Elections don’t kill people; people kill people

October 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

In the previous post I discussed the actual function of democratic elections. The actual function of democratic elections is to take liberal governance as a given and build social consensus around that liberal governance. Voting is a kind of pledge of allegiance to liberal governance: I’ve described this before by suggesting that elections are the lex orandi to liberalism’s credendi.

As in the case of going to Mass, there isn’t a necessary connection between faith and practice. Plenty of people go to Mass without being faithful. This in no way disconnects Mass attendance from the fostering of belief, however. The lack of a necessary connection in no way undermines the fact that the social function of the Mass is to bring believers to God and God to believers. Likewise with democratic elections and liberal governance: the logical possibility of denying the faith while participating in the ritual is no objection to the pastoral connection between faith and ritual.

But there is another objection which is sometimes raised, which is that the American Founders did not intend a connection between the structural practice of democracy and an ideologically liberal polity. Setting aside the veracity of this denial as an historical claim, I will merely point out that it is completely irrelevant. When a human designer designs something, his intentions in making his design cease to be relevant once the object in question is out in the world. The object functions as it actually functions, not as the human designer wishes it did and did not function: the fact that Tim Berners-Lee presumably did not intend for the World Wide Web to become the largest scale pornography distribution channel in history doesn’t in any way undermine the fact that it is, in fact, the largest scale pornography distribution channel in history.

So it isn’t that questions like “what did the Founders intend” are uninteresting in some transcendant academic way. Surely they are, at least to people who have those sorts of interests. But they are completely irrelevant when it comes to assessing how liberal democracy actually functions in the real world. The fact that Ork never envisioned his Wheel on a Model T is completely irrelevant to an analysis of how wheels actually function in the real world: physically, socially, and in every other domain in which wheels are of interest.

§ 6 Responses to Elections don’t kill people; people kill people

  • Karl says:

    Wow. Good to “see” you. It has been too long.

  • RP says:

    A post I made every year at election time on my defunct blog:

    I answer: it must be said that Augustine solves this question in De civitate Dei 19 where he says that a ruling office, without which the people cannot be governed, is not fittingly sought even if it be administered as is fitting, because he who seeks a ruling office is either proud or unjust. Now it is a matter of injustice for someone to want to take more honor for himself, either power or other goods, unless he is worthy of greater things, as is said in Ethica 5, 3, but it is a matter of pride and presumption for someone to esteem himself to be more worthy for a ruling office than all those over whom he takes offices. Hence clearly whoever seeks a ruling office is either unjust or proud. And therefore, no one ought to succeed to a ruling office by his desire, but only by God’s judgment, according to what the Apostle says in Hebrews 5:4, “No one takes honor for himself except the one who is called by God as Aaron was. (Aquinas, Quodlibet II, 6, 1)

    Our election system, however, is designed to funnel arrogant criminals into positions of power. And, as time goes by, they are likely to become more arrogant and more tyrannical (as recent experience confirms).

    For most elections the argument of Augustine/Aquinas can be used to show the voter, too, is proud or unjust and therefore that it is sinful to vote.

    And from one of my versifications:

    We shall be our own gods.
    If not all, at least some.
    (The others we will educate to ignorance,
    Deny them a past,
    Praise their sinfulness,
    Laugh at their weakness,
    Teach them revenge
    And new prayer to old gods.)
    If not yet, in the near future,
    The Cult of the one who is to come.
    We will not have mystery or faith, paradox or parable,
    Rather the knowledge of good and evil,
    The Science of buying and selling
    And the latest poll.
    Voting in every election.
    Someone always wins.
    We always lose,
    Progress the cause of our end.

  • […] philosophy to which all respectable modern people are loyal, and to which respectable people pay tribute in civic ritual.  This is the sort of equality that leads to dehumanizing certain kinds of people as a prelude to […]

  • […] worldview, voting has a kind of sacramental character, and not for nothing does ZC call it the “lex orandi to liberalism’s credendi.” Even if we vote for traditionalists across the board and vote “No” on every attempt to […]

  • […] by applying a concrete understanding of the nature of voting in modern mass-market universal suffrage elections to all of that, I conclude that a proportionate reason to vote in our current circumstances does […]

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