Sunday, January 30, 2005

The national interest

A few quick thoughts late at night (and slightly drunk), so probably not thought through... The other day, Airstrip One argued that

“It is clear that the Europhiles in Britain will clothe themselves in the flag to promote their cause. However, it is a discourse of the dead since the national interest is effectively destroyed if subordinated within a greater whole. For the first time, politicians are having to engage with the ‘death of Britain’ and applaud our future within a superstate.”
But what exactly is the national interest? Airstrip One's interpretation seems to equate the nation with the state. Yet the state is surely primarily the governmental machine. Nations are not defined by lines on a map or government edicts - they are primarily based around a shared identity or perception of common links.

When it really comes down to it, most people couldn't care less about abstract notions of sovereignty - they care about whether they can get food on the table, find a stable job, buy a house, afford to start up a family and live happily free from persecution in a prosperous and well-provisioned area. For the majority of the population, the nation means little except for when the football, rugby or cricket comes on the telly. On a daily basis what matters is the local town or village, their street, their immediate home.

It is also worth noting that the interests of the people and those of the state do not necessarily coincide. It may be in the interest of the state to, for example, create an immense biometric database to enable government to keep track on the people, or to remove the right to a trial to enable it to lock its citizens up at will. That is surely not in the interest of the people, even if some of them may not be aware of this. So, which of these is the "national" interest - those of the state or the people?

The thing that really matters is surely what is in the interests of the people, not the state, for it is the people who form the nation. And the primary, most important interest of the people is surely for their lives to be as pleasant, safe, free and prosperous as possible. The state can get in the way of these aspirations; it can aid them. In Nazi Germany or - especially - Soviet Russia, which was the national interest? The desires of the totalitarian leadership to assert control over the population, or the desires of the people to live uncomplicated, fear-free lives?

But then it is also worth noting that the people are not always able to see the best means to their desired ends. Were you to have asked a German in 1943 whether it was in the national interest for their country to lose the war and end up occupied by their enemies for nearly half a century, they would almost certainly - and understandably - have answered in the negative. Now the vast majority of Germans would tell you that they are eternally grateful that the expansion of the Reich ended in defeat. The German state is far less powerful than it would have been had Hitler won the war, but the German people are far better off. (Likewise, were you to have asked many Scots in the 16th century whether it was in their national interest to link up with England as the junior partner in a "United Kingdom", they would have told you precisely where to shove it.)

If the long-term interests of the people would be best served by joining a superstate, that is in the national interest; if the people will end up less prosperous, safe, and free as part of the EU than they would if their country were to pull out, then obviously they should have nothing to do with it.

But no one knows whether the European project will end up as a superstate (no one knows even if it will be successful). Equally no one knows whether Britain would be able to make it on her own in an increasingly competitive world now she no longer has the prop of an empire and the advantage of the most productive manufacturing sector in the world. It's all speculation.

One thing, however, which has been proved by the experiences of a broad range of people from the Jews to the Scots to the Welsh to the Basques to the Cornish, Scousers, Geordies and Cockneys, is that a sense of collective, shared, national identity (in its broadest, traditonal sense) can easily be maintained while nominally under the jurisdiction of a far wider organisation. I can be both British and English; Europhobia's Rhona can be both British and Scottish - what makes it so unlikely that we can maintain these identites with a broader, "European" one added on top? If Europhobia's Matt can manage to hold dual nationality without any problems of identity, why can't we all be both British and European?

I'll stress that I am not advocating a superstate by any means. But if maintiaining complete sovereignty means we are less able to compete internationally, and that thus our economy begins to stagnate and our quality of life deteriorates, what value does that sovereignty hold? It is an abstract notion, held at an arbitrary level - after all, what makes the state the best place for sovereignty to lie if the majority of the population have no need to come into contact with people from any other part of that state?


What matters to the people is money and comfort. If sovereignty held at a state level is the best way to supply that, fine; but if having some powers held at an inter-state level produces a better standard of living, that is where they should be.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irish Dude - pretty much agree, thats the life unionists live here. I dont understand Britains fear of the european union, they pretty much control it along with france and germany, its small countries like Ireland that have to do as their told, and even that only applies up until a certain point.

(how do i register, or can i?)

1/30/2005 02:08:00 am  
Blogger ken said...

As you say it is late however, you have answered your own question… Nations are not defined by lines on a map or government edicts - they are primarily based around a shared identity or perception of common links.

