No Law Up High, No Republic


ULTIMATE AUTHORITY OF THE REPUBLIC RESTS ON THE LAW.

Is Government Too Separated From The Authority That matters Most?

***

The planet we have is increasingly ravaged by several conflating crises. Burned by the carbonic acid created by excess carbon dioxyde absorbed by the oceans, young fishes die, go blind or become crazy, as bees do on land. The plancton, which fabricates the oxygen we need, is dissolving in the acid bath we used to call a sea.

But the fossil fuel polluters’ crimes are not even fiscally discouraged. Instead they are allowed to also spew lies, and persuade everybody that there will be plenty of air for ever (see the financing of the Tea party in the USA by the Koch brothers).

Meanwhile, the grip financial pirates have on the world has become obvious since 2008. After they seized the world economy, they asked for a ransom. And then again, And it was paid again. Now the serfs are asked to pay for distant banks by allowing themselves to become destitute (and this is happening even inside prosperous Germany, where old retirees discover they have to go back to work!)

Ever since the amazing financial crisis which grips the planet came to everybody’s attention in 2008, it has become obvious that a handful of men in suits take all the decisions with the money, and even the fate, of the public, allowing their class to thrive ever more, while, and because, the public deperishes.

The spirit of the law, if not its letter, has been denied.

I claim that this comes directly from the fact that the executive branch has eluded its responsibilities in implementing the spirit of the law. This is not just a question of the present leaders being plutophile  (lovers of Pluto, thus, wealth). Institutionally, the way executive powers are presently set-up, has less to do with wielding justice than it had under the Roman republic.

Western democracy, led by the English, American and French revolutions of the preceding centuries, consists of representative democracies with three branches of government: the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive. Legislation is established by a bicameral parliament of elected representatives (an inheritance from 6,500 years old Sumer).

In a purely parliamentary system, parliament also elects the executive. In the USA, France and Russia, a powerful president is elected directly (by a college of a few hundred special electors in the USA, by the people in France or Russia).

In any case, the judiciary is supposed to be separated from the executive. It is not clear what this exactly means: after all, most judges are nominated by the executive in the USA, and confirmed by the legislative. In other countries (e.g. France) the judiciary self nominates.

So the judiciary is a bit more independent in France: see the Dreyfus affair, where the independent judiciary forced the executive, the army and the anti-Judaists to eat crow. What I will contest here is not the independence of the judiciary, but its power: an ant may be independent, but it is easily crushed by a plutocrat.

In the USA no judge is powerful enough to judge the obvious, namely that the Federal reserve has no right to transfer arbitrary amounts of “monetary base” to the same old crooks, year after year (although a judge recently blocked an all too comfortable accord between the government and a major bank).

The difference in judicial independence between France and the USA shows: the popular Chirac, 12 year president, and Prime Minister before that, was condemned to two years in prison (suspended). For allowing City Hall finances as Paris mayor to provide supporters with somewhat fictitious jobs with real salaries. The offense is so puny, it would not really register on American radar.

The Roman republic was not organized this way. In Rome, the top executives, the two Consuls, were also viewed as the top judicial officers. Why so? It is very simple: the republic rested on the law.

No law, no republic. That had to make the law more important than anything else, including the army. Military power could be used if, and only if, it was legal. The law was the highest value, and thus the highest authorities took care of it. The founders of the Roman republic saw this clearly. Justice was not a department, it was the foundation.

The superpower of the Consuls was compensated by the shortness of their terms: just a year. But they could be re-elected. Gaius Marius was elected seven times Consul. Ex-Consuls were called proconsular officers. They were frequently nominated governors of provinces, and had many prerogatives, including being protected by lictors, special trained bodyguards carrying the axes of the fasces representing the union of the Populus around the power of the law.  

When there was war, it was made in the name of the law, under the eye of the law, as the Consuls often personally directed the operations of the main armies (many Roman Consuls died in combat, over a millennium).

Let’s remember that a mostly functional Roman republic lasted about 5 centuries. And arguably for much longer: after all, there were Consuls, and a Roman Senate, for more than 11 centuries! The founder of Francia, elected king and imperator Clovis, was also Roman Consul. Stretched to the max, a Roman state existed for 23 centuries (753 BCE to 1453 CE).

