Mises Wire

Is Democracy under Attack in Canada? No, but It Should Be

When the legacy media tells you that democracy is under attack in Canada, don’t believe it. Democracy is alive and well, working exactly as it was designed to work, which is to benefit the political class and their friends at the expense of average citizens who still believe that their vote actually means something. This is consistent with how democracy works in most democratic countries. Professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page tell us:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. . . .

Clearly the median citizen or “median voter” at the heart of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy does not do well when put up against economic elites and organized interest groups. The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

Democracy gets its strength from the lack of political accountability. We are told that elections are an opportunity for voters to hold sitting politicians accountable for their performance. However, a losing politician is never required to personally compensate millions of voters who have been harmed by the loser’s actions when he was a sitting politician. Occasionally, the government provides financial compensation to various individuals or groups who have been harmed by the government’s actions. But this means that taxpayers are footing the bill, which means that taxpayers are the ones who are held accountable for the damage caused by previous politicians.

If you break your neighbor’s window, accident or not, you pay for the replacement. If you lost your job, your neighbor may sympathize with you, but he still expects you to pay for the window. You caused the damage, so you must fix the damage. The compensation comes out of your own pocket. You have been held accountable for your actions. Too bad you weren’t a politician, because you could have transferred accountability onto the backs of taxpayers.

People in the private sector are held legally accountable for their actions, but the political class makes the laws, and they say that it is illegal to hold politicians accountable for their own actions. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the immorality of this arrangement. It is wrong. It is unethical. It is unprincipled. It is dishonorable. It is dishonest. It is corrupt. It is villainous. It is self-serving. This is democracy.

Here is how the political class justifies their immunity from accountability: They say that society can grow and prosper only if government agents are granted legal immunity for actions they undertake in the performance of their public duties. For if they fear the personal consequences of their own mistakes, they may hesitate to take actions which they sincerely believe to be in the public interest. With this fear running through their minds, they would be frozen in a state of inaction, and citizens would suffer the effects of a rapidly decaying society. However, when granted the privilege of externalizing the costs of their actions onto the backs of taxpayers, then, and only then, are the government’s angels able to function. This is the gospel according to the state. This is democracy.

The truth is that those who are tasked with serving the public interest, while protected by legal immunity, are well positioned to serve whatever interests they choose. The doctrine of immunity is a ruse, a license to abuse, and a not-too-subtle confirmation that some of us will always be above the law. It encourages government actors to do bad things. It promotes a sense of invincibility, superiority, entitlement, and outrage toward others who forget to bow in the presence of their masters. This is democracy.

Society may be broken, but democracy is not.

Victims of Democracy

Countless Canadians were warned, scolded, harassed, fined, charged, and arrested by police for violating government pandemic edicts regarding lockdowns, face masks, social distancing, group gatherings, etc. Meanwhile, numerous politicians and bureaucrats got a free pass for violating the same edicts. This is a defining feature of democracy—laws for thee, but not for me.

The federal government is forging ahead with a national daycare program, a national dental program, and a national prescription drug program, despite the fact that a majority of Canadians polled are unwilling to absorb the cost of these programs. The political class will increase their power with these new bureaucracies while the middle and lower classes pay the price. Society suffers, but democracy is alive and well.

Among all the countries with a universal healthcare system, the efficiency of Canada’s system ranks near the bottom. Many emergency rooms have closed. We don’t have enough doctors. We don’t have enough hospital beds. Hallway medicine is common. Overworked, burned-out nurses are resigning. The time you must wait to see a specialist or to have surgery grows longer every year, and thousands of Canadians die while they are stuck on a waiting list for treatment. A majority of Canadians polled are in favor of private healthcare for those who are able to afford it, but politicians and highly paid bureaucrats won’t allow it. As William Gairdner wrote in his book The Trouble with Canada . . . Still!, “Thus does the State itself consume resources that might otherwise have gone to patients, forcing them to wait for care, many of them in pain, some of whom will die.” The annual degradation of Canada’s healthcare system will continue, a significant component of an increasingly fractured society. Currently 1.2 million unhealthy Canadians are waiting for healthcare, but democracy is in very good health.

Gairdner wrote:

We are led by a government and bureaucratic oligarchy that for a few generations has propagated values alien to the long-term interests of the Canadian people. It does this either by camouflaging its agenda or by simply proceeding in opposition to, or without much regard to, the expressed will of the people. Any comparison of government action with national poll results will illustrate this point. The people want capital punishment for especially heinous crimes? The government bans it, and rapists and killers are back on the street in twenty-five years or less. The people want lower taxes? The government raises them. The people want to reduce the size of government and the national debt? The government borrows more. The people do not want official (forced) bilingualism? The government forces it on them (though Quebec, to its credit, declines). The people want to slow immigration and to favour traditional stock? The government increases the flow, and disregards country of origin. The people want a better climate for free enterprise? The government vastly increases the regulation of business.

Democracy will remain strong as long as Canadian citizens continue to cede control over their lives to the political class.

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