19 thoughts on “Democracy under the gun?

  1. Rosenburg suffers from the same failures he sees in others, in that only those who disagree with him, right wing populists, are the problem. Presumably, left wing populists are OK.

    But it is democracy, regardless of point of view, that is the problem.

    Democracy is inherently authoritarian.

    The Framers of our Constitution knew that and drafted our basic law to protect us against the excesses of democracy, but over time, not by amendment but by judicial activism, those protections have been eroded.

    Distortions of the ‘Commerce’ and ‘General Welfare’ clauses allowed Congress to slip the bonds of the enumerated powers set out in the Constitution and we voted away the rights of farmers and doctors and other producers of wealth whose labor we seek to take at less than its market value.

    The question of whether a policy is right has lost ground to whether we can get the votes to do it regardless.

    That is no more plain anywhere than in this forum.

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        1. Nary a one, Doc, nary a one. But then, I also cannot recall an electorate in ANY country in the world ever being stupid enough to give anything that looked like a Libertarian the chance.

          Can you?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, since we don’t promise to steal from the rich to benefit those who vote for us, and we don’t agree to police anyone’s sex life or other moral choices, it is hard for us to attract voters.

            But still, since we are opposed to the initiation of force for political or social purpose, please do tell me how we could oppress anyone.

            Or as the bumper sticker says “Libertarians, quietly plotting to take over the world and then leave you alone.”

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    1. The Framers of our Constitution knew that and drafted our basic law to protect us against the excesses of democracy . . . [emphasis added]”

      It’s that “us” that is the issue. The Framers were very clear on who they thought should have a say in the new country—wealthy, white, proto-capitalist merchants and planters. James Madison went so far as to say, [congress] “ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

      I think the article errs by ignoring the historical dynamic Tabor has brought up. To hold power, Madison’s Opulent Minority must either dilute their share to pacify the unwashed rabble, or include them in the “us” by some attribute other than wealth, e.g. nationality, race, citizenship, etc.

      The former is social democracy; the latter is fascism.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The irony is that “diluting their share” is within the powers of the people by virtue of democratic representation. What it takes is education of the electorate to show that the “unwashed” are not jealous of wealth or that a big screen TV is a life goal or that not everyone is cutting in line to reach the American Dream.

        But rather being able to afford decent healthcare, access to worthwhile education and a better representation regarding labor compensation and life balance.

        The lower classes are fed the line that if you tax the top, then when they become billionaires they have pay those taxes too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “What it takes is education of the electorate to show that the “unwashed” are not jealous of wealth or that a big screen TV is a life goal or that not everyone is cutting in line to reach the American Dream.”

          After 9/11, the press was that the terrorists hated us for what we have. NO. They hated us for what we do.

          The poor don’t hate the rich for what they have. They hate them for what they do to the poor.

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    2. First, the article was referring to the problem of extreme wealth, not the income of doctors or farmers. Extreme wealth puts power into the hands of an unelected few who then change laws to maintain the status quo. The last 4 decades of stripping the unions, getting rid of pensions, etc are but a couple of examples.

      Next, populism is the tool by which the right wing effects control in Rosenburgs lecture. The real issues in our country are healthcare, education, wages and jobs. (Yes, jobs. Since the recession people are still working harder for less income and security than anywhere else in the industrial world,) but the Republicans, through Trump, are diverting a core of the electorate to scapegoats such as immigrants and the Chinese.

      Finally, Rosenberg is pointing out that the extremely wealthy are effectively considering bread and games for the mob. The Romans did that 2000 years ago. The elite keep their status, people are not starving and Venezuelan conditions are averted before a bloody revolution takes place.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So, you are concerned that the wealthy will use government power to further enrich themselves and gain more power?

        Well, then, you(and your liberal predecessors of the 30s) shouldn’t have given the government the power to choose winners and losers in the marketplace. Of course, if the government chooses winners and losers it will be corrupted, and the wealthy are much better at that than you are.

        That’s why the Framers enumerated the powers of the Federal government, and why slipping those bonds (Willard v Fishburn) inevitably led to more plutocracy.

        The only way to prevent government being bought is to give it nothing to sell.

