March 31, 2011


Guha, Ramachandra, ed., Makers of Modern India (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England, 2011) (In Makers of Modern India's "Part Four, Debating Democracy," the following passage from C. Rajagopalachari's "Wanted: Independent Thinking" appears. "No thinking of civil life, no 'ism' will work satisfactorily unless the citizens in the democracy are willing to undertake the responsibility of thinking and judging for themselves. . . . Instead of independent thinking and free judgment, the manners of parrots have been growing among men, even among those rightly credited with intellectual capacity of a high order. They repeat the words uttered by the established guardians without paying thought to the meaning and the implications. I am not objecting to any particular opinion but to the parrot culture that has seized the country." Id. at 402. "What I plead for is a climate of independent thinking among citizens. It is no good imagining it is there when we see no sign or symptom of it. Without this essential accompaniment, self-government through democracy will prove itself to be a house of cards." Id. at 403. "Democratic civil life calls for independent thinking among the citizens--among the governed as among the governors, Criticism and reply, and counter-reply makes for health in the air. Diseases of corruption and intrigue are by a process of natural hygiene driven out in such an atmosphere. Burke said he liked 'clamour'. 'I am not of the opinion,' he said, 'of those gentlemen who are against disturbing the public repose. The fire-bell at midnight might disturb your sleep, but it keeps you from being burned in your bed'." "If subservience and slavish adulation takes the place of independent thinking and criticism is never resorted to but with fear and trepidation, the atmosphere quickly breeds the political diseases peculiar to democracy. . . . We need an Opposition that thinks differently and does not just want more of the same, a group of vigorously thinking citizens which aims at the general welfare, and not one that in order to get more votes from the so-called have-nots offers more to them than the party in power has given, an Opposition that appeals to reason and acts on the firm faith that India can be governed well as a democratic Republic, and that the have-nots will not reject sound reason." Id. at 403-404. Food for thought: High on the list of disheartening attributes of Americans is their tradition of anti-intellectualism and, as a consequence, their tendency toward group think. You see it demonstrated time and time again on talk radio, in television news reduced to entertainment, in the boardrooms of corporations where even so-called 'independent, outside board members' are cronies of the CEOs who championed their election to the board of directors, in universities and colleges where academic freedom is dying (if not already dead) and faculty-governance is nonexistent, etc. When in their day-to-day nonpolitical life people don't engage in independent thinking, it is not reasonable to expect that they will engage in independent thinking when it comes to politics. Americans think of themselves as 'free and independent people' when, in fact, they are group-thinking sheep. What "Opposition" exist is America is marginalized and silenced, for to simply raise questions, such as "What alternatives were considered?, Were any alternative considered? Might this be a viable alternative?, is considered an act of disloyalty and disgruntlement. Strength requires resistance. Good decision making requires multiple perspectives, including potential opposing perspectives. Good government, good management, etc., requires independent thinking. Yet, for the most part, all we get is recycled group think.).

