Jeremy Corbyn has won two leadership contests, and gained the largest vote share for Labour in decades. Hillary Clinton had to cheat to get past Bernie Sanders, and was then humiliated by Donald Trump. The UK voted to leave the EU. After two years of getting the “wrong” results thanks to voters refusing to do as they’re told, some areas of the media and intelligentsia are finally asking the tough question: Is voting bad for democracy?
In the wake of the Brexit vote (and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch rejection of Ukraine-EU links) no word was dirtier to the MSM than “referendum”. The conclusion seeming to be that resorting to plebiscitary democracy was bad for the country, and bad for democracy itself.
David Mitchell wrote that parliament was meant to make hard decisions for us. Natalie Nougayrède argued that “the mob” undermined our “elite institutions”. The New York times featured an article headlined:
Why Referendums (sic) Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem
The article argues that voters will vote to undermine their own best interests, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to. Also it disempowers voters because:
Voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging — which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.
This fallacy was repeated over and over and over and over and over again.
The general message was – Referenda are bad. They cheapen our democracy. Voting can go wrong. People aren’t informed enough. When you take a plebiscite, all you get is the opinion of plebs. Ban them completely.
Bloomberg even had a Justin Fox article headlined:
Voters Are Making a Mess of Democracy
That was a year ago, and things have only got worse since then. Now not only direct democracy, but all kinds of democracy, are being attacked.
The New York Times deserves special mention here. Neo-con Pulitzer prize winner Bret Stephens bemoans the “Year of Voting Recklessly”.
His article demonstrates total ignorance of the world at large, history, British politics and morality. The article is a cesspool of ill-informed bigotry and bias, declaring anybody to the left of Ronald Reagan a “Marxist”, and gently undermining the idea of democracy because “voters are idiots”.
His childish ad hom assaults on Corbyn demonstrate everything wrong with the political establishment on the far side of the pond (and increasingly in Britain too), concerned only with labels and point scoring.
There is not one word about policy in the article, just an all-out adolescent tirade against everybody on either side who disagrees with him. That this kind of author can win a Pulitzer prize shames American society.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times has an Op-ed titled:
The British election is a reminder of the perils of too much democracy
In which James Kirchick dismisses, with a perfectly straight face and absolutely no sense of the absurd, the idea of “The People”:
“The people” — that expression beloved of Third World tyrants and increasingly adopted by leaders in advanced industrial democracies — got their say.
It seems the author either never knew, or has forgotten, that “We, the people” are the first words of his country’s constitution. Perhaps he thinks it’s in sarcastic quotes there, too.
I’m not sure which of Washington, Jefferson or Adams, Mr Kirchick considers a “third world tyrant”. I’m not even completely sure he knows who they are.
Meanwhile, on June 1st Vox published a story headlined:
The problem with democracy: it relies on voters
And then followed that up with this, on June 9th:
What if “more public participation” can’t save American democracy?
These articles are based on this paper from the Brookings institute, titled:
More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it
An argument against democracy based on the assumption that…
Populism cannot solve our problems…because its core premises and reforms are self-defeating. Research has shown that voters are “irrationally biased and rationally ignorant,” and do not possess the specialized knowledge necessary to make complex policy judgments.
Brookings have form in this area, having previously published articles and papers with titles such as: Democracy does not cause growth and Is too much democracy responsible for the rise of Trump?.
The agenda is clear – they are trying to encourage those that fancy themselves “informed” to take up an academic position that disdains the idea of the great unwashed having a say on important matters. Persuading real “useful idiots” how smart it would be to disempower themselves in service to the state.
Maybe you’re not familiar with the Brookings Institute. Here’s their about page blurb:
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.
Which is delightfully vague. A glimpse at their sources of funding clarifies things rather:
As of 2016 the Brookings Institution had assets of $473.8 million. Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the LEGO Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton.
In 2014, it received $250,000 from the United States Central Command of the United States Department of Defense.
I don’t know how much money you can accept from the USDoD and still claim to be “non-partisan”, but apparently it’s more than $250,000.
Interestingly, if we re-visit the above Vox articles, we can focus on this little green box just under the title:
It seems these articles were published under Polyarchy, a new section devoted entirely to publishing releases from the New America think-tank, an NGO whose about page contains an incredibly predictable, and very familiar list of financial supporters. Including JP Morgan Chase, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the US State Department.
Exactly the same people supporting the Brookings Institute.
Voices are popping up all over the media, telling us democracy doesn’t work, that the system is failing and that voting gives too much power to idiots.
We’re being slowly introduced to the idea that the educated and sophisticated opinion is that democracy just doesn’t work, and if we ever really want to sort out the world’s problems, we might have to let go of this antiquated institution.
Strangely, all these media voices seem to be getting paid by the same handful of billionaires, banks and businesses.
Apparently Bill Gates and George Soros really don’t like us being able to vote.
This was first brought to my attention by Adam Johnson on twitter
For direct-transfer bank details click here.
Within the Brookings Institute exists the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, though recently it seems to have dropped the name “Saban”. The Saban in question, who provided the initial funding, is Haim Saban. He is on record as having said “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”
Sadly this is nothing New. If people are familiar With Joseph Schumpeter’s Competing Elites Model of Democracy.