        But Wilson and the Roosevelts, in their lust for more control over the economy, created a monster which cannot be controlled.

        Every time you give government more power to control ANY aspect of the marketplace, you give the powerful another tool to corrupt it. And it is always done with the best of intentions.

        Just look at the harm done to our liberties because we wanted government to ‘do something’ about drug use. We didn’t intend for government to kill 9000 family pets per year, but that is the outcome of allowing no-knock searches for drugs.

        And guess what the justification for the drug war is?

        The ‘Commerce Clause’ as expanded by Willard v Fishburn.

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        1. The case was Wickard v. Filburn for those trying to find it.

          The heyday of the free market, unrestrained capitalism was the age of the “robber barons”. Few restrictions. But that was not enough, so they bought tariffs and other protections long before any Commerce Clause case.

          The facts are simple. So long as money is power, you will never, ever get a Libertarian utopia. Wealth buys representatives for governance. Why? Because it takes money to run for office. And why is it so out of hand? Because money is speech and corporations are citizens. Both nice conservative viewpoints that have screwed us for decades.

          Maybe some century old decision made during a catastrophic Depression and a World War helped pave a path. But the issue now is about extreme wealth and power. We had it before and the consequences were terrible.

          The framers made a lot of mistakes because they had to compromise to even get a nation. The idea was to fix it later. But we know how that worked. Even the Civil War was essentially about wealth and power.

          As the link said, Democracy is hard work. It requires a well informed electorate willing to devote time and energy. When a handful of people know that most can’t or won’t devote to working on Democracy, we get to where we are now.

          It is not a liberal or even a conservative problem. It is an American problem.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s not even an American problem. It is a generic problem with democracy.

            It eats itself everywhere is is tried.

            Unless the government is tightly bond to limited and enumerated powers and individual rights prevail no matter how unpopular, democracy will descend into mooching and looting.

            By both the rich and the poor.

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    3. RE: “Rosenburg suffers from the same failures he sees in others, in that only those who disagree with him, right wing populists, are the problem.”

      I agree, although it may be that Politico spun his lecture to a narrative more than it deserved. On the Right, for example, we notice there are many forms of Left-wing populism which are decidedly totalitarian. Think Green New Deal, or tax-the-rich.

      If Rosenburg is worth his salt as a political scientist, I expect he devoted more attention to the classical foundations of his craft than the article suggests. He might have noted, in particular, that today’s “right-wing extremism” is in many ways a reaction to the phenomenon of “left-wing extremism.”

      If he did, the Politico piece didn’t mention it.

      All the same, its good to see a center-left publication in mainstream media raise the issue of democracy’s inherent flaws. The substance will resonate with the smart set more than the details, and that, at least, is a plus.

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      1. RE: “I guess you missed this part where he admitted he was as guilty as those who disagree with him.”

        Why would you guess that?

        Rosenburg was referring to being a fallible human being, just like everyone else, not to any possible explanation of the origins of right-wing extremism.

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    4. “When challenged on this front, he quickly insisted he didn’t mean to exempt himself from the claim that people suffer from cognitive and emotional limitations. ”

      I guess you missed this part where he admitted he was as guilty as those who disagree with him.

      And while there are left wing populists, it is currently the right wing populist ideals that are the threat. – IMHO

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  2. The growth of activism, of political crowd-funding “people’s pacs” and the popularity of candidates like Sanders and Warren provide strong evidence of the growing demand for actual, citizen representative democracy and a growing rebellion against corporate dominance and economic “neoliberalism” marked by undoing public protections that affect corporate profits, privatizing and slashing public programs, increasing wealth disparity with fortunes accruing to a few at the expense of the majority and an overall prioritizing of business interests over the public health and safety. In the face of record economic disparity and the existential threat of industrially driven climate catastrophe we are headed for a big pro-democracy shift though corporate politicians and media are doing all they can to stifle it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “The growth of activism [etc.]…provide strong evidence of the growing demand for actual, citizen representative democracy…”

      Maybe so, but it’s hard to tell. It’s just as likely the growth of activism, [etc.] represents the madding of the crowd.

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