Category Archives: constitution

Is Ireland a Legitimate Country?

lemass-on-time

Lemass committed Ireland’s future to one of sovereign compromise. He had no choice.

The international system is a complex and convoluted thing, and sets the framework against which States are measured for their effectiveness, righteousness, or other measures that could serve as proxies for legitimacy: transparency, robustness, even happiness, or goodness. According to these indices, Ireland performs reasonably well – very well actually. It is the seventh most ‘unfragile’ country in the world; the eleventh most ‘good’; the 18th most transparent; and the 19th happiest. Most of these indices combine different metrics such as GDP, social metrics like unemployment, education rates, and so on, which tend to mean that Ireland – and other countries – won’t deviate too much from one ranking to the next. So Ireland performs well as a country. However, the combination of the EU Crisis, Brexit, and Trump’s America seem to represent a trifecta of bad things over which Ireland has little or no control, and could send the country hurtling down those indices. So if Ireland has so little control over these shaping factors, is Ireland in fact a legitimate country, a genuinely sovereign power?

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Neonihilism and the Failure of Liberalism

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times declares our time a crisis for liberalism, the left having ‘lost its way’, in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. It’s been a popular theme. In 1969, Ted Lowi declared the end of liberalism, in favour of interest group liberalism, in part a kind of elaboration on Eisenhower’s theme of the military-industrial complex. The liberalism of which we speak has long been defined in terms of economics and economic goods, how the distribution of resources and the freedom that comes with fair access to those resources, can allow mankind to flourish. Friedman’s classic Capitalism and Freedom from 1962 defined the concept, which was ultimately routed in eighteenth century enlightenment thinking, and in particular the French Revolution. Its progression through International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the twentieth century brought at its end an essential global consensus: Liberal Democracy was it. This was the end of history. Continue reading

Trump/Brexit: Popular Legitimacy and the Rule of Law

Morten Morland's cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

Morten Morland‘s cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

The New York Times ran an editorial yesterday on what it called ‘a coup’ against the Supreme Court. The death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, and the Republican Party’s refusal to entertain a replacement has rendered the previously nine, now eight judge court unable to resolve some important cases, split evenly as they are between four generally liberal and four generally conservative justices. The GOP Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, has recklessly attacked other institutions in his scorched earth strategy that followed his poor showing at the debates, including the Military, the FBI, the President, the Federal Reserve, and the Media. Early on in the campaign, he attacked a judge who ruled against him, claiming the judge was biased because he was Mexican-American. He has threatened to jail his opponent if he wins, he has consistently attacked and undermined the electoral process itself, and encouraged voter suppression.  Every pillar of democracy in America has been weakened by Mr Trump’s candidacy whether he wins or not, and people love him for it.

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The Temper of the Machine

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Temper – Tempus – Temporal: Machines are clocks, but they have no temper.

I had the pleasure this week of addressing the Royal Irish Academy on the subject of Digital Citizenship, which, rather than addressing the narrow construct of person-state relationship, instead took in a broad sweep of life in the digital world. Part of a series themed around the constitution, it focused on issues of growing up a teenager in the digital world, data protection (there were a lot of lawyers in the room, not least my fellow presenter Oisín Tobin of Mason Hayes & Curran), privacy, artificial intelligence and the politics of all that. In two hours, it was a hurried skip across disciplines and dystopias, which illustrated in equal measure the interest and enthusiasm people have for addressing the issue (there was barely a seat left in the hall), and the strange paucity (it seems to me, at least) of opportunities that there are to pursue in particular the ethical, policy, and political implications of our digital lives. Convened by Dr John Morrison, the Academy Chair of the Ethical, Political, Legal and Philsophical Committee, and expertly chaired by Dr Noreen O’Carroll, perhaps this is the beginning of an attempt to address that.

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Algorithmic Governance and its Discontents

AG Workshop

Dr Rónán Kennedy Chairs a session at the Algorithmic Governance workshop at NUI Galway

I had the privilege to participate in a workshop on algorithmic governance this past Friday at my alma mater, the National University of Ireland, Galway, under the supervision of Dr Rónán Kennedy and Dr John Danaher of the Law Faculty. and co-funded by the Colleges of Business and Public Policy. It’s part of a wider program of research grandly titled ‘Algocracy and the Transhumanist Project‘, which promises to tread some fascinating pathways. Comprehensive synopses of the event have already been published by Dr Danaher and one of the speakers Dr Muki Haklay, so I won’t re-do their work, but instead refer to one of the particularly interesting themes that emerged from the work.

