Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Myth of Checks and Balances

The Myth of Checks and Balances
Bevin Chu
February 11, 2007

A Pernicious Myth

One of the most pernicious myths about democracies, and it pains me to say, even constitutional republics, is the Myth of Checks and Balances

Most of us were indoctrinated with this myth in junior high school and high school social studies class. I know I was.

According to this myth, also known as the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, distributing the powers of a government among several branches prevents the undue concentration of power in any single branch.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains:

[The Separation of Powers is the] division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government among separate and independent bodies. Such a separation limits the possibility of arbitrary excesses by government, since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws. The concept received its first modern formulation in the work of Baron de Montesquieu, who declared it the best way to safeguard liberty; he influenced the framers of the Constitution of the United States, who in turn influenced the writers of 19th- and 20th-century constitutions. See also checks and balances.

A Google Images search for "Separation of Powers" yields dozens of diagrams purporting to explain how the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers protects us from government tyranny.

Google Images search: Separation of Powers

The Myth Exposed

Unfortunately political systems in the real world do not function as illustrated in these diagrams.

Unfortunately the
division of the functions of government into legislative, executive, and judicial branches does not prevent arbitrary excesses by government.

"separating the powers" doesn't really separate the powers, and doesn't really result in "separate and independent bodies checking and balancing each other."

The Separation is Illusory, The Power is Real

The reason why is not mysterious. The reason why is quite simple.

The reason why "separating the powers" doesn't result in
separate and independent bodies checking and balancing each other, is that the separation is not real. The separation is illusory. The separation is nothing more than wishful thinking.

In fact the "separate and independent bodies" remain inseparable parts of the same government, the one government, the only government that the limited government, "minarchist" paradigm permits within any given territorial jurisdiction.

This government perpetuates its existence by robbing individuals at gunpoint. It refers to these acts of armed robbery as "taxation," as if calling its crime by some other name absolved it of guilt.

As an old joke has it, "The only difference between the Mafia and the government is a flag." The joke is funny because it is true.

Every member of an organized crime family lives off the same protection money extorted at gunpoint from hapless shopkeepers and working men unfortunate enough to live within the crime family's reach.

In what sense can the bosses, underbosses, consiglieri, and soldiers of the same crime family be considered "separate and independent" from each other?

By the same token, every official of a monopolistic state lives off the same tax revenues extorted at gunpoint from hapless taxpayers unfortunate enough to live within the government's reach.

In what sense can members of such a "crime family with a flag" be considered "separate and independent" from each other?

Can we really expect officials who are part of such a criminal enterprise to perceive each other as natural enemies and therefore check and balance each other?

Can we really expect officials who are part of such a criminal enterprise not to perceive each other as fellow predators, and us, the taxpayers, as their common prey?

Can we really expect officials who are part of such a criminal enterprise not to perceive each other as members of the same pack of wolves, and us, the taxpayers, as members of the same flock of sheep?

Resistance against such a monolithic "crime family with a flag" is virtually impossible. The proximate reason is that it has more goons with guns. But the ultimate reason is that the overwhelming majority of citizens in "advanced nations" believe they can't live without a monopolistic state, and their collective behavior perpetuates its existence.

Citizens who believe they can't live without a monopolistic state are the political counterpart of battered wives, who believe they can't live without their abusive husbands, and who insist that "deep down" their abusers "really love them."

The difference is that a battered wife who rationalizes away her husband's abusive treatment of her victimizes only herself.

Citizens who believe in and demand the perpetuation of monopolistic states victimize not only themselves, but also fellow citizens who know better.

The Godfather (1972, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, written by Mario Puzo)

Michael Corleone: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man who is responsible for other people, like a senator or president.

Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed.

Michael Corleone: Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?

Why the Executive Branch always becomes The Government

In theory, a democratically elected president is merely the highest ranking official in one of three or more coequal branches of government, the executive branch.

In reality, in any monopolistic state with a presidential system, the president is an elective dictator, the legislature is a debating society, and the judiciary is a rubber stamp. Real world experience has demonstrated that over time, the executive invariably co-opts the judiciary and marginalizes the legislature.

In theory, the coequal branches of government provide "checks and balances" upon each other, preventing them from ganging up upon the individual citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.

