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#1
Old 01-24-2009, 10:53 AM
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What is the oldest continuous government?

I was reading a news story today in which Obama said, "We are a young country." It got me thinking about how young the US really is. Sure, countries like France have had their name for longer--but France's government has been violently overthrown by revolution more recently than ours.

Assuming that a government can be called continuous only since the most recent violent transition of power (I'd count a bloodless coup as violent), what are the oldest governments around? I'm thinking Vatican City is older (although they may not qualify, depending on how they achieved their current level of sovereignty). My wife pointed out that England's last violent transition was in the 1600s.

I wouldn't count the US Civil War: that would count as a failed revolution, I think.

What else?

Daniel
#2
Old 01-24-2009, 11:06 AM
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Iceland has had a parliament running since the early 900.s

They haven't had complete power for all that time, but it's always been there.
#3
Old 01-24-2009, 11:20 AM
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I remember reading that the USA is the longest lived government to have ever existed without radical changes; either by violent or non-violent means.
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by spike404 View Post
I remember reading that the USA is the longest lived government to have ever existed without radical changes; either by violent or non-violent means.
Cite?
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:26 AM
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It's really hard to say, since most old countries are former Monarchies. And since you count blodless coups as change, the change from monarchy to parliamentarism would disqualify all of them.
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:27 AM
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The legislature of the Isle of Man has been continuously in place for over 1000 years, or so says http://mbc.org.im/artman/publish/article_45.shtml
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:53 AM
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San Marino has been a continuous republic since 301 AD, although its current constitution is only about 400 years old. A microstate, its fortunes have depended on the whims of Rome/Italy's rulers and conquerors over the centuries; Garibaldi and Napoleon were both sentimentally fond of the place and it may well have escaped Attilla the Hun's notice. Since everybody pretty much knows everybody else and their "army" consists of 80 medieval re-enactors with crossbows, coups d'etat have never been much of an issue. They get my vote.

Last edited by Horatio Hellpop; 01-24-2009 at 11:54 AM.
#8
Old 01-24-2009, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Cite?
As I posted, I remember reading.
#9
Old 01-24-2009, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
Cite?
Besides, Qagdop, this has been discussed/debated elsewhere on this board, as you probably know, and it largely comes down to how you define things.
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Old 01-24-2009, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by smiling bandit View Post
Besides, Qagdop, this has been discussed/debated elsewhere on this board, as you probably know, and it largely comes down to how you define things.
Indeed. A poster mentioned France, and in this case, you can precisely point at dates when radical changes took place, like revolutions, new constitutions, etc... On the other hand, someone else mentioned the UK and in this case, despite massive change having taken place, you can't really pinpoint a date because it has been a progressive evolution over the course of several centuries.
#11
Old 01-24-2009, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
Indeed. A poster mentioned France, and in this case, you can precisely point at dates when radical changes took place, like revolutions, new constitutions, etc... On the other hand, someone else mentioned the UK and in this case, despite massive change having taken place, you can't really pinpoint a date because it has been a progressive evolution over the course of several centuries.
Well, as I'm defining it, if your sovereign nation's prevailing national government changes due to violent action (for which purposes I'm including bloodless coups in which it's the explicit threat of violence from the new party that forces the old one to step down), your clock restarts.

Iceland is interesting. It sounds as if in 1262, the Parliament fell apart, and later Norway took over. I guess maybe that's another way to restart the clock (sorry if this is moving the goalposts, but it seems legit to me): if another nation takes over your nation, that restarts the clock, or, rather, puts you on that other nation's clock. Iceland wasn't recogized by Denmark as a sovereign nation until 1918--and arguably their occupation by British forces during WWII reset the clock again, since the Brits were the prevailing authority in Iceland then.

The Isle of Man ceded control to various other nations (Scotland and England). In the 19th century, they became more independent, but they're still a Crown Dependency, which means they're not a sovereign nation. I don't think I'd say their clock has started yet: they're on England's clock.

San Marino seems pretty close--but in 1739, a military force occupied them and imposed a new constitution, and in 1944, the Nazis occupied the country for a few weeks, which it borderline on resetting their clock (since I assume that during the occupation, the prevailing governmental authority was the Nazis, and they took control through violent means).

