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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Happy Election Day

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a piece of paper—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.”

Winston Churchill--1944

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on November 3, 2020 at 08:23 AM | Permalink


"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."


Posted by: Edward Cantu | Nov 5, 2020 3:23:37 PM

Cf. the following snippet from Nadia Urbinati’s brilliant book, Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth, and the People (Harvard University Press, 2014), which is a spirited and rather sophisticated defense of democratic proceduralism: “The circularity of giving authority and checking on authority is what makes the power of opinion [doxa] so hard to define scientifically and to regulate normatively, yet so indispensable practically. This complexity and elusiveness brought David Hume to define ‘public opinion’ as a ‘force that makes the many easily governed by the few and the few unable to escape the control of the many.’ After the casting of ‘paper stones’* one by one, it is the circular movement of opinions that links citizens among themselves and bridges state institutions. [....] No matter how rich and articulate the, the open arena of discussion [which gives shape and rhetorical power to doxa] does not change the arbitrary character of voting and does not make citizens more competent or their decisions more correct. It is not for the sake of achieving some desirable outcomes that democracy relies upon voting and an ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ public debate, to use Justice Brennan’s classic formula. Rather, it is for the sake of citizens enjoying and protecting their liberty. [….] We enjoy the right to vote not because this allows us to achieve good or correct outcomes (although we might go to the ballot with this aim in mind) but in order to exercise our political freedom and remain free while obeying, even if the outcomes that our votes contribute to producing are not as good as we had foreseen or as would be desirable.”

* An expression, Urbinati reminds, coined by Friedrich Engels, although I suspect it is now well-known as a result of it becoming the title of a 1986 book co-authored by Adam Przeworski and John Sprague, Paper Stones: A History of Electoral Socialism.

Incidentally, should anyone be interested, one of the 121 bibliographies on freely available on my Academia page covers “elections and voting” (it will be updated anon).

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Nov 4, 2020 3:31:16 PM

anon, another way to put that was the British grandee who upon losing reelection said "the people have spoken, the bastards."

Posted by: PaulB | Nov 4, 2020 11:08:49 AM

I match your Churchill with H.L. Mencken: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Posted by: TS | Nov 3, 2020 5:38:47 PM

"Forget what I said"

- Winston Churchill, July 6, 1945

Posted by: Anon | Nov 3, 2020 1:12:01 PM

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