Few things are as dangerous as democracy. It is an expensive political order in which efficiency is sacrificed to the right of expression. A benevolent authoritarian ruler, not subject to pressure by interest groups and possessing a long time horizon, can pursue much more efficient economic policies than short-lived democratic governments. He can also pursue policies which are unpopular―but necessary.

Democracy is not alone in being an expensive social good. There is also due process, which reduces the conviction rate of innocents only by expending tremendous resources to punish criminals whose guilt is anything less than self-evident. The efficiency of any engine―or social system―is reduced at the margins of its operating range, and marginal improvements in due process come at a great cost. Only very wealthy societies can afford it.

Democracy is the means

Wealthy societies are more tolerant of the economic inefficiency of democracy. A high growth in GDP makes the detrimental effects of democratic policies less pronounced. Very complex economies are harder for democratic governments to regulate to the benefit of interest groups―which in the wealthy societies are many and have conflicting demands.

Wealthy societies are largely immune to a major political drawback of democracies, their militarism. In order to unify public opinion, governments readily embrace national ideologies. Such ideologies are most simply built around common enemies. Democracies, thus, tend to be hateful and aggressive―the militarism mitigated by the risk-aversion of wealthy. When there is no risk, as in the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military campaigns run for years without significant objection.

Democracy, thus, is a luxury good for wealthy societies. When installed artificially in poor countries, the results are devastating. Israel and India are two countries where theorizing politicians implanted democracy amid poor economies. Immediately, socialism ensued. In economically primitive societies, the predominantly poor population cannot resist the urge to redistribute other people’s money through the democratic process. The inequality is huge, the consumption level is close to subsistence, the needs are pressing―and the people exploit their political freedoms to the fullest. Democracy turns their right to non-violent expression into the right of violent redistribution through police-enforced taxation. In line with Marx’s predictions, even wealthy societies slowly descend into socialism through powerful redistribution schemes and increased regulation; poor societies slide into socialism immediately.

Very slowly, meager economic growth in pauper democracies creates a small class of businessmen. There is usually no middle class: in Israel and India, white collar families struggle for economic existence; they are not a comfortable middle class in American sense. Through corruption of incumbents and donations to economically liberal parties, businessmen slowly pressure their socialist governments to open the economy. Socialist societies are highly entropic: their internal energy source (economic growth) is weak and energy consumption (regulation) is huge. They can only fail in their quest for socialism and reappear as less regulated societies.

The transition is painful. Great numbers of people are accustomed to welfare. The majority of citizens are satisfied with political freedoms―though the establishment silences the most extreme views―and are not up to revolution or significant protests over economic matters; there is general complacency. People habitually depend on the government for paternalistic care and handouts, and are not eager to rebel.

Poor societies can be more democratic than wealthy countries. Democracy means unrestrained jurisdiction of citizens. Only the existence of institutions for rule of law distinguishes democracy from all-out ochlocracy, the mob rule. In pure democracy, the majority must be able to tax the productive minority to death. Under the guise of democracy, affluent societies embrace a totally different political order, republicanism, under which a set of values and freedoms is closed to democratic decision-making. In such way, the societies guard their affluence and personal rights from being squandered through democratic process. In every country which is nominally democratic, stability is maintained by the balance between democracy and republicanism, the right to express one’s opinion and the protection against that opinion actually being carried into policy―at least carried too far.

The absence of fixed republican values makes Israeli democracy fatal. At some point, Arabs and leftists will muster enough votes, or rely on renegade conservatives, to repeal the attributes of Jewish state. And there will be no Supreme Court, as there is in the United States, to tell them that some values are above democratic process.