Below is text from one section of Douglas Galbi’s paper, “Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation.”  For other sections, see www.galbithink.org or www.ssrn.com

 

I.  Revolutionary Ideas

 

Most persons know some revolutionary knowledge about government, persons, and freedom.  Profound insights, revelations, and enlightenment come to different persons in different ways, times, places, and forms.  Yet history includes periods that have been distinctively and truly educational on a world-wide scale.  Such history includes the English Revolution of 1640-1689, the American Revolution of 1776-1789, the French Revolution of 1789-1799, and the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, 1989-1990.  Many aspects of these revolutions, including their nomenclature, are hotly contested. 

As one historian recently noted with respect to seventeenth century England:

It is customary to point to these historiographical battles as evidence of the continued vitality of our subject, and so they would be if they were leading us anywhere.  In fact, however, under questionable generalship, and through the heat, noise, and smoke, the battlefields of the seventeenth century itself are becoming increasingly hard to see under the great pile of bleached bones left by historians murdered by their colleagues….Perhaps we should not, however, confuse this struggle for power with the struggle for knowledge in which we would rather be engaged.[1]

Invoking the privilege of the popular historian, this section will ignore all academic historiographical battles.  It will simply express common knowledge so as to bring it into consciousness within the field of radio regulation.

 

The English Revolution of 1640-1689 taught dramatically about the separation and balance of powers in government.  Battles between King and Parliament, the people beheading the sovereign, a new commonwealth headed by a leader who at one point cleared Parliament at sword-point, restoration of monarchy, secret conversion to Catholicism, family intrigue, continental wars, exile of the monarch: this was not government history easily ignored.  In 1642, King Charles I asserted that all was already understood:

There being three kinds of government among men, absolute monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, and all these having their particular conveniences and inconveniences, the experience and wisdom of your ancestors hath so moulded this out of a mixture of these as to give this kingdom (as far as human prudence can provide) the conveniences of all three, without the inconveniences of any one, as long as the balance hangs even between the three estates, and they run jointly on in their proper channel (begetting verdure and fertility in the meadows on both sides) and the overflowing of either on either side raise no deluge or inundation.[2]

The concept of separation and balance of powers in government has been traced back to ancient Greek thought.[3]  Yet these ideas unquestionably were much more truly understood, not at the time of Charles I’s portrayal of a well-ordered, green and pleasant England, but after the decades of violent struggle between the King and Parliament.  This struggle was at the center of the English Revolution of 1640-1689.  Appreciation for this painfully acquired understanding about the separation and balance of powers should inform radio regulation today.

 

Ideas about interference also developed during the English Revolution.  Thomas Hobbes, a leading English intellectual, identified liberty as the absence of interference: “A FREE-MAN, is he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do, is not hindered to doe what he has a will to.[4]  Hobbes also recognized the problem of chaos.  He thought the solution to be an absolute monarch.  The command of the monarch would eliminate chaos and allow freedom within the boundaries of this law.  Hobbes was a profound and fecund thinker.  He recognized that one kind of interference (the constraint of the monarch’s command) can be beneficial in reducing another kind of interference (chaos).  But with respect to the benefits of monarchy, the English Revolution taught that Hobbes was wrong.  Monarchy does not promote liberty, as most persons now understand the world.

 

The American Revolution of 1776-1789 taught important lessons about the geography of governance.  Alexis de Tocqueville, a French traveler and thinker early in the nineteenth century, declared:

This [US] constitution, which at first sight one is tempted to confuse with the federal constitution that preceded it, in fact rests on an entirely new theory that will be marked as a great discovery in the political science of our day.[5]

De Tocqueville, however, wasn’t quite sure what this great discovery was.  He noted that the federal government’s powers were enumerated in the constitution, and that plain propositions that persons can easily understand make for a strong and durable government.  He observed that the federal government was responsible to citizens, not to state governments.  Moreover, the federal government was meant to be able to carry out its responsibilities directly, without requiring the assistance of state governments.  This governance structure seemed to combine strengths of both small and large states: “The

Union is free and happy like a small nation, glorious and strong like a great one.”[6]

 

De Tocqueville questioned whether these novel principles were applicable elsewhere. 

This governance structure seemed to depend on extraordinary capacities among citizens:

the sovereignty of the Union is so enmeshed in that of the states that it is impossible at first glace to perceive their limits.  Everything is conventional and artificial in such a government, and it can be suitable only for a people long habituated to directing its affairs by itself, and in which political science has descended to the last ranks of society. … I almost never encountered a man of the people of America who did not discern with a surprising facility the obligations arising from laws of Congress and those whose origin is in the laws of his state, and who, after distinguishing the objects placed within the general prerogatives of the Union from those that the local legislature ought to regulate, could not indicate the point at which the competence of the federal courts begins and the limit at which that of the state tribunals stops.[7]

De Tocqueville worried that the federal government might not be able to carry out policies that state governments opposed.  He worried that such a government would be weak and not able to compete militarily with more centralized governments.  He argued that considerable uniformity of sentiments was necessary to sustain such government.  This sort of Union, he declared, would not do for Europe. 

