Latin America

The Return of the Sandalistas

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Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag, takes on the newest generation of American political pilgrims in Slate (For a thorough exegesis of fellow-traveling American intellectuals and celebrities, see Paul Hollander's classic study Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society):

In fact, for the malcontents of Hollywood, academia, and the catwalks, Chávez is an ideal ally. Just as the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called "useful idiots" once supported Russia abroad, their modern equivalents provide the Venezuelan president with legitimacy, attention, and good photographs. He, in turn, helps them overcome the frustration John Reed once felt—the frustration of living in an annoyingly unrevolutionary country where people have to change things by law. For all his brilliance, Reed could not bring socialism to America. For all his wealth, fame, media access, and Hollywood power, Sean Penn cannot oust George W. Bush. But by showing up in the company of Chávez, he can at least get a lot more attention for his opinions.

As for Venezuelan politics, or the Venezuelan people, they don't matter at all. The country is simply playing a role filled in the past by Russia, Cuba, and Nicaragua—a role to which it is, at the moment, uniquely suited. Clearly, Venezuela is easier to idealize than Iran and North Korea, the former's attitude to women being not conducive to fashion models, the latter being downright hostile to Hollywood. Venezuela is also warm, relatively close, and a country of beautiful waterfalls.

An explanation of the waterfall reference can be found here.

The fractured and listless opposition seems to be finally gaining steam in Venezuela, buttressed by by former defense minister Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel, a close Chavez ally who helped reinstate the president after the 2002 coup, who publically broke with the government and called the proposal to rewrite the already rewritten consitution "in effect a coup d'état" and a "nondemocratic imposition that would put us into tragic retreat." As Simon Romero wrote in yesterday's New York Times, the government is increasingly worried about student opposition groups: "Apparently alarmed by the intensity of student-led street protests in recent weeks, the president described student leaders as 'rich bourgeois brats' and said authorities could restrict permits for future demonstrations." Venezuelan blogger Miguel Octavio has details on the student protests here. Another Venezuelan blogger, Daniel Duquenal, on Gen. Baduel's stunning about-face here.

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  1. See? In a democratic country, when the ruling party governs badly, the opposition gains strength from popular discontent, leaders switch parties, and the system regulates itself.

    Trust Democracy.

  2. Anne’s psychology is very shrewd and precisely on point, but the fact that two airheads have gushed over Chavez is not quite the “trend” she makes it out to be.
    Furthermore, one feels compelled to point out that Chavez, while determined, if not destined, to destroy both democracy and economic growth in Venezuela, has not, you know, INVADED A NATION THAT WAS NO THREAT TO HIS COUNTRY, or, you know, TORTURED AND MURDERED THE INNOCENT AND LIED ABOUT IT, like, you know, DONALD RUMSFELD and DICK CHENEY and GEORGE BUSH. Maybe sometime Ms. Applebaum will apply her formidable intellect to the sins of her own nation. There’s plenty of material.

  3. Why no post yet on Musharraf’s power grab? I know we like to get our traditional two minute hate on over Hugo here on H&R every two weeks or so, but doesn’t the dude with nukes and OBL in his backyard merit a mention?

  4. the fact that two airheads have gushed over Chavez is not quite the “trend” she makes it out to be

    Yet somehow the first comment in this thread managed to be from an airhead gushing over Chavez (while pretending not to, by sarcastically adopting some “America, Fuck Yeah!” language no one but a Chavez-gusher would use).

    How odd.

  5. Oh, look, “Chavez is a thug” has been so thoroughly humiliated that he won’t even post a name anymore.

    ha ha.

  6. Matt Yglesias makes a good point about the strange attention Chavez seems to get from the usual suspects.

    http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/11/analogies_3.php

    As with every post on Venezuela and Chavez, I’m still wondering why I should give a fuck.

  7. Trust Democracy.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  8. Alan V,

    As in the runup to the Iraq War, leading off the Two Minute Hate by talking about people from Hollywood is what propagandists do when they are attempting to use foreign policy as a tool to wage Red/Blue wedge politics.

    It encourages the simpleminded to view every subsequent point and comment in terms of whether it is sufficiently contemptuous of those who don’t join in the hatin’.

  9. Joe if Chavez is true Democracy so is Vladimire Putin. You know Putin has won just as many elections in Russia as Chavez has ever won and Putin is a hell of a lot more popular among his people to boot. I gaurentee you an opposition candidate in Venezuala would do a lot better than Garry Kasparov (a great and brave man with virtually no support from the Russian people) will. It is interesting how you come on here and give Chavez tongue bath after bath but never seem to share much love with poor Vladamire. What, do you just not like Russians.

  10. See? In a democratic country, when the ruling party governs badly, the opposition gains strength from popular discontent, leaders switch parties, and the system regulates itself.

    Unless it doesn’t. Or it, you know, devolves into a dictatorship (which happens under your beloved “democracy”) and 6 million Jews die or something.
    Trust Constitutionally Limited Government and Individual Rights.

