Sunday, June 4, 2017

Voter "Stupidity"? Or Poor Democratic Options?

What ever happened to the reasoned logic of professionalism, given the rise of populism? Hmm, what indeed. Even though I have my own concerns about growing populism, it's hard to remain convinced that elites have the "answers". After all, the groups which hold the most power, are responsible for a now lingering economic stagnation. Does anyone wonder why the populists are in full revolt?

The uncertainties of populism, make it easy for some to blame "too much democracy" and "stupid voters" for society's ills. In a recent Brookings essay from Benjamin Wittes and Jonathan Rauch, they complain that people only want more direct democracy over time, even though these processes have not worked out well. They argue that "the best way forward is to rebalance the reform agenda away from direct participation and toward intermediation and institutions."

Ilya Somin responds, and notes that he agrees with much of their analysis. He writes:
In particular, they are right to conclude that political ignorance and irrationality are dangerous menaces that are unlikely to be cured by increasing political participation, greater access to information, or other conventional remedies.
Even though Somin wasn't convinced that empowering political professionals could counter voter ignorance (not to mention the strong incentive to exploit ignorance), he lacked a clear alternative, other than the ability of citizens to vote with their feet in the marketplace.

Yet poor voter options for the resource capacity that matters most, is precisely the problem. Political professionals and the elite have slowly, but surely, diminished marketplace vitality and economic progress. Given this unfortunate reality, voting with one's feet, too often means walking away from basically all the choices on offer. For instance, consider how many individuals are now held in jail for not paying their medical bills. How, exactly, does that "public service" help anyone? Seeking a doctor when health circumstance gives one cause for fear, isn't exactly on the scale of robbing a bank. Yet in some states it is treated as such. Hence the main lesson for many rational folks, is to think twice before opting for healthcare services.

Given how the "non stupid" have made a travesty of what were once free markets, I'm not ready to call voters stupid - regardless of the conspiracy theories that are encouraged - while irrational force is used to maintain today's marketplace structure. When the validity of the voting process is questioned, this gives professionals more reasons to double down, on mistakes that have already been made. Again, I blame arbitrary limits to knowledge use for much of our present political problems, more than any supposed stupidity on the part of the average voter.

It's time to quit pretending that the supply of healthcare was somehow handed down on a stone tablet, for doing so makes all of us appear far more stupid than we actually are. At root of today's political turmoil, lies the artificially restricted supply of knowledge use. In the meantime, instead of having democracy as a valued tool to coordinate healthcare provision and consumption, we are reduced to political shouting matches and aggressive threats against the "wrong" constituency.

None of these potential issues for production rights were lost on our country's founders, either. They were greatly concerned about the tyranny of the minorities who could effectively reduce the production rights of citizens, over time. Let's not forget what they understood. There is still time to generate production reform, on behalf of the average citizen. Nothing less than the prosperity of nations, is at stake. Everyone deserves a better framing in which to cast their votes. A framing which doesn't require making stupid decisions, such as who supposedly doesn't "deserve" the useful skills of others.

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