Kristol, Irving, The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942-2009 (New York: Basic Books, 2011) (From the essay "High, Low, and Modern: Some Thoughts on Popular Culture and Popular Government" (1960): "It is often said that 'mass culture' is the price we pay for democracy. That all depends, of course, on what we mean by democracy. If we mean by democracy nothing more than government which is freely consented to by the people, then this may well be so. In that case, one can either deny that 'mass culture' poses any problem at all, and attribute our unease to the influence of 'pre-democratic' standards of taste and culture upon our laggard imaginations; or one can seek reassurance in the belief that 'mass culture' is only a passing phrase of democratic evolution, and that in due course of time the level of popular taste and judgment will rise to nobler heights. Both alternatives involve an act of faith in The People, resting on the premise that what emerges from them is necessarily good and/or necessarily self-correcting." "This may be called the populist religion of democracy, and there is no question but that it is the most common in our day. This can be seen from the frequency with which our publicists and statesmen make appeal to 'the democratic faith' and 'the democratic creed' as against other faiths and creeds, notably communism. It is also interesting to observe that when the advertising and television industries feel the need to perform acts of 'public service' they conceive of their mission as 'selling' this democratic faith to all and sundry." "Like all political religions, this one is relatively invulnerable to rational examination and critique. But, again like all political religions, it has to face the test of reality. And the reality seems to be that this idea of popular government, insofar as it is most loyally put into practice, has a tendency to become unpopular. There is certainly more open dissatisfaction with 'the democratic faith' in America today than there was fifty years ago, when the barest hint of skepticism was tantamount to treason. Nor is there anything paradoxical about this state o f affairs; it simply reflects the fact that what people want (or think they want) is not inevitably identical with, and may even contradict, what they need (i.e., what will truly satisfy them)." "But this is not the only conception of democracy, And though it is now sovereign as an ideology it is not the idea on which democracy in America and Britain was founded and which to a greater or lesser degree still rules actual operations of government, That this is so in the United States is demonstrated by pointing to the existence of the Supreme Court--nine judges, appointed for life, with the power to nullify legislation (no matter how popular) that, in their considered opinion, is 'unconstitutional' (a concept more vague than precise). There can be no doubt that, were a constitutional convention to be held today, no such thing as a Supreme court could be set up; it would be regarded as flagrantly 'undemocratic.' . . . Yet the Supreme Court, as originally established has become an almost sacred institution, with which no politician dares tamper. In part, this is a sanctity that comes naturally with age, But in larger part, it is a tacit recognition that democratic government is something more than government that is popular in its origins: it is government that seeks justice as it aim." Id. at 104, 114-115. For further reading on Neoconservative thought, a good place to begin is Mark Gerson, ed., The Essential Neoconservative Reader (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1996), which includes pieces by, among others, Irving Kristol, Ruth Wisse, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. From it book jacket: "The word 'neoconservative' was first used as a term of derision for disgruntled ex-liberals of the 1960s. Perhaps because of this, there has never been a central credo or organization unifying neoconservativism as a movement. With this collection, however, neoconservativism is cast in a new light, portrayed as a comprehensive outlook on economics, politics, society, and culture linked by common principles and a distinctive vision." Well, I am not so sure about that last sentence. Still, it is worthwhile to read this collection to understand where neoconservativism began.).

Shapiro, Ian, Democracy's Pace (Ithaca & London: Cornell U. Press, 1996) ("Minorities and majority rule, that is our subject. It is famously an American one. The tricky task for this constitutional democracy is to devise 'ways of protecting minorities from majority tyranny that are not a flagrant contradiction of the principle of majority rule.' . . ." Id. at 16. "From the beginning the American preoccupation with majority rule was different. The problem was to domesticate and institutionalize an idea whose historical purpose had been to destabilize institutions. In the context of a society that, if not fully pluralist, appeared to lack one fundamental socioeconomic cleavage characteristic of nations with a feudal past, Americans would be first to confront the fact that the minority harmed by the working of majoritarian process need not be a rich and powerful elite; it could be a dispossessed racial or religious minority. American democratic theorists continue to be preoccupied with the logical properties of majority rule and its fairness from a neutral or 'bird's eye' standpoint, and they are often deeply troubled by discoveries that it can general arbitrary outcomes as a result of cyclical majorities, strategic voting, and control of the voting agenda. Yet my central contention here is that a great deal of this concern is misplaced. . . ." Id. at 17. This is interesting background reading. However, a word of caution. Published in 1996, the essay in this collection have a tone of triumphalism: that democracy had beaten its intellectually bankrupt opposition (remember the Soviet Union had collapsed seven years early. Now, however, one sees authoritarian China very much on the rise, with democracy there not very evident. Or, one sees Russia transformed, but without much real democracy. So, smug as we were that democracy had a firm footing for the future, we now see the authoritative model--the Beijing Consensus, as it is called--creeping into American political life. Think about the top-down decision making and group-think that dominates America's (failing) corporate institutions. Then, think about how that model of corporate governance is being incorporated into political governance.).

Shapiro, Ian, The Real World of Democratic Theory (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2011) ("An important truth underscored by the most serious financial collapse since the Great Depression is that experts often know less than they are willing to admit--even to themselves. The sheer complexity of the financial crisis forced governments to continue working with many of the architects of the system that failed, and, partly, for that reason, pressure has mounted to subject them to new regimes of accountability. As governments have scrambled to pick up the pieced, questions concerning by whose authority they act and for what purpose are thrown into sharp relief. If technocrats are to be subservient, one again, to democratic control, we need to know what that means, why it is justified, how it is established and maintained, and how it can work in the face of contemporary challenges. With the technocrats on the defensive, democrats might have the upper hand--at least for a while. This makes it all the more incumbent on them to rethink democracy from the ground up, doing what they can to help it rise to the occasion. That is my agenda here.' Id. at 18-19. "Some will question why a committed cosmopolitan democrat should defend any national security policy. Should our cosmopolitanism not commit us instead to the creation of a global democracy that would render any account of the appropriate relations among states besides the point, if not already obsolete? Not necessarily, or so I argue here. A cosmopolitan commitment to democracy does involve endorsing the view that democracy is the best system of government, and supporting democracy's spread across the globe, but it is a huge leap from embracing this commitment to arguing for a wold government. Making the latter move is neither desirable nor feasible, as one one can see by examining the main arguments that have been put forward in support of world government." Id. at 159.).

