The Futility of Political Debatesby James E. Miller
Oct. 10, 2012
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As the American presidential election tightens in its final month, the series of debates between the contenders is now underway. In the first round, it was Republican hopeful Mitt Romney who came out on top of sitting President Obama who appeared uncharacteristically lacking of his signature poise. On the broad issue of domestic policy, Romney appeared to have Obama beat when it came to fiscal know-how. This triumph lead to the former Massachusetts governor surging in the polls after weeks of trailing an incumbent whose economic record is, by any measure, less than stellar. This has not put Romney ahead nationally however as Obama has kept his lead in important battleground states.
The media establishment is enthralled by this development. What looked like a slam dunk for the President is tightening up to become an actual contest. Following the first debate in Denver, there was near unanimous agreement by mainstream commentators on the importance of the night. Political debates are said to be a crucial for democracies. Potential voters who would otherwise be too busy with their lives for political affairs tune in for an hour to become "learned" on pressing issues which should concern them. Come Election Day, the good and noble citizen then casts his ballot for the ruler of his choice; thus fulfilling his civic duty.
Of course this line of reasoning is pure propaganda spread by those industries closely affiliated with the state. Political debates are not forums for highbrow discussion on matters of philosophy and economics. They are chock-full of simplistic analysis, catchy phrases, and petty nationalism.
When it comes to elections, the professional commentariat will often squeal like lost children over the dimness of the electorate and its inability to make rational choices. Likewise, they vigorously promulgate the importance of political debates so voters watch and are then able to make an "informed" selection. But informing and rationality are never the final products of debates because they are not meant to be. The debate between who is best qualified to hold the reigns of state power is just an illusion for the purposes of justification.
When it comes down to it, democracy and its variants are games where the players attempt to live fast and hard at the expense of one another.
Debates end up being nothing more than beauty pageants for sociopaths. Each candidate is dolled up as an anorexic model would be and desperately tries to corral the audience into a fit of animalistic exuberance. Aspiring politicians want to appear as healthy in mind and body while their motivations are as unclean as a sewer on the inside.
By evoking visions of national glory, the crowd becomes unthinking and grasps onto buzzwords as if they come straight from the mouth of God. The competing sides become so convinced of their hatred toward one another, they don't feel the strings being pulled at their back. These eager voters want their free cell phones, subsidized health care, food stamps, Social Security checks, and a feeling of belonging within a nation of cadgers. The more these gifts are delivered, the better chances the candidate has in achieving electoral victory.
What ultimately drives the electorate is not reason or virtue. It is a piteous feeling of meagerness. A meagerness gripped by politicians who use their rhetorical gifts to tell the people that they lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Instilling a sense of infantilism turns the independent into the subordinate. It results in state supremacy over liberty.
The truth about government is that when a politician takes to the podium to address the crowd, behind him always stands a specter of his cronies. It is they who actually wield the power of public office. Whether they are bureaucratic regulators or well-connected heads of corporations, the goal of extortion is the same. The empty suit who speaks to the crowd is only doing their bidding. On virtually every issue, there is a consensus between the two sides that the people shall be plundered. The difference is to what degree.
Those who endeavor for public office may be subject to idolatry but they are no Isaiah. They don't speak truth in dire hope of awakening a few who are intellectually attuned to what is a humane and free life. Politicians simply wish to gather as many votes as possible by making as many promises as possible. Those in society who are not weak-minded enough to be overcome by empty vows and refuse to compromise their moral character are not the target of platitudes. Pandering to bitter feelings of envy is the easiest way to amass a following that is willing to embrace coercion for a few crumbs off the state's dinner plate. As the old Bible proverb goes, "A sound heart is life to the body. But envy is rottenness to the bones."
Political debates inspire nothing but the ravenous desires of man to convince him to surrender his dignity over to the ruling class. Being promised something for nothing always ignites the emotions of the gullible masses. It is how the officers of the state maintains their authority.
There exists a great myth out there which holds that it is necessary and proper to be an active participant in the democratic process. It is often said that one's civic duty stems from judging candidate for public office on the merits of their character and the robustness of their policy proposals. In reality, it is the lowliest form of disrespect toward one's self and others to take seriously the tenets of democracy or any form of state-rule. As H.L Mencken wrote, "Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses."
Rather than be guided by ethical reasoning, lawmaking under the state relies on thuggish force. The crowd watches on eager to believe in their own ineptness as individuals. They are told to believe the political class brings prosperity through theft, freedom through mass murder, and safety through violence. Campaign slogans are marching orders for the naive to serfdom. In the end it is irrelevant who wins a debate and final election. The state is always the true winner.
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal.