06 May, 2008

Democracy Frightens Me

Our cantina sees a parade of stupidity every single day. There's never a shortage. Quite the opposite: every day, I face the dilemma of having far too much stupid to cover. You'd be appalled at the sheer volume of fuckwittery that ends up on my cutting room floor.

This is why democracy scares the living shit out of me sometimes.

That's been brought home to me recently by Hillary Clinton's stellar example of political pandering. She's a smart woman. She's an incredibly sharp politician. So what does that say for the electorate when she has to play a big dumb doofus in order to win votes away from Barak Obama?

The depressing thing is, I predict it'll work. People will look at her gas tax holiday bullshit and lose what little capacity for rational thought they still have. "Ooo, gas will be 18 cents cheaper!"

It won't.

But truth doesn't penetrate enough skulls.

It bounces right off the shield of righteous numbskullery that allows people to believe that praying at the pump will magically lower prices.

Ricochets off of the good old American determination not to think.

Lies bruised, battered and bleeding.

This country has developed a suicidal adoration of idiocy. Scientists used to be celebrated as heroes. Now they're denigrated and dismissed. Science can't offer certainty, so it gets booted. Astrology is in. The "low information voter" rules.

And democracy becomes not the tyranny of the majority, but the tyranny of the willfully misinformed.

What does it say about our capacity to govern ourselves when politicians spout such inanity in order to appeal to voters? When smart policy decisions are penalized and "a pony for the people" promises are lapped up? When we base our voting decisions on who has the best (but not expensive, heaven forfend) hair? When personality trumps perspicacity?

Nothing good.

And yet... and yet... There's a glimmer of hope.

It's just possible that the stupid has gone too far.

Americans, you see, have pride. And pride gets deeply offended when the government expects you to be a raging idiot.

The Bush Administration has treated this country like a collection of drooling imbeciles, and I'm starting to see some signs of discontent.

Bush's support is the kiss of death when it comes to political success these days. Republicon seats are falling to Democrats in solid red districts.

One of Hillary Clinton's supporters actually said, "I do feel pandered to when you talk about suspending the gas tax... Call me crazy but I actually listen to economists because I think they know what they've studied."

Ye gods. A glimmer.


Did I fear democracy too soon? Is it possible that Americans will stop seeing "elite" as an epithet and actually demand their President have greater brain capacity than a capuchon monkey?

Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. Like Dana Scully, I'm afraid to believe.

I'm terrified that the glimmer will blow out, and I'll have to fall back on my original plans of taking over a desert island and starting an encephalocracy with my favorite bloggers.

If this election goes to the dumb, my darlings, I think it'll be our sign to give democracy a miss. Who's for coconuts?


Efrique said...

Whether or not it will work is not a theoretical consideration here in Australia.

We have a (much) larger fuel tax than you do in the US. A few years ago, the government reduced the fuel tax (I won't bore you with all the details, but the reduction was of a roughly similar magnitude to the one they're discussing in the US).

Within a week fuel prices were back to about what they had been before.

Part of that was an increase in crude prices, but most of it just went to the fuel companies.

So we ended up paying as much as before, and the government had less money...

Economists already understand this, because they know something about what they do. I think economists get a bad name because they often get predictions wrong.

The problem is, people who don't understand economics do much, much worse. They make basic, bonehead mistakes that economists already know don't work.

It's a bit like berating the weather forecasters for getting it wrong. Sure, they don't always get it right when they predict rain, but that doesn't mean you're better off trusting some dork who tells you it will be sunny tomorrow because they want to go jogging.

Dana Hunter said...

Efrique, my darling, thank you for proving what the economists know! I'm highlighting that experience the next time I slam the whole "Gas tax holiday" myth. And that parting line of yours - sooo gonna make that the title quote! LOL. Gorgeous.

These "I'll pretend the world works the way I want it to!" people make me insane. At least after tonight, we may not have Hillary to kick around. Then we'll just have to gently disabuse all the people she snowed of their fantasies.

Efrique said...

A little more detail:

Australia has two taxes on fuel - the general GST (10% on almost every good or service, except a few exempt food items) and a fuel levy of 38 cents per liter. It was originally not fixed at that rate, but was some fairly highish percentage (something on the order of 40% I think, but don't quote me on that).

Sometime around 2001, rising prices had people complaining about the size of the fuel levy.

The then government eventually fixed it at 38 cents per litre, and since it was already well over 40 cents per litre (exactly how much depended on where you were - prices vary a lot depending on where you live) that amounted to a reduction in the fuel levy of something roughly of the order of what is being discussed in the "gas tax holiday" being touted by McCain and Clinton.

That reduction of a few cents per liter was what I referred to as being eaten up within a week or so by increases at the pump that were quite a bit more than the corresponding increase in crude prices.

Our current fuel price jumps up and down around 140-150 cents per liter. Based on 3.785 liters per US gallon and the exchange rate I saw this morning (roughly 0.95 US = 1 AUD), that's US $5-$5.40 per gallon, and of that, the tax is 45-50 cents GST plus $1.44 fuel levy. So we're currently paying about $1.90-$1.95 per gallon just in tax, assuming I haven't made any mistakes.

That might sound like a lot, but its nothing compared to say, the UK. If I have their figures right, they're paying around $4.80 a gallon in tax.