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Meanwhile, fair and open elections in Iran lead to reformist win.
June 9, 2001 12:11 AM   Subscribe

Meanwhile, fair and open elections in Iran lead to reformist win. Khatami seems to be headed for a 75% win in an election where voter turnout was the highest in years. I'll let others ponder the significance of that in comparison to, say, the hideously low turnout in American elections over the past two decades, or the win by Britain's Labour party, which also saw record low voter turnout. I'm sure someone smarter than me will figure out something to say about the idea that Iranians seem to care more about the political process than the big Western Republics do.
posted by Ezrael (90 comments total)

 
Wouldn't you care more too, in their position?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:13 AM on June 9, 2001


No. I care as much as I can, in my position. After all, I have more to lose than they do. They have to battle to gain the rights that we seem eager to lose. Their turnout is not a suprise: ours is.
posted by Ezrael at 12:18 AM on June 9, 2001


Ahem. A condensed history of all human society so far :
(best read in a Yoda voice)

effort leads to comfort
comfort leads to apathy
apathy leads to corruption
corruption leads to strife
strife leads to effort
effort leads to comfort, ect....

We seem not to care about our precious freedoms? Yeah, well, we worked hard as a people to get to this level of apathy. We're gonna circle the drain. We've done it before. Rome, Babylon, what have you....
I say have a pop tart, and enjoy it.


Or was that too disaffected and Tyler Durdenish.
posted by dong_resin at 1:42 AM on June 9, 2001


No. I care as much as I can, in my position.

What bumptious, self-righteous twaddle.

People care more when they want to change something. What other explanation do you have? Iranians are (democractically) noble savages?

Another example, closer to my own life: in Chile, during the dictatorship, friends from my generation were active in communist cells, petrol bombing buses, trying to blow up power lines and getting tear gassed, shot at and tortured for their troubles. Now they have a democracy they spend their time having kids + barbecues. That's life.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:09 AM on June 9, 2001


Prior to the elections Khatami had the voting age lowered to 15. I think this is the youngest voting age anywhere in the world. His brother, who is also the campaign manager, ran a vigorous campaign targeting at least a 20 million vote tally for Khatami (which was the number of votes he got the in the last election). Unlike in the other democracies, Iranians, especially the younger ones, understand the message their vote sends to the powers that be. His brother insisted that at least 20 million votes in favor of Khatami would act as a referendum in favor of his more liberal views. The young, who are liberal, understands the ramification of voting, have come out to make their message known.

I think people tend to forget (or not care to learn in the first place) that Iran has been a democracy since the fall of Shah. By population numbers it ranks high up their as one of the largest democracies right after India, USA etc.
posted by tamim at 2:42 AM on June 9, 2001


Andrew, I've voted in every election. I do want to change something.

I think the people of Iran, right now, are making those of us who have the freedoms they're lacking look sick. It's okay, in other words, to sit on your ass and do nothing if you live in America? I haven't gotten to the bomb throwing yet, and I'm ever so sorry that disappoints you, but I've hung my ass out on every damn issue I've been behind, tried to figure out what the right thing to do is and done it, and in general been active in this nation's political process while everyone around me seems to be relaxing and letting it be dictated to them.

I think they're an inspiration. I think you have your head up your rectum.
posted by Ezrael at 3:20 AM on June 9, 2001


Regarding american voter turnout, y'all seem to have it backwards. This has nothing to do with whether america is more spoiled and overdue for a violent revolution compared to other countries. Apathy is not bourne out of laziness, but indifference. You think the reason we have low turnout is because of apathy? That's putting the cart before the horse. Truth is, people stopped going to the polls when they realized their vote doesn't count. The apathy didn't just appear outta nowhere. It's the people's natural reaction to their alleged civil servants, from $ity hall to capitAl hill.

It's not that americans stopped caring about america. They no longer believe voting is an expression of that caring. In Iran, the "noble savages" have bought into the "bumptious, self-righteous twaddle" that the noble savages of america's past believed in and only a finite minority of them still believe today. Most of us savages have opted to stop being noble and sleep in on November 2nd.

Here in the U.S., it's like having been made a fool back in the days of Candid Camera, and then learning your next-door neighbor wants to catch you doing something funny for America's Funniest Home Videos. Been there done that bought the T-shirt drank the Mountain Dew NOT GOING DOWN THAT PATH AGAIN.

The individual american voice is muted, and falls on deaf ears. It's a wonder to me that politicians still give us lip service. It must be just to offset the boredom. Corporate interests have bought both major political parties. Unless you have money, you're not heard. Counting votes merely perpetuates the illusion. I've voted in every presidential election since I was old enough to vote. Until now. I plan to stop. Soon as I figure it out, I plan to unlist myself as a registered democrat. These people do not represent me. They do not listen to me. They do not listen to you. They listen not to George, Abe, Tommy, Ben, or even Ulysses S. Grant. They listen to the men who hold the most facecards in their green hand. If you ain't talkin' green, you ain't seen. If it could be proven that a vote is worth the effort of gettin' outta bed that day, people'd start coming. I don't care how much MTV rocks the vote, publicity campaigns do not convince the masses, in face of the empirical evidence to the contrary. When politicians start listening to the people again instead of the almighty dollar, we'll start voting again. Not before.

Oh, and Tommy was right: "Instead of that liberty which takes root and growth in the progress of reason, if recovered by mere force or accident, it becomes with an unprepared people a tyranny still of the many, the few, or the one." Without reason to guide it, a gov't overthrow of force or folly is short-lived. It's just replacing one tyrant for another. I don't care if you use brute force or financial commodities to drive your point home, reason will eventually will out.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:22 AM on June 9, 2001


Addendum: I should not have responded out of anger. And while the voter turnout in Iran is a good sign, ultimately the Iranian government is not such a glorious thing that I want to seem supportive of it.

Basically, I'm tired enough of fighting and fain would lie down for now. I don't really agree with Zach, but I don't disagree with him either. There's more than basic indifference at work here, but I'm too tired to think of what that might be.
posted by Ezrael at 3:29 AM on June 9, 2001


Where is Iran? Are they our allies? If not, we should target them with nukes or something. This is why we need that shield guard thing that our president talks about.
posted by Postroad at 3:30 AM on June 9, 2001


Iran had open elections??? I never would have imagined that.

"comfort leads to apathy"
Sad but true. As an American, I have the right/privilege to decide who controls my government. I find most candidates suck... so I don't vote. Yet I bitch when these clowns screw up when in office.

Kinda ironic, when you think about it.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:39 AM on June 9, 2001


Zach said it: Iranians are voting because they know their vote may actually bring about some real change. Americans get to choose between the corporate sponsored sockpuppet on the left hand and the corporate sponsored sockpuppet on the right hand.

