What FARC, Trump, Brexit, and Coles County have in Common
Last weekend, "the Columbian People" narrowly voted in a referendum against a peace treaty with FARC to end a 52 year civil war that has claimed... well, does it matter? It's a 52 year long war that has ravaged a modern nation, fueled by illegal drug trafficking.
Several weeks ago in primary elections, Republican voters largely selected Donald Trump for the top of the Republican ticket across the United States. Primary elections are basically referendums.
A few months ago, "the people of Great Britain" narrowly voted in a referendum in favor of Brexit.
I live in Coles County, a rural area in Illinois. Every few years, a referendum comes up to increase support of schools, usually with the promise of a large financial match from the state. And each year, Coles County is one of the only counties in Illinois to vote against supporting schools.
Some decisions just cannot be left in the hands of "the people." With the collective attention span of a gnat, "the people" don't know what the hell they are voting for and often don't understand the strategic consequences of their actions.
Popular Sovereignty is Dangerous
The idea that "the People" should get to vote on something is called Popular Sovereignty. In British and American history, the rise of popular sovereignty in the 16th and 17th Centuries led to cataclysmic changes in how nation states operated. Before the rise of popular sovereignty, people generally believed in the "divine right of kings," that some people were born to rule and should be trusted to lead the nation. These people were raised and trained (some might say coddled) with this end in mind. The rest of the people went along with this myth.
Over time, the British Empire supplanted the divine right of kings with popular sovereignty: the idea that the people and not the monarch was sovereign. This led to elections. The elite, therefore, had to get voted in by the masses. This was pretty easy to do for the rich: they just bought things for voters. George Washington, for instance, threw huge parties with loads of free beer the day the members of the House of Burgesses were elected. It worked too. The people loved getting drunk on Washington's beer and they voted for him every time. It wasn't just Washington, however. Everyone who wanted to get elected had to throw huge parties. Since only the rich and educated could pull this off, only the rich and educated were elected.
Popular Sovereignty was, therefore, kind of a joke. The elite recognized how dangerous the voters really were: they could be bought with the promise of free beer!
With the rise of popular sovereignty, the divine right of kings was supplanted by the "divine right of the People." One mytholo