Alexander Tytler wrote:
A democracy … can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship.
I am one of the out-voted taxpayers. I don’t pay my taxes, I go to jail. No questions asked. It doesn’t matter how much I disapprove of the use of tax dollars. It doesn’t matter that the elite political class votes itself elaborate benefits at my expense. it doesn’t matter that the entrenched corporate and agricultural and manufacturing and union class interests vote themselves special privileges unavailable to the rest of us. And it certainly does not seem to matter that we are running at the state and federal levels a degree of spending that is completely unsustainable. This cannot happen in a marketplace. I may wish to charge each of my students $1,000 per class. But I am limited by competition and choice to not be able to support such desires.
This should, of course, give myth to the notion that democracy and majority rule are means in and of themselves to be desired. They are not. Majorities often cannot rule. And even if they did, the very concept of innovation, change and dynamism stands in opposition to the existence of a “majority.” No doubt that collective action is necessary in some areas of our lives – but also no doubt that we have extended its reach beyond anything reasonable people could tolerate. Were it not for our magnificent wealth today, the Revolution would have started long ago.
In fact, one of the proper roles of government, in my view, is to promote in a society a flexibility and an insensitivity to technological and societal changes. Yes, there might be some losers in the short term when institutions evolve, but in the long run, “we” all win from it. How the government can do this is quite another story – I think Plato would have had more confidence than I do on that one.