Friday, December 03, 2004

Against Democracy

Seeing as how I came out with a post against Justice a while ago, maybe nobody will be very surprised to see me come out with a post against Democracy.

I think this country is far too democratic. Everywhere I read, left and right, that if the political system really reflected the People everything would be hunky dory. I don't think so. I think the problem is that this political system reflects the People all too well, with all their ignorance, impatience, and childishness.

A poll right after the presidential debates, of students at the University of Tennessee, if I remember right, asked which candidate wanted to roll back tax cuts for people making over 200,000 a year. About 50% thought it was Kerry. About 25% thought it was Bush. And 25% had the decency to admit they didn't know.

How about the fact that 87% of Americans STILL can't find Iraq on a map? And a majority can't find India? And to 29% the location of the Pacific Ocean is a mystery?

These are not, in my opinion, people who have any business selecting the government of the United States.

It's not that I think Americans are particularly stupid. They're as clever as anyone else when it comes to things they know about and care about. It's just that most of them don't know or care about things such as the nature of the Egyptian government or the dwindling of America's merchant-marine or the current state of scientific opinion about global warming. Yet we have a poltiical system that requires that they do (since they'll vote more or less directly for the president, who sets most policy about these sorts of things).

I know that many of you are angry at people who don't vote, but my own feeling is that if they don't know enough to vote confidently, they probably shouldn't do it. They're probably making the right decision.

The electoral college was intended to be buffer between the raw public and the election of the American executive. The idea was that each state would send its best people off to meet together and have a long talk and select a president. But now that we all bind our delegates to vote according to the popular vote of the state, that's been lost. The election of the president is no longer buffered against the raw public. It's made quirky by the electoral college, but it hasn't really been buffered.

I do think that legitimate power can only be derived from the people, and that all people should have an ultimately equal voice in choosing their government. But that doesn't mean I have to think a university student who believes that Bush wants to roll back his own tax cuts and that the Pacific Ocean laps gently on the Florida shore is a good presidential elector.

I would like to see a real republic. Or maybe a rerepublic. I trust a group of 100 people who know each other to select five from amongst themselves who are (on average) better qualified than they are. Bring together a hundred people selected that way, and let them vote for five amongst themselves, who would then vote for congressmen and presidents. Give those congressmen and presidents single long terms -- twelve years, say. So they have time to learn the job and don't have to spend most of their time getting re-elected. Once elected I don't want my representatives responding to the public, and being accountable to them. I want them responding to events, and being accountable to their own consciences.

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