David Friedman on “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest.”
In the comments on a controversy at Volokh Conspiracy, David Friedman provides the most sensible interpretation of the famous quotation “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest.” Far from a backhanded compliment for democracy, the correct interpretation is that we should do as little by means of government as we possibly can:
I think the obvious implication of that quote, although not the one most people draw, is that all forms of government work pretty badly, hence one should, so far as possible, avoid doing things via government. It is, for instance, an argument for vouchers over public schools, or for an entirely private schooling system over vouchers.
It’s also an argument for not assuming that if you take a controversy to the government courts you will get a just result. Hence, in comparing that to private alternatives, including use by the parties to a dispute of non-governmental mechanisms for resolving it, you should assume that neither method can be counted on to give a just outcome, and choose between them allowing for the likely faults of both.
We might have to keep doing national defense via democracy for a few decades, but in the meantime let’s move as many other systems over to private supply as we can as quickly as we can. And, as Caplan and Stringham point out, in principal all we need to do so is to allow private arbitration agreements to be binding, though governments would still take our tax monies.