Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with our system of electing public “servants?”

By Robert Ringer

The story of Richard W. Sonnenfeldt, author of Witness to Nuremburg, is one that every person who is concerned about tyranny should read.

Sonnenfeldt fled his German homeland for England at age fifteen when it became clear that Jews were increasingly at risk under the new Nazi regime.  After some stranger-than-life twists and turns, he settled in Baltimore, Maryland, at age twenty and became a U.S. citizen.

Sonnenfeldt ultimately ended up in the Army and, at the end of World War II, was one of the soldiers who marched into the Nazi’s Dachau concentration camp.  When U.S. troops arrived there, the guard towers were empty, abandoned by Nazi guards who fled when they realized the end was at hand.

Sonnenfeldt could not believe what he saw — unburied corpses piled one on top of another … thousands of emaciated human beings who were barely alive … prisoners beating a German shepherd dog to death in retribution for the way prison-camp dogs had terrorized them.  As he stared at the horrors before him, he thought to himself that he was one of the luckiest people in the world to have escaped the fate of the millions who were tortured and murdered.

Following the end of the war, Sonnenfeldt went on to
become Chief Interpreter for the OSS group that evolved into the American prosecution team at the 1945 Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.  He later wrote about his revealing conversations with Hermann Goering and other principal Nazi war criminals in his autobiography Mehr als ein Leben.

Sonnenfeldt’s story reminded me once again that genocide is woven into the fabric of human history, usually carried out by power-addicted tyrants who are masters at lying and demonizing a targeted group.  In the case of Adolf Hitler, he preached that the Jews were the cause of all of Germany’s problems, and his baseless assertion ultimately became accepted by the masses.

Early on, of course, few people took Hitler seriously, and many laughed at his maniacal speeches.  But those who believed he was just some clueless kook soon found out differently.

Hitler clearly understood that in order for dogma to become entrenched, it must find its way into mainstream print.  And, in this vein, an essential step in the transformation of an insidious lie into fact is to make certain it appears in children’s textbooks.

Through his character Winston in 1984, George Orwell said:  “If all records told the same tale ─ then the lie passed into history and became truth.  ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future:  who controls the present controls the past.’”

In other words, given enough repetition and time, a fable like the Holocaust denial could someday pass into the history books as fact.  That’s why General Eisenhower ordered pictures taken of the Nazi prison camps when he arrived, because he was afraid, even at that time, that there would be a movement to deny it ever occurred.

But things are different in 21st century America, right?  Indeed they are.  It’s much easier to spread a preposterous lie in today’s high-tech world than it was in the World War II era.  Big-government cheerleaders on the Internet and television have round-the-clock access to the masses, and they understand the power of repetition.

As a result, in today’s lie-a-minute, twenty-four-hour news cycle, separating illusion from fact is not an easy task, even for the most alert and rational among us.  It takes a great deal of conscious effort.  And when too many people choose not to make that effort, a holocaust — actual or metaphoric — may be just over the horizon.

In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine said:

“Ignorance is of a peculiar nature; once dispelled, it is impossible to re‑establish it.  It is not originally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge; and though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant (my emphasis). … It has never yet been discovered how to make a man unknow his knowledge.”

True, to be sure.  But what Paine did not tell us is how to motivate people to become knowledgeable in the first place.

As I watch the Washington Propaganda Machine accelerating its pace for spewing out the most preposterous lies imaginable, I am reminded of Eric Hoffer’s warning that the louder the drums of deceit, the more vigilant one has to be about learning the facts.  And therein lies the problem.  A significant portion of the populace is totally uninformed, and it comprises the very people who decide the winner of every election!

Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with our system of electing public “servants?”  The reality is that the winner of virtually every election is the candidate who convinces a majority of voters that he can get them more goodies his opponent.  The idea that there are opposing parties in Washington is a giant fiction — at least when it comes to the premise for government’s existence.  The only legitimate function of government is to protect our lives and property — not intrude in our lives and take our property in order to gain our neighbors’ votes.

Sometimes I think Thoreau had it exactly right.  That cabin in the woods sounds awfully good right now to those of us who want only to be left alone to live our lives without others imposing their beliefs on us.

ROBERT RINGER is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, as well as Fox News and Fox Business. His books include Million Dollar Habits: 10 Simple Steps to Getting Everything You Want in Life and To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?: That is the Question 

 To sign up for a free subscription to his mind-expanding daily insights, visit

Copyright © 2014 Robert Ringer


  1. "Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with our system of electing public “servants?”"

    Yes there is. “The appointment of magistrates by lot is thought to be democratic, and the election of them oligarchical...” Aristotle, Politics, book 9.

    Democracy means sortition or selecting public office holders by lottery. No sortition? No democracy. Period. Aristotle told us elections are oligarchical over 2300 years ago. Guess we're slow learners...

    The oligarchs have everyone believing democracy means everyone gets to vote. I feel so privileged... Not! But democracy from Greek doesn't mean "the people vote." It means "the people rule" which means the oligarchs don't.

    Democracy also doesn't mean "two wolves and a sheep voting on lunch" or an "advanced auction on stolen goods." People voting on stuff isn't the defining quality of democracy - sortition is. Democracy isn't majority rule or mob rule. That's ochlocracy. Whatever criticisms people have of Athenian democracy, being corrupt shouldn't be one.

    The US is not a democracy. There hasn't been a democracy since the time of Aristotle. The US is an oligarchy outfitted with kabuki elections to pacify gullible domesticated tax cattle. And it works! If you can get the slaves to *believe* they're free, then hell, you don't have to work so hard.

