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Jerry Muller, a historian of economic thought, emailed me a paper that begins,

While there have been many historical instances of capitalism without liberal, representative democracy, there are no known cases of liberal, representative democracy without capitalism.

Some other interesting quotes:

One role of the intellectual in politics, for Burke, was to advise legislators to stand up to short-term political and moral pressures when they threaten long-term national economic interests.

...The government’s task was to protect middlemen, such as the “factor, jobber, salesman, or speculator, in the markets of grain,” from the ignorance and envy of farmers and consumers.

...In Considerations on Representative Government (1861), John Stuart Mill voiced the recurrent fear of nineteenth-century liberals that the political power of the non-property-owning majority in a democracy might have disastrous economic consequences.

The paper is called, "The democratic threat to capitalism," and it appears in the current issue of Daedalus. Professor Muller says that the entire issue of the journal is on the theme of democracy and capitalism. I think of the paper as virtual forewaord [thanks, Thomas for catching my spelling error]to Myth of the Rational Voter.

The remarks on Mill suggested something to me that I imagine that other people already knew. At the time of the Founding Fathers, restricting the vote to people with property was probably thought to be a great way to protect free markets from democratic redistributionism. The thinking must have been, "if you've got property, you won't want it stolen by the government." So keep the propertyless from voting.

What would be the equivalent today, when the main differences among people are not reflected in ownership of property but in human capital? I guess one could argue that only the well-educated should have the right to vote. Not for Bryan's reason that they tend to know more economics. But for the reason that they are less likely to have class interests against the market.

Yes, I know that there are many in the elite whose stock in trade is opposition to capitalism. But suppose you take away the poorly-educated as a political constituency. Lou Dobbs might have to get a new act. I'm still not endorsing Caplan-esque elitism. Just sayin'...

By the way, Daedalus is the most Internet-hostile journal out there, as far as I can tell. Perhaps I am just a Google-klutz, but I cannot find so much as a table of contents for any issue, much less this one, which I would like to peruse. Can anyone help?

UPDATE: see the first two comments. Here is the table of contents for the issue I wanted.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (10 to date)
John Jackson writes:


for a table of contents of the current issue.

AnonymousLibraryStudent writes:

Daedelus is available through several electronic databases subscribed to by the GMU library. Go here, search for "Daedalus," and click on any of the links.

This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood academic librarian.

Lord writes:

Isn't that what we already de facto have?

Jon Karlsson writes:

Mmm, if the constitution was written today...

I see problems with where to draw the line. It is pretty easy to measure how much property someone has. It strikes me as rather hard to measure how much human capital someone has. (Unless one makes the measuring trivial, such as "you have to have an academic degree (or a high school degree...) to vote", "you get one vote per credit you've taken", or similar abominations.)

David Thomson writes:

One should have to pass a literacy test before being granted the right to vote. It really is that simple. The Democratic Party is the greatest threat to our economic freedoms. This political organization relies on the votes of the marginally to functionally illiterate to succeed on election day.

By the way, there were rarely, if ever, any literacy tests mandated in the Old South. No, there were merely a number of scam operations to keep blacks from voting.

testcase writes:

Did not John Jay say - "Those who own the country, should run it."

Of course others held quite opposing views, so I question the idea that there was some single thought about this held by the "founding fathers."

The real question here is why should the fact that there are some who might have class interests against the market be taken as a reason to exclude that class from the democratic process? I suppose it comes down to whether one thinks democracy is more important than capitalism, which I certainly do.

Of course if one did keep the lower classes from voting the risk would become very high of some type of violence and rebellion with outcomes which could be even more harmful to capitalism. Perhaps this is part of the reason suffrage was extended to the poor.

I would almost welcome a system which weighted one's vote by net worth, since this would be more revealing of the way the actual system in the US works all the other days besides election day.

David Thomson writes:

I am advocating a literacy test---not a wealth test. In other words, Paris Hilton might be out of luck. There is also little historical evidence to suggest that the lower classes are all that interested in politics. As matter of fact, most "revolutionary" leaders were raised in comfortable circumstances.

TGGP writes:

I suppose it comes down to whether one thinks democracy is more important than capitalism, which I certainly do.
Elaborate on how you come to that position. I can think of a number of successful undemocratic capitalist states: Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai. How many successful uncapitalist democracies can you think of?

Erik writes:

Democracy should be about deciding collective issues by majority vote. The discussion should focus on just what is a collective question. I think just about any important aspect of capitalism is way out of that definition. Where I work, who I work for, what I buy and what I invest in are not collective questions at all.

8 writes:

Human capital translates into property. Was the problem in 1789 really propertyless-ness? Everything west of the Appalachians was free!

The corrollary today would be to keep an account for every citizen that would calculate taxes paid minus cash received. My ballpark guess is that a shortcut would be to find the Democratic Party's voter list and just lop off 80%, and knock about 60% off the Republican's list.

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