Who Are 'The People'?

Bob Hubbard

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[FONT=Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif][FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif] Who Are 'The People'?[/FONT][/FONT]
[FONT=Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif][FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]by Per Bylund
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[FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]My previous article on LRC discussed voting as an act of legitimating the State, and it generated a great number of extra e-mails in my inbox. Most of them politely told me I had overlooked the fact that a rather large part of the United States population is not eligible to vote. And so the effectiveness of my reasoning is undermined due to errors in the numbers.

[/FONT] [FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]It’s true that I didn’t mention the ineligible part of the population, but this I did on purpose. The reason is that the democratic principle is based on the people (or, the population) ruling themselves, but nowhere is "the people" clearly defined. In ancient Greece, most famously in the city-state of Athens, "the people" consisted only of male property-owners who had been born in Athens. All other people living there – males without property, women, children, immigrants, and slaves – could not take part in public affairs.

[/FONT] [FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]The same is true in the contemporary version of democratic states: the representative democracy. It still means the people ruling themselves, but through a number of representatives, yet still no one really knows who "the people" are. One would think that claiming the people should rule themselves means you already know who the people are, but no political scientist or politician will be able to answer such a question without reservation.

[/FONT] [FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]The truth is that in using the argument for democracy almost everybody simply takes for granted "the people" are anyone who either lives in or is a citizen of the specific organization with territorial monopoly of the use of aggressive violence, a.k.a. a State or government (I’m using the terms interchangeably here.) This is supposed to mean that everyone who has a real interest in how government is going about its business also has the right to choose representatives in that government, has control of government policy-making, and can hold representatives accountable.

[/FONT] [FONT=Times New Roman, Times, serif]This sounds a bit too good to be true, even though I’m no proponent of government, and it is: the argument for democracy is simply fiction. And as we know, there’s always a difference between fiction and fact. Democratic government is no exception to this rule.[/FONT]


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