28 June 2016

Read Taibbi

He makes what should be the obvious point, "If you believe there's such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably don't believe in democracy at all:
In 1934, at the dawn of the Stalinist Terror, the great Russian writer Isaac Babel offered a daring quip at the International Writers Conference in Moscow:
Everything is given to us by the party and the government. Only one right is taken away: the right to write badly.
A onetime Soviet loyalist who was eventually shot as an enemy of the state, Babel was likely trying to say something profound: that the freedom to make mistakes is itself an essential component of freedom.

As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.

This is all relevant in the wake of the Brexit referendum, in which British citizens narrowly voted to exit the European Union.

Because the vote was viewed as having been driven by the same racist passions that are fueling the campaign of Donald Trump, a wide swath of commentators suggested that democracy erred, and the vote should perhaps be canceled, for the Britons' own good.

Social media was filled with such calls. "Is it just me, or does #Brexit seem like a moment when the government should overrule a popular referendum?" wrote one typical commenter.

On op-ed pages, there was a lot of the same. Harvard economics professor and chess grandmaster Kenneth Rogoff wrote a piece for the Boston Globe called "Britain's democratic failure"………


I would argue that voters are the critical ingredient to save elites from themselves, but Sullivan sees it the other way, and has Plato on his side. Though some of his analysis seems based on a misread of ancient history (see here for an amusing exploration of the topic), he's right about Plato, the source of a lot of these "the ancients warned us about democracy" memes. He just left out the part where Plato, at least when it came to politics, was kind of a jerk.

The great philosopher despised democracy, believing it to be a system that blurred necessary social distinctions, prompting children, slaves and even animals to forget their places. He believed it a system that leads to over-permissiveness, wherein the people "drink too deeply of the strong wine of freedom."


You have to be a snob of the first order, completely high on your own gas, to try to apply these arguments to present-day politics, imagining yourself as an analog to Plato's philosopher-kings.


"Too much democracy" used to be an argument we reserved for foreign peoples who tried to do things like vote to demand control over their own oil supplies.


It doesn't mean much to be against torture until the moment when you're most tempted to resort to it, or to have faith in voting until the result of a particular vote really bothers you. If you think there's ever such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably never believed in it in the first place. And even low-Information voters can sense it.
He's right.  As political philosopher and political prankster Dick Tuck once said, "The people have spoken, the bastards."

At the end of the day, an fair election is a fair election.


Stephen Montsaroff said...

Like accepting that Clinton got 3 million more votes than Sanders?

Do you think the execution of Socrates might just of have given Plato reasons to doubt the masses?

You know we could elect the courts, and the 1st Amendment is anti democratic.

And, you know it is coming, Hitler was elected.

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