    So, stop calling the US a "democracy" if you are because it ain't.

    1. Thanks, PLV, for your distinguishing remarks. Do you know more about, or have an opinion about, Athenian democracy? What I mean, I guess, is whether or not the sortition aspect advances liberty and property rights, or is the lottery winner just as apt to be taken under the wings of a dominant class? Also, even a lottery winner must decide on the laws, yes? If the people rule, wouldn't the laws favor the majority and suppress individuals/property rights? I realize that your comments didn't favor sortition, only made a good distinction between it and oligarchy; just asking.

      Kabuki elections... very droll.

    2. I'm not convinced the a person elected by lottery would necessarily be any less apt to tyrrany or oligarchy than someone elected by vote.

    3. RN,

      I'm also not convinced, and I'm not sure PLV was advocating that approach but, rather, explaining a truer meaning of democracy than the one more thought of in modern political parlance. I find the idea of sortition to be interesting, though.

    4. Yes, democracy can be as tyrannical as oligarchy but that's not what is important to libertarians. The main advantage of sortition over election is integrity.

      And no, I'm not in favor of Athenian democracy per se but given a choice between democracy and oligarchy, I'd choose the former if backed up with a libertarian-leaning constitution (or even the USC in its current form but with sortition).

      Imagine a society based on a constitution (take the USC) that didn't use elections but sortition to select public office holders. In the US case, it would be Congress, Supreme Court and President randomly selected from the citizenry. Hold that thought for a second.

      Athenians were *extremely* paranoid about oligarchy and tyranny. They adopted a number of conventions to keep both in check. In addition to sortition, the had no executive office with one person i.e. no president. They would have considered that tyrannical. Instead they had an executive council of 500. Sortition was used to select council members and they rotated the chairman every day. This council held executive power and ran the government. It was said that every citizen of Athens (native born males) would serve as president once his lifetime.

      So the Office of the President in the US would be an executive council of multiple individuals in democracy. Even the Romans didn't allow one person to hold executive power. During the republican era, they usually had two or three consuls. Only during state emergency would the Senate declare a "dictator" as was done with Julius (at the point of a sword). He died in office... Et tu, Brute? Each consul had veto power over the other. The Roman republic was actually much more democratic than the American republic.

      Under democracy, the executive council (the Swiss do this today btw), Congress and the Supremes would be regular citizens. They would be amateurs but because they are randomly thrown together they will not likely conspire or cheat. In short, they would be much more likely to follow the rules and do their proper duty to the best of their ability. This was apparently the case in Athens. And in Athens, there were harsh punishments for anyone in public office who engaged in misconduct.

      So, I believe that a democratic government with a constitution is much more likely to actually honor it. They will do this because they aren't part of a political club, they won't know the other public officials so won't trust them, and regular people are not sociopaths.

      Other conventions in Athenian democracy was that the term of service was short (one year I think) and an individual could only be selected twice in a lifetime.

      The Athenian democracy was violently overthrown by oligarchs (30 Tyrants) supported by Sparta and the Athenian people violently threw them out to restore their democracy.

      It is possible to qualify those selected in sortition to get better qualified candidates but much care would have to be taken to ensure that oligarchy isn't the result.

      If you are interested, watch this vid (French with English subtitles): 0e22oUvDSwM

      Or read about real democracy as practiced in Athens. Fascinating stuff and oh so different from what is called "democracy" today.

    5. Plenarchist librete vivimus - actually, US *is* a democracy, with vestiges of a republic. What you describe as perversion of democracy is, in fact, the permanent and unavoidable feature of all democracies. They are always oligarchic in nature, and they always end up in tyrannies.

      From an economists' point of view democracies appoint short-term rentiers on the resources controlled by the government (as opposed to multi-generational owners as in monarchy). This creates incentives for profit-taking over capital value preservation - which is easily seen in the actual level of taxation and regulatory burden (which always favors cartels). No monarchy ever came close to the level of wealth extraction from subjects of modern democracies.

      You may want to read Hans-Hermann Hoppe's "Democracy: The God That Failed" to understand why democracies are inherently evil.

    6. @averos - I recommend you research the topic before commenting further. Go to the link at the bottom of my last post and read about real democracy or watch the YT vid. Athenian democracy, the only democracy on record... ever, was nothing like faux "democracy" today. Nothing at all. Calling a turd a rose doesn't change the smell.

      The US would be completely unrecognizable to the ancient Athenians as democracy. Aristotle would laugh in your face. The US was founded as a "republic" even though it doesn't resemble the archetypal Roman republic hardly at all either. The Roman republic was much more democratic than the US. The US is a modern oligarchy based more on Machiavelli. IMO Machiavelli *is* the father of the modern state.

      There are no elections in democracy. To repeat in case you missed what I just typed, THERE ARE NO ELECTIONS IN DEMOCRACY!

      In ancient Athens, the only elected officials were the strategoi (their 10 generals). The only way for the "people to rule," the very meaning of the word, is via sortition. That is why Aristotle described elections as oligarchical and selecting officials by lot as democratic.

      Elections are oligarchical because only the rich or those they sponsor can afford to run. So the US does have representative government that represents the rich.

      So, does the US select public office holders by sortition? No? It's not a democracy and never was. That's what the oligarchs want you to think it is. Sorry, but my Aristotle trumps your Hoppe.

  2. The people know well the value of elections. Every election is a plebiscite on that value, and, by staying away "in droves", the concept of elections always loses by a landslide. Instead of elected representation we should have chosen representation (like choosing your attorney for a court case). That is the subject of my book, If Not Democracy, and my website, Canton Movement.