Liberty Commentary

Democracy is Inherently Undemocratic

by Nicholas at LibertarianPunk

Think about it. What’s the most common attack hurled against democracy? Tyranny of the majority: 51% of people can dominate the other 49%. The claim bandied about by supporters of democracy, of “the people” is that by going for the wishes of the majority, you are truly doing what people are in favor of.

On the face of it, this doesn’t necessarily seem too bad. How are we to determine what people want, if not by a vote? That’s the best way to do it, right? The problem with this is that it doesn’t consider the possibility that decisions needn’t be all or nothing. 51% of the people, while a majority, is not a large one. Why is that 49% deserving of the support of the resources of the other 49%?

The assumption, as I’ve noted, is that decisions have to be all-or-nothing. They don’t need to. An analogy, though it’s not quite the same principle (but it shows how decisions don’t have to be all-or-nothing), is diversifying. You don’t just buy stock in one company and hope it works. Decisions don’t need to be 0% or 100%. The solution as to how you can make effective top-down decisions that aren’t all or nothing it actually very simple: you can’t. What’s more interesting is whether you can make decisions period that are all or nothing. This, this you can certainly do.

The thing is, capitalism is actually better than democracy at deciding what people want. Better than that, capitalism doesn’t force these all-or-nothing, 0% or 100% decisions! Capitalism is more in tune with the will of the people than democracy. Let that sink in a moment, maybe repeat it a few times. Capitalism is more in tune with the will of the people than democracy. Capitalism is more in tune with the will of the people than democracy. Woah.

Have you ever thought about that? Does it make sense to you? It might. It might not. I’ll explain in a moment. First, I want to point something out: I had never heard of this idea coming from anyone but myself (and Ann Coulter) until Michael told me today it was more mainstream. I thought of this myself a while ago. Obviously, other people have determined it as well. But the only person I’ve ever heard refer to this idea is Ann Coulter.

It’s probable that I’m just not looking in the right places. But it’s absolutely shocking to me that I’ve pretty much never heard this idea before. What’s up with that? This (first site I found referred to it as “market populism”) is a wonderful explanation of the beauty of capitalism. Is this mentioned more than I thought it was?

Anyways, on to the example.

I’m going to deliberately change the health care system. Say you’re trying to decide in a democracy whether to give everyone health care. You vote on it, and maybe 65% of people say, sure, we want health care. So, you buy everyone health care.

What about the other 35% though? You just forced health care on them. What’s up with that?

Contrast this with a capitalist system. This one’s pretty simple. If you want health care, you go out and buy yourself health care. Say 65% of people want health care. Well, they can have it. It doesn’t affect everyone else, either. The 65% get what they want, while the other 35% get what they want.

This is a simple example though. We’re actually assuming here that the 35% don’t get screwed. I’ll give a different example. Say the post office. 65% want it, 35% don’t (we’ll assume they’re not going to use it). The money of the 35% still has to go towards the post office though, since the majority dictated it: the majority is benefiting merely by virtue of being a majority (the tax funds of the 35% are being used to discount the cost of stuff for the other 65%). Huh? Why is this an ideal we’re striving towards?

And that’s a pretty benign example. Think about something like welfare. It gets more difficult to determine how people are getting shafted by welfare. The numbers are unimportant, but if the majority decide they want welfare, everyone else is getting shafted by virtue of the majority being a majority.

The expression “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind here. That expression is what happens under capitalism. Want health care? Buy it. Want a bike? Buy it. Hell, I’d go so far as to say if you want welfare, set up some sort of privatized welfare. Do it yourself!

Capitalism, by its nature, does not allow for a majority to tyrannize a minority. In democracy, some majority of people can just decide, arbitrarily, where they want the money of everyone else to go. How’s that for “will of the people”? In a democracy, no matter whether the majority is 51%, 65% or 99%, the minority is still not having any real input in shaping their world.

Capitalism doesn’t allow that. 51% want something? They use their money. 65% want something? They use their money. 99% want something?They use their money. Capitalism does not allow for the domination of a minority.

And that’s the way it should be.