I dunno--the UK is still looking like the winner to me. Yeah, there have been major changes, but if those transitions have all been peacefully enacted, if the central governing authority of the sovereign nation hasn't been changed through violent means since the 1600s, that's longer than any of the other suggestions so far.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 01-24-2009 at 02:35 PM.
#12
Old 01-24-2009, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by smiling bandit View Post
Besides, Qagdop, this has been discussed/debated elsewhere on this board, as you probably know, and it largely comes down to how you define things.
This is still GQ, where we try to keep standards a little higher than stuff like "some guy in a bar told me".
#13
Old 01-24-2009, 04:00 PM
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Just to clarify: Are you dating the United States from the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution? The Constitutional Convention wasn't exactly a coup, bloody or otherwise, but one can make the case that the United States under the Articles of Confederation was an organization of thirteen separate nations, rather than one single nation. In some ways, modern Europe is more united than the states from 1776-1789.
#14
Old 01-24-2009, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
This is still GQ, where we try to keep standards a little higher than stuff like "some guy in a bar told me".
And I appreciate that, but the comment to which you responded, though poorly explained, was not at all an unreasonable argument. The classic, snarky "Cite?" was rather more cutting than the situation called for.
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Old 01-24-2009, 05:10 PM
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Oh, please. It was a one word request for a citation. If that's cutting, then the level of sensitivity of the members needs review. The resident sawbones' request for the origin of the reference was legit. Now- get back to work.
#16
Old 01-24-2009, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I dunno--the UK is still looking like the winner to me. Yeah, there have been major changes, but if those transitions have all been peacefully enacted, if the central governing authority of the sovereign nation hasn't been changed through violent means since the 1600s, that's longer than any of the other suggestions so far.
As you say it depends on how you want to define things, but you have to bear in mind that the UK/Great Britain as we know it has only existed since 1703, before that it was just England, Scotland and Ireland as separate sovereign nations who happened to have the same monarch (and in fact calling Ireland sovereign at that point is a bit of a stretch as it was effectively a conquered territory). England as one country has existed with a stable system of government since 1066 when the Normans took charge, but then does England count as a sovereign nation given that it became part of the UK in 1703?

And whilst we Brits are considered by foreigners to be ever so polite we have in fact had two civil wars and there was a (fairly bloodless but still existent) revolution all in one century, so to say evolution of our governmental system has been entirely bloodless/peaceful is just plain wrong. By the standards that seem sensible to me (clock reset by occupation by a foreign power or a revolution/government coup of some kind) I'd say our present system of government, when the monarchy in actual reality if not name became constitutional through parliamentary rebellion (1688), would be the point from which I'd count continuous government.

So do we still win?
#17
Old 01-24-2009, 05:20 PM
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What disqualifies the Aboriginals of Australia?
#18
Old 01-24-2009, 05:22 PM
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Currently or ever?

Did some Pre-Colombian nations last longer than the currently discussed nations?

Did the Aborigines last a significant time?
#19
Old 01-24-2009, 05:22 PM
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The Holy See

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The Holy See should not be confused with the Vatican City State, which came into existence only in 1929, while the Holy See dates back to early Christian times. Ambassadors are officially accredited not to the Vatican City State but to "the Holy See", and papal representatives to states and international organizations are recognized as representing the Holy See, not the Vatican City State.
#20
Old 01-24-2009, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by CC View Post
Oh, please. It was a one word request for a citation. If that's cutting, then the level of sensitivity of the members needs review. The resident sawbones' request for the origin of the reference was legit. Now- get back to work.
It was not a reference, it was memory, and referred to as such.

We all remember/know things about our lives that are not capable of being "cited". e.g. I have two grandchildren; nowhere is that fact "citeable".
#21
Old 01-24-2009, 05:36 PM
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Matter of fact, he referred to something he had read. That's a reference. Don't be so pissin' pedantic.
#22
Old 01-24-2009, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Illuminatiprimus View Post
1703 ...huge snip... 1703?
1707?

Last edited by Baron Greenback; 01-24-2009 at 05:52 PM.
#23
Old 01-24-2009, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spike404 View Post
It was not a reference, it was memory, and referred to as such.

We all remember/know things about our lives that are not capable of being "cited". e.g. I have two grandchildren; nowhere is that fact "citeable".
Yes, it is. You'd probably have to reveal your identity, but there are documents proving that they exist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CC View Post
Matter of fact, he referred to something he had read. That's a reference. Don't be so pissin' pedantic.
"I read this somewhere" is not a reference. The point of asking for a cite is to see what evidence the poster has for the assertion. Quite obviously, spike has none. We usually have higher standards for that sort of thing in GQ. His answer would have been fine IMHO.
#24
Old 01-24-2009, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Struan View Post
1707?
Sorry, brainfart - I'm confusing the year of James 1st's accession with the year of the union.
#25
Old 01-24-2009, 06:16 PM
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I'll ignore the sniping over references, as anything I can't read about through a direct link is uninteresting to me.

