Public servants thrive on being noticed. So when Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council asked the Internet to come up with a name for its new boat, this was a brilliant act of theater and notoriety-scrounging. But the results surprised no one, because we all know how democracy works.
Whatever idea is least offensive to most wins. This skews heavily toward illusory ideas, because reality is quite frankly offensive. None of us can have everything we want, and the cause of bad results is usually our own screwups, unless we pay attention to past results (consequentialism), discipline our impulses, and make cold nihilistic calculating decisions based on outcomes but aiming toward the best possible result.
Every other approach in the 6,000 years of recorded human history has failed.
We also know the history of democracy but can also see its effects in local contexts. School elections, HOA elections, even just trying to decide which restaurant to go to or movie to see as a group of friends. Democracy picks not the lowest common denominator, but the lowest option period.
When people become Votey McVoteface, it changes them by sabotaging their psychology. Instead of getting to express what they want, and getting an answer back that this idea is either reasonable or stupid, they get options delegated to them by the rest of the herd. These are never ideal, which neuters voters by forcing them to accept the stupidity of others as a gift.
Over time, Votey McVoteface stops taking it seriously. It’s a game like everything else: getting the fast line at the tax office, impressing the boss with fluff, seducing girls by being feminist, and on and on. When society measures goodness by how many hoops you jump through, the people with the least integrity always win.
I advance this idea also in an argument for an absent God. People say, if God is present, why doesn’t he show himself? Without taking a position beyond the argument itself, I say that it makes no sense for God to show himself or give us writing on the wall. When he does that, his audience become the followers who always win at the game. When you tell people what to do in order to succeed, you get toadies not geniuses.
If God wants a portion of humanity to follow him, he wants the good ones — and they tend toward religion, or at least reverent agnosticism, anyway. Is someone who finds great beauty in the woods and the world of ideas perhaps as religious as the most devoted churchgoer? Quite possibly — and with his disobedient streak, the life-interested agnostic or believer shows more promise than someone who sees the writing on the wall and conforms in hope of personal reward.
Voting does the same thing. It tells people how to be right, safe, inoffensive and successful without having taken any actual risk. That bloats society with lots of yes-men and goody two-shoes, even when they’re being ironic anti-heroes, and no people capable of independent thought. Not surprising that democracy lives up to its epithet, “the headstone of empires.”