‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei’ | John Mangun

There is—or should be—a special section in hell for someone making this statement. But here goes. I do not care even an iota about who you are going to vote for to be the next president of the Philippines.

Having lived through the administrations of 14 US presidents and seven Philippine presidents, I am not convinced that the world is a better place because of any of them having occupied The Big Chair. Of course, you can say that most all of them had good hearts and good thoughts.

But the reality is that most all of them were elected for the wrong reasons and “The People” paid for the mistakes and errors in judgement that these presidents made even if done with the best intentions. But it is our own fault.

We do not—actually no one— live in a democracy, which means a form of government where the people make the decisions. We live under a Republic where “supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.” That definition is nonsense because power is held and wielded by the “elected representatives” which is not even in the same room as “By the People.”

We like to fool ourselves that “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” which we incorrectly translate as the “voice of the people is the voice of God.” In fact, the full quote is in a letter to Charlemagne or Charles the Great from Alcuin of York, an English scholar and clergyman in 798.

What Alcuin wrote was, “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God (Vox Populi, Vox Dei), since the noisiness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”

As a side note, “The voice of the people is the voice of God” was first used by the English Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds during a sermon in 1327 against King Edward II whom the Archbishop wanted removed from the throne. Reynolds was backing the wife, Queen Isabella, in her rebellion against King Edward II. “What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

By every meaningful measure, the world is a much better place than it was 100 years ago. Life expectancy, absolute poverty, childhood nutrition and mortality rate, food supply and hunger, literacy and education, and even the price of basic commodities have dramatically improved. Now is even better than 20 or 30 years ago.

At the least, 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century and another 100 million killed or allowed to die by “human decision.” But we are still in much better condition than during the pre-20th century period.

However, most if not all of the improvements came because of massive advances in technology in all fields, from electricity and communication to medicine and agriculture.

Government did help in supporting the technology. But if you are reading this on a computer or similar device, thank Alexander Graham Bell who used the $280,000 in today’s value from his winning the Volta Prize to create the Volta Laboratory (Bell Labs) in 1880.

In 1926, the laboratories invented an early synchronous-sound motion picture or “talking pictures.” In 1947, the transistor was invented and in 1954 the first modern solar cell was created. Bell Telephone Laboratories was entirely privately funded until 1984.

Government leaders and those who make the decisions are a necessary part of modern society. But it is impossible to quantify how much of the advance of civilization was “because of” or “regardless of” government.

While totally inaccurate as it is not found in the ancient Hippocratic Oath, doctors are supposed to live by the admonition “First do no harm.” But it is a nice thought. For government, maybe the “oath” should be “Try not to screw it up too much.” I would be interested in a candidate that promised that, rather than guaranteeing the sun and the stars.

E-mail me at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @mangunonmarkets. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis provided by AAA Southeast Equities Inc.

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