The Hopeless Endeavors of Debate and Democracy

I’m willing to bet that you’ve changed your mind at least once in your life, and I’d bet even more money (or beer) that when you changed your mind, it wasn’t because someone else demanded it.  For those open to the possibility of changing their mind, they usually do so only after intensive, solitary deliberation, yet the political discourse in the United States ignores what is blatantly obvious: debates will never end because debaters will never allow their mind to be changed by others.  You see this in action every day, and you might have recently been one of the debaters yourself (I’m guilty, too).  Even when confronted with the most inalterable statistics, debaters will double down and remain steadfastly defiant until the end of the debate and through the next one.  One will usually not let his mind be changed by others because he simply doesn’t want it to be changed by anyone but himself.

More proof of this reality is the existence of corporate media.  Those watching, say, MSNBC will unironically ask of Fox News viewers, “How could anyone watch that stuff?”  Answer: people consume information that make them feel good.  Few enjoy having their strongly held positions challenged, so, no, corporate media aren’t broken; they’re functioning just the way their viewers want them to.  Glenn Greenwald discussed this topic far more eloquently in his incredible story, No Place to Hide:

“With the acquisition of media companies by the world’s largest corporations, most media stars are highly paid employees of conglomerates, no different than other such employees.  Instead of selling banking services or financial instruments, they peddle media products to the public on behalf of that corporation.  Their career path is determined by the same metrics that amount to success in such an environment: the extent to which they please their corporate bosses and advance the company’s interests.”

The business model of corporate media is entirely sustainable; people consume their products because they: are comforted by them, don’t wish to be challenged, prefer their tribe’s takes over the others, and are not interested in addressing root causes.  Think I’m making this up?  Watch CNN for 15 seconds.  If solving problems were the chief concern, corporate media would die.  Similarly, we are stuck in the never-ending debate called democracy.  For most partisan hacks, solving problems is politically profitable only if living under the other’s solution is avoided, even if the other’s solution is superior.

Just as debating is a useless way for a debater to change the other’s mind, politics can’t work – as Jeff Deist’s Twitter bio reads – and it’s far more sinister.  The end result of politics is changing someone’s actions without their consent, so it’s, therefore, utterly futile.  For example, the recent shootings in Texas and Ohio – as what happens after all crises – have both sides of the gun-control debate blaming the other and clamoring to control the other.  Convincing be damned when, via legislation, one can force the other’s behavior.  Democracy’s proponents claim that their beloved system allows for minorities of all types to be heard, but what of the largest minority of all – the 49% who didn’t change their mind and were forced to comply?  “Consent of the governed”?  What a laugh; it’s more like “consent of the arrogant.”  Democracy is a one-sided debate that prematurely ends when one debater crowns himself victorious and claims that he knows what’s best for the other (and the loser has to kiss the winner’s ring).

For the past 230 years in the US, forcing others to comply has progressively gained value at the expense of self-determination, voluntary exchange, and freedom of association.  Isn’t it getting old?  Doesn’t it seem a bit antiquated or even barbaric?  I want the far-left and far-right to achieve their socialistic utopias as much as I want nothing to do with them, but under democracy, only those in power are satisfied; “live and let live” is an impossibility.  Over two centuries ago, John Adams had this to say about democracy:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long.  It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.  There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
 

Can we last another two+ centuries, or is politics indeed expediting our self-inflicted descent?  You’ll recall that lovers of democracy didn’t appear too fond of it in November of 2016.  Isn’t there a better way forward – one that provides mutually beneficial outcomes? 

In a recent interview at the Mises Institute, Jeff Deist said that lovers of liberty should refrain from using the word “libertarian” as a noun because, as an adjective, it can better help to build the common ground on which liberty can proliferate.  On paper, a Democrat and a libertarian will have little in common, but if the Democrat is, for example, Tulsi Gabbard and the libertarian, Deist, they both share the libertarian ideal of nonintervention (“mind your own business”).  Taking this further, maybe “the Remnant” would be wise to think of “libertarian” as a process, as Gene Epstein described while eviscerating the arguments of aspiring dictator Bhaskar Sunkara:

“Here’s one activist strategy: The profit margins of existing corporations average 15% of revenue, so that if the [socialist] movement commands just 20% of the consumer dollar, it could target companies with boycotts, wipe out their profits, and acquire them on the cheap.  Boycotting has an honorable tradition going back to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi, and boycotts are free-market acts performed by consenting adults by capitalist means.  Instead, Bhaskar wants to play the ugly game of politics by trying to win voting majorities to impose socialism top-down through government edict.”

Yes, even rabid socialists can achieve their ends through libertarian means, proving once again that political democracy is the failed side-project of market democracy.

It’s easy to speak broadly about the benefits of voluntary exchange, but a difficult task – one I am ill-suited to tackle – is describing an actual system, in detail, that will relegate political democracy to its overdue retirement.  Enter Donnie Gebert, who has written a book on this subject.  In short, the system he devised gives people the option to consent to laws, which, to coin a phrase, amount to “don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.”  Not into complying with something that simple?  No problem, but you’ll have a tough time finding work or a place to live, considering your consent or lack thereof will be on public record via blockchain technology.  I’m not describing this well, so if you’re not a fan of reading, listen to Pete Raymond’s fascinating conversation with Gebert (if you’re not a fan of brevity, listen to Bob Murphy’s conversation with Gebert).  Ideas like Gebert’s combined with today’s technology give tremendous cause for optimism – reason to believe that we can replace the childish mentality of winner-take-all politics with a process that allows for everyone to live as they please.