The Problem of Democracy

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

James Madison, Federalist Paper #10

If it be admitted that a man, possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with the consciousness of their strength. And for these reasons I can never willingly invest any number of my fellow creatures with that unlimited authority which I should refuse to any one of them.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in American, 1835, 1840

The common axiom of democracies, however, which says that "the majority must rule," is to be received with many limitations. Were the majority of a country to rule without restraint, it is probable as much injustice and oppression would follow, as are found under the dominion of one.

James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat, 1838.

Wir, die wir eines andern Glaubens sind --, wir, denen die demokratische Bewegung nicht bloß als eine Verfalls-Form der politischen Organisation, sondern als Verfalls-, nämlich Verkleinerungs-Form des Menschen gilt, als seine Vermittelmäßigung und Werth-Erniedrigung: wohin müssen wir mit unsern Hoffnungen greifen?

We, who are of a different faith, for whom the democratic movement is not only a deteriorated form of political organization but a deterioration, that is to say, a depreciation of the human type, a mediocratizing and lowering of value -- where must our hopes look?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan [Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.144]; Jenseits von Gut und Böse [Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.108; bloß restored for bloss, Vermittelmäßigung for Vermittelmässigung], color added.

In a democracy, the political incentives are actually for dishonesty and mendacity. People know that politicians lie. That is assumed, and there are countless jokes about it. There are few penalties for lies in the ordinary course of politics. In modern ideology, Friedrich Nietzsche and deconstruction maintain that there is no truth, only power. This may have an effect, since it means that the more blatant and successful the lie, the more it displays political power. This is what supporters want. Even the most absurd, incoherent, and shameless lies thus may succeed the best.

In a monarchy, there are also incentives for lying, among the advisors of the monarch, where they can achieve success through flattery and deception. However, the monarch can be on guard against this and, through multiple avenues, can avoid its effects. The advisors may wield power, but they can quickly be stripped of it. In a democracy, even if the voters are aware of the dishonesty of their politicians, they may vote for them anyway, from other considerations, like promises of benefits, ethnic solidarity, ideological agreement, simple personality, or actual corruption in political payoffs and favors.

Machiavelli said, "A prince who is not wise himself cannot be wisely counseled..." There's the rub. Monarchs may be fools who enjoy being flattered, as voters may enjoy the flattery of lying politicians. This was a perennial problem of monarchies. We can easily discern one feature of the greatness of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in the information that "She was immune to flattery." However, monarchs also have other incentives. Democratic politicians lie to get elected and reelected, and their horizon may only be the next election. Monarchs don't worry about that, but they worry about their posterity. It is rare to find an attitude, supposedly expressed by Louis XV as Après moi, le déluge, where a monarch may seem unconcerned about the future. Everyone may wish to postone a day of reckoning, but lying politicians seem to be more comfortable with it as long as they can obscure reality, deny responsibiity, and leave the scene first. The central role of the Federal Government in the creation of the Great Depression (1929-1938) and the Great Recession (2007-2009) is still successfully concealed in public discourse, so great is the political value of diverting blame, to banks in particular. The result of the deception, of course, was greater power for the Federal Government and for politicians, while banks received their own kinds of protection, to be recycled to the politicians. Thus, for every democratic politician, Après moi, le déluge may be a sound maxim.

What can be done about this is the enduring challenge of political theory. The likes of Jefferson and Madison, wise themselves, thought that a Republic could not survive without moral virtue. But democracy, in its every essence, corrupts virtue, in citizens as well as politicians. Jeffersonian institutional provisions against that have failed, not the least because few understand how republican government is different from democracy; and the historical tendency is to undermine virtue by promoting democracy as a good and an end in itself. This effects the downfall of America.

Τηλεπατητικός (Telepateticus)

The destructive work of totalitarian machinery, whether or not this word is used, is usually supported by a special kind of primitive social philosophy. It proclaims not only that the common good of 'society' has priority over the interests of individuals, but that the very existence of individuals as persons is reducible to the existence of the social 'whole'; in other words, personal existence is, in a strange sense, unreal. This is a convenient foundation for any ideology of slavery.

Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009), Is God Happy? Selected Essays, Basic Books, 2013 p.57, color added; not "primitive social philosophy" but very precisely Hegelian metaphysics.

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it.

The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

Thomas Sowell

Ninety eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. Its the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.

Lily Tomlin

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.

Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin

The Constitution of the United States begins with the words, "We the People of the United States..." This makes it sound like the Constitution was a unanimous act of all the American People. But, of course, it wasn't. The Anti-Federalists were against it. Considering that pretty much all of their cautions, complaints, warnings, and predictions about the Federal Government created by the Constitution have come true, and that the assurances of Federalists like Madison and Hamilton (that Anti-Federalist concerns were baseless) have proven false, we might wonder what it means that the phrase "We the People" was not just innacurate, but a kind of deception.

We should be especially sobered by the reflection that, according to Madison himself, we have seen "a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators," specifically in the adoption by the New Deal Supreme Court of Hamilton's suggestion that the "General Welfare" clause meant that the Federal Government could spend money on anything. Jefferson's own comment about this was that its adoption would render the Constitution "nugatory."

But the wording of the Constitution's preamble is the key to a problem that besets Constitutional government quite generally. The phrase "We the People" suggest the Greek idea of government by the People, for which we have the word δημοκρατία, "democracy," i.e. the "rule of the people." As Lincoln famously said, we want to have a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The United States is thus generally said to be a democracy, with the occasional complaint and the occasional reform about it needing to be more "democratic." Democracy is suppose to allow the "Will of the People" to be effected.

However, there is a conceptual, or even a metaphysical, problem with these ideas. There is no substantive entity to be identified as "the People" that can exercise will and rule a state -- the way a monarch or dictator can -- and there simply never is such a thing as the "Will of the People," or Rousseau's "General Will," that can be put into effect.

Democracies are characterized by voting; and voting, unless the election is stolen, determines the preferences of an electoral (and voting) majority. There are winners and losers. The losers, as sometimes happens, can subsequently and consequently be deprived of rights, property, freedom, and even their lives. These actions, rising to the level of crimes, can then be justified as the "Will of the People," with the victims, not unusually innocent and harmless, vilified as "enemies of the People," and dismissed as either criminal themselves or unworthy of the status of human beings (e.g. Jews, overseas Chinese, or overseas Indians, i.e. from India).

The election of Joe Biden in 2020 was by a narrow margin, with the Senate actually evenly split, so that only the Vice President could break the inevitable ties. Nevertheless, Biden's message to the 49% of the electorate that didn't vote for him has consistently been the equivalent of "Screw you" -- smearing all of those Americans as "semi-fascists" and "white supremacists." He has felt no sense that the President should represent the whole Nation. This is all but unpreprecedented in American history. Even Lincoln did not demonize Southerners, despite their waging a hot war against the United States.

