Oops! It seems that someone has deleted the writeup that this writeup is a response to. I believe that the point that I'm making is still worth making so please consider this writeup to be a response to the title of this node. Also, as will become evident immediately, the now dearly departed writeup attempted to suggest that "direct action" is a way of promoting democracy.

I'm confused - what does "direct action" have to do with promoting any sort of democracy? "Direct action" is the act of taking matters into one's own hands - i.e. ignoring the normal processes and just doing what one believes needs to be done. Done on a small scale, "direct action" won't make any real difference to anything. "Direct action" on a grand scale will lead to chaos and anarchy (which, granted, might be the effect desired by some but I doubt that it represents the "will of the people"). How a state of anarchy could ever lead to anything even remotely resembling democracy simply eludes me.

Assuming that there is either some linkage between "direct action" and "true democracy" that I'm missing or that kubrickian and/or Ian Downey really meant to refer to "true democracy" instead of "direct action", let's consider the concept of "true democracy" or what is more often called "pure democracy".

"Pure democracy" is a fascinating concept which promises far more than it actually delivers. In a "pure democracy", every citizen is entitled to vote on every issue. The attraction of "pure democracy" is that it is appears to ensure that the "will of the people" is supreme. While an admirable goal, it is simply unrealistic to assume:

  • that all citizens (or even all interested citizens) will be able to vote on every issue of relevance/interest to them.
  • that the citizens who do vote will have taken the time and effort to educate themselves well enough that they are able to make an informed decision.
  • that the techniques used to manipulate the electorate that we see in conventional elections today won't be used to manipulate the electorate in "direct action" votes.
  • that those citizens who are sufficiently motivated to vote on an issue somehow actually represent the "will of the people" in any sort of overall sense.
In addition, kubrickian and/or Ian Downey seem to assume that if a "pure democracy" were to come into existence in the United States then the political problems of the day would be solved. This seems, at best, rather unrealistic.

If one looks at things from a historical perspective, the framers of the U.S. Constitution clearly assumed that the country would have an informed electorate (read The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay if you should happen to disagree - this is a collection of essays which were written to encourage the adoption of the then-proposed U.S. Constitution. It is obviously written for an educated audience and it was written to be read by "average Americans" of the day). The framers also seem to have expected the press to play a major role as reporters of fact and casters of light in dark places.

The modern reality is, shall we say, rather different:

  • Although there are many exceptions (including, in all likelihood, most of those folks sufficiently motivated to participate in E2), the electorate seems to be easily manipulated by cynical politicians using simplistic messages.
  • Producing citizens who have the interest and/or ability to educate themselves on the issues of the day just doesn't seem to be one of the goals of the education system. Instead, it seems to be intent on teaching uniformity and conformity - a strange state of affairs in a country which once prided itself on rugged individuality.
  • The press today seems to be primarily interested in either providing entertainment or in "shaping public opinion". Actually informing the citizenry about the issues of the day, as opposed to practicing "sound bite journalism" and rabble-rousing, just doesn't seem to be a priority anymore.
With this sad state of affairs, is it any wonder that a relatively few cynical politicians have managed to make such a mess of things?

A few final points:

  • the reference and discussion to the rule of law in the previous writeup would seem to miss the entire point of what "the rule of law" is all about. The rule of law provides a framework within which the "will of the people" can be expressed. A few examples of how the rule of law makes modern life possible:

    • it allows people to go about their lives in the knowledge that they won't be subject to arbitrary action by the state.
    • it makes it possible to sign contracts (who would ever be foolish enough to sign a contract if there was no way to enforce the contract or no reasonable expectation that the enforcement would be fair?).
    • it makes it possible to impose the "will of the people" on the powerful.

    The rule of law, like anything made by man, isn't perfect. For example, the state is sometimes able to take arbitrary action against an individual with impunity, contracts don't always protect us in the ways that we might expect, and the powerful can often evade the law and the will of the people. That said, it does provide a significant measure of protection for the individual, contracts are generally adhered to because they are usually properly enforced by the courts and rich people do risk jail if they ignore the law.

    Without the rule of law it simply wouldn't be possible for a modern society to function.

  • if there is a fundamental lesson in the fiasco that was the Florida count in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, it is that every vote really does matter and that apathy on the part of even a very small portion of the electorate can have a significant impact on events.

    If the electorate is truly dissatisfied with the current situation then there's a simple solution - vote the current clowns out of office. The results of the 2002 mid-term elections in the U.S. would seem to suggest that the electorate is, on the whole, satisfied.

    We get the government we deserve. Nothing more and nothing less.

Bias alert: I'm a Canadian living in Canada.

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