Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pitfalls of Democracy and the Difference Between Law and Regulation

I’ve been re-reading a book by Frank Herbert, called Chapterhouse- Dune. There are some fantastic passages in it about politics and law in general, and democracy in particular that really strike home with me these days. I’ll share some of this, but delete much of the dialogue of the conversation they come from and just include what is most pertinent, or it would be quite a long job of copying. I’ll highlight what strikes me most, and ask if you also see the parallels to what has been happening within our own government, both recently but also since it began.

Dama: “People always have government.”

Lucilla “People always have politics. I told you yesterday, Politics: the art of appearing candid and completely open while concealing as much as possible”

Dama: “What about bureaucrats?”

Lucilla: “They have no room to maneuver because that’s the way their superiors grow fat. If you don’t see the difference between regulation and law, both have the force of law.”

Dama: “I see no difference.”

Lucilla: “Laws convey the myth of enforced change. A bright new future will come because of this law or that one. Laws enforce the future. Regulations are believed to enforce the past.”

“In each instance action is illusory.”

“Isn’t it odd, Dama, how rebels all too soon fall into old patterns if they are victorious? It’s not so much a pitfall in the path of all governments as it is a delusion waiting for anyone who gains power.”

Dama: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lucilla: “Wrong, Dama. Something more subtle but far more pervasive: Power attracts the corruptible.”

Lucilla: “More law! You say ‘We need more law!’ So you make new instruments of non-compassion and incidentally, new niches of employment for those who feed on the system.”

Dama: “That’s the way it’s always been and always will be.”

Lucilla: “Wrong again. It’s a rondo. It rolls and rolls until it injuries the wrong person or the wrong group. Then you get anarchy. Chaos. Rebels, terrorists, increasing outbursts of raging violence.”

Lucilla: “Democracy is susceptible to being led astray by having scapegoats paraded in front of the electorate. Get the rich, the greedy, the criminals, the stupid leader and so on ad nauseam.”
“You know the flaw. A top-heavy bureaucracy the electorate cannot touch always expands to the system’s limits of energy. Steal it from the aged, from the retired, from anyone. Especially from those we once called the middle class because that’s where most of the energy originates.”

“I presume you have some form of civil service for your ‘lower orders’.”

Dama: “We take care of our own.”

Lucilla: “Then you know how that dilutes the vote. Chief symptom: People don’t vote. Instinct tells them it’s useless.”

Dama: “Democracy is a stupid idea anyway!”

Lucilla: “We agree. It’s demagogue-prone. That’s a disease to which electoral systems are vulnerable. Yet demagogues are easy to identify. They gesture a lot and speak with pulpit rhythms, using words that ring of religious fervor and god-fearing sincerity.”

“Repetition. Great attempts to keep your attention on words. You must pay no attention to words. Watch what the person does. That way you learn the motives.”

Dama: “You know how to make a democracy do what you want.”

Lucilla: “The technique is quite subtle but easy. You create a system where most people are dissatisfied, vaguely or deeply. This builds up widespread feelings of vindictive anger. Then you supply targets for that anger as you need them.”

Dama: “A diversionary tactic.”

Lucilla: "I prefer to think of it as distraction. Bury your mistakes in more law. You traffic in illusion. Bullring tactics. Wave the pretty cape. They’ll charge it and be confused when there’s no matador behind the thing. That dulls the electorate just as it dulls the bull. Fewer people use their vote intelligently next time.”

“Then you rail against the electorate. Make them feel guilty. Keep them dull. Feed them. Amuse them. Don’t overdo it.”

We have been lulled and dulled by the bureaucracy, and have been given bread and circuses to keep us that way. And the current administration wishes to dull us even more. Why? Because power attracts the corruptible. Every person who actively seeks office is suspect! I think we’d be much better off if power over our affairs were only given to those who are reluctant, and only under conditions that increase that reluctance.Unfortunately, I do not see that in our near future, so we must use our vote intelligently, in spite of the efforts of the bureaucracy to thwart us in order to keep their positions of power.
I do believe that we can avoid most of the pitfalls inherent in our system of government, by continued diligence, always being aware of the shortcomings of our system, weeding out the corrupt, and keeping in mind the difference between law and regulation. When our government continually uses them interchangeably, we see what is happening now, with them taking ever larger steps in their grasping of control.
Law is the promise of a better future. Regulation is the oversight of what is already in place. The government continually makes promises ever increasingly hard to keep through the passage of more and more law, rather than utilizing proper regulatory oversight of that which is already in practice. They are mistaken in their thinking that this would be better, let alone easier. But what it DOES do though is grant them much more power and control over the populace. I thought that the American form of democracy was put in place to reduce the same type of control which drove us into a revolution in the first place, and yet here we are, facing the same pitfalls, because we have become confused, complacent, dulled, like the bull in the bullring.

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