By Tyler Bauer
We often think of democracy as being the best form of government. But is this true? In short, no, this probably isn’t true. In fact, democracy is probably the worst form of government … except for all of the others.
(In all seriousness, democracy isn’t the worst – it’s just the least bad form of government.)
Voters and Voting
Sure, we all like the right to vote. But how does it feel when your preferred candidate loses? Just look at the state of American politics to answer this question. It should come as no surprise that we tend to have more faith in democracy when our preferred candidate wins and we question the merits of democracy when our preferred candidate loses.
Some will say that even if your preferred candidate loses, at least your vote matters. Your vote most certainly does count – it will be included in the vote total, after all – but it definitely doesn’t matter. In reality, you’re really wasting your time on Election Day. You’d be better off doing just about anything else. I’m not telling you not to vote – I’m just saying that your vote is probably irrelevant. This becomes somewhat less true as elections become more local – your vote for mayor is more statistically significant than your vote for president, for example – but it remains true nonetheless.
Many people don’t even have time to make well-informed decisions about candidates or issues. For example, do you know who your county commissioner is? Probably not, but you would likely still vote for a county commissioner on Election Day. People are busy, so they don’t have time to choose the best candidate. Instead, we usually just choose the candidate that is a member of our preferred party. Is that a good enough reason to give someone power?
Due to the lack of free time to become informed on candidates and issues, voters often make objectively wrong choices. Voters may support a candidate because he or she promises to increase social spending. However, these voters may not have known that the increase in social spending will result in either increased taxes or an increase in debt. When governments are working with budgets that exceed a few trillion dollars, one may underestimate the consequences of going a billion dollars further into debt.
Candidates and Politicians
The electoral process favors the wealthy. Whether this is good or bad can be decided by you. However, elections usually aren’t cheap, and the candidate with the most money has a distinct advantage over his or her competition. Because of this, candidates are often wealthier than those who they represent and therefore are somewhat out of touch. If you don’t believe me, look at our current president. President Trump – love him or hate him – is far richer than me. This doesn’t necessarily make him a bad politician, but it does mean that he is not representative of me. I’m not saying wealthy people shouldn’t be allowed to run for office, but the disparity in wealth between elected officials and their constituents is generally bad because neither side can fully understand the other.
Power corrupts. Candidates can be bought by various interest groups. Many candidates often make concessions on their personal beliefs in an effort to win elections or gain more funding through campaign contributions. The democratic process actively encourages candidates to bow down to the existing powers that be (for power) and become representatives for interest groups (for money), leaving constituents more or less ignored.
The Basic Principle of Democracy
Ben Franklin once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” What Franklin said here is correct. Democracy allows the majority to rule the minority however they see fit. This is the underlying concept from which all democratic principles come.
It is worth remembering that the majority is not always correct, and this is where the second half of Franklin’s quote comes into effect. Democracy should not – but often does – infringe on liberties. In a pure democracy, 51% of the population could vote to kill the remaining 49%, and this would be allowable. (Thankfully, we have a democratic republic, which should protect against such an event.) What’s possible in a pure democracy is precisely why democracy is the worst form of government (except for all of the others). This is also why it is so important to take the initiative to fight for your rights.
If – or, God forbid, when – the majority comes to infringe on your rights, you have to be prepared to stand up for yourself.