On Humanity's Instinctual Need for Democracy

The world took a big step forward – on the road to perfection – last week. At least, that’s what you’d think if you watched TV or read the paper.

To hear the press tell it, when a mob upsets a dictator, it is because they “yearn for freedom.” They can hardly wait to get into the voting booth so they can pull the lever for truth and justice.

Martin Wolf, writing in The Financial Times, and recently listed by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s 100 best thinkers, says the move in Egypt was a step in the right direction. How does he know it is the right direction? Because that’s the way the rest of the world is going!

He provides figures showing that there are many more democracies today than there were in 1945. The reasons he gives for this shift? Economics. Education. Richer, better educated people are less inclined to leave all the power in the hands of an autocrat, he thinks.

But there’s another reason.

“The most powerful reason for believing in democracy’s future, however, is that it responds to something deep with in us.”

Yes, dear reader…it is in our genes. Our inner democrat just needed about 2,000 years after the birth of Christ to express himself. And now he’s mouthing off everywhere.

Or… Is it possible that democracy is just the flavor of the month…an evolutionary development, like all the forms of government that came before it? Is it possible that it succeeded in the 20th century because it was much better adapted to leeching out the wealth and complicity of the average man? It gave him a stake in the system – like getting some prisoners to guard each other, or bribing taxpayers to rat out their neighbors to the IRS? Isn’t it possible that by giving the masses a “voice,” the elites who really control government are better able to take his money…and, if necessary, his life?

Soldiers will do their duty to a dictator, if the price is right. They will do their duty to the government they helped elect for less. And they will more willingly submit to government’s taxes, too, if they feel they are its masters, rather than the slaves. The real difference may only be an illusion, but it is an effective one. In practice, the individual may have less ability to influence the large pool of voting numbskulls than he does to influence a single knuckleheaded autocrat. But heck, we’re all democrats now.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning