Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Shall The People Rule? Or, Why Democracy Doesn't Work

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we recognize that the government is of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Two things inveigh againstAmerican democracy: our chief executive and majority rule.

In 1925, the majority of citizens in Tennessee decided they did not want to have evolution taught as part of the biology curriculum in their high schools. More specifically, they didn't want teachers to introduce any information that contradicted the story of creation from the Book of Genesis.

The statute that made this law was called the Butler Act. It was on the Tennessee books until 1967. Right through the Cold War and the space race. In fact, Louisiana had a similar law until 1987, when it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. (On the grounds that such a law violates Annie's favorite, the Establishment Clause.)

Majority rule. Ah, when to say when?

Yesterday George W. Bush vetoed a bill that would have set guidelines for a withdrawal from Iraq. The majority of Americans (if you trust the polls, a big majority) would like to see this costly, pointless exercise come to an end. Are we to conclude from this that our president does not heed the wishes of the majority of Americans?

Absolutely. And why should he care? Just like every president in history, he wasn't elected democratically. (One wonders just exactly how he was elected...) In the case of the chief executive, the people do not rule.

Okay, let's say, for the sake of argument, that the state of Kansas decides to make all abortions illegal. This would require proof that a majority of citizens in Kansas oppose abortion. Then let's say a Supreme Court stacked to the plimsol line with Republican-appointed judges agrees with Kansas and says, "let the people of each state rule on their public health issues."

Shall the people rule?

William Jennings Bryan spoke for majority rule in The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, 1925. I quote:

"The question is can a minority in this state come in and compel a teacher to to teach that the Bible is not true and make the parents of these children pay the expenses of the teacher to tell their children that what these people believe is false and dangerous?"

We at "The Gods are Bored" are fairly certain that the eloquent Mr. Bryan, if he still lived, would be a powerful opponent of abortion. But this same Mr. Bryan was a powerful and eloquent proponent of organized labor and women's sufferage.

Shall the people rule?

H.L. Mencken thought that most Americans were too stupid to choose their legislators wisely. Mencken advocated a non-hereditary pseudo-monarchy in which governance would be handed over to people who could prove they had high IQs and cartloads of higher education.

Must admit that rules out our current commander in chief.

We at "The Gods Are Bored," being steeped to the gills in Scots-Irish DNA, do not trust any government at all. If we were pushed into a corner, we would advocate not the benevolent dictatorship of H.L. Mencken, but rather a benevolent association of small tribal units, perhaps no bigger in size than a single Zip code, in which the majority (stupid or otherwise) could rule with a great deal of self-oversight.

Heck, majority rule doesn't even work on the battlefield. Just read up on Stonewall Jackson -- or William Wallace.



Tennessee Jed said...

If every American wanted it we still could not impeach that bastard. Heck as best I can figure it only about a third of the people actually voted to elect him the rest of it was GOP spin cycle.

I mean do you stay the course even when it is wrong? To persist in the wrong direction is not at all admirable of is stupidity. He is the decider after all.

buddydon said...

i caint thank of nuthin to add. i have spent years of my life trine to figger out how folks should be guvernd n ever anser leads to more queschuns than innythang else. seems to me lack plato had it closest in his republick ... but even that wuz filled with idealistick problems.

Persephone said...

Dear Anne:

Just found you today and may the springs of eternal pithiness bless you!

I am sooooooooo looking forward to reading more of your posts!

Anne Johnson said...

We at "The Gods Are Bored" welcome new readers and hope you enjoy the ride!