How Democracy Really Works
by Bevin Chu
October 12, 2006
The Founding Fathers knew Democracy doesn’t Work — Why don’t We?
America’s Founding Fathers were farsighted political visionaries. In fact, they were much more. America’s Founding Fathers were “avatars,” i.e., embodiments or personifications of new principles, new attitudes, and new views of life. As such, they understood, as today’s kneejerk “champions of democracy” do not, that democracy is the worst form of government ever tried.
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
As John Adams, 2nd President of the United States put it, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States
As Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, author of the Bill of Rights, put it, “[A democratic] majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”
As James Madison, 4th President of the United States and Father of the Constitution put it, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.”
Nowhere has the Founding Fathers’ understanding of the defects of democracy been borne out more clearly than on Taiwan. Over the past 18 years the political system administering the Taiwan region of China has degenerated from a flawed republic, the Republic of China, into full-blown “Taiwanese democracy,” and the result shows.
Taiwan does not lack either nativist demagogues or foreign neocolonialists eager to lecture us on how “Taiwan’s lively/thriving/vibrant democracy” supposedly works.
What Taiwan desperately lacks is someone, anyone, willing to talk about how democracy really works.
How Democracy Supposedly Works
How democracy supposedly works is summed up in an October 12 Taipei Times article entitled “Protests reflected democracy, Chen tells foreign guests“:
Taipei Times: President Chen Shui-bian said yesterday that the disturbances on Double Ten National Day reflected the preciousness of Taiwan’s democracy … “Freedom of speech is fully protected here in Taiwan … Taiwan is a fully fledged democracy where freedom of speech is fully protected and different ideas are tolerated. The clamor that happened on national day displays the pluralism and dynamism of Taiwan’s democracy.”
How Democracy Really Works on Taiwan
How democracy really works on the Chinese island of Taiwan is summed up in an October 13 Taiwan News Online article entitled “Police revoke Shih’s rally permit“:
Taiwan News: Taipei police announced yesterday that they have revoked permission for the “Million Voices Against Corruption” campaign to assemble on Ketagalan Boulevard and to hold a parade on Zhongshan South Road near National Taiwan University Hospital from tomorrow to next Friday.
The Zhongzheng Police First District under the Taipei City Police Department said that it has decided to withdraw the assembly permit issued to the campaign which is aimed at deposing President Chen Shui-bian over a spate of corrupt allegations against his family members and close aides.
Comment: The phrases “revoked permission to assemble,” and “decided to withdraw the assembly permit” say it all.
To Taiwan’s “champions of democracy,” the right to public assembly is not an inalienable right granted to sovereign individuals by Nature, but a “permission” granted to lowly subjects by the State, to be “revoked” or “withdrawn” at the discretion of democracy’s elective dictators.
“President” Chen Shui-bian’s lip service to the contrary notwithstanding, freedom of speech is not fully protected on Taiwan, different ideas are not tolerated, and the clamor on national day is not evidence of democracy’s “pluralism” and “dynamism.”
Taiwan News: Fang Yang-ning, deputy director of the police district, at a press conference yesterday explained that the permission to hold the demonstration was withdrawn mainly because the campaign had violated the assembly and parade law.
Fang said that the authorities have collected enough evidence to prove that the anti-Chen campaign had held an assembly and public activities on October 1, 5 and 10 without obtaining prior permission, which not had only violated the law but also had adversely impacted on public order and the interests of Taipei City residents.
Fang denied that the decision to withdraw the permission for the rally was made under pressure from the Cabinet. The Cabinet had earlier suggested that the relevant authorities should not approve any application by the campaign to assemble because of the disruptions to the National Day celebrations on Tuesday when the protesters attempted to surround the Presidential Office.Comment: Is any comment necessary?
How Democracy Really Works in America
How American democracy really works, whom American democracy really protects, and to whom American democracy really answers, is summed up in the following October 13 article in The Sacramento Bee, entitled “U.S. agents question teen, Girl ran anti-Bush page on MySpace”:
Julia Wilson, 14, got a surprise visit from two Secret Service agents Wednesday at McClatchy High after the words “Kill Bush” appeared on MySpace.com. Her mom, Kirstie Wilson, says she should have been present when her daughter was questioned
Sacramento Bee: The latest Sacramento resident to be questioned by federal agents in possible threats against President Bush is a 14-year-old girl with a heart on her backpack and braces on her teeth, a freckle-nosed adolescent who is passionate about liberal politics and cute movie stars.
