Sunday, July 10, 2016

Democracy debate part 1 - Vox Day

Konrad Razumovsky challenged me to a debate in response to my contention that direct democracy is superior to representative democracy. This is his initial statement.

“My opinion, as I have previously expressed, is that the problems of "mob rule" of which the Founders so famously warned have proven to be considerably fewer and less problematic than the problems of establishing a political elite that uses the illusion of democratic approval as a protective shield. Now that technology makes it viable for larger polities, direct democracy is a moral imperative in any society with a government that is justified by the will of the people.”
—Vox Day

For the purposes of this, I am using a slightly modified version of the definition of democracy from Merriam-Webster: a democracy is “a form of government in which the people choose leaders, or specific laws, by voting”.

I do grant, and cannot reasonably dispute the following: one, representative democracies or democratic republics do limit the impact of the will of the people, by intention or accident is irrelevant; two, the most dangerous thing for a nation, in the long run, is a political elite which is divorced from the common man, a political elite who believe they are justified and also able to sell their chicanery to said common man with a gross misrepresentation of the intent of a particular government; third—and finally, technology does many exceptional things, with respect to man’s ability to influence his condition including the methods by which government can be built.  That said, I have no real issue with direct democracy in theory, or in practice, but I am forced to dispute the implicit claim that a democracy is an appropriate form of government for a larger scale polity, with or without technological intervention and irrespective of its moral gravity.  That is to say that a direct democracy has a number of internal issues which render it ineffective, if not outright detrimental, to a civilization of a certain size.  Briefly, these are: one, no amount of technological development is equal to the task of preventing the poor use thereof; two, democracies derive their legitimacy from the collective people of the nation, which would be fine if governments existed to care for the people, which they do not; three, economics applies to voting just as much as everything else; fourth—and finally, though mob rule is, indeed, a historical falsity, something very similar to it does exist and is exactly the thing which placed the silly political elite into power in the current era.  There will then need to be some minor legwork done on historic democracies to determine if the theoretical framework matches the practice.

While it must be admitted by all reasonable men that modern information based technology has certainly made it possible for a democracy to function on a scale significantly larger than previously possible, in terms of both geography and population, these advances do little to address the frailty of the ballot box.  In the more traditional rendition of a democracy, there are legions of little vote counters who, being human, can each be induced by their own ideologies or the machinations of others to forget or misplace certain votes; there are instances of the dearly departed or even pets casting votes; and there is one supreme holder of the ballots who could, were he so inclined, read a different name than the one at the top of the chart.  I freely admit that technology removes the human element from these scenarios, the vote counters are machines who are incorruptible by their own bias and cannot be blackmailed; a machine is compelled to follow its programming regarding the necessary certification that a particular voter is eligible to cast such a vote, thereby reducing the rate at which Spot or Aunt Mildred interferes with mortal affairs; and a machine is honest about who is where on the final printout. 

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