Sobran's -- The Real News of the 

Reflections on Elections

November 5, 2002

When the media find a Senate contest involving Walter Mondale the most exciting race in the country, it’s time to admit that democracy hasn’t quite lived up to its billing. Why is this a system we should impose on the rest of the world, when it isn’t even serving us very well? Maybe regime change should begin at home.

I know, I know. Democracy is “the worst form of government, except for all the others.” I prefer another definition: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” Many people view it as an opportunity to rob their fellow citizens through the ballot-box, with the result that the Land of the Free now pays far higher taxes than its former British masters would have dared to impose.

Nor have we abolished taxation without representation. A national debt in the trillions is nothing if not a huge tax imposed on those who can’t vote yet. It has been estimated that a child born today comes into the world owing $100,000 in bills his elders have chosen not to pay. Federal spending has increased by a fifth in just the last two years, and the Heritage Foundation projects spending under the “conservative” Bush administration at levels even higher than those of the liberal Lyndon Johnson administration, when we were paying for the Vietnam War and the Great Society at the same time.

So why vote? No matter which party gets elected, we’re going to get pretty much the same result. Your vote will make no difference. It’s not worth the effort to get “informed” about all the candidates in order to cast one ballot among millions.

“Your vote counts!” you are told. Well, one economist has reckoned that your chance of getting killed on the way to the polls is greater than the chance that your vote will decide an election. And of course if the election does happen to swing on your single vote, there will be recounts and lawsuits and endless mud-wrestling to reverse the outcome. Finally a court will choose the winner.

The myth of the thoughtful citizen “making the difference” with his vote is less and less plausible, as more and more minority blocs, growing rapidly, vote almost unanimously (and often illegally) for the Democrats anyway. Elections have far more to do with social engineering and appeals to greed than with meditation.

[Breaker quote: How long can democracy last?]Mass democracy guarantees stupidity. Masses of people, even if they’re individually intelligent, can only act stupidly. “If every Athenian had been a Socrates,” John Stuart Mill observed, “the Athenian Assembly would still have been a mob.”

Democracy can work well in a small community, where people know each other and can discuss matters together. A jury is a good model: a few people exchange thoughts and reach a reasonable consensus. But it doesn’t work on a large and cumbersome scale.

For most of American history, the constitutional Republic could absorb a certain amount of democracy. But in the twentieth century, as the country became both richer and more democratic, the old limitations on the Federal Government were weakened. The welfare state, combined with a Federal income tax, created what Mill called an invitation to every man to “plunge his hand into his neighbor’s pocket.” The old white Protestant individualist ethos began to decay, and the decadence accelerated as politics became a bidding war for the votes of would-be government dependents.

Now we face the interesting prospect of an uncontrolled flood of immigrants into what has become the land of taxpayer-supported milk and honey. The Democrats are making the most of it, while the Republicans have neither the brains nor the will to counteract it, even though it means Democratic dominance — not to mention economic chaos — in the decades ahead.

You can have free immigration, or you can have a welfare state. Trying to have both at once may not be such a bright idea. As the aging white taxpayer base shrinks, it will have to pay for more and more government dependents — which, in our democratic system, can only mean higher taxes, until the whole thing collapses under a burden that has become impossible to sustain. To paraphrase Everett Dirksen: a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

You like democracy, do you? Good. You’re going to get a lot more of it.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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