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27 December 2004

Instapundit links to a piece on the Iraq War.  It includes this from Tony Blair:

There surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror

Which, I am sure, is precisely how he and many others see it.  But I don't.  My problem is that I am deeply ambivalent about democracy.

Here are some gripes:

  • It produces a class of people who seek to benefit from the democratic process.  That's not quite right.  We all seek to benefit.  But for most of us there’s a swap involved.  In return for paying our taxes we expect to receive something in return.  In democracies there is a whole bunch of people who don't have to pay anything net.  A whole bunch of people who have little short-term disincentive to voting for higher taxes.
  • It depends on the "collective wisdom of the individually stupid" as Thomas Carlyle put it.
  • As the franchise has expanded so liberty has retreated.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has some more.

However, there is one big, inescapable plus: it wins its wars.  Democracy took on all-comers in the 20th Century and won every single time.

But can we really put that down to democracy?  Brian Micklethwait reckons that one of the West’s great strengths is its ability to debate.  This is never more true than when it comes to warfare.  Commanders argue like crazy about the plan but at least, as Brian says, "everybody knows what the plan is."  I think there is another element to it.  Because the debates are so furious there is a tendency to allow people to do their own thing.  Some ideas succeed eg radar; others fail eg the bombing campaign.  But the point is that that process of experimentation is allowed to take place.  A quasi-market in warfare, perhaps?

It is just possible that the two world wars were fought at a time when the major democracies were still largely free and that democracy had not had long enough to really mess things up.

Of course, it also just possible that the rise of statism is an aberration brought about by the industrialisation (and therefore, centralisation) of the means of communication.  In other words the medium really is the message.  In much the same way the new decentralised communication technologies will bring forth a more decentralised and, therefore, freer world. 

We have to hope.

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