The wisdom of Garett Jones

Of course this Bloomberg column was inspired by Garett’s work, not to mention Paleo-Caplanianism!  Here is one excerpt, with the focus being on the annoying tendency to label various policies “anti-democratic”:

The danger is that “stuff I agree with” will increasingly be labeled as “democratic,” while anything someone opposes will be called “anti-democratic.” Democracy thus comes to be seen as a way to enact a series of personal preferences rather than a (mostly) beneficial impersonal mechanism for making collective decisions…

It is also harmful to call the Dobbs decision anti-democratic when what you’re really arguing for is greater involvement by the federal government in abortion policy — a defensible view. No one says the Swiss government is “anti-democratic” because it puts so many decisions (for better or worse) into the hands of the cantons. And pointing out that many US state governments are not as democratic as you might prefer does not overturn this logic.

It would be more honest, and more accurate, simply to note that court put the decision into the hands of (imperfectly) democratic state governments, and that you disagree with the decisions of those governments.

By conflating “what’s right” with “what’s democratic,” you may end up fooling yourself about the popularity of your own views. If you attribute the failure of your views to prevail to “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic” forces, you might conclude the world simply needs more majoritarianism, more referenda, more voting.

Those may or may not be correct conclusions. But they should be judged empirically, rather than following from people’s idiosyncratic terminology about what they mean by “democracy” — and, by extension, “anti-democratic.”

I am worried about some of the increasing polarization on this issue.  If you are on “the Left,” and you think various social and policy trends are so immoral, how is it exactly that you avoid becoming yourself “anti-democratic”?  Even though at the same time you are cursing everything you don’t like as “anti-democratic” too?



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