George Will Explains Why Democracy is the Worst Government

The most popular political writer in the USA, George Will, explained today why democracy is the worst government:

It was naughty of Winston Churchill to say, if he really did, that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Nevertheless, many voters’ paucity of information about politics and government, although arguably rational, raises awkward questions about concepts central to democratic theory, including consent, representation, public opinion, electoral mandates and officials’ accountability….

In a 2006 Zogby poll, only 42 percent could name the three branches of the federal government.

Voters cannot hold officials responsible if they do not know what government is doing, or which parts of government are doing what. Given that 20 percent thinks the sun revolves around the Earth, it is unsurprising that a majority is unable to locate major states such as New York on a map. Usually only 30 percent of Americans can name their two senators. The average American expends more time becoming informed about choosing a car than choosing a candidate. But, then, the consequences of the former choice are immediate and discernible….

The problem of ignorance is unlikely to be ameliorated by increasing voter knowledge because demand for information, not the supply of it, is the major constraint on political knowledge. Despite dramatic expansions of education and information sources, abundant evidence shows the scope of political ignorance is remarkably persistent over time. New information technologies have served primarily to increase the knowledge of the already well-informed, which increases the ability of some to engage in “rent-seeking” from the regulatory state, manipulating its power in order to transfer wealth to themselves….

The three branches of government are executive, legislative, and judicial. When the head of the executive branch, the President, refuses to execute a provision legislated by the legislature that requires employers to offer health insurance in a certain way, ignorant people don’t perceive a problem. Ignorant people also perceive no problem when the President uses money to bail out auto makers that was intended to bail out financial institutions.

If people were educated, they’d understand that the class of problems that can be addressed effectively by government is small. Obviously, it’s not to the advantage of government to encourage people to learn the truth. The system is working exactly as designed: factions advocate powerful government so that they can transfer wealth to themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

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2 Responses to George Will Explains Why Democracy is the Worst Government

  1. dirk says:

    Problem is that if people take interest in how well/bad a government is functioning, they end up frustrated about how helpless one individual is against that same government.
    I guess a lot of people have taken intrest in politics at some point in their lives, but have regretably decided that the frustration it brings doesn’t improve the quality of their life, and given the choice let go.

    Too bad, because that’s exactly what a government wants.

    • Mark says:

      A single individual isn’t completely helpless; if one knows how a government works, it’s easier to sidestep and minimize the damage it causes. It’s also good to avoid false hopes; I think many people have deluded themselves into believing that governments that incur large debts will reverse the damage they’ve done to economies.

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