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I Think You Want to Go With a Different Strawman

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I’ll have a piece going up tomorrow [UPDATE: it’s here] on some really bad defenses of the filibuster tomorrow. Since I didn’t have space for this particular one, let’s turn to Eric Posner, who as part of a a defense of the filibuster makes a very unfortunate argument:

To provide an extreme example, under a pure system of majority rule 51 percent of the population could pass a law that transferred the wealth of 49 percent of the population to the majority. If at the next election, the other side managed to win, it could expropriate the wealth back. The resulting instability, as different groups took turns expropriating each other’s wealth, would impoverish the country over time. If one group never took a turn winning, then the outcome would be inequitable as well as bad for the public at large. If all of this sounds too implausible to be of concern to you, then remember Jim Crow in the South, and the many decades disenfranchised African-Americans spent as electoral losers.

First of all, the Jim Crow argument misapprehends the general democratic presumption of majority rule. When we say “majority rule,” we mean that the majority is generally entitled to make law if it wins a fair election and follows agreed-upon procedures. Jim Crow and its mass disenfranchisement, to put it mildly, are not “majority rule” in any democratic sense. And it’s worse than that, the filibuster of course was a crucial tool used by segregationists to protect their anti-democratic systems from national majorities.

It’s true, of course, that democracy does not just mean majority rule, and countermajoritarian rules are not always unjustifiable. As Posner does go on to concede, the real argument against the filibuster is that the United States already has plenty of countermajoritarian mechanisms, and in most cases therefore the filibuster can’t be defended. But if one is reduced to citing Jim Crow in defense of the filibuster, it’s not nearly as close a question as Posner makes it out to be.

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  • Breadbaker

    What percentage of the voting population elected the current GOP members of the Senate, whose negative veto on all legislation and nominations Posner seems to think is just fine?

    • Warren Terra

      Last time I looked (which was a while ago), it’s not nearly as skewed as you might think. The R’s have Senators from low-population states like Wyoming and Alaska, and the D’s have Senators from low-population states like Vermont and Alaska.
      The House, because of gerrymandering and incumbency, may be worse.

      • William Burns

        Alaska’s a split, actually.

        • Warren Terra

          You don’t say.

          • Bartleby

            I’d still like to see some numbers, Warren. There are a lot of low-population states that are just dominated by Republicans.

            • Warren Terra

              Listing the states in order by population, from least to most, and listing their Senators, in chunks of five states (and giving Sanders, King, and Manchin to the D’s):
              Wyoming – South Dakota: R,R,D,D,R,D,R,D,R,D
              Delaware – Maine: D,D,D,D,D,D,R,D,R,D
              Hawaii – New Mexico: D,D,R,R,D,D,R,R,D,D
              Nevada – Mississippi: R,D,R,R,R,R,R,D,R,R
              Iowa – Kentucky: R,D,D,D,R,R,D,D,R,R
              Louisiana – Minnesota: R,D,R,R,R,R,D,D,D,D
              Wisconsin – Indiana: R,D,D,D,R,D,R,R,R,D
              Arizona – New Jersey: R,R,D,D,D,D,D,D,D,D
              North Carolina – Pennsylvania: R,D,D,D,R,R,R,D,R,D
              Illinois – California: R,D,R,D,D,D,R,R,D,D

              I admit that i’ve just rank-ordered them, rather than calculating anything by population. But if you look at the list, I think you’ll find Republicans aren’t greatly over-represented in the Senate from low-population states, nor dramatically under-represented from high-population states (though CA being half again as populous as the next state, and about 65 times as populous as the least, will skew things).

              • Er… That’s not what I find. Splitting your list in half I get:

                R
                24/45 = 53%
                21/45 = 47%

                D
                26/55 = 47%
                29/55 = 53%

                Now, I’m pretty sure population is greatly skewed down the list. If you start with AZ-NJ things look worse.

                • Warren Terra

                  The problem is, people always talk about the tiny states or the huge states. But the Democrats have, if anything, an advantage in the tiny states right now, and the Rs hold their own in the huge states. The Rs are overrepresented in the 25th-50th percentile states and the Ds in the 60th-90th percentile states, which may add up to skew things significantly.

                • Manny Kant

                  If you count each Senator as representing half of his or her state’s population, based on the 2010 census Republicans represent about 43% of the population, Democrats 57% – not very far from the 45-55 breakdown in the actual Senate.

