by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For the first time since at least the 1930s, serious commentators in Western countries are arguing against democracy.
“Popular opinion is not always right,” says the cult Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. “Sometimes I think one has to violate the will of the majority.”
Britain’s high-brow Prospect magazine agrees: “There are stupid, ignorant people in every country, but their blameless stupidity mostly doesn’t matter because they are not asked to take historically momentous and irrevocable decisions of state.” …
… These comments are prompted by Britain’s recent decision to leave the EU and, frankly, they are at the politer end of the spectrum. In the two months since the referendum, Remain supporters have filled social media with denunciations of the elderly bigots who, in their fantasies, comprised the bulk of the Leave vote. Some demand that the franchise be linked to intelligence tests; others that referendums be abandoned.
Underlining all these complaints is the same sentiment: We know best. As Jason Brennan of Georgetown University puts it:
“Most voters are ignorant of both basic political facts and the background social scientific theories needed to evaluate the facts. They process what little information they have in highly biased and irrational ways. They decided largely on whim.”
Many of these elitists also blame the financial crisis on voters who, too cretinous to grasp their true interests, kept voting for tax cuts and spending rises until the money ran out. …
… Which brings me to the core of the case for democracy. It’s not that the voters are always right; it’s that, in aggregate, they’re wiser than the experts. Or, to put it another way, democracy may not be perfect, but it is preferable to oligarchy.
If you doubt me, contrast the fortunes of the United States, which was built on the maximum decentralization, democratization and diffusion of decision-making, to those of the European Union, which was meant to be a technocracy.
Government is not a craft, like watchmaking or eye surgery, that rewards expertise and experience. Government is a series of decisions about how to arbitrate clashing interests.
Human nature being what it is, the people in power will, consciously or unconsciously, conflate the national interest with their own.