Are we a democracy?

This is a very common question, and it demonstrates various important concepts that all people should know.

‘Democracy’ is defined colloquially as a nation or society run strictly by a popular vote making all decisions and/or a popular vote electing the decision-makers (known as politicians). Though Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary seems to paint democracy in a more positive light than I would, it defines it as:

A: government by the people

especially: rule of the majority

B: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

In the US, the most common ways that laws are passed are by legislators who are elected by simple votes and by some ballot initiative processes in which the people vote directly on a new law. None of these methods require 100% consent of the people. In fact, they generally require only a 50% plus one vote or the highest total number of votes among all candidates – and only those who vote are counted.

It seems that many individuals misguidedly believe that voting is a wonderful way to run a society. Those who truly take the time to study how ‘majority rule’ really works understand how inherently antithetical democracy is to individual liberty. Simply put, if 6 people (the majority) vote to take all of the money from the 3 (the minority), a democratic society would accept that outcome. For this simple reason, ‘democracy’ has often been compared to mob rule and gang-rape, both instances in which the majority itself justifies the actions they commit. Many conservatives and ‘constitutionalists’ believe that they are geniuses because they profess that natural rights like the right to life, property, self-defense, and speech could never be legally violated by politicians due to being protected by the Constitution. These naïve optimists are extremely misguided for two primary reasons:

  1. The US Constitution is irrelevant in practice. Politicians have all of the power and they can make laws that violate the US Constitution (such as the thousands of gun laws on the books and willfully enforced by nearly every cop in the US, not to mention the massive amounts of laws which violate free speech and property rights) without the Constitution physically stopping them from enforcing the laws and without the constitution physically protecting peaceful individuals from the men with guns (police) who obey the politicians and imprison and kill people who violate the unconstitutional laws. In short, their sacred Constitution cannot impose its will on politicians, rendering the paper booklet 100% impotent. Your dear Constitution cannot and will not save us. It’s what created the US government that now abuses us and violates our every liberty, meaning that the Constitution makes us less free by virtue of its existence. As the famous quote goes: “The Constitution either created this tyranny or has been powerless to stop it.”
  2. Politicians can legally violate any natural right if they can get enough votes. This is called ‘mob rule’ and is the tyranny of the majority, and it’s also the exact same thing as democracy. It’s the will of the people. Without violating any part of the US Constitution, politicians can increase the federal income tax to a flat rate of 50% and they can ban all firearms in the US, without ever needing anywhere near 100% consent anywhere. According to the Constitution, it can be amended if a measure is supported by 66% of the US House, 66% of the US Senate, and 75% (38 of the 50) of the State legislatures. Of course, as long as politicians in DC and state capitals support the measure, 90% of citizens could oppose it, but politicians legally could pass it anyway.
conservatives pretentiously berated AOC for this Tweet

A democracy is any society in which the majority can control policy for all people. To say that the US is not a democracy is to be in denial or to be a willful liar. Nearly every single decision is determined by some sort of vote in which the majority wins by some method. Even the electoral college is only a negligible deviation from the typical voting procedure in which the majority (of voters) imposes its will on everyone else. It still leaves a minority of voters – and the 102 million voters who rejected both Clinton AND Trump – to be violated by political opponents. As opposed to a free society – one in which all people were obligated to respect the natural rights of others – the US government does not guarantee citizens’ rights to life or property. Being that voters in the US do get their way, the US is essentially a democracy. Even worse, the US often sees politicians elected with only a tiny fraction of the electorate’s support. Governor Christie only had one primary opponent in 2013, yet only 3% of people in NJ voted for him. He barely won the primary, and then barely won the general election – because he was ‘the lesser of the two evils’. And in elections with more than two candidates, politicians can ‘win’ a much smaller percentage of the vote than Christie did! Election science is very complicated, but suffice it to say that there is no fair way to organize elections – which is fitting because humans should not be ruled by other humans – and they certainly should not be voting for humans to rule over them.

Interestingly, the Declaration of Independence did say that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, not ‘consent of the majority of the governed’. Maybe the Founders did not support mob rule, after all.