Because I so often heap richly deserved ridicule on the moronic notions held by the clueless, pinko, half-wits who lead the Democratic Party, people often assume I favor the thinking of Republicans. This can only be because people pay little attention to what Democrats and Republicans do when given the chance, and less attention to the reasons I ridicule politicians of either flavor.
Let me say this for the record: The difference between the ideas of a modern Democrat and those of a modern Republican doesn’t amount to a frosty pitcher of spit. The Republicans have only relatively recently embraced the complete idiotic package of socialist flapdoodle. Like church deacons who have just discovered lap dancing — they want to see what’s in the backroom — and price is no object, because you’re buying. The two parties can hardly get out of each other’s way in their rush to buy our votes with our money.
At one time, there was a big difference between the two parties. In an age before politicians contested elections by promising more and greater loot from the public treasury, the parties differed dramatically on issues of slavery, states rights, and centralized power. They settled those issues in the bloodiest war in our history. Throughout that war the now politically canonized Republican, St. Lincoln, eloquently proclaimed a passion for government with the consent of the governed, while brutally crushing those who didn’t consent to being governed by him.
Lincoln pioneered what Republicans are now reviving with the Patriot Acts. In the name of a war emergency, Lincoln arrested his critics, conducted warrantless searches, and arrested people in secret without charges. Dubya and his Minister of Propaganda, Ashcroft, are surely admirers of the Great Emancipator.
After the Civil War, power gravitated to Washington, but the population and the economy grew much faster than the government. Small government was our tradition. It worked well for us. The first income tax was repealed. Wartime greenbacks were redeemed for gold. We jealously protected individual rights and freedoms against abuse by the state. In an atmosphere of small government and honest money, American prosperity and influence increased at a rate never before seen in human history.
At the turn of the last century, a twenty-dollar bill was worth an ounce of gold
, exactly as much as it had been 100 years earlier. We had almost no military… No income taxes… No travel restrictions… you didn’t even need a passport. Uncle Sam consumed a tiny fraction of our resources. America was peaceful and prosperous. People from all over the world flocked to the sweet land of liberty.
In the 20th century however, we abandoned our traditions. We got a central bank and probably not coincidentally, an income tax the same year. Government schooling became the norm. Nourished by two huge wars and a bunch of small ones the federal government grew like Seymour’s carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
Nothing sucks the life out of a country like a massive, hungry, rapidly growing central government. Hellholes like communist Russia, pre-Reagan Eastern Europe, and North Korea are shining examples of what life is like when the government plans everything. Imagine every detail of your life dictated by the U.S. Postal Service, supervised by your local Building Department and closely watched for transgressions by the FBI, IRS, and BATF.
A hundred years of increasing trust in government has given us a dollar worth less than a 1900 nickel, a military larger than the combined forces of the next 10 most heavily armed nations, government that consumes over 40% of what we produce, astronomical public debt, and financial markets perched like Humpty-Dumpty atop a breathtaking spire of pure paper.
Democrats and Republicans alike promise us more of the same. They troll for our votes like waiters pushing a dessert cart around an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. They have the banana cream pie of “Prescription Drug Benefits,” the fudgey brownies of “Universal Health Insurance,” the strawberry shortcake of “Better Schools,” and the chocolate decadence of “Secure Retirement.” And it’s all free! We know we shouldn’t, but we can’t resist. Welcome to the triumph of democracy.
I’ve never understood the reverence Americans have for democracy. One of my favorite editorialists, Bill Bonner, has remarked, “Mobs can only hold simple ideas in their minds… ideas so belittled by the dumbing down process that they are little more than myths. That is as true of democracy as it was of communism.” Democracy, the rule of the majority, eventually deteriorates into the rule of the mob. While most people you meet are intelligent, sane and considerate, every mob I have ever seen was nuts.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his observations of America in the 19th century wrote, “I think that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything the world has ever seen.”
We broke the weak chains binding us to a monarch only to tangle ourselves much more thoroughly in the velvet ropes of democracy. While the King’s agents may have been ruthless and dangerous, they were thin on the ground.
Social Democracies, on the other hand, enjoy the unpaid services of all those righteous citizens who voted with the majority. Take, for example, certain members of the 51% majority who voted against short-term local rentals here in Key West. Many find great moral edification in ratting out their neighbors to the authorities. They do so despite our powerful and admirable cultural loathing of informers and stool pigeons. Democracy has turned us from a nation of yeoman farmers to a nation of snitches.
Tocqueville had this to say of democracy’s tendency toward majority mischief,
“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power [of democracy] then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent and guided . . . men are seldom forced to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting . . . Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people… Thus, their spirit is gradually broken . . . gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves. [People then console themselves at the loss of their liberties] by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.”
That passage always makes me think of trying to get a building permit in the Historic District, but the analogies extend well beyond local regulatory overkill.
No penalty is too great for transgressions against the majority. If the majority wills it, democratic principles can justify cheating, theft and murder, and often do. Hitler was elected.
Demolicans and Republicrats are hip to all of this. Borrow, spend, tax and promise, promise, promise is the formula for a long and successful political career. With a 1% majority, the world is your oyster. As long as we are determined to tyrannize ourselves, as long as we think we can get more out of the political system than we put in, as long as we are willing to vote to get it, someone has to be the boss. Politicians of both parties are eager for the job. What do they really believe? Whatever you want them to.
We get to go to the polls every couple of years and choose between two flavors of the same gruel. The inmates get to elect the guards. Then, having exercised our rights as free citizens of a great social democracy, we go back to obeying orders.