Reflections on Elections
November 5, 2002
When the media find a Senate contest involving
Walter Mondale the most exciting race in the country, its time to
admit that democracy hasnt quite lived up to its billing. Why is
this a system we should impose on the rest of the world, when it
isnt even serving us very well? Maybe regime change should begin
I know, I know.
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the
others. I prefer another definition: Democracy is two
wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Many people
view it as an opportunity to rob their fellow citizens through the
ballot-box, with the result that the Land of the Free now pays far higher
taxes than its former British masters would have dared to impose.
Nor have we abolished
taxation without representation. A national debt in the trillions is nothing
if not a huge tax imposed on those who cant vote yet. It has been
estimated that a child born today comes into the world owing $100,000 in
bills his elders have chosen not to pay. Federal spending has increased by a
fifth in just the last two years, and the Heritage Foundation projects
spending under the conservative Bush administration at
levels even higher than those of the liberal Lyndon Johnson
administration, when we were paying for the Vietnam War and the Great
Society at the same time.
So why vote? No
matter which party gets elected, were going to get pretty much the
same result. Your vote will make no difference. Its not worth the
effort to get informed about all the candidates in order to
cast one ballot among millions.
counts! you are told. Well, one economist has reckoned that your
chance of getting killed on the way to the polls is greater than the chance
that your vote will decide an election. And of course if the election does
happen to swing on your single vote, there will be recounts and lawsuits
and endless mud-wrestling to reverse the outcome. Finally a court will
choose the winner.
The myth of the
thoughtful citizen making the difference with his vote is
less and less plausible, as more and more minority blocs, growing rapidly,
vote almost unanimously (and often illegally) for the Democrats anyway.
Elections have far more to do with social engineering and appeals to greed
than with meditation.
Mass democracy guarantees stupidity. Masses of people, even if
theyre individually intelligent, can only act stupidly. If
every Athenian had been a Socrates, John Stuart Mill observed,
the Athenian Assembly would still have been a mob.
Democracy can work
well in a small community, where people know each other and can discuss
matters together. A jury is a good model: a few people exchange thoughts
and reach a reasonable consensus. But it doesnt work on a large and
For most of American
history, the constitutional Republic could absorb a certain amount of
democracy. But in the twentieth century, as the country became both
richer and more democratic, the old limitations on the Federal Government
were weakened. The welfare state, combined with a Federal income tax,
created what Mill called an invitation to every man to plunge his
hand into his neighbors pocket. The old white Protestant
individualist ethos began to decay, and the decadence accelerated as
politics became a bidding war for the votes of would-be government
Now we face the
interesting prospect of an uncontrolled flood of immigrants into what has
become the land of taxpayer-supported milk and honey. The Democrats are
making the most of it, while the Republicans have neither the brains nor
the will to counteract it, even though it means Democratic dominance
not to mention economic chaos in the decades ahead.
You can have free
immigration, or you can have a welfare state. Trying to have both at once
may not be such a bright idea. As the aging white taxpayer base shrinks, it
will have to pay for more and more government dependents which,
in our democratic system, can only mean higher taxes, until the whole
thing collapses under a burden that has become impossible to sustain. To
paraphrase Everett Dirksen: a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty
soon youre talking real money.
You like democracy, do
you? Good. Youre going to get a lot more of it.