Elites vs Populists. Peter Berkowitz, @HooverInst

Jun 15, 2017, 04:24 AM

06-15-2017 (Photo: Prise de la Bastille.jpg) http://JohnBatchelorShow.com/contact http://JohnBatchelorShow.com/schedules Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Elites vs Populists. Peter Berkowitz, @HooverInst

Further, Rauch and Wittes claim that their “hybrid” of “direct democracy and elite rule” embodies Madisonian principles of constitutional government. They are right that Madisonian constitutionalism is a hybrid. But our Constitution does not constrain popular will in order to enhance democracy; it does so to safeguard individual freedom. Although the authors obscure it, Madison also stressed the acute threat to individual freedom posed by elite will, which our Constitution constrains through the separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and, not least, popular sovereignty.

Contrary to Rauch and Wittes, moreover, Alexis de Tocqueville’s critique of the tyranny of the majority did not target populism and does not support their case for transferring power to professionals. Tocqueville’s concern was with the threat to liberty and self-government posed by the rise of public opinion—more akin to today’s political correctness. He also feared the “gentle” or “democratic” despotism of an all-powerful central government—which anticipates our ever-expanding welfare, regulatory, and administrative state. To counteract these forces, Tocqueville advocated, in contrast to the Brookings scholars, greater political power for the people, exercised locally.

Rauch and Wittes also selectively portray the history of progressivism. Yes, some progressives have called for increased participatory democracy. At the same time, the authors, like generations of progressives, follow in the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson, who disparaged the people’s capacity for self-government while seeking to empower the professionals to advance the public interest.

The authors’ oversights and inaccuracies tend in one direction: the vindication of elite claims. They even invoke “intelligence oversight” as an exemplary instance of rule by professionals. This, despite a recent rash of unlawful leaks by intelligence officials to the New York Times and Washington Post, and last month’s disclosure of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court proceedings that discussed numerous violations of U.S. citizens’ privacy rights by the National Security Agency, the FBI, and the Obama administration while handling foreign intelligence.