The Soul of Government
Written by: Halleyscomet08
Edited by: Aivintis and CyberiumShadow
The Soul of Government
Scene: The end of the Philippine Revolution. American forces have occupied Manila, forcing the revolutionary government to designate Malolos as the capital of the Philippines, creating the Malolos Republic. British ships are on standby north of Luzon, and America is unwilling to fulfill verbal promises. At this moment in time, the revolutionary government was only able to unite Luzon, with Visayas creating their own government, and Mindanao unwilling to comply. In other words, the Philippines as we know it did not exist, as it was instead a fragmented series of nations, each with their own government. To summarize the political situation of the time, the Malolos Republic faces multiple external threats, like the Americans unwilling to leave Manila, as well as internal threats, like the inability of the revolution to truly unite the Archipelago.
At this moment in time, a problem occurs: Should the executive retain power over government, or the legislature? This question is more complex than it appears, as the aforementioned factors complicate the political situation. Proponents of the Executive branch, headed by Apolinario Mabini (the Prime Minister), argue that due to American forces, what the Philippines need is a strong leader with advisors to aid him, in order to retain unity for the Philippines. He also argues that giving more power to the legislature would lead to an oligarchy. This claim is not without merit. At the time, many among the legislature are “rural elites”, rich and powerful landowners from across the Philippines.
Proponents of the Legislature-led model, headed by Felipe Calderon (one of the chief writers of the First Philippine Constitution), argue instead that a legislature-led government allows a more democratic regime, through the election of the Assembly, which is more in-line with the goals of the revolution. In addition, the military is fiercely loyal to President Aguinaldo, which provides him with more military power at that moment in time. In the end, the Legislature was the victor in this struggle. The President still retained the ability to veto laws, however the Legislature was allowed to create the Permanent Commission, whose job is to remove members of the Judiciary and Executive (including the President himself), if they deem it necessary. This ended up being a grave mistake. The hubris of the Malolos Republic, its failure to defend against American colonization, and its strengthening of a corrupt, elitist power structure (landlords versus farmers) that plagues our society to this very day serves as a warning to modern democratic societies.
What does the Malolos Republic have to do with the democracies of NationStates? At this moment in time, the Magisterium holds similar amounts of power to the legislature to the Malolos Republic, due to two factors: 1, the culture behind TEP, and 2: the checks and balances that aid the Magisterium. In other words, by looking back at the Malolos Republic, we can see the dangers of our current political system.
It is well documented that the best way to become a part of TEP government is to first join the Magisterium. Because of this, it has become essentially the center of government movement: if local politics is what you want, the Magisterium is where you want to be. It is from the Magisterium where several key members of our government come from: Shadow, me, Aurora, even CyberiumShadow. This is largely the byproduct of the accessibility of the Magisterium, which isn’t a problem by itself. After all, I would never have gotten into TEP and NS as a whole if the Magisterium was not open. However, this culture of an open and active Magisterium becomes concerning when we consider the checks and balances that exist to keep the balance of power between the branches of government.
Five different interactions occur between our four branches - the Executive, the Magisterium, the Praesidium, and the Conclave - and these interactions are where we can find TEP’s checks and balances.
The relationship between the Executive and the Magisterium is simple and well-understood: the Magisterium passes laws, the Executive approves those laws. However, the Magisterium may override the Executive with a 3/4 vote. In addition, the appointment of Viziers and Arbiters requires the approval of the Magisterium. The Magisterium may also suspend the Delegate following a 2/3 vote as an indictment for high crimes. There is very little stopping the Magisterium from overriding the Delegate should they be united in getting a law passed, as, in stark contrast to the real world, a 3/4 majority is rather easy to achieve.
The relationship between the Conclave and the Magisterium is rather fascinating in nature. Conclave’s ability to interpret laws means that effectively, a sort of “common law” like structure has the possibility to emerge. In a sense, Conclave also has the ability to create law through the creation of precedent, which, unlike statutory law, is unlikely to change due to the principle of stare decisis - to stand by that which is decided. Their ability to block an unconcordatial law is also another check against the Magisterium, which is rather effective, but limited in application, as it must be unconcordatial in the first place. However, the Magisterium is not without teeth either, as not only does the Magisterium have the ability to suspend an Arbiter, they also have the ability to outright remove an Arbiter entirely. In my opinion, the Conclave’s ability to remove a Magister for abuse of power would be difficult to execute in this scenario, as there exists a difficulty in understanding who is actually abusing their power, who is actually believing the use of this removal is justified, and who falls into a potentially separate third category.
The relationship between the Conclave and the Executive has far fewer conflicts involved: the Conclave may rule the actions of the Delegate to be unlawful and nullify them, while the Delegate may decide who becomes an Arbiter. It’s a simple enough relationship, to be sure, since the Executive has little to do with law, and any policies they may make do “not have legal weight” to them.
There is only one relationship worth considering when it comes to the Praesidium: the Praesidium and the Delegate. The Praesidium has the sole ability to outright remove any Delegate from on-site power. To that end, they are also able to suspend the Delegate, and can also replace the Delegate should they be unfit for service. In response, the Delegate is the one who nominates the Viziers. This relationship is, deliberately, one-sided, with the threat of potential coup serving as justification for the Praesidium’s far-reaching authority.
From these interactions, one thing is clear: the Delegate is under heavy checks and balances from all sides of the government, from the Magisterium to the Viziers to the Conclave. It is concerning to me that the one elected position that we have is also the position that has the heaviest bindings to bear. With these checks, it becomes difficult to see how the Delegate’s so-called ultimate power can actually be ultimate. From here, I conclude that the center of the government (that is, the real powers of government) cannot be in the executive, as it is that very executive that holds so many checks against it.
Where, then, is the center of government? One can argue that it is the Praesidium, due to their mass amounts of power on-site. However, this power should be considered separate from our government, as we must not rely on “bigger-army diplomacy” to participate in government (that is simply a chance for coup). On-site power should always be considered subject to legal doctrines, lest the existence of our government as we know it be jeopardized. We are then left with two branches: the Magisterium, and the Conclave. Of these two, I argue that the Magisterium is more likely to be the center of government, because of the very culture: the Open Magisterium that we prize.
The Conclave is, indeed, very powerful. 4 individuals have the ability to interpret the law, and by doing so shape it to their understanding of law. However, this process is reactive: that is, they cannot do it as they desire, but rather only when requests are made. In contrast, the Magisterium is proactive: they are able to pass laws as they want, after all, it is their very job. Due to the open and active culture of the Magisterium, they effectively have the ability to shape the laws as they deem necessary. And, if they are united enough, they have the tools necessary to combat the other branches to force laws through, which is a dangerous ability to have.
This folly of concentrated, unchecked power can once again be seen with the example of the Malolos Republic. It was after the revolution, and the government needed money. However, they couldn’t simply tax their people without pissing them off, as taxation was one of the reasons as to why the Revolution occurred in the first place. So instead, they began to take out loans. More specifically, they borrowed money from provincial elites in exchange for land as collateral. However, I will remind you that the legislative branch was full of those very provincial elites. By passing that loan system, they were effectively taking land for themselves in order to fund the government, who will inevitably give that money back to them. By putting the legislature in such a position of power, they passed laws that benefited themselves and did nothing for the people they were supposed to be serving.
I am not saying that this will happen here in TEP. I am, however, arguing that the Magisterium has the possibility of using their power to this end. Aren’t people still angry with the Citizenship amendment, which they say is too complex? Have people not claimed that the Magisterium has become too closed off? In fact, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we aren’t an elected legislature, meaning we don’t even maintain the illusion of democracy. The Magisterium is open, yes, but not to non-WA nations, who face an onslaught of prying questions and a vote before they can be admitted. The only form of accountability the Magisterium has comes from the Conclave, who themselves are appointed only with the approval of the Magisterium!
To that end, I would like to propose a two-pronged solution.
First, the Delegate should be given more power. I have always been a proponent of allowing executive orders to maintain legal weight, and it is precisely because it allows the Delegate a first-hand ability to affect the laws of the East Pacific, as well as allow Conclave the ability to legally interpret the Executive Orders as, again, a check on the power of the Executive. In short, we should allow the Delegate to be our first-aid, the one to pass policies to fix small issues that may occur, the one to take the proactive stance in place of the Magisterium. We do not need the full force of the Magisterium to fix every single issue that we may have. By giving the Executive the ability to affect the laws of the East Pacific, they can be able to flexibly respond to issues that are occuring by executing the laws that they are supposed to execute, such as rules in the RMB.
Second, shifting the Magisterium away from proactive stances to a largely reactive role to major issues. A lot of what we’ve seen discussed and legislated are minor issues, issues that don’t actually matter all that much, nor truly require the attentive eye of the deliberative Magisterium. The Magisterium must focus on the bigger problems, the problems that require large amendments to our current laws, or new laws entirely. Solutions to these problems must be slow, deliberate, and careful. We should not say that we can just “amend the law after”, we’ve already seen the issues of that with our citizenship amendment. The Magisterium must be the slowest body of government, both so that our laws can be given the care needed, and so that the other branches have the ability to do their jobs without the overbearing power of the Magisterium impeding their action.
The crux of this issue has always been about democracy. We have claimed, time and time again, that The East Pacific is a democracy. Tell me, is there democracy when our only elected position has so many checks against them? Is there democracy when our Magisterium can force laws through if they wish? Is it democracy if our legislature does not really represent our people? This issue is much, much more difficult to solve than with my essay, or any of my proposals in this essay. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest contradictions of our government: a democracy with one elected position, a Magisterium that can overrule the government. With the advent of the relatively recent amendments to the Concordat, disallowing the Conclave to overturn Concordat amendments, we must ask ourselves this: how many Citizens who voted for that amendment were Magisters? How many weren’t?