The rule of a dictatorial majorty has aptly been called the "tyranny of the majority" -- a problem already identified by Alexis de Tocqueville -- the very mechanism by which rights were stripped from freed slaves in the South after the Civil War, and the Segregationist terror regimes were established (including the violent overthrow of the Republican, mixed-race government of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898, with a massacre of 60 black people), or by which legal Chinese immigrants in the United States were denied citizenship, denied the ability to have their families join them, and even denied basic property rights in California, disabilities later applied to Japanese immigrants, except for family reunions [note].
Freedom from Fear, 1943, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), National Archives at College Park

It is also noteworthy that the further we see the fictitious entity called "the People" reified, the more dictatorial and tyrannical a government is likely to be. Thus, Communist China is the "People's Republic" of China; and communist regimes in general may be called "people's republics." Yet the appeal to "the people" in these regimes always conceals totalitarian despotism, where actual people have little say in their lives and their government. Similarly, Communist East Germany was the "German Democratic Republic," where the phrase "democratic republic" warns us that it is a regime that is not actually democratic and not a republic in any sense comparable to the United States. Similarly, a section of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco is called "People's History," featuring books like A People's History of the United States [1980], by Howard Zinn (19222010) -- a book and an author promoting Communist ideology and slavery to the State.

Thus, we are properly cautioned that the creation of a non-existent object, "the People," which does not admit of dissent or division, easily becomes an actual ideological vehicle of totalitarianism and tyranny, in which a government needs no consent from the actual people and deliberately avoids popular accountability. When we see this, it is clear that the reification of "the People" has simply become the equivalent of the reification of the State, allowing for a smooth transition to Hegelian metaphysics, where the State is real and individual citizens are not. At the very least we end up with the "Leviathan" of the authoritarian absolutist Thomas Hobbes, whose ideas have been quietly promoted for many decades (and substituted for those of John Locke).

We are not surprised then when radical ideology attacks "individualism" as a feature of "white supremacy," with the irony that most of the ideologues promoting such ideas are themselves , i.e. privileged white members of the ruling class, and stooges for Communist China. But the reification of the State and the abolition of the individual is a feature of all totalitarian ideology, both Communist and Fascist. Communists desperately try to smear liberal democracy as "fascism," but they may as well be looking in a mirror, and their very desperation is itself a sign of bad faith.

But the naked evil of a "people's republic" should alert us to the actual functioning of real democracy, in which the "Will of the People" is itself also a fictitious entity and it does not figure in the theory of actual Republican government.

It thus may be a kind of comfort that neither the Declaration of Indpendence nor the Constitution of the United States use the word "democracy." And we might modestly take the term "democracy" simply to mean that it is the People who are sovereign, in whose name (as at Athens) acts of State, justice, and policy are effected, although this still excludes those who might disagree with those acts.

We have a clue about the alternative to "democracy" as a form of government from Article IV section 4 of the Constitution, which says that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." We are left to assume that the Federal Government described by the Constitution itself is already a "Republican Form of Government."

Unfortunately, the Constitution does not define what a "Republican Form of Government" is, and this has never been clarified or adjudicated by any legislation or case law. But we get another clue from the Declaration of Independence, which says "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." It has already stated, of course, that "these rights" are "certain unalienable rights" by which everyone is "endowed by their Creator."

In those terms, we should be justified in inferring that "Governments are instituted among Men," not to ascertain or apply the "Will of the People," but to enforce the rights of individuals that the "Will of the People," let alone those manifesting, as Shakespeare says, "the insolence of office," might occasionally be inclined to violate. And, where many might think that a "Republican Form of Government" means no more than government is carried out by elected representatives, rather than directly by the citizens, we have the complication here that, whatever Republican government is supposed to be, the protection of "certain unalienable rights" involves a lot more than just a mechanism by which the use of political power is conferred or effected.

How are "unalienable rights" to be enforced and protected? And how is a government to address ideologies, such as we have now, that "rights" are conferred at the discretion and at the pleasure of government, while individuals themselves are "socially constructed" fictions, with no objective reality, and so are actually part of systems of "oppression" which mystify the "oppressed" into accepting their own loss of, what, rights? Does this make sense? Well, no -- and it is all itself a mystification in favor of the absolute and unlimited power of the state and, not incidentally, its beneficiaries -- but the obscurities about the nature of American government hamper its defense in the face of the totalitarian traditions, going back to Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx, that are still a constant threat to the Enlightnment achievement of Madison, Jefferson, Washington, etc., upon which American freedom and prosperity depend.

Communism was a gigantic façade, and the reality concealed behind it was the sheer drive for power, for total power as an end in itself. The rest was merely instrumental -- a matter of tactics and some necessary self-restrictions to achieve the desired end. But the façade was more than mere decoration:  it was communism's only means of survival; its respiratory system. It was also the ineradicable residue of the tradition of the Enlightenment and nineteenth-century socialism, of which communism was indeed a deformed descendant. As with all descendants, however deformed, some inherited traits are always visible, and in communism, too, these were evident. The rationalism, contempt for tradition, and hatred for the mythological layer of culture to which the Enlightenment gave birth developed, under communism, into the brutal persecution of religion, but also into the principle (practiced rather than directly expressed) that human beings are expendable: that individual lives count only as instruments of the 'greater whole' or the 'higher cause,' i.e. the state, for no rational grounds exist for attributing to them any special, non-instrumental status. Thus rationalism was transformed under communism into the idea of slavery. And romantic and early socialist strains -- the search for lost community and human solidarity, the protest against social disintegration caused by the industrial revolution and urbanization -- developed, under communism, into caricature:  solidarity imposed by force, in an attempt to create a fake, merely ostensible unity -- the unity of despotism.

Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009), "Communism as a Cultural Force," Is God Happy? Selected Essays [Basic Books, 2013, pp.36-37]

The Master never talked of the uncanny [],
[N.B.] power [], disorders [], or gods [, Japanese kami].

Confucius, The Analects, VII:20/21

Republican government goes back to the original Republic, i.e. the Roman Republic. The expression Res Publica simply meant the Roman State and its affairs -- the latter being one meaning of res, "thing" or "things," as in the striking name of the Icelandic Parliament, the "Althing." The Res Publica is thus not a form of government, unless we identify the government of the Roman Republic as, indeed, a particular and distinctive form of government in itself. This is what was done, beginning with the Greek historian Polybius of Megalopolis (c.200-120 BC), who, living at Rome as a hostage for many years, witnessed its government in action, in war and peace. Here is a defining statement by Polybius:

The three kinds of government that I spoke of above [monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy] all shared in the control of the Roman state. And such fairness and propriety in all respects was shown in the use of these three elements for drawing up the constitution and in its subsequent administration that it was impossible even for a native to pronounce with certainty whether the whole system was aristocratic, democratic, or monarchical...

Such being the power that each part has of hampering the others or cooperating with them, their union is adequate to all emergencies, so that it is impossible to find a better political system than this. [The Histories, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, translated by W.R. Paton, 1923, Frank W. Walbank, and Christian Habricht, 2011, Volume III, Book VI, 11.11 & 18.1-2, pp.329 & 345]

We find this tradition of thought and analysis continued centuries later by Machiavelli:

I say, therefore, that all these kinds of government are harmful in consequence of the short life of the three good ones [monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy] and the viciousness of the three bad ones [tyranny, oligarchy, anarchy]. Having noted these failings, prudent lawgivers rejected each of these forms individually and chose instead to combine them into one that would be firmer and more stable than any, since each form would serve as a check upon the others in a state having monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy at one and the same time. [The Prince, With selections from THE DISCOURSES, translated by Daniel Donno, Bantam, 1981, p.94]

Latin Res Publica was translated into Greek as Πολιτεία, whose primary meaning was as a "constitution," but which then took on the multiple meanings of the Latin expression. As such, the familiar title of Plato's Republic translates the Greek title, Πολιτεία -- even though the ideal government of Plato's "Republic" has nothing to do with any form of Roman government. The closest translation in Greek to Latin res itself is πρᾶγμα (plural πράγματα), a term extensively used by Socrates and that gets us modern words like "pragmatic." It even nicely compares to the Chinese term used by Confucius.

