[This is the linked form of my regular Union column which is published in the newspaper’s 14jan12 edition.]
When progressives start to talk about democracy again, it is time to get a real firm grip on your wallet and your liberties. Democracy is now the watchword that echoes across the occupied streets, and also the revived cry of the labor unions. What could be a more appropriate and compelling message during an election year? Aren’t we a democracy, and haven’t we been taught that democracy is the best for everyone?
Actually, ‘democracy’ has always wound up as the first stepping stone to autocracy. The guiles of democracy as a form of governance were understood by the Greeks over two thousand years ago. And since then writers and historians over the ages have documented the steady progression of suicides committed by democracies. Our Founders were well-read men of intellect and learning, they were not about to risk their lives, fortunes, and honor in backing a revolution that would leave a short-lived democracy as their legacy. Today, our poorly educated of all creeds and colors believe that America once was a democracy that has been subverted by the greedy rich – it is time to revolt and again return the country to a democracy.
The problem is that democracy’s sweet spot is small. It works primarily within groups that have a common culture, a common understanding of the situation, and a desire for fairly similar outcomes. In such fortunate populations there are no sizeable contending factions whose victory would impose a long lasting cost on the others. So since there may be more than one way to get to such a mutually beneficial outcome, a democratic vote as to which path to pursue is proper. But remove one or more of these ingredients from the mix, and you are soon boiling a bitter brew.
Enlightenment writers like Hume, Hobbes, and Locke greatly influenced our Founders in their deliberations leading first to a government under the Articles of Confederation, and then to the Constitution which has weathered well for over two centuries. In both they were careful not to bequeath us a democracy, but instead a republic which seeks to insulate the decisions of state from the volatile emotions of an under-informed and easily influenced electorate.
Today we are on a momentous populist path to compromise the Constitution in the name of greater democracy and, of course, equality. The cry in the streets is that the 1% have cheated the 99% of their due. And all will be put right when we impose a more ‘fair’ system and commission the newly empowered state to strip and redistribute the wealth and income of the 1%. Equality über alles, a cry from the public squares of St Petersburg, Moscow, Berlin, and Munich, that still resonates over the years.
To satisfy its core constituency in the execution of such redistribution, the current administration has been ‘creating’ new jobs at the taxpayer cost of approximately $1,500,000 per job. This number was convincingly calculated (using government data) by Ravi Batra, a far left analyst on truthout.com. Batra seeks to excoriate Obama for being slow to fundamentally transform the country, and also to point out how the stimulus monies were misspent. You see, the Left argues that since the average worker gets only about $50,000 annually, the rest of the stimulus monies were filched by and disappeared into the pockets of the 1%. More reason for the 99% to demand that the state should claw us back to equality as a sign that we are on a solid path to democracy.
So let’s keep watch in this new and exciting year as our socialists work to consolidate their gains and mobilize the masses under the banner of ‘Return to Democracy!’. And equalizing wealth and income will be the sure measure of progress on that long march. But is that destination not the same place from which the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and now the Europeans are struggling to return?
George Rebane is an entrepreneur and a retired systems scientist in Nevada County who regularly expands these and other themes on KVMR and Rebane’s Ruminations (www.georgerebane.com).