We are the heirs of the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; consummate, liberty-loving rebels who fully embraced a grand social experiment. An idea designed to offer all people an abundance of freedom; the freedom to live a full life unimpeded by oppression and censorship by the Church or the State.
They loved this idea so deeply that they incited an armed revolution against England, the great
superpower of their day, in order the make their
dream a reality.
They argued that freedom is nothing if it isn’t
absolute, and they worked to make it absolute by fashioning a constitution that guaranteed the
greatest level of personal freedom for every
Additionally, wherever a weakness to those liberties was discovered, they introduced a
constitutional amendment to address any
problem that threatened to make us less free.
These men and women that gave birth to
America absolutely abhorred suppression and
With such great champions of personal liberty as our trailblazers, how do we find ourselves in this nasty state of affairs, where the new goal of American patriotism is to crush the rebels among us and force them to conform?
The answer I have to offer here is twofold:
First, Americans today are easily and often
Second, America today is not a democracy, it is
Demagogy simply means:
“Ruled by a demagogue or demagogues”;
where a demagogue is defined as:
“a political agitator who appeals with crude oratory to the prejudice and passions of the mob."
And America, with its three hundred
million strong; media addicted population,
comes fully equipped with its own massive,
prejudiced and passionate mob.
Hypersensitivity runs in our blood. There is a
perennial “Well, I never…!” ringing through the
very puritanical American psyche.
We all tend to despise those who don’t think like
us, and we clamor towards those who share our
thoughts and feelings, who voice and articulate
the thoughts that we think, and who often are the very people who put the thoughts in our head in the first place.
This tendency to embrace those who read our
thoughts and speak our minds for us is known as demagogy. It is a social phenomenon that goes back to ancient times. It was rampant in the late Roman Republic when the empire devolved into a jumble of conflicting political alliances that had nothing to do with political philosophy and everything to do with popularity and people-pleasing. All that an aspiring demagogue had to do to gain power was to appeal to a particular social group’s biases and prejudices, and then promise to make their dreams a reality.
“You want to eat but not have to work? You got
“You want me to feed all the Christians to the
lions? I can make that happen.”
Demagogues give a voice to our deepest and
darkest yearnings and can often make them a
reality. They are not so much leaders as they are
trigger men; promising results with little or no
concern for consequences.
This is where the democratic experiment
invariably goes awry. Every majority group
eventually discovers a spokesperson who is
willing to champion their group morality. He or
she will do whatever it takes; propagate, legislate, litigate; whatever steps necessary to get results, even if it means trampling on the rights and liberties of others.
The bigger the demagogy, and the more
powerful the demagogue, the more damage can
be inflicted on the opposing camp. In this way, liberty becomes the spoils of victory,
not the birthright of every citizen.
“A society that does not recognize that each
individual has values of his own which he is
entitled to follow can have no respect for the
dignity of the individual and cannot really
know freedom.” Friedrich Hayek