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The Virginia Appellate Lawyer’s Court of Appeals of Virginia Blog

Why the United States is not Becoming a (insert demonized political theory here) State

Have you noticed that, according to their critics, American politicians are concurrently Nazis (imposing vaccine mandates/separating immigrant families), Socialists (expanding Medicaid/favoring specific industries), Communists (Infrastructure spending/umm . . . no right wing equivalent here, sorry), and Anarchists (defunding the police/eliminating environmental regulations) and above all <gasp> Capitalists (just about every other policy initiative of both parties)? That’s a pretty neat trick and, according to the critics, it is not how things were done in the “good old days” (which means the last time the party the critic favors was in power for any appreciable length of time).

Except of course, it’s not a trick and it’s not particularly new. It’s just how a democracy works. We need to stop conflating political theories (communism, socialism, capitalism, national socialism, nihilism) with political systems (monarchy, democracy, oligarchy, theocracy, autocracy, kleptocracy, plutocracy, anarchy).

To the extent that any of these actions are actually occurring, they are all examples of a democracy operating under the Rule of Law — because they are being done by democratically elected representatives following proscribed processes and subject to review by an independent judiciary. Socialized medicine is a “socialist” policy, but when adopted by a democratic process, it is also a democratic one. Imposing health and safety requirements is an exercise of a “police power” and, thus, is the action of a “police state” (which is, irrespective of what the Hitler regime and other similar regimes did with that power, the essence of national socialist political theory), but when adopted by a democratic process, it is also a democratic one. Even a complete abnegation of responsibility for governance, when adopted by a democratic process, is a democratic policy.

One of the great things — arguably the only great thing — about democracy as a political system is that it can select the best policies from different political theories to benefit society and the individual in the proper, if not always equal, measure. We are free to condemn the selection of a particular policy as not correctly achieving a proper social/personal balance, but in labeling the process as manifestation of a wholesale embrace of that theory as a system of government, we expose our ignorance of the essence of democracy and the distinction between political policy and the governmental process through which the policy is adopted and enforced.

In theory, any governmental system will provide a perfect balance of social and individual liberty.  In practice, none of them can.  Winston Churchill said it best. Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Churchill understood that democracy is the only practical system of government with the flexibility to craft policies based on their pragmatic effect on society and the individual, and more to the point, with the flexibility to correct missteps in policymaking without resorting to violence. That process is often frustratingly slow — viz. the abolition of slavery — but it is infinitely preferable to resorting to violence to overthrow that process and impose the collective will of a minority — or even a majority — on the whole.

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