Monday, 15 June 2009

Iran so far away (gotta get away)

“The Red Pill” at Cadillac Tight gives some useful background information on how Iran’s political system is designed to work, which I expect will be of value to those trying to figure out exactly what is going on in Iran at the moment. For the uninitiated, it proves—if nothing else—that our system of checks and balances is not nearly as complicated a system as could be devised and made to work in practice; there’s also an interesting parallel to be drawn between the role of Iran’s Guardian Council and Madison’s proposed Council of Revision from the Virginia Plan, although the Guardian Council’s power to screen candidates for public office goes well beyond Madison’s plan.

The vetting function of the Guardian Council also raises some interesting questions about what sorts of qualifications for office are appropriate in a democracy. While the objective qualifications for public office in the United States are basically viewpoint-neutral (excluding the exemptions from onerous requirements to get on the ballot enjoyed by the two major parties in many states), other liberal democracies disqualify candidates or parties based on their political views—for example, national socialism is banned in Germany, while communists are banned in a few Eastern European countries—regardless of how palatable they may be to voters. Obviously these requirements exclude narrower ranges of opinion than does the Iranian system, but the question of where to draw the line does seem at least to be of academic interest.