When I consider myself, I have to admit I regularly make mistakes and yield to weakness. Therefore, I wonder where I get the nerve to pose as some sort of wise religious/political pundit. Is it because everyone else is so much dumber and morally bankrupt? Well, everyone is dumb and morally bankrupt, but who is most dumb and morally bankrupt? I have decided it is not me. Why? Consider this quote.
When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know. — Socrates (from here)
What is our biggest political problem? Demagoguery would be my guess. We get these people making grand promises, sometimes to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist, and too many of us believe them. That is, we let demagogues convince us of something that is not so. Ronald Reagan put it this way.
It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so. (from here)
Throughout history we have done the most harm to each other when we insisted upon making “other people” do what we want them to do. Here is a list of some of the things we do today.
- We use government force to make the young pay for the elderly’s retirement and healthcare. Social Security and Medicare are now half the Federal Budget. So what happens when an honest politician wants to cut the growing Federal Budget deficit? The demagogues accuse him of threatening to push granny off a cliff in a wheelchair.
- We use the public school monopoly to force other people to educate their children our way. This benefits the teachers unions and the politicians whose campaigns they finance, but a government-run education monopoly is a stupid way for a supposedly free people to educate their children.
- We use zoning laws to keep low cost housing out of rich counties. Why? The poor receive more in public services than they pay in taxes. Thus, we make it difficult for the poor to live near where they work.
- We force each other to pay for the roads we use. In effect, we just give politicians our money, and we expect them to build the type of roads we need where we want them. Of course, those politicians just go ahead and build the roads their donors want. So we all end up sitting in traffic jams.
- So that rich people can import cheap labor and demagogues acquire more voters looking for handouts, we have fouled up our immigration system. As a result, terrorists can get into our nation more easily, disease finds our borders are more porous, language differences increasingly balkanize us, the relative number of poor is growing,….
Socrates most famous successor, Aristotle, wrote a book on politics. He had much to say about the various forms of government, including a bit about democracy and demagoguery. Take the time to read a little of what he wrote. It isn’t easy reading, but it is worth your time.
The most pure democracy is that which is so called principally from that equality which prevails in it: for this is what the law in that state directs; that the poor shall be in no greater subjection than the rich; nor that the supreme power shall be lodged with either of these, but that both shall share it. For if liberty and equality, as some persons suppose, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, it must be most so by every department of government being alike open to all; but as the people are the majority, and what they vote is law, it follows that such a state must be a democracy. This, then, is one species thereof. Another is, when the magistrates are elected by a certain census; but this should be but small, and every one who was included in it should be eligible, but as soon as he was below it should lose that right. [1292a] Another sort is, in which every citizen who is not infamous has a share in the government, but where the government is in the laws. Another, where every citizen without exception has this right. Another is like these in other particulars, but there the people govern, and not the law: and this takes place when everything is determined by a majority of votes, and not by a law; which happens when the people are influenced by the demagogues: for where a democracy is governed by stated laws there is no room for them, but men of worth fill the first offices in the state: but where the power is not vested in the laws, there demagogues abound: for there the people rule with kingly power: the whole composing one body; for they are supreme, not as individuals but in their collective capacity. — Politics: A Treatise on Government by Aristotle
What we call a republic is where the government is vested in the laws, not the People. In a republic, the People have the humility to recognize their ignorance and weaknesses, and they use the law to restrain each other’s foolish impulses, thereby protecting the rights of the individual from the abuses of whatever majority exists at the moment.
Don’t like President Donald Trump? Sometimes he does tweet the darndest things, but at least he isn’t demanding more power. He is making things work better by reducing government. Not so with some of the people running for office. For example, can you imagine Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as president. Can you imagine that lady and her bureaucrats making detailed decisions about our healthcare, the roads we drive on, zoning laws, our schools, immigration, the money in your retirement paycheck,….
Try sleeping peacefully with that thought.