I voted for Nader, by the way, thinking it might actually mean something. What can I say? I was young and full of idealism.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:18 AM on June 9, 2001


I voted for Nader too, thinking it might have actually meant something. However, I can't use the excuse of being young and full of idealism. I'm an old cynic. I thought voting for a zealot eco-terrorist who looked out of place in a suit was a better choice than tweedle-dum and tweedle-dumber. I now see it was no different than being offered the choice between Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or battery acid. All three of 'em upset my stomach.

If only we could get ALL of the people who presently don't vote to show up that day and all vote for the same noncommital choice of words. Unfortunately None of the Above only works in Nevada. I agree with Al Shugart, "Not voting is like protesting by not showing up," but at the same time, I'm simply out of options. BTW, there's a reason why the Green Party would be against NOTA. In the absence of NOTA, people like me used to use people like Nader as NOTA.

Not any more.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:12 AM on June 9, 2001


My prediction is that :"None of the Above" would get very few votes. Non-voters are not radical people who just arent satisfied with the candidates. They found something better to do than vote.

I think its possible to make an argument that non-voters express complacency with the current government. If people did not like the current government, they would vote them down. But Americans at least (and perhaps British) seem unwilling to go to th polls and reelect a popular government that's already in power.
posted by brucec at 5:18 AM on June 9, 2001


Well Bruce, that's where my really radical idea that everyone always hates when I bring it up comes into play. When a voter doesn't show up to vote, that should be equiv. to NOTA. If there's no one on the ballot that encourages people to get off their butts and go vote, that silence should be heard. Not voting is synonymous with a vote of no confidence and must be treated as such, or the system fails the people.

Ooh! Here's the dilemma in a soundbyte:

"Of course one of them is worse. One of any two choices is always 'worse.' ...Arguing over degrees of worseness is a waste of time.." - Michael Moore

The problem is, Moore's answer was just another degree of worseness. The vote in this country was once a sacred thing. It is not something to give to the lesser of evils. It is something to give to the best person for the job. I should be able to vote for the homeless guy down the street if I honestly think he's the best person in this country for the job. This is NOT what those guys in suits want the american people to start thinkin'. They want you to think you only have two choices. You have tens of millions of choices.

Until I'm shown an honest person who I can vote for and then look in the mirror with pride, no man or woman will ever get my vote again.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2001


Zach: In the past, I've heard a lot of people make the arguments you just made, and I have to say... they never really sat well with me. See, as much as they'd like to, corporations just can't vote. They have absolutely no direct say in the national elections. They only have power if we, as a people, chose to give up our responsibility to think critically.

In other words, if corporate interests rule our government, it's our own fault. After all, nobody made us vote for such slime.

Like I said, I don't really understand your reasoning, and I'd love to hear you elaborate a little more.

I think that Rebecca Blood said it best [taken from an old Fray, I believe]:

"I know that candidates, while supported by special interests, are elected by people. I believe that many others have forgotten this simple fact. If we were informed, it wouldn't matter how much any politician spent. Only a people content to be spoonfed platitudes could be so swayed by political advertising. In this sense, we get the government we deserve." -- Rebecca Blood
posted by gd779 at 6:04 AM on June 9, 2001


Iran is only slightly a democracy. Everything that the president and legislature try to do has to be approved by an unelected panel of theocrats. And all the judges are appointed by the theocrats.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2001


Baby steps.
posted by darukaru at 8:02 AM on June 9, 2001


gd779, why do you think they have all those charity dinners and campaign contribution things? Of course corporations can't vote, but the people running them can, and they encourage their employees to vote a certain way. It's often somewhere between persuasion and subtle coercion. Then there's all the lobbying interests, and various organizations which 'educate' their loyal followers as to what politicians think they're way. Much of is innocent and with good intentions, but when groups of people start working together they make their vote stronger, so independent thinkers on their own are wasting their time when they vote, unless they "get with the program" and find like-minded people.

However, then they stop being individuals, don't they?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2001


Iran is only slightly a democracy. Everything that the president and legislature try to do has to be approved by an unelected panel of theocrats. And all the judges are appointed by the theocrats.

And don't think that both Khatami and the religious authorities are aware of this; Khatami allowed a free press, and over the last few years the theocrats shut down several dozen reformist papers. One of Khatami's opponents was a former member of the Iranian intelligence service accused of masterminding the assassination of several dissident intellectuals. From my limited understanding, Khatami is trying to graft a more open and democratic system onto the framework of the Islamic Republic, and the clerics see this as the end to their authority (and eventually the ideal of the Islamic state) and are fighting him tooth and nail every step of the way.
posted by snarkout at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2001


I have two things to say.

1. My vote does count. I can't imagine that everyone has forgotten already, but during the last presidential election, we came as close to a draw in FL as anyone ever has. Every vote mattered in that election (I guess until the Conservatives managed to keep them from being counted). If a few more liberals had bothered to vote (and not for Nader, speaking of throwing away your vote) the nation would be in a different place right now.

1a. My vote does count. In NW FL we recently had a bunch of conservative jackasses who wanted to repeal a very minor tax that helps keep the beaches clean. They, of course, forgot that cleaner beaches=more tourism=more money for everybody=plenty of money to pay taxes. They were beaten by a decent majority of concerned citizens who bothered to show up.

2. If all our politicians are bought and paid for, they are at least bought and paid for by different corporations. Or perhaps their personal beliefs define what corporations they cast their lot with. My point: I guaran-damn-tee that Al Gore would absolutely not be pushing all the pro-oil company, anti environment policy that Bush is choking us with. Everyone seems to think there's no difference between a Republican and a Democrat, but all you have to do is pay attention, and the differences are apparent. I mean, speaking of corporate sponsership (i.e. politicians being bought and sold by corporations) has everyone forgotten that Bush raised TWICE as much money during his campaign as Gore did. That kind of money comes from the corporate and the rich, suprisingly enough the same people that Bush favored in his "across the board" tax cut that I won't see a cent of.

Ok, I'm done. I don't mean to be a jackass, but the "my vote doesn't matter" thing bugs me after the last election.
posted by tcobretti at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2001


Re: None of the Above (NOTA)and Vote of No Confidence

Having "none of the above" on the balance, and having it actually affect the outcome of elections would be of great benefit to established democracies. I would say that a good many "third party" votes in the US are actually protest votes. Or else, they are votes of conscience, a vote for who people would REALLY like to see win, although they know it would never happen.

If NOTA actually won, it should mean a new election, in which the previous candidates could not run. The US could use a little electoral predictability. And you bet your ass that would get me to the polls on a lot of years. The biggest reason given for not voting is disapproval for either of the main candidates.

Run-off elections also should be more common. If an election (for example the presidential) is within say 5%, a run off should be held in which ONLY those two candidates can be voted for--no NOTA option in this case. Expensive? Certainly. More democratic? No doubt. Worth it? absolutely.

I also like the idea of banning television ads like the UK did. It would greatly decrease the cost of elections, and as a result, decrease cynicism. It would also force people to vote off of more than a sound byte, if they choose to vote.

Honestly, re: voter turn out, if people are not educated on the issues, or if they are not inspired by either candidate, I'm glad they don't vote. We need to re-work the system to be more representative of voters voices. Some real options to do so are banning television ads (highly unlikely in a hyper-free-speech land where money and "freedom of speech" are strongly associated so that rich people have a greater voice than poor people)

We should also re-work the electoral college. Whereas it does have a place: to ensure that the US stays a union of states, that each state has a say in the political process, and so that a few dense population centers do not completely control the future of the US, destroying the concept of union and undermining unity.

Another option would be a national law that disallows states to use the "winner take all" system. If electoral college votes done on a percentage basis, voters would feel a greater sense of political efficacy. Currently, a Democrat from Kansas feels little reason to vote in the presidential elections as do many republicans from California.

It is ridiculous that a large number of votes from New York, California, Texas, etc. should all go with the majority of voters from that state, even if the majority was only, say 54%.

The same might be done for state representatives: electing them on a percentage system rather than by districts.

There is little drive to do this, on a state level, however, because whichever party is "in power" has nothing to gain. Moreover, there isn't a major grass roots push for electoral reform. This shocked me after the outcome of the presidential election. The one good thing I expected was electoral reform. It is a pity.

It is the people's fault. If it isn't an issue with voters, politicians aren't going to go out and make it an issue. That is why campaign finance reform made a dent. Granny D had a larger impact than many might have expected.

Electoral college votes could be districted out, but this is apt to lead to gerrymandering, a despicable but unavoidable tendency.

Anyway, there is a lot more to say on this, but I would be interested in other people's ideas about US election reform, their critiques of my proposals, etc.
posted by indigo at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2001


Tcobretti,

Every vote in FLORIDA counted. The rest of us could go to hell. Which was really quite depressing.

Moreover, in the end, the newspaper sponsored recounts came to little or no agreement because it was too close.

We should have had a mechanism for a revote.
posted by indigo at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2001


As so often the case, the Economist has a good perspective on the situation in Iran.

(And you care more about democracy when you live with simultaneous theocracy.)
posted by holgate at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2001


Maybe complacency is not such a bad thing. I mean, it seems to me that there are plenty of much more important things to spend your time on than studying, arguing, and being activist for political movements. The people are not being too bothered by the government, so they are out living life. They have few real problems with the way the system is working. This is not to say that low voter turnout is good, but maybe it ain't so bad.
posted by jackstark at 10:11 AM on June 9, 2001


independent thinkers on their own are wasting their time when they vote, unless they "get with the program" and find like-minded people.

But independent thinkers who don't vote are making a point?

Sadly, apathy will never fuel a political movement. I think it's always better to vote – regardless of whether one's vote really makes a difference – than not, as the 'message' you send by not voting is – to put it mildly – unlikely to be heard.

And in the meantime, lobby for electoral reform, so that more of the votes are heard. Electoral college, my ass!
posted by D at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2001


The answer seems to me to an obvious, even a no brainier. Ezreal, the low turnout in Western countries is no surprise if you look at the historical context. One only need look at recent history of the US. I guess the textbook answer would be that events like the assignation of JFK, Watergate, Iran-Contra, etc., etc. have greatly soured Americas to the political process. In the last 40 or so years we have seen many politicians that we have staked a great many ideals on have failed or been killed (JFK, RFK, Jimmy Carter, etc.). And those who have made it to the top office have, for a great deal, been mired in scandals or out-right been disgraced. I think that most Americas feel that voting is useless because they see all of the candidates are either stupid, corrupt or too influenced by lobbyists and "big business." Also, we're had free elections, in some way shape or form, for 225 years, by now it's almost old-hat to us, nothing to get excited about. And there is a feeling that those who are elected by free elections are current anyway, so people think: why bother? It seems to make too much sense why Americas, and increasing Europeans, stay away from the polls.

In Iran they have yet to have the historical experiences we have had. In fact, they have had quite the opposite. Living under dictatorship or theocracy for so long it’s no wonder they have turned out in droves. Ezreal, also, it's not that that they have more to loose, you are certainly right that we have more to loose. However, the key is that they have more to gain.

I think that voter turnout is more of a comment on our historical/political history rather than a validation of a particular system of government or the political aptitude of a certain country’s electorate.
posted by Bag Man at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2001


events like the assignation of JFK

Is that a reference to Marilyn Monroe?
posted by Grangousier at 11:12 AM on June 9, 2001


tcobretti, why won't you see a cent of the tax cut? Just curious.
posted by netbros at 11:17 AM on June 9, 2001


ok. Netbros, you may be right. If i am reading this right, I think I do qualify for the $300. I thought I had read that anyone already getting a refund (I overpaid) didn't qualify. I (obviously) should have checked my facts before ranting about them. I sincerely thank you for pointing out my error, I will try to be less of an ass in the future (however, it may be the one thing I'm truly good at).
posted by tcobretti at 11:44 AM on June 9, 2001


Also, Indigo, I agree with everything you said.

I do feel however, that the lesson of FL is that we (every voter) never know where another FL might happen, so we ALL have to vote EVERY time, just in case history repeats itself.

In effect, our vote won't just count, but may be absolutely crucial to the outcome of an election, so those of us who care must vote.

I do sort of like the NOTA option though.
posted by tcobretti at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2001


I applaud any small step towards a more democratic society in Iran. This is another success along that path that began after the death of Khomeini. How long before Iran is a fully democratic country, I wonder.

As for voter turnout, we could easily improve ours by making it compulsory, like Australia. I don't believe we should, however. Americans have never fully defined their life by what their government is doing, which I think is a major factor in low voter turnout.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2001


Wow, you gotta love the crossing of personal despair with political discourse, don't you?

Leaving that aside, the ultimate problem is that, in a nutshell, people assume that their reasons for not voting are the same as other peoples, and I don't know that to be true. It may not be dissatisfaction with the past forty years, or a sense of the uselessness of voting. It might well be complacency, or it might be that the current voter registration process is seen as too much of a pain in the ass (I almost couldn't vote this year because I moved from DC to Virginia to California, and that messed everything up...in the end, I had to vote via absentee ballot) or what have you.

I voted for Gore, and while I had and have no illusions about the man, it seemed to me like the two main candidates were very similar, and the real choice between them was between one who had hidden from real responsibility all his life (the National Guard rather than military service, a series of jobs cronyism brought him and which he failed at, etc.) and a man who had, ultimately, at least grappled with it.

Ultimately, Nader turned out to be another Perot, in terms of his effect on the election. He did not accomplish his goal of ensuring matching funds for the Green Party, and while I don't know that you can say he delivered the country to Bush, he was certainly a factor. Now, you can say that there's no difference between Bush and Gore, and if I were a Green Party supporter right now, I may repeat that mantra repeatedly. But California is learning the difference, as will any protected environmental area with any oil under it. There most certainly was a difference, small though it might be.

