Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Irony of Democracy

Years ago when I was a pimple-faced teen, I read a book by Thomas R. Dye and Harmon Zeigler called The Irony of Democracy. There’s no summary online, so this is from memory – and hopefully not a distortion.

The book’s core argument, as I recall, was that "democracy" in the United States was really a consensus of America’s elite – or one faction of that elite. Specifically, (at least in the 1960s) the federal government served the interests of the poor, old, disenfranchised and downtrodden with things like Welfare and Social Security, minimum wage and OSHA laws and various other safety nets and impediments to money power. The huddled masses had little to do with it. Social justice – such as we had -- came from the people in the mansions, not the “People” in the streets. Hence, the “irony” of our nation’s brand of democracy.

Basically, FDR and others like him came to the conclusion that – in a laissez faire set-up, Capitalism would function like a game of Monopoly. There’d be a handful of winners and millions of losers. Those losers would ultimately rise up in one big commie revolution. That would be bad. The New Deal and the Great Society would be better. 

Obviously, the authors gave a nod to the fact that one faction of America’s elite has unflinchingly maintained that FDR should burn in hell.

Today, we may be experiencing the evaporation of the elite consensus they were talking about. There’s the occasional George Soros, but not enough to tilt the game anymore.

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