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Lorenzo from Oz
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Prof. Posner makes reasonable points, though much of it was said or implied by ibn Khaldun c.1400. Of course, ibn Khaldun presumed autocratic government as the norm. John's comments manage, by contrast, to get almost everything wrong. Equal representation by state/province or whatever upper houses are hardly a US peculiarity and has fine longevity. That the US Constitution has been operating longer than the current French, German, Italian and Spanish constitutions combined, and managed to survive a Civil War, is actually a sign of considerable institutional resilience. The pre-war South was certainly a limited franchise, but was hardly authoritarian for its non-slave citizens. On the contrary, electoral politics were lively and competitive. The Anglosphere countries managed to fight two World Wars and preserve their democratic institutions. It is true there was "wear and tear" but they bounced back. Indeed, the extension of the franchise to women, the elimination of racial bars extended their democratic credentials. For all its peculiarities, the Electoral College system has denied the winner of the plurality of the vote the US Presidency about once a century. There is simply nothing in current US politics with anywhere near the divisive power of slavery. While one can reasonably argue that US government is more broadly responsive to popular wishes than European government: certainly, the US lacks the level of riotous disaffection you see in Europe.
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Feb 6, 2011