I agree with whoever said that the people of Iran have more to gain. But that doesn't mean we should sit back and say well, my vote doesn't matter. By not voting, you in effect vote for whatever happens after.
posted by Ezrael at 2:30 PM on June 9, 2001


tcobretti:

The Florida fiasco only proved that our vote can easily be miscounted, right in front of the public eye, and we are powerless to stop it. The conservatives did manage to keep the count from being done properly. Dimpled chads can only happen if something obstructed the pins. There were accusations of coersion that were not properly investigated. The damn state's governed by George's brother for Pete's sake.

Here in Texas the only vote I had was for Nader. Bush governed this state. Too many conservatives here. Gore couldn't win Texas. Voting for Nader might have gotten him that 5% he needed to get the Green party onto the playing field, so we could break the two-party system.

Both Gore and Bush are on "big money" payrolls. They have minor differences, but had Gore won, things wouldn't be much different from how they are now. In fact the senate would still be republican, cuz Lieberman would have given up his senate post to be VP and was gonna be replaced by a republican. So we'd still have gridlock. Politics As Usual.

I don't assume other people don't vote for the same reasons I plan not to. Don't you love double negatives? I can't read their minds. I can only go on my own.

What does all this have to do with Iran? Nothing. If we can't even fix our political system here in the States, worrying about how things are going in Iran is pretty stupid. Damn! 200 years ago people on this side of the pond fought against people from the other side of the pond because they wanted a democracy. Today? The UK is a better democracy than we are! No offense meant to the wonderful people of England.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:07 PM on June 9, 2001


This is another success along that path that began after the death of Khomeini.

One could play "Islam's advocate" here, and suggest that Iran's path to democracy actually began with the ousting of the Shah. As the comment in the Economist suggests, the Ayatollah's own contradictory statements might, in the hands of a careful politician, lead to a less authoritarian state, given the way in which appeals to a number of democratic principles motivated the revolution and constitution of 1979. (Yes, Iran has a constitution; yes, it's fascinating reading.)
posted by holgate at 4:19 PM on June 9, 2001


Every vote mattered in that election (I guess until the Conservatives managed to keep them from being counted).

The conservatives did manage to keep the count from being done properly.

Ummm, guys, correct me if I'm wrong here, but I distinctly remember reading in my (flaming liberal) local paper that the major papers actually had a recount done, and it turned out that Bush actually won by a wider margin than we thought. Indigo even points out something to that effect above. Am I missing something? Would Bush have really lost the election if we had waited for a recount?

And, I'm sorry, Zach, but your implication that the vast right wing conspiracy got together and conspired to obstruct the pins in the voting machines, thus creating dimpled chads in order to keep Gore from winning Florida... um, it seems a bit far-fetched. Care to elaborate by putting a little more substance behind your insinuations?

Also: Thanks for the elaboration on your earlier point, Zach. I still don't agree with you ;), but at least I understand you a bit better now.
posted by gd779 at 4:31 PM on June 9, 2001


Ezreal, I applaud and share your feels about the need to vote and participate in our political process, but it seems to me that since plummeting voting turnout has more or less coincided with the historical events I sited (sorry Grangousier for the mistake, hehehe. Your comment gave me a good laugh) it only makes sense that those events would trigger the complacency of you speak of. It could also be that people have found other ways to get involved with the political process, such as membership in public interested groups and volunteer originations in lieu of participating in formal activities like voting.

Another problem is that without a viable third or fourth option people who are sick of the two party system won't vote either. I think that there should be a box on the ballet that you could check that should read something like "check here for none of the above" (like in Brusters Millions, hehehe). That way those who simply do not care can be distinguished from those who do care, but see no viable option on the ballot. It would be a better way to measure political interest than simpley counting those who do not vote.
posted by Bag Man at 4:39 PM on June 9, 2001


local paper that the major papers actually had a recount done, and it turned out that Bush actually won by a wider margin than we thought.

The recounts that used the Supreme Court’s method of recounting showed Bush would win, recounts using the Florida state law version said Gore would win. It was hardly as conclusive as you make it out to be. I’d certainly prefer if one or the other candidate won the stupid election by a wide-margin, but the fact is either’s legitmacy is questionable given the circumstances.

I think that most Americas feel that voting is useless because they see all of the candidates are either stupid, corrupt or too influenced by lobbyists and "big business."

The Vanishing Voter Project calls this voter “hopelessness.” People who don’t vote — they are the majority — overwhelming see politics as a game played for and by the rich, the outcome of which has little effect on their lives. Not unlike the perrenial war in 1984.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 5:29 PM on June 9, 2001


BagMan: I give you NOTA, the None-of-the-Above project.
posted by dhartung at 7:08 PM on June 9, 2001


People who don’t vote — they are the majority — overwhelming see politics as a game played for and by the rich, the outcome of which has little effect on their lives.

Those who don't vote don't do so for a very wide variety of reasons. Trying to lump them all together to fit your political viewpoint is unrealistic.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:45 PM on June 9, 2001


One could play "Islam's advocate" here, and suggest that Iran's path to democracy actually began with the ousting of the Shah. As the comment in the Economist suggests, the Ayatollah's own contradictory statements might, in the hands of a careful politician, lead to a less authoritarian state, given the way in which appeals to a number of democratic principles motivated the revolution and constitution of 1979. (Yes, Iran has a constitution; yes, it's fascinating reading.)

Well, in the broadest interpretation of what they said, numerous dictators could be taken to be democrats. What is more important is how they actually ruled - and we know that clearly Khomeini was no democrat.

The Iranian constitution is interesting in that it actually pays some lip service to liberal ideas like freedom of speech, but of course states that ultimate this and every freedom must serve Islam. Just ask Salman Rushdie.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:57 PM on June 9, 2001


Crappy voting booths were the fault of lazy politicians from both parties in Florida.
posted by owillis at 8:01 PM on June 9, 2001


Those who don't vote don't do so for a very wide variety of reasons. Trying to lump them all together to fit your political viewpoint is unrealistic.

Well, that’s fun. So we can sit around and theorize about why people don’t vote, or we can read those people’s opinions about politics.

One route looks at non-voters in the abstract, one looks at them as people with real fears.

Choose your own adventure, I guess.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:04 PM on June 9, 2001


Well, that’s fun. So we can sit around and theorize about why people don’t vote, or we can read those people’s opinions about politics.

One route looks at non-voters in the abstract, one looks at them as people with real fears.


The point is that you can't read every non-voter's opinion - there's tens of millions of them. And I have yet to see any real research that says that most of them think that elections are a game of the wealthy.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:20 PM on June 9, 2001


What is more important is how they actually ruled - and we know that clearly Khomeini was no democrat.

Quite so: but what's intriguing is that Khomeini, rather curiously, didn't simply base his rule upon his immense personal authority, but cemented it with a constitution that for the moment preserves the authority of the clerical conservatives, but might, ironically, be used to diminish their influence. More than could be said for the Shah's fiefdom, which had more in common with the Batista regime of 1950s Cuba.

