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May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
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American Democracy as Masquerade

Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

Significantly, these rare souls can seldom be found anywhere in politics, universities, or corporate boardrooms. Such souls are to be found, to be sure, but we must learn precisely where to look.

The strength and courage of a needed inner-directedness can never lie in holding an advanced degree, or in engaging others in assorted contests or contrivances of language. Indispensable qualities of originality must be sought, instead, in the complementary powers of intellectual independence, social justice, and spontaneous empathy.

Adam Smith saw in capitalism not just an admirably rising productivity but also the required foundation for political liberty. He also understood that a system of “perfect liberty” – what we might presently call an ideal democracy – could never be based upon a smug and facile encouragement of needless consumption. The inexorable laws of the marketplace, he reasoned, demand a palpable disdain for vanity-driven buying. For Adam Smith, the main problem of dangerously orchestrated hyper-consumption was not economic or political but psychological.

It was a problem of unresisted absorption into the mass.

For Adam Smith, contrary to widespread misunderstandings of his complex thought, “conspicuous consumption,” a phrase that would later be used by sociologist Thorsten Veblen, must never be taken as evidence of economic or political progress. It follows that while the crowd call of American democracy may remain loud, crass, and even disturbingly persuasive, we the people must keep up the struggle against the suffocating mass, purposefully, and, above all, as authentic individuals.

Then we Americans could perhaps lay bare the essential ingredients of a democracy that offers more than the sum total of individual souls fleeing breathlessly from themselves. Then, finally, we could fashion a democracy that is far more than a demeaning and ultimately destructive masquerade.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


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2 Responses to “American Democracy as Masquerade”

  1. It's sad that every election, there are campaigns to "get out the vote" or "rock the vote" with no direction telling potential voters that it's their obligation as conscious voters to educate themselves before voting. In their desire to win elections, America's political parties prefer voters to be ignorant to get into office and apathetic to stay in office, but eventually, we'll get a real monster in office that knows how to take advantage of the drones that are programmed to chant in unison. "The cattle are branded. They bed down behind gates. Trading sky and horizon for safety and grain."

  2. Sadly I agree R.Locust. Worldwide to the end time,and our Creator is not going to hold back .We our on the verge of a Nuc. final WW111. Watch and Pray.This WILL
    come to pass in our generation.Seek Truth in this deceived world. Find inner peace, help and guidance is there. ASK, ask-seek-knock.

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