Society & Culture

Large Is Ugly: Why America Is Not a Democracy

Of course it is ludicrous for anyone to consider the government in Washington, D.C., a democracy, no matter how often it is declared to be one.  The reason is perfectly obvious: With a population of nearly 330 million people, no nation could have a government with anything resembling a true democracy.

Let us consider.  With 535 people in a Congress for a population that size (in which each Representative has an average of 759,000 constituents), we no longer have a representative democracy, in the sense of having people who represent our views or feelings or even interests or lifestyles.  Nor do we have the elemental qualities of citizenship that are essential in a democracy—after all, fewer than half the people vote in any election, and only in some presidential election years do more than half the eligible people vote.

Whatever its patrons may find to say in favor of our present system of government, there should be no pretense, except perhaps in some unrevised sixth-grade civics text, that it is designed to evince the popular will, or allow even a majority of the people to establish national policies, or let the public en masse behave as truly sovereign.  It might be better to call our system—a system in which some of the people select between two candidates who are already beholden to other interests and are in no way bound to listen to these voters—an oligarchy of the elite,...

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