Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gödel and the Constitution V: My Conjecture

I have long promised a final post in this series, containing my conjecture as to what Gödel's constitutional contradiction was. It is quite different from the other speculation I have seen. My delay has had several reasons:

  1. I have been immersed in doing my own mathematics.
  2. Really doing the homework on this requires a reasonable reading knowledge of German, something I do not have.
  3. Even given that I had done the homework, it was hard for me to imagine that others are impatient to hear my conjectures.
  4. Frankly, while I find the following convincing and interesting, my guess is most readers of the following will share the opinions of Einstein and Oskar Morgenstern and will be disappointed.

Without further ado, then, here is my conjecture:

  1. When the Nazis took over Austria, I conjecture that there was some after-the-fact justification in terms of Austrian constitutional law. I want to emphasize here that Gödel's concern would have been Austrian law -- *NOT* German law. I do not read German well and cannot follow up on this. It may be hard to find because even the lawyers who drafted it probably did not take it seriously.
  2. Gödel did take this after-the-fact justification seriously, and at face value. From Gödel's point of view, it would have explained why the Anschluss could and did happen.
  3. When Gödel studied the US Constitution, he found that a similar thing was possible under its terms.

I had already formed this conjecture before finding the Lost Morgenstern document, which contains the closest we will ever get to the exact wording of the conversation:
Gödel: "[Austria] was a republic, but the constitution was such that it was changed into a dictatorship."
Judge: "Oh! This is very bad. This could not happen in this country."
Gödel: "Oh, yes, I can prove it."

I cannot claim that the Morgenstern document proves my conjecture, but its language does track the conjecture exactly. And, if this conjecture seems unconvincing and uninteresting to you, note that that counts as evidence in its favor -- recall that, even though the story centers around it, Morgenstern and Einstein found Gödel's line of reasoning not worth repeating. Had it been something clearly convincing or interesting, presumably they would have passed at least a fragment of Gödel's argument on to posterity.

30 comments:

True Enquirer said...

Thanks for your blog on Godel and the American Constitution. I think your contribution is valuable in giving a context to Godel's legal thinking on the subject. We may say, with Wittgenstein, that Godel was a human being being before he was a logician. But, Godel would have used the word "prove" in the quoted dialogue as a logician. The consequences of the American Constitution within practical reason is to be found in the history of the creation of that marvelous document. The consequences within theoretical reason is the province theory of logic in which Godel himself was among the finest ever. It would have been irresistible for Godel not to view it in this theoretical setting.

Kela said...

The president can veto as much as he sees fit. He can even prevent things from being presented to him. All this is rigorously demonstrable. Gödel did really find something tangible. A corollary is that the U.S. constitution is inconsistent.

Ana V said...
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Jeffrey Kegler said...

Ana: "How did you round up your conjecture?"

I think you're asking, what was the basis for my conjecture? In writing my novel I spent a lot of time in the mind of Goedel and his associates, which was what enabled me to recognize the Morgenstern document in the 1st place. Political events in Austria played a huge role in Goedel's emotional life, I am convinced. The Schlick assassination was what triggered his mental illness, according to G's brother Rudolf.

G wrote a lot in his notebooks while preparing for the citizenship exam, which are in Princeton's Firestone Library. These have been transcribed from G's shorthand and even translated into rough English, I am told, but unfortunately never published. Whatever G was thinking, I beleive there would have to be some indications in the topics G was reading and writing notes on.

I think it is important to note that whatever Goedel's line of reasoning, it would have to be something that Morgenstern would not mention. Two possibilities there: One is that it was "white noise", which Austrian legal theory might be to Morgenstern. Second, an important element of the Morgenstern-Goedel friendship is that G gave M lots of publishable ideas, which G was not interested in getting credit for. (We know that G did study economic theory.) So it might be one of those topics -- but in that case I don't think M and Einstein would be so completely dismissive in the Lost Document.

It is useful to note that all G's discoveries required the right audience -- without an insightful audience they sound like crazy talk. G's Ontological proof is treated that way by some to this day. G's Incompleteness proof might well have been ignored had not Johnny von Neumann, already highly respected, immediately seen it for what it was and promoted it. So just because G's US Constitution Proof fell on deaf ears that day in New Jersey, does not mean that there is nothing to it. Maybe there is a special and significant insight into the nature of constitutional law buried in the vaults of the Firestone Library.

Ana V said...
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Kela said...

Mr. Kegler, your being a mathematician, who deals with self-similarity on a daily basis, please do consider the second and third paragraphs of article I section 7. (Read, reread, ... bearing in mind Gödel's prowess at recognizing self-applicability). The U.S.A. are, quite ironically, truly a military dictatorship. Really, the congress is mostly superfluous.

Ana V said...
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Ana V said...
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Jeffrey Kegler said...

@Ana: Perhaps someone will be able to get those in charge of the Gödel archives to put his notebooks online. Simply knowing the topics and sources he was looking at would be immensely helpful, I'd think.

Apparently these have not only been transcribed from their original hand-written shorthand into German, but even translated into English. The people managing Gödel's papers are reluctant to publish, however, because the English translations are quick & unreliable, and they also feel the need for the standard scholarly introductions, etc., etc. I hope someone can persuade them that to let these materials, rough as they are, see the light of day.

Ana V said...
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Jeffrey Kegler said...

@Ana: What I know about work with the notebooks comes from this article: http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/Goedel-Project-Synopsis.pdf.

Ana V said...
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Andrew E. Mathis said...

