Democracy and Size? Can a populous democracy work?
I, and others, have noted a number of times that the only nation which handled the financial crisis correctly was Iceland: they bailed out ordinary people, let the banks go bankrupt, and jailed bankers who had broken the law.
The only one.
Iceland’s population is tiny, but it isn’t size, exactly, that matters, what matters is that politicians and bankers can’t live in a bubble in Iceland.
You live in a bubble when you don’t have to deal with ordinary people: you take a helicopter everywhere; fly on a private jet, your kids go to private school, you stay in hotels ordinary people can’t afford, and you live in enclaves far away from the hoi polloi. You are surrounded at all times by people who work for you or someone who is dependent on you: your daily interaction is with other people like you, or with retainers.
Iceland is too small for the bubble to work. Politicians in Iceland could not avoid the Icelanders they would have been impoverishing if they bailed out bankers, and let ordinary people go bankrupt. The people who taught their kids, prepared their food, whom they say on the street every day would be people they had fucked over. Their lives would be living hell, even without violence (Iceland being a very peaceful society), they would have been social pariahs. Everyone knew them, and given the population size, would recognize them, and in that small a country, would probably eventually see them and be able to treat them as they deserved.
Now in Iceland’s case this is related to population size, but in larger countries it is related to the absolute rule for prosperous and egalitarian societies: elites must not be able to opt out of their own society. They must go to the same schools, eat the same food, travel on the same planes, buses and roads, and so on. If the economy does badly, they too much suffer.
Under no circumstances, in a democratic society which wishes to not turn into an oligarchy, can a bubble be allowed to form. Under no circumstances can elites be allowed to prosper if the rest of the population is not.
This does not guarantee a wonderful society: if the mass of the population are bigots or racists or unpleasant, that will be reflected in public policies and government. The government will be no better than the people, but it won’t be a lot worse, either.
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