As described by Polybius and Machiavelli, the Roman Republic thus had what Aristotle had called a "mixed" form of government, which combined elements of other types of governments familiar to the Greeks, such as traditional monarchies, a democracy as at Athens, or a merchant oligarchy such as, without formal definitions, had developed in the commercial trading cities of Ionia. Machiavelli's own phrase, "a check upon others," suggested a system of "checks and balances," by which branches of government preserved their own power and prerogatives in opposition to the others. From John Locke (1632-1704) to Montesquieu (1689-1755), this conception evolved into the definiton of an Executive Branch, a Legislative, and a Judicial. This was not quite what Polybius had described, but we can discern the distinctions of Polybius in the features of the Executive, with quasi-monarchical powers, the Legislative House of Representatives, intended to draw the heated enthusiasms of democracy, and the Legislative Senate, intended, with the same name as the Roman Senate, to feature cooler heads provided indirectly by each State, and reflecting the interests of the several States. Polybius thus lacked the conception of an independent Judiciary.

The most essential feature of all this, then, is that it is supposed to represent a mechanism to "secure these rights." Democracy is conceived as part of the mechanism, but it is only a means to end, not an end in itself. And the ability of voters to "throw the bums out" is a vivid case of how democratic institutions can do their part. But it is the tireless vocation of politicians to deceive the voters, in the cause of their own power. Thus, making the government "more democratic" by instituting the direct election of Senators (the Seventeenth Amendment), not only made Senators less accountable (to the "People"), needing to fool the voters only once every six years, but removed a direct check of State governments on the Federal government. Thus, Senators can ignore the governments of their own States at will, since they can no longer be Recalled by State Legislatures, as formerly they could.

A recent case has involved the disloyal Mitt Romney voting with the Democrats to remove Donald Trump from office, the only Republican to do so -- in fact the only Senator in U.S. history to vote thus against their own Party. In that, Romney betrayed his Party, his State, and all the people who voted him into the Senate; yet Utah currently has no provision whatsoever to recall Senators. This would always be difficult, since it would require a State-wide election. So the people of Utah may be stuck with Romney until 2024. This is "democracy"? One thing it may remind us of is Jefferson's reflection that when he was young the maxim of his friends was, "Where annual election ends, tyranny begins."

In his lifetime, Jefferson was already aware of problems with the mechanism of the Constitution, which unfortunately had overlooked how the Constitution and the rights of the citizens were to be enforced. When Chief Justice John Marshall, appointed by John Adams as the Revenge of the Federalists, established the role of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of Constitutionality, Jefferson was alarmed:

But there was another amendment, of which none of us thought at the time, and in the omission of which, lurks the germ that is to destroy this happy combination of National powers in the General government, for matters of National concern, and independent powers in the States, for what concerns the States severally. In England, it was a great point gained at the Revolution, that the commissions of the Judges, which had hitherto been during pleasure, should thenceforth be made during good behavior. A Judiciary, dependent on the will of the King, had proved itself the most oppressive of all tools, in the hands of that Magistrate. Nothing, then, could be more salutary, than a change there, to the tenure of good behavior; and the question of good behavior, left to the vote of a simple majority in the two Houses of Parliament. Before the Revolution, we were all good English Whigs, cordial in their free principles, and in their jealousies of their Executive Magistrate. These jealousies are very apparent in all our state Constitutions; and, in the General government in this instance, we have gone even beyond the English caution, by requiring a vote of two-thirds, in one of the Houses, for removing a Judge; a vote so impossible, where any defense is made, before men of ordinary prejudices and passions, that our Judges are effectually independent of the nation. But this ought not to be. I would not, indeed, make them dependent on the Executive authority, as they formerly were in England; but I deem it indispensable to the continuance of this government, that they should be submitted to some practical and impartial control; and that this, to be imparted, must be compounded of a mixture of State and Federal authorities. It is not enough that honest men are appointed Judges. All know the influence of interest on the mind of man, and how unconsciously his judgment is warped by that influence. To this bias add that of the espirit de corps, of their peculiar maxim and creed, that "it is the office of a good Judge to enlarge his jurisdiction," and the absence of responsibility; and how can we expect impartial decision between the General government, of which they are themselves so eminent a part, and an individual State, from which they have nothing to hope or fear? We have seen, too, that contrary to all correct example, they are in the habit of going out of the question before them, to throw an anchor ahead, and grapple further hold for future advances of power. They are then, in fact, the corps of sappers and miners, steadily working to undermine the independent rights of the States, and to consolidate all power in the hands of that government in which they have so important a freehold estate. But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into States, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every State again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within its local bounds; each country again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by its individual proprietor. Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread. It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed, for the good and prosperity of all. I repeat, that I do not charge the Judges with wilful and ill-intentioned error; but honest error must be arrested, where its toleration leads to public ruin. As, for the safety of society, we commit honest maniacs to Bedlam, so judges should be withdrawn from their bench, whose erroneous biases are leading us to dissolution. It may, indeed, injure them in fame or in fortune; but it saves the Republic, which is the first and supreme law. [Autobiography, boldface added]

Thus, Jefferson suspected that in time the Supreme Court would simply be a partisan of the Federal Government, expanding its power in the direction desired by Federalists like Alexander Hamilton and by John Marshall himself. This is what has happened, not the least in terms of the unlimited spending for the "General Welfare" that I have already noted. This gives politicians the power to buy votes, as it gives voters the idea that they can simply vote themselves money, which places the whole institution, and the whole Nation, on the road of corruption and ruin.

As I write, the National Debt of the United States is $29,000,000,000,000+. A new breed of leftist economists now claim that the government can borrow and print money indefinitely. They even call it "modern monetary theory" -- to others, the "magical money tree." Recently, however, we saw what can happen when Greece was on the verge of not having the money to import food. They caved in on accepting the economic rules of the European Union, which, however, required reduced spending and raising taxes -- "austerity" -- but was tepid on the Supply Side reforms for which the European Union itself has limited enthusiasm. Greek voters, long enamoured of socialism, keep voting for it, often with the justification that too much capitalism still remains in the Greek economy. To be sure, the poverty of Cuba beckons.

The National Debt of the United States, unfortunately, does not cover the "unfunded liabilities" of the Federal Government for promises of future benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Federal pensions. This amounts to uncountable trillions of dollars. The Democrats, of course, promise ever more spending and liabilities, with the new taxes that would crush the economy and hamstring Federal revenues. Only politicians, bureaucrats, and their retainers and vassals benefit.

The quote above contains several pieces of Jefferson's greatest wisdom. One we could say was a prescient predicton. "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." This is what happened to the Soviet Union, where Stalin thought it would improve agriculture to starve the successful farmers to death (particularly in the Ukraine) and convert all farms into collective communes. Russian agriculture literally has never recovered. We should have known something had gone very wrong when the Soviets made a deal with Jimmy Carter to import American agricultural surplus wheat. Much food that was grown locally for Russians was from the private plots that collective farms allowed to (surviving) farmers. Returning Russian agriculture to private owners has been, as I understand it, a slow and fractured process.