            • Njorl

              Summing results of the last 3 Senate elections, ignoring special elections and non-major parties:

              Democrats 119.7 million (add 0.2 to include Sanders)
              Republicans 106.7 million

              • Warren Terra

                Note that gives the Rs 45% of the Senate with 47% of the votes – though that’s not a fair calculation, as the Rs made their gains in the off-year, lower-turnout elections of 2010.

  • Royko

    I suppose, looking at it in simplistic terms, majority rule makes it easier to impose new discrimination, while the filibuster/supermajority makes it easier to keep existing discrimination. Since the trend in this country had been increasing egalitarianism over time, majority rule seems like the better bet.

    Practically, if we reach a point where we regularly need the filibuster to save us from awful legislation or appointments, we’re pretty much screwed anyway.

    • mds

      Practically, if we reach a point where we regularly need the filibuster to save us from awful legislation or appointments, we’re pretty much screwed anyway.

      2016 better not be a big GOP year, then.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        I just have a hard time believing that the republicans would allow the filibuster to exist for more than, say, twenty minutes after they take over the senate

        • IIRC the only reason they didn’t get rid of it in 2005 is that the Dems basically promised not to use it.

          • Code Name Cain

            The Dems promised to use it only in “extraordinary circumstances” but in practice that meant Hans-Hermann Hoppe Janice Rogers Brown was still appointed. You know she of “You know what’s the real slavery? Social security and food stamps.”

          • Nathanael

            Since the disgusting Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts were allowed in despite the presence of the filibuster, the filibuster is obviously useless for liberals.

      • Random

        In 2016 the GOP is defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10. Many in swing states during a high-turnout presidential election. Basically they are toast.

        • cpinva

          never underestimate the ability of the American electorate to vote for idiots.

          • ChrisTS

            A very sad +1.

            • ChrisTS

              ETA: Get every half-way decent warm body you know out to vote.

          • Random

            In addition to the Senate and Presidential cycle factors making it extremely unlikely that we’ll have a GOP Senate in January 2017, after almost 2 months of relentlessly negative media for the Democrats, they are still ahead of the GOP by 1 point.

            If they can’t out-poll the donkey during a time of concentrated, almost relentlessly negative press, that doesn’t bode well for them for next year.

            • Lee Rudolph

              You have some reason to hope that the “time of concentrated, almost relentlessly negative press” won’t persist continuously until the elections?

              • Bartleby

                I wish Sarah Palin was right about her view of the mainstream media. Unfortunately, it’s all conservative, all the time.

                And that’s still too liberal for Palin and her ilk.

      • DrDick

        This assume, in the face of all existing evidence, that the Dems would actually filibuster a nominee, no matter how bad.

  • Warren Terra

    Also, I had thought that some Jim Crow states were majority-African-American or very close to it. Not a majority of the voters, of course, but that was part of the problem.

    • Warren Terra

      More generally, if he is so all-fired concerned about a temporarily advantaged minority “disenfranchising” parts of society who could otherwise constitute or collaborate to form a majority, Posner could be a helluva lot more outspoken and decisive about voter-ID, not to mention gerrymandering. You know, real problems actual existing Americans face today.

      • ChrisTS

        But, Warren, umm, fraud… or, uh, something.

        • Breadbaker

          I believe the proper response is, “Benghazi!”

      • Rank and File

        …real problems actual existing Americans face today.

        Yes, because if blacks don’t vote race, there must be something wrong in the universe.

        And whites….ummmmmm….not so much.

    • dn

      Damn right. The great election dispute of 1876 was in large part caused by the fact that massive Klan violence was the only thing keeping several deep Southern states from going Republican purely on the basis of black voting. It’s ludicrous to talk about Jim Crow as majority rule run amok – Jim Crow wasn’t built by votes, but by nooses.

      • Tristan

        Yeah, it reminds me of how people say ‘Hitler was elected…’ like it’s this sage insight into the dark side human nature, which only works by leaving out ‘…to a minority government, the best he could do even at the peak of his pre-war popularity, and then passed the enabling act by having members of other parties physically barred from entering the legislature’. I wonder if there isn’t an inclination to portray such things as ‘tyranny of the majority’ or some other form of democracy-gone-bad because that’s actually less chilling than looking at them as examples of democracy being surprisingly easily subverted. Maybe a system capable of going terribly wrong while retaining its essential integrity is a more comforting thought than a system that can be temporarily or completely bullied into submission by a relatively few violent extremists.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Nah. But it’s way deeper, man. I mean, have you ever really looked at your hand?

