The genius of the New Deal design

The people mutter ominously for shorter, more controversial posts!

The genius of New Deal “liberal democracy” is that while it’s somewhat liberal, it’s not at all democratic. It is in fact designed specifically to resist democracy. The combination of this design with a civic creed that assigns unlimited positive connotations to the word “democracy” is simply brilliant. We may despise it, but we have to admire it.

The word we use for any actual outbreak of democratic government is “politics,” which we justly fear and despise, much as the Founders did. We are no less aware of the destructive nature of arbitrary rule by elected politicians.

The Progressive civil-service state, of which the New Deal was the culmination, saved the US from political violence by erasing the last vestiges of the Old Republic the Founders had designed, which turned out to be far more vulnerable to democracy than they had anticipated. By retaining the symbolic forms of republican government, the New Deal preempted the civil wars that inevitably would have resulted from efforts to restore the Old Republic had it been formally abolished. Augustus followed the same formula in the Roman Principate, and with the same success.

The last genuinely political institution in the US is the White House, whose influence on domestic policy is negligible (and generally counterproductive). 98% reelection rates and the committee system have transformed Congress, which was apparently supposed to be some sort of debating society, into the apex of our real system of government, the iron triangle. The iron triangle is actually more of a hexagon: its unrecognized vertices are the foundations, the press and the universities, all of which are immune to democracy.

It follows that attempts to replace the Progressive regime through democracy, that is, politics, are about as likely to succeed as the Animal House band in marching through that brick wall.

The fundamental problem is that today’s voters are right in their aversion to politics, in their apathy toward moderate candidates and their fear of immoderate ones. What they really fear is democracy, and they are right to fear it. And when righteousness and power agree, you can’t beat ’em.