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"Attention Deficit Democracy" - James Bovard hammers The Washington Times

Written by Subject: Media: Print
Letters to the editor


March 29, 2006

I appreciate The Washington Times printing a review of my new book, "Attention Deficit Democracy" ("Finding American voters wanting?" Books, Sunday). The reviewer states that "what Mr. Bovard leaves out is that these Founding fathers were suspicious of untrammelled democracy itself."

I am perplexed by this comment, since the book is chock-full of references to how the Founding Fathers sought to restrict government power in all forms:

• "The Founding Fathers did not share the contemporary adoration of democracy. The word 'democracy' was mentioned only twice in annual State of the Union messages between 1789 and 1900. But the word was invoked 189 times between 1901 and 2000" (page 231).

• "The Founding Fathers did not design a 'Great Leader' democracy. The ultimate principle of the American system of government is strict limits on the power of all branches of the federal government" (page 8).

• "The Founding Fathers issued warning after warning of the inherent danger of government power. John Adams wrote in 1772: 'There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty' " (page 150).

• "The Founding Fathers believed that freedom would always be in danger from power — that there would always be politicians and tyrants and tyrant assistants conspiring against freedom" (page 204).

• "The Founding Fathers sought to craft a structure in which government would be forever subservient to the law. If the rulers are above the law, then law becomes merely a tool of oppression, not a bulwark of the rights of the people" (page 247).

The reviewer offered my "discussion of the president's failed 'moral lens' " as an example of the book's "ad hominem arguments." But the discussion of "moral lens" was in reference not to President Bush, but to passive intellectual obedience (after a discussion of the doctrine of passive obedience and the English Civil War). Here is the context:

"Passive intellectual obedience means preemptively quieting one's doubts about the statements of one's rulers. It means abstaining from any conscious effort to evaluate the honesty or believability of official statements... It means viewing political (and all other) reality through a moral lens supplied by one's rulers" (page 167).

Such passive obedience is fatal to individual liberty, regardless of the form of government or the name of the ruler.