          • N__B

            If you gaze too long at your hand remember the hand also gazes at you.

            • Lee Rudolph

              So that’s why people keep telling me there’s a shadow rabbit on my face!

              Or a duck. Sometimes they say it’s a duck.

          • Tristan

            no hands are used for masturbating and are thus shameful

            also fuck you i bet i’m right

      • witless chum

        People are still a little blinkered on what happened in the south during Reconstruction. It was a violent takeover of several state governments after which democracy was abolished until 1964 and the federal government did shit about it.

        • Yup.

        • Nathanael

          You wanna be even more accurate, it was a series of violent takeovers under Andrew Johnson which were *reversed* by President Grant, followed by a *second* series of violent takeovers which were allowed to stand. I believe one state (forget which one) actually had *three* white supremacist coups, two of which were reversed.

          The white supremacists were tenacious. The only way to stop them was to hang the traitors — as Sherman knew perfectly well. Andrew Johnson has a great deal to answer for with all the pardons.

    • cpinva

      “Also, I had thought that some Jim Crow states were majority-African-American or very close to it.”

      not even close. the AA population in general, is approx. 12%. in some southern states, it runs between 20-22%. this makes gerrymandering a lot easier.

      • dn

        In the early days of Jim Crow there were a handful of majority-AA southern states. Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina.

      • That’s post-Great Migrations stats.

        As DN points out below, South Carolina and the Deep South were majority AA, or so close that the Reconstruction electoral alliances were majority blac.

        • cpinva

          that’s actually what i thought he was talking about, the present demographics of the jim crow states.

  • Tom Servo

    Posner’s weird. For such an obviously smart guy, he makes some really bizzarely boneheaded arguments. Like his argument that privacy is overrated. I dunno, I read and enjoyed “How Judges Think,” but I just can’t put my finger on what bothers me about Posner.

    • Tom Servo

      Maybe it’s because I find so much of law and ec talk frustratingly glib. I dunno.

      • BarrY

        Because it is. As pointed out, Eric does not and did not have a problem with real, existing right-wing sh&t.

    • Scott Lemieux

      How Judges Think was written by Eric’s father…

      • Tom Servo

        Well that’s an egg on my goddamn face. I just read reflections on judging and have been thinking about Richard.

    • ChrisTS

      A) As Scott points out, wrong Posner.

      B) Never try to understand an irrational person. Everyone will be maddened, and the irrational person might very well enjoy it.

  • Mike Schilling

    He really went to Jim Crow without one thought about the number of anti-lynching and civil rights bills that were filibustered?

  • Murc

    It’s worth noting that Posner has to resort to defending pie in the sky theoretical underpinnings of countermajoritarian veto points rather than the filibuster as it actually exists, and the theoretical horrors of legislative majority rule rather than how it works in actual, real, other countries that have it.

    Canada and the UK seem to poke along just fine with near-unicameral legislatures that rule by simple majority. Hell, Canada at least has a Constitution; the Parliament of the UK may be one of the last bastions of real legislative supremacy on the planet. And they do all right. When Labour is in power it does not expropriate all private property and establish re-education camps; when the Tories are in power they do not repeal the NHS and allow anyone whose skin is brown and whose accent is not pure Received Pronunciation to be hunted for sport.

    It’s all very well and good to worry about procedural legitimacy and legislative norms and the tyranny of the majority. I worry about those things a lot! Under ordinary circumstances, I’d have been against this move on Reid’s part; I feel it was, from a formal procedural standpoint, somewhat dodgy.

    These were not ordinary circumstances. The filibuster was being used, and continues to be used, to render the country ungovernable and wielded as a wrecking ball against the other branches of government. I have no particular procedural objections to this happening when the Republicans actually manage to win an election; I find the current shenanigans of the House of Representatives deplorable but they are an entirely legitimate exercise of power. Indeed, the House Republican caucus ran an explicit platform of nihilism and destruction and have been delivering it.

    They did not win the White House, and they did not win a Senate majority. For them to expect to be treated as the ruling party in said Senate is insane. They were extended every courtesy; indeed, I expect the Obama Administration and the Office of the Majority Leader would have been happy, eager even, to nominate judges and executive branch appointees who the Senate Republicans found more ideologically congenial than those who are likely to be nominated now that they don’t have to give a fuck.