That is why the EU is spending Millions each and every year in trying to make us feel European and why Nationalism is a dirty word.

It is also worth noting that the interests of the people and those of the state do not necessarily coincide.
I think you mean the government not the state!

So if they do not coincide we can remove the government and elect one that does, which brings us clearly to the EU, we cannot do this, the motor just keep rolling on from one parliament to the next from on commision to the next.

But then it is also worth noting that the people are not always able to see the best means to their desired ends.

This is the people are too stupid to know what is best for them argument and is unacceptable in a democracy. That is why the EU likes to promote this idea simply because it is not democratic.

The desires of the totalitarian leadership to assert control over the population,

Cannot come to fruition in a democratic state because the power is with the people not the government. When the people cannot control their government you have a totalitarian state a little bit like the EU.

collective, shared, national identity

This is not power, again EU confusion, National Identity has no correlation to the power of self determination.

But if maintiaining complete sovereignty means we are less able to compete internationally.

This has not been proven the government has steadfastly refused to do a cost benefit analysis.

Now which part of democratic control of government by the people whom that government rules is not making sense.

We elect the government it does its best for the people after it has had a chance, we decide if we will give it another chance and on this goes protected by the fact that a government may not stay in power for more than five years, and may not make laws or international agreements that a following government must obey, and the fact that there is no ongoing business between parliaments, so at all times the people are in charge of there own destiny.

You seem to have encapsulated the whole EU dream in this one post, an EU of the regions with an over arching kindly benevolent government that will look after us and our children, as they gently guide us to the promised land of milk and honey. We of course will have no say in things which don’t concern us, because those things are beyond our understanding and the elite rulers residing somewhere of their choosing will not have to be subject to the laws they make for the rest of us because they are obviously a superior type of human that can understand what is best for the citizens.

Do you realise your arguments would not be out of place in Nazi Germany or - especially - Soviet Russia?

1/30/2005 03:35:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken - If the national interest is destroyed by being subordinated within a greater whole, doesn't this mean that we should immediately withdraw from NATO? Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty we have effectively 'pooled' our sovereignty on when to declare war. Surely the EU stuff pales into insignificance compared to that.

1/30/2005 05:43:00 am  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

STATISM is that particular form of collectivism in which individuals are forced to be subservient to government (as distinguished, if possible, from a religious or cult leader, roving invader or local gangster). Anyone in government who wants to extend his power, or anyone else (who has political influence) with agendas to advance, monopolies to secure, axes to grind or revenge to take -- can make claims that certain governmental actions would be in the national, state, society or even family interest and must 'therefore' take precedence over any individual interests whatsoever. With this 'justification' the people in government can proceed to enforce such claims, often enthusiastically, sometimes brutally, but always with impunity

1/30/2005 10:39:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Good grief, you anti lot do get worked up, don't you?

Ken - most of what you say doesn't apply to my little musings, because although you thought I meant the government, I meant the state. They are two different things.

As for the reponse that "This is the people are too stupid to know what is best for them argument and is unacceptable in a democracy" - why is it unacceptable? It's blatantly true. I'm obviously not saying that we should scrap democracy or anything, but the people voted for Hitler, the people voted for Robert Kilroy-Silk, the people voted for George W Bush, the people voted for that rabid racist bloke on that TV thing the other week.

The very reason that we have representative democracy in this country is because the people are incapable of making the best choices for themselves - they don't have the time or (in some cases) the ability to look at the subtleties of complex arguments and understand them enough to make a decision, so they appoint politicians and civil servants to make the choices for them.

Anoneumouse - yep, statism's a bugger. But the argument "this has happened, therefore this will always happen" is a nonsense stemming from a 19th century Whig interpretation of history. The argument I'm making is simply that IF closer integration is in the people's best long-term interest (and I'm not saying it necessarily is), even though the people can't see this, isn't it better in the long run to push for closer integration? I'm not advocating the imposition of martial law to force it through, but pointing out that sometimes temporarily going against the wishes of the people is necessary to secure what is in their best interest. The people's wishes are subjective and conscious; the people's interest is objective and often subconscious - and they do not necessarily coincide. I may wish to drink three bottles of vodka in one evening - that is certainly not in my best interest...

But anyway, this whole bit of pondering stemmed from the fact that if you at Britain's fortunes over the last century, the country seems to be in progressive decline. Without the EU I reckon we'd decline further thanks to the inability to compete on an equal footing with our European neighbours, so it's in Britain's national interest to be in the EU, it's that simple.

You can easily disagree with that interpretation of EU benefits, but all I am really saying here is that the interests of the people are paramount, even if they don't know what those interests are. If I thought we'd be more prosperous in the long run outside the EU, I'd say leave it now. Whether the EU has active benefits is obviously highly debatable - but I do think that without it Britain would be screwed.

(By the by, Irish dude - just go to http://www.blogger.com, you can set up an account from there in about two minutes, if you're so inclined)

1/30/2005 12:07:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

Anonymous No the Government have the right and power in Westminster to withdraw from NATO any time, nobody is arguing aginst international treaties.
Anoneumouse What you are describing is the EU because there is no democratic control by the people.
In the British State, government is subservient to the people it has no power until the people elect it and none when the people get rid of it, even when in power it cannot do anything it likes. Everybody is bound by the law nobody is so high or so grand that the law does not apply to them. The State binds the government to work within the Constitution and uphold our basic rights, and I do not mean those accepted by various governments from outside this country. The government cannot force us to accept its laws, because our juries are not required to convict on law if they feel it is unjust. I am sure you could make an argument to the contrary but that only confirms that we in Britain need to get our errant system back on track, and involvement with the EU is not helping. The System you describe does not have the checks and balances that the British system has, that is why many are against the EU. That is why we fought a civil war to remove exactly this system from this country forever, because it is unjust.
There is no divine right of kings and there is no divine right of parliament.

“By ‘state’ is meant a sovereign independent state. This requires territory with a
settled population, a sovereign government and independence from any other state.” Anthony Aust,

The government –any government – has a political agenda with which, inevitably, only some of the
citizens will agree. The government will be of a particular political colour, which to some of the citizens will be anathema. More deeply the government must be smaller than the State, because the government must be subject to the law, whereas the State is the source of the law. The conflation of State and government into a single entity would potentially legitimise the apparatus of totalitarianism In totalitarian States the State and the government are one. The political creed, the political masters, are all there is. And on the governmental model of the State, the State or government will likely come to despise the citizens. Laws
James, Yes the people voted so what! you cannot prescribe limits to democracy, if the people vote for Kilroy Silk that means he is representing their views and their wishes, as such he has a mandate from the people, in which way does the EU Commision have mandate from the people, it does not, it has no right to tell us who we can or cannot vote for, your argument is that of tyranny. Are you really taking the view that the people of the USA have no right to elect their own president, because the person they elected does not conform to some ideal of the EU Commision, are you really trying to tell people that only the EU has the right to say who they can or cannot vote for, or what policies they can or cannot have. If you believe that everybody should be forced to wear green on Tuesdays stand for election on that platform, and if elected you then have a mandate to bring in such a law, what you do not have is some god given right to tell me I may not vote for any policy I wish or stand for any policy I wish?
You (are) saying we should scrap democracy that is exactly what you are advocating. Would it be democratic for President Bush to remove the right of his opposition to stand for election, or to bring in laws that will prevail after he is dismissed, would it be democratic for him to insist that his view of the world must override that of the people for all time to come?
“The very reason that we have representative democracy in this country is because the people are incapable of making the best choices for themselves - they don't have the time or (in some cases) the ability to look at the subtleties of complex arguments and understand them enough to make a decision, so they appoint politicians and civil servants to make the choices for them”.
Sorry that is a load of EU rubbish, people stand for election, when was the last time someone stood on a platform “the people do not know what was best for them so vote for me and I will make the decisions for you”. We do not appoint civil servants to make decisions for us, we elect politicians who set out their stalls, and we choose which of those policies we would prefer, therby giving them a mandate to carry out their policies. The civil service is there to assist the elected government to carry out the policies on which it was elected, that is why it is supposed to be apolitical.
“The interest of the people are paramount” but they are not capable of deciding what those interests are, so they need a nanny to decide this for them. I can see now why the seven ex? communists are well and truly at home in the commission, I can see now why the commision needs to be unelected and unaccountable. Obviously we cannot possible allow the people a say they might make a mistake and get rid of the wrong people, or god forbid vote for the wrong policies, just like the Americans. Goodness me, how can so many millions all individually be so completely wrong. As I said your suggestions would not be out of place in the old USSR, their Politburo also thought it had the right to decide what was best for the people, all dictators think the same way, every one believes they know best, and equally everyone is wrong.

1/30/2005 04:10:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Ken, you've done a very long answer, so forgive me if I get lost here in responging to your points. The short version is, sadly, that I think you are very much mistaken in everything you say. This will go on a bit - sorry. Hopefully there is some useful stuff in here...

You claim that "our juries are not required to convict on law if they feel it is unjust" - erm... yes, yes they are. Juries are required to judge according to the law. The laws may be unjust, but juries have no right to say so.

As for the democratic control by the people, everyone agrees that the EU is currently not very democratic. But the proposed constitution, while not going as far as many (including myself) would like, would actually makes the EU rather more democratic as it increases the powers of the European Parliament, but never mind... That'll just lead to more disputes.

You also mention the checks and balances of the British system. How many times does the government have to show its contempt for you to acknowledge that currently there are none? The judiciary is part of the legislature - the House of Lords is, after all, the highest court in the land - and yet can be overriden by the House of Commons (via the Parliament Act). In the current situation, the Lords can only delay legislation by two years, not veto it. The royal veto hasn't been used since 1708. Effectively, a government with a large enough majority can, assuming the whips do their job, do whatever the hell they like, and that - thanks to the fact that they were elected with a majority - counts as entirely democratic.

And in any case, the "checks and balances" to the British system were always traditionally provided by the House of lords, the judges and the crown. None of whom were elected. How is that more democratic?

You say “By ‘state’ is meant a sovereign independent state" - erm, again, no. State (to boil a highly complex concept down to a very simplified definition and to quote from the Oxford Dictionary of Politics) means "a distinct set of political institutions whose specific concern is with the organisation of domination, in the name of the common interest, within a delimited territory." Neither independence nor sovereignty is a prerequisite for the definition of a state - you are building up one of those "straw man" arguments you like so much.

You also mention the president of the USA. Technically the people don't have a right to elect him - that is down to the Electoral College. The Electoral College, elected by the people of the various states, then elects the president. The president then chooses his cabinet (none of whom are elected). How is that so different to the European system, in which each state's duly elected governments agree on a president of the European Commission, who then appoints commissioners? In fact, if anything, the European system is MORE democratic, as the individual states can appoint a commissioner each. In the US, the states have no say whatsoever about who makes up the cabinet, and thus have no say at all in the composition of their executive.

You also ask "Would it be democratic for President Bush to remove the right of his opposition to stand for election". Well, technically, yes. He has been elected to act as the representative of the people of the United States, but is not answerable to them now that he has been sworn in. He can, assuming he can get it through Congress, do what he likes. That is the fundamental principle of representative democracy, like it or not. Yes, the representatives are supposed to do what their constituents want, but there is nothing whatsoever to say that they HAVE to. If Bush can get legislation ourlawing the Democrats through Congress he ipso facto has a democratic mandate so to do.

Remember McCarthy and the anti-Communist drive? That was possible only because the Communist Party of the United States didn't have enough representation where it counted. It was unjust, but it was entirely democratic for them to be persecuyted because, at the time, a sizable majority wanted them persecuted. If Bush did outlaw the Democrat party, the legislation wouldn't last long after he leaves office because people would get pissed off with it. It's the tyranny of the majority. And in any case, the EU isn't trying to pass laws which will last for all time (another "straw man" argument), and even if they were, any future EU leadership would be able to overturn them. It's a non-argument.

You also say that it's a load of rubbish that people aren't capable of looking at the subtleties of the arguments, as I claim. Considering that MPs rarely, if ever, read the entirity of the legislation that they vote on thanks to lack of time (trust me on this - I have witnessed it), how do you suppose your average man or woman on the street is going to find time to read all the legislation, ponder it, and come to a conlusion while holding down a job, looking after a family etc? I'm not saying people are necessarily too stupid (although they probably are), simply that they haven't got the time.

Also, how many people do you seriously think vote based on policies? It really isn't as many as those of us who are interested in politics would like to suppose. Most people vote (if they vote) for the party they have always voted for, no matter what. They certainly don't vote for individual candidates as - technically - they should. At best, most people will base their vote on one or two policies presented by a politician, not the whole package. There is a wealth of research to back this up.

Your claims about the civil service being there to assist the elected government are, I'm afraid, simply based on an ideal, not reality. "Yes Minister" is far closer to the truth than many would like to admit. If you've ever worked in Westminster you'll be more than aware of this.