What it'll take, of course, is a tremendously sensitive diplomatic effort, probably done through intermediaries, to rehabilitate Iran: if (and only if) Khatami can push through some of his reforms. He'll also need to stem the flow of funds to the militant groups in Lebanon and the occupied territories, if Iran's to ease itself into a new role in the region.

But, like Cuba to some extent, post-revolutionary Iran doesn't feel the need to be guided towards a Westernised political system: after all, while the West tolerates what goes on in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and, dare I say it, Israel, it's rather easy for them to suggest a touch of hypocrisy in our calls for democratic freedoms.
posted by holgate at 9:42 PM on June 9, 2001


I guess you didn’t read the link I posted Lj. Public opinion research is very reliable.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:47 PM on June 9, 2001


cap'n: Since when, exactly? It's unreliable every single day of the year. Public opinion research depends on the questions asked, the tone of the interviewer, sometimes even such obscurities as whether the interviewer sounds like a man or woman, etc., etc. Public opinion research is notorious for its failure to measure respondent intensity of belief, at discovering lurking or hidden variables, looking for alternative explanations, etc. And ljr's right, there are a million reasons people don't vote.

Jefferson had this figured out early on - you don't give people much to do, much of a stake in things, rather, they won't want to participate. This might tie in with the corporate thing you're talking about, but it can also tie in with decisions being left to a bureaucracy. But all this is sooooo freakin' big. It's too huge and thorny for one thread, especially one about Iran. Sheesh, go read Hannah Arendt, say, or Robert Dahl's study of New Haven, "Who Governs?"

By the way, the lowest voter turnout among industrialized democracies can be found in Switzerland. They vote for too much there, and too often, or so the theory goes. We tend to vote for an awful lot of officials here in the U.S. too.
posted by raysmj at 10:02 PM on June 9, 2001


Also, who actually gets to vote in Iran? How often do they vote? Who measures the turnout? Does the country use machines? How often do they vote? I'd be the last to say that people vote in just about the right numbers in the U.S., the whole Florida thing was depressing, yeah yeah, but using the Iran election turnout to rip America is pretty off the wall.
posted by raysmj at 10:08 PM on June 9, 2001


cap'n: Looked over the polling, which was from the Kennedy School (should've mentioned that, but it's OK), and all I found was this: 72% of all respondents claimed that major contributors and party leaders have more influence than others in nominating presidential candidates.

Does this mean they didn't vote for that reason? Doesn't say that in any release I saw. "Party leaders" was in the question as well, even though Marvin Kalb ignored it in an quote about this finding. Anyway, not saying all public opinion research is BS, or that it's unreasonable for people to be put out with the problems in candidate finance, but you have to know what you're looking for, who or what firm is reliable over time and when, etc.
posted by raysmj at 10:27 PM on June 9, 2001


Ray, there’s a million potential reasons people don’t vote, but the overwhelming number of those polled say that politicians don’t represent their interests or are not worth voting for. As much I don’t want to believe some of the things polls uncover, I really have no reason to doubt a historically accurate organization’s findings.

“Three-fourths of the population regarded the whole process as largely a game played by large contributors (overwhelmingly corporations), party leaders, and the PR industry, which crafted candidates to say “almost anything to get themselves elected,” so that one could believe little that they said even when their stand on issues was intelligible. On almost all issues, citizens could not identify the stands of the candidates—not because they are stupid or not trying.”
Elections 2000

There’s a point at which cynicism eats itself.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:55 PM on June 9, 2001


cap'n: Even if you reform the campaign finance process, though, you'll have a cynical 24-7 media that covers things in less detail and encourages the sort of crap people despise. You'll still have no good reason for people to get involved if they don't have to do so, who are asked sometimes to keep up with an unreasonable amount (state judicial elections, for example - a big example, actually). You'll still have a lower level of trust and general civic participation in the U.S. than in the not-so-distant past.

Campaign finance, in short, is not the grand panacea. "Not a panacea" - the rural county supervisor/state legislator's favored cliche about (insert problem here), but ever-so true in this case.
posted by raysmj at 11:06 PM on June 9, 2001


How Iran Votes. It's based on universal suffrage from the age of 15, unlike many Gulf states.

Ken Livingstone's autobiography was entitled "If Voting Changed Anything, They'd Abolish It". And indeed, Thatcher abolished the GLC. And while Ken was voted in as Mayor of London, it looks as if his ability to change anything major in the capital's running will be slender indeed.

The cruellest irony of the political process in those nations that are considered "at ease with themselves" is that those who might benefit most crucially from choosing their government are invariably those least likely to vote. Which forces you to choose between a paternalistic approach, an attempt to revive a sense of involvement, or just to ignore those who ignore the process. And sadly, the latter is usually the most expedient course. But raysmj's right to suggest that it has to be a bottom-up rejuvenation.
posted by holgate at 11:18 PM on June 9, 2001


It's long been conventional wisdom that the political parties are outmoded, that they're mere propaganda machines, that the thinking voter is an independent. I tend to believe the opposite: that we'll only be able to reinvolve the citizens if we rejuvenate the parties. And if a large bloc of people who haven't been voting enter the system, the parties will probably adapt to cover different ground, and decrease that bogeyman of there being no difference between them.

Iran's political system somehow makes Texas's seem sane.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 AM on June 10, 2001


In Iran, the broad issue was whether to move a little bit away from scary right-wing nutcase theocracy (and is there any other sort of theocracy?) and a little bit more towards kinder, gentler nutcase theocracy. Everyone there understands that and knows that their election was important in a way a US or UK election cannot be. Not that it's easy to reform such a nation, but someone's trying and the people are behind him.

I'm glad so many people don't vote in the US, the UK, and other places; I suspect that the non-voters, the never-voters, are often the people least qualified to vote because they know and care least about the issues and are most likely to fall for bribes (such as promised tax cuts). You will never compel them to know or care about anything but their own wallets and what's on the television tonight.

(By the way, many Britons didn't vote, not because they didn't care about the outcome, but because they were assured of a Labour victory long before polls opened and so didn't think they needed to bother voting.)
posted by pracowity at 6:04 AM on June 10, 2001


dhartung: rejuvenate the parties, or diminish their capacity to stranglehold the means of government. By which I mean PR: though you have to get the old system to vote for it, which is like getting turkies to vote for Christmas.

pracowity: I'm surprised if you believe that those people who thought Bush was offering them Lots Of Free Money actually didn't bother voting for it. Surely a mendacious political class requires even greater issue-based activism, in order to counter people voting with and for their wallets. (That's how Robert Harris explained the surprise Tory win in 1992.)

(ObBushBash: just think, if Iran gets its kinder, gentler nutcase theocracy, it'll be the kind of regime that, were it Christian, would be FreeRepublic.com Utopia.)

