Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Democracy begins its end when every mob demands their own rights.

Of course, America was never intended to be a democracy. Its foundation is a Republic. Democracy, often referred to as "mob rule,"  is an unstable idea and eventually leads to the mess the USA is in today. It will not likely get better. it can't. The ruthlessness of democracy won't let it. It begins its end when every mob demands their own rights. 

While writing on the subject of the Biblical tithe, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes
  • Writing about America in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville found that he had to coin a new word for the phenomenon he encountered there and saw as one of the dangers in a democratic society. The word was individualism. He defined it as “a mature and calm feeling which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and to draw apart with his family and his friends,” leaving “society at large to itself.” Tocqueville believed that democracy encouraged individualism. As a result, people would leave the business of the common good entirely to the government, which would become ever more powerful, eventually threatening freedom itself.
    It was a brilliant insight. Two recent examples illustrate the point. The first was charted by Robert Putnam, the great Harvard sociologist, in his study of Italian towns in the 1990s. During the 1970s all Italian regions were given local government on equal terms, but over the next twenty years, some prospered, others stagnated; some had effective governance and economic growth, while others were mired in corruption and underachievement. The key difference, he found, was the extent to which the regions had an active and public-spirited citizenry.

    The other is the experiment, known as the “free rider game,” designed to test public spiritedness within a group. There is always a potential conflict between self interest and the common good. It is tempting to take advantage of public facilities without paying your fair share (for example, travelling on public transport without paying for a ticket: hence the term “free rider”). You then obtain the benefit without bearing a fair share of the costs. When this happens, trust is eroded and public spiritedness declines.
    In the game, each of the participants is given $10 and invited to contribute to a common pot. The money in the pot is then multiplied, say, three times, and the amount is equally divided between the players. If each contributes $10, each will receive $30. However, if one player chooses not to contribute anything, then if there are six players, there will be $50 in the pot and $150 after multiplication. Each of the players will then receive $25, but one will now have $35: the money from the pot plus the $10 with which he started.

    When played over several rounds, the other players soon notice that not everyone is contributing equally. The unfairness makes them all contribute less to the shared pot. The group suffers and no one gains. If, however, the other players are given the chance to punish the suspected cheat by paying a dollar to make him lose three dollars, they tend to do so. The free rider stops free-riding, and everyone benefits.