That’s not quite fair. The people are people. They act as people do – they see things in terms of themselves or people they know. So when improvements to public services are put forward, people often like them and vote them in. Who doesn’t like to help themselves or others with better public services? When tax cuts are put forward, people like them and vote them in. Who doesn’t like to pay less tax?
But it’s a lot harder to propose and pass tax rises and/or cuts to public services. No-one likes those. The end results – California, one of the richest states, went bankrupt. It’s a little more complicated than I make it seem here, but the basic principles still stand.
This got me thinking about how I will behave come the next election in the UK’s more typical representative democracy. If one party promises to give more tax credits to families, will that influence my vote? I have a family and only barely enough money to support them, so of course it will. If a party wants to reduce university tuition fees, will that affect how I vote? I have two children and I care about their future, so of course it will. I will vote in my own self-interest, and in the interests of my family and people I care about.
I think this behaviour is normal. But it doesn’t help the country balance the books.
As I see it, the basic problem can be summed up as this:
Obviously this is massively simplistic, but I can’t help feel that it’s basically true. It’s clear that this will tend to lead to democratic nations spending more than they can afford, particularly when growth is weak – just look at the amounts of debt that western democracies have built up.
Now I don’t have a very good grasp of economics and politics, and as such I will have to leave the thought unfinished at this point. I don’t have a better option in mind, but I have to wonder; will democracy always lead to overspending?