Today FEE.org put out a post about something called “Schrödinger’s Ballot” which posits that there is an inherent contradiction, a paradox, in the concept of democracy. Here is the link. I’ll briefly sum it up and then address where I believe that the contradictions really are.
Philosopher Richard Wollheim published an article call “A Paradox in the Theory of Democracy” in 1962. He sets up the scenario something like this:
A committed democrat (note: lower case “d”) sincerely believes that social policy should be decided by a democratic process.
This person expresses his personal belief on the issue by voting for or against. In this case, let’s say he votes against a policy.
After to votes are counted, imagine we find that the measure passes. This is the opposite of what the committed democrat wanted to have happen. Here is the paradox:
The committed democrat has to believe both that the policy should be adopted because the democratic process produced the result, and he has to also believe that it should not be adopted because of his personal belief concerning the matter.
Now I’m not sure if that constitutes a paradox at all, but there sure is an argument, well…at least half of an argument that I hear all the time. Democrats said for the eight years of the Obama presidency that Republicans were mean spirited racists any time they disagreed with an Obama policy. They said that Republicans needed to stop complaining and accept the “will of the people” and a “mandate” that Obama was doing what the people wanted. In other words the democratic process did what it was supposed to do, damn the hard feelings on the other side.
These days Trump supporters gleefully remind the Democrats (and democrats: small “d”) of the same. And D(d)emocrats aren’t walking all that talk any better than their R(r)epublican counterparts did while they (we) were getting Obamacare shoved down our throats. So I’m wondering if there is a paradox at all, frankly, concerning how people rectify the complications of a democratic process for accomplishing ANYTHING.
You see, here’s the thing: both sides of this wrangling are lying when they say that they believe that a democratic process ought to decide policy. Both sides only say that when their guy wins, or the policy they support is decided in their favor. When they lose, all Hell breaks loose like it was a waste of time anyway.
Democrats, and to a lesser extent Republicans like to pretend that their positions are reasonable, and the other guys’ positions are the wacky ones. They both paint the other side as advocating a violation of their rights, and that they are just trying to protect “religious liberty” or “the right to choose.”But the truth is that both would rather use violence to get their way than to accept not getting their way at all. I know, I know what you are thinking. “There he goes with all that talk about violence again. I bet he’ll remind us that ‘taxation is theft’ before he is done as well.” Hey, I’m sorry but face it: if it was such a good idea, and if “the American people have sent a mandate to the President” then WE WOULDN’T NEED A LAW IN THE FIRST PLACE. Really. People would just do it. Or not do it. Or whatever. The mere fact that you want a law against marijuana use, or for a Constitutional amendment that bans flag burning means you think people will disagree with you and do it anyway. And you are willing to use government to stop people. (Those who know me are wondering why I didn’t use the hyperbolic phrase, “men with guns and badges” right there instead of “government.” Hey, I’m trying to lighten up a little! Sorry, inside joke I guess.)
Anyway, I think that explains all the crazy reactions we have seen from both sides in recent history concerning elections, executive orders, regulations, etc. If people really believed that some democratic process was good for anything except a car load of kids deciding what fast food place to hit on their way out on a Friday night, people would live with the results of said election(s).
Nope. Democrats and republicans use the democratic system as a facade that gives legitimacy forcing people to do what they want them to do. I don’t think there is a paradox at all. A paradox would mean that people really believed that the democratic process is the way to resolve these things. None of them really do.
Hey, thanks for reading today. Tell your friends if you think this is worth other people reading. I’m not very good at it yet but who knows, maybe with a little practice and some constructive criticism I’ll get better.