Archive for November 27th, 2011

the problem of democracy

Buying a newspaper in almost any Western country today, you will certainly find the word ‘crisis’ on the front page. And this is not a recent phenomenon but has now been true for more than three years. One might ask how this is possible, given that in all those nations, people are free to elect their politicians. In other words, how can a democratic┬ásystem produce outcomes that are frequently described as a ‘crisis’?

A great (general) answer to this question was given by Elmer T. Peterson:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing.

More commonly known might be Alexis de Tocqueville’s version of this statement:

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.


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