Imagine you are a politician. You take look at the Maserati. Extravagant! You take a look at the Smart car. Dinky! What is the obvious, simple, straightforward solution? You command the owner of the Maserati to help the owner of the Smart car buy a larger car, a Ford. Meanwhile, you happily accept campaign donations from the Ford Corporation.
Last night we had the second of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates, and we had bunch of candidates promising to give away money and even “rights” that belong to other people. How do these demagogues justify what previous generations would have called stealing? They use expressions like fairness and social justice. It seems that all it takes to turn an injustice into justice is the appropriate adjective.
Why would any voter fall for such nonsense? Well, consider the definition of a demagogue.
1640s, “an unprincipled popular orator or leader; one who seeks to obtain political power by pandering to the prejudices, wishes, ignorance, and passions of the people or a part of them,” ultimately from Greek demagogos “popular leader,” also “leader of the mob,” from dēmos “people, common people” (originally “district,” from PIE *da-mo- “division,” from root *da- “to divide”) + agogos “leader,” from agein “to lead” (from PIE root *ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move”).
We live in a complex world. None of us has the capacity to understand the whole world and run every aspect of it. Yet that is exactly what demagogues promise to do. Give them all the power they demand, and they will create heaven on earth. They will make us love and serve each other. The only problem is that demagogues want to turn earth into their own heaven, not the People’s heaven.
What should we do instead of giving demagogues power they should not be trusted with? We can each specialize and strive to acquire knowledge and skills we can sell in the marketplace. We can run our own lives, and we can elect leaders dedicated to letting us run our own lives.
Instead of giving the state the power to make us slaves, we can voluntarily choose to love and serve each each other.
So why would anyone listen to a demagogue? Demagogues say what we want to hear and believe. To the young, inexperienced, and naive, the simple solutions confidently proposed by erudite demagogues sound plausible. Moreover, skilled demagogues seem so smart, and they care so much.
Someone familiar with history and Biblical wisdom knows it is better than to trust God instead of man.
Proverbs 3:5-8 Good News Translation (GNT)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6 Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. 7 Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. 8 If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.
Because demagogues are dishonest, we can keep from being fooled by them by obeying the Lord.
In fact, trusting man instead of God just leads to trouble.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 Good News Translation (GNT)
5 The Lord says,
“I will condemn those
who turn away from me
and put their trust in human beings,
in the strength of mortals.
6 He is like a bush in the desert,
which grows in the dry wasteland,
on salty ground where nothing else grows.
Nothing good ever happens to him.
7 “But I will bless the person
who puts his trust in me.
8 He is like a tree growing near a stream
and sending out roots to the water.
It is not afraid when hot weather comes,
because its leaves stay green;
it has no worries when there is no rain;
it keeps on bearing fruit.