Elections Aren’t as Democratic as Markets

The presidential campaign is just a few months old, but it already feels like years. Luckily, according to the calendar, less than a year remains. The end will come.

Listening to the preposterous and outrageous promises of presidential candidates offers a reminder that politics is a truly awful way to make decisions. Tell people who don’t know much about public affairs to select one ambitious, ignorant, self-serving narcissist to run the government and thus micromanage Americans’ lives. What could possibly go right?

Imposing an unwanted contender on half of voters minus one is no cause for celebration.

Seriously, is there anything about the US government that even vaguely resembles the civics-class version of Washington? The people, enamored of self-government, choose community leaders to go to the nation’s capital to debate the public’s concerns. Well-intentioned legislators listen to and learn from the people, joining together to discuss issues of the day while holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” Thoughtful compromise legislation emerges, advancing the health, peace, prosperity, and welfare of the American people. The president then enthusiastically administers the new laws to promote the public interest. And angels join together in heaven to sing hallelujah.

It is striking how undemocratic American democracy has become. By its very nature, politics is democratic only in process, not substance. That is, everyone (well, almost everyone) gets to cast a ballot for candidates. But in most races, only one person is elected, almost immediately disenfranchising half of the population (or more, in a multicandidate race). A rotating presidency probably wouldn’t work very well, other than to provide constant fodder for political columnists and cartoonists, but imposing an unwanted contender on half of voters minus one is no cause for celebration.

Moreover, citizens must choose between complicated package…