Well it is time again to cast your vote and participate in that grand orgy of freedom that climaxes with the perpetuation of democracy and the American way. woohoo.
So before you believe their lies, will you at least listen to ours?
democracy as practiced in the post-industrial world is increasingly under threat; in February of this year, increasing attacks not just on the policies of leaders, but the on very legitimacy of leaders. In this world, it's not enough to say that your opponent is wrong, you have to say that your opponent simply has no right to lead. As democracy depends on the losers stepping aside gracefully as much as the winners ruling fairly, attacks on the legitimacy of opponents were implicit attacks on democracy itself.
At the conservative website "American Thinker," Matthew Vadum argued on September 1 that "registering the poor to vote is Un-American:"
Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.
On September 4, libertarian news site "The Daily Bell" published an interview with influential investment adviser Doug Casey. The interview provides a wide-ranging discussion of coming social and economic apocalypse (and how you can invest now!), and in the midst of it we get the following:
Doug Casey: No. Democracy is just mob rule, dressed up in a coat and tie. It's too bad people conflate democracy, which is mob rule, with liberty and freedom. Democracy in most of the world is everybody voting for the person that promises him or her the most stolen goods from other people. Democracy is a political system, and all political systems rest on institutionalized coercion. I don't care whether it's a king, a president, a congress, or a mob of chimpanzees that tell me I have to pay 50% of my income over to them so they can fund wars, welfare programs, the police state, oligarchic corporations, or whatever. That's what democracy is today.
Rich Miller and Simon Kennedy at Bloomberg.com (September 5, ) opened a piece entitled "Economies in Peril Proving Voters Aren't Careful About What Is Wished For" with the line "The world economy is paying a price for democracy."
If the first thing that you notice is that these are all conservative outlets, you're missing the bigger picture. All three are offering views of the institutional mainstream: Bloomberg is about as conventional-wisdom as you get; American Thinker is a regular player in the Conservative web/Republican Party network; and while the Daily Bell appears to be an outlier, Doug Casey himself is said to be quite influential. For any one of them to be adopting this position would be a (weak signal) blip; for all three to take this position is, a sign of something much larger, especially when coupled with existing attacks on the legitimacy of leadership (and the legitimacy of government itself). Getting this kind of argument from the institutional mainstream tells me that it's not going away any time soon, and is likely to become more pervasive.
Winston Churchill famously said "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." There is no reason to pretend that democracy, especially as structured today (19th century voting model immersed in a 21st century media environment), is even close to perfect. But the hallmark of a free society is transparency, and the ultimate expression of transparency is to have a voice in shaping society's future.
Those who attack democracy may claim to do so for a variety of reasons, but make no mistake: attacks on democracy arise when voters express opinions that don't agree with the attackers'.
Sometimes, attacks come from those who feel that the world isn't paying attention to their wisdom, that their voices aren't being heard (such as the numerous times I've heard climate activists lament the short-sightedness of the average voter). In this case, however, the attacks are coming from those who already have a major stake in the system, whose voices already receive (arguably disproportionate levels of) attention.
as Alfred North Whitehead said; "It's the business of the future to be dangerous, and you don't get much more dangerous than attacks on the legitimacy of democracy." By no means is it guaranteed that this movement will win; in fact, it's more likely than not that it will prove unable to get rid of democracy, although likely to weaken it considerably, at least for a time. But that they are willing to attack the fundamental philosophy of the modern state in such blunt language, and have the resources to do more than just write noisy blog posts, suggests that this fight will be neither brief nor insubstantial.
The question, then, is (as always) what is to be done? More transparency, but that isn't enough. We also need to see a shift in the larger culture away from spectacle and attention-grabbing stimulation, and towards illumination and empathy-building consideration.
It's the business of the future to be dangerous; apparently, it's the business of the futurist to be depressed.