Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
As a younger man, I had plenty of patients, but little patience; and my meager supply is diminishing with age.
Elections are particularly annoying, with the same inane platitudes voiced over and over again, until I wonder how the public, even as numbed and dumbed as it is, can stand it.
There is, for example, the incessant reference to our “leaders,” and the importance of our voting for the correct ones. How many times have I heard the U.S. President referred to as the “leader of the free world”! Enough!
A leader is someone who points the way. Obviously, he could not achieve leadership status if he didn’t know where he was going, and how to get there. So when a leader says, “This is the way to go,” it’s worth taking his advice. But we are free to ignore his leadership, understanding that doing so can result in our becoming lost, or worse. Politicians obviously do not lead; they rule. They are rulers, not leaders. They do not advise the proper path, but tell us where they want us to go, when, and how, and threaten us with punishment if we do not go, or go somewhere else.
Even if you swallow the line that our rulers are actually leaders, isn’t it remarkable that they don’t know where they’re going? One “leader” tells us that the economy will flourish with more government spending, despite the proven record of failures for such a policy. Another “leader” suggests a different tack, such as various rebates on selected purchases, which is also a guarantee of failure. So we have various “leaders” all promising to take us to an earthly paradise, but all pointing in different directions! It’s hard to see how going north or south can take us west or east.
I saw a headline the other day declaring that the upcoming election could result in a change in the way the president governs. Yes, the word “govern” was used to describe the president’s actions. Did the author of that headline actually think that presidents govern? The president is an administrator, not a governor. His role, according to the job description in the Constitution, isn’t particularly difficult, and, in truth, not terribly important. I imagine the Founders would be amazed to learn that he has become an international celebrity, and the “leader of the free world,” especially since he doesn’t seem to know where he’s going, or how to get there.
But perhaps the writer was smarter than I give him credit for, and was actually reminding us that another cherished myth is just that, namely, the idea of the separation of powers.
The Founders were naïve if they thought that by dividing the government into three divisions, no single one would come to dominate. Does that matter? It’s a bit like thinking that if the crew of a ship disagree about various matters, that the boat won’t, nonetheless, arrive at the port designated by the owners. Within General Motors, various divisions might argue and vie for greater power and influence, but none of them will recommend that prospective buyers choose Toyotas.
There may be three branches to the Federal government, but they are in lockstep with regard to you: They will decide what you must do, or not do, and how you must be punished for disobedience. True, one branch may prefer flogging, and another imprisonment, but your preference will not be given any weight. So although there may be three branches of government making “laws,” administering and enforcing those “laws,” and adjudicating them, there is no dissent among them regarding your obligation to obey!
During the periodic exercise in futility and psychological management known as an election, you could, in theory, vote the rascals out--but only the rascals on the ballot. In the other 49 states, the rascals are beyond your reach, but their decisions can affect you as much as those of your own home-grown rulers. This ritual of voting is inevitably referred to reverently, as a manifestation of that most sacred form of social organization: democracy. The term “rule by the majority” is often used synonymously with democracy. What majority? The rules (they call them laws) imposed upon us by the rulers do not result from a poll of the people, but even if they did, it’s unlikely a majority would decide the issue. For one thing, eligibility to vote is limited, and decided upon by the rulers, so a majority of the voters isn’t necessarily a majority of the people who will be affected by the result. Moreover, if most of the people decide that the proper course is the one which leads to—and over—the cliff, does that make it somehow right? Do you remember your Mom, when you wanted to do something because “all the other guys are doing it” asking, “If all the other guys wanted to jump off the bridge, would you jump off, too?” If you believe in democracy, your answer would have to be “You bet!”
Politics is intimately connected with lying and deception. At election time, the lies come thick and fast. But a lie, even if repeated ad infinitum, remains a lie.
So traipse to the polls if you must, but be aware that the people you choose, if elected, will not lead you, but rule you. The organization which they comprise, the government, may be divided into three sections, or 30, but all share a common goal: to govern, which means to regulate, limit, or control--YOU!