    The Senate Republicans instead choose to try and destroy the government. Very well, then; let them win an election.

    Those were the facts on the ground, and if they offend Posner’s sense of how things SHOULD be, I suggest he stick to political theory rather than opining about political practice.

    • It’s worth noting that Posner has to resort to defending pie in the sky theoretical underpinnings of countermajoritarian veto points rather than the filibuster as it actually exists, and the theoretical horrors of legislative majority rule rather than how it works in actual, real, other countries that have it.

      Yeah, to defend the filibuster, one pretty much has to go make up a bunch of wild hypotheticals. But it’s pretty useless, I think, to just argue that if we had vastly different problems, we wouldn’t come up with the same solutions. Great. Now let’s go leave the imaginary world where the 51% expropriates the 49% at every change of government, and look at the real world where we have multiple veto points and the various problems caused by that setup.

      • The belief that 51 percent expropriates 47 percent is just absurd as an argument. Historically and sociologically speaking its much more likely to be either straight up apartheid/oligarchic opression by the minority (e.g. Not democratic at all) or natiinalization or taxation (different things really) of the 1 percent by the median or average party whose voters represent the median political interests. If the majority of the country–99 percent?–have interests different from the one percent and they pursue them non violently, lawfully, and with respect even a high marginal tax rate is not the same as a bill of attainder. Also isnt it repyblucans who always insist that mere formality like “we arent preventing gays from marrying:they can marry an opposite sex partner if they want” satisfy formal equslity norms? Thats some real majority expeopriation of a minorities rights but you dont hear republicans sobbing over that injustice.

        • Israel comes pretty close to 51% of the population (Jews) voting to expropriate the property of the other 49% (Arabs). There is certainly democracy for Israeli Jews even those in the West Bank and they are probably still a slight majority of the population living in the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine. If they are now a minority it is a recent development.

          • Gregor Sansa

            Even that one is a bad example. There’s refugees, too; and rather than “me and him voted that we get your stuff” it’s more “me and him voted that he’ll look the other way while I illegally take your stuff and then he might blow up your house if you ever complain.”

            • Gregor Sansa

              “And my vote outweighed his because yours doesn’t even count.” That’s the part where you really can’t call it a failure of democracy.

            • DrDick

              This.

          • Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once. The Jews started out as a minority without real political representation under the Ottoman empire, seized control with the founding of the State, included some minority rights for some Palestianians they didn’t kick out, ethnically cleansed the state by throwing out or de-citizening most of the former Arab citizens/subjects and reformulated the state itself. Not too many people have tried this dodge since the end of colonialism when it was all the rage and it doesn’t apply to the US as currently consitituted.

    • Matt

      when the Tories are in power they do not repeal the NHS and allow anyone whose skin is brown and whose accent is not pure Received Pronunciation to be hunted for sport.

      Give Cameron a little more runway on this – he’s already taken a swat at the first one… ;)

    • Gregor Sansa

      Just for the record, the GOP did not win the house fair and square. Explicit gerrymandering netted them at least a dozen seats, and natural demographics (Democrats always waste more votes in inner cities than Repubs do anywhere) about another dozen. The only solution to both is proportional representation. Which could be done without giving up simple ballots, local representation, or accountability.

  • cpinva

    since we’re on the subject of the filibuster, you might enjoy this take:

    http://www.loweringthebar.net/2013/11/senate-votes-to-limit-the-filibuster.html

    • The total absence of thought or introspection on display there was kind of fascinating.

  • ChrisTS

    I imagine that, in EP’s imaginary nation, there is no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no House of Representatives, no President (with a veto), and no system of courts.

    Were the Senate the be-all and end-all, a constitutionally grounded filibuster might be necessary. In the real world, not so much.

    • Were the Senate the be-all and end-all

      …Caesar might be able to bully his way into an unlimited-term dictatorship.

      • Njorl

        A very small minority of the Senate, about 5%, vetoed that.

  • Some Guy

    So, lowering the votes needed to vote for cloture on a filibuster was lowered the 51, thus exposing the nation to tyrannical majority rule. This, of course, would have never even been remotely possible back when you needed 61(?) votes, I guess is the take-away here?

    There’s dumb arguments, and then there’s -dumb- arguments.

