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Saturday, Oct. 21, 2000 at 8:26 AM
what is a democracy? an investigation into american representative democracy on the eve of another election.
“If I were to answer the following question: *What is slavery?* and I should answer in one word, *It is murder,* my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him.” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, “What Is Property?”
So then, to the question *What is democracy?* why can I not answer *It is dictatorship* without being completely misunderstood?
Some argue that democracy is the best and most secure protection of freedom and equality yet devised; others believe that it is the very embodiment of our civil and individual rights, in itself a natural right. I say that it is neither a good nor secure protection, nor is it the embodiment of any rights.
Democracy is dictatorship!
How strange is this idea? Democrat and Dictator have always been in hostile contradiction. But before this blasphemy of mine is denounced, consider the millions of voters in the United States who came to similar conclusions and realized that their vote does not actually do anything for them. It is easy to say something that is already common knowledge. All people know that their rights exist only as far as their ability to exercise them. Democracy at once robs them of their rights and leads them to believe that democracy is the only equitable alternative.
What is democracy but rule by the will of the national majority? The power to rule is the power to create laws, so then in a democracy the law is the expression of popular will. This is an error shared by dictatorships: the rule of law ought to be the expression of justice and fact, not the expression of a will. Even in a perfect democracy we cannot be free.
The act of voting is itself a willful act that deprives others of the representation promised by democracy. A vote is cast, but another vote is cast directly opposing it, and so on until the ratio is two to one, or 66% to 33%. The sovereign will of the majority prevails. The representative elected is indebted to the difference. What then becomes of the promise of democracy to those who “lost?” It does not exist. Each vote made the political process a vain hope for each opposing vote: a system dedicated to equality at every step contributing to political and civil inequality.
This is a tyranny of the majority, something noted long ago by a clever Frenchman, Alexis deToqueville; it is nothing new, it can be said. That may be so, but I am still in the right. The expression of popular will—voting—elects representatives to office, men and women (rarely women – take note) who then shape laws and policy by the expression of personal will, influenced by the will of corporations, influenced by other representatives within parties and within committees, but in every case it is the expression of will, imposed, narrowly defined, channeled, and everywhere susceptible to corruption, self-interest, conspiracy, and manipulation.
This short exploration of mine does not even propose to address the problems associated with financing a candidacy, the impact of the media on the democratic process, the power and influence of federal bureaucracy on civil government, or the marginalization of vast segments of the population due to social and economic conditions, among others. But this is not necessary.
Voting forfeits natural rights to a government that has consistently violated those rights.
It concedes that popular opinion and political expediency are more important than equality, liberty, and conscience.
It requires neither thought nor integrity in candidates or voters, and promotes neither.
Even voting for an alternative candidate legitimizes the very system that marginalizes and destroys the avenues necessary for dissent.
The root of the matter is a question of justice, and voting can never satisfy this.
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