Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Poverty of Democracy: Part I

Of all the politically correct terms used in everyday discussion, one can easily find that democracy sits on top of that list. Democracy is something we are taught to like. Modern political science courses are centered around the ideal of democracy as the best form of government. The argument in favor of democracy seems to be so airtight, even indisputable. After all, democracy is the rule of the people, and the only alternative of which is rule by a monarch(which is equated with tyrant). And who in the world wants that? What are you, some kind of medieval royalist?

To criticize democracy is treated as sacrilegious, giving the impression of not being on the side of the people. That is why modern detractors are looked upon with scoffing condescension and quickly dismissed as elitist, apathetic, or ignorant. As a result, skeptics are shunned and their arguments are not taken seriously. That is where the heart of the problem lies. For if the ideal of democracy is the epitome of freedom then freedom of speech should be respected. No matter how airtight the argument for democracy is, it not does exempt it from criticism. If anything, the fact that democracy now assumes the qualities of a religion demands serious evaluation.

Most view it as 'rule of the people', but it is really mob rule, or the tyranny of the majority. A system wherein 51% of the people oppress the 49%. In practice, it is nothing but minority rule, the minorities being the lobbyists and special interest groups. The masses simply do not have control over what their 'elected' officials do after they get elected. During elections, it's all lies and hypocrisy, nothing but a popularity contest. Elections divide people on issues and pit them against each other. Once the elections are over, in typical political fashion, the winner somehow takes the role of instrument of the people's will, like finally electing someone into office makes all those warring political groups agree on every issue. Assuming that elected officials have the consent of the people is a dangerous assumption. Almost anything that the politician does is justified, after all, the people consented to it with their votes. So it doesn't matter if we allow the government to violate our privacy(Patriot Act), invade other countries(Iraq), or accrue enormous debt. We owe it to ourselves!

Since majority rule is equated with right rule, then it doesn't matter who wins because the winner is elected by the majority and the majority is right. Many political science students I know share this absurd belief. Because of this, democracy promotes moral relativism. Popular political philosopher Hannah Arendt observed that totalitarian governments exhibited a 'banality of evil'. Little did she know that the 'banality of evil' present in totalitarian regimes is cultivated by the system of democracy.

Faith in the 'wise' majority is nothing more than that, faith. Evidence clearly suggests that the most democratic elections(the ones with the largest majority) choose the worst presidents. Erap Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos, and Manny Villar(if he wins). As shocking as it is, Adolf Hitler was a democratic leader. Hitler became chancellor legally. Mao Tse Tsung rose to power because of the support of millions of farmers. If history is any guide, the worst leaders are the most democratic. Of course once the majority elected official starts ruining the country they are called undemocratic.

No major philosopher has ever viewed democracy as anything more than soft communism. Montesquieu, Tocqueville, Aristotle, Aquinas, Stuart Mill, the founding fathers of America loathed democracy and believed it to be more bloody, while it exists, than monarchy or aristocracy. As Benjamin Franklin popularly said, in an answer to a question about America's form of government, "a republic Ma'am if you can keep it". Only problem is they couldn't keep it. The United States of America was never intended to be a democracy but a constitutional republic. The founding fathers knew that democracy is an inherently unstable transition to oligarchy. The argument can be made in four statements:

1. In a democracy, the poor outnumber the rich so they vote to take away the property of the rich through policies like progressive taxation.

2. The rich, formerly gaining wealth through honest means, are encouraged to lobby and bribe politicians to protect their wealth. Honest entrepreneurs are placed at a permanent disadvantage while those with the skills of bribery and deception at an advantage.

3. The poor are further impoverished and dehumanized by the endless conflict in politics. While those who remain rich are those with very good political connections and are more likely parasites than producers (which makes the masses blame capitalism even more)

4. The political class conflict of rich versus poor wipe out the middle class, whom are entrepreneurial or high skilled workers, and thus the oligarchy is realized.

In a democracy, there is always a manufactured class conflict to keep the political machine running. The masses have to be incited and provoked so politicians' policies can be justified and their power strengthened. Politics creates what Jose Ortega y Gasset calls the mass-man, livestock for the state. The mass-man does not have independent thought, but a product of the state propaganda apparatus. A mentality of going(or voting) with the crowd is engendered and what left of independent thought and action is eroded. All democracies today are undergoing the same process. Democracy, is most destructive, governing large geographical areas. India, the largest democracy in the world, has less than half the per capita GDP of China and is politically unstable precisely because India is a democracy and China is not. The destructive effects of democracy, however, are restrained in states of small geographical areas like Switzerland. Rousseau, the great preacher of equality, believed democracy only works in states covering small territories because people will vote on their feet. Rousseau would find the current arrangement rather idiotic.

Hundreds of years ago, at a time of strong anti-monarchical sentiment, nobody would have ever known that replacing monarchy with democracy would result in today's size of bureaucracy, economic regulation, and rates of taxation.

Democracy definitely is an egregious form of government. But if we cannot find a viable alternative, it is futile to go against the tide. Democracy could well be, as Churchill noted, the worst form of government except for all those other forms. Part II will compare the social arrangements of monarchy and democracy. Which is better between the two? And if there exists a social order superior to both monarchy and democracy. Professor Hoppe in his revolutionary book "Democracy: The God That Failed" has made this comparison. I shall give my humble remarks of his work in Part II.

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