Democracy, When the Masses Rule

“Half the population no longer reads the newspapers; plainly, they are the more clever half.”

Gore Vidal

“The marginal person is neither consistently good nor bad, smart nor dumb, bullish nor bearish…. but is subject to influence. Buy him a drink on election day, and he may vote whatever way you want. Stir him up with the right sort of demagoguery, put him in a crowd, and he could lynch Mother Teresa.”

William Bonner

Gustave Le Bon predicted in his 1896 book, The Crowd that Crowds had already taken over almost all Western governments. Oh there were still a few kings and emperors in their palaces, but assemblies were gaining ground everywhere. Modern communications provided the means. Inexpensive newspapers, cheap transportation and the telephone made it possible for a nation to think the same thing at almost the same time. Mobs, which had formerly been limited to fairly small local groups in urban areas, became national, ever international. Soon, the vast crowds would be interested in politics …. and in getting rich. With the internet today, I can contact over 1/2 million people in less than an hour.

Groups tend to amplify whatever emotion an individual may feel. People who are on any normal day sensible, who drive on the right-hand side of the road, who can figure out how to use the electronic controls of their home sound system, who have no trouble picking out the lowest price at the supermarket – put them in a crowd and they become raving maniacs.

In market situations, greed and fear are let loose. Prices are bid up to levels that no sane man would pay if you put it to him on his own, or they are driven down to levels that no sane man could resist. Like the opening stages of any conflict, the crowd gets very brave. Reason does not merely sleep… it drops on the floor unconscious.

But what the heck does this have to do with politics or precisely what does all this have to do about democracy?

I cringe when I hear anyone speak of this country’s government as a democracy or a democratic republic. I feel the same anguish every time I hear someone say it in a speech or in writing….. People in mass can only hold simple ideas in their heads; ideas so belittled by the dumbing down process that they are little more than myths. That is as true of democracy as it was of communism.

A Democracy allows for increased participation in politics and its spoils, just as did communism and fascism. A King may make a decision based on their individual experience and moral consciences. They might be successful at enforcing those decisions, depending on the circumstances. With the beginning of mass participation in government, it changed the nature of politics, making them more tyrannical than ever before and, curiously, more resistant to change.

It is difficult to describe this odd cruelty that we Americans suffer. There is nothing in our language that could possibly describe the rather squishy dictatorship of a majority. Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming 200 years ago. “I think,” he wrote, “that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything the world has ever seen.” Tocqueville noted, the power of the authorities was absolute, often capricious, and dangerous. But the king’s armies could not be everywhere. And his agents tended to be thin on the ground. Most people living under these forms of government had very limited contact with the authorities. Taxes were low. Regulations were few. And the regulators themselves often lived in fear of being strung up by a mob. The king’s grip may have been awful, but his reach was short.

Democracy is different kind of creature. It opens the door and invites people into the governing class and thus turns them into unpaid agents of the government, and ultimately their own oppressors. Every two, four or six years, we Americans celebrate that democratic freedom by shuffling off to the voting booth. Then, they go back to doing as they are told.

In earlier societies, man’s role was thought to be determined by God. There were Kings because God wanted it that way and that we could make the most of it or not. Then modern society stepped up and democracy reared its head and yelled that man could decide for himself what he could or could not do. God no longer wrote the rules according to the King, we would write them, in his assemblies, by citizen representatives elected by popular vote. Man is now God of his own design.

horsey-democracy_t470Can you imagine a system where the advantages and disadvantages of any proposed law could be argued out in public; and then after sober reflection, each voter got to cast his ballot. In practice, the various forms of democracy function with all the features, for better or worse, of collective rule making, tempered by the habits a d characteristics of the group on which it has been imposed.

As we have seen, the liberty to write whatever laws is an open invitation to mischief.

So you see democracy is a lie at its core – that you can cheat, murder, and steal as long as you can get 51 percent of registered voters to go along with you. People are perfectly happy to vote their way into other people’s bank accounts – and feel morally superior doing so. For they always do so in the name of some high minded chutzpah, whether it is concern for the environment or the poor – or making the “world free and safe”!

“No one’s liberty or property is safe as long as the legislatures is in session,” is the common dictum. How many times have we heard that and rightfully so because gradually, legislatures insinuated their way into nearly every aspect of commerce. America as in the other developed nations, redistribute roughly a third to one half of the entire gross domestic product through the political process.

The Western world since the French Revolution has been moving toward more voting and less liberty. What could Patrick Henry been thinking when he said “Give me liberty or give me death,” at a time when government regulations were almost nonexistent and the total tax intake was less than 3 percent. It might have been he was “referring to the liberty of a people to decide how to subjugate themselves.”

illusion-of-free-choiceOr maybe this is what we are thinking because Mussolini described the concept of liberty as “Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual with the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. Fascism…. the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.”

At first in America and elsewhere, only a few people voted, landowners. Through the years more and more wanted that privilege.

What is this thing about Democracy, it doesn’t make us wealthy, it doesn’t give us power, matter of fact it gives us less of both. Citizens of the this great land pay taxes 5 to 10 times higher than those under the absolute monarchs and submit to rules and regulations that “no King” could have imagined.

Maybe it is the lure of the promise that this modern “democratic consumerism” that we will become wealth and happiness through better public health or safety measures. Maybe its the promise that this modern capitalism helps us distribute wealth to those that might not have the ability to create wealth themselves.

Call it communism or liberal democracy, the instant promise is the same, the participants imagine that they will “get something from the system that they could not have gotten through their own means.” The power of majorities being much greater than that of kings, citizens expected much more from them than subjects had expected from their monarchs. They could not imagine any reason that the promise of more might not be fulfilled.

So let’s vote, the more the merrier! Our desires and wants are on the line here. Of course to Hell with freedom… Patrick didn’t know what he was talking about.

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