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The Political Philosophy of The Blockchain

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The blockchain is a computerised public ledger that assures contracts and other transactions. It could save us all!

Property, and – as philosophers might refer to it – the claim to possession and ownership of externalities, has long been a source of some disquiet. Jean Jacques Rousseau in the Second Discourse (The Discourse on Inequality) begins the second part with the dramatic opening line ‘[t]he first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.’ Plato before him and Marx later both advocated collectivisation, but Rousseau was no communist. The reality of what man had become made such reconstruction impractical. Yet the concept of property has led to inequalities that threaten capitalist society. Slavoj Zizek suggested that ‘…today’s global capitalism [may] contain antagonisms which are sufficiently strong to prevent its indefinite reproduction…’ including what he called ‘…the inappropriateness of private property…‘ especially intellectual property. Rousseau’s prescription was The Social Contract, and the abstraction of the General Will, an investiture of political legitimacy in the sovereign.

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The Platformification of The State

big-brother-1984

Well, there is that.

Here at StateLegitimacy.com, we’re interested in two things. First, how we measure legitimacy, and how legitimacy is constructed, and second, how technology impacts on legitimacy. We’re going to ask the question: could Rousseau’s Social Contract be implemented in technology?  What if the state became a platform?

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Drones and American Identity

Foreign Affairs Death from AboveDan Byman’s defence of drones in Foreign Affairs (July / August 2013) sets out the case for drones, a highly effective, low risk method of taking out terrorists.  The changed nature of terrorism, with its globalised, stateless, and highly distributed character certainly presents significant challenges to the defence of the realm.  There are advantages over conventional military options – air strikes, ‘boots on the ground’, covert operations – and, in particular, the speed with which weaponised drones can be deployed makes them far more flexible tools for the military.  The politics, Byman adds, can be tricky, but most governments within drone strike domains are tacitly acquiescent.

If the objective of the exercise is to defeat terrorism, or, rather, the immediate threat of terrorism, then Byman is right – drones are extremely effective.  However, he is wrong in not addressing whether they advance the long term strategic interests of the United States. He limits his discussion on this to the prospect that drones create more terrorists in people whose families are killed or injured, perpetuating the hatred that turns people against America.  The problems are deeper than that – and impact the core of who and what America is.

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A New Troika: Inequality, Sovereign Decline and Democratic Deficits

Serge Halimi_small

Serge Halimi: Considered Outrage

Serge Halimi is the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, a kind of internationalised politico-philosophical publication from LeMonde featuring articles on international affairs and globalisation.  He is unrepentantly left wing, and in his May column, he unloads both barrels into what he perceives as a global elitist hegemony, The Tyranny of the One Per Cent.  His analysis is unusual in one respect, however.  It is an attack on a system, rather than its people; it is not lamenting greed (a kind of anti-Gordon Gekko) and is not so much bitter as it is critical.  Throughout the piece he constructs a compelling argument in the French Republican tradition – that eighteenth Century revolutionary philosophy that has – perhaps unintentionally – led us all to where we are today.   Continue reading

Electoral System Reform in Ireland

de Valera on Time

Eamon deValera on the front Cover of Time Magazine in 1940, shortly after the plebiscite that adopted his 1937 Constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann

An interesting opportunity has presented itself in my native jurisdiction in the form of the Constitutional Convention and its upcoming deliberations on the Electoral System. Notwithstanding the Justice Minister’s comments on the national radio station this morning, where he was – at best – non-committal on the notion of bringing forward a constitutional referendum on Marriage equality despite the overwhelming vote at the convention, there appears to be a de facto legitimacy attaching to the convention through its deliberate and measured process, and quasi-legislative approach.  If any proof was needed of this, it was in the structure of Senator Mullen’s attack on the result of yesterday’s vote – a strong Catholic advocate, and predisposed to oppose marriage equality, Mullen’s response was not to attack the virtue or otherwise of the decision, but the process by which it was reached.  In attempting to undermine the process, he was directly attacking the legitimacy of the institution (and convention members would do well to refer to it as such) in order to mitigate its impact on the legislature that have retained the final say.  Continue reading

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