Her name is Julia Wilson, and she learned a vivid civics lesson Wednesday when two Secret Service agents pulled her out of biology class at McClatchy High School to ask about comments and images she posted on MySpace.
Comment: Julia Wilson got a real life lesson in how modern democracy works, instead of the “Pleasantville” virtual reality version of how democracy works taught in civics class.
Sacramento Bee: Beneath the words “Kill Bush,” Julia posted a cartoonish photo-collage of a knife stabbing the hand of the president. It was one of a few images Julia said she used to decorate an anti-Bush Web page she moderated on MySpace, the social networking Web site that is hugely popular among teenagers.
The Secret Service refused to answer questions about the case or even confirm an investigation. Eric Zahren, a Secret Service spokesman, said the agency does not discuss its work “due to the sensitivity of our mission.”
But Julia’s mother, Kirstie Wilson, and an assistant principal at McClatchy High said two agents showed them badges stating they were with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
Federal law prohibits making serious threats against the president, and Julia and her parents say what she did was wrong.
Comment: If democratic governments were really were “governments of the People, by the People, and for the People,” wouldn’t federal law prohibit the Secret Service from making serious threats against Julia Wilson, instead of the other way around?
Morally speaking, Julia Wilson and her parents were under no obligation whatsoever to concede that she was wrong. Julia Wilson was not wrong. Julia Wilson was right. George W. Bush was wrong. George W. Bush is the one who should be conceding that he is wrong.
Paul Craig Roberts is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.
According to Roberts, “Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq has cost 655,000 Iraqis their lives. That is the conclusion of a study financed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies and conducted by physicians under the direction of Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists.”George W. Bush is a war criminal, a mass murderer, guilty of the premeditated deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings. How many human beings is Julia Wilson guilty of murdering?
George W. Bush, according to democratic universalist eyewash, is a “public servant,” i.e., a “servant of the public” obligated to serve and protect his employers, members of the taxpaying public such as Julia Wilson.
Instead, George W. Bush, by murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, has provoked the anger of foreign terrorists, who are likely to exact revenge for their deaths.
Julia Wilson has not endangered the life of George W. Bush. George W. Bush has endangered the life of Julia Wilson.If democratic governments were really “governments of the People, by the People, and for the People,” shouldn’t Julia Wilson be the one questioning George W. Bush for his behavior, instead of the other way around?If democratic governments were really “governments of the People, by the People, and for the People,” shouldn’t t George W. Bush be apologizing to Julia Wilson? On his knees?
Julia Wilson does not appear to have made any “threats” against anyone whatsoever. She merely expressed anger. As anyone who has ever been in a personal growth workshop knows perfectly well, expressing “a feeling of wanting to stab someone” can hardly be equated with “intending to stab someone,” and still less with “threatening to stab someone.”
Anyone who doesn’t understand this distinction, is obtuse. Anyone who acts on the premise that there is no distinction, is a thug. Anyone who does not understand this distinction, and who acts on the premise that there is no distinction, is an obtuse thug.
The Secret Service and Homeland Security agents who descended on Julia Wilson’s biology class are real life versions of the dangerously literal minded government thugs caricatured in Hollywood films.
Kafkaesque is a term that has been overused, and consequently debased. Here is where it really applies.
Julia Wilson and her name are about as whitebread Anglo-Saxon Protestant mainstream American as you can get. This is fortunate. I hate to imagine where Julia would be at this moment if her name was say, “Fatima al-Marnissi.” Being subjected to torture and sexual abuse at the American Gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
Sacramento Bee: The couple are disturbed, however, that federal agents questioned a child at school — without her parents present. And First Amendment lawyers question whether the Secret Service over-reacted to a 14-year-old’s comments on a Web site made for casual socializing.
“I don’t condone what she did, but it seems a little over the top to me,” said Julia’s father, Jim Moose. “You’d think they could look at the situation and determine that she’s not a credible threat.”