Otherwise, we see Jefferson saying, "But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected." Jefferson discussed this principle in detail, arguing that if the United States were not broken into multiple jurisdictions of States, counties, municipalities, and private holdings, it would need to be. This is an essential point when we consider a political debate that persisted until the Civil War, whether the Constitutional was enacted by "the People," as the Preamble says, or whether it was a pact by the several States.

The former was used as an argument against the right of States to secede from the Union. However, apart from the fact that the Constitution was proposed and ratified by the individual States (few of which would have ratified if secession had been explicitly prohibited), this is a pointless debate. Since "the People" is a fiction, the only question involves the rights of individuals. Thus, the powers of the States are rightfully and prudently distributed among them. If a State wishes to secede from the Union, the proper question is whether it was always a Union "at will" or if some reasonable cause is needed, as the Declaration of Indpendence itself allows. John Locke had already said:

...yet the Legislative being only a Fiduciary Power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the People a Supream Power to remove or alter the Legislative, when they find the Legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them. For all Power given with trust for the attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security. ["The Second Treatise, of Civil Government," in The Second Treatise of Civil Government, §149, 1690]

The words of the Declaration of Independence echo this assertion, where Locke here restrains himself to the authority of a Legislature, since speaking of deposing the Monarch would sound too much like treason. But the point is easily generalized, as it was.

Since the Southern Cause in the Civil War was, as Ulysses S. Grant said, one of the worst ever, not only was Secession without reasonable cause, with no evidence of the Federal Government acting "contrary to the trust reposed in" it, but the genuine cause of the Southern action, to preserve slavery, was itself something that reasonably provoked action to end it.

Even if we stipulate that the cause of the Union would violate the right of Southern States to leave the Union, or the right of Southern slave holders to keep holding their human property, it was obviously the occasion to settle the matter once and for all, perhaps with the excuse of Krishna, addressing the guilt of the Pâṇḍavas, that it may be that ordinary rules must be violated to accomplish the good. When escaped slaves began reaching Union lines, the moral dilemma of Union commanders was acute -- soon covered by the mild sophistry that slaves, used by the South for its rebellion, were "contraband" of war. But Slavery was an evil of such magnitude, and so contrary to American principles of government, that the South itself conveniently supplied the pretext for ending it. Good work. Those who argue that Southern political and property rights override the right of human beings to be free, trip over their own perverse and shameful logic.

Today, more perverse and shameful logic is found in the idea that the United States was founded in sin, and has an "original sin," because slavery ever existed here in the first place. Thus, people seem to actually believe that slavery was created in America, had never existed anywhere else, and that white men trudged into the jungle in West Africa to enslave otherwise unmolested black people (as we saw in the TV miniseries Roots in 1977). Few things in American political discourse are quite as ahistorical, anachronistic, and false. Instead of credit for abolishing slavery, at the cost of more lives than the number of slaves who were imported into the land in the first place (700,000 vs. 400,000), the United States is damned for allowing it at all. The bien pensants evidently are thinking, "Well, I would never have allowed it" -- often from people, who, from their class, self-righteousness, and moral conformity, probably would have owned slaves themselves at the time. Meanwhile, the recognition of slavery in Islamic Law, together with the origin and conduct of the slave trade by Muslims (against which the Kings of Mali protested), and the role of African rulers in slaving and the slave trade, is overlooked, often deliberately, in the selective indignation and hypocrisy of the anti-American critics -- who also overlook the regimes of Democrat politicans who hold minority children hostage in violent, ineffective, and often toxic schools, in neighborhoods that are also violent from the toleration of criminals and the demonization of police. There has rarely been a sorrier mix of betrayal, dishonesty, deception, and corruption in modern politics -- yet we find the very citizens victimized by this conduct consistently voting for more of it -- unless they simply leave, as in the case of Detroit.

The saying is that many go to Washington to "do good" and end up by "doing well." People become millionaires in politics, and neither the voters nor the press always seem very concerned how that is accomplished.

The many ironies of modern political discourse include the accusation against capitalism that it has "winners and losers," and that Supply Side economics is a matter of wealth "trickling down" from capitalists to workers. However, there are no greater winners and losers anywhere, short of gambling, crime, or war, than in politics, while in markets it is producers, not consumers, who are subject to failure. And the left rarely wastes tears over bankrupt businesses, especially when their own policies have driven them into failure.

Meanwhile, there is no more obvious "trickle down" than in the political distribution of benefits, where politicians and bureaucrats rake in their loot, toss a few shekels to the masses, and then pay themselves and their cronies, often through indirect taxpayer subsidies and worthless programs, generous recompense. Or they have engaged in "insider trading," based on their political knowledge, that is illegal for anyone else. That is how politicians, like the unbelievable lunatic Maxine Waters (who doesn't bother to live in her own Congressional District), usually paid no more than modest salaries, mysteriously become millionaires. Do we really want to say that people get the kind of government they deserve?

This is what concentrations of power, over matters that may be no business of government, make possible, and the corruption that we see is now addressed by Public Choice economics, where politicians, bureaucrats, and rent-seekers find success in Washington, not providing popular goods and services to Americans in general, but in directing public benefits to particular rent-seeking interest groups.

John Locke already understood this:

But in Governments, where the Legislative is in one lasting Assembly always in being, or in one Man, as in Absolute Monarchies, there is danger still, that they will think themselves to have a distinct interest, from the rest of the Community; and so will be apt to increase their own Riches and Power, by taking, what they think fit, from the People. [op.cit., 138, boldface added]

Voters, as in California, have often been duped by politicians arguing that a full time legislature and more "professional" politicians would result in better government. This leads directly to the dynamic described by Locke, and now by Public Choice.

In turn, we often hear from the gullible, naive, or dishonest that "We are the government," and so politicians, somehow, are not vulnerable to thinking "themselves to have a distinct interest, from the rest of the Community." But as Jefferson also says, "They will purchase the voices of the people, and make them pay the price." This is the truth of modern government.

We can add to this one of the greatest principles of wisdom voiced by James Madison:

But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. [Federalist Paper No. 51, boldface added]

Incidentally here, we have a statement relevant to the role of democracy. "A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government..." Thus, we can always hope that the "People" will awaken to their peril and vote the bums out. But, of course, this does not always happen, or the bums who get voted in are no better. Thus, "experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." This is the motivation of the entire Constitution as a mechanism in which a democratic element figures, but in which other institutions are needed.

But the corruption has gone very deep indeed. When Alexander Hamilton told President Washington that the "General Welfare" clause allowed the Federal Government to spend money on anything, we have seen what Jefferson's reaction was. Madison, in more detail said:

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article in the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents..... With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. [To Congress, 1791, boldface added] [note]

The limitation on the powers of the Federal Government was enshrined by Madison in the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The interpretation of the Tenth Amendment by sophists is that it means that powers are left to the States (or to the people) so long as the Federal Government has not yet decided to take such powers for itself. But the dynamic of American government is that such arguments need not even be used. The Supreme Court allows the Federal Government to usurp Constitutional powers, with no more argument than that people want it or that it is good. Deference to legislative whim is enshrined in the jurisprudence of people like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Robert Bork. This goes out of Constitutional Government in a big way, but now draws little protest. Since it goes along with the injustices of judicial positivism, it also goes far outside the basic requirements of justice, decency, and conscience.

Another apprehension [about the French Revolution] is, that a majority cannot be induced to adopt the trial by jury; and I consider that as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution....

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Tom Paine, 1789

Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest instruments for the discovery of law.

