Je Vous Dis, Merde! 15: Trump As the Reductio ad Absurdum of US Democracy

In an interesting recent article in Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs asks the question, “Are People Losing Faith in Democracy?”

This is because recent world-wide opinion surveys show that

“Levels of support for democracy are high and stable across most parts of the world,” South African political scientists Cindy Steenekamp and Pierre du Toit write in the Journal of Public Affairs. “However, support for various authoritarian regime types is steadily increasing.”

Nevertheless, although this is very interesting, in my opinion, it is also very confused.

The question “are people losing faith in democracy?” is what in logic is called a complex question.

A complex question is a question that cannot be intelligibly answered until a prior question is answered, e.g., the cop who asks a motorist: “Have you drunk enough alcohol yet?”

Correspondingly, before the “are people losing faith in democracy?” question can be intelligibly answered, we need to know the answer to this prior question: “Do people actually know what democracy IS?”

I’m going to argue that most people, including the self-described experts, i.e., political scientists, don’t actually know what democracy is, and also that this has extremely important logical implications for how we should be thinking about contemporary politics in The Age of Trump-POTUS.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that once upon a time, Mr Nemo published a book on the philosophy of logic.

Now logic — the science of the formal rules of truth, consistency, and rationality — might seem very abstract, even abstruse.

But ever since Donald Trump was elected President of the USA in November 2016, I’ve been totally blown away by how deeply relevant logic is to contemporary US politics.

So please bear with me for another sentence or two while I use some logical ideas to set up the basic points I want to make.

In classical logic, reductio ad absurdum (in English: “reduction to absurdity”) is the Latin term for a formally legitimate and non-fallacious argument-strategy that starts with a given set of premises and then proceeds to derive a contradiction from those premises.

Now if a given set of premises really does lead to a contradiction,

then since, formally speaking, an argument cannot be valid (truth-preserving) or sound (truth-producing) unless it never leads from true premises to a false conclusion,

and since a contradiction is necessarily false,

then it follows by reductio that at least one of the premises is also false.

Whew. Enough logic already!, Mr N.

My claim is that Trump’s election and subsequent conduct as POTUS, aka the phenomenon of Trump, clearly demonstrate the following contradiction:

(i) US democracy is politically acceptable, and

(ii) US democracy is NOT politically acceptable.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s assume that US democracy is politically acceptable.

Then it could never lead either to an election process as morally and politically scandalous as the 2016 Presidential election process or to a President as bad as Trump.

But actually, the 2016 Presidential process was a huge moral and political scandal, and it did lead directly to Trump.

Therefore US democracy is also politically unacceptable, i.e., NOT politically acceptable.

Therefore, given the phenomenon of Trump, US democracy is both politically acceptable and also NOT politically acceptable.

Contradiction!

Therefore, by reductio, at least one of the basic premises of US democracy is false.

This in turn raises again the very hard question I indirectly raised earlier: what IS democracy?

Actually, and very confusingly for most people, including the self-described experts, i.e., political scientists, who can’t even come to an agreement on the definition of democracy,

there are at least THREE different concepts of democracy:

(i) democracy as the rule of the majority of all the people qualified to vote,

(ii) democracy as the open process of critical discussion and critical examination of opinions and social institutions, and, simultaneously, the unfettered expression of different opinions and lifestyles, and

(iii) democracy as the unwavering commitments to universal respect for human dignity and autonomy, and universal resistance to human oppression.

Notoriously, the three concepts of democracy do NOT necessarily lead to or follow from one another.

It’s really possible that what is decreed by the majority of all the people qualified to vote is in fact morally evil and wrong, aka the problem of the tyranny of the majority

and that’s exactly what happened when the Nazis were democratically elected by the German people in 1932–1933.

It’s also really possible that what is decreed by the majority of the people qualified to vote is a system in which a powerful minority of those people can actually over-ride the majority, aka the problem of the tyranny of the minority

and that’s exactly what happens whenever the US Electoral College votes to elect someone, like Trump in 2016, who didn’t actually win the popular vote.

And finally, it’s also really possible that there could be an open process of critical discussion and critical examination of opinions and social institutions, and simultaneously the unfettered expression of different lifestyles and opinions, which nevertheless leads to a situation in which universal respect for human dignity and autonomy, and universal resistance to human oppression, are in fact undermined and weakened, aka the problem of an unconstrained, value-neutral process —

and that’s exactly what happened in the case of Trump’s election, via the multiple-Party system, the Primaries, and psychologically-manipulative uses of social media and the internet.

So, given the contradictions in US democracy that constitute the phenomenon of Trump, which basic premises of US democracy should we reject?

Here’s my proposal.

First, everyone needs to recognize that there are THREE logically distinct concepts of democracy and that the THIRD concept of democracy is infinitely more important than the other two concepts.

Second, we need to get rid of the Electoral College, ALTOGETHER, and elect presidents on the basis of the popular vote ALONE: the person who gets the most votes, period, wins.

Third and finally, we need to get rid of the multiple Party system, the Primaries, and psychologically-manipulative uses of social media and the internet, ALTOGETHER, by starting with a list of self-declared candidates, all of them independents, who meet the basic Presidential eligibility requirements,

and then elect presidents directly and exclusively on the basis of:

(i) each candidate’s life-history up to the election, as presented in a publicly-accessible and independently fact-checked and confirmed Curriculum Vitae (CV) document, with only one small, passport-style, head-shot picture of the candidate allowed, of no more than 10 pages (of single space 12 pt text) in length, of which that candidate is, certifiably, the sole author, and

(ii) each candidate’s ethical commitments and proposed policies, and her/his reasons for holding them, as presented in a publicly-accessible and independently fact-checked and confirmed commitments-and-policies document, of no more than 20 pages (of single-spaced 12 pt text) in length, of which that candidate is, certifiably, the sole author, and

(iii) an election run-up period lasting exactly ONE month from the time the candidates’ CV and commitments-and-policies documents have been independently fact-checked, confirmed, and certified, and then made generally available to all the eligible voters via official hard-copy mailing and also on a single, official US Presidential Election Website, to the election day itself, in order to give all the eligible voters JUST ENOUGH time to read, think about, and discuss the candidates’ CVs and commitments-and-policies documents, but LITTLE OR NO time for psychological manipulation via social media and the internet.

And to anyone who thinks that this is all crazy and impossible, then, like Alice confronting Tweedledum and Tweedledee, I need only point draw your attention again to TweedleBannon and TweedleTrump —>

in order to prove that it’s actual, therefore all-too-real and really possible.

That’s logic!

Je vous dis, merde!

***

“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.

Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party —

1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):

· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.

2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):

· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.

· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.

I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.

Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 10 March 2017

The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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