|Epigrams from Attention Deficit Democracy by James
Bovard (Palgrave, 2006)
Rather than a democracy, we increasingly have an
elective dictatorship. People are merely permitted
to choose who will violate the laws and the
Instead of revealing the "will of the people,"
election results are often only a one-day snapshot
of transient mass delusions.
In recent years, Americans have devoted far more
effort to spreading democracy than to understanding
Attention Deficit Democracy lulls citizens into
thinking that they have nothing to fear from the
rising number of sticks and shackles that
politicians and bureaucrats can use on them.
The biggest election frauds usually occur before the
voting booths open.
A democratic government that respects no limits on
its own power is a ticking time bomb, waiting to
destroy the rights it was created to protect.
Leviathan is premised on government's need to
control the people. Democracy rests on people's
right to control the government. The conflict
between these two principles generates much of the
deceit that permeates contemporary politics.
When people blindly assume that their leaders are
trustworthy, the biggest liars win.
Washington policy debates are often like a criminal
trial in which all the evidence of the defendant's
past offenses is ruled inadmissible.
America is becoming a democracy of knocking knees,
sweating foreheads, and folks who jump too high at
Bogus fears can produce real servitude.
Thanks to the Battered Citizen Syndrome, the more
debacles government produces, the more voters cling
to faith in their rulers.
The more fears government fans, the fewer people
will recall the danger of government itself.
It is naive to trust to the ignorant preferences of
frightened people to preserve freedom.
Americans cannot expect to have good presidents if
presidents are permitted to make themselves czars
Being crowned a winner by the Electoral College does
not give one American the right to dispose of all
other Americans' lives and liberties
As long as rulers are above the law, citizens have
the same type of freedom that slaves had on days
when their masters chose not to beat them.
Modern democracy is far more effective at unleashing
government than at protecting individuals.
As long as American presidents praise freedom, they
are permitted to seize as much power as they please.
Democracy is merely a form of government. It is not
a mode of salvation. It is not a catapult to the
Promised Land. It is not a penicillin that cures all
politically transmitted diseases.
Democracy unleashes the State in the name of the
The more authoritarian the U.S. government becomes,
the louder presidents praise democracy.
Unfortunately, democracy is a magical word that
permits speakers to automatically fog the minds of
The more powerful rulers become, the lower the odds
for "free and fair elections." The bigger government
becomes, the more votes it can buy.
The same type of myths have grown up around
democracy that long propped up monarchs.
Since it has not been possible to neuter political
power, citizens' thinking on government has been
Blind trust in government is often portrayed as a
harmless error—as if it were of no more account than
saying prayers to a pagan deity that didn't exist.
However, the notion that rulers are entitled to
trust is the most expensive entitlement program of
Citizens are supposed to assume that a change in the
name of the ruler, or a switch in the party in
charge, automatically suspends the laws of political
In a democracy, people are led to believe that they
can easily apply the brakes to government, no matter
how unstoppable it becomes.
The more that democracy is assumed to be inevitable,
the more likely democracy will self-destruct.
Freedom has become merely another invocation to
Many citizens today behave akin to slaves who spent
their time wishing for a good master, rather than
scouting up information on runaway routes.
Just because a president's comments are insipid does
not mean they are innocuous.
It is far easier to reduce politicians' power than
to raise their characters.
Are Americans free simply because they are permitted
a perfunctory choice on who will molest their rights
and liberties? Is the sole question remaining in
American politics—how to find a good master for the
Attention Deficit Democracy produces the attitudes,
ignorance, and arrogance that pave the way to
copyright ©James Bovard 2006