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Friday, February 11, 2011

Debate over representational government

This is a debate I had with a theist over whether Mosaic law was a representational type of government. I said it was not. They said it was. I will let you decide who had the better argument. I initially responded to a third party  and then the rebuttals from opponent are all from one person.

·         Initial posting:from a third party which started the debate
The US is a constitutional republic, not a democracy or a democratic republic (which is a contradiction in terms). Your definition of the “majority rules” is overly optimistic. Democracy does indeed prevent the 1% from controlling the 99%, but it does not prevent the 51% from controlling the 49% (actually 50% plus 1 would define a “majority”). The founders were not interested in a democracy of any kind. This is why they balanced power between the three branches. They understood that representational government (as laid out in Exodus 18) was the best form available.

·         Jeff Dixon says:
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
How you get a representational government out of this is amazing. It is a one man ruling over the masses. He appoints people willing to follow his rules to posts of authority. In what way are the people being represented?

·         Opponent says:
When a judge swears to “uphold the constitution” he is doing the very same thing. How are we, when we go before one of these constitutional-upholding judges being represented? The constitution is the civil law of our land just as the Mosaic Law was the civil law of Israel. When was the last time you voted on a Supreme Court Justice? You haven’t because they are appointed. Do you really believe that in order to be representational, Moses should have polled the people and asked which men they wanted to rule over them: the law abiding ones or the law-breaking ones?

·         Jeff Dixon says:
The people elect the politicians who are supposed to represent the will of the people. These elected officials are the ones who appoint the judges. So, while we do not specifically appoint the judges, there is a still representation involved in the process.
Moses was not elected by the people, he was supposedly chosen by god. There is no representation of the people anywhere in that scenario.

·         Opponent says:
I asked this question: “Do you really believe that in order to be representational, Moses should have polled the people and asked which men they wanted to rule over them: the law abiding ones or the law-breaking ones?”
So then you are admitting that your answer to this question is yes, correct?

·         Jeff Dixon says:
I am saying for the government to be representational, Moses should have been elected by the people in order to rule over them. Since the people did not elect anyone, there is no representation

·         Opponent says:
I know what you are saying, it’s what you’re not saying that I’m trying to get at. You are mixing up representation and law. Moses delivered the law to Israel, just like our founding fathers delivered the law to us. We had no say in the matter. We don’t get to vote on whether we obey the law or not. You are refusing to answer the question because you see where your “representational government” is taking you. If you stick with this view, you are left saying that all law is subjective, that what we now call illegal (murder, theft, rape) may be considered legal if enough people vote it to be legal. Unlike Israel, we now get to vote for our leaders, but like Israel we do not get to vote for the law. Moses and the law are synonymous (In fact, Jews sometimes refer to the law as “Moses”). Israel didn’t vote for Moses, just as you didn’t get to vote whether you will obey the Constitution. The law is the law; representatives are to enforce the law, not rewrite it (unless of course you are a political liberal and think that law is not absolute, but merely suggestions to be shaped and re-interpreted by the all-powerful “people” of every new age).

·         Jeff Dixon says:
That is not accurate. Each state sent representatives to the Congressional Congress to vote based on the states interests. The states already had elected officials. Therefore, we absolutely did have control over determining if we wanted these laws or not. Many people left and went back to England after it was ratified, because they did not want to be part of this new country. No one prevented them leaving.
I am not refusing to answer the question, you are posting inaccurate statements about the foundation of the country and about how true representation occurs.
Actually, all laws are subjective. We base them on whether the action hurts the individual or society at large. However, even within that context, there are legal actions that do harm others. abortion, the death penalty, killing in a time of war, these are all actions that deprive life that we have decided is acceptable.
In other countries, crimes of passion, such as killing an unfaithful spouse is also considered acceptable. In all cases, it is man who decided what was acceptable, not a mythical god.

