Monday, September 13, 2004

Democracy and Human Nature

I admit it. I'm frustrated with democracy. My frustration stems from those who pay no attention to the issues in elections, but rather they vote for their party or whomever some authority figure tells them to vote for (this is particularly true with unions). I'm assuming that many people have felt this frustration.

Someone might say, "Josh, your frustration is with voters, not democracy." To which I respond, "The very problem with democracy is that these voters are necessary for it." Now I'm treading on dangerous ground. Do I mean to suggest that certain people shouldn't be allowed to vote? YES. I think that anyone who wants to vote should be forced to take a test on the issues. If they cannot support their beliefs with reasonable premises they fail. The test should not be slanted toward one ideology or the other (perhaps both parties could contribute questions), nor should it be full of specialized terms (which may be easier said than done), but it should allow the voter to demonstrate his or her grasp of a couple of issues they feel are important. As long as someone has a rational reason why they want to vote a certain way I have no problem.

When I shared this idea someone asked me, "Isn't that elitist?" I said, "Probably." I don't care because as I see it, people throw the term 'elitist' around as a sophisticated form of name calling. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. For instance, a medical elitist might maintain that only trained physicians should treat patients. That sounds reasonable doesn't it? Now do you want someone who doesn't care enough to educate themselves making political decisions that affect your future? I'd wager that you don't.

Even if you're now convinced that 'the test' should be put in place, you might say, "What's to stop the DNC or the RNC from giving people short answers to memorize to get around the test?" Good point. That's one of the problem with politics. There's always a loophole. It's human nature to seek the path of least resistance. That leads to the second part of my essay.

Politics is the long process of the aristocracy reasserting itself. Say it like a mantra and let it sink in. Human beings are, by and large, the types of creatures that want an elite group to rule over them. Humans only "yearn to breath free" in certain specialized circumstances (such as a life lived under heavy oppression). Other than that, people want to be told what to do. If people are allowed to self-govern they will eventually set up their own artificial aristocracies (or perhaps theocracies). By 'aristocracy' I mean 'government by the citizens deemed best qualified to lead' (definition from Perhaps they will let scientists rule their lives, perhaps theologians, perhaps rhetoricians. Most likely, subgroups in the countries will choose different aristocrats to follow.

So what does all this mean? It means that democracy is a doomed experiment. Democracy is contrary to human nature, so it will ultimately fail as most other political systems have. People say they want to rule their own destinies, but they really don't want to put in the time it takes to do so.

One question remains: Who is your aristocrat?


Johnny-Dee said...

This post oddly corresponds to today's lecture given by my Critical Thinking professor that I TA for. The problem in a democracy is that it assumes people are responsible voters, a fortiori, responsible thinkers. Instead, we let thirty second political ads that give little/no information to be the basis for our vote. People are more like cows herded into stalls than rational beings responsibly wielding their rational capacities. I understand why the founders of this nation set up buffers in the voting process. Good post!

Olen said...

Josh - see my entry here:

Richard said...

That's funny, I posted a similar suggestion (i.e. proposing a voter 'test') on my own blog last night. Inspired by the same Maverick Philosopher post, perhaps?

By the way, if you check your Technorati page, then you'll know whenever anyone links to you (so we won't need to leave these comments!)

Another useful tool I've recently noticed, is the referring web pages script. If you add it to your blog template (I did mine after the comments section, but before the "/itempage" tag) then it will automatically display all the websites that have recently sent visitors to your page.