John R. Smith: Is Too Much Democracy a Bad Thing?

Can we have such a thing as too much democracy? The short answer, heretics rejoice, is yes.

There is a downside to democracy. Indeed, democracy can be dark and dangerous. It can cause harm to certain classes of citizens.

Democracy is political rule by the majority. A pure democracy has no limits and permits the majority to do as it wishes. A democracy can ignore human rights, pass whimsical laws, confiscate the money of the wealthy, and persecute minorities.

Yes, democracies are dangerous for minorities and for those who produce society’s wealth.  There is no guarantee that democracy will be just or respect minority rights.

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An astounding fact from college psychology courses is that successful people who excel at what they do are abnormal. Highly successful people are a minority and abnormal because, by definitionnormal people do not excel. Excellence comes from the few, the successful. A democracy gives political power to the majority of people who do not often succeed at what they strive to do in life, including succeeding financially. Thus, those who do not succeed financially have the incentive to elect a government of politicians who propose laws that re-distribute wealth. The “wealthy minority” find themselves paying large portions of their earnings and wealth to those who control the ballot box in a democracy: the “unwealthy majority.” In this way, democracies slide into socialism.

Democracies spawn politicians who run for office, promising the masses (the unwealthy majority) that their lot will be improved if such politicians are elected. Of course, improving the lot of the majority usually comes through taking things of value from the wealthy minority. Any meaningful analysis inevitably concludes that an unlimited democracy alone can never work for long because there is little incentive for successful behavior. Why work hard if the fruits must be handed to those who don’t?

Only American Citizens Should be Permitted to Vote

Democracies require political additives to work. Democracy is but one component of a proper and just government. With historical knowledge, objective experts in political philosophy agree that a constitutional republic, with a constitution guaranteeing rights and providing for elected representatives, is the best form of government so far produced.

Both Plato and Aristotle had a profound dislike of democracy. Plato believed that democracy bred diversity, which is dangerous in a political system because diversity brings disunity and a lack of focus. Too many cooks spoil the political pie. Plato also believed democracy promotes demagoguery, favors mediocrity, penalizes success, and leads to chaos. He held that a republic is the superior form of political system.

Aristotle had a more open view of democracy and refused to make sweeping statements about political systems. But in the end, when he compared systems, he viewed democracy unfavorably.

A democratic republic is far superior to a pure democracy because individual rights and quality of life are dominant themes. Adding the free market to a democratic republic is the recipe offering the best chance for the pursuit of happiness.

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The free market, especially one with a full flow of information and disclosure, offers efficiency and accessibility and eliminates waste. It promotes personal responsibility. It curtails both inefficient and un-useful expenditure of resources. The free market efficiently promotes the progress of an idea to a service or product that is useful to society. It usually accomplishes this without the help or intrusion of the government. It may take some time, but in the end, the “unseen hand” of transparent, free markets usually corrects their excesses better than government-imposed solutions. “The combination of a democratic society and a free market provides the most powerful combination of achieving fairness, equity, and the protection of rights, property, health, and safety. (It is) essential to our way of life, and there is no full democracy without a free market,” stated Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield when on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Recall that we “pledge allegiance to the republic” of the United States, not to the democracy of the United States. Remember what makes our U.S. system work: a constitutional republic with a rights-guaranteeing constitution coupled with the strength of a free market. Democracy is an essential part of the system, but it crosses the finish line fourth in importance.

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