In reality, because the executive is the branch that has been delegated the power to "execute" policy (pun intended), it invariably usurps any and all powers delegated to the other branches of a monopolistic state. Real world experience has shown that "limited government" inevitably morphs into unlimited government, and that the executive is always the branch that winds up monopolizing that limitless power. It makes no difference whether the executive was popularly elected, self-appointed, or hereditary.

As George W. Bush put it, "I'm the decider and I decide what's best."

The Decider: Bush as Caesar

The Decider: Bush as Superman, by R. Sikoryak

Baron de Montesquieu was dead right when he noted that there can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates or if the power of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive powers.

James Madison was dead right when he noted that the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Montesquieu and Madison unfortunately, underestimated how far mankind would have to go to prevent the uniting and accumulation of all powers in the same hands.

Montesquieu and Madison earnestly believed that establishing constitutional republics with tripartite divisions of powers would be sufficient.

Given their historical context, Montesquieu and Madison's failure to champion market anarchism was understandable. The history of medieval Iceland had been lost to mainstream political awareness.

Montesquieu and Madison did not realize that only a market anarchist system, featuring voluntarily funded Private Defense Agencies (PDAs), vigorously competing against each other in the open market place, could ensure a genuine separation of powers and provide genuine checks and balances against tyranny.

A Thought Experiment

To better understand why the "separation of powers" doesn't really result in "separate branches of government" checking and balancing each other," let's try a little thought experiment.

Believers in Big Government, particularly self-styled "champions of democracy," love to portray government as a "public service," and government officials as "public servants."

Market anarchists know this is nonsense, but let's pretend we buy this "service provider" nonsense for the moment, and see where it leads.

Let's say for the sake of argument that government is a service provider, and that the service it provides is the use of force, specifically, a military to defend against foreign invaders, police to protect against domestic criminals, and a court system to adjudicate legal disputes.

Now suppose that instead of military, police, and courts, the service or product provided is computer software and software support services.

How many netizens would accept an arrangement in which a single software company, say Microsoft, would be granted a territorial monopoly
in the provision of computer software and software support services where they live? In other words, no other company would be permitted to provide computer software and software support services, only Microsoft.

How many netizens would be mollified by solemn assurances from founder Bill Gates that Microsoft's exclusive franchise would not result in arbitrary excesses because the Microsoft corporation would be divided into three "separate and independent" divisions, each charged with different functions?

One division would be in charge of formulating Microsoft policy. Another division would be charge of executing Microsoft policy. Another division would be in charge of verifying whether the Microsoft policy being formulated and executed was in conformance with the Microsoft company charter.

How many netizens would trust such an arrangement to ensure that Microsoft would deliver well-coded software at competitive market prices?

Wouldn't they scream their heads off, insisting that Microsoft as a de facto monopoly is already sitting on its behind, doling out long-delayed, bug-ridden bloatware at exorbitant prices, and that as a de jure monopoly it would be infinitely worse?

And wouldn't they be right?

What's so Bad about Microsoft?

So why don't they scream as loud or even louder about the government's de jure monopoly in the use of brute force?

After all, Microsoft may be able to flood the market with
overpriced, bug-ridden bloatware, but it certainly can't force us to buy it. It can't compel us to upgrade to Windows Vista upon threat of arrest and imprisonment, at least not without help from a monopolistic state.

Contrast this with so-called democratic governments, which have been empowered by self-styled "champions of freedom and human rights" to physically coerce us into subscribing to its products and services -- or else

A Reluctant Anarchist

I never wanted to become an anarchist, even a free market anarchist. I wanted to remain a constitutional republican in the tradition of the French Physiocrats, the British Classical Liberals, and the American Founding Fathers.

I became an advocate of market anarchism reluctantly, after concluding that the limited government "minarchist" paradigm simply does not work as advertised.

Until three years ago, around 2004, I still held out hope that Checks and Balances would in fact check and balance, and that the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers would be vindicated.

Accelerating political evolution, or rather, devolution within the American Imperium of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and within the Taiwanese kleptocracy of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, eventually disabused me of that notion.

The harsh reality is that the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, within the context of a monopolistic state, is a contradiction in terms.

No matter how hard one tries to divide a monopolistic state into "branches" the reality is that all such "branches" live off the same "tax revenues," better known as protection money, extracted by force from "taxpayers," better known as victims of extortion.

