do we really want democracy anyway?

As those readers who hastled cJ to annotate our "hey, it's your democracy too" line (see above right) will probably know, our founding fathers never had it in mind to turn the US into a democracy.

Indeed, the idea kind of scared them. Among the problems with pure democracy, "tyranny of the majority" - where 51% of us could vote to take away the rights of 49% of us or just generally drive the nation into a ditch - ranked high. Yet, today it's almost a default belief that "the more democracy the better."

Rick Shenkman, author of the at times lambasting but mostly just fun "Just How Stupid Are We?", tries to remind us that more democracy is not necessarily a good thing - especially when its people are easily taken in by political soundbytes and theatrics.

Telling "The People" that they're not smart enough to run the country (which, with the power of polling, we kind of do today) should be unpopular, but Shenkman's book is 19th on Amazon's political books' list, which suggests that some of us are willing to take a bracing look at our own ignorance.

(Of course it's just as likely that Shenkman's readers don't include themselves in the "We" as they read "Just How Stupid Are We?" How much easier to think everyone else is hopelessly ignorant or daft.)

Shenkman's also not the first to pipe up and say "hey, elitism isn't all that bad a thing." Fareed Zakaria, in "Future of Freedom," also laments the move toward greater democracy - with open primaries, referenda, etc. - for taking away the added value of elites to think through the hard decisions that the rest of us don't have the time (or knowledge) to make.

But, while Shenkman's worried about democracy, he's not foolish enough to try to turn the tide back to take power from the people. Instead he warns us that we should hurry up and get more wise and aware - for which he has citizenJoe's full backing. 



I believe the FF meant for America to be a "representative" democracy. Meaning that we elect representatives to "represent" us.

That takes away the tyranny of the masses and replaces it with the tyranny of the term unlimited typically southern, outlived their usefulness representatives. Alaska being an exception.

Reasonable term limitations or a mandatory retirement age might be a solution.

election08 | August 4, 2008 - 1:38pm