Quotable (#168)

Ed(gelord) West:

… most online petitions are idiotic and encourage people to act without any reflection on subjects they mostly know little about. Only we’re supposed to take them seriously, rather than treat them as communal hysteria, because of democracy. It’s almost considered a truism that democracy is a good thing, and that anyone who disagrees is an extremist, but too much democracy leads to poor decision making.

In fact there is robust data suggesting that non-democratic states can be better for economic growth and development, with Ben Southwood of the Adam Smith Institute summarising that ‘the evidence seems to suggest that insofar as we can help countries to develop, the key institutions we should be supporting are markets, property rights and the rule of law, and considerably less significance should be accorded to democratisation.’ There is also research pointing out that less voting means better governance, so that in a democracy it might be best to limit the amount of direct decision-making, or have a mixed system, like the House of Lords. […] Part of the reason, as Isabel Hardman pointed out recently, may be that good government goes unrewarded, and so there are few incentives for politicians to consider the long term rather than tomorrow’s headlines. And now the internet allows us to become truly democratic in a way Athens was, with the people making decisions rather than politicians – and I suggest we should avoid it like the plague. Democratic Athens only lasted two generations before its hot-headed population led it to disastrous war and decline.

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