Democracy _ A Nice Idea But Can It Work?

Today I will touch on four articles I found at Real Clear Politics this morning.  Three of the articles are related to the never-ending crisis of the European Union.

Apocalypse Fairly Soon is a New York Times article by none other than Paul Krugman. Krugman is worried and rightly so:

Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs — both economic and, arguably even more important, political — could be huge.

Typical of Mr. Krugman is that he correctly sees many of the things the EU has done wrong in dealing with the crisis; but his solution is as always more stimulus. And, he is not alone in his assessment.

Europe’s Fate, and Obama’s, May Ride on G8 is a Real Clear Politics article that talks about the G8 summit taking place right now at Camp David where Obama and Geithner hope to convince their European counter parts to help Obama get reelected (after which we know he can be more flexible) by

…to adopt the U.S. fiscal example of short-term bailouts, government stimulus and long-range plans for belt-tightening in order to promote growth and stave off a fiscal meltdown in the Eurozone?

I’m sure that will impress the EU leadership.

Veronique de Rugy has a different view of the EU crisis when she writes in Europe, time for true austerity . She is looking for the austerity and can’t find it:

There are two basic problems with this growing anti-austerity backlash. First, where spending was actually reduced, the cuts have been relatively small compared to the size of the problem and meaningful structural reforms were seldom implemented. Second, to the extent declining Europe countries pursued austerity, it has mainly been through large tax increases. If the economies of Spain, France, Britain and other European nations are suffering, it’s not because of “savage” spending cuts. It’s because small spending cuts are overwhelmed by tax increases.

Ms. Rugy goes on to make an excellent case that the “balance” approach of cutting spending and raising taxes does not work. She has several examples of where serious spending cuts do work. I was hoping, while reading her article, that she would recommend that the best approach would be to cut spending and taxes; but she did not. To this humble observer, austerity is an easier sell when one’s economy is growing, which cutting taxes should bring about.

So, if you are so inclined, you may want to read these three articles. The Rugy article is quite good ,actually. But, if you really want to know why Europe is failing and why the US will be close behind them, then I recommend you read The Age of Innocence by David Brooks at the New York Times.

The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.

[…]

Though the forms were different, the democracies in Europe and the United States were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching. But democratic self-government is possible because we’re smart enough to design structures to police that selfishness.

[…]

Though the forms were different, the democracies in Europe and the United States were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching. But democratic self-government is possible because we’re smart enough to design structures to police that selfishness.

[…]

Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.

In other words, until or unless the majority of the people come to understand that the only reason to have government is to protect our unalienable  rights and nothing more, democracy will fail. The moment government is allowed to get into the business of providing safety nets, the nature of man is to demand more and more from government and less from themselves. As a result, the prefered form of government will fail and be replaced by some more tyrannical form of government.

Is the idea of America doomed to fail due to mankind’s nature? Maybe not. Conservatives and libertarians know what needs to be done. They understand the weaknesses of man. But, we are, at this point in time, a minority of the electorate. However, the libertarian movement is growing and the Ron Paul movement is growing ( The Paul movement is a libertarian movement within the Republican Party.) and, the Tea Party movement is also growing. The idea of America will surely fail if we who know better give up the fight. With continued hard work and dedication, we can become the majority. Mankind does have its weaknesses but it also has strengths and we must build on those strengths.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

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19 thoughts on “Democracy _ A Nice Idea But Can It Work?

  1. Thank you for following up the Krugman with de Rugy. She is a needed tonic after the Bearded Crapweasel. Of course, he is wrong and she it right.

    Progressives worldwide are fantasizing about spinning straw into gold, while the realists realize we can’t continue to spend more than we make.

  2. Democracy as a system does not work in its unbridled form for it eventually becomes a dictatorship of the masses and there is no more unqualified source of leadership and wisdom than the masses. America’s founding fathers knew this and tried to build checks and balances and qualitative parameters in the system, but we have been assiduously and persistently eroding them in the last 200 years. As a system, our Republic is more defective today than in 1776.

    Democracy holds the seeds of its own destruction by being easily corrupted. Never have the words of Alexis De Tocqueville been so true:
    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

  3. That “discovery” has been made long ago, but it has never been applied with so much cynicism and reckless abandon as today.

  4. Can the idea of America survive? I fear not. The rot has taken root. People now expect, even demand, free stuff from our government. And once people get used to “free” stuff, once politicians realized they can buy votes with promises of “free” goods and services, self-government is doomed.

  5. The founders read Montesquieu and de Tocqueville and they understood the dangers of a democracy when the people realized they could vote themselves money from the treasury, and that is exactly what is happening. It is too bad that our elected officials are more worried about reelection and are willing to throw away the Republica in order to hold onto power. We need to turn this around, and turn it around fast because if we do not we are doomed to fail.

      1. The Tea Party, yes, they are making progress. The Libertarians, no, they are not.

        The difference is that the Tea Party is working within the system. They are working inside the Republican Party. The Libertarians are working against the system, and not only outside the Republican Party or any other Party in power, but are actively subverting the only possible ally, the Republican Party. The Tea Party have already achieved some success and will be able to have more success in the future. The Libertarians are out in the wilderness and likely to remain there.

      2. “The Libertarians are working against the system, and not only outside the Republican Party or any other Party in power, but are actively subverting the only possible ally, the Republican Party.”

        John, you have given me an idea for a post. Thank you!

  6. I don’t know…I’m almost tired of blogging the truth, tell you the truth. It feels so pointless sometimes, singing to the choir. I have a terrible feeling that voting money from our treasury is gaining on us quicker than any conservative and effective uprising/correction could happen.

  7. Who knows if the idea of America is doomed to fail? Surely, none of us do. I will say this, however. It stands a very good chance of failing if the attitude of many Americans does not change. Far too many of us are wiling to take more and more from the government and provide less and less for ourselves. As long as that attitude prevails in our country, we will never return to the years of greatness.

  8. One can only imagine how much he is selliing us out to the G8– am i still on point with your post: 🙂

  9. The west has to learn an old lesson – you cannot spend your way to prosperity. The sooner we learn it the better, there is no other way out of this mess.

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