Far from being a self-evident truth, democracy is a temporary aberration of political order. It became popular during the Renaissance, when intellectuals embraced everything classical, from art to political philosophy. Democracy no more represents the real political order of Ancient Greece than Athens of Milos resembles an average Athenian woman. By modern standards, Athenian democracy was quite a totalitarian regime: fiercely religious and closed to cultural innovations, it refused voting rights to immigrants and their descendants.

Modern political theory applied democracy to nation states where all members (citizens) have equal claim to the country and therefore equal political rights. Nothing could be further from the classical system. Mere residence in a town-state for countless generations did not confer citizenship and the right to control the state and define its character. Only descendants of the original inhabitants had those rights. Classical democracy served to preserve the cultural core of a community rather than benefit its current residents. This difference is important: modern societies praise democracy because, allegedly, it is best for people; the ancients used it because it preserves values best. Thus, two completely different societal orders with different goals are called by the same term, democracy.

The simplistic idea of democracy long ago overtook the masses. Around the same time, two other notions gained currency: equality (just how equal are smart and dull, beautiful and ugly?) and social justice (equalized incomes). Democracy is not about justice, but equality: in this case, the equality of votes. Is that just? That depends on your definition. I’m inclined to understand justice in terms of marginal utility—a natural order of things slightly tempered to avoid extreme suffering. Such an approach is both biblical and liberal. In the Torah, only matters of extreme importance are regulated: basic food for widows and orphans, court access for resident aliens, public violation of religious duties, monarchic abuses, and permanent injuries to slaves. In liberal theory, events are allowed to run their natural course, and government intrusion is kept to a minimum to prevent extreme abuses. Similar logic applies to the voting process and the control of state affairs generally: voting rights need not be equal or universal, but all people must have a say when they want to. They need not vote every five years, but must be able to vote at any time if the government veers too far from their interests. Such systems do exist. In Egypt, for example, people vote periodically on the need to hold presidential elections. By far, most prefer stability to unfounded hopes.

The extremely low voter turnout in developed countries suggests that citizens are not interested in the routine affairs of their states. And why should they be? Even senators do not read the bills they vote on. Work overload is one reason, and lack of competence in myriad matters is another, but most of all it is about complexity: the issues being legislated are too complex for any meaningful decision. The free-world countries defeated those with planned economies; but as often happens, the victors adopted the customs of the vanquished. In recent decades, the West has seen an explosion of economic regulation which only quantitatively differs from that of countries with planned economies. Every piece of regulation presumes planning: regulation is enacted only insofar as its proponents expect certain outcomes. Western economic regulation plans for economic outcomes just like the Soviets did. Instead of allocating resources directly as communists used to, Western governments twist the workings of their economy so that these resources will be allocated in the desired manner. They do implicitly what the Soviets used to do explicitly.

When legislators are not interested in legislation—and a strong case can be made that intelligent legislation in complex societies is altogether impossible—it is ridiculous to expect common voters to take much interest in legislation or in electing legislators.

Democracy is neither good or bad in large societies. It simply does not exist. What passes for democracy is rule by interest groups, and most citizens just do not care. To claim that they have a right to vote is akin to saying that everyone has a right to be a millionaire. They do not qualify to vote; they lack the necessary information, they do not have time to form opinions on myriad matters, and they are plainly disinterested. Their lack of interest in political life is just as sensible as a lack of interest in soccer or ballet. Okay, soccer does not bear on their lives, but monetary policy and military intelligence do. Should they vote on the central bank’s interest rate or publicly review intelligence information? Politics is not a straightforward commonsense enterprise. It would be impossible for common citizens to evaluate Bismarck or Richelieu. Politics touches on more complex issues than the economy, and it is far from Joe the Plumber’s domain, and immensely more complicated than monetary policy. Few people are competent in monetary policy; far fewer can claim expertise in politics.

Neither is democracy sustainable in its classic form. The power is quickly usurped by classes of professional bureaucrats and politicians. That those classes are not hereditary is irrelevant: they are still coherent groups distinguished from the masses. In the social sphere democracy erodes into socialism as all political candidates have to make bigger promises than their predecessors or competitors to interest groups who are the only interested voters around. The middle class, the victim of redistribution, is too busy with mortgage and college to defend its interest through politics against predatory taxation.

Government senses that voters long for immediate security and comfort, which it provides—to the detriment of long-term objectives. Democratic policies thus maximize short-term gain without much thought given to potentially negative consequences—as happens, for example, when Keynesian governments set out to regulate business cycles—and by removing fear from markets they leave unbridled greed, which leads eventually to mega-crises.

