Friday, January 21, 2011

Mob Rule By Proxy

The New York Times today published another article in a seemingly endless series.  How do we balance the budget when people don't want to cut entitlements and don't want to raise taxes.  Duh!!!

"While Americans are near-unanimous in calling deficits a problem — a “very serious” problem, say 7 out of 10 — a majority believes it should not be necessary for them to pay higher taxes to bridge the shortfall between what the government spends and what it takes in."

"Americans overwhelmingly say that in general they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.  Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt."

Let's look back.

"A republic is different from a democracy as its government is placed in the hands of delegates" - James Madison from the 10th Federalist Paper.

The founding fathers were (correctly) certain that direct democracy was a path to failure. "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

Madison was living in an era of true statesmen. He expected elected representatives to govern with wisdom, judgement and restraint. To do what was right and not just what was popular.  Unfortunately, the current crop of representatives are more concerned with being reelected than with providing sound governance. They legislate by taking polls rather than by leading public opinion.  What the country gets is mob rule by proxy.

Alexander Fraiser Tytler, a contemporary of Madison, had a more cynical (realistic?) perspective.   "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy."

Are there any statesmen left?  Is is possible to raise taxes and reduce entitlements and balance the budget?  Probably not but we can always hope.  Send a message to congress.  Tell them to do the right thing!