Democracy Is a Terrible System, Periodby Douglas French
Nov. 05, 2012
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The election year of 2012 reminds us of the sheer waste and lunacy of democracy. Like soccer's World Cup or the Summer or Winter Olympics, presidential elections in the United States come every four years. The campaign is a carnival that begins the minute after a winner is declared in November.
Each successive campaign is said to be dirtier than the last. Each candidate touts change and hope, but delivers neither. No matter who wins, the government is elected, every time. Thousands of bureaucrats march off to work the day after the election no matter who wins. Four years later, the same government employees will likely go to bed early on election night not caring who wins, because their jobs, which stand in the way of freedom each and every day, will be unaffected by the election results.
The citizenry is pummeled with public service announcements to "make your voice heard." It is your civic duty to vote. You have nothing to complain about if you don't. But, in fact, government wants you to vote, but then sit down and shut up. Leave the governing to the professionals, while you pound your chest and wave Old Glory.
There are thousands of elections every year. Political positions from constable to governor are elected constantly. So with all of these layers of democracy — this great thing that America spends so many lives and so much money exporting — is America freer? With this constant turnover of political blood, is business allowed to operate unfettered? After all, we are led to believe democracy is synonymous with freedom. No democracy, no freedom.
America was attacked on Sept. 11 because they hate us for our freedoms, we're told. America is so free it has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 750 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. More than 2.3 million people are locked up, and many more millions are on probation. Is this is the upside of this great thing — democracy?
The Federal Register, a publication with all the country's (federal, nonclassified) rules is now over 81,000 pages long. President Obama's Affordable Care Act is 906 pages. The Dodd-Frank Act totals 849 pages. Once upon a time, in 1913, the Federal Reserve was created with only 31 pages. The U.S. Constitution required only six pages.
Democracy is getting wordier. The more words, the more pages, the more rules, the less free we become. But we still have democracy, so we must be the luckiest people in the world. This is the greatest nation in the world… because of democracy. Because we have a say.
The idea of democracy is sacrosanct. To question it implies that you are in favor of despotism and tyranny. Democracy fans conveniently ignore the fact that despots and tyrants are freely elected every year.
President Hugo Chavez retained power in Venezuela this year, winning comfortably despite running his country's economy into the ground with his socialist revolution of nationalizing key industries, tight exchange controls, and price controls on certain basic goods.
As the European economy continued to lurch toward meltdown, French voters elected Francois Hollande in 2012. The first three things Hollande did were raise the minimum wage, reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60, and raise the top tax rate to 75%. A conspiracy theorist would assume Hollande is deliberately trying to demolish what's left of the French economy with these policies.
In Moscow, Vladimir Putin was again elected president of Russia. Despite police repression and the thuggery of the previous Putin regime, pro-Putin rallies were much more popular than anti-Putin rallies. "This is the time to build a bridge to Putin, before the most talented people move out of Russia," said curator Marat Gelman.
As the United States elections draw near, the incumbent president is leading or tied in the polls. In his four years, he has not really deviated from his predecessor's policies that were generally reviled by those in his party. He has presided over the largest expansion in public debt in world history, with the result being economic growth that is the weakest since the Great Depression. And this guy is likely to win. If he doesn't, his opponent will govern just as he (and the ones before him) did.
Those of us paying attention are left to merely sigh and roll our eyes, reminded of H.L. Mencken's line, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
Meanwhile, democracy continues on unquestioned. The politicians may be crooked, the taxes ruinous, the bureaucracy unwieldy, and the regulations outrageous, but the source of these outcomes is never questioned. The hope of democracy depends on the idea that all we need is the right people in power.
If democracy isn't working, it's not democracy's fault. The problem is only that the right people have not been elected yet. This theory has been tested for hundreds of years and the results are the same, yet people still hope and believe. The worst rise to the top in politics, F.A. Hayek explained. To be elected, politicians must appeal to the least intelligent and most gullible. And because democracy makes politics and power available to everyone, it attracts those seeking status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, appreciation, dignity, and even dominance. The right people will never be attracted to politics, only the wrong people will.
To challenge democracy is brave. To do it in print is heroic. The authors of Beyond Democracy concisely dismantle the myths of democracy. If you come to this book already enlightened, their arguments will augment your arsenal. If you haven't yet shaken democracy's hold, your view of the world is about to be turned upside down. This is a book you will read in one sitting, and in the end its ideas will strip you of the statist baggage that has weighed you down. The world's future, with problems that seem hopeless, will suddenly become brighter. One short book will make you understand why "no democracy" is the only path to true freedom.
Douglas E. French is senior editor of the Laissez Faire Club. He received his master's degree under the direction of Murray N. Rothbard at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, after many years in the business of banking. He is the author of two books, Early Speculative Bubbles and Increases in the Supply of Money, the first major empirical study of the relationship between early bubbles and the money supply, and Walk Away, a monograph assessing the philosophy and morality of strategic default. He is founder and editor of LibertyWatch magazine. Write him.