Explain this quote to me, please?

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Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby piqaboo » Fri Apr 15, 2005 6:56 pm

After being called a Federalist <gasp> by Haggis, [i]<Pthhhooey! :) I am, but I got hooked up with some newsletter of the same name.

Their quote of the day was:
"Tyranny has perhaps oftener grown out of the assumptions of power,called for, on pressing exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full exercise of the largest constitutional authorities." --Alexander Hamilton & James Madison

Can someone please parse that, and give me some idea what these guys thought they were saying? :confused:

<small>[ 04-15-2005, 07:58 PM: Message edited by: piqaboo ]</small>
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby OperaTenor » Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:18 pm

That tyranny tends to rise out of urgent situations brought about by a flawed constitution, rather than the authority granted under a constitution?
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby shostakovich » Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:37 pm

I can't get past "assumptions of power".

Assuming (as in fantasy) power?

Assuming (i.e. undertaking) power?

Confused
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby OperaTenor » Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:55 pm

I think it's "undertaking" power, as in: Tyranny arises when power is seized, in circumstances brought about by a flawed constitution, rather than power granted by the authority of a [intelligently constructed/written] constitution?
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Angie Parkes » Fri Apr 15, 2005 11:00 pm

This is my take:

A tyrant may seize power (justifying the seizure because of exigent circumstances) if a constitution does not have the adequate checks and balances to prevent such seizure. It is also possible to abuse power by stretching the constitutional limits on it to the breaking point. The first condition is more likely to occur than the second.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby hal 9000 » Fri Apr 15, 2005 11:06 pm

OT- In other words it isn't the law that is usually the culprit, it's the loopholes?
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Angie Parkes » Fri Apr 15, 2005 11:27 pm

Hal, I think you've said it best.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby OperaTenor » Sat Apr 16, 2005 4:33 am

Yup.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Sat Apr 16, 2005 2:26 pm

Originally posted by piqaboo:
Their [The Federalist] quote of the day was:
"Tyranny has perhaps oftener grown out of the assumptions of power,called for, on pressing exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full exercise of the largest constitutional authorities." --Alexander Hamilton & James Madison

Can someone please parse that, and give me some idea what these guys thought they were saying? :confused:
First, an observation. Hamilton & Madison clearly had too much free time.

Next, I believe that they were using "Tyrant" in the Roman sense. It was used as a job title for an individual temporarily appointed by the legal government of Rome to expedite the governmental response to unusual and perilous circumstances. Cincinnatus comes to mind.

"Assumption of power" is what the tyrant was supposed to do. In this sense, the verb "to assume" means "to take on" and has no negative connotations such as "seizure" would have.

I think that H&M were trying to say, in their obfuscatory fashion, that a constitution without a clear provision for response to emergencies would only result in problems arising from fumbling around and appointing "somebody" to cope, when the inevitable unexpected disaster finally arrived.

That's probably why we have an Executive branch.

<small>[ 04-16-2005, 03:28 PM: Message edited by: Selma in Sandy Eggo ]</small>
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Angie Parkes » Sat Apr 16, 2005 3:43 pm

Selma, I wish I could agree. Anyone who can bring the civil discourse of Roman history into a discussion among this rabble must be right. :)

However, according to the OED, the use of "tyranny" with its sense of despotism, has been around since Chaucer, who used it that way in 1368. The use of "tyrant" as a despot goes back further to 1290. My guess is that H&M were using it the way we do.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Sat Apr 16, 2005 4:50 pm

If I grant you the "oppression" meaning of "tyranny", can we please avoid the unsupported assumption that a condition of tyranny necessarily presupposes an individual tyrant? There is no necessity for that interpretation in the quotation originally cited.

Even with the quibble granted, the essential point of the H&M quote is that the constitution ought properly to provide for the rapid response to emergencies within the structure of the government, so that the structure will not be distorted by an unplanned, but necessary, response to disaster.

I still think that's why we have the three-branch government, with rapid-response power located in the Executive, taxation and law located in the Legistlative, and philosophy and referee rights located in the Judicial branch. H&M, and their buddies, were attempting to balance all the conflicting necessities of a government in an entirely new way - and it's worked reasonably well, with remarkably few adjustments.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Angie Parkes » Sat Apr 16, 2005 8:14 pm

I agree with you, Selma, in the essential: that H&M were saying that it is better to have a constitutional response to emergencies than some ad hoc response.

I also agree that H&M didn't have a specific tyrant or any tyrant in mind at all. They mention tyranny only.

But I think they're saying that tyranny can arise out of both conditions, although a constitutional response -- however heavy-handed -- is less likely to result in tyranny.

I am in no way qualified, having never lived under one, and having too little knowledge of either history or political science, to state whether the three-branch government is better or worse than some other democratic structure, and wouldn't even broach an opinion on the matter.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Serenity » Sat Apr 16, 2005 11:55 pm

I believe H&M are saying that Tyranny (in its broad sense) comes from an abuse of power. That abuse of power comes from a defective (weak,incomplete) constitution. H&M propose a stronger constitution, one that comes from a larger viewpoint, an encompassing viewpoint, a Federal viewpoint (as opposed to a smaller State constitution). These guys were pushing bigger and better government, hence the term "Federalist".

Hal put it quite nicely.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby OperaTenor » Sun Apr 17, 2005 12:20 am

I don't care what you say, I think GWB's too spineless to be a true tyrant..................

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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby Serenity » Sun Apr 17, 2005 12:31 am

You've got a point there OT. GWB defies definitions. H&M had no knowledge of GWB. Tyranny, back then, implied a voluntary abuse of power with a slight connotation of purposeful wrongdoin. GWB is just a bumbling idiot. He involuntarily screws you over by trying to be nice and "do the right thing". I can't tell if he's like the Claudius or the Caligula of Ancient Rome.

<small>[ 04-17-2005, 01:42 AM: Message edited by: Serenity ]</small>
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby dai bread » Sun Apr 17, 2005 12:57 am

The H&M quote reads as though they anticipated the Patriot Act (at least what I read of it at this distance).

Not to mention the "legislation for everything" approach that our Govt. takes.

Personally, I quite like the American 3-legged stool, in theory anyway. Apparently you elect judges, though, and that causes trouble, at least in New Jersey. Also, too much power resides in the President these days (and I don't mean just Bush), largely because the news media like sound bites & quotes, and it's hard to quote a large body of people.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby piqaboo » Mon Apr 18, 2005 4:40 pm

Thanks, all.
Much appreciated!
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby barfle » Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:46 am

Originally posted by Serenity:
GWB is just a bumbling idiot. He involuntarily screws you over by trying to be nice and "do the right thing". I can't tell if he's like the Claudius or the Caligula of Ancient Rome.
I'm inclined to agree that he's a bumbling idiot, although the "you're with me or you're against me" statement is such an absolutist statement that I can't divorce it from tyranny.

It leaves no room for the "loyal opposition" from those who love their homeland, but feel it's on the wrong path.
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Apr 19, 2005 11:26 am

I happen to think the screwing over is willful, but it's not coming from him. It comes from his handlers.

Barfle, you're absolutely right. Because I don't agree with GWB, I'm made to feel like I'm committing treason by those who believe the sun rises and sets on him(excluding folks here on the BBB.................mostly ;) ).
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Re: Explain this quote to me, please?

Postby piqaboo » Tue Apr 19, 2005 12:56 pm

He too shall pass.....
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