And no, the people ar not necessarily capable of deciding what's in their best interest. A lot of people, given the chance, will stuff their faces with McDonalds burgers, smoke 20 a day, and binge drink until they vomit. In the short term they have a great time doing it; long term they are causing irreperable damage, and will come to regret their earlier lifestyle. It is surely in their best interest to live a healthier life, even if they don't realise it now?

In any case,this was meant to be theoretical, not related to ay specifics. You missed the point a bit, I'm afraid. Sorry I wan't clearer.

1/30/2005 07:10:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

Unfortunately these things do tend to go on, but that is the nature of such wide ranging debates, trying to simplify I will only deal with your first point here

Juries; I will suggest that the right to which I refer is part of English Common Law and unless the law has recently been changed (has it?) is still an available option for juries. It, of course limits the power of a government and Judiciary and is therefore subject to attack from those quarters, from the professional layers who do not see the need for the ordinary man in the street to be in a position of over turning their own powers and of course every government would wish to have the power they think is their entitlement by the very virtue of being the political party who gained most votes at the last election. To me this strikes very much to the heart of the overall picture with regard to the EU and your assertions that we the people should not concern ourselves with things we do not understand but should leave the running of the country to our betters?

Auld, suggested in his report that the right of the defendant to elect for trial by jury is not a basic right, and this decision should be made by the court not the defendant which is a different point but. He also goes into the point here, and argues that the juries right to ignore the law is illogical, describes the then 2001 system and its reasons, suggesting the Magna Charta did not give the people the right to ignore the law however he did not address the point as follows In 1670, William Penn was arrested for breaking the law of England by preaching a Quaker sermon. (English law decreed that the Church of England was the only legal church). The Jury refused to convict him, and were held without food, water, tobacco or toilet facilities. Four were put in prison for nine weeks. When they were finally released by court order, the decision established that jurors could no longer be punished for their verdicts. This helped establish freedom of religion, the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, and a jury free from government coercion.
The Auld Report September 2001
Despite the illogicality of this 'dispensing' ability of juries, I can understand why there is such an emotional attachment to it. It has been an accepted feature of our jury system for a long time and is seen as a useful long-stop against oppression by the State and as an agent, on occasion, of law reform. And illogicality is not necessarily an obstacle to the retention of deeply entrenched institutions, especially where, as here, there may be infrequent recourse to them. There is the further point that under our present procedures the courts cannot prevent juries from acquitting perversely; as yet their verdicts are unreasoned and there is no appeal against an acquittal.
“I recommend that the law should be declared, by statute if need be, that juries have no right to acquit defendants in defiance of the law or in disregard of the evidence, and that judges and advocates should conduct criminal cases accordingly”.

This not only goes against the historical president, but English Common Law and other judges opinions, however it suits a government just fine to limit any defence a people have against its laws, and undermines the principal that is basic to common law that we are part of the system, it is not government law but our law i.e. Common Law as opposed to Roman Law, especially at this time when this government is intent on aliening the British System with that of the EU.
Lord Devlin saw it as a protection against laws that the ordinary man might regard as "harsh and oppressive" and an insurance "that the criminal law will conform to the ordinary man's idea of what is fair and just". EP Thompson, expressed a similar view in a memorable passage in 1980:
"The English common law rests upon a bargain between the Law and the People. The jury box is where people come into the court; the judge watches them and the jury watches back. A jury is the place where the bargain is struck. The jury attends in judgment, not only upon the accused, but also upon the justice and humanity of the law"
I have explained the point, can you now show how you base your argument that “Juries are required to judge according to the law”. This of course must be more recent that 2001 because Auld has already described the situation as it was then. I would also comment that should the government have reduced the rights of juries, this would be in line with the recent attempts to align the different legal systems.

1/31/2005 09:52:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

If a jury feels a law to be unfair, they can at best return no verdict.

Judges can declare, in their official capacity, their opinion that a law is unjust, but they have no right to alter their judgement. At best, they can give a very lenient sentence to underline their view that the law isn't fair, thus setting a new precedent for how to deal with that particular law.

In other words, if someone has been caught picking their nose - and that is against the law - both judge and jury are not judging whether the law against picking noses is unjust, they are only determining whether the defendant was in fact picking their nose.

Unlike judges, juries do not cast sentence, so are unable to express their disapproval. For them to judge that someone was not picking their nose as a show of disapproval of the law, when there is overwhelming evidence that the accused was in fact breaking that law, would be contempt of court.

