Monday, May 30, 2011

The Comedy of Democracy

Democracies socialize their citizens into believing that it's okay for people who know nothing about a given policy to make decisions about policies that affect you.  People are taught that political opinions are neither right not wrong, they are simply opinions.  Simple opinions can land you in jail or forcibly deprive you of money in the case of legislation, however.

The evidence that voters know very little about public policies and the voters who make them is overwhelming - see more data here (  But one pointed example comes from The American Voter, a seminal book in public opinion. Written by scholars that began the most scientific studies of opinion in America (NES), it teaches that the average swing voter is usually a drosophila that vote on the most superficial of matters (though not in such words). Here's an example of an interview they quote:

Is there anything in particular you like about the Democratic Party?

No, there's nothing I've got against them.  I feel that Eisenhower ought to have a show...I think he's done wonders myself!  Of course there's his health but I think he'll pull out of that all right.  Give him good thoughts!  (Give him good thoughts?)  Yes.  (Pray for him?) Sure.  I liked him when he came in the first time.  I like the looks of his face.

You can imagine the Mystery Science Theater robots mocking the woman in those paranthetical thoughts.  Eisenhower authorized important decisions about overthrowing the governments of Iran, Guatemala, and Cuba, and shifted military spending from the army to the air force.  He also made decisions about implementing civil rights.  Yet, all this woman can talk about is how he looks and whether he will pull through his operation.  Her vote is equal to that of an expert.

Given that a police state is more likely to develop without a democracy, I am not suggesting that we abandon democracy.  Rather, I suggest we only use government as a last resort.  People are less superficial about major purposes in the marketplace than they are about decisions in the polling booth, where they know that any time they invest in a decision only has a small chance of changing the election's outcome.

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