Democracy works because people are stupid.
I’m stupid. You’re stupid. The smartest are stupid in some ways. Everyone is stupid (except Dolly Parton).
But in a democracy the stupid balances itself out. The collective stupid of every citizen yields enough intelligence that we get by. Even when stupid wins, as in 2016, the beauty of democracy is getting a chance to correct it.
I’ve seen on Twitter that most people think other people are stupid. They’re right. But so are the people making the accusation. We all have our blind spots, our prejudices, our absolutes. They’re different. In the end they balance out and we muddle through.
What’s most dangerous to democracy is the assumption, on the part of all elites, that everyone else is stupid. They are. But you are, too. It’s when elites achieve authority that they can be deluded about this. I don’t care if you’re in the media elite, the intellectual elite, the scientific elite, the business elite, or (God forbid) the political elite. Once you assume authority your stupidity will be laid bare.
Capitalism works, and liberty works, for the same reason democracy works. I used to write a newsletter where I called some companies “clueless.” Sometimes I could barely get that out of my typewriter before said company saw consequences. Usually, this stupidity was built on arrogance, the assumption that “we have no competition.” You do.
We live in a time, in 2022, when no one wants to admit to their stupidity. No one wants to appear foolish. But all of us are foolish, and we need to be reminded of that. Elon Musk must be reminded of it. So do I. So do you.
As a Democrat, it infuriates me when doomscrolling liberals cry that all is lost, that democracy is doomed, because those people “just don’t see it” and even our allies aren’t good enough. A media bought-and-paid-for by a small collection of billionaires is dangerous. But that’s what we had at the founding, a world where rich politicians controlled what people knew because they hired the writers and could afford “the press” on which their words were printed. There’s nothing new here.
So here is a thought for a Friday. Here’s to muddling through. Here’s to getting by. Democracy won’t create nirvana. The result will only be as good as the people are. But it’s better than any other system because, unlike autocrats of all kinds we, the people, are free to change our minds.