The other day I was sitting at a restaurant reading a book. It’s something I do quite often. I usually go around two or so in the afternoon, as I like to avoid the rush. I usually sit at my table for at least an hour, and read whatever it is I brought to read. Sometimes I bring a notebook and a pen and just write whatever comes to mind as I’m sitting there. One of the reasons I usually go in the afternoon is because I feel a little uncomfortable taking up a big table for a long time when the restaurant is really crowded. I can’t really justify the meager profit the shop is making off of my one lunch special for the hour or so I sit there when there are plenty of other people waiting to use the space more profitably.
Some restaurants close around three, which is just perfect. By the time roll in there the restaurant is nearly empty. Which gives me ample time to relax, and sometimes get to know the waitresses. I’ve made several friendships this way.
But the other day was different, as there were two businessmen in the restaurant. I don’t really know if they were businessmen, but they were dressed in really nice suits and it was an off lunch hour, and neither one of them seemed to be in a hurry to leave. I don’t think I saw either of them look at their watch once the whole time I was there. Maybe they were salesmen or politicians. Whoever they were, they started having a fairly heated discussion, one that I couldn’t help but overhear. Much as I tried to read my book on metaphysics, I couldn’t help but to watch as my concentration drifted on its own over to their conversation.
They seemed to be arguing over the merits of the merits of the American political system. One guy seemed to have the idea that it would be better to get rid of congress altogether and install a pure democracy, where everybody voted for every single issue. His main point seemed to be that with the Internet, everybody has access to enough information to make an informed decision. He explained that the system we have now was devised over two hundred years ago when fewer people were educated, and had very little access to information. It made sense to elect representatives to vote for a large number of people on certain issues. But he argued that today, everybody can read about the issues, and read pros and cons for each decision, and then vote accordingly. He argue that of course people would have to pass a tests on a regular basis, even before each vote to demonstrate that they had sufficient knowledge to be able to have their vote counted.
The other guy thought this was absolute nonsense. He was saying that the current American system of government is the best on ever created, and that to change it would lead to certain disaster for the country. He likened government by majority rule to no better than being ruled by an emotional despot. He argued that crowds can be too easily swayed one direction or the other, and that giving people the controls would be tantamount to anarchy.
Then their argument kind of shifted into the old “is man better free or ruled” argument. One side argued that most people are incapable of ruling their own lives, and must have a rigid set of guidelines to govern their thoughts and behaviors. Like humans will turn into “Lord of the Flies” if we are left too long on our own without any form of rules and enforcement of those rules. The other guy seemed to claim that the rules were really only for the small minority of lawbreakers, and not for most law-abiding citizens like you or me. (Even though I’m pretty sure this guy has never met you or me.)
Personally, I’m not so sure what side I fall on, but I don’t think government rule by a pure majority is a good idea. I just see too many problems with it. I also feel that one person making a decision for a bunch of other people on a regular basis has its drawbacks as well. I suppose the current system that we have is OK, as long as people don’t abuse their power. Which I suppose is the way our system is now. It would be nice, though, to make our representatives more responsible to the people they are supposedly representing. I suppose that falls on the shoulders of the represented. It’s up to us to kick them out of power if they misbehave.
It was an interesting conversation, one of those things that come along when you are least expecting it. It’s amazing what happens when you open up your mind to the opinion of others.