Contrary to common wisdom, democratic governments are typically aggressive on the international scene because foreign policy is so removed from the daily affairs of average citizens that they know almost nothing about it and cannot form sensible opinions; so they agree to whatever course the government charts for them. Political leaders, long disconnected from the masses, are close to their foreign counterparts, and love foreign policy. The only restraint on them is affluence, rather than democracy: complacent societies do not like dangerous wars. America thus fought the Soviet Union in scores of proxy wars which did not endanger the mainland, instead of tackling the enemy directly.

Democracy is oddly incompatible with politics. Strictly speaking, democracy only provides for executive power, and even that in culturally homogenous societies. Theoretically, people hold opinions and express them through voting, at which point the government must rush to implement those opinions. Two things interfere with this ideal. Politicians are necessarily activist: unlike bureaucrats, they want to form policies rather than implement someone else’s (voters’) decisions. Moreover, various groups of voters hold different, often conflicting opinions, making it impossible for politicians to know which opinion to implement. The President, for example, is elected based on his position on myriad issues. Different voters agree with different points in his platform. The fact that a majority of voters agreed with the bulk of his propositions tells us nothing about their attitude toward any specific proposition. Some theorists have attempted to solve that conundrum with functional voting: citizens would vote on every issue of significance to them. That cannot work, either, because in order to vote, citizens must be presented with a question, and formulating a question—really, a complex issue rather than a simple yes/no dilemma—is a sure way to lead the public opinion. For example, voters are likely to respond very differently to “bailing out the American banking system” than to “providing government subsidies to investment bankers.” Government, therefore, unavoidably leads public opinion in the desired direction. That would be a legitimate approach in a theocracy, where the higher goals are clear and the population must be tricked into adhering to them, or a meritocracy where the rulers know the truth and have to convince the populace of their wisdom. Democracy is different. Democratic rulers cannot lie to the voters even for the voters’ good, just like an attorney cannot lie to his client even to win his case. But lies have become a cornerstone of democratic governance: wartime censorship, peacetime PR-friendly packaging of policies, and hidden redistribution of income through minimum wage and healthcare regulation create a full-blown alternative reality for voters far removed from the objective facts. To that end, government resources are immense: it doles out precious information to friendly media, subsidizes friendly interest groups, finances friendly academics, employs speechwriters and PR managers, and enjoys a reputation for wisdom. Far from implementing the will of the voters, the government imposes on them the will of a ruling elite, and only uses the voters as dummies for legitimizing that will, using the voters’ own tax money to brainwash them.

People want freedom from oppression rather than democracy. They want to be spared significant injustice rather than participate in all affairs of state and voice their opinions on all matters. They are not capable of judging or forming meaningful opinions on matters far removed from their areas of expertise. An average person’s house is a major investment for him, but he does not concern himself with the many details of its construction; he cares only that the house is comfortable. Likewise, he wants a comfortable community rather than an entitlement to vote on its issues. Private jurisdictions are most suitable for populations. People must be able to choose a mini-jurisdiction the size of a township for themselves. People choose a particular TV model rather than vote on what models each company should produce. Likewise, they must be able to choose, freely and inexpensively, among many competing jurisdictions, essentially private communities with their legal systems, rather than vote on what a countrywide legal system should be. Jurisdictions must be offered as final products: if you like the jurisdiction of New York City, settle there; if you prefer a more conservative jurisdiction such as Louisville, they will welcome you there. Private mini-jurisdictions are not necessarily anti-democratic: some may belong to their residents and be governed by democratic vote.

Offering jurisdiction as a final product is more honest than the current pseudo-democratic arrangement. Today, voters do not know how their elected politicians will act, and these politicians’ actions frequently diverge from their electoral promises. Voters also cannot know how their elected office-holders will interact among themselves and settle the conflicting interests of their constituencies. In effect, voters cannot predict the outcomes of elections. Votes, therefore, are given not for platforms but for the personal characteristics of the candidates, the only aspect which the voters may reasonably imagine that they can know. That is why the personal lives of candidates has become so prominent in elections. The situation can be compared to a man who asks his friend to purchase a TV set for him. In current democracies, he chooses a good-looking friend for the task, gives him no binding instructions, and hopes that the TV model chosen by his friend will be a good one. In a private jurisdictions, he would go and buys himself the exact model he wants.

But how do mini-jurisdictions fit into globalized world where everything from trade to pollution is on grand scale? The answer can be seen in the Church’s history. That institution had powers comparable to those of sovereign states, and it kept expanding until it became too big to control its subjects. Within short time, many Christian groups sprung up under the Church’s nominal control. Likewise, mini-jurisdictions won’t immediately make nation states redundant. Rather, all the state’s functions which have no significant external effects will be relegated to townships. Today, nation states found themselves too small to tackle the global issues, anyway. Their associations remain inoperative because nation states are too unequal: the United States and Colombia cannot have the same voting power. Associations of mini-jurisdictions will be much more efficient in global affairs because every such jurisdiction is very small compared to the association.