´´( quotes from Roy Madron, Super Competent Democracies).
‘Democracy is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political
decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a
competitive struggle for the people’s vote’.” Joseph Schumpeter, Quoted
from Roy Madron, Super Competent Democracies who in turn Cites.
“Participation, and Democratic Theory” by Carole Pateman. Dr. Pateman
says that, Schumpeter and his followers: … set the current
Anglo-American political system as our democratic ideal (with) a
‘democratic theory’ that in many respects bears a strange resemblance to
the anti-democratic arguments of the last (i.e. 19th) century. No
longer is democratic theory centred on the participation of ‘the
people’; in the contemporary theory of democracy it is the participation
of the minority elite that is crucial and the non-participation of the
apathetic, ordinary man lacking in the feelings of political efficacy,
that is regarded as the main bulwark against
The narratives against the Corbyn Victory are all very predictable and the Media Elite Bubble of course just continues in its own bubble of Confirmation Bias and Delusion
I wrote a Poem Called Democracy Unfolded about Brexit.
The land of the brave and the home of the free
must also be consulted on how we do Democracy.
First what mandate does Liberty claim,
for her European Colony. Of Marshall Plans,
two world wars and may be three?
Across the Geo political scene we must cast a glance
at sovereign nations speared upon the Dollars Lance.
Refugees from Occidental conflict, as a great game plays out,
Oligarchs alone set the rules and set the price of Permit.
An ECB tied to global Capital which punished Greece
and placed the Pigs in manacles of debt.
Whilst Governments allow bankers alone
special and exorbitant privilege.
Again Democracy says,
”For them the will of the people simply Usurps.
Government should remain confined in Elitist Auspices.”
(CopyRight) Roger G Lewis September 2016.
Video Recording of First Live Reading.
Goethe’s Ankunft in Elysium by Franz Nadorp
This Song On the good Ship Brexit is a little more outspoken.
Good article – I’ve been noticing this beginning with an article in the Guardian the day after the Brexit vote.
Sorry to be a pedant however, but there is no “Sic” needed after “Referendums”. Referendums is correct – Referenda is wrong – though sadly becoming increasingly common. The rule is simple; if the Latin word has the same meaning as the modern English word, and is the same part of speech, then the Latin plural is used. If the word has a different meaning, or is a different part of speech, then the appropriate English suffix is adopted. Referendum being a gerund in Latin cannot be pluralised, so the English suffix “ums” is used. With Greek words, the suffix is usually English, though sometimes the Greek “odes” is used i.e. octopuses / octopodes. Octopodes could be seen as correct, but would be unnecessarily pedantic, though as Fowler pointed out would be acceptable at a conference of marine biologists.
Once again, thanks for the piece, sorry to be a twat, but “referenda” for some reason really makes my hackles rise. Probably something to do with having had this shit physically banged into my (thick) head with a rather large book by my English teacher – a former Guards officer – nearly 50 years ago.
Either plural form is acceptable for ‘referendum’ in English, although ‘referenda’ was the original Latin form: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/referendum
Don’t forget: in Latin, gerunds had gender and number: Carthago delenda est.
I had to smile at this: my Latin was beaten into me by the De La Salle brothers.
“the mob” undermined our “elite institutions”.
The ‘Mob’ is the elite, the sinister 1% that owns/controls our stock markets; banking system, including the central banks who are in danger of running out of ‘thin air’ that they use to print the increasingly worthless fiat currency; they have control of our Congress and Parliaments; our presidents and PM’s and damn near all of the MSM, so when they say you peasants are getting ‘uppity,’ that means we be insulting Massa and not voting to become part of the NWO Global Plantation.
The only problem with voting is that it’s not a signature of democracy.
The only problem with democracy is that voting is not essential.
The only problem with both of the above is that they both require a good education to work.
The only problem with a good education is that no government on earth can ensure everyone gets one. Some people don’t want to learn, but to be always right.
Our, western, form of democracy, is only recognized and accepted if the voters, the people, vote the ‘right’ way; that is they agree to be guided and led in the proper direction by the ruling elite. This is obviously a paradox, to put it mildly. The majority steered by the minority so ‘excessive democracy’ doesn’t threaten deep-rooted special interests and ultimately elite rule itself.
For about the last half century the people have been… under control and ‘excessive democracy’ as well. However, now things are changing and elite rule is being challenged across the western world once more as it was in the 60’s. Now the stakes are higher as the West is itself being challenged economically by the rise of the great giants who we managed to ‘enslave’ for the last few centuries, namely, China, India and Russia.
The relative success of Corbyn is a nightmare for the ruling elite. Corbyn, and the movement around him, have shown that one can confront, reject and challenge the established order, and not just survive but even thrive. The ‘liberal left’ as characterized by the Guardian has been humiliated and their role as… ‘guardians’ of the left, stopping them going ‘too far’ has been revealed as a sham.
