11 January 2013

A Compelling Case Against Democracy

In the sub-discipline of economics known as public choice, an important concept is the theory of "rational ignorance." First articulated by political scientist Anthony Downs in the 1950s, and expanded upon by economist Gordon Tullock and others, the theory of rational ignorance holds that it is perfectly rational for individuals to largely ignore politics, or even not to vote. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and we all spend most of our time doing our jobs, pursuing an education, raising families, paying bills, and planning our private lives. We rationally spend very little time becoming informed about politics and government policy.

A decent number of Americans tend to revere the founding fathers for their foresight and wisdom, and rightfully so.  When you look at some of the things the founding fathers wrote, you can’t help but be impressed by the obvious fact that the founding fathers obviously spent a lot of time thinking about politics, political theory, government policy, and the philosophy of government.  It’s tempting to look at the thing these men wrote some two hundred forty years ago and project that level of interest and understanding of politics onto the general population.  However, this would be a mistake.

The truth of the matter is that humanity doesn’t really change much over time.  Most people today, lime most people of two hundred years ago, and like people of two thousand years ago, are rather apathetic toward politics and political theory.  Most people are simply too busy with their lives to be deeply concerned about such things.  The founders recognized this, which is why—in the early days of the republic—suffrage was highly limited.

See, democracy inevitably fails because the electorate elects representatives who most closely represent their political views.  Unfortunately, the electorate is rather politically ignorant, and so the politicians they elect tend to be ignorant as well (alternatively, the politicians may simply be acting ignorant so as to get re-elected; either way the result is the same).  Most people simply are not equipped to govern a nation, and therefore they should have little say in how it is governed.  As long as their rights are respected and they find themselves growing wealthier in successive generations, then they can rest assured that the government is doing its job.  As long as the metaphorical sausage is made properly, people need not concern themselves with the process by which it is made.

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