Canada’s Parliament is an instance of Representative Democracy, the American government is supposed to be of a different type: it is a Republic with a constitutionally-restricted representative regime. The important distinguishing feature of the two is Rule Majority – a binary decision governance – the selection of one of two alternatives, based on which has more than half the votes. It is an ostensible trade-off between the benefits of majority rule and other values important to a democratic society such as liberty and protecting minorities. A democracy theoretically embraces it. A Republic in the abstract restricts the majority and foreswears to protect the individual by the separation of powers.
That’s the Theory
What has happened in the USA and Canada is in some ways an opposite result: it is an example that sometimes our best intentions and constitutional definitions are flattened by history.
Canada tends in part to operate as a Republic. Voters select the Members of Parliament who after the election are expected to operate on their own best judgement for what is good for their constituents, and ideally their nation. In Canada, lobbyists, direct democratic public action and referendums seldom play a major role in political affairs. The public in fact frowns on them as illiberal.
The USA tends to operate on poll-driven majority rule with lobbyists and social activists gaining premier access to the political process. A few influential money supporters all but hand-pick the candidates. The people have a key-lack of political control over the system as a whole. In other words, the intent of the constitution of the American Republic is being wholly thwarted by a devolution into direct majority rule, lobbyists and activists. Closed institutions with any authority at all are now being criticized as non-democratic, even the most important ones like the judicial and executive branches of government.
Canada’s trouble is that the “No” vote is the largest political block in the country, that is, the part of the eligible electorate who don’t show up to vote. However, by its nature it is ignored by the system and bemoaned by Canadian political scientists. As I explain in The “No” Political Party, “no” to politicians in Canada means apathy not satisfaction. Dissenters and pressure groups are given more voice than they warrant to fill the supposed windfall void of indifference. Democracy is from the top down with our politicians trying to save us from ourselves. Pressure groups outmaneuver the middle class in a rather fraudulent, if legal, fashion. In political terms, minorities have their voices heard above the regular din due to the fact of the Canadian middle class deaf-ear syndrom. (We’re busy doing other things, but get us angry and we’ll put a stop to it).
The Phenomenon of Democratic Alienation
And Loss of Faith in Public Institutions;
It Has Spread Around the Industrialized West.
Demomatosis is a disease which affects established democracies; it is a pandemic polical virus, COVID - 101, well at least we don't have to destroy the global tourist industry to fight it. The virus originated from that old Jeffersonian conceit that the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. It is also a false notion among voters that equality of opportunity means opinions are equal and that true democracy amounts to equalitarianism. Demomatosis causes ballot propositions, special initiatives and recalls. It produces intellectual listlessness in the citizenry and yields people to believe that merit and money aren’t qualities naturally drawn to one another or that achieving economic independence isn’t an individual’s moral responsibility anymore, or that politics has devolved into a corrupt plutocracy and that wealth in general is evil, i.e., it is to be feared. Sometimes it produces the outright hatred of liberty. It also produces an erroneous belief that democracy is so superior to all forms of autocracy that it is without sin, that it can sleep with the thugs of the world like Saddam Hussein, Reza Pahlavi, (the Shah of Iran) and Ferdinand Marcos and be forgiven it’s crimes against other peoples' liberty. As well, it fashions the belief that government itself can cure all social ills and that the state is a "real" thing like a person.
There is no State.
There's only a Collection of Individuals.
The problem, as Alexis De Tocqueville long ago showed, is that, ‘All authority originates in the will of the majority, when clearly the majority can be, and is, often mistaken: Unlimited power is itself a bad and dangerous thing. Human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion.’ This problem is to be remembered about apparent majorities in a democracy. They must have plenty of critics. These must be heard, not shunned by the majority or the state as anti-democratic.
It would also be best to keep in mind by democratic activists, (i.e., the religious right and the progressive left), that more access, and/or direct democracy often leads to less liberty for the individual. Liberal democrats and cultural conservatives, who intellectually tolerate and promote larger states, should keep in mind that there are often unscrupulous ‘Machiavellian’ power-brokers in our midst. They appear even at the highest levels and for their own self-interest and aggrandizement, will operate, given the right atmosphere and circumstances, secretly and unconstitutionally to defy the will of the people. These ‘types’ morally undercut democracy’s legitimate claim to be every person’s birthright. Henry Kissinger was such a person.
Committing to open societies does not mean one must embrace all aspects of democracy. Large government, freely elected or not, will tend to be unwieldy and should be avoided as much as possible by the citizenry. Progressives incline to whine. Rightists lean toward uncharitableness in government. Young social activists who believe their voice is more important than others and claim that they’re always grossly unrepresented by the system are in a sense arrogant, but Rightists who are cultural radicals and not real fiscal conservatives are the most annoying of the voting public. Their policy is to tell other adults how to behave in ethical terms. It’s insulting to those who are managing their life fine without them.
Big government includes not only Leftists with welfare agendas, but Rightists with cultural ones. The decline of American democracy is also directly tied to the corruption of its two main political parties. They both embrace power without regard to the loss of liberty in either the cultural or economic meanings, the American constitution be damned. Poor America!
© 2022 - E. A. St. Amant