A blupete Essay

The Vote, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"Politics and The Lie of Legitimacy"

The great challenge is to keep people out of government who have no business, being in it. Democracy, for all its vaunted virtues, has been a dismal failure in getting proper people, I mean those with an understanding of the science and art of it, at the head of government. One of the principal difficulties of democracy is that it offers up no mechanism by which the brightest and the best become our leaders.3 (How to achieve this goal, in keeping with our notions of democracy, is a subject which I hardly have room to treat at this place. Though for starters, I'll say this much: doctors, lawyers and other professionals spend years before they become licensed to deal with the problems of a particular individual. Any person with a glib tongue and the right connections might end up with the government levers in his hands and thereby effect the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people. A person should not be allowed to stand for political offices [which offices for this purpose should be graded in some fashion] unless and until they are tested in such things, as for example, elementary principles of political philosophy and constitutional law.) As it is, our leaders in our western democracies, if not the brightest and the best, are, at least, or so it is thought, the choice of the people.4 Assuming for the moment that they are freely chosen by the people (a very doubtful proposition), the reality is, that the successful politician who climbs to the pinnacles of power5 does so not because of any refined understanding of the role of government; but, rather, for his ability to attract those in charge of the election apparatus; and, of course, through the devious means which are thought to be necessary, so as to be presented as an attractive "choice" to a majority of the voters.6

There have only ever been but a few countries, in all of history, in all of the world, where arrangements were or are made for those who go to make up the country, its population, to vote for those who are to represent them in the government of their country. Even England, that great bastion of democracy, as the 19th turned into the 20th century, allowed but a part of the population to vote (women and non-property owners, for example, had no vote).7 These days, at least in the "western democracies," we all have the vote. One is precluded from arguing that this is not a good idea. Certainly Bentham in his work, published in 1789, didn't think to question the proposition that only certain people should have the vote.

"Men who would not be thought fit to be electors, are those who cannot be presumed to possess political integrity, and a sufficient degree of knowledge. Now we cannot presume upon the political integrity of those whom want exposes to the temptation of selling themselves; nor of those who have no fixed abode; nor of those who have been found guilty in the courts of justice of certain offences forbidden by the law. We cannot presume a sufficient degree of knowledge in women, whom their domestic condition withdraws from the conduct of public affairs; in children and adults beneath a certain age; in those who are deprived by their poverty of the first elements of education, &c. &c.."8
The fact of the matter is, that with "universal suffrage," all too often, what we end up doing is putting people in positions of power whose only talent is that which is required to get themselves elected.9 The question is: Who is capable of casting an informed vote? It is thought that minors are not. And yet, -- it has been my experience -- that a good number of minors are capable, and, indeed, have analyzed policy questions to some considerable extent. Why shouldn't they have the vote. Why do some certifiable insane persons have the vote, or those who know nothing of governing and care less about the subject. It was Schiller who observed: "Sense has ever been centered in the few. ... Votes should be weighed, not counted. The state must sooner or later be wrecked where the majority rules and ignorance decides."10 Who should have the vote is perhaps a political question long since dead; but, if it is a dead question, then all the more reason to keep the sphere of government action within areas that are strictly circumscribed.

We may well question the ability of the typical voter11, if they do it at all, to cast a vote on one side of a studied issue; however, it is not just the voter that is typically ignorant, unfortunately, all too often, so is the politician who stands for election.12 Quite a number of us well appreciate this, and, at each election, there is, indeed, a concerted effort to turn out one set of politicians who have abundantly illustrated their ineptitude; only to be fixed, post election, with another set which soon demonstrate they are no better than the last set. (Great expense, I might add, is incurred, as each new set goes about undoing the work of the previous set, the term I have come to use is "democratic fibrillation.") What is necessary is for us to come to grips with the great mythology of our age. Professor Leoni explains:

"No solemn titles, no pompous ceremonies, no enthusiasm on the part of applauding masses can conceal the crude fact that both the legislators and the directors of a centralized economy are only particular individuals like you and me, ignorant of 99 percent of what is going on around them as far as the real transactions, agreements, attitudes, feelings, and convictions of people are concerned. ... The mythology of our age is not religious, but political, and its chief myths seem to be 'representation' of the people, on the one hand, and the charismatic pretension of political leaders to be in possession of the truth and to act accordingly ..."13
Never mind the typical "western democracy" is a system that is run by demagogues; it is simply not participatory, though some may think the opportunities exist; nor can it be labeled as such when, but at times, only a third of the voters bother to get out. The fact is that "the participation of individuals in the law-making process has ceased to be effective and has become more and more a sort of empty ceremony taking place periodically in the general election of a country."14

It is in the nature of government to have a few tell the rest what it is that should be done, or, to put it on a proper footing, what is not to be done. By the normal democratic process, where there is disagreement (just about every time) then a vote is called and those who win by a simple majority15 overrule the rest. It is a myth that every citizen has an equal weight with every other. Assuming all citizens have a vote (children, for example, do not); and only half of them bother to vote; and the election is won by 51% -- then, those who parade around after the election declaring themselves the winners, may, indeed, have the real support of but only 25% of the electorate (assuming that this 25% knew what it was they were voting for in the first place); though, they claim the power to bind 100% of the citizens over to their ideas (legislation).

Professor Leoni, in his brilliant work, Freedom and the Law illustrates the tyranny of majority rule:

"... when we consider the analogy at closer quarters, we realize that in assuming that 51 voters out of 100 are "politically" equal to 100 voters, and that the remaining 49 (contrary) voters are "politically" equal to zero (which is exactly what happens when a group decision is made according to majority rule) we give much more 'weight' to each voter ranking on the side of the winning 51 than to each voter ranking on the side of the losing 49."16
In any event, Truth Cannot be Put to a Vote: Truth does not care for majoritarianism or egalitarianism. One cannot claim to have arrived at a knowledgeable position because 51 percent of the public agrees with you. It was Bruno who observed: "It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people." And, Santayana: "Most men's conscience, habits, and opinions are borrowed from convention and gather continually comforting assurances from the same social consensus that originally suggested them."


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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]
[Subject Index]
Peter Landry

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