In short, juries are called up not to examine the law, but to examine one particular case and reach a verdict based on existing law, not an idealised version of it.

1/31/2005 10:20:00 am  
Blogger ken said...

"If a jury feels a law to be unfair, they can at best return no verdict".
That is all they need to do, they are in fact making a judgment on the law, which is what I said. They of course cannot remove the law neither can judges. but the defence of the people against the government is that the jury need not convict if it does not wish to. To remove that right as Auld suggests, is to compel juries to convict on the law and therby increasing government’s powers over the people.

1/31/2005 11:20:00 am  
Blogger ken said...

Continuing>>
You also mention the checks and balances of the British system. How many times does the government have to show its contempt for you to acknowledge that currently there are none?

Those checks and balances have been removed by passing governments, so now you can make the claim that they no longer exist, and suggest that the EU will offer a greater system of checks to the power of the government.

I have already said that leaving the EU is part of returning the power of government to the people, as in removing those bulwarks of protection aginst state powers, governments have overstepped their own authority, this needs to be addressed and in the long run it may require that the party system will need challenging because it is part of the problem.

I will not accept that the British system is inferior to the Roman System of law and government and as the continuing moves to undermine the British system, to bring it into line with the EU system, are much to blame with the present situation, acceptance of the new system is no answer to the problem.

The House of Lords and the Monarch are supposed to create a balance of power to the elected government, otherwise as you say there are no checks and balances to the power of a short term administration, who by the dint of having a massive majority in the Commons, can force through any laws they wish, including those which undermine the very authority they have been given by the voters.
It is the government who are removing the powers of the Judiciary the Lords and the Monarch with the clear intent to create exactly the situation you describe.

There is no imperative for these checks to the elected government’s powers to themselves be democratically elected to perform their function, what is imperative is that they are totally independent from the Government power or influence and act in the long term to defend the system under which the government is allowed to operate, they are if you wish a living constitution.

You say “By ‘state’ is meant a sovereign independent state"
No it was .”Anthony Aust who said
“By ‘state’ is meant a sovereign independent state. This requires territory with a
settled population, a sovereign government and independence from any other state”
I quoted him as a definition of a state.
It was Lord justice Laws who said
“More deeply the government must be smaller than the State, because the government must be subject to the law, whereas the State is the source of the law” The conflation of State and government into a single entity would potentially legitimise the apparatus of totalitarianism In totalitarian States the State and the government are one”

Of course in the EU System the government is not subject to the law, it is the law, as such it conflicts with the basis of English Common Law, which is clear that nobody is above the law, this is not the case when the EU gives itself the single power of not being legally accountable which it has.

I would suggest that Lord justice Laws case is proven when he says “And on the governmental model of the State, the State or government will likely come to despise the citizens” because what you are suggesting goes along that direction i.e. the ordinary man is not capable of knowing what is best for himself.

To define a “Straw Man” this is when an argument that is easy to knock down, is presented as the case to be questioned, and not the real position of the opponent. This is what you are attempting when you define the simple word State from one political source, but ignoring the fact that Britain is an independent sovereign state and the whole Eusceptic argument is about the infringements of the sovereignty membership of the EU is creating, you cannot undermine that argument by redefining the meaning of one word.
Country, State, and Nation Definining an Independent Country
While the terms country, state, and nation are often used interchangeably, there is a difference.
A State (note the capital "S") is a self-governing political entity. The term State can be used interchangeably with country.
A nation, however, is a tightly-knit group of people which share a common culture. A nation-state is a nation which has the same borders as a State.
States and Independent Countries
Let's start with what defines a State or an independent country. An independent State:
• Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).
• Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
• Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
• Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
• Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
• Has a government which provides public services and police power.
• Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country's territory.
• Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries.
There are currently 193 independent countries or States around the world. Territories of countries or individual parts of a country are not countries in their own right.
Examples of entities that are not countries include: Hong Kong, Bermuda, Greenland, Puerto Rico, and most notably the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. (Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England are not countries.)
A "state" (with a lower-case "s") is usually a division of a federal State (such as the states of the United States of America).
Nations and Nation-States
Nations are culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, which share a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience.
When a nation of people have a State or country of their own, it is called a nation-state. Places like France, Egypt, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand are excellent examples of nation-states. There are some States which have two nations, such as Canada and Belgium. Even with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American "culture."
There are nations without States. For example, the Kurds are stateless people.
In international law and international relations, a state is a geographic political entity possessing politicial sovereignty, i.e. not being subject to any higher political authority.
NOT BEING SUBJECT TO ANY HIGHER POLITICAL AUTHORITY

1/31/2005 11:24:00 am  
Blogger ken said...

