Editor’s note: Here is another article by our friend Ruricolus.
A pattern has emerged in our local politics.
* The city police chief, who seems uninterested in having his officers respond to certain kinds of crime or certain types of criminals, was selected by an unelected committee of people who were appointed by a previous mayor, plus a state commission whose members don’t even live in the area.
* A school board member who’s been a proponent of masks and CRT, counter to the clear wishes of parents and the public, was appointed by the rest of the school board to replace a retiring member.
* There are other examples of unelected commissions, whose names almost no one knows, making bad decisions at the school, city, and county level. No one seems sure how to get rid of them.
All of these people trace back to some elected person or persons who appointed them or appointed the people who appointed them. So the democracy-lover’s response is: “We need to do democracy harder. Get out there and run to become precinct committeemen, so you can guide the direction of the party, nominate better candidates, and get better people elected so they’ll appoint better commissions. Find out how to get on these faceless commissions, and push your way in there yourself. If you just do your due diligence and get democracy right, this won’t be a problem. So stop being a lazy citizen, get out there and knock on doors with your flyers and petitions, and make the system work.”
That’s a fairy tale, and not a nice one, but one where children end up being eaten by monsters because they turned down the path with candy growing along it. Normal people who are trying to work a job and raise a family shouldn’t have to spend their spare time competing with college Marxists, spergy wonks, and petty tyrants just to keep the system from turning on them. Those who make a hobby of politics or who see it as a path to personal power will always have more energy to put into corrupting the system than normal people have for maintaining it.
If informing yourself about candidates and voting in every election isn’t enough, if it requires constant vigilance and “getting involved” by everyone at a high level, then democracy is fatally flawed. It’s destined to be a gradual ratcheting toward corruption and collapse, with the troublemakers dragging the system toward the cliff most of the time, and normal people occasionally noticing and getting upset enough to pull it back a couple steps before abandoning the annoying and abstruse processes of politics to focus on their lives and families again. That system may run on fumes for years, even generations, burning whatever social capital was stored up by previous generations. But it’s doomed.
So in the words of the great Bill McNeal, “This [system] is both fair and democratic. And I want no part of it.” It’s time to stop idolizing democracy and thinking of it as part of the solution. To the extent that it worked in the past, it worked because we had a nation of unusually moral, sensible people, so whoever got elected was likely to do a decent job. And even then we elected too many who led us into unnecessary, self-destructive wars or passed laws contrary to the clear intent of the founding documents. Now the social capital stored by our ancestors is nearly spent, and we’re supposed to democracy as hard as we can just to stay afloat. It’s time to break that idol. Maybe voting — with a limited franchise — can be part of a useful system of governance, but it can’t be the thing we expect to keep the ship afloat and on the right heading. Democracy didn’t prevent corruption in the first place, and it won’t be the answer to it.