·         Opponent says:
My point was not that someONE did not vote on it, my point was that YOU did not get to vote on it. How is someone (or someone’s) voting on it over 200 years ago any different than Moses handing it down to the people of Israel? You have simply given the authority to the founding fathers that you deny to Moses. Since all law is subjective, why do you choose to obey it? It is interesting that you would refer to it as “true representation.” Are you implying that there is something such as “false representation”? How would you know which is true or which is false? You have an idea of what representation is (and I assume you think it is something along the lines of the American form), yet you fail to see representation in Exodus 18? Where do you get your notion of “true representation” anyway? Definitions are also like laws (in your view), they are subjective and change over time based on the will of the people. Who are you to say your view is “true” representation? You can’t have it both ways…

·         Jeff Dixon says:
And my point is no one ever voted for Moses or the laws he put into place. That is a dictatorship, not any type of representation.
It is not whether it is false representation, it is contrasted with no representation. I will agree that I personally did not vote to accept the laws of the Constitution. However, I am able to decide if I want to live here or not. There is no law that prevents me from moving if that is what I decided was best for me and my family.
And I am not making the decision about what is true representation, the words have specific meaning. Moses being given power from god, is not the same as an elected official being voted into office by the citizens. Besides, you are arguing a false dilemma. Moses did not actually get any power from god, these are simply tribal myths of the Jewish people. However, real people did vote for the Constitution.

·         Opponent says:
Representation has nothing to do with the origin of something, but how it is administered. I never once argued that Moses’ authority was valid simply because it came from God (because with the wave of your hand you would dismiss it as myth anyway…go figure). The fact of the matter is not how the law came into existence, but how it is delivered to the people. This is where representation matters. This is where the governors of tens, hundreds, and thousands, served as representatives for the people. They administered the law to the people, not the people to the law (which is what you seem to think representation is).

·         Jeff Dixon says:
If you go back to why we fought for Independence from England, one of the primary reasons was taxation without representation. The king appointed many people to handle and enforce his laws, just as Moses did. However, just as the founders had no say in how the kings laws were created or enforced, the people living under the rule of Moses also had no say.
In fact, when Moses came down the mountain after receiving the 10 Commandments, he killed 3000 of the tribe for worshiping a false idol. There was no trial, no council, no jury of their peers, he simply killed them.
You are trying to compare two completely different situations and call them equivalent.

·         Opponent says:
I’m not trying to compare them, you are. I have just belabored the point that the ORIGIN is not what we are debating. You claimed that you could see no representation in the Exodus 18 system, not in the way the law itself came into being. I am not comparing the Mosaic Law to the Constitution in the way you are implying. I am simply pointing out that both are systems of civil law handed down to a nation of people. The representation is what happens on a daily basis AFTER the founding, not IN their founding. For whatever reason you don’t seem to be able (or don’t want) to grasp this point.

·         Jeff Dixon says:
It is not a matter of my not understanding, it is that you are wrong in your presentation of the information. What I have been pointing out is that there is zero representation in the Mosaic law system. Just because there were people placed in charge, does not mean they represented the people in any fashion. It is not just how it was created or how it is handled, there is nothing in the system that gives the people any say in the matter. And the origin is of importance in understanding the mindset of the people in power. Moses believed his power came from god. Kings have always made that claim, it helps to enforce compliance among the populace.
The Mosaic system works from the concept that power comes from above. Representational government works from the concept that power is given to the authorities from the governed. They gave the power and they elect the people who are in charge. That makes the people in charge subject to the people, not the people subject to the authorities.

·         Jeff Dixon says:
My opponent said "We don’t get to vote on whether we obey the law or not."

And this is simply wrong. We may not have voted on the initial approval of the law, but we certainly can vote to repeal or modify it. There have been examples of that occurring since the country was founded. The amendments to the constitution are ALL examples of changes to the existing law. Prohibition became the law of the land and we decided we did not want to follow that law and it was repealed.

The opponent did not respond after this.

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