Article II. Democracy Misrepresented

“…the election of them [public officials] is oligarchic.”  —  Aristotle

During elementary and secondary school years, all children in the United States are instructed that the Federal Government was founded as a modern republic (a.k.a. oligarchy) with much more in common with the republic of ancient Rome than with the democracy of ancient Athens; and that a significant majority of the founders disdained democracy in its ancient Athenian form as mob rule.  Yet, we are also told that since its founding the United States has transformed itself into the world’s paragon of democracy.

And how did we achieve this improbable transformation?  I suggest this has been achieved through arduous, if misguided, political struggle and effective national PR (a.k.a propaganda).

The political struggle is evinced by, among other achievements, the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 (Rights to Citizenship), the 15th Amendment in 1870 (Voting Rights), the 17th Amendment in 1913 (Popular Election of Senators), the 19th Amendment in 1920 (Women’s Suffrage), the 24th Amendment in 1964 (Abolition of Poll Taxes), the 26th Amendment in 1971 (Voting Age Reduced to 18), and numerous landmark legislative acts that broadened participation in the elections of public officials.  The PR narrative grew out of relentless public monologs of elected officials, candidates for public office, the popular media, wannabe statesmen, and just about any public figure with a tongue to speak or a hand to write.

By the time most of us attain voting age, we have bought into the notion that, while not a pure democracy, the government of the United States has morphed into a world-class hybrid democratic-republic — generally euphemized as an electoral representative democracy.

There is a problem with this narrative, however.  It is simply incorrect.  We the People have been sold a bill of goods and left to learn two crucial, yet all-too-easy-to-ignore, facts about electoral governance on our own. if at all.  First, it has been known since ancient times — at least since Aristotle — that elections are inherently undemocratic.  Second, over sixty years ago Kenneth Arrow proved elections are inherently unrepresentative.

Can it get any worse?  Stay tuned.

– iGregor

[Note:  Comments are solicited at the conclusion of Article X.]

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Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 14:00  Comments Off on Article II. Democracy Misrepresented