Most of civilization is the story of a small group at the top controlling armies, knowledge, and faith; a leader and retainers running what this blog now calls a kleptocracy. The elite made most history, and wrote all of it. It was life’s natural order.
Yet as knowledge spread widely following the printing press and Protestantism’s empowering the individual to read the Bible and manage his own faith, the idea grew that power lay with the people. Democracy eventually flourished with the American Revolution.
Republicans used to be fond of arguing the U.S. is “a republic, not a democracy.” The U.S. constitution provided for indirect election of the president, gave state legislatures the power to appoint senators, created an unelected third branch of judges with lifetime appointments, and restricted voting to literate, free males. We had a small ruling class and the masses, whom Federalist Alexander Hamilton called “a great beast.” Republicans used to fear the beast.
Times have changed (see graph). In the eyes of Democrats, society today is properly constituted with an elite open to anyone and chosen by merit, benevolently ruling over masses of victims. Someone has to rule on our behalf, and it should be our “best and brightest.” Democrats are sensitive to their need to rule well the ruled.
America’s leading universities, the elite’s important training ground, search for brilliant representatives from all major interest groups, future leaders who themselves will be elite “stakeholders” representing their interest groups at the top. The Democratic elite rules through a permanent bureaucracy, chosen by merit, and a network of interest groups, headed by “stakeholders”. What’s wrong with this picture?
Republicans today feel left out of this government + governed structure. Big government, a gift of Democrats, gets in the way of free people making their own choices through the capitalist system of competition, with hard work producing winners, and slackers becoming losers. We fight, we win, we lose, we win, we don’t wait around for government to help us. Capitalism, not government, made America great. Big government, in fact, threatens the very exceptionalism that is the American success story.