 

Two hundred years’ history enables everyone today to understand more than de Tocqueville’s perspicacious mind did.   Most persons today do not understand jurisdictional issues and have little interest in them.  The U.S. federal government is strong relative to state governments.  The U.S. has been militarily successful against more centralized governments.  Europe has chosen to adopt a Union for which de Tocqueville’s concerns about the U.S. seem equally or more applicable.  These facts point to common knowledge flowing from the American Revolution: geographically centralized, unitary government is not necessary.  Sub-federal governments give “various and interfering interests” more opportunities to be active in governance, and in doing so they contribute to long-term democratic stability and vitality.[8]

 

The French Revolution of 1789-1799 proclaimed to the world the “natural, unalienable and sacred rights of man.”[9]  It produced The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  This communication set out rights “in a solemn [written] declaration,” so that “by being present to all the members of the social body this declaration may always remind them of their rights and duties.”  Thus the acts of government powers are “liable at every moment to comparison with the aim of any and all political institutions….”[10]    The intent was to memorialize that some rights of man do not depend on license from government.  The purpose of government is to preserve these natural rights:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.  Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

 

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man.  These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

The rights of man are not limited to freedom from interference, but also require persons to be able to share freely ideas and to participate in making law:[11]

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.  Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

 

6. Law is the expression of the general will.  Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation.  It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.

“Liberty, equality, and fraternity” resonate deeply in today’s understanding of who are persons.[12]  Yet the French Revolution provided vivid scenes of both liberation and terror.    That persons, not governments, give ultimate meaning to freedom is now well-understood, and still somewhat scary.[13]

 

The revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 showed that systems ignoring the mundane truths of ordinary, daily existence cannot endure.  Claiming to be acting on behalf of the proletariat, in the public interest, is not enough. Seeking the true spirit of a revolutionary idea demands attention to the specificities and complexities of real life. The vigorous discussions of liberty, interference, and the state in seventeenth century England ignored the array of institutions between the rulers and the ruled.[14]  Early in the nineteenth century, an important thinker, perhaps reflecting upon his experience of the French Revolution, described political liberty as persons of all classes who “emerge from the sphere of their usual labors and private industry,” and “take in with a glance the whole of France.”[15]  In modern democratic states, many contemporary appeals to democratic theory bear no relation to most persons’ experiences of their lives together.  Friendships, families, unions, businesses, religious, scientific, public service and avocational organizations, along with governments of various degrees of subsidiarity, are real and important ways in which persons make up common life.  The revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 showed that thought that does not incorporate common life will fail disastrously.

 

To improve radio regulation, these revolutionary ideas must be brought to that specific field in ordinary time.  The sections that follow explore in radio regulation the separation and balance of powers, regulatory geography, and personal freedom and licensing.  The presentation assumes no expertise in radio regulation.  It presents some facts, gleaned from publicly available information, that are not widely recognized even among experts in industry, academia, and government.  Most importantly, it presents analysis that everyone can understand, criticize, discuss with each other, and extend.

 



[1] Scott (2000) p. 22.

[2] Charles I, His Majesties Answer to the XIX Propositions of Both Houses of Parliament (1642), British Library E. 151 (25) (from transcription given in J.P. Kenyon, The Stuart Constitution 1603-1688 at 21 (1965)).

[3] In particular, Polybius’ Histories.  Marshall Davies Lloyd, Polybius and the Founding Fathers: the separation of powers, available at http://www.sms.org/mdl-indx/polybius/polybius.htm (Sept. 22, 1998).  Montesquieu perceived and disseminated the idea of separation and balance of powers in his influential book, Spirit of the Laws, and the idea became a structuring principle for the U.S. Constitution (1789).

[4] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan 146 (Richard Tuck, ed., Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990) (1651); ch. XXI in alt. online edition at http://www.orst.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-contents.html.

[5] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 147 (Harvey C. Mansfield & Delba Winthrop, trans. & eds., Univ. Chicago Press, 2000) (1835); Bk. 1, ch. 8 in alternative online edition at  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/toc_indx.html..

[6] Id. at 154.

[7] Id. at 155-6.

[8] James Madison, one of the founders of the U.S. Constitution, recognized this.  See Madison (1787), Federalist No. 10.

[9] Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen 77 (Lynn Hunt, ed. & trans., St. Martin’s Press, 1996) (1789).

[10] Id.  The declaration, a written document, was a constitutional element of communications policy.  It was intended to serve as an enduring mechanism of true memory. 

[11] Skinner (1998) emphasizes that living in a state with a particular type of governance is central to the neo-Roman idea of (civil) liberty.   In this classical understanding of liberty:

…if you wish to maintain your liberty, you must ensure that you live under a political system in which there is no element of discretionary power, and hence no possibility that your civil rights will be dependent on the goodwill of a ruler, a ruling group, or any other agent of the state.  You must live, in other words, under a system in which the sole power of making laws remains with the people or their accredited representatives, and in which all individual members of the body politic – rulers and citizens alike – remain equally subject to whatever laws they choose to impose upon themselves.  If and only if you live under such a self-governing system will your rulers be deprived of any discretionary powers of coercion, and in consequence deprived of any tyrannical capacity to reduce you and your fellow-citizens to a condition of dependence on their goodwill, and hence to the status of slaves. 

Skinner (1998) pp. 74-5, internal footnotes omitted.  Some critics argue that this idea “is so utopian as to make it irrelevant to the political world in which we live.”  Skinner responds in part by noting, “One legitimate aspiration of moral and political theory is surely to show us what lines of action we are committed to undertaking by the values we profess to accept.”  Skinner (1998) pp. 78-9.  In practice, considerable discretionary power is exercised in interpreting and applying radio regulation.

[12] That the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen literally referred only to male human beings shows a shocking limit of reason at that time.  This is an important aspect of what the written text memorializes.

[13] For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, states in Article 29, “These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”  The full, frightening and enduring legacy of the French Revolution is well captured by the inclusion of this statement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[14] Skinner (1998), p. 17.

[15] Constant (1819).  Constant’s image of a person’s consciousness soaring skyward reflects angelism, the origins and importance of which Maritain (1950), pp. 54-89, traces to Descartes.