  • ChrisTS

    Oh, Holy Sad Christ. I went there and saw a link to a story about the X number of hottest women who are also brilliant. I paraphrase, but, ugh, ughor, and ughimus.

    • Don’t worry. You can wipe that image from your mind using this one weird trick…

      • Gregor Sansa

        Didn’t you know? ChrisTS is actually the mom who discovered that Latin declension memory-wipe thingy while working at home.

        A celeb walks among us. Just watch out, ChrisTS; if there are any nip slips, we’ll catch you.

        (No, I don’t actually know or care what gender ChrisTS is. As long as they’re not a GENDERFRAUD like Shakes.)

        • *ahem*

          I’M the only genderfraud in these parts.

          • sibusisodan

            So you’re saying Shake is a genderfraud-fraud, then?

  • Mister Harvest

    [T]he filibuster of course was a crucial tool used by segregationists to protect their anti-democratic systems from national majorities.

    Something the Republicans loved to point out before the filibuster became The Last Bastion Against Tyranny. I wonder what changed?

  • This argument stands at a complete right angle to all current historical thought:

    1. The expansion of majoritarian politics in the United States, beginning with the expansion of the franchise to universal white male suffrage, the strengthening of the House as a majority-rule institution in 1812, etc. went hand-in-hand with the abolition of slavery in the North and the rise of anti-slavery politics in the North. By contrast, as early as the 1820s and consistently from the 1840s-1860, the slave power was resorting to anti-majoritarian tactics to preserve slavery (or as far back as 1798, depending on how you view the KY/VA Resolutions).

    2. The establishment of disenfranchisement in the South, especially through the establishment of poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses, frequently excluded the majority from voting when you add together poor whites and blacks (as was the intent).

    3. The maintenance of Jim Crow, from day 1, relied on the Southern filibuster to prevent the enactment of Federal civil rights legislation, from the 1880s through to the 1960s.

    4. Progressives did not historically favor anti-majoritarian politics: the Progressive Era pitted legislative bodies against the Supreme Court when it came to regulating corporations and labor markets and taxation, the New Deal waged war against the Supreme Court and was brought to an end by the creation of a Republican/Dixiecrat alliance in the Senate that dominated from 1938-1958.

    • Breadbaker

      A little noticed additional factor is the freezing of the size of the House of Representatives around the turn of the last century, so that except for about one year, the House didn’t even grow when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted. The purpose of this, D.W. Meinig has shown, was to lower the power of cities compared to the power of rural areas. Thus, the ratio of population between California and Wyoming is about 75:1, while the ratio in the House is 53:1 and in the electoral college is 53:3.

      By way of contrast, the Canadian House of Commons has 308 seats, while Canada’s population is a little less than California’s. The British House of Commons has 650 members, on a population of about twice California’s. If we doubled the size of the House, the power of the big square states would diminish in the House (while being retained in the Senate, which is pretty clearly what the Founders intended) and also diminish in the electoral college.

    • Anonymous

      Ok so the Jim Crow South is not a good example of a perfectly democratic majority Herrenvolk system. But, it does have elements of it. Perhaps it was more similar to a democratic minority Herrenvolk system like South Africa. There were and are, however, majority democratic systems that do deliberately deny minorities rights. Israel comes to mind. The democratic state imposed martial law upon its Arab minority and only Arabs from 1948 to 1966. Post-War Japan’s treatment of ethnic Koreans during its first few decades is another possible example. The Protestant treatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland at least from 1922 to 1972 would also seem to fit with a democratic majority denying minorities civil rights.

      • Oops that was me.

      • Brien Jackson

        So…a bunch of states that aren’t the United States, is what you’re trying to say (at best)?

        • I am saying that there are examples of majority democratic states persecuting ethnic minorities precisely because the majority supported such discrimination. The idea that all discrimination in world history is the result of minorities in anti-majoritarian states and policies is simply bogus.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Only someone who denies American Exceptionalism could call it bogus!!!

          • Except nobody made that argument, unless that’s your interpretation of the fact that AAs were the majority in several Southern States before the Great Migrations of the early 20th Century.

          • Republicans are not an ethnic minority.

            • One could argue that they’re a religious minority. They all hold beliefs in economics and social forces that no one else can see or believes in, and they have all sorts of rituals to distinguish themselves from outsiders.

      • That’s all very interesting, but not relevant given that I was challenging Posner’s specific claims that:
        1. “It was “tyranny of the majority” that produced racist laws in the South.”
        2. “progressives…are historical opponents of majority rule” in American politics.

