Tuesday 1 August 2006

The West Wing

There was a very interesting article by Janet Daley in yesterday's Telegraph.

According to Ms Daley:

If you didn't get 'The West Wing', you won't understand America
I think she's right and this is what she's getting at:
At its most sententious, it should have been absurd, but it was not. If you listened properly - and they did talk very fast - you could learn an enormous amount, not only about how liberals would like to see themselves, but also about America's reverence for democratic institutions, an issue of immediate relevance to the global crisis in which we are now immersed.
It's the love of democracy that makes America special, we are told:
What must have been quite astonishing to a British audience was how seriously everybody in American politics appeared to take the concept of democratic government itself. Government of the people, by the people and for the people seemed to be engraved on the heart of every politician of every party.
Democracy, it seems, is the true American religion:
This American notion that the will of the people, and the democratic process by which they express it, is sacred - a form of secular religion on which the whole concept of justice and human welfare is predicated - is absolutely fundamental to the position that America is now adopting on the world stage.
As Ms Daley explains, this reverence for democracy makes it very unlikely that a future Democratic president would be any less keen on promoting this "true religion" throughout the world than does George Bush.

The problem I have with Ms Daley's article is that nowhere does she mention that the United States was not formed as a "democracy" but as a constitutionally limited republic.

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The point of the Declaration and the subsequent Constitution is that the proper purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of the people, not to subject them to never-ending democratic revision. Sadly, America's politicians have been trashing the country's founding principles since the Civil War if not earlier. It makes no difference which party is in power. Left wing, right wing or West Wing, they're all the same. According to the current issue of Liberty:
Total government spending rose by 33% during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of gross domestic product grew from 18.5% on the last day of the Clinton administration to 20.3% at the end of Bush’s first term.
I don't see that spreading democracy into the Middle East is necessarily going to help the situation in that troubled part of the world. Nor is it much use anywhere else, unless the people in question hold firmly to the values of liberty. If Americans, or anyone else for that matter, wish for a more peaceful world, they must encourage the pursuit of liberty, not of democracy.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Andrew Ian Dodge
I could never manage an entire episode of the bleeding show. It was not terribly good in the end. At least it was better than that Genna Davis rubbish-fest that got canned.

2 August 2006, 14:56:01 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

Wild Pegasus
The point of the Declaration and the subsequent Constitution is that the proper purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of the people, not to subject them to never-ending democratic revision. 
Half-right. The Declaration of Independence certainly held that point. The Constitution did not, and never did. It turned a loose confederacy of states into a unified continental republic armed with the powers of taxation, regulation, and war. Nothing could be more antithetical to liberty than a powerful central government, and that's precisely what the Constitution created. 
Support 1776, oppose 1789. 
ObTopic: I couldn't watch The West Wing. The ideal "strong liberal" president made me sick to the pit of my stomach. 
- Josh

1 August 2006, 18:31:23 GMT+01:00
– Like – Reply

Robert Bove
Spot-on critique. In jurisdictions where "democracy" has taken hold in the U.S.--the Blue State Northeast, for example--taxation at levels the Founders would view incredulously are the norm. And so, in the major institutions, are empty concepts like "diversity." Liberty is the true, necessary condition of excellence. I say give the Islamic nations liberty and let them sort it out. (Keeping our armies at the ready, of course.)

1 August 2006, 13:13:29 GMT+01:00