  11. …which is why Moynihan’s very last post on the subject, about the public opposition to Hugo’s latest power grab, also lead off with a reference to a supermodel visiting Chavez, before getting into the meat of the story.

    “Sure, the story makes me look like I’ve been completely wrong for years, but hey, you don’t want to be like one of those Hollywood types, do you?”

    It’s the same reason Ron Bailey invokes Teh Gore every time he reports on something that makes the global warming denial position even less tenable.

  12. John,

    Every election Chavez won was certified as fair and open by international monitors.

    Putin? Not so much.

    If you can’t tell the difference between a free election and a Cuba-style charade, you really shouldn’t try to comment on the progress of democracy in other countries.

  13. Whoa Alan! Are you serious? I had no idea the US was doing that kind of thing. It’s good that you used so many CAPS or I probably still wouldn’t know.

    Here’s hoping that all of our writers and authors stop writing about anything but the Bush Administration and the Iraq war. Then our problems will be solved.

  14. Jamie Kelly,

    Ever read the Chinese Constitution? With its limits on the power of government and its protection of individual rights? It’s a downright inspiring document.

    But if the people aren’t allowed to express themselves freely at the polls, it’s just a piece of paper.

  15. Man, I wish we had a national referendum on constitutional amendments approved by the national legislature.

  16. Joe,

    Putin doesn’t need to fix elections. He is madly popular. That doesn’t make him a good guy, but he is madly popular in Russia. That fact and winning an election doesn’t make him any less of a thug. Why you can see that fact with regards to Putin but can’t with regard to Chavez says a lot about you.

  17. joe – Just because people inappropriately link Hollywood douchebags to Venezualan douchebags, it does not mean that both are not, in fact, douchebags.

  18. Ever read the Chinese Constitution? With its limits on the power of government and its protection of individual rights? It’s a downright inspiring document.

    Don’t blame me for the hypernationalist and hyperculturalist tendencies of the Chinese that prevent them recognizing individual rights.

  19. Comparisons of Putin and Chavez are meaningless.

    Both are showing evidence of dictatorial behaviour.

    I’ll trust them when they actually do relinquish power. (Putin says he will not have a third successive term, but he is also making noises about taking the Prime Minister’s office after he ceases to be President and perhaps returning as President in 2012.)

  20. John,

    Diito with Chavez – at least until recently, he was wildly popular.

    The difference is, Putin actually did fix his elections, and Chavez didn’t.

    You know, John, whether thing happen in the objective world outside your head doens’t depend on how convenient they are to your political preferences. This is easy shit to look up – elections in Venezuela have been certified as fair and free by international monitors, and elections in Russia have been laughable farce even since Putin came to power.

    Yes, the fact that I draw a distinction based on objective, demonstrable facts says a lot about me.

  21. joe, I posted this referring to Venezuela’s proposed constitutional changes last week.

    J sub D | October 31, 2007, 12:42pm | #

    joe, I’ll bet that the proposed changes are adopted with minor, window dressing changes. I’ll also bet that Chavez will die in office, be executed/imprisoned by a military coup or live out his days in exile. IOW, he will never relinquish power honorably. Please save these predictions so you can throw them in my face when I’m proven wrong by events.

    Hoping that you get to do that,
    J sub D

    Damn, I hate repeating myself.

    1. He died in office, J sub D. You were right of course. Love ya, man! Your internet MIL

  22. Every election Chavez won was certified as fair and open by international monitors.

    Which is EXACTLY why democracy is overrated.
    OVER-RATED! thump, thump, thump-thump-thump.
    OVER-RATED! thump, thump, thump-thump-thump.

  23. North Korea hostile to Hollywood? I thought Kim Jong-il is a movie buff and considers himself a genius film producer. We could probably bring down his regime by offering him a 10-picture deal with Dreamworks.

  24. Jamie,

    Nice little racist dodge. Maybe you should tell it to the Taiwanese.

    You know how you don’t trust the government to protect you by monopolizing the bearing of arms? How you think that individual members of the public need to have that power themselves, or the government will eventually roll right over their rights?

    Ditto with political power. If the people running the government doesn’t have to worry about what the people are going to do with their ballots, they feel a lot more free to start pushing them arond.

  25. Aresen,

    Don’t trust Putin. Don’t trust Chavez. Don’t trust Musharrif. Don’t trust George Bush. Don’t trust Hillary Clinton. Don’t trust Ron Paul.

    Trust Democracy.

  26. Joe you miss the point. The fact that Chavez won an election doesn’t give him the right to be a thug and do the things that he has done. You act like winning an election is some sort of morality car wash, which is bunk and you know it. So what if Putin’s elections were not certified, go and find one expert on Russian affairs who doens’t admit the obvious that Putin is really popular. Can you sit here with a straight face and say that if the elections had been certified, you wouldn’t have any problems with Putin? If you do you are either a liar or a complete authoritarian who thinks that winning an election allows a leader to do anything.

  27. North Korea hostile to Hollywood? I thought Kim Jong-il is a movie buff and considers himself a genius film producer.

    He’s still miffed at that whole Team America thing.

  28. Democracy can’t be trusted to keep demogogues from coming to power. Obviously, we’ve got plenty of examples of that.

    But democracy, and only democracy, can be trusted to keep those dictators from being able to consolidate their power and carry out their unsavory policies unimpeded.

  29. “North Korea hostile to Hollywood? I thought Kim Jong-il is a movie buff and considers himself a genius film producer. We could probably bring down his regime by offering him a 10-picture deal with Dreamworks.”

    The problem is that if you go to North Korea and Dear Leader likes you or your work, you might not be able to leave.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3892439

  30. Areson,
    Don’t trust Democracy. Don’t trust joe.
    Both suck.
    Trust constitutionally limited government and individual rights.

  31. “But democracy, and only democracy, can be trusted to keep those dictators from being able to consolidate their power and carry out their unsavory policies unimpeded.”

    No Joe, only the rule of law can do that. If the people themselves support the dictator taking power, democracy is not going to stop them. Sometimes entire populations take leave of their senses. No one wants to admit it afterwards but dictators are often very popular when they are seizing power.

  32. But democracy, and only democracy, can be trusted to keep those dictators from being able to consolidate their power and carry out their unsavory policies unimpeded.

    You’ve, uh, read our Constitution, right? Right joe? Read it, have you?

  33. I guess I can address the previous comment to John, too.

    Being democratically elected doesn’t make Chavez good. That’s not why we should trust democracy.

    Right now, I’m trusting democracy to get rid of him, because he’s not a good president.

    I’m talking about democracy, the system, John. All of this good guy-bad guy stuff is coming from you. I think we need to support the democratic system even when it puts a bad guy in office. As long as the people can participate in free and fair elections, he won’t stay there too long.

    Once upon a time, you used to claim that spreading democracy was something that was important to you. If it actually is, you’re going to have to gain a better understanding of the difference between the terms “democratically elected” and “a good guy.”

  34. I cannot wait to see how much of their rights and liberties the People of Venezuela vote away from themselves. The proof is in the tasting. Lets not get too worked up until Hugo has all the power he wants, and still can’t solve the problems his people are facing. You cannot vote competence into a human, and you cannot vote prosperity into existence.

  35. I am not saying throw Chavez out of power Joe. I am not saying invade the place. I am just saying call Chavez out for the thug that he is. If the Venezualan people want him as their leader that is their business. But just because that is the case, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world should pretend that Chavez is anything but what he is.

  36. joe,

    Don’t trust Putin. Don’t trust Chavez. Don’t trust Musharrif. Don’t trust George Bush. Don’t trust Hillary Clinton. Don’t trust Ron Paul.

    So far so good.

    Trust Democracy.

    A swing and a miss.

    Democracy is a tool. Like a hammer (I know, I know, weve had this discussion before, you are still wrong).
    Dont trust your tools.

    Trust freedom.

    If (and its a bigger if every election it seems) democracy leeds to freedom, then it is a useful tool. If, as in the hands of Chavez, it leads to tyranny, it is a useless tool. Dont be deceived by the tool. Look at the results behind the tool.

    Is there a better tool for reaching freedom? Probably not, but its still a tool.

  37. “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.”

  38. Trust constitutionally limited government and individual rights.

    I remember going around on this one with joe a while back. When he says, “Democracy”, he assumes that stuff like limited government and individual rights are included in the definition. So, he essentially agrees with you. I guess he isn’t coming right out and saying that because he enjoys arguing too much.

  39. Jamie Kelly, John,

    Trust constitutionally limited government and individual rights.

    No Joe, only the rule of law can do that.

    China has both a government-limiting, individual-rights-supporting constitution and the rule of law. How’s that going?

    The modern, liberal republican form of government requires both those things – but it requires democratic elections as well. The ballot is power, and you cannot trust the government to stay within its constitutional limits, respect individual rights, and conform to the rule of law – to respect the people’s God-given rights – unless they have the power to turn abusive governments out of office.

    Sometimes, the people will go off the deep end, and use their power unwisely. That’s the way it goes – we’re not angels. But any systemm can put an abusive leader in power. Democracy is the one that does the best job turning them out of power before the streets start running with blood.

    That’s why democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

    Anyway, it’s good to finally have a thread about democracy in Venezuela that is actually about democracy in Venezuela, and not obsessed with choosing up sides over who opposes Chavez enough.

  40. John,

    I’ve got nothing against what you write at 3:14.

    But when you start talking about a country not being democratic – as opposed to a particular leader not being good or respectful of rights or whatever – you get into some dangerous ground.

    Especially with all of all of these naive neoconservatives running around. They think they’ve been called by God to spread democracy at the point of a sword, and that America is honor-bound to violate the sovereignty of undemocratic nations.

    So, save the venom for Hugo. Don’t be dissing
    Venezuelan democracy just because the free and fair elections haven’t turned out the way we’d like lately.

  41. joe

    But any systemm can put an abusive leader in power.

    Bingo. You finally get it. This is why you shouldnt trust democracy. Trust no system that can put an abusive leader in power.

