‘We the People’ are a frightening and ignorant beast

For today’s column, I have to give due credit to my colleague Nathaniel Miller who writes the Friday column ‘Ramble On.’

In his most recent article, he aired his support for Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy movements around the country, but clarified his position in an online comment after someone asked him whether he supported the Tea Party rallies in 2009 and 2010 in the same way.

“When a collective group of people feel their rights have been kicked around get together to do something, regardless of their political views, it makes me proud. Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, it doesn’t matter,” Miller wrote.

While he’s a cynical misanthrope on most other occasions (as all good former cops reporters tend to be), this swell of optimism for the publick caught me off guard.

I have this debate with lots of people, usually liberals or people tending left, but also on the right, there are plenty of populists.

And I tell them: The second worst to happen to American governance was turning the nomination process for president into a drawn-out copy of the presidential elections.

The worst thing was the direct election of U.S. senators.

Now, politically, I would probably count myself as libertarian. That is, I believe people should have the right to do a lot of stupid stuff. Something need not be beneficial to be permissible. And, if people are allowed to be out on their own and do a lot of stupid stuff, by the trial and error of many individuals, true genius and best practices will find their way to the top to be emulated.

I have faith in individuals, or at least I have faith in random chance and statistical outliers. But I don’t have faith in people, especially when they gather en masse to decry and demonstrate and “change things.”

It’s partially our fault in “the news,” of course. (Isn’t it always?)

Douglas Adams, the author of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame, pointed out that himself trying to support the preservation of rhinos was boring, but if he and a group of people traded off hiking up to Mount Kilimanjaro in a foam rhino suit, media would cover it as an oddity. Something interesting.

If someone writes a scholarly essay on the corrosive effects of corporations on government, or someone pens a detailed study of the enormous amounts of government waste, you and I don’t care, and it’s difficult then for television, radio or newspapers to care, either.

But if a group of people get together with signs and chant slogans and dress up in costume, suddenly it’s worth giving attention to, and need have no basis in fact or reason.

We’re all very good at dramatic action, we’re fantastic at complaining, at demonstrating at calling for change. Occasionally, we even actually vote and put someone new in. But, what we’re very bad at is soberly studying the people who represent us, holding them accountable for what they do and why, and actually wanting our representatives to do what we say we want them to do (i.e. cut government spending and pork, but be sure the Department of Energy sends grants the way of Summit and UTPB).

We the people are a frightening and ignorant beast. And even watching demonstrations (and counter demonstrations), people still don’t understand what’s so awful about direct representation in government.

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