The collapse of Labour support was measurably higher in the so-called heartlands: the inner-city council estates which haven't particularly seen the benefits of Blairism in their pockets, see the development of a wealthy, London-orientated business coterie around the government, and lose out most from the mess in services, especially public transport. They voted en masse in 1997 to get rid of the Tories, and many (including my parents) believe that they got a pale blue imitation in its place. They'd like some "old Labour, please".
posted by holgate at 7:29 AM on June 10, 2001


I suspect that the non-voters, the never-voters, are often the people least qualified to vote because they know and care least about the issues and are most likely to fall for bribes (such as promised tax cuts).

So they're falling for the bribe of tax cuts and still not voting? Explain that one, please.

And how is one keeping more of the money one earns a bribe? Social program after social program without any explanation of the costs to the taxpayer - that's a bribe.

You will never compel them to know or care about anything but their own wallets

Hey, glad to hear you're so well off and/or enlightened that you're never concerned about what's in your wallet. Good for you.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2001


“Three-fourths of the population regarded the whole process as largely a game played by large contributors (overwhelmingly corporations), party leaders, and the PR industry, which crafted candidates to say “almost anything to get themselves elected,” so that one could believe little that they said even when their stand on issues was intelligible. On almost all issues, citizens could not identify the stands of the candidates—not because they are stupid or not trying.”

So, you're quoting Chomsky, who's hardly objective on political issues, quoting the Vanishing Voter Project. I would like to see where exactly on the Vanishing Voter Project this statistic comes from, because I couldn't find it.

All the opinion polls I did find on the VVP site have a +/- 6% accuracy, which is hardly any accuracy at all.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2001


So they're falling for the bribe of tax cuts and still not voting? Explain that one, please.

Nah, he just means that it's good they're not voting, because if they did, they'd vote stupidly. Better not to vote at all than to vote stupidly. And since half of Americans are of below-average intelligence, it's good that half of Americans don't vote, eh? They wouldn't know what's best for them if it struck them in the biscuit anyway.

If only we could find some way to ensure that the half that weren't voting were the same people as the stupid half... what a wonderful world it could be!
posted by kindall at 12:20 PM on June 10, 2001


So, you're quoting Chomsky, who's hardly objective on political issues

I don't follow this. Who is "objective on political issues" and therefore safe to quote? Can we only cite the opinion of someone who doesn't have an opinion? Why would you listen to them?

Or do you just mean "disinterested"?

Or do you just mean "conservative"?
posted by rodii at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2001


I don't follow this. Who is "objective on political issues" and therefore safe to quote? Can we only cite the opinion of someone who doesn't have an opinion? Why would you listen to them?

The point is, if you're trying to make your point by citing facts, citing an opinion piece rather than a news item does not help your case any.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2001


Then what does "objectivity" have to do with it?

This is the second time lately someone has tried to discredit Chomsky for, well, being Chomsky. I have my issues with the guy (though they're more about the definition of "specifier" in the Minimalist Theory), but they don't disenfranchise him from the argument.
posted by rodii at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2001


This is the second time lately someone has tried to discredit Chomsky for, well, being Chomsky. I have my issues with the guy (though they're more about the definition of "specifier" in the Minimalist Theory), but they don't disenfranchise him from the argument.

My objection has nothing to do with Chomsky, my objection is to someone stating an opinion and rather than posting a link stating some information to back up that opinion, instead posts a link to someone else (in this case, Chomsky) who has the same opinion but provides no additional facts.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2001


ljr: It also states at the bottom of every poll press release that they had a sampling error of plus or minus three percent. This sounds more likely, and the other a result of a typo produced in the PR department. It would be interesting to find out the real story, but you're as selective in what you report as everyone you accuse of being selective. Also, opinion certainly doesn't help build a case, unless backed up with some sort of facts, but all research conducted by humans is subjective on some level. And this is an opinion forum to some degree in any case in any case - weblog as conversation - not a scientific journal. If those opinions are too ideological or tainted in some major fashion, I think people notice over time.
posted by raysmj at 2:40 PM on June 10, 2001


And yes, making (sometimes seemingly harmless) typos can hurt an organization's credibility, but so can leaving the whole story out when reporting on said mistakes or credibility.
posted by raysmj at 2:45 PM on June 10, 2001


And yes, making (sometimes seemingly harmless) typos can hurt an organization's credibility, but so can leaving the whole story out when reporting on said mistakes or credibility.

I wasn't attempting to point out a typo - I saw 6% in every sidebar. After reading your post I did notice the footnote with 3%. Obviously 3% would be more useful, but I don't think we can assume that the 6 is the typo rather than the 3. Asking opinions about motivation is inherently more vague than asking whether one is voting for candidate A or B.
posted by ljromanoff at 3:30 PM on June 10, 2001


Yes, asking about opinions is more vague, but this is the Kennedy School of Govt. here (which does to some extent attract more popularizers, but it still has a good rep). It's standard accepted social science practice to shoot for four percent, at the very least, in any type of public opinion research outside of mail-in questionnaires (which are rarely used for that very reason). I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Motivation research is in fact fun and often incredibly hilarious, and as rigorous as any you can find. That doesn't make it always exact, but the social sciences are more given to a lack of exactitude by their very nature. (E.g.: I read yesterday that most narcissists are extroverts, but today that they are introverts by definition. Sure.) People can be so hard to fathom.
posted by raysmj at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2001


The point is, if you're trying to make your point by citing facts, citing an opinion piece rather than a news item does not help your case any.

I just had a discussion with you a few days ago in which you considered the Washington Post biased. In that case, a “news item” didn’t fit your information standards, so I’m confused by your statement above. What sources do you believe?

So, you're quoting Chomsky, who's hardly objective on political issues, quoting the Vanishing Voter Project. I would like to see where exactly on the Vanishing Voter Project this statistic comes from, because I couldn't find it.


Reading discoveries made by others is anything but intellectually dishonest — it’s commonly referred to as learning. You have yet to point to any evidence making a case against either my, or the Vanishing Voter Project’s, opinion on modern political campaigns.

You said that “a +/- 6% accuracy ... is hardly any accuracy at all,” but fail to state why that would be the case, especially since the only statistic I quoted is 75% — a number much higher than the margin of error. You’d have a point if I made my argument based on a response that was evenly split, but that isn’t even remotely the case.

If you want to describe how the VVP uses flawed methodology, and consquently failed in their mission, I would certainly read it. Otherwise, they have given us the best available understanding of the public’s view of modern politics.

Below is a quote from Patterson’s essay from the NYT. I believe he is quoting from findings partially available elsewhere on their site.

“[B]oth those who were interested in voting and those who weren't, more than 80 percent said that large donors have "too much influence," more than 75 percent said candidates "will say almost anything to get themselves elected," and more than 70 percent thought candidates are "more concerned with fighting each other" than with addressing policy problems.”
The Faulty Process of Campaigning

(I found a reprint so we wouldn’t have to pay for it.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2001


> And how is one keeping more of the money one
> earns a bribe?

Well, Lance, by living in a society, you also spend that money. Your country would vanish without tax money -- you are paying for America and your spot in it -- which is why the other members of society insist that you pay.

