Saturday, November 03, 2012

Quote of the Day: If Democracy Isn’t Working, It’s Not Democracy’s Fault

The idea of democracy is sacrosanct. To question it implies that you are in favor of despotism and tyranny. Democracy fans conveniently ignore the fact that despots and tyrants are freely elected every year.

President Hugo Chavez retained power in Venezuela this year, winning comfortably despite running his country’s economy into the ground with his socialist revolution of nationalizing key industries, tight exchange controls, and price controls on certain basic goods.

As the European economy continued to lurch toward meltdown, French voters elected Francois Hollande in 2012. The first three things Hollande did were raise the minimum wage, reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60, and raise the top tax rate to 75%. A conspiracy theorist would assume Hollande is deliberately trying to demolish what’s left of the French economy with these policies.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin was again elected president of Russia. Despite police repression and the thuggery of the previous Putin regime, pro-Putin rallies were much more popular than anti-Putin rallies. “This is the time to build a bridge to Putin, before the most talented people move out of Russia,” said curator Marat Gelman.

As the United States elections draw near, the incumbent president is leading or tied in the polls. In his four years, he has not really deviated from his predecessor’s policies that were generally reviled by those in his party. He has presided over the largest expansion in public debt in world history, with the result being economic growth that is the weakest since the Great Depression. And this guy is likely to win. If he doesn’t, his opponent will govern just as he (and the ones before him) did.

Those of us paying attention are left to merely sigh and roll our eyes, reminded of H.L. Mencken’s line, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Meanwhile, democracy continues on unquestioned. The politicians may be crooked, the taxes ruinous, the bureaucracy unwieldy, and the regulations outrageous, but the source of these outcomes is never questioned. The hope of democracy depends on the idea that all we need is the right people in power.

If democracy isn’t working, it’s not democracy’s fault. The problem is only that the right people have not been elected yet. This theory has been tested for hundreds of years and the results are the same, yet people still hope and believe. The worst rise to the top in politics, F.A. Hayek explained. To be elected, politicians must appeal to the least intelligent and most gullible. And because democracy makes politics and power available to everyone, it attracts those seeking status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, appreciation, dignity, and even dominance. The right people will never be attracted to politics, only the wrong people will.
This is from Mises Institute President Douglas French at the Laissez Faire Books on the popular delusion of the democratic utopia.

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