We Are *Not* Better People

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”
–U.S. District Judge John Jones’ decision in Whitewood v. Wolf

This quote caught my attention because it perfectly summarizes the beliefs and mindsets of the progressive vanguard of our society.

It also caught my attention because it is completely wrong.

As Francis Fukuyama points out in The Decay of American Political Institutions, (article now behind a paywall, book forthcoming later this year), Americans know little about how our version of democratic government compares to the functioning of other democratic governments.  He highlights the American faith in representative democracy, and how the division of power among the independently elected legislators supposedly yields a system responsive to the people yet immune to undue influence and lobbying, in contrast to the supposed corruptibility of executives, judges, and bureaucrats.

While he makes several excellent points about the effectiveness of this system, and whether or not it is operating “as intended,” I want to focus on his observation that several significant civil rights victories were the result not of the people acting through their elected legislators, nor the result of executives or bureaucrats using their authority.  Instead, these rights were litigated for, with considerable delay and at considerable expense, in response to individual grievances which had to wind their way through the federal court system, very often to the Supreme Court itself.

Gay marriage is one such issue.  11 states have legalized it through referendums or legislative votes, but 8 were forced to legalize it via court decision.  8 additional state laws have been ruled unconstitutional and are pending appeals.  40 states outlawed it as recently as within the last 20 years. Source

While the language of Judge Jones’ decision is flowery and triumphant, it is also clearly untrue; I see little evidence that the majority of Americans have “become better people” with respect to gay marriage in the last 20 years.  The majority of Americans, via their most representative branch of government, continue to oppose gay marriage.  It is once again only after considerable expenses and delays in courts that citizens have been granted their rights by judges, rather than by the vote and support of their fellow citizens.  Is America progressive?  It appears so.  Are Americans progressive?  It seems rather clear that we are not.

This is not a condemnation of “activist judges.”  This is not a commentary on the correctness or incorrectness of Judge Jones’ decision.  It is not a statement supporting or opposing gay marriage.  My purpose here is to point out that Americans’ civil rights are continuing to be advanced despite American voters and the will of the people.  While I don’t feel like digging into Moldbug and linking chapter-and-verse tonight, I must mention that this is clearly an instance of public policy trumping politics, or that of the experts ruling the people, something which doesn’t bode well for the future of our democracy.

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9 thoughts on “We Are *Not* Better People

  1. There’s so much confounding in your post that perhaps some answers to questions might clear the confusion.

    Are you arguing that gay marriage is an advancement of civil rights? If so, would you please expound upon what you mean when you civil rights?

    It is my understanding that Moldbug does not advocate for democracy, as we generally use the word, but that he also does not advocate for collectivist rule by a religious authority, which is how he describes our current socio-political society and names it the Cathedral. Do you mean to say that democracy is set for failure and to be replaced by religious authority (the Cathedral) or do you believe experts are modifying our laws in the interest of a collective good? How do you reconcile this to Dark Enlightenment concepts that the good of a people is best sought by an executive – even a monarch – deeply invested in the success of that people?

    • Yes, I was struggling to write this out clearly. Let’s try again via answer your questions.
      ***
      “Are you arguing that gay marriage is an advancement of civil rights? If so, would you please expound upon what you mean when you civil rights?”

      My point here does not hinge either on my own view of gay marriage as a civil right, nor does it hinge on a theoretical “ultimate” answer on whether gay marriage is right or wrong.

      Rather, my point here is a variation on a theme I raise constantly; that the mindset of our liberal, educated elite is both self-contradicting and incompatible with democracy.

      In this case, a judge made a ruling and explained it by saying that “the people” had changed. Except, as historical legislative activity shows, the people *haven’t* changed. The popular fervor in support of these types of decision and this type of language reveals the Progressive bent for using the courts to achieve “what is right” rather than what is lawful; clearly corrupting the system. They are willing to accept, even actively seek, intervention by experts, rather than the legitimacy of the legislative process representing the people. This is where I tie in Moldbug’s idea that we actually favor “scientific-public-policy” over “politics.”
      ***
      ” Do you mean to say that democracy is set for failure and to be replaced by religious authority (the Cathedral) or do you believe experts are modifying our laws in the interest of a collective good?”

      I believe that a significant portion of the American public prefers government-by-expert a’la Moldbug. Further, the increasing use of the justice system over the legislative process indicates this portion of American people are more interested in implementing “scientific public policy” and/or a very specific worldview through any means necessary, than by accepting the authority of the will of the people/popular sovereignty. In this regard, America’s “democratic spirit” is already dead.
      ***
      “How do you reconcile this to Dark Enlightenment concepts that the good of a people is best sought by an executive – even a monarch – deeply invested in the success of that people?”

      My argument was neither for nor against democracy. I was merely documenting another step in the death of democratic government in America. Does my article make more sense after I state this more clearly?

  2. In PA the media has found a reason to feature it on the news every night since the decision. They can’t get enough of splashing smooching dikes on the 10 o’clock news. They’re laughing like hyenas while rubbing the hoi polloi’s nose raw in it.

  3. Pingback: We Are *Not* Better People | Reaction Times

    • I presume you refer specifically to this passage, wherein Justice Alito defends popular sovereignty against Justice Kennedy’s preference for rule-by-expert:

      “Writing in dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, criticized Kennedy for “strik[ing] down a state law based on the evolving standards of professional societies, most notably the American Psychiatric Association,” rather than respecting the judgment of Florida lawmakers. “Under our modern Eighth Amendment cases,” Alito argued, “what counts are our society’s standards—which is to say, the standards of the American people—not the standards of professional associations, which at best represent the views of a small professional elite.””

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