If you accept your spot in America and you still want your money back in exchange for a vote, you are looking for a bribe.
posted by pracowity at 11:07 PM on June 10, 2001


I just had a discussion with you a few days ago in which you considered the Washington Post biased. In that case, a “news item” didn’t fit your information standards, so I’m confused by your statement above. What sources do you believe?

I consider it a biased news source, but it is nevertheless a news source which Chomsky is not. In any event, I'm still waiting for some sort of evidence to back up this claim:

"People who don’t vote — they are the majority — overwhelming see politics as a game played for and by the rich, the outcome of which has little effect on their lives. Not unlike the perrenial war in 1984."
posted by ljromanoff at 6:16 AM on June 11, 2001


Well, Lance, by living in a society, you also spend that money. Your country would vanish without tax money -- you are paying for America and your spot in it -- which is why the other members of society insist that you pay.

No, my country would not vanish without tax money. You might be surprised to learn that the income tax is a 20th century invention. Last time I checked, the U.S. was more than 100 years old.

Furthermore, the government isn't giving me anything by lowering taxes - only taking less. There is a difference. You can't bribe me with something that's already mine - it's contrary to the definition of bribery.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2001


If you depend upon the US government -- and you do -- you are in debt to it and have to pay it for services rendered. When it collects, you shouldn't complain.

How old is US income tax? Income tax, from 1862 to 1872, paid for the US Civil War. Before that, and after, other kinds of taxes paid the share the government wasn't getting from income taxes. How about giant gas and sales and property taxes instead? VAT? Compulsory government service? It has to come from somewhere. Which taxes are you not going to complain about? Where would you rather live?

As for bribery: the money you owe the government is not yours, it is the government's. When a politician offers, in exchange for your vote, to reduce the government's amount and thereby increase your amount, that's as good as promising to hand you money on the way out of the voting booth. If that's how you choose your candidates, you accept bribes.
posted by pracowity at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2001


If you depend upon the US government -- and you do -- you are in debt to it and have to pay it for services rendered. When it collects, you shouldn't complain.

I do not depend on the federal government. I do use some of their services, but not in any proportion to what I pay in taxes. And that is why I will complain about it.

How old is US income tax? Income tax, from 1862 to 1872, paid for the US Civil War.

The tax passed during the Civil Wat was an emergency wartime measure that expired. The current income tax began in 1913, but didn't really explode into the offensive rates we suffer with now until FDR was elected.

Where would you rather live?

I'd rather live in a United States that respected my freedom - thanks for asking.

When a politician offers, in exchange for your vote, to reduce the government's amount and thereby increase your amount, that's as good as promising to hand you money on the way out of the voting booth.

Again, taking less from me is not GIVING me anything - therefore not a bribe. You can't give me something that's already mine. A government official offering me a program or income that it has taken from someone else is a bribe. It's handing me something that doesn't belong to me and I haven't earned in order to gain favor - that's bribery.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:58 AM on June 11, 2001


> I do not depend on the federal government. I do use
> some of their services, but not in any proportion to what
> I pay in taxes.

You may not, for example, directly use an elementary school, but your good life certainly depends on all of those little kids receiving a good education thanks to various taxes you and others pay. Your soft life also depends on the roads that bring you your frozen food, the military that keeps you American instead of Chinese or whatever, and so on. You may not directly use a service, but you need it if people you need (the rest of American society) need it.
posted by pracowity at 8:49 AM on June 11, 2001


You may not, for example, directly use an elementary school, but your good life certainly depends on all of those little kids receiving a good education thanks to various taxes you and others pay. Your soft life also depends on the roads that bring you your frozen food, the military that keeps you American instead of Chinese or whatever, and so on. You may not directly use a service, but you need it if people you need (the rest of American society) need it.

Again, I never said that I never used government services. I said I wasn't dependent on them - there is a difference.

As for your examples, just because the government has chosen to provide a service does not mean that it would not be provided without them. We could have the government provide all services if we wanted, but I'd prefer not to live in that country (if you would, I'd be happy to buy you a ticket to North Korea). Certainly the government has some useful functions that are constitutionally mandated (one of which you mentioned) and if it kept itself to those functions we as citizens wouldn't need nearly as much of our earnings confiscated (not that that apparently matters to you.)
posted by ljromanoff at 9:01 AM on June 11, 2001


May I ask how a discussion about democracy in Iraq (which was curiously rendered as a slam on American voting habits - disgustingly rendered, actually) end up being a discussion of libertarianism? And the income tax/services/blah blah thing you're talking about is just as big and thorny as the voting thing. Like you're going to work it out here. And like any of you are going to convince an ideologue who fails to see the irony of bitching about government services, etc., while using the Internet, which would not even exist without the federal government and would be about times as expensive if it had been developed by a private organization.
posted by raysmj at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2001


the irony of bitching about government services, etc., while using the Internet, which would not even exist without the federal government and would be about times as expensive if it had been developed by a private organization.

1.) The Internet was first developed by the military, actually, which is a valid govt. function. I suppose you think that all criticism of the military via Internet should end?

2.) Can you cite any proof that the Internet, had it developed through exclusively private means, would have been more expensive? Even slightly more expensive?
posted by ljromanoff at 9:45 AM on June 11, 2001


May I ask how a discussion about democracy in Iraq (which was curiously rendered as a slam on American voting habits - disgustingly rendered, actually) end up being a discussion of libertarianism?

Read in the voice of Bob Costas:

Iranian Voting with the ball...he moves down the court, over to Amerian Non-Voting...ANV as usual can't make up his mind what to do...passes it to Gratuitous Pot-Shots at Non-Progessive Politics...he quickly dumps it to Taxation...Taxation to Libertarianism...he shoots, he scores!
posted by ljromanoff at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2001


Hmm . . . Let's see, did I say you can't critize goverment? No, just that you bitch, which is a different story. Such phrases as "butt out" imply bitching and whining and ideologically-driven, blind hostility, not criticism, which is encouraged by the 1st Amendment.

The Internet was developed by two organizations, actually: The Defense Dept. and the government-funded National Science Foundation (in other words, the network linking research labs and universities). There are a million articles out there which discuss how expensive a private Internet would've been to develop. It was actually considered at first, but then turned down. The charge would've been about $40 a month or so, or so I've read over and over and over. The Internet right now is free, except for the charges you pay for access via service providers. Not everyone pays such fees. They are optional. But the fact is no one else did offer such a national network, right? Because the govt.'s was there already? Sure, and well-tested, and stable, etc. Only the govt. could've handled the overhead for so many years before. The govt. did something right in that case. Without the private sector, the thing surely would've been clunky, but don't be ridiculous about it.
posted by raysmj at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2001


Also, as Manuel Castells' forthcoming social history of the Internet points out, the standards that allowed the expansion of the network were built up and sustained by nationally-endowed academics. The triumph of TCP/IP over X.25 was, in essence, a triumph for publically-funded American protocols over proprietary European ones. Hallelujah.
posted by holgate at 10:11 AM on June 11, 2001


Hmm . . . Let's see, did I say you can't critize goverment? No, just that you bitch, which is a different story. Such phrases as "butt out" imply bitching and whining and ideologically-driven, blind hostility, not criticism, which is encouraged by the 1st Amendment.

