Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Occupiers' Pure Democracy

You say you’ll change the Constitution.
Well, you know,
we all want to change your head.
You tell me it’s the institution.
Well, you know,
you better free your mind instead.
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.
—The Beatles, Revolution

Following up on Monday's piece, it doesn’t take much to see the storm clouds gathering.

Over the weekend it appears that Representative John Lewis (D-GA) showed up at an “Occupy Atlanta” protest, and like most Congressmen, he expected to be given an opportunity to take the podium and address the crowd.  Presumably, he was going to follow what is becoming the DNC Party Line, express solidarity with them—never mind that with 24 years in the House, if anyone is the “government establishment” to which so much of the Occupiers’ anger is directed, it’s Lewis—tell them he and the Democrats are listening, etc. etc.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Politburo.

Through direction/facilitation from a pseudo-leader relayed through the crowd by word of mouth, and communication and debate via a complex set of hand signals—one imagines Cameron Frye doing his Three Stooges-esque mocking of a third base coach giving signals at Wrigley—they took a vote and told Lewis no.

Predictably, the cries of racism that would have surely been leveled had this been a Tea Party event have been drowned out by the creaking of crickets.

What’s interesting here, though, is what’s revealed in the rationale behind refusing to let Lewis speak at the event: they couldn’t achieve a consensus of the masses to do so.  As reported at, according to one objector, the crowd was there to start “a democratic process in which no singular human being is inherently more valuable than any other human being.”  Another echoed that sentiment, “John Lewis is not better than anyone!  Democracy won!”  So, we can gather, Lewis should not be allowed to speak simply because he is a United States Congressman, or so sayeth the voice of the masses.

Now, most of us would agree with them about no single human being being more valuable than any other.  That’s the fundamental premise of our Declaration of Independence:  We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal[.]  But combine this idea in its practice as illustrated by the Lewis event with some of the other sentiments pervading the “occupation” movement.  Consistent talk about a “revolution.”  Complaints about the “greed” of the 1% being responsible for the lot of the other 99% (where they get their numbers is beyond me, never mind their logical train of effect back to perceived cause).  Advocacy of government-enforced lockstep salaries for all occupations.   For these people, the most articulable distillation of their issue is that the accumulation of private property in and of itself is inherently wrong.  What they want is pure democracy, where everyone gets a direct vote on everything and the majority rules, even on the distribution (or redistribution) of capital and wealth.

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

One course of action might be for those of us in the productive part of society—the so-called 1%—to take a page out of Atlas Shrugged and go on strike.  Take a month off all at once, and let the lazy and parasitic see what happens to them in our absence.

What do you mean, Starbucks is closed? I’ll die if I can’t get my Grande Double-Organic-Soy Iced Caffe Latte!!!

As these “occupation” forces become more and more feral, however, one suspects that a strike by the productive would likely be more provocative than educational.  We’ve already seen that in Greece, where having spent themselves into oblivion on social programs, they now face rioting when government austerity measures necessary to sustain Eurozone financial support  look to at least slow the draw on the public teat.  Ditto Italy, France, and Britain in recent months.  The addiction is powerful, and these people won’t be easily weaned.

When I was growing up, my Dad used to warn me about what happens when 51% of the population is able to vote themselves a living at the expense of the other 49%.  He wasn’t the first to see this danger, as James Madison warned of this very evil in Federalist No. 10, while explaining the Constitution’s choice of a republic over a pure democracy:

“From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole . . . and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.  Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.  Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

Now, if these “occupiers” really do represent 99% of the population, they can have the pure democracy they seek; all they have to do is follow the Article V amendment process and abolish both houses of Congress (I must confess that, in my darker moments, I have a certain sympathy for that, although I don’t really advocate it in real life for obvious reasons) in favor of national popular rule.  My guess is the vast majority of them have never actually read the Constitution, so they don’t know Article V is there, nor do they much care at the end of the day.  Whether they know about it or not, they have no intention of using the methods provided in the Constitution for changing the system, because they don’t have the numbers or the patience for either.

The occupation movement appears to be raging against the very mechanism the Founders set up to protect the private property rights of the minority from the whims and plunder of the majority.  Make no mistake, these people aren’t looking to elect a dove and end a war.  They want your private property.  All of it.  They think they’re entitled to it, that the world owes it to them, and they’re becoming increasingly aggressive in their moves to take it. 

This isn’t 1969 Chicago. 

It’s 1917 St. Petersburg.

1 comment:

  1. perplexed in pascagoulaOctober 20, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    your dad is so wise. tax the poor!