Paul Jacob

You're on the rack being tortured by the bad guy. You're whipped, you're scourged, you're slapped around. This goes on for a while. Finally your torturer chuckles evilly and says, "And now...I'm going to triple your car tax. For your own good, of course."

That's it! The last straw. Until now you had been resigned to your fate, assuming that you were stuck with this villain's company for at least a few more years. But now you're fed up, not going to take it any more. Instead of shrugging your shoulders when somebody asks you to sign the recall petition, you're scrawling your John Hancock with a fury. And badgering all your friends and family to do the same.

After all, you didn't vote for the guy. And even if you had, does that mean you deserve to be tortured for the blunder?

Why yes, you do deserve it, according to columnist Jonah Goldberg in a recent column announcing that "Recall election shows too much democracy is dangerous."

Social critic H.L. Mencken once defined democracy as "the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." Goldberg endorses a version of this view, but sans the tongue in cheek. "The recall, in my opinion, undermines the accountability of voters," he opines, "telling them in effect that they can have a do-over whenever they mess things up by electing the wrong guy. Well, I'm sorry. As I've said before, the people of California elected Gray Davis and now they must be punished."

That may sound like a joke, but we know it isn't because Goldberg then goes on to say: "That may sound like a joke, but it's actually a central tenet of democracy."

Perhaps, then, democracy should overhaul its tenets, evicting the tenets that don't make any sense. These evictees must surely include any assumption that there is a unified, all-knowing civic group-mind that can perfectly transmit its preferences via a transparent and infallible democratic process (even one apparently rigged to favor incumbents) such that "the voters" always get exactly what "they" asked for, and therefore deserve no chance to reverse any mistake before California slides into the ocean.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.