Once upon a time, there was a schoolyard which, typically enough, was flooded with children at every recess. As children are inclined to do, a great portion of recess was devoted to arguing over which particular game to play.
Unfortunately, this assembly of children had little reason to debate as their deliberations were always decided in the most predictable fashion. There was in this assembly a school bully, a surly boy blessed with an early growth spurt. His was always the last, the deciding and the overruling vote. Of course, the other children secretly reviled him, but none dared to allow such feelings to surface.
One day, a well-wishing teacher observed the children’s predicament and decided that she would intervene for their betterment. She strode confidently across the playground and moralistically informed the children that they were living oppressed, miserable lives under the thumb of a schoolyard tyrant. She forcefully instructed the children that tyrants were not the sort of people that would be allowed on her playground and told the children that she had an infinitely better method for electing their games.
“Democracy,” she said. “It’s the enlightened way and all the cool kids are doing it. Democracy will solve your bully problem. Henceforth, votes are not to be determined by body weight or looks or skills. Each child, from the meekest wimpling to the belligerent bully, is awarded one vote when it comes to selecting their game of choice.”
The children, even the bully, all agreed that democracy was a very inspiring and admirable idea and agreed to give it a try. The teacher sauntered back to her classroom, suffocating from good feelings about herself.
Now, the good part of the story is that the children were quite earnest and sincere about giving the whole democracy thing a go. The bad part is that on the particular day that the children adopted democracy as their system of governance, the only two games that the children decided were worth voting on were hopscotch and hanging the redheads. There were 20 children and only one of them was a redhead, and he happened to be the bully.
That regrettable day, democracy was a vehicle which permitted 19 children the chance to wreck sweet revenge on the object of their hatred. What the visionary teacher failed to account for is that the process of deciding is frequently, if not always, secondary to what is being decided. Dictators can occasionally be perfectly reasonable, even kind, rulers. Democratic majorities can sometimes be ruthless, even murderous mobs. It’s not unheard of.
Unfortunately, children, even college students, are taught to kneel unquestioningly at the altar of democracy. And because ours is a democratically elected government, we are by implication, expected to display a similar deference to our elected officials.
A monstrous lie that enjoys the currency of truth is that democracy is the great achievement of our advanced age, a magical and mysterious guarantee against encroachments of our liberty by the omniscient and beneficent “will of the people.”
It’s rubbish. But many people, especially Americans, suffer the juvenile delusion that government is something nice, the originator of good things like free speech, schools, etc. Americans would do well to recall the words of their first president who soundly condemned such a notion, saying that “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force.”
We do well to fear the potential dangers inherent in any government, whether such government is of a tyrant or the fictitious “will of the people.” The offended reaction evoked by the recent tea party protests was an embarrassingly public display of this crude idiocy which defers so readily to the democratic process. The tea partiers, I admit, were not altogether homogeneous, and many of them bore the unsettling appearance of neoconservative hacks briefly assuming the sheep skins of limited government for political gain (as they did during the Clinton administration).
But it has been truly disappointing to hear my fellow Americans and the talking buffoons of the media sanctimoniously scold Americans to “put up and shut up.” Such people tell us that our country is a democracy and that the will of the people cannot be ridiculed. Therefore, Obama’s reckless administration cannot be lashed with the scorn it properly deserves. As far as anti-American sentiments go, this could quite possibly be the lowest and most insolent point our country has ever sunk to.
Government, even democratically elected government, is always the same. It is force, a force which can be used for good or bad, right or wrong. Presently, the force of government is being used to bankrupt this nation and saddle future generations with mountains of oppressive debt as failed companies fleeing bankruptcy assume the yoke of governmental control for the promise of security.
Americans have every right to be mistrustful of and even outraged at their government. Still, there are those who insist that we must all hold hands trustingly as our great ship sinks. The oppressiveness of unity is the last curse we need at this developed stage of our decline. Let’s hope that the present discontentment boils into a fury that resists being soothed over and forgotten at the next election. That’s a hope and a change our country would greatly benefit from.
Jeremy Hicks is a 2008 political science graduate, the founder of the Cal Poly Libertarian Club and a Mustang Daily political columnist.