Calvin Coolidge, to the Massachusetts State Senate, January 7, 1914.

There is little awareness of this in public discourse, let alone in law school curricula. In bitter irony, the Tenth Amendment is often dismissed as discredited by the claims of Segregationists that their practices, in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, were justified as States Rights. Well, if it was discredited, they should repeal it. Repealing it, of course, would also repeal the rule that undelegated powers are also left "to the people." That is the goal, of course, that the rights of the people be repealed, in favor of the ruling class.

One of the last Presidents to fully understand Constitutional Government was Grover Cleveland:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation [drought relief] in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.... The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.... Though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people. [To Congress, 1887]

It is not just the "General Welfare" clause that has destroyed Constitutonal Government. The interpretation of the Commerce Clause, that the Federal Government "regulates" interstate commerce, has been expanded to the principle that the Federal Government can regulate anything that "affects" interstate commerce. This has been rolled back slightly to anything that "substantially affects," but this has made little difference in the practice of the Federal Government. After all, almost anything can be construed, and has, as "affecting" interstate commerce. It does not even need to be economic activity. Multiple Federal laws concerning "violence against women" have been passed on the principle that such violence, otherwise thoroughly addressed by State laws, "affects" interstate commerce.

The result of this is a Government of absolute and unlimited power, something that has been the goal, if not the birthright, of all rulers since the Kings of Egypt. Occasionally the truth is publicly admitted:

I think that there are very few constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules that could affect your private life. The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country. [Congressman Pete Stark (D, CA), July 24, 2010]

All that Pete Stark left out is that this was all engineered since the New Deal by Democrats like him, and that he likes it. Pete Stark wants his will to "affect your private life." Similarly, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) said:

I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so... [12 December 2018]

Thus, we can trust Mr. Lieu to join Jefferson's "corps of sappers and miners" trying to take care of that pesky First Amendment. They already have done that at American colleges and universities, and from this we know their agenda. Such a person, of course, does not belong in American Government, yet the Federal Government is full of them.

From all this, the plan of government designed by Founders like Madison and Jefferson has failed, in great measure because of sophistries advanced by people like Hamiton and Marshall and weaknesses identified above by Jefferson himself. The independent Judiciary needs to be independent, not just of the Executive and Legislative branches, but of the Federal Government itself. Or at least, as Jefferson imagined, with an external check to balance the influence of the Supreme Court's Federal station.

In principle, that might not be so difficult. If Supreme Court decisions were reviewed and could be overturned by the vote of the States, this would help. Certainly, the "One Man, One Vote" principle (Gray v. Sanders, 1963, Reynolds v. Sims, 1964), which overturned the ability of the States to balance regional interests against population -- as the Federal Government does itself in the United States Senate -- probably would not have passed muster. Similarly, whether Roe v. Wade (1973) really had general popular support, and could survive debate in 50 State legislatures, would have been tested. The arguments made by the Roe majority could be challenged in genuine political fora.

These contasting cases are instructive. The justification for the "Reapportionment Cases" was that the States, by basing some representation (usually a State Senate) on principles other than population, had been violating the meaning of democracy, or at least the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment.

That the "Reapportionment Cases" applied a principle contrary to the system of the Federal Government itself, where Rhode Island has as many Senators as California, and rendered the actual use of bicameral State legislatures meaningless, should occasion sober reflection on the ways in which Republican Government is not supposed to be a pure democracy. Indeed, far from seeing that the States enjoy "a Republican Form of Government," these Court decisions are an assault on Republican Government, undermining institutions intended to prevent the tyranny of the majority -- one of the most important purposes of Republican government.

Thus, rural areas in California, or Upstate New York in its entirety, lose any leverage to prevent laws and political actions that are adverse to their interests. Drivers on Interstate 5 in California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, are familiar with the signs posted by farmers saying that they are being deprived of the water needed to grow crops. No one in power, certainly not the government of the State of California, or its U.S. Senators, pays any attention to them.

Similarly, the clueless and corrupt Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, banned "fracking," or oil and gas drilling with fracturing, even though this would be of great economic advantage to Upstate New York, as it is in neighboring Pennsylvania. Since Cuomo also banned new gas pipelines in or through the State, a shortfall of natural gas even for New York City can be confidently predicted. But Cuomo blamed the gas companies when they warned that they could not allow new gas hookups on Long Island. Now natural gas will be trucked in. Guess who will be blamed when there is an accident and one of those trucks explodes, perhaps right in the middle of Brooklyn or Queens? It will be another classic case of politicians blaming others for their own stupid acts.

This in fact is one of the glaring weaknesses of democracy, that the politicians, with clever lies, often get away with it -- the way that "speculators" are still blamed for the Great Depression, or the banks for the 2008 collapse of the housing mortgage bubble (the "Great Recession"). Both events were engineered by the folly of government action.

Yet, contrary to the Reapportionment Cases, Roe v. Wade itself gets justified as properly violating the principles of democracy, since the "right to an abortion" shouldn't be made to depend on the "Will of the People."

In the same way, the Supreme Court decision mandating "gay" marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) also overruled democratic government -- especially as in California and Hawaii, where votes of the whole people, in very "liberal" States, ruled out "gay" marriage, and it was the African-American vote in California that was the margin of victory, much as activists wanted to blame it all on the Mormons -- while California meanwhile had already allowed "civil unions" that were marriages in all but name. This was on behalf of a principle that pretty much has never existed in history, i.e. marriages between people of the same sex, while leaving illegal, for instance, polygamy, which has existed cross-culturally throughout most of history, including presently still in Islamic Law, criticisms of which are routinely dismissed as "Islamophobic" or "racist."

The Supreme Court "discovering" rights that no one has ever heard of is a novel use of judicial authority. It is also curious if the reasoning for such decisions is peculiar. Thus, Roe v. Wade did not actually establish a "right" to abortion, however often it is stated that way. Roe v. Wade was based on a right to privacy, although this was then derived from the "emanations" and "penumbras" of rights already listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This farcical terminology has helped discredit Roe v. Wade and also earlier decisions, like Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which overturned laws against birth control.

That decisions like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges did not cite the Ninth Amendment is noteworthy:

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

They did not do so probably because of the judical positivism and the rejection of natural rights that dominates American jurisprudence. Without natural rights, however, not only is the Ninth Amendment meaningless (as Robert Bork asserted), but it is not clear what justifies novel and undiscovered rights, like abortion or "gay" marriage, in their absence.

There certainly are natural rights to privacy and to marriage. Whether privacy covers the killing of developing human beings in the womb, or marriage includes "gay" marriage, are other questions. The former arguably, and rather obviously, involves a living thing other than the mother, the recognition of whose legal status, when the right to infanticide now seems to be openly claimed by many Democrats, is precisely what is at issue. Similarly, the real issue of "gay" marriage is not marriage, but the definition of marriage.

Marriage as a legal contract establishing next of kin, rights of inheritance, etc., is something that could already be done almost anywhere, with simple civil contracts, without any redefinitions of marriage by the Supreme Court. Sob stories about homosexuals being excluded from visiting their dying companions because hospitals only allowed visits by relatives have always avoided mentioning that a living will or a civil writ could have bestowed on companions, not only the right to visit, but the right to direct care for an incompetent patient, with the same powers as next of kin. If the subjects of the sob stories did not know this, and/or were not advised of it, then people who would have known better made no effort to help. One may be excused the suspicion that existing remedies get ignored because it did not serve the political cause.

