Revolutionary documents are full of grand statements about the will of the people. “We the people” gives way to the will of the proletariat, but the message is the same. Governments, from the Republican forms to the Social Democracies and even the Communist Quasi-dictatorships all claim to derive their right to govern from the consent of the people.
There is no consent in a Democracy.
On the face of it, this sounds insane, even at odds with my own stated Libertarianesque philosophy. However, it is entirely congruent.
America is reputed by some to be a democracy. Certainly the talking heads taking national stage refer to it as such. Others call it a Republic and consider it to be a form of limited democracy. While the latter are probably more consistent with the vision of the Founding Fathers, both sides miss the greater issue.
None of us have consented to government control because everyone disagrees with at least some of what government does, and does not consent to it. If Congress passes a law banning Widgets, because someone convinced a majority of Americans that Widgets are bad, then Widgets are illegal for all — even those who disagree with their illegality. Now, consider that Congress also bans Kludges for the same reason. Not all those who wished to ban Widgets also support banning Kludges. Some would prefer to ban both, some would ban neither, and others might ban only one or the other.
In other words, everyone, from the most die-hard Progressive to the staunch Conservative, can find laws they despise. Or they despise the lack of a certain law. The point is, democracy cannot satisfy everyone at an even basic level. It is unclear if democracy can even satisfy a majority at a basic level, even when each law is crafted on an ostensible platform of majority support.
So a large minority, or even a slim majority, of the citizenry will feel that the government does not represent them. That is not an expression of the will of the people. This is why Democracy fails.
That, and blatant stupidity on behalf of a large chunk of the populace. Some people have no business voting on anything of importance. The trick is, separating those people from the voting rolls without someone else crying foul. Atheist Progressives are often inclined to think that people who believe in a mysterious sky wizard and aren’t big on gay marriage are unfit to vote. Faithful Christians are often inclined to think the Atheist Christian Haters and their one-sided expression of tolerance have no business saying anything on behalf of government.
And so, in the Progressive-Conservative political war, more voting soldiers are needed on the front lines of the ballot box. Useful idiots on both sides are countenanced and permitted access to the booth in order to bolster the ranks.
We have already established that Democracy’s claim to “consent of the people” is specious at best, the vast application of stupidity at the voting booth also removes the claim of democracy being effective, or even competent. When Marion Barry was convicted of smoking crack and dealing with prostitutes in the mayor’s office in D.C., the citizenry of Washington D.C. gleefully reelected him. Ted Kennedy drove a woman off a pier, and that was obligingly overlooked by his constituency. Both were individuals who clearly did not belong anywhere near the levers of power, but that didn’t matter to the Low Information Voters. The people have spoken, right? Todd Akin, fortunately, lost his office with his moronic statements about abortion, but it was a near thing.
Republicanism, that is to say the concept of a democratically elected government that has clear limits placed on its powers, may be somewhat preferable to outright democracy. But those Constitutional limits can be overturned eventually. It may be that Republicanism only delays the descent into Democracy by Stupid.
Now, before you start lecturing me on the evil of Dictatorships and Monarchies, let me first say that I agree with you. Those aren’t viable alternatives either. But the fact remains that a great many people, perhaps even an outright majority, have no business voting. The means for limiting the vote in an equitable manner (no, that’s not a contradiction) is a thing yet to be discovered. But we should be looking for it, just the same.
We should also dispense with the fiction that anything about modern America gives more than lip service to the notion that the government represents the will of the people. The government doesn’t care about your will, or even some mystical aggregate of all the wills in the country. It’s possible it never did, but it certainly doesn’t today.
Consider a relatively popular initiative here in my home state of Florida. A substantial majority (68%) of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana. There is even a close 50-50 split in those who support full recreational legalization. But the battle for medical marijuana is closely fought and has a good chance of being defeated. Why? Because the consent of the people is a fictional device, designed to make you believe that your voice is heard, or even worth anything to those in power in the first place.
The Divine Right of Kings has been replaced with the Statistical Average of Aristocrats. The result is the same.
Democracy has failed.