    You are just too trusting. 🙂

  42. There is one difference between Chaves and Lennin, Chaves was elected.

  43. As the China and Soviet Union examples demonstrate, a terriffic constitution without free and fair elections doesn’t accomplish much.

    Can anyone think of a country where there was an operating, legitimate democratic system at the same time that the government was carrying out Stalin- or Mao-level abuses?

  44. There’s another difference, Nanny. The big, important difference: Chavez has to put his continued rule up to a vote in free and fair elections every few years.

    How do you think Stalin would have polled in Ukraine?

  45. shecky,

    I’m sort of the same opinion.

  46. joe,

    Can anyone think of a country where there was an operating, legitimate democratic system at the same time that the government was carrying out Stalin- or Mao-level abuses?

    England as it was starving Ireland via the Corn Laws?

    Not sure if it qualifies on either end.

  47. robc,

    Actually, America during the Indian Wars would count, too.

    But IIRC, in both cases, the victim-groups didn’t have the vote.

    Andrew Jackson didn’t ethnically cleanse any white people, and the Crown wasn’t starving people in the Midlands.

  48. We keep seeing stories about these big street protests and growing opposition groups in Venezuela.

    They don’t seem to be receiving the same response from the government that they received in Burma.

    I don’t think the difference lies in the personality of Hugo Chavez, but in the democratic system that exists in his country, and the restraint that such a system imposes on his freedom of action.

  49. But IIRC, in both cases, the victim-groups didn’t have the vote.

    Im not sure that should matter. Slavery wasnt tyrannical under a democracy cause the slaves couldnt vote. See? Sounds stupid.

  50. robc,

    You read that exactly backwards.

    I’m saying, when there is a population that a government has jurisdiction over, and which doesn’t get the vote, the government will by tyrannical towards them.

    I’m saying, the difference between how the government treated the Irish and how they treated the English was a consequence of the former lacking the vote, and latter having it.

  51. joe is right if he is claiming that participation in government can be an important check on the exercise of government power. But it is no guarantee against such.

  52. No, it is no guarantee.

    But the absence of the vote is a guarantee that the government will become abusive.

    The only way to keep politicians in line is to threaten them with the loss of power.

  53. joe,

    I get to vote and Im paying what I consider a tyrannical tax rate.

    its just a matter of degree. Its not the killing fields. Yippee!

  54. The only way to keep politicians in line is to threaten them with the loss of power.

    The 2nd amendment works better than the vote.

  55. “INVADED A NATION THAT WAS NO THREAT TO HIS COUNTRY”

    Point-of-fact: I always stop reading when I hit this crap.

  56. The only way to keep politicians in line is to threaten them with the loss of power death.

    As they say, fixed that for you. The 2nd Amendment, which was not a popular initiative, BTW, protects the populace from mob rule, and turncoat demagogues. As a matter of fact, in NH we have a clause in the State Constitution that allows for the Right of Revolution. Does Venezuela have these protections against tyranny?

    [Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

  57. DangerMan,

    Does Venezuela have these protections against tyranny?

    According to the theory behind the right it doesn’t have to be expressly stated in any governing document for it to be recognized and exercised.

  58. “Trust Democracy.”

    There are but two things in life to be trusted:

    The power of G-d and the power of a loaded 12-gage.

  59. Interesting. I suppose I agree.

  60. its just a matter of degree. Its not the killing fields. Yippee!

    Yeah, exactly. When joe says, “Trust Democracy”, he’s basically defining “Democracy” to make his statement work. Also, he’s not claiming that Democracy won’t result in all kinds of death and abuse, only that it will eventually right itself. So, ultimately, he’s making a pretty weak claim that a lot of people here would agree with, but in a way calculated to spur argument, which he enjoys very much.

  61. joe | November 6, 2007, 3:05pm | #

    Aresen,

    Don’t trust Putin. Don’t trust Chavez. Don’t trust Musharrif. Don’t trust George Bush. Don’t trust Hillary Clinton. Don’t trust Ron Paul.

    Trust Democracy.

    If you take “Democracy” to mean a system wherein personal liberties are protected, I agree.

    However, if it only means a system in which each “free” individual has the franchise, I don’t trust it any more than any other form of government. An unlimited democracy may not be as much a threat to liberty as an outright dictatorship, but the threat is still there.

    I freely admit that many constitutions – China’s for example – are meaningless bits of paper, but a democracy is no guarantee of personal liberty.

    For an example close to home, in Canada in 1970, the democratically elected Pierre Elliot Trudeau used the War Measures Act to suspend right of assembly, freedom of speech, and ordered detention without trial. This was directed at the FLQ and it was wildly popular – approved by over 75% of Canadians.

  62. “you cannot vote prosperity into existence.”

    America did in 1980.

  63. I see S of S (and joe’s reply to same) beat me to it.

    Must type faster…

    😉

  64. Aresen,

    I don’t trust a system to protect personal liberties, absent the people having the power to change the government.

    Sure, you’ll find shortcomings and examples of abuses. They pale in comparison to what dictatorships do.