So where does the system we have presently come from? How come justice got separated from the executive? The break happened around the 13th century. In England, the French barons limited the power of the king through the Charter of Liberties (1100 CE) and the Magna Carta (1215 CE): their ancestors had joined William The Conqueror, a Duke, (that is a high commander in the Roman army of the Late Empire), to invade England, bringing with them most of the (French) army that invaded England. William had been recognized as first among equals, and the descendants of his acolytes intended not to forget that fact.

In France the break came later. Elizabeth de France, the ferocious intelligent and domineering daughter of Philippe IV Le Bel had become reigning queen of England (having visited an unspeakable end to the father of her four children, a Plantagenet, Edward II). When her brothers all died, she ought to have become (absolute) queen of France too. She, and her son, the war like Edward III, were blocked by lawyers (her father had already rested heavily on lawyers, in his hunt for popes and Templars: his closest executors were lawyers). This is how the 475 year long “100 years war” started.

So parliaments rose, ever higher, taking judicial power away from the executive. By the time of the French revolution, England, France and the Netherlands had long seen the judicial system become nearly completely autonomous of the executive. The Bastille was stormed in France to take away from the king the last shred of Roman like power the executive had on the implementation of the law.

After the English, American and French revolutions, too much of the new system has still more to do with the monarchies that preceded it, than with the Roman republican system. The chief executive was elected for longish terms, as if it were a monarch, and directly from the legislature. In other words, the parliament now elected the kings (and queens).

Here a comical aside. The USA elects its president as if he were the Roman emperor. The Imperium Romanum officially re-established by Charlemagne in 800 CE, made Holy under Barabarossa (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum) indeed elected its head from a college of “grand electors“. Thus in 2001, the People elected Gore president, but the plutophile Supreme Court selected Bush, instead. (Perhaps the point when, in the future, the USA will be seen has having given in to the Dark Side!)

The representative democracy, separation of powers system is viewed unanimously as fine and good. (Although Switzerland, the oldest democracy around, uses less representation, and more direct rule of the people.)

But the question remains: when a massive injustice arises, quickly and powerfully, who can handle it? Who is going to deliver maximum power in the name of the law defending the People? In other words, when executive power is needed to re-establish the law, how can the meek executives we now have, thoroughly checked and balanced, exert the required power? America’s Founding Fathers were obsessed by checks and balances, but, although Founding Father Washington became filthy rich (317 slaves in his Mount Vernon house!), the Founding Fathers had no idea what real plutocracy was like. The only plutocrats they knew were in England, and that was judged to be an ocean away.

President Andrew Jackson, one the fiercest generals ever, had a better idea. He hated the Rothschilds (great practitioners of fractional reserve banking, who considered themselves the real power behind the thrones in Europe). Jackson prevented their implantation in the USA. Next he disintegrated the Bank of the United states, and considered that, on his deathbed, to be his greatest achievement. If he was around, as chief executive, he would probably occupy Wall Street and Congress with twenty divisions, the next day.

There are still remnants of the old Roman power the Consuls had: Obama, executing Ben Laden, for example. That was well accepted, because that was overseas (and even below the sea).

Besides Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Roosevelt Teddy, and FDR, another one who took himself for a Roman consul, was, of course, Abraham Lincoln. But all those powers they grabbed, as needed, were not really the appanage of the presidency of the USA. The water was boiling, so the frog jumped out. Right now, the temperature is slowly rising, and normal powers, in normal circumstances are not enough to address the various problems. That is made plenty clear with the European banking crisis, the on-going financial crisis all over the world (even… in China!), and the ecological crisis (which the USA resolutely refuses to consider, thus undermining everybody).

In the present financial crisis, and in the ecological crisis at some point, overwhelming power will be needed. The only question is to know if the power will be military, and extraordinary, Lincoln style, or civilian and legal.

The spirit of the law has to be defended. For example against the financial derivative universe (which has no collateral, which means the unsuspecting public is the collateral; see lower down).

Too many checks and balances for the power of the People, and all you end with, is the power of the plutocracy.

The arch-example: Geithner and Bernanke directed untold trillions of dollars towards the banks which had caused the crisis, but asked for nothing in return. At that point a strong executive ought to have stepped in and declare that this fabulous gift violated the principle of the law, which is that the republic does not make gifts to private parties, without compensation. Especially when the beneficiaries are the perpetrators.

(The gifts had started under Paulson and Bush II, when the daemon Dimon was offered 30 billion dollars by the fed, collateralized by what he was buying (!!!) to help him swallow Bear-Sterns, the “Jamie deal“. Thus, Dimon is viewed as a genius. When the state gives in to the daemon, crepuscule of goodness!)

The financial crisis has been allowed to roll on because a general laxity about the law. The laxity is fed even by videogames.

The Red Cross pointed out that in the world’s most popular, most sold videogames, the Geneva Conventions rules were not just violated, but gamers get rewarded for violating them. A whole generation is being raised, feeling that one gains 50 points by shooting on ambulances. The Red Cross wants to change this. The Red Cross is right. The plutocrats and their corporations facing them, making billions from a bloody obsession with an alternate reality, will beg to differ. Not only they make a fortune from violating the most basic morality. But those daemons know quite well that the games they sell preach violations of the law, and also violations of civilization itself.

The acceptance of barbarity, as a way to get ahead, the plutocrats meekly hope, will bring more of the abject world in which, and by which, they thrive.

The mood of the times is important: pathetic plutocrats have gone around, requesting the respect they have come to expect. Meanwhile the law is symbolically stepped on. In the last three years, both the French and American presidents, both trained lawyers, violated in public, the very first thing about the law, namely the presumption of innocence (this is not a good example for the inchoating republics of Ukraine and Russia, where the law is obviously used to hunt the loyal opposition!)

The presumption of innocence says that even suspects are innocent until proven otherwise by a proper legal procedure. The presumption of innocence protects freedom, every body’s freedom, not just the freedom of suspects or criminals.

President Sarkozy claimed that former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was “guilty”… although Villepin was later found completely innocent. President Obama, having maybe talked to Sarkozy too much, declared that soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused to have shown the truth to the public, had “broken the law”, as his trial started.

However, as commander in chief, Obama is the ultimate authority for the military tribunal which judges Manning. Constitutionally, he cannot pose as judge and accuser.

(Let’s note in passing that the Nazi government had given orders to not prosecute soldiers who had refused to obey orders, on the ground of violations of human rights. The Nazis were afraid that any official prosecution would shine a light on their violations of human rights, the Geneva Conventions, and German law! It is rather curious that the government of the USA is too arrogant to even be as wise as that…)

Methinks that it is not that Sarkozy and Obama have early Alzheimer, and forgot the very first thing about the law.

Instead I believe that they feel they live in times where anyone up high can get away with everything (witness the enormous transfers of wealth to the hyper rich under their reigns, transfers which threaten the very thrones on which they sit, but the establishments upon which they rule feel they could get away with it, and that there is no other way… Although Sarkozy may soon understand his error, especially when, after losing the next election, French judges start to investigate him in earnest…) 

Is a new age of connivance upon us?

Justice without the determination, or capability to impose it, is no justice.

We just had a beautiful example in Italy: Berlusconi, highest judicial officer of the Italian republic, if one looks at his job in the fullness of the authority inherited from Rome, as one should, refused to prosecute the Mafia energetically. He failed to arrest top mafiosi. Berlusconi was barely gone for a few days, replaced by Mario Monti, a former university president, that the head of the Camorra was arrested (after 15 years living in a bunker in Naples).

It cannot be otherwise according to the spirit of the French and American constitutions: the highest authorities of the state are, have to be, first of all, the highest judicial authorities. It is no accident that leech known as finance is so strong in London, where the Prime Minister has fewer powers (not being head of state, to start with; and according to Rothschild, circa 1820, not the real power in Britain.)

Such disregard for the basics, for the strict letter of the law, I suggest, comes precisely from a general mood which tramples the basics of republican civilization. Or then from having a plutocratic agenda. But to believe that, in the age of the Internet, plutocracy can win over democracy, is itself fiction of the highest order. As people get more and more informed, the transition to a military regime will have to take just a generation, and not five, as it did in Rome. 

