Thursday, November 02, 2006


"Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people." -- Oscar Wilde

Nothing is as representative of democracy as voting is (or so we hope). But we're not actually a democracy ... we're a representitive democracy. After all, we're not all voting on every bill that is proposed in Congress.

People realize this and as a result they are excited by the concept of propositions, or referendums. It's their little chance to have a say in the law-making process. That's what they would have you believe anyway. Direct democracy at work. I have my doubts, though.

Like every other aspect of government and society, it's being subverted by big business and others that would have you believe they are for "common sense" and the will of the people. We have several examples of this here in Arizona. The first of which is the antismoking proposition 206. All of the ads for the proposition say it's trying to protect small business owners. Even it's name is Orwellian -- the Non-Smoker Protection Act. But as Deep Throat advised, "follow the money". If you want to find the truest indication of what is at stake here, see who is bankrolling this proposition. $8.48 million of the $8.5 million raised to tout this proposition comes from RJ Reynolds. The better alternative is the true smoking ban, Proposition 201. I can respect if you don't believe smoking should be banned, but don't try to sell me one thing when your only real interest is in money. And I'm sick and tired of the term "grassroots". It's a bullshit term that doesn't mean anything. And lump in "independent" and "underground" too. If any idea was truly any of those terms, we wouldn't be seeing it plastered on MTV and network TV or in a commercial.

The 2nd proposition that I want to highlight is Prop 107, or as I like to call it, the "We're Straight and Insecure Act". Officially:

What it would do:

• Define marriage in the state Constitution as a union of one man and one woman.

• Block any alternative for same-sex couples, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions.

• Bar governments from offering benefits, such as health insurance, to employees' domestic partners, gay or straight.

Again, following the money, one sees that one of the main players (and legal defense) in support of this proposition is the Alliance Defense Fund, a group founded by Focus on the Family's James Dobson. 'Nuff said.

This is a great spoof site for the proposition: Proposition 107. It shows how truly out of touch people that are for this are.

These couple of propositions are only a few of the 18 on our ballot. I'm all for "power to the people", but this is ridiculous. People are intimidated by the sheer number of them. If it takes an hour to vote, is that good? And are the people really being represented?

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill


Shawn said...

Oregon was like that with all the ballot measures. It's great to allow people a direct route to legislation, but every election required a freakin' road map just to get through voting.

We've got an anti-domestic partner measure up for vote here in Wisconsin. It's poorly written and caters to the homophobes who love to hide under the banner of god. The real reason it's even on the ballot is to try and spur conservatives to go out and vote. I seriously want to go and slap the people who got it on the ballot. It's such a waste of time and is just a diversion from the real need for some actual governing to go on.

Scott said...

I've wanted to write about Democracy for a while now, so thanks for this.

I'd recommend On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, which you can read for free on Wikisource. It's pretty short and nails the problem of democracy on the head, referring to it as the "tyranny of the majority".

A key excerpt:

"Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism."

I really wish our Presidents would stop trying make the world safe for democracy. Democracy means less freedom. Democracy means less choice. Our country was formed as a constitutional republic, not a democracy, yet every president since Hoover is pushing it on the rest of the world. It's our politicians favorite buzz word, and it's all bullshit.

On a side note I'm a bit surprised to see you come down on the side of a smoking ban given your views on drug prohibition.

dbackdad said...


Nice excerpt and comment. I had read On Liberty back in college but could definitely stand to re-read it.

Concerning the smoking ban, what people do within the confines of their own home and what they do in a social setting attended by others (especially children) are two different things. As much as possible, we should not seek to do harm to others (intentionally or unintentionally). I can certainly sympathize with your point, though. I see room for that position and for the total ban position. I just don't see the middle ground (206). Additionally, provisions of 206 take away the ability of cities to enact their own bans. It supercedes them.

It is true that I'm for drug legalization, but I would no more have someone smoking pot in a bar than I would have them smoking cigarettes. Both can have unintended effects on those close by without those bystandards having chosen it. Alcohol obviously doesn't (except for the effect of people being drunk ... he-he).