Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Democracy or Mob Rule

Recent events in Wisconsin have me very worried.
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
- Winston Churchill
When our founding fathers created our system of government, they knew they did not want a king (monarchy). But they also did not want a true democracy like ancient Greece where all eligible voters (white-free-males in Greece) could debate and vote directly on the law.

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
- Thomas Jefferson

“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”
- Oscar Wilde
The people can be fickle or selfish, swayed by demagogues, swept away with the passion of the moment, etc. The founding fathers did not trust the people to govern wisely.

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”
- Winston Churchill (not a founding father but a great quote anyhow)
So the founding fathers created a compromise - a Representative Democracy where the people elect the legislature that makes the laws. If a lawmaker make bad choices he/she can be replaced in a few years. If the people are really displeased they can hold a recall to fire the lawmaker if a majority agrees.

What the protesters are doing in Wisconsin is NOT democracy. It is mob rule, it is anarchy. A small group (even 50,000 protesters is just 1% of the population of Wisconsin) is trying to block their elected representatives from doing the job the majority elected them to do.
The true test of a representative democracy comes not in an election, but in the aftermath of an election. If the losing party or parties recognize their loss and continue to participate in the process of governance, then representative democracy works. When the losing side refuses to participate and boycotts governance, especially in such a manner that vital legislative work is obstructed, then representative democracy itself is threatened.
- Edward Morrissey
It is shameful that teachers would claim they are practicing democracy when they lock the capital door with handcuffs, block and intimidate lawmakers from entering the capitol, make death threats, etc. Instead what they are saying by their actions is that what they want is more important than elections, more important than the state Constitution and the practice of law, more important than majority Will.

If they want to practice democracy, start a recall petition. Then elect someone to overturn the law they oppose. That is how representative democracy works in America.

(P.S. Both sides of the conflict have started recall efforts. It will be interesting to see the results.)

Bottom Line

Even if you favor the Union position and hate what Governor Walker is doing, please recognize that the protesters have gone too far. As Americans we have the freedom to criticize our leaders and to march and organize protests. We have the freedom to fire our leaders if we can get majority support in a recall. But we do not have the right to block lawmakers from the lawful execution of their duties or to threaten their lives. We do not have the right to "take over" the government because our side is losing. Those who do so are making a mockery of democracy and putting themselves above it.

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