The Magic of Democracy

Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) had a humorous take on the recent IRS scandals (see clip here) however what I found most interesting in his monologue is what I believe may be the most succinct summation of the core belief system of all progressives/socialists:

“I believe…that good government has the power to improve people’s lives and that the people have the power to restrain its excesses.”

Within this statement are two fallacies. Let’s deal with the first one. Although government can in theory improve people’s lives, the fallacy is in the unspoken assumption that government is the only agent in society that can accomplish such goals. Using government to improve people’s lives is like using a hammer to drive in a screw – it can get the job done eventually but there are far more efficient ways to accomplish the task.

The second half of the statement, however, yields the much more interesting and widely held fallacy. It embodies the fatal naiveté of those who believe democracy is the most perfect form of government. Democracy provides us with the comfortable illusion of self-determination and control while in reality providing no such thing. As we ride the majority wave we delude ourselves into thinking we control the wave, but we do not. One second we are high on the surf, the next we are plunging downward as we are pulled out to sea against our will. We do not control the mob, the mob controls us.

No system is perfect but monopoly governance short circuits the natural feedback mechanisms that would otherwise eliminate abuses. To naively believe “reform” can fix our present woes is to ignore man’s basic instinct to obtain more with less effort. When this instinct is set loose in monopoly government the result is cronyism, when set loose in the market the result is innovations and efficiency improvements.

Some believe the government feedback is not broken, that it is the polling booth that provides this check on abuse. This does seem plausible – “vote the bums out” as they say. Unfortunately, this feedback fails to effect change as long as only a minority is abused. The minority can never garner enough votes to “change” things and everyone else is indifferent as long as they are not being affected. The majority is pandered to by promises of favoritism at the expense of the minority. And so nothing changes. If businesses were run like government (wherein employees voted for the boss that promised them the biggest pay increase) is it not obvious such selfish self-interest would eventually lead to financial collapse? The size and scope of government debt serves as testament to the accumulation of just such abuse. A private entity could never have accumulated so much debt and would have been extinguished long ago.

Voting on who runs the government makes about as much sense as voting on who should run Publix. Publix sells us goods and services and so does government – why does Publix have to compete for our dollars but government does not? Why do we vote for government leaders but not Publix leaders? One word: taxes. Taxes are compulsory. Voting mollifies the masses into the delusion that they have chosen this compulsory state in much the same way a corralled animal chooses its path. A leashed animal is restless and fights the leash. But, remove the leash and allow it to roam free on fenced pasture and it will cease all resistance. The illusion of freedom is quite powerful.