Say the word Democracy to anyone walking the streets of America and they’ll think you’re referring to our election process. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case, and there’s a very important reason why. Democracy is the direct vote of the people on all things related to government. And for a country the size of the United States, this isn’t possible.
Roughly 2,000 years ago, the world was a much smaller place. Most people knew the world was large, but had little reason to want to travel it. Greece, birthplace of classical thinking, was one such place. Most of the peoples of Greece were content to simply live in city-states, individual cities that formed alliances with one another for common defense, but preferred to remain independent and pass their own laws and defend themselves. Here, cities were fairly large for cities of the time, but most issues regarding the citizenry was voted upon directly, or occasionally voted upon by people acting in the people’s place.
For the most part, when dealing with individual cities and whatnot, direct voting works. The people can all be gathered in one place, explained the issue in detail, and allowed to vote how they see fit. It’s neat and simple, but also not very efficient on a large scale. A city state such as Athens or Sparta might elect to go to war, but the people of another city may choose to remain home. With no coordination, efforts can fail, and quickly. A vote between two cities to provide funds for a road may result in different outcomes, leading to a road that leads to nowhere. Even if all the people voted, would the voters in one city outweigh the votes of another city, leading their voices to be silenced by the vast majority?
Next time: Dictatorships, why they never, ever seem to work.