It is true that popular election is in principle a competition open to all. No shyster or mountebank is precluded even on the grounds of decency. Yet, as I have just foreshadowed, it is not true that popular election is in practice a competition open to all; for, whether by control of the selection of candidates by political parties or by the unsuitable character of some men, there are many who are unable to stand for popular election. Naturally, for instance, a man of honour is precluded on the very grounds of his honour from becoming a demagogue.This is a prime reason why government must be kept small and relatively powerless, whether it is a republic or a monarchy, and why democracy is a degenerative form of government.He who, in the consciousness of duty, is capable of disinterested service of the community does not descend to the soliciting of votes, or the crying of his own praise at election meetings in loud and vulgar phrases. Such men manifest their strength in their own work, in a small circle of congenial friends, and scorn to seek popularity in the noisy market-place. If they approach the crowd, it is not to flatter it, or to pander to its basest instincts and tendencies, but to condemn its follies and expose its depravity. To men of duty and honour the procedure of elections is repellent; the only men who regard it without abhorrence are selfish, egoistic natures, which wish thereby to attain their personal ends. To acquire popularity such men have little scruple in assuming the mask of ardour for the public good. They cannot and must not be modest, for with modesty they would not be noticed or spoken of. By their positions, and by the parts which they have chosen, they are forced to be hypocrites and liars; they must cultivate, fraternise with, and be amiable to their opponents to gain their suffrages; they must lavish promises, knowing that they cannot fulfil them; and they must pander to the basest tendencies and prejudices of the masses to acquire majorities for themselves. What honourable nature would accept such a role? Describe it in a novel, the reader would be repelled, but in elections the same reader gives his vote to the living artiste in the same role.Popular election certainly does not measure anything so airy as a spontaneous and indivisible will of the people; indeed it rarely measures the will of the majority of people even on the simple and manufactured matter of choosing one rather than another of the presented candidates.
It serves only as a rather effective mechanism for the selection of bad governors, whose oligarchy is nevertheless seen as rightful for its having been the answer delivered by the greater part of those who do not understand the question.
.....It is always well to be reminded of that delusion whereby the empowerment of the governors through the mechanism of popular election is interpreted to mean the empowerment of the governed. Even some of the governors believe it.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
from The Joy of Curmudgeonry: