Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An excellent essay from SDA

I found this essay on SDA to be so good that it was worth cutting and pasting (for the few readers who might not view SDA). It is indeed a sad state of affairs when the choices for your ballot are essentially reduced to answering the question "who will do the least damage to my community, my dreams , my aspirations?"

September 17, 2008

An Essay on the Matter of "Least Bad" Democracy

Government is, generally speaking, the political system by which a body of people are administered and regulated. As George Washington noted, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence ~ it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master". Barry Goldwater said that "government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away". Ronald Reagan said that "the most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help".

Democracy, as George Bernard Shaw noted, "is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few". Oscar Wilde said that "democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people". More exactly, perhaps, Thomas Jefferson said that "democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine".

Perhaps we shouldn't be too harsh, though; Winston Churchill did say that "democracy is the worst form of government we know of except for all the others". (Still, Sir Winston also said that "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter".) Perhaps Voltaire was closest when he said that "an ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination" (probably not ;-)

H. L. Mencken said, "Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses." Voltaire said that "in general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another". George Bernard Shaw said that "government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul".

But H. L. Mencken said it best when he said, about democracy, that:

"Government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."

Thomas Jefferson noted the biggest problems with all this, as follows:

  • "Most bad government has grown out of too much government."
  • "I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."
  • "Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Simply put: there is too much state redistribution and regulation auctioneering going on. Our government steals too much freedom and pillage to reward panting and pining parasites who are unwilling to be responsible and work, at the expense of the labor of the responsible industrious. That will eventually kill democracy. Is that what we want?

So, as it is not likely that arguing against government or democracy per se are viable political alternatives in Canada for the foreseeable future, and that's probably a good thing, the best available solution to our problems with government in Canada for the foreseeable future can be found by combining Mencken's and Jefferson's results into the following prescription:

In every election, each citizen should vote for the party or candidate that they think will be the least bad auctioneer, in the sense that they will do the least amount of auctioneering.

Unfortunately, too many citizens feel that because they must vote for the least bad alternative, because there is never a most good alternative, they should just skip the whole exercise, or to be extra dashing, make the extra useless effort to spoil their ballot.

Some liberals might say, for example: I'm not going to vote for the liberals because they want to lower income tax and raise consumption tax, and that is not liberal. Or some conservatives might say, for example: I'm not going to vote for the conservatives because they want to raise income tax and lower consumption tax, and that is not conservative. (As were the cases in the last election.)

And for bonus points, nowadays some of those people will run around in blog comments and stamp their little feet and insist that because the party they want to vote for didn't do some particular thing they want or wanted, not only are they not going to vote, but that you are not a valid supporter of that party if you disagree with the little-foot stamper.

People who think like that are being irresponsible citizens; childish at best, evil at worst. In a well-functioning society, and Canada is a well-functioning society, changes happen at the margins. Under these circumstances, the responsible thing to do is to study the data, think carefully, decide who you think is the least bad selection (at the margin), and vote it.

Sure, if you care enough about it, go ahead, form a new party, get on the ballot, win a plurality in the auctioneer contest, and then you can be auctioneer. But you had better be ready to give the people what they want, not what you want, or you won't win a plurality.

Until then, though, it is what it is. Plato said that "the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men". Until your personal political party is in power, it is your civic duty to study the alternatives and to vote for the one you think will do the least amount of auctioneering.

It's the least you can do.

Posted by Vitruvius at September 17, 2008 2:01 AM

Now the other end of the spectrum is not "who will do the least damage to me?" (the Libertarian/Classical Liberal question and view of government) but "who will deliver the loot to me?" (the "Progressive" view of government). For at least 66% of Canadians, that is the key question of the day (the estimated number of voters who support "progressive" parties), which makes this more of an uphill struggle. The desire to live off the effort of someone else taps into two of the most powerful of human emotions; Greed and Envy. The only successful large scale countervailing movement based on Love is Christianity, which of course isn't about political power at all.....

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