Aboriginals: is there a particular group of aboriginals that qualifies as a sovereign nation, and that has gone a really long time without a violent transfer of power from one regime to another? If so, please link somewhere that I can read about them!

England had a violent transfer of power under Oliver Cromwell in 1649, resetting their clock then.


Chronos, the US's clock was reset (or, rather, set) when they declared peace with England, at the latest. The switch from Articles of Confederation to the Constitution was not accomplished directly through violence (Shay's rebellion may have motivated it, but it wasn't the direct cause of the change in government). The United STates was considered a single sovereign nation, of an admittedly peculiar form, under the AoC.

The Holy See is not a sovereign nation. If it were, I'd want to go back and find the last time that the transfer of power from one Pope to another was accompanied by violence.

Thanks for the replies, guys--even if lots of places are disqualified according to the rules I've set up, I'm learning a lot of really interesting history here!

Daniel
#26
Old 01-24-2009, 06:19 PM
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By the way, spike, I suspect what you saw was a claim that the US is the oldest continuous (or even currently existing) representative democracy. Either that, or the claim you read was simply incorrect: there is no standard by which the US can claim to be an older government than England's.
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#27
Old 01-24-2009, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Captain Carrot View Post
"I read this somewhere" is not a reference. The point of asking for a cite is to see what evidence the poster has for the assertion. Quite obviously, spike has none. We usually have higher standards for that sort of thing in GQ. His answer would have been fine IMHO.
QFT.

If simply asking for a cite is now considered snarky in GQ, we may as well eliminate the forum, and let IMHO serve as the place for answering questions.

Now I'll drop out of this hijack and follow the thread's topic with continued interest.
#28
Old 01-24-2009, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Illuminatiprimus View Post
Sorry, brainfart - I'm confusing the year of James 1st's accession with the year of the union.
1603 is a better date anyway.
#29
Old 01-24-2009, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Illuminatiprimus View Post
Sorry, brainfart - I'm confusing the year of James 1st's accession with the year of the union.
So when would you start counting for England? At the time of restoration? At the time of Union?
#30
Old 01-24-2009, 08:02 PM
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Was there any violent change in England's government since 1649?
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#31
Old 01-24-2009, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by WormTheRed View Post
Iceland has had a parliament running since the early 900.s

They haven't had complete power for all that time, but it's always been there.
Not as old, but modern Switzerland is up there. Since 1291.
#32
Old 01-24-2009, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Was there any violent change in England's government since 1649?
It defends how you define "change in England's government." The territory of the Republic of Ireland is no longer governed by England, as it was in 1649. That changed through violent means. Ireland is not England, and the Irish are not the English, and it didn't dramatically change the way England itself was governed. But it was certainly a violent change in England's government.

One of the difficulties with discussing England is that there really is no governing body for England only. Devolution has brought about limited self-government for Scotland, and really super-duper limited self-government for Wales, but the body that governs England is the same body that governs England-and-Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole. How does the OP want to handle violent re-arrangement of a nation's borders while the central government remains basically intact?

Last edited by Dr. Drake; 01-24-2009 at 08:24 PM.
#33
Old 01-24-2009, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
Not as old, but modern Switzerland is up there. Since 1291.
Can you clarify? Switzerland was invaded by Napoleon and had its government replaced, didn't it?
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Old 01-24-2009, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
The legislature of the Isle of Man has been continuously in place for over 1000 years, or so says http://mbc.org.im/artman/publish/article_45.shtml
Is THAT why the craic is 90 there?
#35
Old 01-24-2009, 09:22 PM
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Can you clarify? Switzerland was invaded by Napoleon and had its government replaced, didn't it?
Oops! I forgot that small detail.
#36
Old 01-24-2009, 09:23 PM
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How does the OP want to handle violent re-arrangement of a nation's borders while the central government remains basically intact?
No clock reset, if the national government does not itself change. Think of the difference between the British loss of the Americas (no reset for England), and Cromwell (reset), or the difference between France's loss of Mexico (no reset for France) and the French Revolution (reset).

I think this definition bests matches my intuition of what it means for a government to continue.

