Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why Democracy Sucks

People make terrible choices all the time. We purchase expensive things we can't afford, we drink too much and expose our genitals to a roomful of people, we eat General Tso's Chicken, we tape-record conversations in which we discuss breaking the law, even when we're the President of the United States—the list goes on. The real problem comes when we have to make really important decisions, like whether to go to war or what sort of health coverage the government should fund. You could try to find the smartest or most even-tempered person in the world to make those choices for you, but of course you then have to choose who the smartest or most even-tempered person is, which is another tough choice.

The solution we have come up with is called “Democracy.” The basic idea is we make the really important decisions together, by voting. People who like Democracy are operating under the assumption that large groups make better decisions, on average, than individuals—or, at least, decisions made by large groups are more “fair” than decisions that would be made by a dictator or a series of dice rolls.

If you're one of those people who believes in Democracy, I've got two words for you: Allen Iverson.

For those of you who aren't aware. Allen Iverson—or AI if you're in a hurry—is one of the best basketball players of his generation. He carried a not-very-good 76ers team to the Finals on his elaborately tattooed back, he scored so many points people ragged on him for not passing more, and he's a nine-time All-Star. The problem is he's about to become a ten-time All-Star.

For you non sports fans out there, the All-Star game is an annual tradition where the twenty best basketball players in the world get together and play basketball. It's a fairly non-competitive game and there's not a lot of defense being played, but it's fun to watch, if you like that sort of thing. Now, AI is averaging 14 points and four assists a game, which is better than you or I would do, but for a professional basketball player, those stats are the equivalent of almost but not quite passing health care reform. It's not like it's AI's fault that he's not as good as he used to be—he's 35 years old, young for a President but old for a basketball player, and he even flirted with retiring this year.

So why is he going to be an All-Star this year? Because All-Star starters are elected by fans, and while some fans watch a lot of NBA games and really pay attention to who the best players are this year, other fans vote for players that they like, whether or not those players are actually good, or even just for names that they recognize. That's how Tracy McGrady almost became an All-Star despite spending only 47 more minutes on an NBA court than I did this season. And an All-Star game with Tracy McGrady and AI involved would not be a game featuring the best basketball players in the world.

David Stern, the NBA commissioner, is no fan of Democracy and wants to “tweak” the All-Star voting process, much as Mussolini “tweaked” the Italian government. Stern knows that a lot of NBA fans are basically idiots, because what other word is there for people who would rather watch AI than Rajon Rondo because AI is more famous? Rondo will be an All-Star, but no thanks to Democracy.

I'm not saying we should elect a dictator or anything, but let's stop going around talking about how great and important Democracy is, and for God's sake let's stop trying to “import” it to places like Afghanistan. Democracy picks the wrong All-Stars, Democracy elects Presidents who shouldn't be Presidents, and Democratically-elected officials have done awful, awful things. The most you can say about Democracy is that the government moves so slowly and incompetently that it hardly ever makes things worse.

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