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.