Question: is there nothing sacred?

Answer: of course not!

Well, except under American Democracy, where nothing seems to be sacred save the “will of the people.”

Damn your liberty. Damn your ideals. Damn any robust discussion about the ideas governing the nation.

Bless only your vote. Bless only the power of the people–often a simple majority–to choose whatever course they wish to take. If you wish to know what is true and right, turn to the public opinion polls.

Don’t you dare use your independent mind!

When the people of the United States speak through an election, they now take on an air of authority akin to a pointy hat pontiff perched on the chair of St. Peter, pronouncing ex cathedra new infallible truths regarding the American faith. These truths are not to be questioned–that is, until the next election.

But never is the democratic process itself to be questioned. “The people” are authorized somehow someway to do as they please. They are the authority by virtue of their strength in numbers. If an opinion is unpopular then its truth and wisdom is of little to no consequence.

The opening stretch of the 2016 Presidential horse race has reminded me of this fact. And honestly, calling America’s current democratic process a horse race is an inexact analogy at best. At least when it comes to a horse race, the crowd assembled to watch the competition must do so passively. They may place their bets as they wish and cheer on their favorite pony, but the winner is decided by the virtue of the horse and his jockey. How absurd would it be if the victors of horse races were decided at the betting window instead of on the track!

Yet, this is exactly the absurdity American democracy offers us: winners decided by the highest bidders and the whims of the mob’s hooting and hollering! The more bets placed on the number 5 horse the faster he rides! The more silver haired ladies who like the number 7 horse because he has cute ears or the same name as their cat, the more furious he plows towards the finish line!

No, most competition regards such popularity contests as removed from the virtues of the sport. Popularity often follows displays of virtue on the playing field and rightfully so. But once possessed, no amount of popularity can save a player from facing the reality of his competition. A jockey must focus on more important things than his favor with the crowd.

Yet, under democracy, this is exactly the name of the game: to win favor with the crowd. Democracy is the sport of public relations or, as it used to be called, propaganda. And propaganda is most effective when it bypasses the concious mind. This is what Huxley warned us about. The closest the current race for the Presidency has come to being an actual horse race was when Carly Fiorina suggested her Secret Service codename would be “Secretariat.”

Thus, in contravention of their constitutional traditions and founding based upon the presumption of liberty, the American people have come accept a system of government which defines authority not by virtue of individual rights, not by individual moral standards regarding political force, but by the idea that the might of the collective supersedes all other considerations.

As Ayn Rand wrote of the American founding,

“The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right.”

Two centuries of democratic competition and reform has nearly shattered this noble notion that the collective is restrained by individual rights. And the few restraints that still hold true are being threatened with each successive election cycle. The great flaw in the American system is this: in rightfully constraining the power of government institutions, “the will of the people” has broken loose from any notion of restraint. Much like kings and emperors of old, “the people” have come to see themselves as the sovereign–possessing an authority above not only their constitution but also the presumption of liberty!  

Each voter may vote as he or she pleases for any reason: for health, for safety, for religion, for happiness, for efficiency, for equality, for jobs, for war, for a candidate’s speaking style, for a candidate’s hometown, for a candidate’s physical attractiveness, for a candidate’s race, for a candidate’s gender, so on and so forth. Take your pick.

All concerns are worthy altars upon which to sacrifice human liberty–as long as they are popular enough in the eyes of the sovereign public. Democratic law is merely justified by the might of the majority and by the notion that questions of truth and justice are to be decided by its authority. Such is a blind and foolish surrender to the idea that “might makes right” masquerading as justice, as law, and as liberty!

Once the mind gives up its independent knowledge of the true and the good in exchange for the marching orders of a self-licking authority, there is no limit to what can be authorized.

It reminds me of a poem. Let it serve as a harsh wake up call–do not simply relent to authority for authority’s sake, giving up your own mind in the process. Authority does not decide what is good. Rather, what is good decides who has authority; such is true justice. Else, prepare for a slippery slope towards tyranny and mental suicide.

Here now is a poem that encapsulates this slippery slope, Charles Bukowski’s “Law”:

“Look,” he told me,

“all those little children dying in the trees.”

And I said, “What?”

He said, “look.”

And I went to the window and sure enough, there they were hanging in the trees,

dead and dying.

And I said, “What does it mean?”

He said, “I don’t know it’s authorized.”

The next day I got up and they had dogs in the trees,

hanging, dead, and dying.

I turned to my friend and I said, “What does it mean?”

And he said,

“Don’t worry about it, it’s the way of things. They took a vote. It was decided.”

The next day it was cats.

I don’t see how they caught all those cats so fast and hung them in the trees, but they did.

The next day it was horses,

and that wasn’t so good because many bad branches broke.

And after bacon and eggs the next day,

my friend pulled his pistol on me across the coffee

and said,

“Let’s go,”

and we went outside.

And here were all these men and women in the trees,

most of them dead or dying.

And he got the rope ready and I said,

“What does it mean?”

And he said, “It’s authorized, constitutional, it passed the majority,”

And he tied my hands behind my back then opened the noose.

“I don’t know who’s going to hang me,” he said,

“When I get done with you.

I suppose when it finally works down

there will be just one left and he’ll have to hang himself.”

“Suppose he doesn’t,” I ask.

“He has to,” he said,

“It’s authorized.”

“Oh,” I said, “Well,

let’s get on with it.”