To re-establish democracy fully, it will be primordial to realize that the highest authority of the republic is the law, or, more generally the spirit behind it: WE THE PEOPLE.

And the highest officials of the republic have to incarnate it. Maybe we want to have a second look at the institution of consul. Shorter terms of the higher officials (as in Switzerland), with more of a judicial mission may help in blocking the plutocrats. France is also going to imitate Switzerland and California, and make referenda possible, upon popular request. Switzerland has imposed on its banks twice the Basel III reserve requirements. And it is said that the Fed with impose Basel III to its financial daemons; that sounds technical, but, when the banks have not enough reserves, they find them among the unsuspecting public, and then the economy tanks. (It is amazing that not imposing Basel III on American banks was contemplated!)

The derivative markets use enormous leverage (say 25 trillion of net positions out of a notional 700 trillions total, at least that is what the industry claims, giving a leverage of about 30!) But the institutions using them have no collateral. Thus, in case of failure of one, the entire world financial system will come down (as exactly happened when AIG was 200 billion short in 2008). But nobody has had the authority mental, judiciary or political to stop the non sense.

How did Rome fall? The republic faded, Rome became increasingly a fascist empire where justice could not be visited on the mightiest. An intractable financial crisis developed. Its fundamental cause was the refusal of the plutocracy to pay taxes to the Roman state, while its agents were busy disempowering Rome and Italy (to avoid a revolt back to the republic). Since the plutocracy ruled, there was no way out.

Emperor Septimus Severus, a general of at least half Libyan ancestry born in Libya, knew the problem well, and hated the Senate (headquarters of the plutocracy). But he could not fight it.

A man, even an emperor, cannot fight a mood. Only philosophers can do so. But, by the time of Septimus Severus, it was too late for philosophy. All this, because it had become a self serving habit of the mighiest to not apply the law to those who had become too big to fail, too big to flail.

Ultimately, it was a new people’s philosophy, from Germania, which was to transmogrify the ruling mood, and the empire, three centuries later. In the new ruling mood, plutocracy and slavery were out. So the entire economy rested again on small farmers, just as it did in the early Roman republic (those new, northern farmers cultivated the rich heavy soil of the colder, wetter oceanic climes with the new technology of heavy steel ploughs pulled by oxen… or horse).

It would take a few centuries for Western civilization to reach higher than Rome ever did.

But we don’t have that kind of time, we don’t have centuries to change moods, and rebuild on a more sustainable basis: remember the methane bubbling in the arctic. And plutocracy is not that ingrained yet: it is nothing that a 90% tax on the very rich, Eisenhower style, cannot fix.

(In Rome, using the Trojan Horse of foreign wars of choice (around 146 BCE), the plutocracy was able to acquire private armies which were above the law. Right now, it is just short of that. Only its business practices are above the law, and the states have been captured to allow them. But a nasty war or two (say, starting with Iran) could fix the problem.)

Applying the law can change the world. As I said for years, mercury pollution from coal burning, kills tens of thousands of lives every year and causes birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases among millions of survivors. And this in the USA alone (compare with the civilian nuclear industry, which did not kill one member of the public yet, in the USA: is the hysterical anti-nuclear crowd paid by fossil fuel polluters?)

Finally Obama, apparently remembering some of what he is supposed to do, has unleashed the EPA onto the coal burners. It remains, though, to do the same worldwide (worldwide carbon tax, worldwide mercury tax). And if the polluters in China can’t adapt fast enough, let’s tax them into extinction! Why should they be allowed to put mercury vapor in the air, and ruin our brains? Is not that a casus belli?

The mercury pollution is just a small example of the following. At this point justice, the republic, and the spirit of the law, is not just a matter of taste, but a matter of survival.

***

Patrice Ayme

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One Response to “No Law Up High, No Republic”

  1. LdL Says:

    Ah Patrice it is an utmost intellectual pleasure to listen to your explanations. As a former student of professor Eco, through your summaries you are bringing me back into time, to those days.

    After 5 years of Latin and ancient Greek I still remember something. But I always appreciate linguistic analysis of course

    Like

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