How the Electoral College Shows More Information Does Not Mean We Have More Knowledge
Almost all of the world’s information is available right at our fingertips. Endless data is a mere keystroke away no matter who you are or where you are. Whether it is answering how is the weather in Hong Kong for somebody in Helena, Montana or who was the U.S. Heavyweight Champion in 1913 for a fellow in Chelsea, London, we can acquire practically any piece of information our hearts and minds desire. However, all of this readily available information does not mean we have more knowledge. Actually, the inverse is getting truer and truer each day; as we gobble up information, we lose the capacity to corral knowledge. This is no more obvious than in the current political climate. For one, Donald Trump is President. But many who seek to oppose him are no better and are in fact, much worse. We believe information is knowledge, but it is not. This leads to a hubristic line of thinking that says, “we know better than our forefathers because we know more information.” This could not be further from the truth and is leading us down a path where many who seek power are hoping to change the foundational principles of this great country. Only an idiot would want this.
One of the most common talking points in the news lately is the debate surrounding the electoral college. The argument boils down to something akin to, “the electoral college is outdated, we should move to a popular vote to determine presidential elections.” To be blunt, this is stupid. It ignores federalism, one of the building blocks of American politics. Beyond that though, it more dangerously ignores the reasoning behind such a system. The men who created this system were well-versed in philosophy and religion and spent most of their lives trying to acquire more and more knowledge. They understood the dangers of direct democracy; as Benjamin Franklin (may have) put it, “two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner is not a good system.”
Tara Ross over on Twitter has a wonderful “Tweet Storm,” on the subject and breaks it down beautifully. The electoral college is a failsafe against the evils of direct democracy and the corruptible nature of man. The founding fathers, so steeped in the fallibility of man, wanted to ensure a method to keep everyone in check. Enter the electoral college. Now though, because we have all this information, we think we know better than the founding fathers. Whether by hubris or pure malice, the majority of the Democratic frontrunners wish to move beyond this system that blocks the more evil inclinations of man. This is not just Pandora trying to gaze into the box, this is Pandora holding a crowbar and placing 40 pounds of C-4 on the hinges.
The founding fathers created the electoral college in order to deprive THEMSELVES of power. Think of the type of mind it takes to develop such a system, and then think of the type of heart needed to actually implement that system. The men who were going to be the direct beneficiaries of whatever system they decided to institute, chose the one system that would limit THEIR power. Now though, we have candidates running for the highest and most powerful position in the land, saying they are more than happy to change our system to one that grants those same candidates MORE power. Of course they want more power. This is the exact reason our founding fathers instituted the electoral college in the first place; to deny power from those that seek it.
Many argue “but these are the same men who engaged in slavery, therefore, how good and righteous could their system be?” Yes, it is a plain fact of the United States’ history that many of the founding fathers owned slaves. It is also a plain fact that many were against the practice. Some argued against it completely, while others who owned slaves, freed them in their wills. Even then the situation of slavery was a murky one that led to conflict. Men like Thomas Jefferson knew the dangers inherent in a practice like slavery and were well aware and fearful that it could–and probably would–lead to civil war. He was obviously correct.
But that proves these men had more knowledge than we do today despite knowing less. They could predict things like the Civil War because they knew true conflict stemming from their own fight over freedom with the British crown. They engaged in this fight for freedom and individual autonomy while living hypocritical lives; they fought for their own freedom while denying it to others. This is invariably true. However, instead of the topic of slavery and the founding fathers being a reason to NOT heed their advice, it should be the exact topic that makes us harken back to their words and systems when they are under attack today. The question of slavery in their time proves they knew about their own fallacies and shortcomings. They were well aware what they were doing was wrong and wanted to create a system where things could get better with time.
Instead of creating a system that would perpetually keep them and their progeny at the levers of power, they specifically developed one that could morph into something better as we acquired more knowledge and righteousness. The history of the United States is replete with examples about how right they were–and to what extent Americans have gone to correct those mistakes: the Civil War, World War I, the Suffrage Movement (the greatest peaceful abdication of power in human history), World War II, the Civil Rights Movement. All of these movements and pivotal moments in time are instances where Americans stood for good. We used our accrued knowledge to literally fight and do what was right. Even if it meant ceding power to our own detriment, or worse, dying for that cause.
Those who want power will always try to find ways to grab it. Whether through force or through politics, the desire for power has been the one constant throughout human history. Our founding fathers knew of this overwhelming urge. Even when they had the chance to solidify and ratify their own power, they decided against it because they knew they were human–they knew they were fallible. Great minds like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin constructed this great nation with the knowledge that men at their core can do great good, but if given power, will more than likely do greater evil. It is rare the man that does not want power. George Washington is the greatest American not because of how powerful he was as a general or president, but because he is perhaps the only president who did not want that power.
But now we are facing a great evil; those seeking power want to abolish one of the mechanisms in place that deprives them of that power. Anybody can search online and find numerous examples of how badly things go when governments get more power. That information is right there for the taking. On our phones, and on our computers, history tells us this is an extremely scary moment in time. And yet, there are those who will defend this power grab. A majority of Americans want to abolish the electoral college. Simply put; more Americans are voting for mutton on the dinner table without asking who are the wolves and who are the sheep? We do not know better, we simply no more. And while they say less is more, in our case, more information means less knowledge.