It is the charge of government to enforce lawful contracts; but it is not clear that government needs or is obliged to define marriage, whether in forms invisible to history or traditional religion, or otherwise. However, the behavior of activists raises the question whether the purpose of "gay" marriage is actually to destroy religion and to force believers (especially Christians) to adjure their faith in the name of "civil rights." If so, it is not a strategy that is well thought out, since Islamic Law does not recognize "gay" marriage or gay or "transgender" rights; and Muslims recently, and not just radicals, have shown little inclination to compromise the requirements of their faith in favor of the progressive nihilistic principles of comfortable liberals. The anti-American alliance of the Left with Islamist radicals is no more than, we might say, a marriage of convenience.

The question people might want to ask is whether decisions about such things are properly matters of dictatorial fiat by the Judiciary, or whether such cultural innovation should be subject to popular deliberation and decision. When Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is celebrated as someone who deferred to popular and legislative authority, even if in violation of the Bill of Rights, it seems a strange world when sometimes the same people happily endorse the political abridgement of basic rights like free speech or self-defense and simultaneously endorse the power of the Supreme Court to impose "rights" made up out of whole cloth.

Our problem is thus not just with democracy, but with the determination of the rights that a Republican government is charged with securing. The role of democracy in Republican institutions has as much a role to play in that determination as it does in voting the "bums" out of office. Yet so much of modern government is not about either democracy or fundamental rights; it is about the irresponsible and tyrannical authority of bureaucrats in the "administrative state." Indeed, that is a greater threat now to democracy and to individual rights than almost anything else that is going on -- as with one case recently examined here under "Tyranny Most Foul."


To summarize, there are key problems with democracy:

These points may answer some mysteries. Why do we see some kind of glee and satisfaction in politicians who prohibit people from working in "lockdowns" supposedly justified by necessities of public health in epidemic conditions? As people lose their income -- typically people who work on their feet and not sitting at a keyboard -- and businesses are pushed into bankruptcy, why would politicians vilify anyone protesting this, while offering wholly inadequate compension for losses through a couple of payments from the government? One might begin to think that politicians actually don't care about the existence of productive activity. And, indeed, if their understanding is at the level of a Cargo Cult economics, they might not think it necessary. The last thing they understand is that wealth is volatile, which means it will just evaporate if the productive cease producing it.

Oddly enough, this makes sense as a phenomenon of democracy. Wealth is something you vote for, not something that is created by prudent, creative, and productive people. But then, once the chance for economic independence is gone, and everyone is dependent on the largesse of the government, however meagre, you've got them. Plato's prediction that democracy leads to tyranny is born out, but not for the reasons that he thought -- except for the fundamental reason that a corruption of virtue is involved. Thus, the naive voters of Venezuela thought that they would get endless "benefits" by voting for "Socialism." What they actually got was poverty and tyranny under a Communist police state, just like in Cuba. One man, one vote, once. American "democratic socialists," who have openly admired Cuba for decades and who, like Sean Penn and Danny Glover, palled around with Hugo Chávez (but have been scarce since things kept getting uglier), want no less. Bernie Sanders (again, before things got uglier) said that the "American Dream" was more possible in Venezuela than in America.

California now has a higher poverty rate than Mississippi. This would properly astonish anyone from even a couple of decades ago, after the South had long been the poorest part of the country. How is that possible? Well, the wise and the prudent flee California, and those remaining continue to vote for the claims and promises of the same Democrat politicians -- proof that the Zombie Apocalypse has already happened. Verily, they have their reward -- including the human waste and used hypodermic needles littering the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles -- and it will only get worse. The chance of the voters to alter the government recedes, as Democrats, already with a One Party State, plan how to steal elections and prevent their overthrow. You only need the actual "Will of the People" for only so long, then you can ignore them. Just send in the thugs.

Alpine County and Equal Representation

Political Economy


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Copyright (c) 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The Problem of Democracy, Note 1

The most exciting elections may be the close ones. People often stay up all night waiting for election returns, to see who is going to win. When the winner emerges, we see jubilation in one group, the winners, and dejection in other other, the losers. However, the closer the election has been, the more of the electorate is disenfranchised by the results. One may belong to 49.99% of the citizens and yet then become subject to laws and policies that might be regarded as tyrannical. Even worse, many elections are decided, not even by a 50%+1 majority, but by a mere plurality of votes, in a system where there is no runoff and a majority is not necessary. In those cases, the "Will of the People" is not even the preference of a majority.

Thus, the closer the election, or in situations with many candidates but no runoffs, believers in fair and just government, and not just in "democracy," should be dejected whatever the results. Even worse, some jurisdictions, like the State of California, now avoid runoffs by only allowing the top two vote getters in primary elections to be on the general election ballot. The result is frequently a ballot with two candidates, both from the same party, and perhaps with indistiguishable policy differences -- e.g. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, both as Democrats in the 2010 election, in the 28th Congressional District of California, where I had appeared on the ballot as recently as 2006 as a Libertarian. In those terms, there is no point in citizens from other parties even bothering to vote. With no real choice, it is hard to see how this serves "democracy." And as California has become a One Party State, and a virtual dictatorship, under Democrats, one might begin to suspect that the election procedure is a method, not just to wipe out third parties, but to limit any opposition. If voters don't even see Republicans or others on the ballot, it is not going to occur to them that it might be time to vote for one.

Things like this could happen in the first place when it was decided that candidates needed to "qualify" to appear on the ballot. Originally, political parties provided their own ballots, which voters submitted themselves, as their own "ticket" -- an expression that survives when the practice does not. It is not clear what virtue is served by limiting ballot access, except to limit opposition.

Even with runoffs, voters may still be faced with not liking any of the candidates. Thus, a "none of the above" alternative would be appropriate. If "none of the above" (NOTA) votes prevent the listed runoff candidates from achieving a majority, this should disqualify both candidates. And the process should start over again. Another idea to get around this is "ranked voting," in which voters rank candidates in terms of preference. If the highest ranking candidate is eliminated, as having too few votes, then the next in line is counted. This sounds good, but its application in 2019 in the San Francisco District Attorney election resulted in a majority vote for one Chesa Boudin, a lunatic fringe radical and faithful son of terrorists, whose policies are sure to make crime and public "quality of life" even worse than they already are in the City. It is not clear that, if the election had proceded in the traditional way, San Francisco voters actually would have chosen Boudin in a two candidate runoff. Or they may have. Lunatics are, after all, already running the asylum in San Francisco as they are in much of California, and San Francisco voters have consistenty returned politicians who have reduced the city to the state of crime and filth that it is now in, largely shared between the rich, with their own security, and the homeless.

If close elections deprive large minorities of positive representation in government, one way around that is "proportional" representation. The seats in a legislature are assigned in proportion to the votes that each party obtains in an election. Thus, if Libertarians obtain 5% of the vote, as has happened in California, they get 5% of the seats in the legislature, rather than zero, as always happened (before third parties were simply swept off the general election ballot). This is done in some European countries. The drawback of such a system is where the Goverment is formed from a parliamentary majority. Where a single party fails to gain a majority, this will require a coalition government, where participants require concessions on particular policies. It may end up difficult to form such coalitions, delaying the installation of a new Government, and the coalition can be fragile and break up over things that come up. This would not be a problem in the United States, where both State and National governments elect Executives separately from Legislatures. Thus, the administration of government does not depend on parliaments forming coalitions. Instead, particular bills each involve their own parliamentary coalitions, which can change daily, without disrupting the continuity of government. The problem in American government now, is that Excutive authority is no longer simply in the business of the faithful enforcement of the laws passed by Congress or State Legislatures. The Administrative State illegitimately creates its own policy and its own rules, which may subvert the desires of even a majority of the electorate. This also infects European governments and has, among other things, helped motivate the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, which is subject to the essentially irresponsible European Commission.

