Saturday, March 10, 2007

Also ...

Chris Fotos made this very important point in reply to my comment about Mark's determination that the United States exists as "the illusion of a democracy, where every four years people are given a choice between alternatives chosen for them by oligarchs" that I think is worth quoting:
Mark is under the illusion that the lack of prominent candidates he can personally support means democracy in this country is an illusion. All it really means is that he dislikes these candidates.

If indeed the "party bosses" (I believe top hats are involved) are gearing up to "Re-Rockefellerize" the party, this will work to the extent it is supported by most people calling themselves Republican. I hope that doesn't happen, but if it does, it doesn't mean democracy is an illusion--it means my side had fewer votes. That's kind of the point.

I concur. One of the fundamental issues of democracy that many people have problems with is that it includes the right of the people to make really, really bad decisions, such as the emerging consensus that we really should just abandon Iraq to al-Qaeda and Iran. I think that if you read through the Federalist Papers et al. it is fairly clear that this was understood from the very beginning. It was also deliberately designed as an imperfect system, which is why I believe that the early United States was able to escape the totalitarian fate of revolutionary France. If you sacralize politics to the point where you believe that people cannot be trusted to make bad decisions, you ultimately end up with a dictatorship. This view is explicitly rejected by the Catechism, which notes that the particulars of government are not laid out so long as justice and the common good are upheld.

This, at least to me, acknowledges the reality and limitations of humanity without falling into extreme despair.

5 comments:

Christopher Fotos said...

One of the fundamental issues of democracy that many people have problems with is that it includes the right of the people to make really, really bad decisions, such as the emerging consensus that we really should just abandon Iraq to al-Qaeda and Iran.

Oh yes, this is exactly on-point as I tear my hair out over the widespread indifference to a repeat of the catastrophe, and then some, that followed our withdrawal from Vietnam. Sooner or later such frustration is the fate of anyone who lives in a democratic society and passionately cares about anything. The only perfect emotional and intellectual defense is to not give a damn, which I don't recommend.

Steve Golay said...

My credentials within the pro-life movement are spotless.

But (a huge and recent one), this may be the time to place another concern above abortion: the Islamification of America.

Much hinges on winning that battle - even the one about abortion.

Islam is NO conrade in that war.

No apologies.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Steve,

What Islamification of America? What are you talking about?

Art Deco said...

Would like to offer a dissent, an opinion about how a republic such as ours functions when conceived of as a working political society:

In a political system where competitive elections are the norm, the electoral contest exists as a matrix within which the political class makes its decisions, adjudicates disputes within the political class by determining personnel, and is one of several means by which the composition of the political class is determined. But...

Public opinion is generative of public policy insofar as the dispositions of the political class are in part a function of the social milieux in which the individual members of that group were reared. However, public policy is not a direct product of the will of constitutents bar in those realms where the results of public policy are directly palpable in the domestic life of constituents, and these palpable phenomena are understood as the results of particular political decisions by identifiable actors. Even so, the role of public opinion in shaping policy is more likely to be found in the anticipated adverse reaction to policies which the political oppostion can exploit.

Garry Wills put it more succinctly in 1969 when he said that elections do not tell us what the public wants; they tell us, in a vague way, what the public will put up with.

Which is to say, what the public will put up with from among the alternatives which are generated by the dynamic that prevails among those of the political Establishment. If the ratio of support for propostion A to that of opposition to proposition A exceeds a certain value, you have an effective elite consensus, and public policy will continue as is without regard to what abstract public opinion says.

Hence abortion on demand, race preference schemes, and a generation of official inaction in response to burgeoning street crime....

You can call that an oligarchy. You could also concede that that is the Way Things Are when political life is conducted on a scale larger than that which would permit a good deal of face-to-face interaction between the political establishment and Joe Blow. The latter concession would allow for little attitudinizing on the part of people so inclined.

Art Deco said...

If you sacralize politics to the point where you believe that people cannot be trusted to make bad decisions, you ultimately end up with a dictatorship.

I am not an adept of Catholic Social Teaching, but if I understand it correctly, it is the substance of public policy, not the formal elements of the political order, that are salient. One's understanding of the preferred political order would be that which most reliably generates just outcomes in a particular context. Thus, an authoritarian political order might be preferred if the interacting dynamics of elite and mass opinion in a competitive electoral system were producting results that were systematically less just than might an authoritarian system. (I think Aleksander Solzhynitsyn has held to something like this view).