Democracy Fails: Most of us were indoctrinated in the state-run school system how democracy works in our great country. Civics. The people have a problem. Good elected leaders recognize it. A bill is proposed, goes to house, senate, president, and becomes law. Then the problem is solved, and everyone is happy. Democracy! Right up there with apple pie and Mom in defining America, and goodness.

The reality is much more grim. Democracy, properly used, is an useful technique for measuring opinion. But it is a dangerous meme, given to taking over. Consider: what is democracy? It is "government by the people; especially : rule of the majority" ( Note: "rule" of the "people". Control by a collective. To formulate democracy in terms of control, it is the control of things by the people, that is, the public. The "control of things" is what property is about; another way to define democracy is thus "a system of public property employing majority vote as the primary decision technique". And that is public property in all things. In an (absolute) democracy, everything is owned by the public. Your shoes, your car, your income, your wealth, and your life. All of these things are up for majority vote. Of course, even in an absolute democracy not all things would necessarily have to be voted on. A democracy may well never get around to voting on what shoes you should wear, thereby de facto leaving you a private decision there. But it is still not private property - the right is not yours, merely the privilege.

Now, as we were all taught in Civics, the USA isn't actually a democracy - we're a republic. The difference is not that significant; the people don't rule directly but instead use elected representatives, who rule directly. But the system maintains the character of public property, and so I will continue to refer to democracy.

Why does democracy fail? One primary reason is the subject of the previous post: rent seeking. The US Government owns all of our income: yours, mine, and that of every other citizen. It allows us to keep some, of course - we vote it so. But there has never been a tax rate declared too high by the Supreme Court, and there won't be while the 16th amendment stands. Incomes are public property. They are worth a great deal. And so many, many groups struggle to get the Congress to take a slice and give it to them. How much is currently wasted on rent-seeking? Well, take as a start all the people that aren't working who could, in order to get a welfare check, a disability check, or a social security check. All of the income these people are intentionally foregoing in order to take a slice of my paycheck - rent seeking. Now add on all the incomes of bureaucrats who produce nothing, and pro-rate the income of those that produce little of value. Add in all the spending on military systems that don't really protect anything. Then for a topping throw in the most obvious rent-seeking: campaign contributions. (How much would candidates be given if there was no stream of tax money that people were trying to a slice of? Very little.)

Why else does democracy fail? Many other reasons, but I think I will talk about them later.

Now, American democracy clearly is not absolute; we prevent it from being so by a set of institutions, the "checks and balances" so beloved of Civics class. The best example of these is the court system, chartered with a Bill of Rights, most of which assert forms of private decisions that shall not be infringed; which is to say, they assert domains of private property. (The courts, under continual pressure from the democratic institutions, have gradually allowed them to evade and subvert the original intent, but it should be clear to the average reader what the Bill of Rights is supposed to mean.) Note, though, that private property is as close to opposite as can be from public property. The Bill of Rights is not democratic; it is anti-democratic. The Constitution defines areas of democracy, but to interpret it as written (as an grant of enumerated powers to Congress) is anti-democratic. The common law, created by judges and tradition, not popular votes, is anti-democratic. The jury system, where a single individual can thwart the will of the people, is anti-democratic.

Note that these systems are the parts of our society that work, at least relative to how well Congress works. (If you ask a libertarian, anyway. ) The anti-democratic systems work; democracy doesn't work. Private property: good. Public property: bad.

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