FRIED LIGHT: Democracy in the obnoxious stage

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By Roger Snodgrass

The problem with both democracy and freedom is that they complicate how to make people do what you want them to do.

Plead, cry, wink, pound a fist, roll your eyes, stomp your feet – those tactics don’t always work, but which of us has not pulled a face or had a fit to get our way?

Force is one way around the problem, which is what people mostly did before there were other options.

As the English political philosopher and author of “Leviathan,” Thomas Hobbs put it, “Not believing in force is not believing in gravitation.”

Most of human history is the story of force working its way through political and military impediments and eventually dying out or getting killed by a counterforce or chain of reactions.

A gentler, kinder form of force is called persuasion. Wrapping force or manipulation in deceptive language or rhetorical devices draws less blood, but can be equally coercive if it is going to do the job.

There are at least two kinds of persuasion, one that is skeptical of human nature and one that sees an avenue of hope.

Alexander Hamilton, who was much indebted to the Hobbsian school of thought and was one of the fathers of American conservatism, laid it right out there. “Your people, sir, is a great beast,” he said.

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