    A government that respects individual liberties is the goal, not a description of a government system. Of course we all want a government system that protects rights – the question is, what system of government will do the best job of approaching that goal?

    So put me down for “the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

  65. I honestly didn’t expect to have this debate.

    Based on all the bile I’ve had spewed at me for writing that Venezuela is a democracy, from people accusing me of selling out democracy, I sort of thought that support for a democratic system of governance was more or less universal around here.

  66. “Everyone remember Bush and Putin’s first meeting?”

    Yes, six years ago. What of it?

  67. I honestly didn’t expect to have this debate.

    The exact same debate we have had about 3 times before? Really, you didnt expect it?

  68. So put me down for “the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    Agreed, Mr joe Churchill. 😉

    Except I’d add:

    “That which governs least, governs best.”

  69. I sort of thought that support for a democratic system of governance was more or less universal around here.

    No, not really. No anarcho-libertarian would say that, and amongst the others, what you are seeing is opposition to a full democracy, which is the tyrrany of the majority.

    Most around here would be for constitutional republics, minarchies, that sort of thing. Definitely not the mob rule of a true democracy.

  70. I prefer a system with democratic features to “democracy.” Like Lord Acton, I distrust anything too democratic. A tyranny with a dictator can be dealt with by removing the dictator. A tyranny with the majority at the top? How do you remove the majority, once it’s in power? There’s a difference between a republic operating with the consent of the governed and a democracy, you know.

    A mixed system is better for liberty, and the more democratic we become, the fewer checks on power we’ll have, and the less free we’ll be, ultimately. That’s why I think the death of federalism, the popular election of the Senate, etc. are bad things. Those were all checks on the majority oppressing minority interests. All gone.

    Consider Athens. It was a real democracy, at least for its citizens. Yes, Athens did some great things, but it also grew amazingly tyrannical–both in its relations to other city-states (ask the Melians) and to its own citizens (ask Socrates).

  71. As for Chavez, we will have to wait and see if it comes down to violence in Venezuela. With a number of powerful people opposing changes that would make Hugo caudillo for life, it seems like he will have to back down. However, you never know what he might do; he has tried a violent coup before.

  72. Well, we’ve had any number of threads about democracy in Venezuela.

    They didn’t go in this direction.

    It’s almost enough to make one think that all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about The New Stalin wrecking democracy, and about my dastardly propensity to find their shrieking implausible, was a load of bull from people looking for an excuse to madmouth a lefty. People who don’t have any principled attachment to democracy at all.

    That part didn’t surprise me.

  73. Pro Liberate,

    Unless the majority and minority political factions are also divided along other, impermeable lines – race, class, ethnicity, or some other fault line – the two groups are highly unlikely to remaing the same for any length of time.

  74. Joe,

    I trust “Liberal Democracies”, not democracy for the sake of democracy.
    Without a system of checks and balances that prevents a Putin/Chavez from riding a wave a populist sentiment to power, only to then turn around and alter the rules to ensure that he or she stays in power, democracy as and end in itself means nothing.
    Check out Fareed Zakaria’s “The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad”.
    There need to be strong institutional underpinnings to check the passions of the masses. Sadly, Venezuela doesn’t have them.
    Check out the latest issue of The Economist – Chavez just took a big step toward turning Venezuela into another Cuba. It is only a matter time and a few more “constitutional amendments” before that ballot box isn’t going to mean much down there….

  75. “We keep seeing stories about these big street protests and growing opposition groups in Venezuela.

    They don’t seem to be receiving the same response from the government that they received in Burma.

    I don’t think the difference lies in the personality of Hugo Chavez, but in the democratic system that exists in his country, and the restraint that such a system imposes on his freedom of action.”

    Joe,

    I live in Venezuela, in fact, right next to one of the Universities were protests are common. While these students were not treated like those in Burma, there have been shootings, assaults and at least, one death (of course, you may not know about this since the press is not so “free” in Vz anymore). Chavez, as you pointed out, did not react like the government in Burma, not because he is a fair guy or even because he felt he couldnt, but because he knows NOW is not the time, he knows that his oppossition is gaining a little strength, but he is certain that he will win the Constitution Referendum (AND NOT FAIRLY) and once he has set up shop as a full-fledged dictator THEN he will react like the government in Burma.

  76. joe,

    We got into this discussion in my first Constitutional Law course. The traditional American viewpoint about why we incorporated democratic features into our republic is that it gives our government legitimacy and accountability. Obviously, democratic principles and liberty are not either-or propositions–they can work together to achieve common goals. But liberty was the goal, not democracy. Of course, that value proposition appears to have changed–which I think is a bad thing.

    As to your point about the majority changing, that doesn’t matter. As we can see from the behavior of the political parties, “this can happen to you” seems to have little force as a deterrent to those in power today. And, as you know better than many, Hitler was popularly elected. Democracies final acts can be to elect tyrants. Even short of actual evolution into dictatorships, a democratic majority can always be flexible about the minority it wants to tyrannize, in order to maintain its power.

