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The Tangled Threads of Democracy

The Tangled Threads of Democracy

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Published by zelienople
01/14/06 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams
01/14/06 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams

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Published by: zelienople on Oct 30, 2009
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10/29/2009

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The tangled threads of democracy
The Norman TranscriptJanuary 14, 2006 12:15 am— For The TranscriptOur political choices are numerous -- some trivial, some serious. We might choose Democrats, Republicans,conservatives, reactionaries, radicals or more than likely some confused mixture of them. On rare occasionswe might even turn up a genuine independent. Among the various systems readily available to us,"democracy" seems the most appealing to the majority. The difficulty is the word "democracy" has multiplemeanings often gratifying the emotions rather than expressing a substantive idea.The threads holding democracy together are principally truth, loyalty, reason and objectivity. Critical is thethread of meaning, common understanding. All of us who use the word should have a clear sense of what weare talking about and be able to define it simply and clearly. One way to put it is to say democracy is a formof social and political organization which all members of the group have not only the right but also theopportunity to participate in determining the principles, the policies and the direction of the group. And theyshare equally the required taxes and burdens.In one sense life is an obstacle course; we are compelled to clear first one hurdle and then another. Perhapsthe most difficult is one we rarely pause to analyze -- "the control sequence" -- parents, schools andauthoritarian institutions often exercising authority with an air of infallibility. Until we can become self-directing and intellectually independent of authoritarian institutional controls, we are not grown up. And untilwe grow up, democracy can never be fully realized. In a genuinely democratic group decisions are collectiveones; everyone affected has a fair degree of influence. In final analysis, dictatorial, manipulative andauthoritarian administration and "leadership" are anti-democratic. This is also why the idea of a democraticarmy is a contradiction.Straining the threads binding our democracy are increasing population and technological proliferation. Theseguarantee four things: a more complicated life and society; more dependence upon one another; moredifficulty in stabilizing democracy and making the system work with fairness and justice. Whether we like itor not these conditions call for more controls. The question is not will there be more controls; the question iswill they be equitable, humane and efficient. The political left accepts the dictum: The more complicatedsociety the more inescapable the controls. The political right, having abandoned concern for balancedbudgets, equitable taxes and diminished government disagrees, so their objections are not very persuasive.Economic irresponsibility threatens to sever the threads of democracy. Waste is critical. Waste of petroleum isstaggering. The automobile industry is beginning to reap the whirlwind and ournation is suffering the anguishof prodigality. Especially waste of oil in war is a crime. During the Vietnamese war we squandered untoldmillions of pounds of petrol flying booze, cigarettes and diplomats across the Pacific. The first two served anidentifiable function; the latter was naive extravagance. Now wechange the geography and continue much thesame waste. Such carelessness destabilizes the economic foundations of our democracy. For stability we musthave abundant resources permitting trade and production of useful goods readily at hand. Minimum food,clothing and shelter must be available. The public must have employment and feel assured of a regularincome. The value of money must be stable, with no faction -- labor, corporations or financiers -- dominatingthe others. Fair taxation, a minimum need for paternalism supported by a steady state economy richlycontributes to a solid foundation for political democracy.The myth of "rugged individualism" undermines a thoughtfulfoundation. We should face reality: The frontieris closed; the "six gun" is substantially useless, needed only by the police, and the industrial division of laborbinds us one to another. Our industrial-technological society is dependent upon cooperation, integration andcoordination. Ignoring these facts suggests weare writing history on the sands "that leave naught for

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