Micro-essays by Philip Dhingra

On Democracy

The existence of junk mail is proof democracy doesn't work.

If government is the redistribution of violence, and violence is something everyone is capable of, then we have always lived under a democracy of sorts. Before modern, formal democracy, aristocrats took as much from the people without inciting them to rebellion. The slavemasters of Ancient Greece knew there was a limit to how much they could extract from slaves. While the masters could disrupt peaceful gatherings or interfere with slave communication, if they mistreated them enough, the slaves would commit the democratic act of voting with their fist.

Democracy is not so much representational government as it is government with begrudging consent. The state takes as much from the people without inciting them to become informed enough to vote their full self-interest.

Politicians like Donald Trump thrive in today's environment thanks to the mathematics of democratic apathy. For example, if a politician says something politically incorrect that irks 20% of the electorate but inspires or rings true for 12% of the electorate, they may still win if only a quarter of their opposition (5%) shows up versus half of their smaller, passionate base (6%). In other words, unpopular and distasteful rhetoric wins in the end, so long as it's sufficiently inspiring to some viable voting bloc.