Icehouse to Whitehouse

In general, American primary elections are paid for by tax dollars. But how much sense does that make? In essence, the presidential primaries are held for two private organizations to make an internal decision:  “who will be our official candidates in the general election?” But the winner of the primary elections is not elected to a government position, so why should the government pay for these private clubs to decide who their candidates will be? What about the Communist Party, the Modern Whig Party or the Libertarian Party? Why don’t they get publicly funded events to chose their candidates? Why do they have to foot the bill for their own internal decisions?

The answer to these questions is found in the answer to one larger question: who makes the rules? The two biggest parties make all of the rules. Of course the policies they enact heavily favor themselves. The word “bipartisan” doesn’t mean the same thing as “nonpartisan,” it means “the two of us will work together, favoring ourselves.” As long as they can maintain a majority they can make rules that keep them in the majority.

The use of general tax funds to pay for their own club decisions may not seem to warrant the term “tyranny” but it is clearly a step on the way. What else should one call the ruling class taking money from the people to pay for their own affairs? According to John Stuart Mill, tyranny in democratic societies actually exists even without such monetary questions. In a democratic society, the majority (“or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority”) can exercise tremendous oppressive power. Prevailing ideas and emotions can become law in everything but name if the so-called majority decides to enforce them by ostracizing any dissenters.

So when told that “everybody knows that the primary election deserves to be tax funded because it is essential to choosing the next president,” or “everybody knows that third party candidates do nothing but steal votes from the real candidates,” one ought to think carefully about who “everybody” is. And one also ought to question why “everybody” talks so much about what needs to change in the world but acts in ways that maintain the status quo.

Beer of the Week: Icehouse – As part of the “Premium Beer Collection” that I received for Christmas, Icehouse deserves a review. In it’s own way, ice beer is a really interesting concept. Ice beer is made by freezing beer and then removing some of the ice crystals that form. By removing some of the water (in the form of ice) the concentration of alcohol goes up. The process also seems to destroy a lot of the flavor aspects, but higher alcohol content (5.5% in this case) may be worth it for some consumers. The smell of the beer is not much, but what is there is not very pleasant. The beer itself is crystal clear with a quickly fading head. It tastes a bit sour and chemical. Not a great choice. But hey, if it is made by a huge company like SABMiller…

Reading of the week: On Liberty by John Stuart Mill – Mill identifies a problem with the “power of the people” that is so widely regarded as the great virtue of democratic republics:  “The ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised.”

Question of the week: How many things would you like to do, but do not do only because you worry about what “everybody” would think?

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