I was reading this article and thought it might be a good topic for discussion.
As the article points out, many of the Founding Fathers were very wary of a "true democracy". Such individuals included James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, that is why they formed a Republic rather than a Democracy. This is understandable since most democracies historically have not had a good track record in terms of longevity. The article states:
"A quick glance across the globus reveals that the relationship between democracy and freedom is quite complicated. There are "illiberal deomcracies", and free societies that lack democracy. Even within America, deomcracy can threaten, rather than abet, liberty, as I explain in this weeks issue of the Economist. Indeed, the founding fathers would be horrified by the "direct democracy" that two dozen mostly Western States in America practice today. And so am I, who happen to live in one of them, California."
The auther then goes on to use an example of "Prop 13" which capped property taxes in California and also required a 2/3 majorities in both houses of the state legislature to raise any future taxes. Then voter initiative industries sprang up in various states that churn out ballot measures as though by conveyer belt. In fact, California's constitution has been amendended 500 times compared to 17 for the federal government. The author argues that the result has been dysfunction in these liberally democratic states and points to their daunting budget deficits as evidence for his position. The author goes on to say:
"But the problems with democracy go beyond budgeting. By usurping the job that the founding fathers envisioned for elected (and informed) representatives, voters infringe upon and impair representative democracy. In California, voters have regulated Indain casinos, set prison, terms, banned wildlife traps and gay marriage, given chickens bigger coops and much else. In many cases, there is no evidence that voters have studied the issues or even comprehended the intiative text (which can run to thousands of words). Instead, those who vote are likely to rely on attack adds by special interests or sponsors on TV, or celebrity endorsements."
This reminds me of a quote from Winston Church Hill, "..the best arguement against a democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.."
Of course, even the federal system today is more democratic than originally designed. An example of this is that now the populuce is allowed to elect Senators instead of only members to the House of Representatives after the Cosintution was amendended. Other safegaurds, such as the electoral college, remain in place for now.
So what is the answer? Is there an answer? After all, we all like having a say in who tells us what to do. By in large we trust ourselves more than anyone else around us. In fact, "W" proported to have attempted to spread democracy around the world through in efforts in "Messapotamia". He proported to do so with the assumption that democracy was universally recognized as the answer to freedom and liberty around the globe. Assuming this was really a goal of his in mind, was "W" correct? Is democracy the holy grail to freedom and liberty?