Why Democracy Sometimes Works: The Rulers Get Too Delusional to See They are Vulnerable

The wonderful headlines about Eric Cantor’s defeat last night keep coming. Here is one from the Chicago Tribune: “Eric Cantor’s primary loss an ‘apocalyptic moment’ for the GOP.”

The beginning of the article is wonderful but I liked these two paragraphs best:

A seven-term congressman with ties to the financial industry, Cantor had spent more than $5 million to head off the challenge from Brat, a political newcomer who teaches at Randolph-Macon College.

Brat spent only about $122,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and was not seen in the media or national Republican circles as a danger to Cantor.

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves why “Democracy” sometimes works.

It works because ruling classes and rulers go blind. They can’t see what’s coming.

Why voting can ever work to get the beginnings of good government takes some explaining. We have businesses and politicians who make immense fortunes off big government and deficit spending. No matter what nightmare their collective action is going to bring to life in the future, they each individually can increase their power and wealth by continuing the status quo as long as they can. So these men both accrue a great deal of money and have the hope for more of it. They can afford to spend more on propaganda and buying off the leadership of various social groups than the grass roots freedom movement ever can. Thus, the Chamber of Commerce’s war on the Tea Party.

The economic problem here is that people are making decisions about the long-term when they are only in office for the short-term. Corporations have this same problem. A private business owner typically avoids debt because he wants to pass on a viable source of income to his children. An elected CEO only needs to keep the stockholders happy and will not be there when the company’s value declines. To the extent that he can lengthen his employment by damaging the future of the company, he has every material incentive to do so.

Of course, people in these kinds of powerful positions never admit (probably even to themselves) what they are doing. They make up rationalizations for how their decisions are in the public good and reward friends who will assist that delusion.

And that is why they can’t really believe how much the grass roots see the world differently—and, thus, view them as dangerous. The opposition, to the mind of the establishment, can only be a few weird extremists. Most people must love their leadership because it is so wise and beneficent.

Typically, the only thing that can wake up an establishment politician is if his opponent has a large amount of money. Otherwise, when a Congressman look at his own $5-million campaign budget, and the support of the business establishment, compared to less than $200 thousand, he figures the outcome is fixed and he doesn’t need to worry. He thinks that is how the world works. That is, indeed, how the world has worked in the past. But the world has changed and he can’t see it.

The Tea Party is here. Eric Cantor helped create it but he can’t see that. So it has a chance to win.