My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Democratic Digression

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. - Sir Winston Churchill

Our system, our Democracy, stays in place because of one simple reason: it works satisfactorily.

But I think that it is occasionally important to go over the actual process. History is littered with attempts at governments installed in the hope that they would look after the masses. For a good bit of this time there was a belief in the “divine right of kings” to rule over us. This absolute monarchy style was destined to fail due to a lack of available good kings.

We as a species have tried thousands of different ways of governing ourselves in the hope that we will find a moralistic government that is both stable and benevolent. The problem with all of these previously tried systems is that they relied heavily on continued maintenance by those who would pursue the founding principle of compassion. In short, those who put a leader in charge willingly wish to see that leader treat them well. The problem then arises when that leader is either unchecked in power, or is able to slowly rot the system through the slow creep of authoritarianism or through their failure to live up the job.

Our Declaration of Independence may list our inalienable rights as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, but it is built upon a system that must immediately limit those rights in order to maintain them. Still, few rebel even though everyone complains. Living standards, crime, and personal freedom are, historically, at an all time high. And it’s not because our voters are any smarter. Our last two elections proved that. So why does our system work better than all others tried so far?

It is because our original system was built upon the backs of generations that put the welfare of their countrymen over themselves. It is the only practical difference and the reason we have the system that we do. We are a nation created for each other. Thus, there must be a constant renewal of the connection between responsibility and authority. Or, as Thomas Jefferson told James Madison in a letter (Jan. 30, 1787), “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical”.

To vote is to wield authority and continued success is not a matter of chance. To allow unchecked authority in either the electorate or the elected officials removes the responsibility and is the sign of the end of a government. So we must encourage the occasional social responsibility to remind us why it is that we allow ourselves to be governed by and for others. We as citizens must understand that our responsibility is to the state first in order to maintain the freedom of others. But before you accuse me of communism, remember that we cannot install moral virtue at the end of a gun; we cannot force social responsibility at the end of a speech. It must be given in lives, blood, loss, and pain. There is no other historical proof that a governed population can find within themselves the ability to govern each other without individual sacrifice. So it does not matter what political system is in question.

So what are morals? At their most primitive, morals are what come out of our instinct to survive. They are the ability of an individual to see beyond themselves. Think of morals as the willingness of a mother who would die protecting someone else’s children. They are earned, maintained, and spread through channels all connected to the state and the freedoms that it may or may not allow.

True democratic governance can and never will exist. Defined, it is simply representative government with equality placed at the forefront above all else. It is a system that theoretically exists to give everyone equal say. And it can never be a reality because the average voter, representative, or appointed individual can never grasp the potential of their own power or understand the lasting ramifications of their actions. It is at best a system that allows for some individuals to have a direct influence on the daily lives of others, but only in limited scope and with varying success. At the worst, it is a system that allows the electorate to believe that they are indeed free when in actuality they consist in nothing more than a quasi-democratic organization built to support its own continuance. We are a nation held together by the belief that we are one.

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