No, you mentioned the president of the USA to advance your argument that people should not have the right to vote for whom they wish or for the policies they wish. Which I said was unacceptable in a democracy.

Your contention now is that a government once elected can do anything it wants, but that situation is only a definition of Roman Law, the divine right of kings, the divine right of parliament etc. It is not the basis for English common law because those powers are not in the hands of the elected representative.

I will repeat the “Straw Man” argument is when you set up and argument that is not the real argument attribute it to you opponent then knock it down. I asked of Bush, “would it be democratic for him to insist that his view of the world must override that of the people for all time to come” It would seem from you answer that you consider it would be democratic so one must judge your definition of democracy.

I did not mention the EU, however I feel sure that if you look a in the Charta of Fundamental Rights again you will see several clauses that do exactly that.

I am sorry but when you say “The very reason that we have representative democracy in this country is because the people are incapable of making the best choices for themselves” this could well have been taken strait out of the old USSR handbook or the handbook of any dictators in history, as I have said this elitist view of the world is unacceptable in a democracy. If this is what the EU is all about then the sooner it is destroyed the better because it undermines the very basis of democracy.

Yes I understand that because we have seen one such Foreign Office Mandarins admission that he has spent the past thirty years going against the wishes of the elected government of the day, however he has no mandate to do anything, and it clearly shows that the discipline of being apolitical is not being enforced on the civil service. If I were to suggest sacking the lot of them and employing people who would obey their masters, would that be going to far, or perhaps because this person was working for the EU its all right.

1/31/2005 12:20:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

It's not democratic to bind people for all time, but it IS technically democratic to abolish democracy, if you can have such a motion passed by democratically-elected bodies. I'm certainly not advocating it, but by definition once a leader has a democratic mandate won via en election, he/she has the people's consent to do what he/she thinks is right. Hence Bush's worrying comments about spending his political capital.

Certain rights, however, I do believe should be binding on all future governments - the right to a fair trial being a paramount one which the current government is trying to abolish. EU regulations could prevent them from doing this by establishing certain such principles as inviolable, and thus prevent Britain or any other European country from heading down the slippery slope to tyranny.

If we don't elect politicians to make decisions for us, what do we elect them for, exactly? Yes, ideally they should be enacting the will of the people, but how many people will have opinions on all the relatively minor issues with which politicians have to deal on a daily basis? That is the primary point I was trying to make.

And yep, I'd certainly advocate a civil service in which they genuinely do follow the instructions of their political masters. That'd be great. All I'm saying is that it doesn't work like that in practice.

Oh, and for future reference - and I cannot stress this enough, so forgive the bold - I do not speak for the EU, I am not in their service and I am not affiliated with any organisation even slightly related to the EU, so don't make the mistake of equating anything I say with the official EU line - or even the line of the majority of pro-Europeans, for that matter. I have no idea if my views tie in with theirs - and all of this stuff on this blog is not necessarily so much me saying "this is what I believe" as me thinking out loud to work out what I believe, so to speak.

1/31/2005 12:43:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

On your final point I do not make that mistake nor do infer you are affiliated with the EU, if I feel you are articulating an EU line which you must at times, my argument against that is not intended to infer you are.

The way round loss of democracy is to allow anyone to stand for election on any platform, set a time limit on government and not allow it to make a law that its successor must follow, this would include a rule that rollover of laws in the pipeline would not be allowed. The method to ensure basic rights is to have laws that governments cannot change, a basic set of rules sets out the things a government cannot do, obviously a constitution. However a constitution must then be changeable in some way that includes the people otherwise we will face such problems as the Royal Marriages Act at some time in the future.

In Britain we have such a constitution but it is being ignored by governments, who are forcing us to accept laws which we cannot remove by voting for against our government. I really do not see that acceptance of the EU constitution is going to sort this problem out because that itself does not set a limit to the power of government or allow the people a voice in changing it.

2/01/2005 01:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When a nation of people have a State or country of their own, it is called a nation-state. Places like France, Egypt, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand are excellent examples of nation-states. There are some States which have two nations, such as Canada and Belgium. Even with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American "culture.""

New Zealand is not a nation-state, it has two distinct nations in it - Maori and Pakeha (or European).

2/10/2005 09:00:00 am  

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