We the People

27 Aug 2011

In 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected President of the United States and half of the country lost its mind. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected President and the other half of the country lost it mind. And, more relevant to my life, yesterday voters of British Columbia decided that it was in everyone’s best interest to throw away millions of tax dollars.

This is the unfortunate reality that we live in, although we generally refer to this flavor of reality as democracy. The problem with a democracy is that, from time to time, the majority will disagree with your personal choice and elect a candidate or pass a referendum that runs counter to your individual beliefs. In such a situation, there is no legitimate recourse: you have lost.

Oh sure, you can attack the process with many different arguments: “the voter turnout was low”; “the referendum was phrased poorly”; “the campaign was misleading”. You may even be correct on any or all of your points, but, at the end of the vote, all of that is moot. Being right has no place in a democracy.

Our civilization is founded on the principle that we, the people, are best suited to championing our own fate and the manner by which it is determined what we, the people, are thinking is an opt-in vote by a certain subset of the people. This is the system of governence that we advocate around the world, loudly proclaiming its virtues over this style of tyranny or that form of communism. We do this even knowing that, at the end of any one election, a significant portion of the population is going to be disappointed by the result.

This is not to say that democracy is bad or that an individual tyrant would suit us better. It is a reminder that elections and referendums are the processes that govern our society and sometimes, in an election, your candidate loses. That does not make it any less your decision or make you any less responsibile for the result. We choose to live in a democratic nation, so we choose to be accountable for the decisions of the whole.