Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Divisive presidents, partisan gridlock, identity politics, and fake news are not new, argue the authors of Democracy Despite Itself. In fact, these frustrating problems have been around since America declared independence nearly 250 years ago.
“The history of democracy is a story of ignorant voters making questionable decisions, and unqualified elected officials implementing abysmal policies,” say researchers Danny Oppenheimer and Mike Edwards. “And yet, by every measure of well-being that has ever been studied, citizens of democracies are doing better than any other form of government. We live longer. We have more wealth. We are better educated. We are safer… Yes, inequality, poverty, and crime still exist, but that is true of every society. No society is perfect, but democracies are less imperfect.”
Not only that, but democracies do a better job improving the existing inefficiencies better than other governments, without widespread bloodshed, the authors argue. Like capitalism, democracy has a proven track record of being the most progressive system available to enrich societies.
In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
As seen on Long Reads, Digg, and my own web browsing:
- Is more democracy always better democracy? Yes, argues The New Yorker, especially since party primaries determine the leading candidates.
- What happens when notoriety kills something? Here’s your answer in a terrific story titled I found the best burger in the country, then I killed it.
- Missing the story. Rebuilding public trust starts by including more voices in the media and diversifying (or at least offering empathy training) to mostly white newsrooms, argues The Columbia Journalism Review.
- Believing without evidence is always morally wrong. Or so convincingly argues Aeon.
- Inside the booming business of background music. Why retailers and sports teams are spending big money on music design, according to The Guardian.
- Why saving the world is crazy hard. According to a hard-to-read personal account of third-world atrocities by The Walrus.
- How $3000 elite teams are killing youth sports in America. Expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes and leave everyone else behind, reports The Atlantic. (Which is partly why my wife is starting a non-profit competitive league next year—go Lindsey!)
I often use vark.com to impatiently satisfy the many questions in my head. At least the ones I’m too lazy to Google myself. Yesterday’s question was as follows:
Are there historical examples of modern democracies successfully reducing the size of their governments, either on a federal, state, or local level?
One guy named New Zealand and “a few Scandinavian countries” without further explanation. Brendan from New York replied:
There are examples of US states that have done it (I think Connecticut trimmed down successfully during the 90s). Also, and this is crucial, there are examples of countries that successfully ensured that the size of government did not grow once all necessary services were in order. Canada is a prime example. It has a sizable government, but it has been excellent at maintaining its size while the Canada population has grown. Its government isn’t bleeding like a lot of European countries are. The key for any government’s solvency is to maintain high revenues. Consider Greece, where $18 Billion in tax revenue went uncollected due to tax evasion. That means that Greece spent $145 Billion, collected $108, and could have collected a crucial $18 B more. If a country can’t effectively collect taxes owed, it’s finished.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance?