Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm just learning about....democracy #1: Democracy is bad, m'kay?

Because I often find myself thinking these days  about things that I may change my mind about later, I've decided to do a series of "I'm just learning about" blogs.  As I've stated elsewhere, this blog contains much of my mental processes as I consider ideas put forth in libertarianism and anarchocapitalism...the latter of which I had never heard of a little over a year ago.

So this first one is about democracy.

We in the west...and perhaps everywhere...have been taught that democracy is a virtuous thing.  That it is the hallmark of an institution that is just, fair, and decent.  When the wars in the middle east that I used to support were defended, in part, by the need to bring "democracy" to other parts of the world, I thought, "What a great idea!  The middle easterners deserve to have democracy too."

The first time I heard the saying "Democracy is like two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner" was from Alex Jones.  Now, I love Alex Jones, and not for the reason you might suspect.  Or maybe you would. But anyway Alex Jones is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, sometimes for laughs, sometimes for ideas about what I think would be terrific scripts for movies I will never make.  Occasionally I agree with him, in the same way I would agree with President Obama if he said "Paris is in France."  And when I heard him say it, I couldn't refute the statement, "Democracy is like two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner."

It was a moment of serious cognitive dissonance for me.  How could democracy be a bad, or even evil thing,  when it's what my old heroes of 1776 fought for?  Or it was what the Soviet dissonants had cried out for?  Or the Chinese students made a statue for in Tianenmen Square?

Turns out, as I've learned from my adventures as an amateur Sovietologist, that the USSR was pretty sure it was a democracy, even if the people who didn't like being there (and maybe some who did) would disagree.  The Nazis seized power in Germany through an undeniably democratic process: they were elected into a plurality of parliament representatives, and from there, a democratically elected president appointed Hitler Chancellor.  And that was that.

Those of us praying for democracy in the middle east watched in dismay at the results of the democraticization of the West Bank, now controlled by Palestenians:  so far, two terrorists groups have legally obtained power there.

So after a time pondering Mr. Conspiracy's description of democracy, I was prepared to see democracy in a new light.

Shortly after that I had a beloved subscription to the magazine "Liberty" which has since gone to a much inferior electronic version.  Mehhh.  But when they were in print I would devour them from the time I received them in the mailbox from start ot finish, without stopping to do anything else.  Then I would re-read them.  I don't believe there was much criticism about democracy per se in this conservative libertarian publication, but there was one article that fascinated me (and which i will credit appropriately if I can find it). The article spoke of a small kingdom in South Asia (can't remember which), and of the idea that liberty is as much likely to be found in a monarchy as in a democracy.  The author made a good argument.

As my beliefs morphed from Republican to libertarian to anarchocapatilist, so have my opinions about democracy.  My main go-to source about ancap, Ben Stone at badquaker,com speaks about the problems with democracy often, always with the summarizing point, democracy is a type of force.  It is the majority forcing everyone to follow its wishes.  A majority in a community votes to raise millages, and everyone has to pay more, regardless if they have kids in school or if they voted for the measure.  An act to protect the yellow bellied turkey lizard passes, and a rancher in Texas is forced to give up part of his property to the government (and in the process lose a part of how he makes his living).  Jim Crow laws are passed in states and certain people are forced to live with inferior goods and services.  In perhaps the worst example in the US, a Supreme Court appointed by elected officials decides that human beings who have managed to get away from a life in chains truly are property and must be returned to slavery in the Dred Scott decision.
A duly elected Congress votes to allow a President to declare war on someplace far away, ensuring that certain women, children, and male well as soldiers who probably were forced into being in their military....give up their lives involuntarily.

So I am ready to tentatively accept the idea that democracy is, indeed bad.  But like Winston Churchill, who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others", I'm still not sure with what it should be replaced.

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