On top of everything else, close elections make it easier to perpetrate election fraud and steal elections. What this means warrants careful consideration. People willing to steal elections clearly don't believe in democracy. They don't care about the "Will of the People" or about the preferences of a majority. They simply want the political power that goes with elections, so that they can reward their friends and punish their enemies. These are motives entirely adverse to good government and to justice. It is, of course, entirely compatible with the intentions and policies of dictatorships, where everyone knows that the "elections" are a sham, but the dictators can boast, without irony, that they have the support of 99%, perhaps, of the citizens.

In the United States, the Democratic Party has a history of stealing elections. Originally, this was characteristic of corrupt city governments, nowhere more famously than under the "Tammany Hall" regime of New York City, whose organizational front, the "Tammany Society," existed from 1789 all the way to 1967, perhaps reaching its height under William Magear Tweed (1823-1878), "Boss Tweed." Tweed was eventually convicted of bribery and extortion and, after various adventures and even escaping from jail to Spain, died in jail in 1878. This was one of the original "political machines" in American history, which used political patronage, political organization, and a bit of violence, like a criminal gang, to pursue and hold power.

The campaign against Tweed was immortalized in the political cartoons, as at right, of Thomas Nast (1840-1902), whose vitriol led to the coinage of the word "Nasty." However, Nast also created the classic American portrayal of Santa Claus.

Another famous political machine was the Pendergast organization in Kansas City, Missouri, run by Tom Pendergast (1873-1945). Pendergast was convicted of income tax evasion in 1939. The machine, however, ended up producing President Harry Truman, whose tainted origin didn't seem to tar his reputation as President.

Although often very local in origin and function, urban political machines could end up with larger influence, and not at all in the harmless form we seemed to get with Harry Truman. Thus the Chicago political machine of Richard J. Daley (1902-1976), infamous in its day, where mere death did not disqualify voters, was instrumental in electing John F. Kennedy in 1960. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon because Daley delivered enough votes to carry Illinois, while the corrupt machine of Duval County, Texas, delivered enough votes to carry Texas. Duval County was dominated by the "Duke of Duval County," George Berham Parr (1901-1975). Parr was and is much less well known than Richard Daley, but his influence on American politics may have been as great. Lyndon Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1949 by a narrow margin. Parr would always delay reporting the vote from Duval County until he was informed how many votes were needed, which he then supplied. Johnson's narrow victory earned him the bitter sobriquet "Landslide Lyndon." Parr provided the same service in 1960, when Johnson happened to be on the ballot for Vice President. The corruption that trailed Johnson himself never caught up with him.

Although the election fraud in Illinois and Texas was an open secret in 1960, Richard Nixon decided not to contest the election. This high-mindedness, of course, was of no use to anyone for whom only political power counts. Thus, there was no memory of it in the election of 2000, when the Democrats hit on a new strategy to steal elections: endless recounts. This was applied full force on the close results in Flordia, where some of the most populous counties, in the South of the State, were controlled by Democrats. The strategy, of course, was for hand recounts (ignoring the unbiased machine counts of the ballots) to reject Republican votes and "find" Democrat votes, until a Democrat majority could be produced. This was all conducted quite openly, and Republican votes could be rejected in the full public glare of the press. But, after more than one recount, there still were not enough Democrat votes, so the State Supreme Court, dominated by Democrat appointees, ordered yet another recount. This would have run afoul of the Constitutional deadline for Florida to report its election results to the United States Congress. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the recount. This enabled the Democrats to claim that the election had been stolen by the Republican Supreme Court. In other States, however, endless recounts enabled Democrat candidates to take elections that they had initially apparently lost.

For instance, in 2008 Republican Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, seemed to have won the election, but by only 215 votes. This narrow margin triggered an automatic recount, after which the Democrat candidate, the former comedy writer and comedian, Al Franken, won by 225 votes. This was not a case of the endless recounts, but Coleman did challenge the result. When his challenge was rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, he could have appealed to Federal courts, but decided to concede. This was not obviously a case of election fraud, but the process was suspicious and might have been investigated. Franken, also known as his comic alter ego "Stuart Smalley," was a knee-jerk leftist in Congress but was later driven from office in 2018 when evidence of a history of sexual harrassment came to light.

The degree of openness and shamelessness of the actions of the Democratic Party is perhaps a new phenomenon. This is evident in laws passed in Democrat jurisdictions, especially what are called "motor voter" laws where anyone can register to vote by mail, without proof of citizenship or even identity. What goes with such laws is opposition to laws requiring voters to show identification when actually voting. Since we know that people unqualified to vote are able to register fraudulently by mail, including illegal aliens who may not have legal identification, the effectiveness of the Democrat strategy requires that voters not be required to identify themselves. This also allows operatives to vote more than once, under different identities. For the dead of Chicago to vote, that had always been necessary.

Republican complaints about this virtual engine of fraud and corruption, and their support of laws requiring voter identification, are then answered with Democrat accusations of "voter suppression," that identity laws disadvantage minorites, who presumably are too poor or uneducated to have licenses, passports, or other valid forms of identification. Presumably, they also never use air travel, since identification is now necessary for that. That doesn't matter. Any pretext by which Democrats can accuse Republicans of some kind of racism is always the first item in their playbook -- even as they consistently say that Republicans are against "immigrants," and racist (since it is typically Latin American aliens in question), when the complaint is usually only about illegal aliens. They are deaf to correction on that point, and usually only respond with the irrelevant objection that the term "illegal alien" is mean and inhuman, for people who are just "undocumented immigrants" (or some other trendy euphemism).

Identification laws can be circumvented when driver's licenses are issued to illegal aliens, as California and New York, at least, are now doing. Since such a license may be all that is needed even to register to vote in person in the first place, the voter rolls can be stocked with ineligible voters with all the appearance of legality. Having aliens vote in the name of the dead isn't even necessary. And voter rolls can even be purged of dead and inactive voters, as required by Federal law, without damage to the engine of election fraud.

Nevertheless, old habits die hard; and when Stacy Abrams lost the race for governor of Georgia in 2018, after Georgia had purged the names of dead and inactive voters, as required by law, she began to claim, and still does, that this had "suppressed" the black vote and cost her the election (she got 48.8% of the vote). She still claims in every speech -- even as she is considered for Vice President on the Democratic ticked in 2020 -- that she is the legitimate Governor of Georgia, from whom the election was stolen.

And very old habits also die hard. When Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, Hillary Clinton enlisted the support of Green Party candidate Jill Stein to demand recounts in the key States of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The Wisconsin recount was carried out, netting Trump some extra votes. A Pennsylvania recount was not carried out, because it was ruled that Stein did not have standing to demand a recount, since no recount could possibly make her the winner of the race. A recount was begun in Michigan, but it was stopped with the discovery that in some precincts in Detroit -- a city all but destroyed by years of Democrat government -- more votes had been cast than there were registered voters in the precinct. In the old days, this was called "ballot box stuffing," the sort of thing Tammany Hall would have done. Rather than invesigate the obvious election fraud, the whole recount was suspended. The thanks that Jill Stein got for all this was that Hillary Clinton later characterized her as a "Russian asset."

