Demographics and Democracy

Contemplating Longman’s latest baby bust thumbsucker, The Munger asks a good question:

What does this say about democracy? Does the will of the majority contain moral force? Or does it just reflect different rates of reproduction, rather than persuasion?

Good question!

If I’m the Netherland’s, or some other small liberal country, my immigration policy will have a lot to do with restricting entry by people who do not share our evolved liberal values and taste in designer eyeglasses. The problem is worse if the illiberal would-be immigrants breed at rates outstripping the native population. I am, in effect, rigging elections by rigging who has standing to vote. If we democratically choose to prevent our democracy from changing democratically in ways the present majority dislikes, is that a triumph or failure of democracy?

Suppose it was discovered that Indonesians are just natural Republicans and seldom fail to sow their seed and multiply. So the Republican administration gives immigration priority to Indonesians. What would that do to the moral force of the will of the majority? Better or worse than gerrymandering? (What if Indonesians promised to vote Republican in a secret pact?) Democrats like to think that young people and poor people will vote Democrat if only they would vote. So that well-known Party organs bombard us with “rock the vote” and “vote or die” nonsense in order to make grape drink out of the sour grape of electoral dependency on demographic classes that don’t like to vote. That’s also why Dems scream bloody murder about “disenfranshisement” every election. What if Namibians are natural Democrats? If a Republican adminstration puts Namibia on to immigration shit list, are they disenfranchising future voters? I want to know!

The harder you think about democracy, the harder it is to see it as morally super-special. But it’s still special. Not everything needs to be super-special.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center