Nobody in America Really Believes in Democracy

Well, dear reader, that may be an exaggeration. There may be a few men out there protesting any policy decision by any branch of government they hear of that does not have the unambiguous support of the majority of Americans as an infringement on the sovereignty of the American people. But, in any case, it’s not much of an exaggeration.

Your typical leftist claims that voter ID laws (like they have in Mexico) are inherently anti-Democratic. So, by their claims, are laws taking the vote away from felons. They are, of course, correct in both senses. The question, of course, comes down to whether democracy is, in Plato’s terms, something which is good in itself, something which has good consequences, something which is good both in itself and its consequences, or something which is not good at all.

Democracy clearly cannot be good in itself. This is demonstrated by Progressives partaking in the celebration of such fantastically anti-democratic Supreme Court decisions as Roe v. Wade, Obergeffel v. Hodges, and Engel v. Vitale. Lest you think I am painting only the Left to be anti-democratic here, men of the Right also celebrate such decisions- Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n, and Shelby County v. Holder. If democracy were considered by the vast majority of Americans to be good in itself, then most Americans would not cheer any Supreme Court decisions. Rather, they would be appalled by their very existence. The establishment press you read each day would call for the Supreme Court’s abolition every week, due to its complete and total perversions of the democratic process. And please let’s not make ridiculous claims that the Supreme Court is somehow democratic in nature or origin. It’s as democratic in nature and origin as the present Egyptian government- sure, both have tenuous links back to the people, but the man who calls them democratic can be only a nut.

And how is democracy to decide the question of the justice of the Crimean reunification? The Crimean people favor it, as well as the Russian people, but the Ukrainian and the American people do not. Who is to decide such a question under the democratic method? Is it the Crimean people? The Ukrainian people? The Russian people? The American people? Or the people of the whole world?

All this clearly takes away the primary wind out of the sails of arguments that anti-democratic laws are inherently un-American and should not be countenanced by any man or woman of reason. If the men being disenfranchised by voter ID laws were mostly those of the Far Right, or even men merely disapproving of the existence of same-sex marriage and the welfare state, only the most negligible fraction of Leftists would be making the argument that they should be enfranchised. If nobody really believes in democracy in principle, then why pretend to keep that unbelievable principle alive via such sillily planned institutions as proportional representation?

There is nothing sacred about democracy. There is nothing sacred about proportional representation or any other such attempt to make the policies of the state concordant with the will of the majority to the most precise extent.

Politics is not a matter of democratic deliberation. It is merely a power struggle, using every means available to disenfranchise one’s opponent and to preserve and promote one’s preferred uses of coercion as de facto state policy. Power, not reason, is what crafts the rules of the game. Its most popular framework, democracy, is, as Thrasymachus said of justice, a bargain, not an ideal. It is a compromise to prevent any of the most powerful sides of any disagreement on state coercive policy from becoming totally or perpetrually ousted from the ability to influence the direction of the state. That’s not necessarily good for you, and it’s not necessarily good for America.

Nevertheless, as Scott Sumner points out, though democracy may not be good in principle, it may be good in its consequences. Under democracy, the epic mismanagement of national resources that permitted the Ukrainian, Chinese, and Cambodian famines to occur would never have been permitted. Switzerland, the most democratic country in the world in nature, is also one of its most successful. But I’d be wary of claims that this is not subject to the Lucas Critique. Niger, after all, is a democracy. And most of its citizens desire Sharia. And it was no other institution than democracy that permitted the ruin of the economy of Greece.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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