Care to cite where I said that?
posted by ljromanoff at 10:15 AM on June 11, 2001


The Internet was developed by two organizations, actually: The Defense Dept. and the government-funded National Science Foundation (in other words, the network linking research labs and universities).

NSF had a lot less to do with the development of the Internet than the DARPA did. Most of the initial work was done by the Defense Department and the BBN Corporation. Yes, this military network was later adopted by universities, and then finally by private organizations, but it's absurd to refer to the Internet as a government creation as if it's a latter day Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Internet right now is free, except for the charges you pay for access via service providers

The Internet is not free - is is paid for by millions of users who either pay ISPs directly, pay university tuition, buy online services, etc. All this is required to financially support the Internet backbone which is primarily maintained, again, by private companies - not the government.

Furthermore, all this 'who invented it' talk is beside the point. The printing press was invented by a private citizen in order to make money. Does that mean there should be no books published that criticize capitalism?
posted by ljromanoff at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2001


ljr: OK, searched through, and sorry, it was "if it kept to itself." Which still strikes me as rather strange. "Keeps to itself" -- gee, it's made up of elected representatives, etc., can't we change that if we choose? Is the govt. really such an abstraction, a thing which "keeps to itself?" It's such an odd and cold phrase, like you're not a citizen or something. Certain government agencies should keep to themselves, certain officials, etc., but it's not this giant thing.

I'll admit to a strong bias against libertarianism, which is what I filter the above type messages through. Used to work for a newspaper with a libertarian philosophy, and gosh knows they didn't back up what they talked (i.e., the newspaper not exactly being of the highest quality caliber you'd expect from the private sector, and treating their employees like shit, etc., leading you to later read about life before wage-and-hour laws and shake your head in understanding of the horror that must've been). They also didn't know how to talk to people outside of ideological terms and pithy phrases. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the most wasteful orgs. imaginable, but you don't go telling people suffering from floods that, oh, the govt. is providing you with a bribe in providing levees and such. The minute I read "bribe," the cognitive anti-libertarian-ideology filter kicked in.

And just read your post. You are an ideologue. Absurd to see the Internet as a government creation, my ass. It wouldn't be here without the govt., and you won't even admit it. And I didn't say anything about not being critical. I said bitch in a ideologically-driven manner, which is exactly what you're doing.
posted by raysmj at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2001


The Internet is not free - is is paid for by millions of users who either pay ISPs directly, pay university tuition, buy online services, etc. All this is required to financially support the Internet backbone which is primarily maintained, again, by private companies - not the government.

Except plenty of Internet service providers are still government agencies. And universities, most of which are public and still receive billions in govt. dollars. That's incidental. Still, the Net is not totally and perhaps not even primarily maintained by the private sector. I don't know for sure, but it'd be interesting to find out. The ISP charges are also incidental. The Internet existed before they did, *which was my point in the first place*.
posted by raysmj at 10:47 AM on June 11, 2001


ljr: OK, searched through, and sorry, it was "if it kept to itself." Which still strikes me as rather strange. "Keeps to itself" -- gee, it's made up of elected representatives, etc., can't we change that if we choose?

Regardless of how a government is constituted, it as an organization does exist. And again, regardless of this organization's process of choosing how it acts, it acts in a certain manner. My comment merely pointed out that I would prefer the U.S. government to limit its actions to those manadated by the U.S. Constitution. This is not an unreasonable request.

The minute I read "bribe," the cognitive anti-libertarian-ideology filter kicked in.

Well, if you read the thread again you will see that was not my language, it was something to which I responded.

Absurd to see the Internet as a government creation

I don't think it's absurd at all. Obviously it's a government creation in the sense that it is a military creation - but it's not a government creation in the sense that the government intended to create a decentralized information exchange. I happily refer to the Internet as a byproduct of the military, which is what it is.
posted by ljromanoff at 10:48 AM on June 11, 2001


Except plenty of Internet service providers are still government agencies. And universities, most of which are public and still receive billions in govt. dollars.

Most (70%) American universities are private.

Still, the Net is not totally and perhaps not even primarily maintained by the private sector. I don't know for sure, but it'd be interesting to find out.

I believe that it is now mostly maintained by the private sector, but I can't find any hard statistics to verify this.

The ISP charges are also incidental. The Internet existed before they did, *which was my point in the first place*.

Yes, but the users paid for the Internet some way, if not directly. The Internet is not now, nor was it ever, free as you suggest.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2001


The U.S. Govt. never acts as one solid entity, except during wartime, when all agencies and branches are supposed to act (at least in theory), if not as one, at least as much as one as possible. (There was some infighting even between the three branches during the World War II years, though, since we don't even have the possiblity of a war or emergency cabinet in the U.S. -- we're all the better for it, actually.) Speaking of which, the theory goes in some sectors that the Internet was decentralized and kept that way not just for practical reasons, but because of the model of federalism. Thinking in federalist terms becomes almost second nature, an unconcious thing, for people in govt. agencies, in other words.

Speaking of which, forgot the role of state agencies in the Internet. There are more state govt. employees than there are federal ones. Then there is the operation of the Net in state-operated public libraries, which can't be underestimated. Their computer stations are funded by the federal govt., state govts. and private businesses and organizations galore. (The library in my hometown in Miss. has computers funded by state and local authorities, as well as local patrons and the Gates Foundation, running on a state network. This in a town of 8,000 or so. It's amazing.)
posted by raysmj at 11:10 AM on June 11, 2001


"free" in the sense of no charges have to be levied in theory. They were not in some quarters for some time. I read about the drive for community Net service for months on end before about mid-1996 or so. Computer Shopper used to go on and on about it. These systems may still exist somewhere. I don't know. But you know what I mean. I know the whole "no free lunch" thing by heart and please, for the love of God, don't run through it again.
posted by raysmj at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2001


I know the whole "no free lunch" thing by heart and please, for the love of God, don't run through it again.

The "no free lunch" thing is at the heart of nearly all arguments about how government acts, but if you don't want to talk about it that's cool with me.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:20 AM on June 11, 2001


I wonder how many threads have degenerated into a raysmj vs. ljromanoff death match by now, with everyone else totally alienated and tuned out? Why don't you two just get married and settle down together?
posted by rodii at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2001


I wonder how many threads have degenerated into a raysmj vs. ljromanoff death match by now, with everyone else totally alienated and tuned out? Why don't you two just get married and settle down together?

I'd be happy to take this to a steel cage no-holds-barred to the death match if he will.

MetaFilterMania 2001, baby!
posted by ljromanoff at 8:51 AM on June 12, 2001


Ayn Rand sucks.
posted by pracowity at 11:04 PM on June 12, 2001


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