Sorry for coming late to the game here, but I'm truly curious to find out what Gödel found objectionable in the Constitution.

Summarizing points made (and not made) thus far:

(1) Democracy was suspended in Austria in 1933. It's therefore likely that Gödel was not referring to the Anschluss as the point of comparison but rather Dollfuss's ruling by decree beginning in March 1933.

(2) The circumstances under which this occurred were a matter of the three presidents of the parliament stepping down all at once over a procedural issue. See:

http://snipurl.com/23dm85q

(3) In doing so, Dollfuss was actually relying on a law that had been passed in 1917 as a wartime measure and never revoked. So the issue in the Austrian constitution might be one that exists in the 1920 constitution, the 1929 constitution, or even earlier.

(4) Ana's suggestion is interesting but I'm not buying it — at least not yet. While the idea fits with the Austrian constitution, it doesn't fit the U.S. Constitution, because the U.S. President isn't elected directly — he or she is elected by the Electoral College, so the presumed evils of direct voting don't apply.

(5) As a point of reference, the Austrian Constitutions are online:

http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/au00000_.html

Ana V said...
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Andrew E. Mathis said...

Good stuff, Ana. Let us know what you find.

For complete reference, the Constitutions of Austria auf Deutsch:

http://www.verfassungen.de/at/indexheute.htm

a.m.

Ana V said...
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Kais said...

If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law (U.S. const. I.7, §1)

Such reconsiderations result in a vote, a vote to which both houses are necessary.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; (U.S. const. I.7, §2)

The president can return (veto) such reconsiderations. As per the constitution, reconsidered things should take effect, hence, reconsideration votes themselves, too, should take effect. But not before the president's approval. So, the president can postpone the entering into force of any order, resolution or vote, as much as he wishes.

Ana V said...
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Litowitz said...

As a lawyer, my guess is that Godel was focusing on Article V of the Constitution, which is the section on amendments (it requires 2/3 vote in Congress plus 3/4 of State Legislatures). If this section itself were amended to lower the threshold for amendment (say by allowing the President to amend), then anything would be legally possible.

In Germany, what happened was that after the Reichstag fire, Hindenberg invoked an Emergency clause in the Constitution to suspend civil rights. This allowed suppression of other parties. The Constitution could be amended by 2/3 vote of a quorum of legislators. Hitler did not have 2/3 but he forced other parties to stay away so that he had a quorum and then had 2/3 of that. That gave him approval for the Enabling law that allowed the Chancellor to make up laws willy-nilly.

This is why I think it has something to do with the amending powers.

But I am puzzled by this: Why the focus on whether totalitarianism could arise 'logically'? Clearly it can arise illogically as it were, by brute force. So what is the difference if it can be imposed logically? I ask this question about myself as well, since I have been thinking about Godel's secret for some time, and then realized that it really is pretty academic in the pejorative sense. But can't stop thinking about it!

Ana V said...
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Ana V said...
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Ana V said...
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Kais said...

Any news? Let everybody read, re-read, ... §§2, 3 article I.7! This is where it starts. Then read the whole constitution and you'll be amazed at how elegantly one can justify his dictatorship. I believe that it was intentional, in fact they knew that a certain man was to discover it & be in a position to use it. Please read §§2, 3 of I.7.

A V said...
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Kais said...

A V, I have two arguments and a discussion.

Tedious:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0Tw1fnDScRsZ3JYQ19uaTNJdHc/edit?usp=sharing
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0Tw1fnDScRsUkNmNmVJV2RLYkU/edit?usp=sharing

Entertaining (forum HTMLs):
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0Tw1fnDScRsMGNDeWZnMHZQY0E/edit?usp=sharing

A V said...
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Kais said...

An earlier one (same arguments, repeated over and over):

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0Tw1fnDScRsSThxalZPelJWOHM/edit?usp=sharing

I am convinced that this is Gödel's discovery. It would be interesting to ask those in charge if article I section 7 occurs somewhere in his notes.

Note that USC IV.4 may be in contradiction with a dictatorial government: USC is inconsistent and classical logic takes care of USC's requiring what it forbids. One doesn't have to arrange for the US to be attacked by the US (a classic, see below) in order to establish a practical dictatorship: the USA are de constitutio a dictatorship (and inconsistent at that).

Thoroughly intellectual: http://ia700202.us.archive.org/5/items/RedSymphony/RedSymphony.pdf

"(...) In the first place
because America did not enter a war formerly and never will do so if it is not attacked. Its rulers can arrange that they will be attacked, if that will suit them. Of that I can assure you. In those cases when provocation was not successful and the enemy did not react to it, aggression was invented. In their first international war, the war against Spain, of the defeat of which they were sure, they invented an aggression, or, more correctly, “They” invented it. In 1914 provocation was successful. True, one can dispute technically if there was one, but the rule without exceptions is that he who makes a sudden attack without warning (e.g., Pearl Harbor, 9/11, N. Korea etc.), does it with the help of a provocation. Now it is like this: this splendid American technique which I welcome at any moment, is subject to one condition: that
aggression should take place at a suitable moment, i.e. the moment required by the United States who are being attacked"

A V said...
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Jeffrey Kegler said...

I hope it's OK if I close comments on this blog in a couple of days. My interests have moved on to my own mathematics, and I follow the discussion only to watch for spam. You'd probably find some other forum more convenient. Since this may be your only current way to communicate, feel free to follow up with comments setting up a new forum.

Thanks, jeffrey kegler

A V said...
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