“The problem with democracy,” we explained to a friend yesterday, as she looked at her watch and hoped her phone would ring, “is a matter of scale” …

– Bill Bonner Diary May 12, 2016

The problem with democracy,” we explained to a friend yesterday, as she looked at her watch and hoped her phone would ring, “is a matter of scale.”

“We see the New England town meeting as a model,” we explained. “It’s a democracy that seems to work plausibly well. Everybody knows everybody else. They are all families, friends, coworkers.

“So, everybody knows the important details – for example, that the mayor is a scalawag and that you have to stay off the streets when Ms. Jones gets behind the wheel.

“In a small town, you can know real things… and vote on things that concern you all. You can do central planning, too… You almost have to. Where to put the town dump. When to schedule the next town fair. How much to charge for parking in the town’s lot.

“Everybody has to do central planning. When you get up in the morning, you have to plan your day. When you have a business or a family, you have to make decisions… you have to decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

“On a small scale, central planning is necessary and effective. And democracy is not bad, either. It helps build the consensus you need to set goals and get everyone behind them.

“But even then, you still get a lot of bullying and bumbling. There are always some jackasses who want to tell everyone else what to do. But in a small community, most people learn to get along with one another.

“In a big community, on the other hand, central planning and democracy are completely different things. People elect leaders they’ve never met… based on slogans and brand advertising. Nobody really knows what they will do, or why.

“And then, the leaders get away – literally – with murder. But people think it’s okay because they think it is just a big version of the town meeting. It’s not. Large-scale democracy is something entirely different. On a large scale, central planning and democracy don’t work.”

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