by Fabius Maximus, FabiusMaximus.com
Summary: This post attempts to give some perspective on the growing “democratic deficit” in Europe and America. What causes it? Does it help or hurt us? These questions have no obvious answers. Hopefully this will help you see this trend, and help spark whatever action you believe appropriate.
- The Democratic Deficit: is it a feature or bug?
- Europe leads; America follows.
- How the 1% see us: as dogs, or sheep
- For More Information
(1) The Democratic Deficit: a feature, not a bug
The rise of Hitler in Germany, center of European culture and science, terrified Europe’s elites. Their response depended on the cause as they saw it, which was the madness of the masses (the role of Germany’s elites conveniently forgotten) plus Europe’s division into competing nations. The solution was slow unification into a new polity having the form of democracy but with power concentrated in non-representative institutions.
The plan has worked in the halting messy way typical of political evolution. The sovereign debt crisis tested the EU’s legitimacy and institutions. Both weathered the storm. Public support has begun to recover, and remains adequate (even in Greece, where 34% had a favorable view of the EU in May 2014).
Interestingly, people support the EU although aware that it only superficially provides representative government. They see the “democratic deficit” (also see the links at Wikipedia), so often discussed but never changed. The natural result: a steady decline in voter turnout (even lower than ours, except where mandatory). Why vote if it makes no difference?
(2) Europe leads; America follows
Has Europe found a third way between American democracy and tyranny (in its many forms)? It is a more stable form of elite rule than by the “throne and altar” conservative parties whose mass support allowed elites to dominate much of 19th C Europe. Although too soon to do more than guess at the answer, we should see that the framing of the question looks wrong. It implies that EU governance has diverged from the expected path leading to American republicanism.
A more accurate analysis suggests that Europe’s elites crafted a new form of managed democracy, which America’s elites have imitated. Europe innovates; we follow. While our system formally remains more responsive to the people’s will than Europe’s, in practice the difference appears small – and shrinking.
Consider the trends in America. The massive shift of power from the elected officials of the executive and legislature to a massive bureaucracy, much of which lies beyond effective control in independent agencies and statutory self-regulatory bodies. The countless laws and regulations – impossible to know, let alone follow, making criminals of us all (e.g., the Federal Register). The over-abundance of elected officials (especially at the local level), making informed voting almost impossible. The increased number of people represented by each Congressperson, diluting our ability to contact let alone influence the Republic’s most direct connection to citizens. The increased role of money (directly as contributions or indirectly through lobbyists) in steering the government.
The trend is clear; the effect is not. Is this a good thing for America, or not?
How the 1% see us
You win at poker by playing the players, not the cards. – Ancient adage.
To understand America’s growing democratic deficit, consider why the 1% have worked to produce it. We can choose see them as cartoon villains motivated by only greed and lust for power (our blockbuster films today are almost all cartoon-like, devoid of life-like characters). That we see them like that makes us easy to rule, as does anything that distorts our vision. It makes effective reform difficult or impossible.
In fact they see themselves as the most fit to rule, based on intellectual trends with deep roots in western culture (and especially America culture). For an introduction to this see Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought). For some recent examples see How do our leaders see us? Don the shoes of the 1%. Look down on the 99%. Describe the view. In brief, speaking as someone with much experience dealing with our elites, they see us as dogs.
They can give examples of our folly, our mobs, and our irrationality. But these are behaviors they too display, since they too are of (no, they’re “not different”). There is another reason they see us as inferiors, one seldom mentioned. They’re superior to us because we allow them to dominate us. Patron-client, master-slave, higher-lower are social roles created by our behavior.
Re-phasing this, they’re contemptuous of us because we have the ability to rule ourselves but instead allow them to rule us. Every day we acquiesce by apathy and passivity, allowing the Republic’s political machinery to rust away, re-enforces their confidence. Ruling million without force (except on the underclass) provides a heady brew.
Each day that we believe ourselves to be weak makes it more so. Atomized – acting as isolated individuals – we are powerless. Even voting seems pointless. But our history shows that working together we can do great things. We appear to have lost the will to do so, but we retain the power if we decide to do so again.
For More Information
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See the links at the pages About the quiet coup in America and Reforming America: steps to new politics. Also see the other posts in
- America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system.
- Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people.
- Our fears are unwarranted. America is in fact well-governed. – By the 1%.
- Fear not! America will not fall due to its citizens’ imprudence. We’ve found a sure solution.
- ill we be better off ruled by the 1%?
- Look at immigration policy to see our government respond to its masters.