Does Democracy Let ‘The Poor’ Dominate?

Dave Johnson

Hong Kong’s leader/chief executive Leung Chun-ying slammed pro-democracy protesters, saying that democracy would allow the poor too much of a voice. Leung said that a Chinese-style government appointed from the top allows for more business-friendly policies. I suspect Leung’s comments echo the view of elites worldwide.

This week The New York Times reported on Leung’s comments, writing, “Mr. Leung’s blunt remarks reflect a widely held view among the Hong Kong elite that the general public cannot be trusted to govern the city well.”

“You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can,” he said, “and if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.”

“Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies,” he continued.

These comments match up with the comments of leaders of giant multinationals, various billionaires, the investor class and our own Republican Party.

Many Republicans say that democracy makes people “dependent on government.” The idea is that people (minorities in particular) are “takers” who vote for politicians who “give them free stuff” that the “makers” have to pay for. Voters will “vote for goodies for themselves” – entitlements, health care, and so on. This will lead to a “meltdown” or “fiscal disaster” because we can’t “pay for” these things.

Here is Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking at a fundraiser during the 2012 campaign:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Republican 2012 candidate for vice president Rep. Paul Ryan talks about a European-style culture of dependency on government programs in which a majority of “takers” require taxes from the few “makers.”

“Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”

Here is billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins saying the unwashed masses are coming after the 1 percent: “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’”

Perkins said later, “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes” Perkins said. “But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes.”

This view is expressed across the board among our elites. Here is a Forbes columnist justifying trade deals that protect corporations from democracy,

[T]hat’s actually the point and purpose of the agreement, to protect investments from whatever nonsenses might cross the synapses of the body politic. … They’re there to protect us from the waves of madness that occasionally flit through the population.

Finally, here is Ayn Rand saying democracy will lead to economic disaster:

The Chinese leadership’s view, reflected by the world’s elite/corporate/billionaire and our own conservative Republicans, is that “the poor” are a “mob” of “takers” who will vote “goodies for themselves” and therefore need to be controlled and suppressed for their own good.

It is certainly true that voters in real democracies vote for things that make them happier. Richard Eskow explored this recently in “New Study Finds Big Government Makes People Happy, “Free Markets” Don’t“:

A recent study confirms something leftists have suspected for a long time: People are happier in countries with larger governments, a more generous “welfare state” and more government intervention in the economy. Policies that depend on the so-called “free market,” on the other hand, decrease personal satisfaction.

But have these policies, while making people happier, led to an economic meltdown? Not so far.

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