Daniel
#37
Old 01-24-2009, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
IAssuming that a government can be called continuous only since the most recent violent transition of power... ...I wouldn't count the US Civil War: that would count as a failed revolution, I think.
The US had a violent transition of power in November 1963.
#38
Old 01-24-2009, 09:43 PM
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Surely England's "clock" was reset in 1688, with the Glorious Revolution, later than Cromwell's rule? The popular idea that the GR was completely bloodless is incorrect, and I'd posit that a foreign monarch assuming the throne is a pretty significant change in how government is managed.
#39
Old 01-24-2009, 10:11 PM
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San Marino's existing constitution dates to 1600, but as someone else pointed out there was that nastiness in 1739 where the constitution was temporarily replaced with someone else's.

Napoleon conquered Switzerland in 1798 so Switzerland is disqualified.

Iceland was a good guess, except that they were part of Norway's and later Denmark's monarchy until 1918. So they weren't completely sovereign until 1918.

Denmark's current government you can date no farther back than 1849.

The Isle of Man isn't sovereign, disqualifies them outright.

Nothing in Africa comes even close to consistant over the past 300 years. Same with much of Asia.

Most all aboriginal populaces of the world have been "conquered" by some country or another in the past 300 years. Those aboriginals unfortunate enough to be in North or South America were conquered in turns by the English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. Those in Asia and Australia by the English (again), French, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, or each other. Those in Africa by English and French, Italy, or again each other.

That leaves us with jolly ol' England and the USA.

Someone mentioned the United Kingdom since 1649. You might want to date it at 1707 (see history) instead, which is still older than the U.S. However, I'm wondering if the gradual decline of the power of the King/Queen since the start of the 19th Century would disqualify the UK? If it doesn't disqualify them, than I'm going with the UK since 1707.

If the gradual dis-evolution of the power of the Monarchy since 1707 disqualifies the UK, than the the only thing left is . . .

The USA! Holding truths to be self-evident since 1787!!
#40
Old 01-24-2009, 10:19 PM
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San Marino's existing constitution dates to 1600, but as someone else pointed out there was that nastiness in 1739 where the constitution was temporarily replaced with someone else's. And also the Nazis. But if you dont' count the Nazis, than 1739. Back to SM in a moment. . .

Napoleon conquered Switzerland in 1798 so Switzerland is disqualified.

Iceland was a good guess, except that they were part of Norway's and later Denmark's monarchy until 1918. So they weren't completely sovereign until 1918.

Denmark's current government you can date no farther back than 1849.

The Isle of Man isn't sovereign, disqualifies them outright.

Nothing in Africa comes even close to consistant over the past 300 years. Same with much of Asia.

Most all aboriginal populaces of the world have been "conquered" by some country or another in the past 300 years. Those aboriginals unfortunate enough to be in North or South America were conquered in turns by the English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. Those in Asia and Australia by the English (again), French, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, or each other. Those in Africa by English and French, Italy, or again each other.

That leaves us back with San Marino, The UK, and the USA.

Someone mentioned the United Kingdom since 1649. You might want to date it at 1707 (see history) instead, which is still older than the U.S. However, I'm wondering if the gradual decline of the power of the King/Queen since the start of the 19th Century would disqualify the UK? If it doesn't disqualify them, than I'm going with the UK since 1707.

If you disqualify The UK, than you have to go with San Marino since 1739. Unless you count the brief drive-by from the Nazis.

If you disqualify both the UK and San Marino, than it's the USA! Holding truths to be self-evident since 1787!!
#41
Old 01-24-2009, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Flying Dutchman View Post
The US had a violent transition of power in November 1963.
Heh--except that power transitioned exactly as expected and planned for. But maybe this points to a problem with my definition: nobody would consider that a break in the continuity of US government.

In general, it seems to me that when violence breaks the continuity of government, it's because the violent person takes power. Maybe that's what I should've said: when the new government takes power through violence, it resets the clock.

Really not trying to move goalposts, just trying to figure out how to define a concept of continuous government.

Edit: Captain, good call on the Glorious Revolution; that would match my criteria. Shallora, the gradual lessening of monarchical power wouldn't, since it wasn't done through violence.

Daniel

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 01-24-2009 at 10:35 PM.
#42
Old 01-24-2009, 11:03 PM
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Than today's Final Jeopardy subject is: General Doper Political Questions

:: bets everything ::

Answer: This is the world's oldest continous, soveriegn, unconquered government in existence.

"What is the United Kingdom?"

Correct!
#43
Old 01-24-2009, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by The Flying Dutchman View Post
The US had a violent transition of power in November 1963.
What about the civil war? Emancipating the slave population was both violant and a big change. Not only but the vast majority of US land was taken by force through the 18th and 19th centuries from the Natives. I wouldn't really call those peaceful transfers of power.
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:26 PM
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There's such a problem with definitions here that it's hard to set it straight. Failed revolutions don't count, but coups that work within the confines of the constitution do.

