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Friday, September 06, 2002

The Worst Form of Government-A bout of hand-wringing over the future of democracy has fallen over part of the Blogosphere. Paul Cella started the proceedings with a gloomily thoughtful piece bemoaning the undemocratic elitism of modern liberal government and ossification of big corporations into comparable bureaucracies. Here's his closer
Where once tradition and richness formed the panoply of tough and supple defenses for the individual against the world, now we see those defenses failing, with only the state to replace them, or the corporation, which either apes the state or falls before it. The Subject replaces the Citizen, even as his eyes are clouded and his weapons of resistance and counterstrike dulled by the bounty of economic plentitude and the intoxicating narcotics of modern mass entertainment. I do not say that the rout or even the slow dissolution ending in defeat of self-government is imminent, for there are hopeful signs lurking about in unpredictable places, and always the ways of the Lord are mysterious; but as I am in a sour mood, I must confess to sympathy with the words of Salvianus as the Fall of Rome neared: “The Roman Empire is luxurious but it is filled with misery. It is dying but it laughs.” The American Question remains an open one.
Yes, it is an open question. As Ben Franklin put it, we have a republic if we can keep it. The corporate problem is largely self-solving. Financial people recognize that big conglomerates don't work as well as we thought a generation ago; there is a "hierarchy cost" (as Brink Lindsey puts it) to large organizations that is a drag on economies of size. One of the themes of the last decade in finance is the spin-off, splitting off firms so that they can think for themselves and not have the financial safe house of a large conglomerate to shield them from their mistakes. If a company has too many hierarchy costs, a smart takeover artist can buy the company, streamline and spin-off the company components and make a profit. The political problem is more problematic. Orrin Judd weighs in, quoting Tytler's observation that democracy can last "until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury." The trick for economic conservatives is that we have to convince voters that they can vote themselves a greater largess from the free market. If people have a more enlightened approach to such things as income inequities (I offer my post of earlier this morning) and realize that a free market, low-intervention system brings more wealth to everyone over the long haul, then our system will survive and thrive. However, this is a long-term, more intellectual approach to things that takes time and effort to instill in people. That's why Democrats usually do better in the polls the further away the election is. If they don't think too hard about the issues, the liberal approaches appeal to their gut fears and their short-term appetites. However, once the downside of those big-government plan are expressed and thought through, some people will cotton to the conservative approach. It takes an informed electorate to do this right; that's why I'm not too worried about the 50% turnout rates in presidential years. Being an informed voter takes work. If the status quo is OK, tweaking the system doesn't mean that much to most people and many won't bother to be educated about the issues. It may well be a rational choice not to inform oneself about a race. I often skipped voting in city council elections in Midland, for the issues were rather minor and not worth my time to educate myself on the candidates; this from a political junkie. The people who do turn out give a darn. If we get 90% turnout, we might get a less-informed electorate ready to elect Charles Bronson (the actor, not the Florida politician) President, as they did in the Philippines did with Joseph Estrada; Ganns Deen has a nice musing (10:52AM post) on this today. An informed electorate is more immune to slickness and appeals to their baser instincts. I'm not worried about the turnout numbers, I want the people who do turnout to have a full understanding of what their vote means. Unlike many conservatives, I think that people will agree with us when presented with the truth and given time and education to think things through. It doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure this out; my Grandpa Kraenzlien was a high-school dropout, yet was more a free-marketeer than I was. Howver, he was an avid reader and follower of current events and understood how the world works. We just need to reach Joe Sixpack; if he knows that a statist economy will turn him into Joe One-Can, he'll become a blue-collar dynamist.

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