As long as a nation is ruled by a conventional monopolistic state rather than served by Private Defense Agencies, any ostensibly "separate and independent branches" of government will always perceive themselves as inseparable parts of the same government, the one government, the only government.

A terrific political cartoon. But an even better caption would be: "We think people should be separated from power so that they can't commit crimes."

Constitutional republicanism is unquestionably superior to democracy. Unfortunately, merely being better than democracy isn't good enough. Constitutional republicanism, given enough time, degenerates into democracy, aka elective dictatorship.

The Separation of Powers was supposed to be the primary firewall between constitutional republicanism and democracy. Alas, it has proven to be inadequate. Given time, it burns right through.

Democracy meanwhile, takes no time at all to degenerate into dictatorship. That's because democracy is a form of dictatorship. It was never anything else.

It is high time defenders of natural rights and individual liberty forsook their irrational attachment to "limited government." Limited government never remains limited. It always becomes unlimited.

It is high time self-styled nation-builders ceased thinking in terms of "limited government," and began thinking in terms of "no government," of a radically different system that truly separates and limits the powers -- free market anarchism.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Band leader plays Taiwan anthem at China event

Band leader plays Taiwan anthem at China event
Bevin Chu
February 08, 2007

Above all it is essential to refer to things by their correct names. If things are not referred to by their correct names, then our language will not reflect reality. If our language does not reflect reality, then our actions will not reflect reality, and will be exercises in futility.
-- Confucius, The Analects, Chapter 13, Verse 3

As the following "News Bizarre" news story unwittingly demonstrates, Confucius was right.

The News Bizarre: Band leader plays Taiwan [sic] anthem at [mainland] China event

The News Bizarre
Feb. 7, 2007, 10:08AM
Band leader plays Taiwan anthem at China event

Associated Press

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada — The leader of a Grenadian police band that performed Taiwan's [sic] national anthem at the inauguration of a [mainland] China-financed stadium has been temporarily relieved of his music duties, an official said Tuesday.

Inspector Bryan Hurst will not lead the Royal Grenada Police Band while investigators determine how his ensemble came to play the anthem of Taiwan [sic] instead of its rival to open the $40 million Queen's Park stadium on Saturday, according to police spokesman Troy Garvey.

Garvey said the inquiry into the diplomatic gaffe will "utilize all the resources" of the Caribbean island's national force and that Police Commissioner Winston James was expected to formally apologize to Chinese Ambassador Qian Hongshan.

Qian and scores of blue-uniformed Chinese laborers who built the stadium were visibly uncomfortable as Taiwan's anthem [sic] reverberated inside the 20,000-seat venue, which will host matches during the cricket World Cup beginning next month.

Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately return calls for comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Chinese delegation did not attend a reception hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for foreign dignitaries Monday evening.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 amid a civil war, and Beijing claims the democratically run island is a renegade province that should not have diplomatic ties with other countries.

[correction: This is a stock phrase among the mainstream media, which reflexively cuts and pastes it into every news article ever written on cross Straits relations. As readers of The China Desk know, it is both biased and inaccurate. An unbiased and accurate description would be: "The mainland region and
Taiwan region of China fell under the control of rival Chinese governments in 1949 amid a still unresolved Chinese Civil War. Beijing claims that its rival in Taipei is no longer the rightful government of China, and should not have diplomatic ties with other countries."]

The Asian rivals [correction: Chinese rivals] have both campaigned aggressively to win the allegiance of Caribbean nations. Grenada switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China [correction: "from Taipei to Beijing"] in 2005.

Comment: The mainstream media reporter who covered this story just doesn't get it. Even after investigating this tempest in a teacup and writing it up, he still doesn't understand why Inspector Bryan Hurst of the Royal Grenada Police Band mistakenly played the wrong anthem.

The band leader played the wrong anthem, and the AP reporter assumed that the band leader's understandable error merited inclusion under "News Bizarre," because the mainstream media has failed in its professional responsibility to
refer to things by their correct names.

As Confucius sagely noted, "If things are not referred to by their correct names, then our language will not reflect reality. If our language does not reflect reality, then our actions will not reflect reality, and will be exercises in futility."

Allow me to make a wild guess about what happened.

The mainstream media chronically and habitually refers to the People's Republic of China (PRC) as "China," and the Republic of China (ROC) as "Taiwan."

