Check his Sources!

I’m reading David Held’s Models of Democracy, described on the back cover as “a succinct but far-reaching introduction to democracy from classical Greece to the present…”  I’m mired in this chapter “Competitve Elitism,” breaking every 5 pages or so to get some tea, wander around the department, check my email, etc. etc. etc.  Yet, I’ve just stumbled across something quite worrisome for those of us who loathe to think of President Bush as remotely intelligent. 

In describing economist Schumpeter’s (of “creative destruction” fame, to all you MBA/corporate types reading along) critique of classical democracy, the author writes, “the power of decision is the prime element of democracy.”  (p.188)  Held quotes Schumpeter as he extols, “if ‘the people’ cannot be thought of as the ‘deciders’ or governors,’ then what, if any, role can be ascribed to them?”  He goes on: “‘the people’…can be, nothing more than…a mechanism to select ‘the men who are able to do the deciding.'”  (p.188)

In fairness to us on the broadly decried “liberal” end of the spectrum, I don’t recall any conversative Bush supporters pointing out that Bush might actually be quoting Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy when he referred to himself as “the decider.”  Seems few of us would give the President credit for invoking the major intellectual thinkers of our time, versus movies such as Animal House. 

Although, or in addition, this drily sarcastic post could instead reflect what Held describes – in a model of Schumpeter’s political thought- as the view of one of the “disaffected intelligentsia.” We, he writes, exacerbate “social conflict [when] people’s expectations go up with rising standards of living.” (p.184)  Damn.  So I’m part of the problem.  And unfortunately, it will be some time before I’m the solver instead. 


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