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-- Brad Delong

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Your Father's Democracy

Over at Plain Politics, (which see, for context) Johnathon opined:

More generally, it's just real hard sometimes for those of us who pay a lot of attention to politics to get around the idea of how little attention most others pay, including the broad category of those who vote most of the time . . .

He is referring, of course, to the infamous "LOW INFORMATION VOTER," aka, the overwhelming majority of the American electorate.

In comments, I offered this (edited for political relevance) opinion:

1) Democracy assumes an intelligent and informed electorate. Without it, we get what you are describing. Which is why democracy is failing in this country. Maybe that is why, historically, democracies have a finite life time.

2) Life is hard. After a day of slinging whatever from 9 to 5, parent teacher confs. and all the other stuff of life, the universe, and everything, who wants to think about something as arcane and intrinsically difficult as politics? Especially when the BIG GAME is on. Ergo, no. 1.

3) With international corporations so much in control of both parties, it's pretty easy to think "There's not a dime's worth of difference." This makes apathy a pretty inviting option. Ergo, no.1.

4) There is so much deliberate misinformation: Obama is an Arab Nazi socialist, Bush tax cuts didn't increase the deficits because they lead to a (god help us) "vibrant" economy; that finding real information and sorting wheat from chaff takes considerable effort. Ergo, no.1.

Aren't we kinda screwed?


Tim said...

Kinda? Yeah we're f***ed.
There's fixes but there's not one person who can do anything about it. We go the way of Greece,Rome,England and other Nation Building, war mongering,ego centric self serving Countrys. Time to give up the ghost, we're not what we once were and maybe we shouldn't be.
Get out of the way, make room for China, as we sink into second fiddle status. Let the right have a few states.Good riddance. Queen Palin will reign. and I say hello Canada.;)

J said...

Actually you're sort of correct re democracy, specifically ...the implications of the popular vote (and populism, tho' populism has a variety of flavors...).

Ergo, end the pure popular vote and just let the really smart people (we leave the establishing of "vanguard criteria" as an exercise) decide for the Herd. Bada bing, problem solved. On that, VI Lenin, Nietzsche and even Jimmy Madison would probably agree.

Jazzbumpa said...

Johnathon says my point one is wrong: democracy does NOT assume ans intelligent and informed electorate.

I hope he elaborates.

Tim -

You have a couple of points. First, I've come to believe that imperialism is ultimately self-defeating, and as tempting as it might seem, pursuing it is always a mistake.

J -

I'm sure you being tongue in cheek. Elites tend not to be any better or brighter than the unwashed masses, and are probably prone to making more grandiose and expensive mistakes.

J said...

Depends on the particular elite, doesn't it? That was one of Madison's conceptual problems which led to the Constitution in a sense--negotiating between monarchist/aristocratic tyranny, and the potential tyranny of mob democracy (I don't worship the "Founding fathers" but the Federalist papers features a few interesting flights of fancy).

The Bolsheviks had other solutions to the problem-- not saying they had the right ones, but the supposed right to a vote is not written in stone, as HL Mencken also realized. Why, just overturn the 19th Amendment and 'Merica'd be taking a big step towards Rationality

Jazzbumpa said...

Depends on the particular elite, doesn't it?

Not in the slightest. Elitism will degenerate into birthright, probably in the first generation. Further, there is no definable elite group which can be demonstrated to have superiority in intelligence, wisdom, organizational skills, political and economic savvy, and all the other characteristics it takes to run a country (or a soup kitchen, for that matter) better than a random selection of reasonably well educated people of average intelligence.

In fact, I'd say I hold this truth to be self-evident: that all elites are created equal - or near enough as no matter.