As I have complained time and again, this is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Whether the mainstream media insists on doing this out of plain ignorance or sheer malice depends on the mainstream media "professional" in question. The fact remains that virtually all of the mainstream English language media persists in doing so.

The result of the mainstream media's unprofessional semantic sloppiness, whether ignorant or malicious, is widespread confusion about the actual relationship between the PRC and the ROC.

In fact, China's current situation is nearly identical to that of East and West Germany prior to German reunification.

What most people referred to as "East Germany" was in fact the German Democratic Republic. What most people referred to as "West Germany" was in fact the Federal Republic of Germany.

Similarly, what many people sloppily refer to as "Taiwan" is in fact the Republic of China. What many people sloppily refer to as "China" is in fact the People's Republic of China.

Those who know China know that mainland China and Taiwan are both part of China. China has two rival governments. One is the ROC government in Taipei, the other is the PRC government in Beijing.

The ROC government's current jurisdiction is limited to Taiwan, but that does not mean therefore that "Taiwan = a nation." The PRC government's current jurisdiction is limited to mainland China, but that does not mean therefore that "mainland China = China."

Mainland China is not China. Mainland China without Taiwan is not China, it is merely part of China, the bulk of China.

Likewise, mainland Australia is not
Australia. Australia without Tasmania is not Australia, it is merely part of Australia, the bulk of Australia.

The band leader was almost certainly misled by Taiwan independence media spin control, knowingly propagated by a fellow traveler mainstream media, into believing that "mainland China is China, and Taiwan is Taiwan."

Not so subtle mainstream media attempt to abet Taiwanese secession by applying a different color to the Taiwan region of China. Even the lettering for "TAIWAN" is in DPP green!

The hapless band leader dutifully obtained the sheet music for the "National Anthem of the Republic of China," assuming it was the "National Anthem of the People's Republic of China."

He committed this error because Taiwan independence media spin control, abetted by
Taiwan independence fellow travelers within the mainstream media, misled him into assuming that any anthem with the word "China" in it, could only be the anthem for the People's Republic of China, rather than the anthem for the Republic of China.

He committed this error because, thanks to the mainstream media, he probably didn't even know that there was such a thing as the Republic of China. He probably believed, as the DPP would like him to, that there is such a thing as a sovereign and independent nation named Taiwan.

An All Too Common Mistake
East and West Germany, East and West China

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Annette Lu could only respond: "inconceivable"

Annette Lu could only respond: "inconceivable"
Bevin Chu
February 01, 2007

"Vice-president" Annette Lu

Lee Teng-hui is not an advocate of Taiwan independence? Annette Lu could only respond: "inconceivable."
Huaxia Network

李登輝不“台獨”? 呂秀蓮:只能說不可思議圖

Huaxia Network, February 1 news: According to Taiwan media reports, Lee Teng-hui has declared that he "never advocated Taiwan independence," provoking raised eyebrows in political circles. This morning Annette Lu said that Lee Teng-hui's major about face could only be described as "inconceivable."


Lee Teng-hui denies promoting Taiwan independence

Lee Teng-hui denies promoting Taiwan independence
Bevin Chu
January 31, 2007

Has Godfather of Taiwan independence Lee Teng-hui really changed his mind about Taiwan independence?

Below is a United Daily News article on Lee Teng-hui's apparent recantation of Taiwan independence. I have translated it into English, FYI.

It offers quite a few clues as to what's going on in his head.

For example, Lee stressed that:

"Taiwan is already independent. The important point now is to allow Taiwan to become a normal nation. For example, amending Article 4 of the constitution pertaining to the nation's territorial sovereignty and other questions. These must all be amended or solved by means of public referenda."

Does that sound like recanting his commitment to Taiwan independence to you? It doesn't sound like it to me.

My own take is that it makes no difference what Lee's motives might be. The mere fact that the Godfather of Taiwan independence feels compelled to pay lip service to at least some Pan Blue political premises and to at least some Pan Blue policy prescriptions amounts to a major setback for the Taiwan independence movement.

Lee's so-called "recantation" is enormously harmful to the cause of Taiwan independence, and enormously beneficial to the cause of Chinese reunification, but only if Pan Blue leaders have the presence of mind to take advantage of this "gift from heaven."

