Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can Democracy Survive - & Do We Want It To In Its Current Form?

In 1933, a German democracy elected Hitler. In about 1980, Iranians democratically elected a theocracy. In 2006, the people of the Gaza Strip elected Hamas. In 2012, Egyptians elected the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2008, Americans elected Obama, and it is looking like we might reelect him in 2012. I gotta tell you, this democracy thing, it's not all that its cracked up to be.

Ours is the worst economy since the Great Depression. Obama, hired to fix it, has not merely failed, he is poised everything worse if, inexplicably, we elect him to a second term. Obama promised to bring unemployment under 8% in 2009; it hasn't been under 8% at any point during Obama's term. Long term unemployment is up almost 90%. Middle class incomes - down over Obama's term. People on food stamps - up by almost 50%. Gas prices - more than doubled. And Obama has grown our national debt by over 50% in just four years, taking it to a level exceeding our Gross Domestic Product. Obama's four years in office have been an economic disaster for America.

And yet . . . there are still people, a near majority at least, who are going to vote for Obama. Something is deeply and systemically wrong with our nation.

Democracy only works if people are well informed and have skin in the game. Far too many of the people who will vote in America this November are not well informed, far too many will be single issue voters, and far too many will vote based on what they can get from government redistribution of wealth. Just to clarify, I am not referring to anyone who has paid into Social Security and Medicare and are, today, merely getting repaid under those programs. But public sector union employees, women like Sandra Fluke, the people filmed in NYC a few months ago holding out their hands for "Obama bucks," crony capitalists . . . there is a sizable portion of the voters who in fact are little more than parasites on society.

There is no doubt in my mind that universal sufferage is a failed experiment. As Ben Franklin stated, "When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." With universal suffrage and the rise of socialism / progressivism, is there anyone who doubts that Franklin had it exactly right?

When Franklin made his observation,, at the inception of our nation, the United States was designed not to have that problem. The vote was limited to white male landowners and tax payers. While the white male bit is an unsupportable anachronism, landowners and people paying income, SSI, or capital gains taxes - people with skin in the game - certainly sounds like an appropriate method of limiting suffrage.

Another variation is the world envisioned by Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers, a society where the only people with rights of suffrage were those who had served their country in the military. As Wiki explains Heinlein's new world:

There is an explicit contrast to the "democracies of the 20th century", which according to the novel, collapsed because "people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted... and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears." Indeed, Colonel Dubois criticizes as unrealistic the famous U.S. Declaration of Independence line concerning "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". No one can stop anyone from pursuing happiness, but the Colonel claims life and liberty exist only if they are deliberately sought and, often, bought painfully by great effort and sacrifice.

Heinlein was nothing if not a keen observer of politics and humanity. But that is not the only other option. There is the world envisioned by a science fiction author, I can't recall his name, where those who wish to live off the public dime are housed in controlled camps, separated from the productive classes of society. They do not vote, but they get to live the life of Julia, swaddled in the protective arms of the state from cradle to grave.

At any rate, man has been experimenting with forms of democracy since at least the days of Plato. Just because universal suffrage is the latest iteration does not make it the best form of democracy. Indeed, given Obama and the state of our nation in 2012, after a century of progressivism clogging our political machine, it is clear that universal suffrage has failed. It may well be that by 2016, we will be far less in need of an election than a revolution. We need to be sure, if and when America 2.0 arrives, that we listen to the wisdom of our founders and not make the mistakes with suffrage that have given us our nation as it is today.


billm99uk said...

Well if you want the inevitable Churchill quote:

"Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time"

GW said...

Heh. Actually, I should have put the decision of the UK voters to elect Clement Attlee over Churchill in 1945 among the list of failures of universal suffrage at the top of my list.

Just to clarify, my problem is not with democracy, but with the concept of universal suffrage. I am pretty firmly of the conclusion that has failed. And Churchill would, I think, agree. As he once said:

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter"

I would say that there is no need to stretch the conversation out to 5 mins. Thirty seconds is enough:


billm99uk said...

With regard to Churchill’s post war defeat, you have to
remember Britain in the 30’s and 40’s was still a very class
ridden society. I think by the beginning of the war most people
had worked out with the gradual American ascendancy of the
first part of the 20th century) that, err... “The future did not
belong” to such societies. The “deal” with WW2 seems basically
to have been “OK, we’ll fight this one under the old rules
(since trying to reorganise your society in the middle of a war
is a recipe for disaster) but once it’s over we’ll try to work out
something more modern”. Churchill, for all his good points,
was an old ‘Empire hand’ at heart and a genuine Conservative
and that just wasn’t what the people wanted in 1945.
Hope and Change I guess.