I realize that I live in a country that likes to spread its seed of democracy in the shell of a guided missile delivered by a F-16, so I know I’m treading on thin ice with this rant. But let’s be honest; democracy is overrated.
Now I’m not suggesting that a dictatorship is a better form of government for three reasons: Hitler, Stalin, and Castro. Nor am I suggesting that anarchy is better because Egypt and Libya have proven that a ruthless and corrupt dictator is in fact surprisingly better than the anarchy that follows the overthrowing of a tyrant. Yeah, it’s like playing a game of Would You Rather? Would you rather have a head the size of a tennis ball or the size of a watermelon? Except in this case it was, “Would you rather have a ruthless dictator with absolute power or a lot of ruthless people with marginal power?”
Democracy, which shields us from terrible scenarios like that, is obviously better. Like anarchy, democracy gives power to the people. In the case of anarchy, it’s survival of the fittest. In the case of democracy, it’s survival of the majority. Democracy places a bet that the majority will make the best decision for the whole. But here’s the rub: what if it doesn’t? What if the majority are wrong? What if they’re not wrong on purpose but just have a lot of misinformation or are generally uninformed?
Let’s welcome the United Kingdom to the conversation. After years of British politicians trashing the European Union and complaining that it was nothing but a burden on the UK, they suddenly found themselves backpedaling as a movement known as Brexit gained power and brought a referendum on the EU to a public vote. You see the EU to the British is like one of those ankle bracelets a kleptomaniac under house arrest would wear. It’s confining, but it really does serve a purpose for the common good of society, as well as to keep the would-be thief away from temptation. So the other day, the good people on the British isles voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union. Now, us Americans (who sing about our independence, ironically to the tune of an English bar song, at the beginning of every sporting event mind you), we love the thought of a people gaining independence. So inherently, our first premonition is to cheer the British for this decision. Good job you jolly ole chap. It’s been 250 years, but you’re finally catching on.
But here’s the thing. The second the vote occurred, the entire British economy collapsed. Pro-Brexit people, who were tired of paying dues to the European Union, found themselves responsible for the equivalent of a $350 billion loss in the span of two hours. Ironically, that’s the same as 40 years of contributions to the EU. And everyone is shocked like, “We didn’t see this coming.” Wait a second. You’re telling me that you didn’t think that one of the world’s strongest economies doing something so drastic wasn’t going to cause a transAtlantic, economic tsunami? If Jim Cramer, the host of MSNBC’s stock market show “Mad Money,” scratches his nose while talking about a company, its stock tanks. How in the world did you not think that Britain leaving the EU would not have negative universal implications in a global economy built like a house of cards? This proved true when the DOW Jones plummeted 600 points the day after the Brexit vote. Us Americans basically paid for the so-called UK independence. I knew one day they would get us back for the American Revolution .
But there are wide reaching implications beyond the economy, as many believe this will probably be the beginning of the end for the United Kingdom. Scotland, which recently voted to remain a part of the UK, is now discussing a referendum vote to leave the UK in order to be reunited with the EU, as most of its citizens voted against the Brexit referendum. The same is true in Northern Ireland and Wales. And the Spanish have demanded that the UK flag be replaced by the Spanish flag on the island of Gibraltar.
You see, this is the problem with democracy. A majority (in this case, a very slight majority) can make a really awful decision that will have worldwide implications. But the worst part of this is that it was all based on a myth. In fact, one of the main propagators of this myth, Brexit leader Nigel Farage, just hours after the vote, quickly began backpedaling on his promise that leaving the EU would save Britain £350 million. The problem with pure democracy, as Farage and other Brexit leaders have demonstrated, is that someone yelling fire in a crowded theater may get the majority to move, but it doesn’t mean there was an actual fire. In other words, an arsonist can gain control without ever lighting a single match.
Which brings me to Donald Trump.
There’s no greater proof that democracy is overrated than the fact that the Donald is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Donald Trump is the king of yelling fire in a crowded theater. This guy says things like, “We’re going to have the tastiest steaks, we’re going to have the best university, we’re going to have the greatest country.” Well, who doesn’t want those things? So people throw their money at anything with the Trump stamp, and they quickly discover that there’s no value or substance. This, my friends, is what you call a ponzi scheme.
So how did we get into this situation? Well, Donald Trump, even though he didn’t have the majority support of Republican voters, was able to gain power because other more sensible candidates split the popular vote. So democracy, which rewards the person with the most votes instead of a more reasonable calculation, has given us presidential nominee Donald Trump. God help us. Had we played a game of Survivor and voted people off the island instead of who we wanted to stay, Donald Trump, who led the Republicans in the unapproval rating, would have blown away with his wheat-chaff colored hair a long time ago.
Democrats, on the other hand, have figured out how to protect themselves from their voters. If you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter, you know exactly what I’m talking about… Superdelegates. You see, in the Democratic primaries, people decide which delegates support which candidate just like they do in Republican primaries. But the wild card is that the Democratic party has a whole bunch of Superdelegates that can make their own decision apart from the people. So because Bernie Sanders is uber-socialist and most people recognize that’s not a great idea, they’ve thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton. I know what you’re a thinking: another impossible round of Would You Rather?
Our founding fathers, in fact, felt that while democracy was better than the system that they had just overthrown, they were cognisant that a democratic form of government could be disastrous. If people could vote their own wishes, well, people might actually make a terrible decision and destroy the entire system. This is why there are so many checks and balances. And one of those checks is called the electoral college. You and I don’t actually vote for the president. We elect a delegate who will likely vote for our choice. The electoral college is the public’s self-defense mechanism against a self-serving, uninformed and/or destructive electorate.
Of those three adjectives, perhaps the most dangerous one is the uninformed voter. I used to live outside of Baltimore, which is like a Democrat’s safe-haven (or prison on the other hand). And during the last election, the Democratic party put up signs saying, “Vote for the Democrats.” There was nothing about who was running, or what platform they were running on. It simply just catered to the lazy American voter who would go to the ballot without having done a bit of research. This is a far cry from the ideals of former Democratic President John F. Kennedy, who famously said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
It turns out, this democracy problem is not limited to the United States. Just hours after the Brexit vote, Google reported that the highest search engine question in the UK was, “What does it mean to leave the EU?” It seems like that would have been something to ask maybe before they cast their vote. But what’s worse, in my opinion, is that the second highest question in the UK was, “What is the EU?” That’s right. “What is the EU?”
There’s a lot of people who hate government bureaucracy. It’s partisan, toxic, nothing gets done, etc, etc. But what the Brits have proven in their uber-democratic exercise of independence is that some things are better left to the experts. Call them what you want – ruling elites, the establishment, statists but I’d take someone who knows the system over a high school dropout who gets to vote just because he turned eighteen. In fact, if I were running for office, I’d rather have an informed voter cast his ballot for the opposition, than an uninformed constituent vote for me. To paraphrase Plato, “the unexamined vote is not worth casting.”