        From a global historical perspective, of course majority rule can be used to oppress minorities – but I absolutely dispute that this means that “majority rule is not intrinsically democratic,” as opposed to the argument that “democracies are not intrinsically liberal.” The systematic elision of liberal and democratic is a pet peeve of mine, and I will always endeavor to correct it.

        • Majority rule is democratic, but can often be illiberal especially towards minorities. Especially if you define the Demos as an Ethnos that has between 51% and 99% of the population. An officially White Christian US could be a Democratic state, but it would definitely be illiberal.

          • All that is true, but let’s call something by its proper name, so that we avoid back door naturalizing of liberal ideals into the concept of democracy.

    • “Progressive” today doesn’t exactly mean the same thing as it does in the first sentence of point (4) above.

      • I disagree, on two counts.

        1. In the context of point 4, Posner posits a historical opposition to majority rule on the part of progressives that wasn’t true at the time and isn’t true now.

        2. There is a strong element of continuity between the Progressivism of the Progressive Era and current progressivism – a belief in an activist national state, capable of regulating corporations; a fear of the unchecked power of large corporations and especially their influence on the democratic process; the desire to regulate the labor market to ensure decent wages, hours, and working conditions and to allow for collective bargaining; a push to make taxation more progressive; the use of social insurance to fight inequality and poverty.

  • jkay

    BUT HOW ISN’TTODAYS REAGAN’S TOTALLY MAJORITY COAITION AN EXAMPLE on Posner’s side?- AND NOT JUST STEALING BUT ALSO OPPRESSING. Canada’s and US’ mistreatment of tribes us STILL continues. Didn’t UK imperialism continue after it went majoritarian?

    NAME ONE EXAMPLE OF A FAIR MAJORITY EVER, in fact. I CANT THINK OF ANY EVER. Why expect magic perfection JUST because we can mostly vote?

    HOW aren’t you being Green Lantern about this? Aren’t you expecting magic ring FAIR majoritianism that never has existed? Didn’t the L-word even come up?

    • Malaclypse

      TODAYS REAGAN’S TOTALLY MAJORITY COAITION

      Worst post-punk bank name ever.

      • Lee Rudolph

        I CANT THINK OF ANY EVER, on the other hand…

      • Hogan

        And that’s not how you spell coitus.

        • Malaclypse

          Let’s not discuss the L-word. This is a family-friendly blog.

      • Bartleby

        I know you meant “band,” Mal, but it is probably funnier as written.

        • It’s the world’s first situationist bank!

          …mostly because that turned out to be the worst idea ever.

      • I don’t see post-punk. More like the debut EP from a band whose career height was opening for Jawbreaker once.

  • Manju

    I promise not to comment on this post.

    • Matt T. in New Orleans

      This is not a troll.

  • Harry Reid’s decision to nuke the filibuster will burn with the heat of a million blazing torches!

    Except not really.

    • Except torches crosses.

      (Curse you Harry Reid!)

  • The filibuster was life support for Jim Crow in the 50s and 60s on into the 70s. Posner is smoking some interesting stuff.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Both Royko and Tristan above seemed (to me) to be stating propositions about general polities; and Posner’s original article makes an explicit reference to Buchanan’s “The Calculus of Consent”, which is very much (apparently) about general polities, not just the USA and its constitution.

  • Evan Harper

    Someone needs to smack ol’ Posner upside the head with a copy of Edlin, Gelman, and Kaplan until he gets it.

  • Joe

    We don’t have “a pure system of majority rule” … simple point, right? The concern is not that we want “pure” majority rule. It is that at some point our system goes too far from that standard. Again, this isn’t that hard. He could have ended the piece early:

    The first is that the existing scheme depended on cooperation with Republicans, and Republicans have stopped cooperating. If that is why, then I agree that the Democrats acted in their own best interests.

    There you go. It is true that people like Emily Bazelon seems to be taking a stronger majority rule position:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/11/the_nuclear_option_and_the_filibuster_harry_reid_tries_to_stop_republican.html

    But, she is writing in the context of our constitutional system which puts various checks on majority rule. Context seems hard for some people.

    • Nathanael

      I’ve read political scientists who reviewed our institutions, who said “The electoral college isn’t so undemocratic as to worry me… but the Senate is”. That’s before thinking about the filibuster.

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