  77. People who don’t have any principled attachment to democracy at all.

    So what you are saying is that you don’t have the slightest understanding about the political philosophy of the website where you like to hang out all day. You haven’t learned a thing in all your arguments here? Your constant whining about lefty-hate while ignoring righty-hate is just another manifestation of your partisan inability to see criticism of leftists not as some right-wing partisanship?

    joe, if you don’t understand the problem libertarians have with democracy after all your posting here, you must be the most obtuse dude on the planet.

  78. Pro Liberate,

    I am in agreement with you 100%.
    It needs to be pointed out, however, that Hitler wasn’t elected to the power, he was actually appointed. The National Socialists did do well in the regular election, however.
    And this point does not detract at all from the point you were making.

  79. Athens did some great things, but it also grew amazingly tyrannical–both in its relations to other city-states (ask the Melians) and to its own citizens (ask Socrates).

    Thanks PL, I was trying to remember the incident where the Athenian assembly condemned the Melians (Melitians?), I kept coming up with Ephesos instead.

  80. Episiarch,

    Since you seem so keyed up about it, let me put your mind at ease: I didn’t think the people who’ve spent so much time on these threads wailing about Chavez destroying democracy were actually making principled arguments out of an attachment to people’s (or the people’s) right to participatory democracy.

    I actually do understand the right-libertarian view of democracy pretty darn well at this point.

  81. Pro Libertate,

    Technically that isn’t true. Hitler was appointed because it was thought that he could be a well-behaving creature, which didn’t turn out to be the case. Even in those national elections in which the Nazis allowed the Nazi party failed to secure a majority of the seats in the Reichstag; they had to seat a coalition government.

  82. Aresen,

    Melians, as in Thucydides’ Melian dialogue. Melitians were an Egyptian religious sect or something, I think.

    I’m a fan of a lot that came out of Athens (and out of Rome), but I’m not delusional about their truly awful side. The lovely art and architecture on the Acropolis, for instance, came from misappropriating the treasury of the Delian League.

  83. Pro Lib, I think a lot of people are misunderstanding my point. I’m not saying that democracy is sufficient by itself, so we need not worry about constitutional limits, liberty, or rights.

    I’m saying that democratic accountability is a necessary part of maintaining liberty, limited government, and rights.

    As to your point about the majority changing, that doesn’t matter. As we can see from the behavior of the political parties, “this can happen to you” seems to have little force as a deterrent to those in power today. Come, now. We see things happening that we don’t like, but the difference between what Bush can get away with and what the Chinese or Burmese government can get away with is like night and day.

  84. I actually do understand the right-libertarian view of democracy pretty darn well at this point.

    Obviously not, because you are conflating libertarianism with right-wingery, by using the term “right-libertarian”.

    If you are saying that you understand the few posters here (such as John) who could be accurately described as right-libertarian, that’s one thing. But if you think that Reason and the majority of posters here are a libertarian variety of right-wingers, then you are, as usual, hopelessly partisan and woefully uninformed.

  85. I’m going to stop replying to you now, because you’ve retreated into your standard “You’re just a partisan!” defensive crouch, and experience suggests you won’t manage another comment of any value.

  86. Pro Libertate,

    Consider Athens. It was a real democracy, at least for its citizens. Yes, Athens did some great things, but it also grew amazingly tyrannical–both in its relations to other city-states (ask the Melians) and to its own citizens (ask Socrates).

    I’d take living in Athens any time over living in Sparta, particularly if I were a slave. I have no desire to be hunted down and butchered by aspiring homoioi youth.

  87. That’s good, joe, because arguing with your bone-headed partisanship wouldn’t gain anybody anything. You’ve indicated within the last few posts that you a) know nothing about the people you argue with, and b) continue to think of us a right-leaning when that is patently ridiculous.

    It’s nice that you’ve made your ignorance and unshakeable biases plain as day, though. Not that anybody thought differently, but having you spell out complete non-understanding of core libertarian priciple is a bonus.

  88. It’s worth pointing out the Athens was hardly a democracy in the modern sense. The severe limitations on enfranchisement, for example – of course a government isn’t going to respect the rights of people who don’t have the power to turn it out.

  89. Wow, whiny little thing, aren’t you?

  90. I’m going to stop replying to you now

    I don’t think so. You’re too combatative for that. And easily manipulated!

  91. I think the issue here is one of the appropriate venue for dissent.

    Yes, of course based upon the premise America has committed terrible crimes of unprovoked war, dissent, protest, and argument is necessary and, as they say, patriotic. It is, however, the most insidious act of infantile treachery to bandy such discontent for the world’s stage side by side with the enemies of the country you call home and that feeds you (in the case of Penn, Glover, Spacey, et al. quite well at that). It is in bad taste, and for the wealthy gliterati, hypocritical considering he is an avatar of destructive collectivism.

  92. Joe, quick question:
    Now that the polls indicate that most Venezuelans do not favor unlimited Presidential terms or most of the proposed Constitution ammendments (unlike prior polls on Presidential Election 2006 that indicated that Chavez lead- so it was no surprise to you that he won), if the Referendum is voted with a mayority “YES” this December, will you be surprised? Will you be willing to concede that maybe the elections are not as “fair” as you would like to think they have been?
    Even the ExMinister of Defense Baduel declared yesterday that “fraudulent procedures” may be used to impose this regimen on the Venezuelan people.

  93. Peter,

    Hugo Chavez isn’t Osama bin Laden, or even Saddam Hussein.

    He’s never done anything to the United States but insult George Bush at the UN and donate some heating oil for poor people. Is that enough to start branding people enemies?

    What makes him my enemy, as opposed to just being the international version of the political opposition?

  94. Come, now. We see things happening that we don’t like, but the difference between what Bush can get away with and what the Chinese or Burmese government can get away with is like night and day.

    I wasn’t going there. We’re still operating under limited government–I’ve never said otherwise. My point was that each iteration of our government, when in power, asserts the power it wants to, to the extent that it can, without worrying about precedent. The next government does the same. Thus, we see the shackles on our government grow looser and looser, and fewer and fewer. We simply cannot rely on a changing majority to protect us.

    As for the scope of Athenian democracy, well, of course it didn’t enfranchise people on the scale that we do today, but, on the flip side, the enfranchised population were part of a true democracy. We aren’t even close to that. Unless I’ve been missing votes on the budget ?

    S of S,

    Oh, yeah, no Sparta for me, either. Democratic Athens (or even oligarchic Athens) was a heck of a lot better than most societies before modern times. Ditto Republican or Imperial Rome.

  95. rana, I don’t know if you have argued with joe before, but he is impervious to anything other than his own beliefs and opinions. Just because you, you know, actually live in Venezuela, means nothing to joe.

    Just wanted to give you a heads up on that, and also, I hope things don’t get too dangerous in Venezuela.

  96. Melians, as in Thucydides’ Melian dialogue. Melitians were an Egyptian religious sect or something, I think.

    IIRC, both Melos and Melitos* were members of the Delian League. (Stealing the treasury has lost it’s appeal nowadays, when most nations’ “treasuries” are a pile of IOUs)

    *Not to be confused with Melita of the Caffeine League.

    OTOH, 2500 years from now, how many people are going to be able to keep “Mississippi” and “Missouri” straight?

  97. Episiarch,
    No. Never argued with him before.
    Im curious to see if he will post “Trust Democracy” on December 3rd, after the Referendum.
    For my sake and for Venezuela’s sake, I hope he does, and Ihope he gloats because that would mean the Referendum did not pass and I will still be living in a somewhat-free country.
    As far as dangerous, I’m afraid it is getting a little crazy down here Thanks.

  98. rana,

    I don’t know very much about turnout in Venezuela. Would you say that the Chavezistats are more, less, or equally riled up as the opposition? It’s actually pretty common for a passionate minority to win referenda against a less enthusiastic majority. In the US, we sometimes have elections with under 20% turnout, which opens the door to all sorts of unpredicted outcomes.

    I certainly hope the elections are monitored and found to be fair and free, as the last couple were. Are there plans for the Carter Center or other international groups to monitor the polling? I certainly wouldn’t put it past Chavez to pull some electoral shenannigans. The man launched a coup, after all.

    As for whether the elections were fair, I’m not going to make any assumptions based on whether I like the outcome. I’ll wait for the reports from the monitors.

  99. Oh, don’t read that.

    I’m a terrible, terrible person, rana.

    Thank goodness there are people looking out for you!

  100. Aresen,

    Don’t forget the Miletans, who can claim to have invented philosophy.

    In a couple millennia, they’ll be talking about Miss Issippi and Miss Ouri, two river goddesses worshiped by La Mericanadians.

  101. “In a couple millennia, they’ll be talking about Miss Issippi and Miss Ouri, two river goddesses worshiped by La Mericanadians.”

    Throw another spic on the fire…

  102. When demagogue numero uno has managed to accumulate sufficient wealth and power to make a good target, the petit-demagoguerie are likely to realign themselves.

    As for trusting democracy, I see no reason to be enthusiastic about the prospect of an endless series of wealth transfers from the productive few to the envious many, facilitated by a special class of elected do-gooders. Not to mention the insatiable yearning of those same do-gooders to save me from myself.

  103. In a couple millennia, they’ll be talking about Miss Issippi and Miss Ouri, two river goddesses worshiped by La Mericanadians.

    Not to mention the Nawleaners, who sacrificed themselves to the river goddess by drowning, the Californicators, who were Shakeandbakers, and the Great White Northerners, who melted away.

  104. In a democratic country, when the ruling party governs badly, the opposition gains strength from popular discontent, leaders switch parties, and the system regulates itself.

    Getting ahead of yourself, aren’t you, joe? The opposition hasn’t won yet, and Chavez just gets more and more entrenched as the new draft of their constitution advances.

    Trust democracy

    No, thanks. Democracy that is not controlled and limited is inconsistent with personal liberty. It is a necessary but not sufficient component of governing a free society.

