A Hard Lesson
Iranians are discovering a principle, with this presidential election, that many people worldwide don’t understand. In fact, most people in the United States don’t really comprehend the principle of democracy. Many people, especially in the Democratic party, believe elections are the lifeblood of a democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Elections are only a gauge that indicates the will of the people. Elections are discrete, fleeting windvane of the kind of direction the people, in general, want a country to go. So, for elections to mean anything at all, they must be open and free of coercion.
Democracy is ‘rule by the people’ from the Greek translation. Therefore, for the ‘people’ to rule, there must be a way for them to both decide freely and express that decision freely. Since the Iranian election allowed neither, it wasn’t a democratic election.
First, the Iranian people are not able to freely communicate and make their own decisions about the direction of their country. They have a ruling class that gives them limited choices based on a set of principles that limit the people’s voice. The mullahs, these censors, only allow certain ideas and certain people to become part of the political elite. This is the definition of an oligarchy, rule by a few over the entire society. The vote of the people is merely a formality, a ruse to entertain the masses. The people are not allowed to have free choices and free discussion. That is forbidden.
Iran is learning what it was like to live in the former Soviet Union and in Cuba and Venezuela today. The had and have elections. But, that doesn’t make them democratic. Their will is subsumed by the ruling political class. It doesn’t make any difference if that class is on the right, on the left, or in the center. It is still not a democracy. It is an oligarchy. Voting for what you are told to vote for and given such limited choices is the hallmark of such an oligarchy. It is because they distrust the will of the people that the ruling class does this limitation. They don’t believe in democracy. They believe a ruling class will make better decisions for society.
A ruling political class is the antithesis of democracy. A controlling group of rulers believes a society needs their expertise to grow and succeed. They will say they are democrats, but don’t trust the will of the people to make the right choices. So, they limit those choices which in turn disenfranchises the people. To get around this, political ruling classes must necessarily believe that a society holds power and that power is then shared with the people. That flies squarely in the face of democratic principles, but they hide that belief with words.
The essence, once again, of democracy is rule by the people. For people to rule themselves, as a society, they must have both the power to decide and the freedom to make those choices. In America, we have chosen a government based on a republic. We can freely debate and choose our representatives who are empowered BY THE PEOPLE to make policy decisions. We are not meted out power FROM THE REPRESENTATIVES to the people in the form of freedoms. The freedom lies with the people. Otherwise, if our freedoms flowed from society as a whole to people, we could not have democracy. Shifting groups of influence would wield power and take away the right of self-determination. Ruling classes would then seize the power and cause it to flow in the other direction, making it a oligarchy.
That may seem a very unimportant distinction, but its not. From whence power flows is key to the very heart of democratic principles. By its very nature, power must flow from the people if the people are the ones in charge. But, as the Iranians are learning from this hard lesson, ruling oligarchies are loathe the let the people have that much of a voice.
The collectivists in the United States are selling the same snake oil as democracy. They argue that power flows from the collective society and to people. For us to have freedom, they argue, we must collectively petition and beg for rights and privileges. They have created a ruling political class and expect us to cater to those people. It is a select group, the collectivists argue, who are CAPABLE of governance. That is, of course, simply oligarchy. The collectivists are by their very nature oligarchs. Power exists in a kind of bureaucratic hierarchy controlled by the ruling class. That is no different than communists, monarchists, fascists, socialists, theocrats, or meritocrats. They are all oligarchs.
Democrats, with a small ‘d’, do not believe power flows from the state or society to groups of people. The power flows only from the consensus and consent of the governed. That is the antithesis of the other ‘ists’. We are a nation committed to democracy and believe we are all, equally, both empowered and capable of being the governors of our society. Because of this, Barack Obama is no more either empowered or capable to govern than I am. His OFFICE has been empowered and made responsible for doing OUR work, and not the other way around.
These are hard lessons. The Iranians are learning just how limited their voice is. We are rapidly moving toward their form of governance and away from true democratic principles. When you hear the press say someone isn’t qualified to govern, they are expounding the oligarchist principles of a ruling class. When you hear a party hack express distaste at an election that has selected someone outside the system, you are hearing an oligarch whine. When you accept a principle of only a partisan system of governance, you have accepted that ruling class oligarchist argument. As a nation of democrats, we must demand our representatives to, well, represent our voice. They are not our rulers, they are our agents. We run the country and not the other way around. Scare them. Bully them. It is time to be truly, and completely democratic. Let them hear our voices.