Tyler Cowen Cheers Democracy
By Arnold Kling
unlike one of my esteemed colleagues, I believe that we should revere democracy as one of the modern world’s greatest achievements…
Democracy is pretty good at pushing scoundrels out of office, or checking them once they are in office. Democracy is also good at making sure enough interest groups are bought off so that social order may continue and that a broad if sometimes inane social consensus can be manufactured and maintained…
But democracy is very bad at fine-tuning the details of economic policy. Democracy is very bad at bringing about political solutions which are not congruent with the other sources of economic and social influence in a country. The solution is not to be less democratic, but rather to appreciate democracy for what it is good for. And the excesses of democracy should be fought with ideas, albeit with the realization that not everyone will be convinced. Those are the breaks, as democracy needs all the friends it can get.
My views on this subject are here.
Democracy does not lead to particularly good choices. Most successful institutions in society are not democratic.
…For me, the value of democracy is that it provides a check on government officials. The fact that leaders can be tossed out by popular vote helps to limit their abuse of power. Democracy gives the people the power to toss out the bums.
I view modern elections as marketing blitzes by power-hungry politicians. Just as the Super Bowl is ultimately about marketing corporate products, what CNN calls the “ballot bowl” is ultimately about marketing government power.
Those of us who want to restrain government do not have the mass-media circus of the election system to work with. But we do have blogs.
UPDATE: A commenter points to Mencius Moldbug, eloquent as always.
How does Google just skate along without any suffrage at all, whereas Georgia needs elections? And which trust would you guess is more effectively exercised?
Moldbug argues that faith in democracy today is analogous to faith in God 250 years ago. I’ll be curious to see how he dispenses with Churchill’s “All the others are tied” argument. Because government is not Google.
Incidentally, I am very much in sympathy with another commenter, who argues that it the ability to pick up and move that gives citizens an effective check on government. That is what makes world government such a dystopian concept.