"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." ~ Thomas Jefferson
The Failure of Democracy
Column by Cristian Gherasim.
Note: Cristian Gherasim plagiarized this column from here.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway place, there lived a group of human beings without benefit of government. Any government at all. How did they manage?
Well, whenever there was a dispute between two neighbors, or friends, or merchants, or between a retailer and a customer, the plaintiff and defendant together would hire someone to mediate between them. This would be a leader of the community, or a prince, or leader of the clan, or an old wise man, someone renowned for his wisdom and sense of fair play. If there were a robbery, or a rape, or a murder, the victim would resort to the same kind of person who, for an agreed-upon fee, would mobilize the community to bring about justice by use of force or banishment or both.
All was well in this idyll until a community leader, or prince, or wise man—the most respected and powerful of them all—decided that he didn’t much like the competition from others of his own type. So, instead of allowing disputants a choice, he insisted that they all patronize services from only himself. But securing a monopoly over protection, defense and insurance was not enough for this ambitious man. In addition, he demanded that all members of the society pay him fees whether or not they had any need of his assistance in such matters. He hired a bunch of intellectuals, professors and journalists to bruit it about that this new system was only proper and natural, and that the previous one was fatally flawed: morally, intellectually, spiritually and pragmatically.
At least this Prince ruled in a reasonably wise and humane manner. He pretty much had to. There were of course some exceptions, but his own selfish personal interest dictated good stewardship over his domains. For with these vast powers, he was in effect the owner of the entire society.
If he engaged in socialism, or promulgated price controls (especially for things he purchased), or raised taxes very much, or indulged in too much inflation, or expropriated property or in any other way threatened his people’s incentives to create wealth, he might make out like a bandit (which he was in any case) in the short run, but in the long run he would kill or at least seriously maim the goose that was giving him all those golden eggs.
No one worries about an oil change for a rental car, but if you own one, you tend to keep in mind its future operation. And, as an added incentive, if the prince didn’t act in a reasonably responsible way, if he was in the process of ruining things, a son or a nephew or a brother would likely assassinate him, secure in the knowledge that the law of succession would transfer these spoils in his own direction.
But then a second tragedy befell mankind, one far more serious: We moved from monarchy to democracy. Now, all bets were off. The President or Prime Minister or Elected Leader knew that he had only so much time to feather his own nest. Why worry unduly about the future of the economy when he will not be around to collect after the next four years? Nor could he pass off his "kingdom" to his heirs. "Grab now" and "make hay while the sun shines" became the mottos of the elected officeholder.
This short-sighted behavior pattern transferred from ruler to ruled. It not only ruined the economy, but promoted war, exacerbated crime, increased interest rates and drove up all sorts of other indices of disarray. The decline of human civilization was caused by the rise of democracy.
But wait just one cotton-picking minute. Surely things are far better off, at least in the Western democracies, than they were hundreds of years ago when these very same countries were ruled by kings, princes and other monarchs. How, then, can anyone in his right mind seriously recommend the latter system vis-à-vis the former?
Twenty-first Century democracies work better in many ways than did monarchies of earlier epochs, not because of their different political systems but in spite of them. Had there been 17th Century democracies, they would have been far worse than rule by princes during that century. And, if we are ever lucky enough that nobility replaces our present-day presidents and prime ministers, an increased ability to take the long-run view will actually improve matters.