Arnold Kling  

Another Definition of Democracy

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More Commentary... Morning Commentary...

From David Brooks.


Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

I still prefer the quote of the day.

When I read Bobos in Paradise several years ago, I wrote this critique. On re-reading, it strikes me as one of my better essays. Since then, I have not changed much. Neither has Brooks.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (6 to date)

Unfortunately, we don't have the best selection of people available running for office. We have to settle for the clowns who want to have political power deciding to run and try to fool people into thinking that they want to help others rather than to have power over others.

Devin Finbarr writes:

My definition of democracy:
A system by which wealth is transferred from people who are busy being productive to people who shout the loudest.

bgc writes:

I loved Bobos in Paradise when it came out - read it two or three times. But I quite agree about your comments on Bobos.

Except in one respect: children. The main problem of Bobos is not so much that they are excessively indulgent with children, but that they do not have enough children - especially female Bobos.

This means that - in terms of biological fitness - Bobos are a temporary phenomenon. They are non-viable.

Of course Bobos think that they can reproduce conceptually instead of biologically - that they can transmit their intelligence, character and habits by propaganda through formal education and the mass media. However they are wrong about this. Bobo characteristics are mostly genetic.

The Bobos voluntary sterility is something of profound importance, diagnostic of a profound malaise.

For a while, the USA might fill the Bobo reproductive shortfall by importing Bobos from abroad - but at present this is prevented by restictive practices in the professions.

But in the long term the Bobos are a doomed species, and will be replaced by ... well what?

In my opinion, based on demographics, in another generation the David Brooks of the future will be writing about the new Mormon ruling class in the USA.

Overall, this would be a good thing IMHO. But if you don't like the idea of a Mormon elite, there are many much worse alternatives.

Bob Knaus writes:

Mormon growth comes as much from proselytizing as it does from reproduction. While they recruit aggressively, their retention rates for converts are much lower than comparable religions. And since the vast majority of Mormons in the US follow mainstream reproductive norms, I doubt their birthrate is sufficiently higher than the Bobos to allow a takeover. Independent figures suggest a worldwide membership of 4 million, with about half that in the US. See this Salt Lake Tribune article for more.

If you're looking for a group that shows great potential for reproductive explosion, try the Amish. 250,000 * 6 * 6 * 6 = 54 million :D

David R. Henderson writes:

Arnold,
Thanks for motivating me to read your review of Brooks's book. Very nice review. One thing you said at the end about confrontation reminded me of one of the best lines one of my students (a U.S. military officer) said:
"The problem with most of those who say 'choose your batttles' is that they are unwilling to choose any battle."
We were discussing this, by the way, not in the context of foreign policy but in the context of interpersonal relations and raising kids.
One nitpick: In the first sentence or two, you say "fine" where in fact you mean "find."
Best,
David

MSK writes:

The most important quote regarding presidential politics came from that sage of the 20th century - Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - "Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." Which paraphrases the the lesson from one of the Greek philosophers (my apologies - I can't remember which one, Socrates maybe) Those who seek political power are obviously unqualified on moral grounds ... The beauty of our system is that every four years we have the option to throw the rascals out - unfortunately our only option is to replace them with the other set of rascals. By the time a candidate has made it through the primary process they have collected so many cooties from various interest groups that when they do get into office they can either spend all their time making good on all those promises, or they can spend all of their time avoiding the folks they made promises to - one path leads to spiraling deficits the other to stagnation - what we need is an actual alternative. If I was a Democrat, I would be screaming in Howard Dean's face - "How can we be in a dead heat with the least popular president since Herbert Hoover?"(Anyone remember the pictures of Hoovervilles on the National Mall and in Central Park during the the depression?) If I was a Republican I would be screaming at Karl Rove "What happened to the guy that climbed the rubble at Ground Zero and took the bull horn? The world loved that guy - he had better poll numbers than Santa Claus!" The older I get the more disillusioned I become with people in general and politicians in particular.

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