I plan on writing a post on populism (the rallying cry of idiots) in the next day or two, but I'm making good progress at work and don't want to get too distracted. I did want to post a quick thought experiment about direct democracy that I came up with this morning, though, while thinking about the topic.
I have always taken it as a truism that direct democracy is inferior to representative democracy, but the only "evidence" I usually cite is, "Look at California!" It's also true that direct democracy facilitates the tyranny of the majority, but there is more to it than that. It turns out this was discussed quite a bit yesterday during the Prop 8 trial in California, where they had discussed the polarizing effect, but I have another thing to add. I have a thought experiment that shows that even if representatives blindly adhere to the will of the people, it is still superior to direct democracy. This is because a representative is a single conscious entity capable of planning and decision-making, while a population of voters is no such thing.
Consider a hypothetical government that has a budget of $10 million to spend on a certain type of program. There are three candidate programs, each of which cost $5 million. They are all pretty good programs, and as a result, 60% of the population would like to see program A enacted, 70% would like to see program B enacted, and a whopping 80% are in favor of program C. In an idealized representative government, the representatives realize they can maximize their votes by enacting programs B and C, while still maintaining a balanced budget. But in a direct democracy, all three programs have the support of the majority, all three are enacted, and the government is now $5 million in the red. (Hmmm, sound like California?)
Sure, you can argue that "someone" should decide that the ballot propositions should include "A and B", "B and C" and "A and C" as alternate choices, but who's deciding that? The people putting together the petitions? And you think those folks are going to be more successful than petitioners who just say, "Let's put C on the ballot!" (which, recall, enjoys the support of 80% of the population)?
Direct democracy is ass for so many reasons. The only reason it survives in the form of ballot initiatives and the like is because of idiot populism. Which I will rant about soon...
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