Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Democracy: A False Hope?

Battle-born Blogger Alexander Marriott wrote an essay criticizing Bush's Middle East democracy project in the wake of the Palestinian elections.

"Bush such naivete and false hope was dashed when the terrorist group Hamas won a fair and convincing victory in the January 25 Palestinian parliamentary election. Said election can now join its rightful place in the history of democracy's greatest and most appalling failures, along with Athens in the forced suicide of Socrates, Athens in the Peleponnesian War and the fall of the Weimar Republic in Germany in 1932-33."

I'm not quite sure why the Hamas victory was such a failure of democracy. The people knew what they were getting, and got what they wanted, didn't they? So what's the problem? And is the author seriously suggesting that it would be better to abandon democracy so that the enlightened elites can hand down their wisdom to the rest of us? I certainly hope not.

"What legitimacy is gained from getting a majority of voters to pass anything? If 70% of voters vote to ban gay marriage, does that make it right? If 51% of voters vote to ban smoking, does that make it right? If 99.99% vote to redistribute property, does that make it right? The answer to all of these is 'NO!' absolutely not. Truth isn't determined by how many adherents one can get to go along with you."

But this misstates the whole purpose of democracy. We do not embrace democracy as a means of truth, but as a means of governing by the consent of the governed. As long as the elections are free and fair, people pretty much get what they deserve. If Americans vote to ban gay marriage, even if gay marriage could be objectively demonstrated to be a positive benefit to society, then Americans would be worse off for their decision. But it would be their decision. You know what that means? It means we're free to choose our own fate, for good or for ill (or, as a practical matter, for some of each). Any attempt to deny us that freedom to choose, even when we choose "wrong," would be infinitely worse than anything Hamas ever could do to Palestine.