Voting: America’s Favourite Hollow Ritual

Yesterday, the voters spoke.

The media — eager to attract eyeballs for their paid advertisers — spun the story as if it were the most important thing to happen since Adam ate the apple.

But what really changed?

The House — now in Democrat hands — will begin a new set of annoying hearings, designed to distract the voters from the larceny going on behind the scenes and the disaster it foretells.

There, away from the headlines, Democrats and Republicans, lefties and Trumpistas, will divvy up the ill-gotten goods from the election.


Rainy, gusty

We’ll return to this subject in a moment. First, we bring you up-to-date on our whereabouts.

We came back to Ireland on Monday. It is rainy and gusty…but otherwise, a beautiful autumn on the Emerald Isle.

The grass is green. And the trees are especially colourful this year, perhaps because they got so little water earlier in the fall.

Up at the jobsite, where we are renovating an old rectory, we found a thin man with mutton-chop sideburns operating a large backhoe. We introduced ourselves:

‘Hi…I’m Bill Bonner…I’m the owner.’

‘Ergist nooum charbit.’

‘Oh…well…yes…nice day.’

‘Glaff chit gllobian gaffba.’

‘Yes…well…I’m glad you’re here. We’ve got a lot of work to do, clearing the fields and all…’

‘Buhljj mpstra guelpq.’

‘Thanks…Yes…See you soon.’

Later, we turned to our helper, Ronan, for clarification.

‘I couldn’t understand a word. Does he only speak Gaelic?’

There is a Gaelic-speaking area nearby. We assumed the thin man must have come from there.

‘No, that’s Paddy O’Rourke. He speaks English. But it sounds like Gaelic. Sort of. I should have warned you. You’ll have to live here for 20 years before you can understand Paddy.’

‘Don’t know if I have that long…’

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Hollow rituals


Voting is one of the great, hollow rituals of modern life. It allows the common man to stand up straight, his chin high…his mind dizzy, believing that he — not the insider elites — always has the last word.

When you talk to an ‘average’ person in America, you usually find a nice fellow who has his own affairs more or less in order.

He (generally) gets along with others, avoids traffic accidents, and conducts his personal life with reasonable skill and plausible purpose.

But he is completely unable to master the many details and nuances of 21st century public life.

Ask him about trade deficits…negative interest rates…terrorists…or ‘taking a knee’ at football games. He loses his bearings immediately and defaults to clichés and campaign slogans.

‘We have to stand up for what we believe…’ ‘Better to fight them there than here…’ ‘The economy is pretty good; they must know what they’re doing…’

His replies show more feelings than ideas…more prejudices than thinking…and more desires than principles. Most importantly, they show a huge lack of cynicism.

Which is just the way it should be. People have better things to think about than abstract, public issues. And you don’t get far in private life by being cynical.

Yet, while cynicism is a drag on private affairs, it is essential to public ones. Alas, the average man is ill-equipped.


Claptrappy issues

Already, we see similar beasts afoot in America and Europe.

In France, for example, rural drivers are forced to stay under 50 mph, even though they could easily and safely drive at 70 mph. It is now easy for the gendarmes to keep track of speeds. If you get caught, you lose points. If a driver loses too many points, he will also lose his license.

The French accept the system because it ‘makes them feel safe,’ or it ‘reduces carbon emissions.’ Studying primates, scientists conclude that ‘social intelligence’ (perhaps lodged in the frontal lobe) is connected to group size. Apparently, it takes a lot of brain energy to sort out human relationships.

Neanderthals lived in groups of only 20 to 50. Chimpanzees can handle slightly larger groups. And humans are adapted to groups of 150 to 200 people. Generally, the smarter the primate, the larger the group size.

So what chance do these animals have of understanding groups of 300 million? They would need far more cynicism, and brains the size of spaceships.

Public issues are confusing, ambiguous, and claptrappy — even to the experts. You can’t expect a truck driver to have very well-developed or coherent views on them.

A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal by Yale professor, David Gelernter, missed the point completely. If you don’t like Donald Trump, he proposed, you don’t like the common man or the USA:

Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American? […] What I see on the left is often plain, unconditional hatred of which the hater — God forgive him — is proud. It’s discouraging, even disgusting. And it does mean, I believe, that the Trump-hater truly does hate the average American — male or female, black or white. Often he hates America, too.

Here at the Diary, we take a different view. We like truck drivers, bakers, and heavy equipment operators. We like America, too. As for its president, we’ve never met him.

But just because we like a man doesn’t mean we want him to tell us what to do. And just because you get 150 million of these average fellows to vote doesn’t mean their choice will be any better than the luck of the draw.

Most likely, it will be worse. Because, while the average person is a decent human being…he is neither always good nor always bad, but always subject to influence.

And a skilled demagogue — a confident know-it-all with an easy solution for every problem — will always be better at stirring up the mob than an honest, humble thinker.

There you have the two biggest frauds of the whole system, right together. We are all supposed to be equal. But some — using the political process for their own purposes — are able to tell the rest of us how to run our lives.

And the selection process will almost always lift up the worst — not the best — candidates.

And so…we end up being ruled by the biggest jackasses.


Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance.

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