which part is in control: oligarchy if the few rich and privileged are in control, democracy if the many poor are, aristocracy if the virtuous are

  13. The Separation of Powers II • If it is bad to allow oligarchs to control all the powers, it is worse to allow one and the same oligarchic club to control them all (e.g. now the Republican Club has all the control) • The oligarchs say that the separation of powers is needed to prevent one man becoming powerful or a tyrant, but they hide the fact that all the powers are in the hands of themselves and their friends • The separation of powers is an oligarchic trick or sophistry to keep all the control in the hands of the rich and privileged

  14. The Separation of Powers III • The separation of powers is also a cause of political turmoil. Americans think it safety for the constitution if all the office-holders are engaged in factional disputes with each other • It is the habit of the powerful to create rival followings among the people, to set up monarchies, and fight against each other • A country in this state is in great danger because its internal squabbling exposes it to attack from without and subversion from within

  15. A Cure for this Oligarchic Sophistry • Americans are saved in part by their great numbers (as one of their monarchs said): there are always many factions and no one oligarchic club can get the upper hand for long but each has to compromise and make deals • But justice requires that, when everyone is similar and equal, all take turns in ruling and being ruled and not the oligarchs alone • So a more just and better cure would be to divide the offices, not just from each other, but also among the different parts in society (as already happens in the case of the law courts)

  16. Crime and Corruption I • That the same individuals occupy the same office for many years increases crime. Criminal activity is not as easy for those who rule a short time as it is for those who rule a long time • Those in office are easily bribed and use public funds to do favors for their friends and followers • It is dangerous to let office-holders appoint so many other and powerful offices. Instead of appointing the most worthy they just hand these offices out as the prize of victory to their friends • Human desire is no safe standard; let the appointing of offices be done by impartial law

  17. Crime and Corruption II • No one can win office without leisure to campaign and to bribe the people with promises and favors for their votes • This requires great wealth, but those who have an excess of good fortune (strength, beauty, wealth, friends) don’t know how to be ruled but only how to rule like masters over inferiors • It is a bad thing to put the monarchies, president and governor, up for sale. This makes people honor wealth rather than virtue • Monarchs cause much damage when they are not virtuous, as happens now in America

  18. Cures for the Crime and Corruption I • Let all office-holders be subjected to regular audits according to law, in the presence of all the voters. Let no one take up office who fails an audit (especially as regards public funds) • To be forced always to answer to others is a great benefit. The freedom to do whatever one wishes is incapable of defending people from the baseness that lurks in all of them

  19. Cures for theCrime and Corruption II • No one would ask to rule if he was not in love with honor. Yet the worst crimes are usually committed from love of honor (or money). So it is not right that those worthy of office should themselves have to ask for it • Those should rule who can do it best, and if a person is worthy of office he should be compelled to rule whether he wants to or not • So arrange things so that the best can afford to be at leisure for ruling and are not driven to crime, whether in or out of office, so as to support themselves or their families • Don’t allow anyone to be in control over the greatest matters for life. There is an old age of the mind as well as of the body

  20. Election or Lottery I • Election is an oligarchic device: the most votes are won by those who are known and stand out from the crowd, which is easy for the rich and notables but hard for ordinary people • Therefore use lottery and not just election • In ancient Tarentum the offices were double, one elected, the other chosen by lot. Sometimes the same office was half by election and half by lot. Thus both the ordinary people and the rich shared control. The Americans should do the same

  21. Election or Lottery II • Committees in Senates and Assemblies are very powerful and the chairs of these committees, in typical American fashion, lord it over everyone else like a monarch • These chairs and committees should not be chosen according to power and seniority; an extremely small number of people can thus get control and dominate all the rest • Cure: have no such committees or not powerful ones, and choose members and chairs by lot from all, not by election from a few powerful and senior people

  22. Election or Lottery III • Everyone is allowed to vote but no one is required by law to do so • But this is just another oligarchic trick. For what is the difference between being able to vote but not voting, and not being able to vote? The same thing happens • Americans (especially the oligarchs) say compulsion to vote would be contrary to freedom—as if they were slaves when they choose their rulers and free when they do not

  23. Election or Lottery IV • There is double electing: primary elections when members of the oligarchic clubs choose their club’s candidate, then the main election when all the people choose from these candidates. • But it is dangerous to elect from those already elected: • if one club is more popular among the people in a given electoral district (as is frequent, for the clubs determine the electoral districts), its candidate must always win • so a few can determine the election, and in advance too • Instead choose candidates by lot and then elect, or vice versa

  24. Campaigning for Election • Candidates solicit the rich for money to cover the cost of campaigns, and must promise to do them favors when in office • So control falls into the hands of those who must buy their office by first selling it • How can such persons be fit to rule? The greediness and thefts of the rich do more to ruin the constitution than those of ordinary people

  25. Demagogy • Everyone who wants office must become a demagogue to the people to win votes, stirring up the people’s passions, playing on their ignorance, and bribing them with promises (this problem afflicts all constitutions where the offices are filled from oligarchic clubs and electing is done by the people) • All candidates fight each other for the favor of the people, accusing and blaming each other, whether truthfully or not • This is base in itself—what decent person could do such things? • It also harms the constitution—it excites anger and the lust for revenge among the losers, and contempt and the lust to dominate among the winners

  26. Why the Constitution still Survives • The Americans escape the consequences of oligarchy because • everyone has the chance and is encouraged to pursue wealth and become part of the ruling elite • people are forever forming new clubs to further their common good (“special interest”) • even poorer people can do this, and many poor, when united, may be richer and more powerful than a few rich; so they can compete as rich against rich and turn the oligarchy to their own advantage

  27. Why the Constitution StillSurvives • the oligarchy is extreme but not narrow for people are forever entering it and leaving it • anyone can join the oligarchic clubs and try to become a candidate for office • the widespread belief that everyone should have the right to become rich and hold office if they can (and not just members of certain families or established elites) reconciles the people to the constitution and makes them think things cannot really be unjust

  28. Threats to the Constitution • That America is a rich land and well adapted to business and empire and to letting anyone pursue wealth is a matter of chance, not of design • If some misfortune occurs (an economic collapse or defeat in war) and the people revolt, the oligarchic imbalance in the constitution will provide no way to restore calm. Tyranny or anarchy will result, or both

  29. Send me email Remember to use Broadband—your message has to travel back at least 2,328 years

  30. One of my other Incarnations • Did you see the movie about my student Alexander?