As we approach another presidential election, politicians all seem to be asserting that “our system is broken”. Speeches from candidates everywhere claim government is dysfunctional and that our political system has been corrupted. Americans want one thing and yet our leaders give us something entirely different. Government is bogged down in gridlock.
Actually, our system works quite well. Voters get conflicting, misguided public policy because that’s what they want. A minority of us have “live within your means” values. In reality, most voters want more things from government than they are willing to pay for. People want all the same government benefits but don’t want to raise taxes. Our citizens have contradictory desires, wanting free stuff without paying for it. As David Harsanyi asserts in the title of his book, The People Have Spoken (and They are Wrong)(2014).
Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution puts some issues beyond the reach of the masses. Pure democracy would never last because eventually the majority would vote to confiscate all the wealth of the minority. The framers of the constitution were well aware of that fact so our constitutional democracy imposes limits on what government can do. They knew economics and politics are warfare and so they armed the wealthy with powerful legal weapons.
In fact, America is doing quite well because of the political influence of the wealthy. That’s not elitist ideology – it’s a comforting fact. As economist Bryan Caplan points out in his essay Why Is Democracy Tolerable? ….because we don’t take it too far. The poor masses overwhelmingly favor statist, big government, redistribution policies, while the wealthy favor a more libertarian, tolerant society. Our constitutional democracy means those with money run the show. And that’s a good thing, but as Professor Martin Gilens points out in his essay Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, that does not mean the rich just impose policies that materially benefit themselves. All Americans, including you the moderately wealthy, are better off with constitutionally protected liberty that would not prevail if the masses had their way. Enjoy the freedom and protection of your American War Chest.