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The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy Hardcover – March 10, 2014

3.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“Everyone’s got a favorite scapegoat for America’s decline, but what if the problem turned out to be deeper than just dishonest politicians? What if democracy itself was making us mediocre? Could it be that voters have too much power? What if it’s our fault? Those are a few of the bracing questions David Harsanyi raises in this brilliant corrective to the mindless populism sweeping—and possibly destroying—our country. Buy three copies. It’ll be the smartest thing you read this year.”
—Tucker Carlson, co-host of FOX & Friends Weekend and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller

“Our Founders thought that a pure democracy was ‘the greatest of evils,’ a destructive volcano, and liable to commit suicide. Unfortunately, modern Americans have come to believe the precise opposite. David Harsanyi takes on the difficult task of convincing readers that their preconceptions of democracy are wrong. Our Constitution gives us something even better than a pure democracy: we have a democratic republic, with many checks and balances that protect us from the tyranny of a bare majority. The foundations of our Constitution are badly misunderstood. Harsanyi’s work will help to restore an understanding of the Founders’ work.”
—Tara Ross, author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing (March 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1621572021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1621572022
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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First off, I am no particular fan (or detractor) of democracy. Like all other forms of government, I think democracy has features both good (it allows rulers, in some way, be accountable to those who are ruled) and bad (democracy allows people to vote about that which they often know little about). And democracy is, like other forms of government, good when it gets good results and bad when it gets bad results. Democracies sometimes vote for things that (at least) I think are good, and they sometimes - maybe more often - vote for things I think are horrible.

So, I was sort of excited by this book, as I've read a number of really excellent and articulate critiques of democracy. To be blunt, this wasn't really one of them. One can dislike democracy as a process, and one can dislike democracy for its results. David Harsanyi almost exclusively critiques the latter, and I daresay that a good deal of the book is Harsanyi complaining why many of the policies he doesn't like are bad more than that the democracy that gave rise to them is bad.

The first few chapters are probably the most on point in critiquing democracy, as they are the chapters that show pretty demonstrably that the American public is generally quite uninformed about politics. Survey after survey has demonstrated this. Harsanyi also writes about how laypeople are quite susceptible to demagoguery and voting for those who flatter them, rather than those who may have the best policy ideas (a critique that goes back at least to the early American republic). My problem here is that as good as these critiques are, they come off as quite snobbish without an explanation of why these phenomena happen in democracies, which Harsanyi doesn't offer.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Is democracy a bad idea? David Harsanyi, a libertarian-leaning political columnist whose writings I usually enjoy, suggests as much in this book. Is he right? That depends, I think. on whether you view his book as a "devil's advocate" exercise aimed at exposing the disadvantages and overinflated expectations connected with democracy or as a serious argument that majority rule as the basis for government ought to be abandoned.

It should be clear, by the way, that when Harsanyi writes about democracy, he does mean specifically just majority rule, the idea that the actions of government should be decided by a majority of voting citizens, and that as many people as possible should be encouraged to vote. The word "democracy" is sometimes used in a broader sense to suggest not just majority rule but other good things such as individual rights and freedoms, constitutionally limited government, and due process of law. But Harsanyi makes the valid point that these other good things are not inextricably linked with majority rule, but rather are essential as limitations on the principle of pure majority rule in order for democracy to be tolerable. Without individual rights and limited government, democracy can be a license for 51% of the people to vote to rob, enslave or murder the other 49%-- or to vote to enslave *themselves*.

Harsanyi makes other valid points; that the Founders of America never envisioned a "pure" democracy (though I'm not sure they were really as hostile to the principle of majority rule as is suggested here); that voters are often poorly informed and irrational; and that, even if democracy works tolerably well here in the U.S.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is not for the lighthearted. This book touches the "sacred" ideas of "democracy". I will not tell you that I could not put down this book until I have read the last page. No, I had to put it down many times and think about it. His ideas are not conservative ,libertarian, liberal or progressive but some from all of it and more. All in all, this book is trying to show you the fallacy of democracy not to forgetting its positive sides and achievements. It poves to the reader that "democracy" is ending up in some kind of tyranny sometimes it takes longer other times sooner. Yes, it is showing what is happening today in the United States and other parts of the world because of the consequence of the development of "democracies". Like all democracies eventually, have resulted less democracy and less personal freedom. Like from the beginning of the United States; the growth of the power of the Federal Government and in our days, the intention to grow the power of International organizations over induvidual countries. To create a world order where countries and then individuals have to abide to distant high powers in the name many times for the good of the many, other times of the defense of minorties. This book philosophically, investigates "democracy" and boldly, puts it the the same category with other tyrannical systems, because it favors and helps demagoguery, and for other reasons. Good read but it is not a romantic novel. It really, makes one think. Think long.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy – The God That Failed, I have learned largely untold histories of the effects of suffrage expansion I had previously understood only vaguely – and this despite that book’s failure to consider perspectives on how democratisation happened undoubtedly more favourable toward Hoppe’s “paleolibertarian” perspective at the expense of mere repetition. More significantly than that, Hoppe gave me vastly greater insight into how conservatism in its purest form actually views human nature and society as a fully hierarchical and cooperative whole rather than as individuals with “rights” as more conventional anthropologies and ideologies do.

For these reasons, I had considerable hopes for ‘The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy’ upon finally getting to read it in a library amidst Melbourne’s cloistered, ultraconservative suburbs where an audience for these beliefs might be expected. However, I feel that there is far more wrong than right about ‘The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong)’ upon a reasonable complete read. Most importantly, Harsanyi is far too prone to indulge in trivial facts about how people view the world, for instance about the large proportion of Americans who believe in astrology or a young earth (not to mention other detours) rather than expanding upon Hoppe’s these about how democracy encourages the majority to vote to seize legitimately earned wealth. It is true that Harsanyi spends time on every traditional criticism of democratic government, but these criticism are done much too briefly to be remotely deep.
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