Here is how Julia Wilson’s family tells their story:
Two Secret Service agents arrived at their Land Park home about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, Kirstie Wilson said. They told her they wanted to speak with her daughter about threats to the president that she had posted on MySpace.
“She was in molecular biology, and I said I really didn’t want to take her out of class for this,” Kirstie Wilson said. “I said I’d make sure she came right home from school.”
She asked the agents to come back in an hour, and they left.
Then Wilson sent her daughter a text message instructing her to come straight home from school.
“… there are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush. Dont worry youre not going to jail or anything like that but they take these things very seriously these days,” Kirstie Wilson wrote.
“Are you serious!?!? omg. Am I in a lot of trouble”? her daughter replied, using common teenage shorthand for “Oh, my God.”
Kirstie Wilson called her husband. While they were on the phone, she received another text message from her daughter: “They took me out of class.”
Comment: The federal goons were determined to “teach this little brat a lesson she wouldn’t soon forget” and to “send a message” to other budding troublemakers across the nation who might be “getting too big for their britches. ”
Sacramento Bee: It was a 15- to 20-minute interview, Julia said. Agents asked her about her father’s job, her e-mail address, and her Social Security number. They asked about the MySpace page she had created last year as an eighth-grader at Sutter Middle School.
“I told them I just really don’t agree with Bush’s politics,” Julia said Thursday. “I don’t have any plans of harming Bush in any way. I’m very peaceful; I just don’t like Bush.”
The MySpace page under question was a group page, similar to an online club.
Most of the groups Julia is a part of are fan clubs for movie stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor. The group that got her in trouble was called something like “People who want to stab Bush” — Julia said she doesn’t remember the exact name because she soon changed it.
After an eighth-grade history lesson in which she learned that threatening the president is against the law, Julia said she changed the group name to “So Bush is an idiot but hey what else is new?”
The group primarily consisted of her teenage friends who share her liberal political interests, Julia said. She deleted the group page over the summer when she decided that MySpace was juvenile and taking up too much time.
Moose and Wilson say they had no idea what their daughter had posted online.
“I was more than happy to have them talk to her about the severity of what she did. But I wanted to be here with her,” Kirstie Wilson said.
McClatchy Assistant Principal Paul Belluomini said he usually does not notify parents when law enforcement officials come to school to interview students.
“Parents usually interfere with an investigation, so we usually don’t notify them until it’s done,” he said.
Comment: The phrase “interfere with an investigation” is a euphemism for “angrily demand that the interrogation be conducted in a manner that respects the suspect’s constitutional rights.”
McClatchy High School freshman Julia Wilson, left, with her sister, Maddy, mother, Kirstie, and father, Jim Moose, in their Land Park home. Julia used to run a Web page on MySpace.com, a social networking site for teens, but now says she thinks it’s too juvenile and a time-waster
Sacramento Bee: Sacramento City Unified School District policy calls for parents to be notified but doesn’t say whether it should happen before or after a student is interviewed. State law doesn’t require parental notification.
In any case, said Ann Brick, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Julia Wilson’s post did not sound like a “true threat” to the president, making it political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
“The courts have to distinguish between political rhetoric and hyperbole and a real threat,” Brick said. “A reasonable person would have to interpret what was said as indication of a serious intent to commit harm.”
Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said in the current political climate, “the threshold that brings (agents) in has gotten lower.”
Comment: Could it be any clearer? Does anyone truly not see how democracy really works? Democracy is not “government of the People, by the People, and for the People.” Democracy is “government of an elective dictator, by an elective dictator, and for an elective dictator.”
In what would appear to be a cosmic joke, both the R of C and the US of A have been simultaneously saddled with political leaders with nearly identical psychological profiles. Both Chen and Bush are ignorant buffoons. Both Chen and Bush are cunning demagogues. Both Chen and Bush possess the same uncanny ability to trample over their own nation’s basic laws yet somehow retain an iron grip on power.
I for one, don’t believe this is mere coincidence. I believe the Universe is sending both China and America a message, the same message.
The Universe is telling both China and America that this is how democracy really works. The Universe is telling both China and America that this is the sort of political leadership you can expect under democracy. The Universe is telling both China and America that it is time to start thinking about radical new alternatives.