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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Ayn Rand Utopia

Monday, February 26, 2007
When the Bushies strolled into Iraq, they though they could throw a few switches, toss a couple of bad guys in jail, privatize everything, hold an election, and voila! Instant democracy. Instead, we got instant bloodbath. Sad. Predictable. But sad.

Why predictable? Simple. Because you can't have a democracy in a country where there aren't enough democrats. The real recipe is a) a common sense of social solidarity, b) a tolerance for difference, c) a belief in law, d) a willingness to participate in public life, e) a reasonably prosperous middle class. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

The problem comes when there are a substantial number of intolerant, militant, desperate people who will do anything to get their way. They don't need to constitute a majority. They just need to be large enough and aggressive to bully everyone else, preferably if the "moderate" majority is a passive, self-absorbed, or atomized. And no I'm no longer talking about Iraq, in case you were wondering.

I've been reading Bob Altemeyer's online book on authoritarianism. It's a fascinating and accessible book that should scare the hell out of anyone who reads it. I'm serious. It's more frightening than The Shining. Without realizing it, Altemeyer puts his finger on the key problem with liberal politics - it doesn't know how to cope with an anti-democratic minority. You can't reason with them, you can't ignore them, and you can't silence them and remain true to your own liberalism. Rawls didn't have an easy answer for it and neither do I.

We have all seen how the American Right bullies and smears its opponents, accusing them of being internal enemies and not "real Americans." We've all watched the Republican political elite feather their and their friends' nests, lie, cheat at elections, and bungle wars while all their followers can see is the flag-waving and hypocritical militaristic God talk (Like Jesus would have ever supported a war. I mean .... really. Pull your heads out already.) I watched them go after Amanda and Melissa, I've read Joe Conason and Orcinus, I've rolled my eyes at deluded pollyannas like Jane Smiley, and I've had it up to here with those people are so bent on their own slavery they can't think of of any word but "yes" to those who tell them to obey.

In the long term, we are going to have shove critical thinking down the throats of kids in school if the parents choke on it. And in the short term, we are going to have to make them look like the incompetent corrupt lunatics they are. In that sense, Bush is actually doing us a favor.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:17 PM
  • "The best way to soothe these minority groups is to make the relationship a natural part of information acquisition and exchange. This means that relationships should be the primary mechanism for communicating information: speeches, town hall meetings, electronic discussion boards, classrooms, campaigns and protests are the best ways to use relationships to exchange information. This means that direct democracy through the referendum process is the best form of government because it relies on personal relationships to work."

    By Blogger Marriah, at 10:20 PM  
  • Bonaparte liked referenda too.

    By Blogger Arbitrista (formerly Publius), at 10:31 PM  
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