Again, the transparent shamelessness of Democrat behavior suggests a certain background. The brain trust of the Democratic Party is now found among academics who no longer believe in the existence of truth. This may have been the most openly stated by Friedrich Nietzsche:

The falseness of a given judgment does not constitute an objection against it, so far as we are concerned. It is perhaps in this respect that our new language sounds strangest. The real question is how far a judgment furthers and maintains life, preserves a given kind, possibly cultivates and trains a given kind. We are, in fact, fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest judgments (to which belong the synthetic a priori judgments) are the most indispensable to us, that man cannot live without accepting the logical fictions as valid, without measuring reality against the purely invented world of the absolute, the immutable, without constantly falsifying the world by means of numeration. That getting along without false judgments would amount to getting along without life, negating life: this implies, to be sure, a perilous resistance against customary value-feelings. A philosophy that risks it nonetheless, if it did nothing else, would by this alone have taken its stand beyond good and evil. [Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan [Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.4, translation modified].

This is now established doctine in the crackpot "Theory" promoted in English, History, Sociology, Ethnic Studies, and even Philosophy Departments. This may explain why Democrat politicians are increasing willing to endlessly and blatantly repeat easily refuted lies. To Nietzsche, "life," of course, means the "will to power," and for "Theory" power is all that matters. Thus, transparent lies may be even better than the truth since it demonstrates power all the more effectively.

This all contributes to blatant voter fraud. It can even be done in good conscience. After all, if power is all that matters, then the "Will of the People" is itself a fiction that exists only to be manipulated by the Vanguard of the Revolution, i.e. Democrats, socialists, communists, etc. It's what Lenin did. The Soviet Union simply never had an honest election, to ask Russians if they wanted to be slaves of the State. Of course, the voters of California or New York may actually be all for that -- I sometimes think that the Zombie Apocalypse has actually happened, but that all the mindless zombies are concentrated among Democrat voters in California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. Or they may not be zombies, just sexual submissives, wanting a government that can f**k them whenever it wants, making them happy sex slaves. This is a genre of pornography. You can look it up.

But there is more to it than just the abolition of truth. When my wife was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, we heard about the various projects the Academy was involved in, probably leading to publication in their journal, Daedalus. One of their projects was to expand the concept of "citizenship." A citizen of the United States should be more than just someone who (accidentally) was born there or was (by racist laws) naturalized. It should be more. Of course, the purpose of such a "study" is actually to abolish American citizenship, abolish immigration laws and borders, and afford to aliens of any country all the rights, powers, and privileges of citizens if they just happen conceive a desire to come to the United States, and want to get paid for it.

While this hardly seems like a believable proposal when it is buried in the chambers of the Ruling Class at Harvard University, many of its elements have already been voiced by Democrat candidates for President in the debates that have been held among the candidates in 2019. Thus, the candidates have agreed, all but unanimously, that the borders should be open to anyone, immigration enforcement should be abolished, and aliens -- no longer illegal -- are not only entitled to free health care, other social services, and voting rights, but they may even be owed reparations because of the benefits and liberties they were denied under current laws and enforcement. Only racists are against this.

What all of this sort of thing adds up to, of course, is the abolition of the United States, or at least its reconstruction in a form unrecognizably subject to the Constitution of the United States. Democrats now even like to say that any election they lose is illegitimate, and we find Bernie Sanders, a fan of the Soviet Union and Cuba, surging among Democrat voters. Staffers in the Sanders campaign have now been caught on video speculating that people will need to be put in concentration camps for "reeducation" after the Revolution, camps that will be like in Stalin's GULAG, which really weren't all that bad -- inmates were paid a "living wage" (perhaps before they were worked to death). And Elizabeth Warren wants to prosecute people who post "disinformation" on the internet, perhaps like claiming that there are two sexes, or that homosexuality is morally wrong.

Indeed, anyone paying much attention is bound to notice that the Democratic Party is now openly Anti-American, with disparaging judgments ranging from "American was never that great," to "America was never great." Having ever allowed slavery, which, of course, had never existed before, anywhere, America is cursed with a stain of sin that can never be expiated. But, of course, it is all a pretext, like accusing everyone of racism. It is a device to avoid arguing issues ad rem. And the only solution ever offered is a government of absolute and unlimited power. As it always is for the Left.

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The Problem of Democracy, Note 2

Considering the reliance of the Left on the notion of the "general welfare," which is incautiously included in the Preamble as well as the text of the Constitution, there is some irony in what one of the heroes of the Left, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, says about the idea, in relation to a favorite object of contempt, the English Utilitarians:

Zuletzt wollen sie Alle, daß die englische Moralität Recht bekomme: insofern gerade damit der Menschheit, oder dem »allgemeinen Nutzen« oder »dem Glück der Meisten«, nein! dem Glücke Englands am besten gedient wird; sie möchten mit allen Kräften sich beweisen, daß das Streben nach englischem Glück, ich meine nach comfort und fashion (und, an höchster Stelle, einem Sitz im Parlament) zugleich auch der rechte Pfad der Tugend sei, ja daß, so viel Tugend es bisher in der Welt gegeben hat, es eben in einem solchen Streben bestanden habe. Keins von allen diesen schwerfällingen, im Gewissen beunruhigten Heerdenthieren (die die Sache des Egoismus also Sache der allgemeinen Wohlfahrt zu führen unternehmen --) will etwas davon wissen und riechen, daß die »allgemeine Wohlfahrt« kein Ideal, kein Ziel, kein irgendwie faßbarer Begriff, sondern nur ein Brechmittel ist... [Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.144; daß restored for dass, faßbar for fassbar]

In the end they all want to prove that English morality is right, insofar as humanity or the "general welfare" or the "happiness of the greatest number" -- nay, the happiness of England is best served by it. With all their powers they like to prove to themselves that the striving for English happiness -- by this I mean comfort and fashion (and, at the highest level, a seat in Parliament) -- is at the same time the proper path to virtue -- that indeed, whatever virtue there has been in the world, consisted of such striving. None of all these clumsy and conscience-pricked herd animals (who espouse the cause of egoism as the cause of the general welfare) wants to have an insight into or even catch a whiff of the fact that the general welfare is not an ideal, not an aim, not a comprehensible concept even, but only an emetic. [Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.155, translation modified]

To Nietzsche, no human beings are more despicable than "herd animals" (Heerdenthieren) -- the opposite of his own aristocratic ideals. Nietzsche uses two terms here for "welfare," first Nutzen, "profit, gain, use, advantage," and then Wohlfahrt, "welfare, weal." This all fits into Nietzsche's general view that the goal of English liberalism, happiness, is very unlike the goal of Nietzscche's own "Will to Power," which is just power. Although relying on the "general welfare" for Constitutional law, the Left has actually taken Nietzsche's perspective to heart, meaning that their own real goal is power -- this despite the notion of some Nietzsche's apologists, like Robert Solomon, that happiness is indeed his goal. Whether this is sincere or a dissimulation is a question to ask.

It may be worth noting that the definition of Nutzen is almost identical to the Greek term κέρδος, "gain, profit, advantage," and the Chinese , "profit, gain, advantage."

Full Nietzsche quote on British Happiness

Nietzsche quote on Pleasure & Pain

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