Saturday, June 02, 2012

Dangerous Democracy

It is very popular to equate Democracy with Peace, but this is a fallacy and, in practice, the exact opposite is true.

Before you write this off as seditious nonsense, take a moment to examine what a democracy is. In very simple terms, a democracy is a form of government in which the majority rules.

That, in itself, does not imply or even make any allusion that a government which is a democracy is peaceful, nor that living in a democratic country needs to be peaceful.

Part of the notion of equating a democracy with peace comes from the formation of people who live within that kind of a system who are taught, from their very earliest days that to solve a problem you vote about it and that everyone peacefully accepts the will of the majority.

To put this into perspective imagine the smallest possible country that could exist as a democracy. This would have to be a nation with 3 people in it, because with a population of only 2 you could never have a "majority" except in those cases where "everybody" agreed.

Now imagine some issue where there was a division of opinion. It could be anything that you can think of, but let's say that it is an issue over whether or not we allow alcohol to be used. Two people are against the use of it, and one person wants to use it.

They take a vote, and inspite of the majority deciding that they don't want it, the third person decides that he will not accept that decision for himself.

How are the other two going to stop this person from making or using alcohol? They may eventually have to resort to force as long as the majority does not reverse their position or change it to allow the minority to do as they wish.

Whenever anyone uses force, or even the threat of it, in order to get their way, we are no longer talking about peace. Peace does not mean accepting what someone else wants because, --if you don't-- you're going to get stompped on.

So to return to original premise, Democracy has nothing to do with Peace. We, who live in a democracy, may have been trained to accept the decision of the majority without complaining, but that acceptance will only last as long as we feel that what we want is less important than the consequences we would face for not accepting.

Don't subscribe to the illusion that just because a country is a democracy, that its government or its people are peaceful … all it means is that they chose the people who make their rules through a process of voting; nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Elephant in your Back Yard

Would you be surprised to discover an elephant in your back yard?  And what if, on discovering it, you learned it had been there for several years?

I imagine your reaction might be similar to what I felt after I finished reading a short publication I received a couple of days back entitled Hack Your Showerhead: Ten Ways to Get Big Government Out of Your Home.

What I found most amazing was the variety of ways in which government regulations affects us and our lives without our even being aware of it.  The unfortunate thing about this is that we often have a tendency to blame other the wrong people for the consequences of these regulations.

One of the ten ways that Jeffery Tucker, the author of this article, sees government regulations affecting us is in the shorter life that many --maybe most-- electric appliances have today, in comparison to the way they were a few years back.

I'm sure you've heard the complaint: "They just don't make [insert name of appliance] like they used to!" and then the complainant goes on to blame the greedy manufacturers for cutting down on the quality presumably in the interests of making more profit.

As Tucker sees it, these manufacturers are under the pressure of government pressures and regulations to implement a series of changes to their products, some of which actually make them perform worse than they did before without adding any material benefit to the end user.  So, in order to comply with the government presser so that they can stay in business, they are forced to substitute parts and materials that will meet the government requirements and yet will not increase the price beyond what their customers are prepared to pay.   All too often the consequence of this is to use cheaper parts which will wear out faster than the older ones.

Tucker explains what happened to air conditioners:
Manufacturers are permitted to make units that use only so much electrical power. They must choose among the features in which to allocate this energy ceiling. The lighter, “more efficient” parts tend to break more easily than they once did. This means that you have to replace the units more often than you did in the past. 
And that's just air conditioners.

Adding Tucker's article to my own observations over the years I have started to wonder how many of all the problems we face in the world today, ranging from wide spread diseases, to aberrant social psychopaths, to threats of depleted resources, to animals in danger of extinction, to hunger, to wars, etc. could be traced back to government interference, intervention or stimulation of some sort or the other, regardless of how well intentioned it may have been.

This suspicion is not because I believe that everybody in government has some evil intention to make the world into a living hell for us, but rather that people, both those who are in the government and those to look to the government to solve problems have too much faith in the ability of these people to find solutions.

The people in government are not superhuman before they go to work for the government, nor do they become endowed with any special abilities once they enter the government.  Why then, do we, and they believe that they can solve problems which supposedly couldn't be solved before the government became involved?

So if you discover you have an elephant which you don't want in your garden, do you then look around for another elephant to deal with it, or is it better to consider other alternatives such as finding a new place to plant your garden, start planting things which elephants don't like, or some more imaginative option?