You Can Never Ignore The Voice Of The People

Today I was reading Ludwig Von Mises’ book ‘Human Action’ and he began talking about human society and governments.  The discussion moved toward the philosophy of democracy.  After reading what he said I had a quick image of Bill Maher pop in my head, when he made a guest appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.  Bill Maher was saying how Obama needed to ram all this legislation through even if the majority of people didn’t want it.  To Maher, even if people are stupid, you need to give them what’s good for them.

Now I really like Bill Maher, but when I heard that I thought,  “No Bill, you can’t do that.  I agree with the policies you want enacted, but that approach doesn’t work.”  Then Conan responded and said, “Well, I personally feel you need a bi-partisan effort in these things.”  Maher seemed a bit disgusted, but I was very impressed.  I really shouldn’t be too surprised though.  Conan graduated with honors from Harvard, and his major was history.  His good sense shows.   That’s part of why I really like him.  Even though he’s goofy, doing his string dance with a masturbating bear behind him, he’s a very intelligent guy.

Here’s a quotation from Human Action:

“Liberal social doctrine, based on the teachings of utilitarian ethics and economics, sees the problem of the relation between the government and those ruled from a different angle than universalism and collectivism. Liberalism realizes that the rulers, who are always a minority, cannot lastingly remain in office if not supported by the consent of the majority of those ruled. Whatever the system of government may be, the foundation upon which it is built and rests is always the opinion of those ruled that to obey and to be loyal to this government better serves their own interests than insurrection and the establishment of another regime. The majority has the power to do away with an unpopular government and uses this power whenever it becomes convinced that its own welfare requires it. Civil war and revolution are the means by which the discontented majorities overthrow rulers and methods of government which do not suit them. For the sake of domestic peace liberalism aims at democratic government. Democracy is therefore not a revolutionary institution. On the contrary, it is the very means of preventing revolutions and civil wars. It provides a method for the peaceful adjustment of government to the will of the majority. When the men in office and their policies no longer please the majority of the nation, they will—in the next election—be eliminated and replaced by other men espousing different policies.

The principle of majority rule or government by the people as recommended by liberalism does not aim at the supremacy of the mean, of the lowbred, of the domestic barbarians. The liberals too believe that a nation should be ruled by those best fitted for this task. But they believe that a man’s ability to rule proves itself better by convincing his fellow-citizens than by using force upon them. There is, of course, no guarantee that the voters will entrust office to the most competent candidate. But no other system could offer such a guarantee. If the majority of the nation is committed to unsound principles and prefers unworthy office-seekers, there is no remedy other than to try to change their mind by expounding more reasonable principles and recommending better men. A minority will never win lasting success by other means.

To change the world you have to change the hearts and minds of people, one person at a time.  We live in a society with a lot of other people who believe a lot of different things.  If you want to change the way society works you have to convince them as well.

I always like to think of everything in terms of farming analogies.  Growing up I used to help my Dad in the garden.  You can’t reap a harvest unless you first plant the seeds.  Everything in life works this way.  You have to plant the seeds, watch over them, water the plants, fertilize them, and then after months of work you finally reap the rewards of your labor.

Everyone wants to ignore the planting, weeding, and watering stages.  We have a fast food culture.  But our country isn’t like that.  It’s more like a garden.  If you come at the people with political ideas they’re unfamiliar with you have to start off by planting the seeds.   You introduce them to the topic and discuss it with them.  Next you have pull up weeds before they choke out what you planted.  This includes things like not letting liars spread lies.  You say, “No, that’s not how it works.  Here’s the facts.”  Then you continue to water, and fertilize, which is further educating them.  Then when you’ve finally completed the steps you reap the harvest.  The people let you pass new laws and change society.

Try to ignore this process and all hell will break lose.  It’s frustrating how society moves and changes so slowly, but that’s just the way it is.  It’s also frustrating when established industries spend fortunes in disinformation campaigns, flooding the internet and the news with lies and bad statistics.  They’re hoping to choke out all progress before it has time to grow.  Anyone who has ever tended a garden knows that it’s no fun to pull weeds.

There are cases of political leaders who step into office and bring vast changes almost overnight, everything going smoothly.  But when that happens there’s already been a lot of time and effort invested behind the scenes.  It took the work of a lot of people laboring to educate and inform the masses.  The leader just came in and reaped the harvest, taking all the credit.  But no major societal change happens out of nowhere.  Movements have to build.  Seeds are being planted, and it’s important that we pull out the weeds and only let the right ideas grow.  The most effective methods of change happen when we change those within our sphere of influence, sharing our ideas with them.  It’s a one person at a time process.

A society and its leaders typically reflect the intelligence of its constituent members.  It’s a bottom-up process, not top-down.  Dumb people elect dumb leaders.  Corporations provide products based on what people buy.  Most stores will stock their shelves with literally anything.  They’re there to make money.  So if you walk into the stores and see mindless garbage all around you, that’s a reflection of the mainstream culture.  It’s not Wal-Mart and the corporate CEOs imposing a mindless culture on the people, it’s a mindless people demanding worthless things.

You can never change society from the top down.  It doesn’t work that way.  You might get a dictator slide in, capitalizing on a downcast society, promising them all sorts of things then pursuing a cruel agenda once in power, but those people never last.

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3 Responses to You Can Never Ignore The Voice Of The People

  1. I wish it worked how Von Mises says, but often the “choices” we’re presented with at election time virtually guarantees more of the same. Then if you want to have a run at things to affect some change, the ones in power have all kinds of systems in place to ensure you a rough road (like for example costing you a ton of money in weird fees just to run for office… fees you really shouldn’t have to pay if things were really “free”) It’s economic discrimination used very brilliantly.

    It’s interesting you wrote about this today because at the same time I was reading the following on Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereignity

    Particularly interesting is down under the heading “Justifications”:

    Here’s what it says:

    There exist vastly differing views on the moral basis of sovereignty. A fundamental polarity is between theories that assert that sovereignty is vested directly in the sovereign by divine right or natural right, and theories that assert it is vested in the people. In the latter case there is a further division into those that assert that the people transfer their sovereignty to the sovereign (Hobbes), and those that assert that the people retain their sovereignty (Rousseau).

    – Democracy is based on the concept of popular sovereignty. Representative democracies permit (against Rousseau’s thought) a transfer of the exercise of sovereignty from the people to the parliament or the government. Parliamentary sovereignty refers to a representative democracy where the Parliament is, ultimately, the source of sovereignty, and not the executive power.

    – The republican form of government acknowledges that the sovereign power is founded in the people, individually, not in the collective or whole body of free citizens, as in a democratic form. Thus no majority can deprive a minority of their sovereign rights and powers.

    – Absolute monarchies are typically based on belief in the divine right of kings.”

    This country began as a Republic based on the Rule of Law, with sovereign power resting with the citizens (I think it’s Ben Franklin who is famous for saying “A Republic, if you can keep it.”) The Rule of Law essentially puts the law above all else, even the will of leaders.

    But now the country is labeled a “democracy” which is billed as being a good thing. Doesn’t sound very good to me if that definition above is true… it says in a democracy we GIVE UP our sovereignty to the government. Also, we’re now living in an age where the president can issue Executive Orders and act very much like a dictator in some respects.

    That doesn’t sound very “free” to me. Sounds a little more like slavery and a concept called Mob Rule. 🙂

  2. Some great comments. I think today we here in the U.S. are somewhere inbetween. Take free speech for instance. The individual has a right to say what’s on his mind and the government is not allowed to suppress what’s said. But we’ve talked about in the past how personal property rights have changed over time. Take owning a home and a plot of land. In the earliest days of our country when a person owned a piece of land they OWNED the piece of land. If the government came in and said, “We need to buy your land from you because we’re building a road,” the person could adamantly refuse and the government could do nothing about it. Nowadays the government owns all land and we’re more or less renters. If we don’t pay our property taxes our land is auctioned off to the highest bidder. I’d love to have a breakdown of all the sovereign rights we started off with and which ones we have left. Then I’d like to hear the stories behind how each transition took place.

  3. Yeah me too. I MIGHT have that kind of info in some books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, I don’t know.

    But in the meantime, check this article out too:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allodial_title

    What you’re referring to is called Allodial Title. There are several different legal ways to own property and this one is the most powerful. From what I understand, allodial title is so powerful that the government even loses some of their powers (maybe all?) within it.

    It was interesting to read that Nevada and Texas created limited allodial title for awhile, but it doesn’t sound like they do it anymore.

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