Rule of Whim

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

An article I encountered this morning caused me to think for a moment about something we are increasingly at risk of losing in America, and which has made its greatness possible: rule of law. The article in question speculated on whether Turkey's Islamist president is stronger or weaker after that country's recent failed coup attempt:

[W]hat is behind Erdogan's sudden peace-making drive? Understanding his motives is crucial for correct reading of developments in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup. Over the past 14 years, Erdogan has steadily opted for polarization as a means to consolidate power, so why does he need "national unity" now? Is this meant as a form of societal and political deterrence against a possible second putsch? This possibility, however, is gone with the massive purges in the military and other security branches of the state. Hence, his motives must be rooted abroad rather than at home. [bold added]
The whole piece is an attempt to figure out the motives of one man who wants to run roughshod over his countrymen. Such things become a concern when there are no strong checks or balances on the political power of individual men. This is not to say there would never be attempts to read tea leaves in fully free countries, but the whims of political figures would be of far less consequence. Past a certain point, the speculation about what such a figure felt he could get away with would be replaced by a debate about whether to remove him from office. Of course, conversations and newspapers would then be filled with arguments, based on facts and opinion, rather than speculation, but the small amount of effort required to understand them would be the price of greater personal power for the man on the street.

The ascendancy of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton show me that too few people appreciate or can be bothered to maintain the freedom we have from the whims of power-lusters. This, far more than the impossible "choice" between two horrendous candidates who are indistinguishable beneath their skins, is what bothers me the most about this election.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

There's a striking resemblance in the discussions concerning Turkey and those concerning the Fed in the USA. The question of whether or not the Fed will raise or lower interest rates is dealt with via the same "tea leaf reading" mentality that you describe here, and for the same reason: a small number of people have sufficient power and insufficient checks and balances to make their whims powerful forces in our country. The IRS is attempting the same thing with their illegal harassment of Tea Party and other Right-wing groups. Then there's the EPA, which is basically bunch of petty dictators each with their own fiefdom.

I think that's a fairly dire warning. It's not a question of whether it would happen here or not--it IS happening, right now, and only held in check by a rapidly dissipating cultural inertia. The only question left is when it will get to be as open as it is in Turkey.

Gus Van Horn said...


It's funny that you mentioned the Fed, because I did think of Alan "Bubble Boy" Greenspan and his legendary suitcase when I was writing this. You are correct to cite your examples as concerning and, all things remaining equal, it will be a question of when, and not if, things deteriorate to the level seen in Turkey. But people do have free will and we do have a better culture than Turkey. There is some slim hope things will not completely degenerate, and will begin to improve.