    But democracy, and only democracy, can be trusted to keep those dictators from being able to consolidate their power and carry out their unsavory policies unimpeded.

    joe says this despite numerous democracies that have failed to do just that.

    Is it too early to Godwin this thread? I can barely resist the, umm, MittelEuropean example at this point.

  105. RC Dean,

    The MittelEuropean example involved a leader who never won an election, who was appointed according to a democracy-limiting constitution, and who subsequently cancelled elections. Not terribly applicable, I’m afraid.

    Getting ahead of yourself, aren’t you, joe? The opposition hasn’t won yet I’m describing the process in motion.

    joe says this despite numerous democracies that have failed to do just that. Name one – and try to get one right.

  106. Anyway, elements of both the American left and right have their cause c?l?bre less than savory foreign leaders. A pox on both their houses.

  107. Don’t trust Putin. Don’t trust Chavez. Don’t trust Musharrif. Don’t trust George Bush. Don’t trust Hillary Clinton. Don’t trust Ron Paul.

    Trust Democracy.

    In other words, we should trust the system that continually gives us rulers who are untrustworthy. I’m sure there is an alternate universe where that makes sense.

  108. Joe

    Yes, Chavez has repeatedly called our President (like him or not) the Devil, he has referred to America as an evil imperial den of iniquity, and I would venture that his aim in providing the aid you spoke of, which I hadn’t forgotten about, was simply some token gesture to foment popular discontent. Short of mounting an attack, he has done everything to make it clear we are his nemesis, and anathema to the principles of his ideology.

    So to clarify, I don’t necessarily consider an enemy someone with whom we must be in open combat. I do, however, find it to be an act of direct animosity on a diplomatic scale to come to a country’s soil as a foreign leader, and call that country’s leader the equivalent of pure evil, no matter how stupid or inept he is. A line was crossed … call me old fashioned.

  109. I honestly didn’t expect to have this debate.

    Why’s that? It’s not the first time you’ve been through this same debate:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/122472.html#784390

    joe: “In a democracy, even if you invest way too much power in the executive, he can’t get too out of hand, of he’ll be tossed out and that power handed to his opponents.”

  110. Peter,

    A line of decorum was crossed, but it would probably be wise to set a higher bar for declaring people to be our enemies.

    Mike Laursen,

    In most of the Chavez threads, people at least pretend to be supportive of the democracy he is supposedly threatening. That’s all.

  111. …the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called “useful idiots”…

    Or, as I like to call them, “The Sarandonistas”…

  112. Isn’t a democracy a form of government? That is, having someone tell you what is good for you? That is, is it not, an admission of personal incompetence?

    As a married man I don’t need a government to remind me of my human frailties. 2 wolves, 1 sheep, no way, Man. One wolf and a dozen sheep will get you the same menu. Until the sheep get an opposing thumb and can carry a gun it’ll always end up the same way.

  113. Just as the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called “useful idiots”

    Did Lenin really say this? I saw a report once that the term is not found in his speeches or writings, and in a quick search I couldn’t find any example of Lenin using it. Does anyone have a reliable source connecting him to “useful idiots.”

  114. Interesting that the Hollywood Revolutionaries seem to pick out tropical locations for their activities. Haven’t seen much of Sean Penn in downtown Minsk or Pyongyang lately.

  115. “I don’t know very much about turnout in Venezuela. Would you say that the Chavezistats are more, less, or equally riled up as the opposition? It’s actually pretty common for a passionate minority to win referenda against a less enthusiastic majority. In the US, we sometimes have elections with under 20% turnout, which opens the door to all sorts of unpredicted outcomes”
    I would say there are two types of Chavistas: those who are getting something out of him being in power (i.e. government officials, some business men, thugs) and fanatics (I actually have seen people hang pictures of Chavez on their wall right next to their picture of Jesus Christ. These are the people that truly scare me because they support Chavez no matter what he does or says or how bad the country falls apart. They LOVE him because he talks to them as one of them, he relates to them, he makes them feel important. Chavez can be quite the charmer).
    So, Yes, the Chavistas are as riled up as the opposition. What is also scary is that many civilians in Venezuela are armed, and crime is rampant and the authorities are coneviniently absent.
    As for a low voter turnout, well, that’s exactly how Chavez got elected in the first place.

  116. Just a little note to let you know how tensions are rising:
    Last Monday, the brother of Pedro Carreno, Minister of Internal Affairs and Justice, SHOT another person during a heated debate on the Constitution Referendum.
    It certainly seems this government is run by THUGS.

  117. Actually, rana, I’d consider it very good news that the Chavez supporters are “equally” riled up. I would have expected them to be much more motivated.

  118. “See? In a democratic country, when the ruling party governs badly, the opposition gains strength from popular discontent, leaders switch parties, and the system regulates itself.

    I hope to god you’re not fucking dumb enough to actually believe Venezuala is a legitimate democracy. But then again, you have proven in the past to be an ass-kisser to the dictators. You are one of the useful idiots discussed the touted piece.

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