Lee Teng-hui denies promoting Taiwan independence, wants to visit the mainland, praises Hu Jintao

United Daily Evening News, Yang Shengju, Taipei


During a January 29 interview with Next magazine, former president Lee Teng-hui made an unprecedented declaration that he is not the Godfather of Taiwan independence. "I am not an advocate of Taiwan independence, nor have I ever advocated Taiwan independence." Lee Teng-hui even suggested that "[mainland] Chinese capital" as well as mainland tourists should be allowed to come to Taiwan. He also indicated that numerous organizations and individuals hoped he would visit the mainland, and that if possible, "I would like to visit the mainland and travel the same route that Confucius took 5000 years ago." [Correction: Confucius lived 2000 years ago, not 5000 years ago.]


Lee Teng-hui had no sooner handed the chairmanship of the Taiwan Solidarity Union over to Huang Kun-hui, when he announced a change to a "left of center" political path. He also accepted an interview in which he made clear that he is not the Godfather of Taiwan independence, and instead indicated a desire to visit the mainland. His about face was so swift it left Taiwan's political arena no time to react.


The Pursuit of Taiwan independence is Dangerous

Lee Teng-hui made clear that the assumption that he was the Godfather of Taiwan independence had no basis. "I have published 25 books. In which one of them have I ever pushed Taiwan independence?" "I have no need to pursue Taiwan independence, because Taiwan is already a sovereign and independent country."

[Correction: No one on Taiwan has any need to pursue Taiwan independence, because Taiwan is already a province of the Republic of China.]

Lee Teng-hui was even more opposed to the ruling party treating Taiwan independence as a political goal to pursue. "The pursuit of Taiwan independence is regressive, moreover it is dangerous, because it not only demotes Taiwan to the status of a non-independent country, it undermines "Taiwan-centricism," and creates a multitude of problems for America and the mainland."




The Two States Theory was not his Original Intention

He also criticized the Democratic Progressive Party for making "a phony agenda out of the pursuit of Taiwan independence." The Kuomintang then responds by waving the anti Taiwan independence flag. Actually the Blues and Greens are merely using reunification vs. independence issue. "Reunification and independence are both false agendas. The only thing real is power struggle."

Lee Teng-hui also indicated that the "Two States Theory" was not his original meaning. His expression was "Special State to State relations." This is not a Taiwan independence position.




Talk of Authoring a New Constitution is basically deceiving the Common People

He stressed that Taiwan is already independent. The important point now is to allow Taiwan to become a normal nation. For example, amending Article 4 of the constitution, which pertains to the nation's territorial sovereignty and other questions. These must all be amended or resolved by public referenda. But it is nearly impossible to do this at the moment. "The Democratic Progressive Party says one thing but does another. The threshold for a constitutional amendment is too high. A public referendum is beset with difficulties. Therefore screaming about a new constitution is basically deceiving the common people."



The Avoid Haste, Exercise Patience Policy does not mean Saying No to the Mainland

During the interview Lee Teng-hui said he was extremely worried that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had no channels of communication. He also criticized the ruling Democratic Progressive Party government for adopting its "Aggressive Opening" Policy as "opening a road to exit, but none to return." "On top of which, their policy flip-flops constantly. Aggressive Opening becomes Aggressive Management. This is simply absurd!" "Taiwan is like a barrel of water from which the water continuously flows out but never comes back. How are the common people supposed to live?" Lee Teng-hui indicated that during his term as president the "Avoid Haste, Exercise Patience" Policy he proposed did not forbid relations with the mainland. Economic exchange is bidirectional. The Democratic Progressive Party has turned it into something unidirectional."



Hu Jintao may not say much, but he's a Man of Substance

Lee Teng-hui proposed more boldness in allowing [mainland] Chinese capital to enter Taiwan, and mainlanders to come to Taiwan as tourists. He said "Don't treat everyone who comes from the mainland as a spy. Why don't you have the courage to deal with such matters? They should be allowed to come as consumers, enabling Taiwan to become a place where global brands gather."

Lee Teng-hui's attitude toward [mainland] China changed from critical to open-minded. He even praised current Chinese leader Hu Jintao's solid background as a water conservationist. "He says little. He doesn't indulge in idle talk. He simply acts. He has adopted a soft approach to the reunification of Taiwan. He avoids an excessively hard approach, allowing the people of Taiwan to become less defensive, unlike Jiang Zemin, who accomplished little."