Gary Goodman (sap@TANK.RGS.UKY.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 10:07:22 EDT
"The ambition of democracy, from the very start, goes beyond the establishment
of a political regime. For government, to be political, it suffices that the
government be possessed of a legally guaranteed right of resistance; now
democracy cannot undertake to accomplish that much without pledging itself to
accomplish much more... When the political idea assumes the democratic form,
the people asserts, over and above its freedom. From abusive power its freedom
TO govern itself. Keeping the government, confined within a definite field, is
no longer held sufficient; the government has been taken over by the people.
Such is democratic freedom, the defining feature of democracy."
On June 26 Ronald Kephart <rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU> wrote:
RK>In message <199606271351.IAA17832@cypress.idir.net> Robert Snower writes:
RK>> But who makes the rules? You, or me? We would never agree. A capitalist
RK>> A communist? Hitler? A pomo anthropologist, or a geneticist? Each has h
RK>> own agenda, his own interest. Democracy is the magnificent solution:
RK>> everyone's individual self-interest rules.
RK>I don't know which "democracy" this is referring to- certainly not ours or a
RK>that I know of. "Democracy" in the United States and elsewhere means that f
RK>time to time the masses get to choose from a restricted set of options offer
RK>to them by the elite. The folks so "elected" then go about the business of
RK>running the country to their advantage until it's time reshuffle the pack; b
RK>the deck is always stacked.
RK>One way to get partially away from this might be to select our representativ
RK>at random, with the custodian who empties my trash can every morning just as
RK>likely to end up a congressperson as Newt Gingrich. I THINK things might be
RK>better; I am SURE they wouldn't be any worse.
First apologies for the American slant of this, democracy has so many
different flavors and contexts world-wide, I am unable to fairly comment
on anything but that version I am most familiar with. I hope though that
one can generally substitute "The Earth" of "The Free World" or the name
of one's own country for America and it still apply for the most part.
Actually what a lot of people think of as Democracy is really (old-preLunkhead)
Liberalism. It has burned my behind to see that once NOBLE concept ruined by
pundits so it now applies to supposed spendthrifts and empty-headed
bleeding-heart do-gooders (though checking the figures Conservatives are FAR
worse than pseudoliberals or Progressives on this -- they just prefer to spend
it on Defense manufacturers than people).
This is what the word LIBERAL *used* to mean:
First appeared 1820
(1) a person who is liberal: as
a : One who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of
orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways
b capitalized : A member or supporter of a liberal political party
c : An advocate or adherent of liberalism, esp. in individual
rights and greater freedom of thought or action
d : One who advocates ; one who has liberal principles
e : One who is generous; hospitable; tending to be philanthropic;
(1) Free to give or bestow; generous; giving largely; bountiful; lavish.
(2) Ample; large; abundant.
(3) Free; not literal or strict; as in a liberal interpretation of the
(4) Not narrow or bigoted; broadminded; knowledg(e)able; latitudinarian;
(5) Of democratic or republican forms of government [really], as
distinguished from monarchies, aristocracies, etc.
(6) Favoring reform or progress,.. specifically favoring political reforms
tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual.
"...the only form of enduring social organization that is now possible is one
in which the new forces of productivity are cooperatively controlled and used
in the interest of the effective liberty and the cultural development of the
individuals that constitute society."
A pure democracy would be a disaster as it really WOULD be a Tyranny of
the Mob -- that's the problem of "direct democracy" or the popular idea
among cyber-"Libertarians" of e-voting on everything. Sometimes the
BEST answer to popular demand, like prayers, is "NO."
"The point of representative democracy as distinct from direct democracy --
voting in an election and not a referendum -- is that forces one to relate
one's own interests to those of others. This is one of the main functions of
the representative, to adjust the needs of his own constituents to the needs of
the constituents of other representatives, and this is what all the haggling in
a representative body is about... to carry the dogma of popular sovereignty to
the extent of saying that the power of the people can be exercise truly and
effectively only when it is exercised by them directly is to deprive the
representative system of government of all justification and function..."
--Henry Fairlie, "The Unfiltered Voice," TNR, June 24, 1978.
One reason, as appealing at first glance as the random selection process
appears, for representation. It MIGHT have merit -- at least for
REPRESENTATIVES if every citizen WAS reasonably competent. But let's
look at a process where this principle IS utilized: Jury Duty.
There all kinds of factors have to be considered. And applying the idea
of democratic rule, who and how could (or should) challenges be made to
the selection? Would a card-carrying neo-Nazi like William "Turner
Diaries" Pierce make a good choice? A UFOist? Someone who education
ended in the Third Grade? Someone whose never left their Ivory Tower
"Authority... the creator of the social tie, and its position, is consolidated
by the benefits which spring from the social tie."
--Bertand de Jouvenal
It should be someone the majority of us has confidence in -- at least to
begin with. And, considering the volatility of opinion, we should also
not be allowed to toss them out the minute their "approval rating" drops
below 50%. Who with the sense to do the job WOULD do it under those
"Democracy is measured not by its leaders doing extraordinary things, but by
its citizens doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."
--John Gardner (founder Common Cause)
Which brings up who would be willing to give up their work, their
advancement in their company, much of their home life, their privacy,
and so on to do the job?
No, I am afraid we are stuck with putting people into the job who WANT
the job and have arranged their lives to follow this career choice.
Which is not to say that Ronald's idea is meritless. Perhaps we could
have something like a para-representative. Someone selected by random
from a pool of willing volunteers (and meeting some basic requirements)
who would work WITH our representatives, perhaps via computer, to speak
more directly for the neighborhood. In a country of nearly 300 million
the idea that one can represent millions of people on a one-to-one basis
is illogical. Now it is up to the representative to provide the
organization and at public expense to attempt an ad hoc mechanism to
provide the missing levels between voter and representative.
Where I am headed is the cellular system of democratic representation or
TransAction. But more on that later.
"Democracy is based upon the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual
capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and
Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the
individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of
the individual and his freedom in the exercise of those rights."
--Harry S. Truman, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1949.
Gary D. Goodman
"No government will be successful, no government will endure, which does not
rest on the individual, and no government has yet found the individual. Up to
the present moment we have never seen the individual. Yet the search for him
has been the whole long striving of our Anglo-Saxon history. We sought him
through the method of representation and failed to find him. We sought to
reach him by extending the suffrage to every man and then to every woman and
yet he eludes us. .... The ballot-box! How completely that has failed men, how
completely it will fail women. Direct government as at present generally
understood is a mere phantom of democracy. Democracy is not a sum in addition.
Democracy is not brute numbers; it is a genuine union of true individuals.
The question before the American people to-day is -- How is that genuine union
to be attained, how is the true individual to be discovered? The party has
always ignored him; it wants merely a crowd, a preponderance of votes.
We find the true man only through group organization. The potentialities of
the individual remain potentialities until they are released by group life.
Man discovers his true nature, gains his true freedom only through the group.
But who is the individual we have been seeking, who is the individual we are to
find within the group? Certainly not the particularist individual. Every man
to count as one? That was once our slogan. Now we have relegated it to a
mechanical age. To-day we see that every man must count for infinitely more
than one because he is not part of a whole, a cog in a machine, not even an
organ in an organism, but from one point of view the whole itself.
Majority rule rests on numbers; democracy rests on the well-grounded assumption
that society is neither a collection of units nor an organism but a network of
human relations. Democracy is not worked out at the polling-booths; it is the
bringing forth of a genuine collective will, one to which every single being
must contribute the whole of his complex life, as one which every single being
must express the whole of at one point. Thus the essence of democracy is
--Mary Parker Follett