08 November 2016

You Can't Praise Democracy Without Praising Those Other Idiots

We all are subject to the conceit that our own intelligence and morality is superior. And it's one of the reasons that so many people are afraid of what democracy will bring. It's stylish to decry the stupidity of "them," a group that ultimately means people who don't vote like us.

One of the many miracles of economics is that it coordinates the efforts of strangers. People I don't even know helped to make my shirt and my computer. They got money from me, a person they don't even know.

Democracies are similar to markets in that they enable strangers to agree to policies.

Democracies flourish for the same reason that markets do: it let's the common person choose. Ultimately our government - like our malls and farmer's markets - is shaped by individual choice. No system has done more to sustain innovation and progress. As it turns out, those [liberals / conservatives] who horrify you are smarter than you think and they care as much about the country as you do. You're not unique in your intelligence or altruism. Nobody is. Inevitably there are unintended consequences of policies and laws and inevitably there is someone who irritates you who points that out. That's why you are not the only one we let vote and why we let so many other people vote. They may be idiots but they make you smarter.

There are problems with democracy. For one, I believe that systems do so much to define our world that we need to make systems thinking as common and as required as reading. Thomas Jefferson thought education was essential to a functioning democracy. Today, a good education should emphasize system dynamics as much as it does grammar or multiplication. Democracy is impossible with an illiterate population; it's problematic with a population that doesn't appreciate or understand systems. (What do  I mean by systems? Ecosystems. Economies. Financial systems. Education systems.) This and other problems with democracy can be addressed though.

Also, elections are also terribly contentious. And for good reason. We are one nation but on election days we settle the current argument about how we'll define that nation. That's not a trivial conversation or one we're happy to lose.

That said, there is no substitute for the voice and values of the people. And that is why we have democracies.

Today is a happy day.

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