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September 30, 2019 / Congau

Division = Choice

We don’t like deviation. One swerve off to the right and another to the left. Why can’t they all stay in the middle? Bipartisanship be praised!

Politicians argue incessantly while the honorable citizen simply wants some peace and quiet. If only they could agree, stop the bickering, reach a happy consensus and let honest people do their work.

Right, wouldn’t that be great. If they were all of one opinion, the voter wouldn’t have to worry about who to choose. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and socialists, it would all be the same harmonious middle ground and common sense would reign. It would be nice, but it would not be democracy.

We are told it’s important to have a choice, and we believe it is. We feel empowered when we get to pick for ourselves, whether it’s between two different brands of detergent or between candidates. But what is it worth if the content is the same or nearly the same? We are curiously satisfied when just given the illusion of a choice.

And now people are complaining that even the meager choice they have is too much. They lament the great division that they see tearing society apart.

This dramatic view is probably vastly exaggerated, but even if it wasn’t it shouldn’t worry those who see democracy as a goal unto itself. The greater division, the more real alternatives, the more choice the more democracy.

It’s a paradox that when democracies reach a ripe age and consolidate themselves there will be a higher degree of consensus, less division, less choice, and thereby less democracy.

If it’s true that divisions are increasing again in Western societies, that may be reaction to this process. The traditional democratic models have become overripe from stagnant consensus, and certain groups are crying for a renewal of the alternatives. If that’s unfortunate, it’s because we don’t really want too much democracy. After all we don’t like deviation.

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