It was once socially accepted that people were not responsible for acts of a wide variety if the persons engaged in them while intoxicated, even if the intoxication were quite voluntary and the engagement active. Over time that attitude has eroded. After all, a person who chooses to be intoxicated chooses to engage in increased probability that he or she will effect those acts. If a person who chose to drink passes-out on the front lawn, drives his vehicle into a pedestrian, or beats his domestic partner, few people would insist that he didn't choose to do such a thing. And, should we meet one of those few people, we rightly suspect that they cannot be trusted to use intoxicants responsibly.
In response to the campaign of Bernard (
Bernie) Sanders, a great many people embraced things that they called
democratic socialism. They didn't actually agree amongst themselves as to what this term meant. Many of them insisted that
democratic socialism weren't socialism, which insistence did not provoke as often as it should a question as to why then its name should contain
socialism. The answer simply was that Sanders had long referred to what he advocated with this term; they were stuck with
socialism if they held onto Sanders. Whether they admitted that
democratic socialism referred to socialism or not, all of the folk calling for something by that name sought to neutralize the dire associations of
socialism with various outcomes that had been observed when regimes had been identified by that label. And all of these folk, whether or not they acknowledged that they were referring to socialism, agreed that what they called
democratic socialism would indeed be democratic.
That insistence has afforded them a rhetorical ploy for dealing not only with socialistic regimes that were never democratic, but with socialistic regimes that have lost popular support, such as that in Venezuela. Absenting that support, these regimes are said not to be democratic, and hence plainly not to represent whatever might properly be called
democratic socialism. But when a socialistic regime is brought to power by democratic means, in a framework of law that was effected by democratic means, and then uses that law to take unpopular actions, to insist that the regime is undemocratic begins to resemble claiming that the neighbors passed-out on the lawn, driving their cars into pedestrians, or beating their domestic partners did not choose to do such things. Oh yes they did. And anyone who insists otherwise is to be regarded as dangerous with the relevant intoxicants, including ballots.
Indeed, for most of recent history, popular opinion was not treated as particularly important in application to America by most Americans who came to call for
democratic socialism. They had earlier thought it perfectly democratic when the Democratic Party, democratically elected to majority control of both Chambers of Congress and to the Presidency, effected various measures that were in fact widely unpopular with the more general population. President Obama advised the Republicans to
win some elections. When they did, so that the Democrats lost first the House of Representatives and then the Senate, he and most of these folk for
democratic socialism held to the idea that his democratic election to the Presidency legitimized his actions in defiance both of the votes of the Congress and of popular opinion amongst the wider population. Popular opinion in Venezuela and elsewhere has emerged as ostensibly relevant to
democratic socialism exactly and only because, once again, socialism — even socialism within a framework democratically effected — has devolved as it always will if allowed to persist. There is no magic in democracy.
The state is a terrible institution, to be checked by an institutional framework that resists its growth, instead of enabled to grow by fantasies that amateurs or experts can use it expansively to bring about a more humane world.