I'm one of those people who gives his Congresscritters hell about everything. I email them and call their offices anytime a piece of crap legislation comes down the pipe, and I often get their canned responses telling me they're going to do this or that, regardless of what I say. The recent bailout bill was no exception. I emailed both Senators and my Congressman about that steaming pile of destructive garbage several times, and I called their offices and had protracted discussions with their lackeys about it. Without exception, each of them told me that public opposition had been overwhelming, quoting numbers of calls and emails received in ratios anywhere from 25:1 to 300:1 against the bailout. I was encouraged that the public had finally mobilized and made clear its wishes to our representatives in Congress, and I thought that such indisputable public outcry might mean the bailout bill would meet an appropriate end as bedding in some kid's hamster cage. Unfortunately, my optimism was unfounded, and Congress took us further down the road to economic ruin by passing the $700 billion bailout. What a great day for democracy, huh?
I now know, beyond any doubt, that representative democracy is a complete and total sham. In one stroke, Congress has shown complete and utter contempt for those they are elected to serve. By voting against the wishes of the public they have illustrated that they don't give a damn what we think, and that they believe we're all far too stupid to know what's good for us. It's not that I had any great faith in democracy to begin with, but this just puts the final nail in the coffin.
So what happened? Put simply, members of Congress do not have your interests at heart when they go to vote on a piece of legislation. There are a few exceptions, but by and large they are all working to further their own agendas and pet projects. In some cases, their intentions are good, but because government really has no way of knowing whether or not it's doing the right thing (because it neither profits nor suffers loss as a result of its actions), the policies undertaken are nearly always disastrous.
Really, it's not even a problem with the people in government. On the one hand, they're just people like you and me...no smarter than us, no less fallible, no more immune to the trappings of vice and greed...yet they are somehow expected to be immune to normal human failings simply because they've been elected. Even the most noble-minded individuals, once elected to seats of power, are soon swallowed up by the machinery of bureaucracy...the plethora of perverse incentives, the focus on procedure over outcomes, the complete lack of meaningful feedback, the near total insulation from the possibility of being replaced during the next election. Then of course there are the malevolent, power-hungry, career politicians, who will do or say anything to get elected, then focus completely on their own enrichment at the expense of taxpayers. Either way, we (the public) lose.
It can be no other way. These flaws are built into the machinery of government, and as romantic an idea of a Constitution that limits the power of government may be, it is obviously powerless to constrain the desires of Leviathan. Those who seek power will use it to gain more power. Those who can get away with doing whatever they damn well please despite the wishes of those who elected them will do so without fear of retribution. It is a grave error to believe otherwise.
How, then, can we expect government to protect us, to work toward the betterment of society, or to make anything better? The fact is that we can't, and we shouldn't. Government can defend us no better than we can defend ourselves. Government can provide for us no better than we can provide for ourselves. Government can do nothing good for society when it institutionalizes all the worst things of that society...violence, fraud, coercion, theft, you name it. Government is the manifestation of all these things, and as if that weren't enough, it wields the power of force to bend us all to its will.
I'm done. I refuse to participate any longer. I won't get out of bed any earlier on November 4th than on any other day. I will still grudgingly pay my taxes simply because my refusal to do so would impose costs on others who don't share my views. This great democratic experiment has been a colossal failure, and I only hope that someday others wake up to this reality and decide not to participate anymore as well.