November 20th, 2005

eyes black and white

The Self-Destruction of Democracy

Often, some people will argue that democracy requires citizens who are informed, educated, and able to reason, so that they may vote properly. Damn right it does require people who can argue. But it produces people who can't.

And I've explained why in my essay Government is the Rule of Black Magic, section The Law of Eristic Escalation.

Logical reasoning is the product of civil liberty, and not its premise. Civil liberty is a state of mutual respect for each other's life, liberty and property. When civil liberty reigns, you cannot extract benefits from other people by force or fraud, and you have to resort to persuasion. Because people constantly try persuade each other and to not be persuaded against their own interest, they develop the critical skills that help them filter the bad arguments, and the creative skills that help them create good arguments: they learn logical rationality.

On the other hand, political power destroys reason. Political power is the power to force other people to do what you want, whether they like it or not. It is the opposite of civil liberty. When people have to obey anyway, and suffer when they object, they unlearn the skills of logical argumentation; they focus their intelligence and energy on where these can actually be useful -- like finding how to maximize benefits and minimize burdens given the current laws and masters (which becomes a prevalent concern as political power expands). But whether or not the government is making the best decisions, and what precisely the government should or shouldn't do -- that's a skill that's of no matter to them, since they cannot decide any of it, and can only suffer by disagreeing.

You don't argue between slaves and masters. You only argue between tradesmen. Peaceful argument is the fruit of the institution of voluntary cooperation: the market. In a democracy, citizens qua citizens are not tradesmen; they are mutual masters and slaves. They are ordinarily slaves to a government the decisions of which they hardly ever influence: once every so many years, they can each tip the results by one vote out of millions toward the least evil (according to each of them) between the two (or three) most probable candidates; and in as much as they are a decisive part of political lobbies that may indeed control the decisions of governments, they become masters who don't have to argue with whichever political minorities they are able to exploit.

Reason may be the requisite of a functioning democracy, but democracy, like any political power, destroys reason, and thus destroys the prerequisite of its own functioning properly. This is why any democracy is doomed. Any democracy will see rational debate disappear faster as political power grows, until the regime is a cleptocracy headed by an establishment of droning parasites, and there is no meaningful rational debate left; then the country goes downhill and ends up being conquered by an inside dictator or an outside invader.

Democracy is yet another example of the self-defeating concepts defended by people who indulge in static thinking and who are incapable of reasoning in terms of dynamic consequences. And sadly, humans seem to be genetically predisposed to be victims of such black magic thinking.