Learning the Lessons of Early Modern Poland Oct. 17

WAMC For Oct. 17, 2013
Dr Steven Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics

I have been thinking a lot about Poland lately. No, not the modern one, not the one that was reborn less than a hundred years ago in the aftermath of World War I, But Poland of the 18th century. The one that lost its way — eventually finding itself gobbled up by more decisive neighbors, more specifically that earlier Polish government that included that included a most curious legislative gimmick that 17th century Polish aristocrats probably thought was a nifty way to demonstrate their equality. It was called the Liberum Veto, a simple rule that granted every single Polish aristocrat the right to stop the Polish parliament from passing legislation that even one among them opposed. Ok, not surprisingly, it was practically impossible to accomplish anything and played a role in the collapse of the once powerful Polish commonwealth of the earlier 18th century, a nation later ripped apart by those more decisive neighbors from Russia to the Austrians.

And yes, Poland eventually managed to win its freedom again but it might have never lost control of its fate had it not succumbed to the tyranny of the minority a lesson Americans might well make their own given the absurdity of the last two weeks. After all, how much longer can we remain a decisive democracy when the core principal of democracy, majority rule can be so easily thwarted undermined by the very people who claim to admire the founding fathers, indeed, folks who ever so often act as if they are the only people who have read the constitution. And yet continue to support absurd congressional rules that constantly deny our nation the ability to act both democratically and decisively.

I mean let’s get real here – a rule in the senate that says if 41 senators don’t like something agreed to by the majority, by the other 59 senators, we can’t pass anything. And in the house, a leader who has been willing to bow to the radical minority of the chamber that decided to shut down our entire government – decided to put both the nation’s economy and the country’s international financial integrity on the line because they did not like a bill that already passed the house, the senate, the supreme court, and the president signed!

Ok, I get it, they don’t like the Affordable Care Act. They don’t think it is important that Americans reject a system that has long defined what health care we get based largely on our education, wealth and employment. But don’t they understand that there are issues even more important, like having a functioning government. And unless we change those stupid post constitutional rules, demanding the super majority in the senate, letting a tiny minority in the House hold up the nation’s business we are going to start down that path that once saw Poland lose its freedom.

And enough of all this sympathy for Speaker Boehner, The man should be impeached, impeached for acting is if he were the republican majority leader responsible only to the republican members in the house. Rather than leader of all the representatives elected by the American people. In fact, his behavior in the opinion of this commentator that makes him a good candidate for impeachment for pandering, in the name of what?… of keeping his job? Pandering to a bunch of people who have demonstrated their complete ignorance of democracy that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you compromise and wait for the next election. But you don’t bring down the entire government because you lost a round. Yes, If we are going to bow to the whims of the minority, folks who can not even muster enough votes to win their battles fairly.

Maybe we should just go back to the ultimate minority rule, some British king or just cut out all the middle men and let the Tea Party’s real backers, ignorant media blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and plutocrats like the Koch brothers just run the country And stop pretending to be a democracy at all

About Steven Leibo

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