I was very critical of Corbyn as I didn’t think he was up to the task ahead. The role was too big for him, the jump from the backbenches to the front row. I also think he needed to give this thing, the election, everything he had and throw caution to the wind. He was only gonna get one shot and he needed to make it count. Essentially Corbyn has been lifted by a great wave and his job was to keep his balance and footing on the surfboard and not fall off. Amazingly, he’s grown with the task and the challenge he faced. It looks like the positive energy from the movement and the people he met across the country filled him with confidence and self-belief, so that today he looks and even sounds like a PM in waiting. He’s now the most popular and successful politician in the country; which is an amazing turnaround. It must send shivers of horror down the spines of the ruling elite.
Corbyn’s success is a massive defeat for the corporate media too. Their role as a kind of ‘political church’ is being rejected and their shrill sermons are falling on deaf ears. Labour seem to be on course for success in the coming election and heaven knows what happens then. I don’t see the ruling class allowing Corbyn to reverse the last forty years of economic robbery without a fight, regardless of how people vote.
I still don’t understand why May has so dogmatically insisted ‘the people have spoken’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit’ when her paymasters in the City must have urged the opposite and it surely wouldn’t have been hard to fudge and delay. (Disclaimer: I voted ‘Leave’: when the London elite offer their butt for a kicking, why not indulge them?)
No doubt the disaster vultures are circling hungrily…
With politicians, pay zero attention to words but 100% attention to actions: TheArse May has made zero move to Brexit.
The EU may collapse before the Tories invoke article 50.
Was the recent election result a ‘wrong’ vote? TPTB are not monolithic and intent on determining a single outcome. They are Game Theorists. They may have a preferred outcome, but they won’t go all in – they hedge the result and have a backup plan. They nudge, and do not batter. In the Imperial Heartlands at least, that is. Also, they profit best from chaos, not order. ‘Strong and stable’ is an anathema to them. Better the ‘coalition of chaos’ – well they got that alright?
So we got a coalition of terror – the Tories and the UDF, sorry, DUP – instigated by a campaign of terror? I don’t know if it is possible to determine, and you won’t see the analysis in the corrupt mainstream commentariat – but it is possible to argue that the homegrown synthetic terror events swung the vote. Would Corbyn be collating policy for the Queens Speech right now instead of Treason May? With only 2% less of the popular vote – very likely.
So TPTB got the result they wanted, albeit marginally. By fair means or foul – incredibly foul, in fact. Sure, they’d love to replace us – but then, there is the question of the Legitimacy to Rule.
An authoritarian neo-Fascist regime – installed to shore up the global Ponzi scheme, at the expense of the people – would too quickly be exposed for what it is. Heaven forbid, the natives could get restless. The peasants may revolt.
Much better to have a semblance of chance resulting in a ‘coalition of chaos.’ Then the people will more happily submit to mass surveillance; the forfeiture of privacy and net neutrality; the surrender of civil liberty and loss of human rights; and remain indentured to the debt that funds their system of oppression – as the price of stability; to combat the (homegrown) terror. All the time – the banks get paid, profits get made – the wars go on. That’s how Democracy works.
From here in France, Macron’s eponymous initials party looks like winning a landslide, except voter turnout was only around 50%. Right now in France, there is nowhere to go.
You want people to have a say in how they’re ruled?!? Where do you think you are – Russia?!?
To be fair, Russia is nothing to emulate either.
I’ve lived in Russia. Russians have more say in how they’re ruled than in the 90s, and the majority of them are behind their current government.
On the topic of the Dutch Ukraine referendum: for more than a year the Dutch government put on an act that they were going to honour the wish of the electorate, but recently, when hardly anyone was paying attention, they decided to ignore the result and ratify the Ukraine treaty anyway. This is the second time that the Dutch government has gone against the result of a referendum on EU matters.
It is very simple. When you try to export lots of democracy to the Middle East, you have to restrict supply for home consumption.
Excellent article, slightly undermined by a couple of typos (“they’re” – intro; and “knew” – after “The People” quote). Thanks as always for the insights.
Thanks for correcting those two, and thanks again for the continuing excellent output. Reminds me I plan to donate 🙂
Generally speaking, the people (as opposed to the psychopaths) are more educated, more misinformed and more distracted than ever.
The www has democratised information. For good and for bad.
“Shut up, go to work and spend” is the dictum of the ruling psychopaths.
All I can say is, FUCK YOU!
Fascism is liberalism under pressure.
The more intense the pressure, for regulation of wealth, for re-’embedding’ the economy in society, for protection of the vulnerable and for sharing the productivity gains of a developing economy, the quicker the powerful oligarchies turn away from the carefully crafted ‘democratic’ institutions that legitimise their monopoly of power and revert to the ruthless tyranny that is at the heart of capitalist society.
Fascism is the rule of the imperialist or the industrialist, which is always authoritarian and dictatorial.
And what their media, and their pundits are doing is to revise ideology to conform with the interests of greedy elites-who pay journalists, academics, apologists, philosophers and thugs well, to keep order and to turn back the tide of humanity coming into its own.
The beltway pundits may hate democracy, but you’ll never see this headline from them: “What if media, government, and financial elites don’t have the interests of the public at heart?”