Majority Rule, it’s the foundation of our Constitutional system. Ever since you've worn short pants, teachers, parents, priests, politicians, newspaper editors and anchormen have all told you that Majority Rule is the universal foundation of all public virtue; the logical complement to private or personal virtues like honesty, empathy and thoughtfulness. In regarding the world beyond your classroom, kitchen, parish or city you could infallibly judge the righteousness of a country or community by the presence or absence of majority rule (otherwise known as “Democracy“). That these same authorities were often quite happy to suspend your democratic rights is a fact that was politely overlooked. Also conveniently ignored was a bizarre contradiction. The actual practice of “democracy” almost always serves to banish the above mentioned personal virtues to some distant corner of the universe. You may have personal virtue or you may have “democracy“, but you will rarely (if ever) have them both in the same room at the same time. Ironically, it seems they are mutually exclusive. In fact, despite our universal reverence for majority rule, most people regard politicians (the priests of our Democratic cult) just slightly above pedophiles and mass-murderers. But the childhood conditioning was so successful that they accept this paradox with the same facility as a star center-fielder retrieving pop-ups. In other words they do it without even thinking, relying instead on pure muscle memory. There is a distant sensation of the contradiction - we all know politics is a dirty business - but the early training was so thorough that we never actually investigate the matter. No need to; one may sooner question gravity than debate the sanctity of majority rule! And so, virtually every citizen seems to be unhappy with our Government, but rarely (if ever) will you find someone who questions the institution of Majority Rule. But if perchance you should hazard to question this matter, to seek an answer to the paradox, then be prepared for some discomfort and confusion. You may even end up looking as crazy as me.
In that examination you would surely run through the litany of virtuous benefits attributed to the product marketed as “Democracy”’ The list is familiar; freedom of choice, reasoned debate, compromise and the common good. But if you seek concrete examples of these valuable product features you will be hard pressed to find any.
Freedom of Choice ? - Seriously? In a land dedicated to the ideal of consumer choice, we are offered just two brands from which to make a selection. These two, like Coke and Pepsi, are de facto monopolies. And like your favorite soft drink, they sport flashy graphics backed by an enormous advertising budget but they have zero nutritional value.
Reasoned Debate? - Really? Have you ever witnessed such a thing? When? Perhaps in a New England town meeting but certainly not in Washington DC and not in any State Capitol either.
Compromise? - Such as? The compromise which shut down the Federal government perhaps? Or maybe this is unfair, hitting below the belt. OK then, Obamacare; a “compromise” which promises uninsured individuals the same “opportunity” to purchase inflated and inadequate coverage as the lucky citizens who already receive this “benefit” at work. A compromise which still leaves all of us paying vastly more for healthcare than we should.
The Common Good?!!! - Enough !, this is an atrocity to great to joke about. By any measure, Americans are uneducated, unhealthy and impoverished. The greater good of all Americans, the health of our social fabric; these vital features seem to be entirely lacking from the model of Democracy that we have purchased!
The advertised product benefits attested to by every authority from your youth are, shockingly, entirely absent. And if these revelations lead you to question the product label itself, as they should, then you are in for an even bigger surprise. The item had been mislabeled. It’s not Democracy!
Don’t rely on my testimony, I defer instead to John Adams, our second President.
"Is not every representative government in the world actually an aristocracy?"
The existence of universal suffrage in no way alters this fact. We live in an aristocracy, or more accurately a plutocracy. The title of “Democracy” is completely inappropriate. You may call it a Democratic Republic if you like, which is at least a little less ambiguous, but this is still - as Adams points out - a contradiction of terms, if not an outright oxymoron. The product has been mislabeled and the ingredients falsified. We were sold a false bill of goods. If there was such a thing as regulatory protection for the consumers of Government, then a class action suit with civil and criminal penalties would surely be in order. But of course there is no such mythical agency of consumer protection so we must stand on our own resources. Since childhood, we have been raised on a fairytale and now that fiction is disintegrating all around us. It’s time to wake up.
I have a theory about the fairy-tale of representative “democracy”. I believe this institution was a product of evolution, not philosophy, and it served us far better in the ancient past than the modern present. If we examine it impartially we will be forced to admit that it no longer suits us. It is entirely inappropriate to our era. The precise nature of “True Democracy” is subject to debate, but John Adams and I both agree that politicians have no place in it. If we wish to move beyond fairy-tales and create a functioning Democratic government for the 21st Century then enormous changes will be required. In keeping with that thought, like all good soap-box orators I have published a manifesto.
Unlike this rant, which is short and flippant, my manifesto is lengthy and serious. At forty pages you’ll probably say that it’s absurdly long, but Common Sense was twice as long. Is our situation today not every bit as dire as that faced by 18th Century Colonists? I’ve titled this work The Extinction of Politics. I hope you’ll read it.