Democracy as Ressentiment

The arguments I hear against universal suffrage democracy start from a belief that some other means of appointing political leaders will lead to a better governed society. But arguments for universal suffrage begin with an argument about fairness or rights. Now look, I have no idea what fairness tastes like and I’ve never seen a right, but I do know that I prefer a well-governed society over a poorly governed one, so it’s easy for me to choose which kind of argument I prefer. But I seem to be in a minority among my peers.

The other day a coworker and I discussed the stupidity of voters. I suggested it was ludicrous that we let people vote who don’t know how a bill becomes law. How are they going to have valuable thoughts on how the government should run if they don’t know how it works? My friend agreed that restricting the franchise would produce better government, but he disagreed that we should do so. Why? Because it wouldn’t be “fair”, because lots of people grow up without access to an education that would give them a basic civics lesson.

My response to him is “so what?”. How does the “unfairness” of the situation of the uninformed voter change whether or not it is wise to let him vote? One of the most pernicious consequences of liberalism (and here, like a libertarian, I include both the modern and the classical sense) is divorcing right-ness from wisdom. If doing good leads us to self-harm, then why do good?

My conclusion is that Universal Democracy is an ideology of what Nietzsche referred to as ressentiment. It is not driven by sober reflection on what is best for society, but on the emotions of envy felt by those without the vote towards those that have it. That they have little idea what to do with it once they get it is seldom considered.

The founders of the United States spent many words reasoning against democracy in its rawest forms. The advocates of unlimited Jacksonian democracy needed no reasons to refute them. Resentment and envy were enough.


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