Would the German occupation of Norway* (1940-1945) count, when the government and crown relocated to England but never formally surrendered and enjoyed the complete support of the public? The Quisling government was never recognized by any ruling or legislative body of Norway, nor elected. If it does, does that mean countries that have in periods declared martial law are resetting the timer? If it doesn't, does that mean the Italian occupation of Ethiopia doesn't count? (In which case, Ethiopia would be a serious contender - as the system of government never changed during the coups, only the bosses)

Is this limited to the current day? Is the inclusion of commonry voting or voting for women a change of government sufficient to reset the clock? Can a country truly call itself a representative democracy before its' entire population is allowed to vote? If so, where does the border of "major constitutional changes" go? Slavery, differantiation of race, women's sufferance, voting of the commonry and so forth does not count?

There's just so much nitpicking potential for there to be an obvious answer. For instance, Bush was not elected in any sense of a democratic election acknowledged outside the US in 2000. The electoral college is unique to the US, as far as I know. If the standard is international mean based, does that constitute an undemocratic exchange of power? If the standard is US-centric, does that exclude Norwegian party coalitions who form joint governments?

Does adding or removing another country from an empire constitute a radical enough change to reset the counter?

And restricting the focus of it to constitutions - only relevant since the end of the feudal age - makes it even more narrow and, IMHO, useless.


* Norway is of course disqualified by the Long Night - just using it as an example.
#45
Old 01-24-2009, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by shallora View Post

Napoleon conquered Switzerland in 1798 so Switzerland is disqualified.
I think that was general Jean Menard, not Napoleon ( who wasn't yet head of state and was preoccupied with Egypt in 1798 ).
#46
Old 01-24-2009, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
There's such a problem with definitions here that it's hard to set it straight. Failed revolutions don't count, but coups that work within the confines of the constitution do.
Huh?
#47
Old 01-24-2009, 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by The Tao's Revenge View Post
What about the civil war? Emancipating the slave population was both violant and a big change. Not only but the vast majority of US land was taken by force through the 18th and 19th centuries from the Natives. I wouldn't really call those peaceful transfers of power.
The United States government was not overthrown during the Civil War, although it temporarily lost a lot of territory. And while the US engaged in wars of conquest during the 19th century against indigenous folks, these wars never resulted in the US government being overthrown.

As for Norway's government in absentia, that's an interesting case. I'd say that if a government has no actual authority in its claimed country, it's not a government that counts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz
Is this limited to the current day? Is the inclusion of commonry voting or voting for women a change of government sufficient to reset the clock? Can a country truly call itself a representative democracy before its' entire population is allowed to vote? If so, where does the border of "major constitutional changes" go? Slavery, differantiation of race, women's sufferance, voting of the commonry and so forth does not count?
Again, I think the revision I need to make is that, through an act of violence, someone new takes over the governing of the nation. If someone engages in violence sufficient to persuade the current government to change course, that doesn't sound like much of a break in governmental continuity--but if someone says, successfully, "We're taking charge now, we'll shoot you if you resist," that's a break.

Nitpicking the definition can be helpful, of course, in terms of refining it. Better yet, though, if you see a loophole in the definition that leads to a counterintuitive result, why not see if you can fix it yourself?

I may be wrong in thinking that the basic idea of a continuous sovereign government with peaceful transitions to new governmental teams is an intuitive idea that's just slippery to define precisely.

Daniel
#48
Old 01-24-2009, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shallora View Post
Than today's Final Jeopardy subject is: General Doper Political Questions

:: bets everything ::

Answer: This is the world's oldest continous, soveriegn, unconquered government in existence.

"What is the United Kingdom?"

Correct!

Ireland did not formally join the UK until 1801. But, that could be considered as an enlargement. Kinda like a new state.

Last edited by spike404; 01-25-2009 at 12:01 AM.
#49
Old 01-25-2009, 01:50 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2008
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If expansion disqualifies you, then the USA is certainly in trouble.

Hawaii. 1959.
#50
Old 01-25-2009, 03:48 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 12,665
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
I think that was general Jean Menard, not Napoleon.
Actually I was a little off - Menard commanded the initial thrust, but it was Guillaume Marie Anne Brune who appears to have been the overall commander. Marie Anne? Huh.

Not that anyone really cares, of course. I just hate when I fuck up nitpicks .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 01-25-2009 at 03:49 AM.
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