EJ Dionne writes about democracy in the WaPo. It’s a predictable article lamenting the failures of democracy and it uninteresting. Except that the article itself is a perfect symbol for the real failures of democracy: namely that everybody thinks its good and nobody has any idea what it actually is (what it is in a meaningful, non-absurdist sense).
Democracy (as majority rule) is not wholly good (think about free elections in the middle east that result in totalitarian, oppressive governments). And nobody has any idea what it means: it surely does NOT mean majority rule (at least, that’s not what most people believe that it means and that not what most people want it to mean).
But most people do ACT as if democracy means majority rule. And because of that, I laugh.
And because of that, this paragraph from EJ Dionne’s article makes me fall out of my chair laughing:
Ernst Hillebrand, the head of international policy analysis for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the German Social Democratic Party’s think tank, describes a chilling finding in a 2009 survey by the German polling firm Forsa: “that zero percent — yes, zero percent — of workers in Germany believe they can have a significant impact on how policy in Germany is shaped via the ballot box.”
It’s funny because it’s true and because the author (EJ Dionne and Ernst Hillebrand) doesn’t understand why it’s true. 1 vote out of 1 million votes IS ZERO PERCENT. Individuals in majority rule democracies have NO POWER AT THE BALLOT BOX. This is very simple. It’s just math, and math that all elementary school children know. EJ Dionne is not smarter than a fifth grader, and I find that very funny.
Even when his columns are not very good, I enjoy reading George Will. This column is good, but I was drawn to this particular paragraph on liberalism:
Liberalism’s agenda has been constant since long before liberals, having given their name a bad name, stopped calling themselves liberals and resumed calling themselves progressives, which they will call themselves until they finish giving that name a bad name. The agenda always is: Concentrate more power in Washington, more Washington power in the executive branch and more executive power in agencies run by experts. Then trust the experts to be disinterested and prudent with their myriad intrusions into, and minute regulations of, Americans’ lives. Obama’s presidency may yet be, on balance, a net plus for the public good if it shatters Americans’ trust in the regulatory state’s motives.
Yes, that would be a positive outcome. Experts are fallible and experts always have, at minimum, their own interests in mind (which is often expanding the power that experts have to make decisions and control other people’s lives).
I will never apologize for railing against the non-science of social science; and it is because of statements (and the beliefs behind those statements) like this, from Joel Stein’s piece on the me me me generation in this week’s Time (about which I will almost certainly write more upon later) (emphasis mine):
“It was an honest mistake,” say Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University and the editor of Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard. “The early findings showed that, indeed, kids with high self-esteem did better in school and were less likely to be in various kinds of trouble. It’s just that we’ve learned later that self-esteem is a result, not a cause.”
I actually fell out of my chair when I read that emboldened sentence. What!?!?!? Who would possibly think that self-esteem is a cause? You’d have to be…I won’t even say it. It’s just utterly absurd. And apparently this was news to an entire field of “respectable” study.
Ethan Fisher and Chuck Silberman are rolling on the floor laughing and I doubt they’ll get up for quite a long time.
A big “YES” to this article from the Atlantic on the need – so strong that it is the essence of the Constitution – to distrust government.
Joe Klein writes in Time this week about courage. He’s making the observation that special interest groups wield a disproportionate amount of power. This is pretty straightforward and correct and an emergent order of the kind of democracy we have in the United States (coupled with an overall weakening of the Constitutional limitations on government).
Klein argues, weakly and somewhat indirectly, that as a consequence of the power that special interest group wield we need to hope for courageous politicians.
We could start to limit what government can do. Special interest groups only have power because government has power. Take away the ability for government to control our lives and there becomes nothing left to lobby.
We can hope for courageous politicians, who might come, who might do what we want, who might courageously do the opposite, and who – even if they do come – will eventually leave; or, we can just fix the problem entirely by crippling government, limiting government, by reigning it in.
Senator Ivy is courageous in that he does limit government. And that courage will endure long after he leaves office.