Singer, Peter, One World: The Ethics of Globalization (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2002) ("Democracy, in the sense of the rule of the majority, does not provide a guarantee that human rights will be respected. But a democratic process requires that the policies of the government must be publicly defended and justified. They cannot simply be implemented from above. Although some of us may have the capacity to commit terrible crimes, many of us also have a moral sense, that is, a capacity to reflect on the rights and wrongs of what we are doing, or what our rulers are doing. That capacity emerges in the public arena. A small group may plot genocide, and inspire or terrify their followers to carry it out, but if genocide has to be defended on primetime television, it will become rare indeed. Even when the Nazis had been in power for eight years, ruling without opposition and making use of all the means of propaganda that Goebbels could devise, they did not dare to be open about what they were doing to the Jews. Himmler told a group of SS leaders that their work in exterminating the Jews was 'an unwritten, never-to-be-written, glorious page of our history.' If it had been possible to ensure that every page of Nazi history were written as it happened and offered for discussion to the German people, it is hard to believe that the Holocaust would have taken place. When the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunal screened a film of Nazi concentration camps made by Allied military photographers, some the the defendants appeared visibly shocked. Even they may not have grasped exactly what the results of their policies looked like, close-up. Open procedures and public scrutiny may not be perfect bulwark against genocide, but they do help." Id. at 136-137.).

Stout, Jeffrey, Blessed Are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) ("Central to the spirit of democracy, as I understand it, is a people's disposition to care about liberty and justice for all and to act in ways that make this concern manifest. Caring involves taking an active interest in something in contrast with being apathetic about it or unconcerned with it. Caring about the goods of liberty and justice for all is manifested in striving for their realization in law and public policy; in joy, relief, or satisfaction when liberty is protected or justice is done; and in anger, grief, or disappointment when these goods are violated. But it also involves a disposition for the condition of the republic and thus to treat one another as citizens." Id. at. 12. "Hope is not the same thing as thinking that what one ardently desires is likely to happen. It is the virtue one needs when grim facts might tempt one to give up on promoting or protecting important goods. In this case the goods are liberty and justice, and the temptation is to assume that they are now essentially out of reach. The temptation, in short, is despair. Democratic hope is a virtue that needs grounds, but not grounds capable of demonstrating that the goods in questions will in fact be achieved, or are likely to be achieved, if we behave in a certain way. They are grounds for thinking that we have a chance of making a significant difference for the better." Id. at 283.).

Tulis, Jeffrey K., & Stephen Macedo, eds., The Limits of Constitutional Democracy (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (From Jeffrey K. Tullis & Stephen Macedo's "Introduction: Constitutional Boundaries": "Our large theme is failure and success in constitutional making, or the limits of constitutional democracy. The convergence of recent scholarly work in political science and law and political events throughout the world make this a timely project inside and outside of the academy. The number of new constitutional texts written in support of regime formation in the past thirty years is astonishing. The profusion of ideas and scholarship on constitution making also marks a milestone for social science, which had long neglected the study of laws and constitutions, and for legal studies, which recently added the study of constitutional design to its usual emphasis on constitutional interpretation and analysis of court doctrine." "This world wide effort in political and academic arenas is, however, marked by a kind of ambivalence. On the one hand, there is considerable optimism that constitutional democracy represents a high point, if not a culmination, in the history of political life. . . . On the other hand, for all the attractiveness of the idea of constitutional democracy, establishing it in practice has proved difficult in many new regimes throughout the world, as the Russian case and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan vividly illustrate. Constitutional democracy is at once an attractive idea and a daunting enterprise. There are limits to the possible establishment, to say nothing of the flourishing, of the idea of constitutional democracy." Id. at 1.).

Wolfe, Alan, & Ira Katznelson, eds., Religion and Democracy in the United State: Danger or Opportunity? (New York: Russell Sage Foundation; Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (From the Ira Katzenelson, "Conclusion: Reflections on Religion, Democracy, and the Politics of Good and Evil": "At the core of this volume is a persistent probing of these questions: What are the implications of the range of diversity in American religion for the public sphere? How do the hard-wired and reinterpreted rules about establishments and expression shape how citizens think and act, organize and mobilize, politically? How do America's patterns of political participation, when motivated by religious conviction, affect the tone, content, and scope of democratic process? Does the organized mobilization of religious principles and persuasions improve or detract from desirable qualities within American democracy and its politics of policymaking? With so much diversity of conscience and ways of life, and with so many contesting controversial ideas, how, further, can the polity discover toleration for views and behavior thought by others to be wrong, repugnant, or even sinful." "These issues reverberate across the array of chapters, including the empirical designations of the remarkable heterogeneity of religious expression and organization in the United States. . . ." "Read together, they remind us that there has been a dominant solution in the United States to problems of religion and politics that, elsewhere, often has produced curbs on liberty and organized intolerance and even widespread violence. This orientation is the one Nancy Rosenblum's essay [in Chapter 12, "Faith in America: Political Theory's Logic of Autonomy and Logic of Congruence"] calls 'political congruence'--the implicit requirement that religious groups respect democratic rules and practices, present themselves in public life not by appealing to religious meanings or revealed truths but to public reason, and strategically pursue the creation of political, not doctrinal, majorities, thus respecting the basic rule of social choice of finding 50 percent plus one in circumstances of religious pluralism where no single denomination can come close to possessing such a majority. Political congruence, she persuasively argues, is both the result and a producers of religious moderation. Americans tend not to assault or kill each other for their faith. In turn, political participation can moderate religiously motivated desires and demands, opening possibilities for compromise. Congregational experiences prod political participation and prepare citizens for a democratic give and take. Vibrant religious expression and a public sphere that is democratic can go hand in hand provided there is a recurring discovery of arrangements that refuse both the option that the state actively promote religion and the alternative of a stark separation of church and state that too effectively limits the presence of religious associations and claims in public life." Id. at 410, 414-415.).

Wolf, Christa, A Model Childhood, translated from the German by Ursule Molinaro & Hedwig Rappolt (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980) ("Any other information, however, did not concern them. The curtailment of certain personal freedoms (just as an example), announced on March 1, 1933, would hardly affect their lives, because so far they had obviously not planned any publications (freedom of the press), or participated in mass meetings (freedom of assemby): they simply had not felt the need. And as for the order that 'searches and confiscations beyond the limits of legality' were 'permissible for the time being,' why, that was aimed at a category of people with whom they simply had nothing in common, so to speak, to state things as they were without any value judgments. They were not Communists, although their thinking was socialist in tendency, and they voted the Social-Democratic ticket, the same as 6,506 citizens of the town. Of the 28,658 votes cast, 15,055 had already gone to the Nazis, but one didn't yet have the feeling that evey single ballot was being checked. The Communist representatives, elected by 2,207 diehards, especially in the Brucken suburb, had not yet been arrested (although they were to be, twelve days later), and there were 3,944 unemployed in the town--a number which was to be reduced to 2,024 as early as October 15, 1933. But should one--can one--accept this alone as the explanation for the resounding success of the National Socialist Party on November 13 of the same year, when the town of L., with a voter participation of almost 100 percent and a negligible number of invalid ballots, had the most yes votes in the Ostmark district?" "Bruno and Carlotte Jordan had not abstained from voting. That couldn't be done any longer." "Those people were contolling everything now." "(Who are we to put irony, disgust, scorn into these sentences when we quote them?) Whether Charlotte and Bruno Jordan mustered the required abhorrence for the 'systematically prepared acts of terror' perpetrated by the Communist, which were said to include 'massive poisonings,' and about which Reichminister Hermann Goring could have produced not one or two but 'hundreds of tons of material proof'--if such had not endangered the security of the Reich and state--is to be doubted. He sure piles it on thick, Charlotte Jordan used to remark on such occasions, but whether she said it at that particular time has not been recorded. Nobody will ever know if they racked their brains about the location of the 'vaults and secret passages' in their open town through which the Communists 'everywhere' tried to escape the police and the law. Certainly nobody could have objected to the new theme song of the official radio station: 'Trust and honesty every day.' It was one of the first melodies Nelly sang in its entirety and without any mistakes, and whose powerful text ('A villain's lot is always hard') reinforced in her, early and ever more firmly, the deeply rooted inborn link between good deeds and well-being: 'Then you will walk thorough life as if on verdant fields.' A lasting image." Id. at 37-38.).