Is democracy really the best form of government? | Steven Pinker
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Is democracy really the best form of government? | Steven Pinker

August 24, 2019


Probably the most famous product of the Enlightenment
was the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution, a blueprint for a form of
governance that tried to get the benefits of government—seeing as how anarchy is worse
because you get spirals of vendetta and feuding and violence—You don’t get the coordination
of large scale economies without some kind of governance; Trying to get the benefits
of governance without the perennial hazard that anyone given a bit of power will aggrandize
their power and become despotic. So the checks and balances of American democracy
were a way of – I think of it as negotiating a middle route between the violence of anarchy
(and anarchy does lead to violence—We were never noble savages that lived in harmony. Regions of the world without government are
almost invariably violent) but also avoiding the violence of tyranny. Mainly you give someone power, they’re going
to use it to maximize their benefits, their power, their longevity of their reign at the
expense of people. Democracy is a way of steering between these
extremes, of having a government that exerts just enough violence to prevent people from
preying on each other without preying on the people itself. Now in practice no one has ever developed
a democracy that works particularly well if judged in absolute terms. Democracies are always messy, they’re always
unequal. They always involve lobbying and power grabs. But all the alternatives so far have been
worse. Democracies seldom go to war with each other. They have higher standards of living. They have higher levels of happiness. They have higher levels of health. And they’re the obvious preferred destinations
for people who vote with their feet. The whole world wants to live in a democracy. It’s an ongoing project. It’s currently under threat from a number
of directions, but there’s never been a time in which we’ve had a well-functioning
democracy in terms of meeting all the criteria in a high school civics class.

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  1. our constitution is violated daily, and as George Bush said, "it's just a goddamn piece of paper."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyXteb01PAQ

  2. The main problem with anarchy is that local gangleaders will put an end to it and institute tyranny, like they have allways done. If that wasn't tthe case anarchy might be much less violent,

  3. It's not anarchy when people are violently controlling one another. The violence forms a hierarchy. Your argument against anarchy is that it could go away and be replaced by hierarchy and hierarchy would be unpleasant. So your argument for why to have hierarchies is that hierarchies are awful so you need to have a hierarchy or else you would have one. Great, good job thinking.

  4. What about the Spanish Revolution? This guy doesn’t understand Anarchism. No leaders not no government

  5. “Democracies seldom goto wars with each other.” Last I checked Hitler was elected by the people under a democratic system. Also, democracy is a relatively new system in the 20th century. I don’t think we have enough data to make that claim.

  6. In my opinion, a republic is just an excuse to not have real democracy. The rich don't want to be ruled by a bunch of gross peasants after all. They'd rather have their rich, charismatic buddies rule.

  7. The wild west is often equated with anarchy (it wasn't but it was close) Yet the west was far more peaceful than the "civilized" Parts of the country. Especially if you consider the railroad and Indian passification as civilising forces.

  8. The problem, however, is that every democracy suffers from the same problems as every system of government: the inherent nature of human beings to gain power and wealth at the expense of other people. This leads to corruption and the eventual decay of the government itself. This is why Thomas Jefferson was in favor of an armed rebellion every 20 years to keep people honest and the American experiment from being corrupted. Sadly I think we're past the point of no return.

  9. The actual political dichotomy is
    host territory adult males winning at sex-achieving as the right
    versus everything else in temporary big-tent as the left,
    starting with the host juveniles (and whoever they can align with —
    ethnic interloper males, the host territory unhealthy /benchwarmers [if the modern tech/civi allows for that])
    and the wimmin (who are in their own dichotomy based on adult winners vs juvies and bench-warmers and ethnics, but all generally have anti male animus for instinctive reasons [testing /pitting and ancient reasons (dimorphic-sex penis 'envy')] and psychological reasons [ashamed-submissive resentment and childhood fem ineptitude (like standard bench-warmer male resentment)]).

    I.e the host territory adult healthy males getting sex are always the right, psychologically and biologically. The left is anything else in a temporary bigtent that wants that territory or sex rights.

    The dichotomy complexifies if the ousted losers [rightists] of previous battles are kept alive (slaves) in a caste structure /symbiosis hive of new winners [leftists].

    Naturalism; evolutionary biology.

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/wW2jBE

  10. How about we organise just enough to maintain a justice system and prevent government and end it there?

  11. the best form of living is no government and no pursuit of money and everyone coming together doing their best to get everyone to their full potential

  12. This hasn’t been really a “big thought”. I could have summed up the same points, without much thinking about it: democracy is not perfect, but at this point the best system we do have…

  13. Democracy is not the best way of governing a state just because this system is dependent on a lot of people, who could not be trusted. If any one root of the tree is damaged, the entire tree would suffer the weakness. Similarly, if any one in this system is found to be corrupt and lazy, then the entire system would suffer. Instead, this system needs an enhancement in such a way that every person in power is restricted to use their power effectively for their specified purpose. A system where all the social problems are considered and solved quickly, to improve the quality of life of the people living in that society.

  14. I totally disagree, it's relative just because you think democracy is good for you doesn't mean it's good for me, lots of people live happily under the dictatorship of god, and one can replace god with an emperor, king… etc People would happily choose safety, confort, wealth then democracy.

  15. No, anarchy still remains supreme. Because it’s not about government, it’s about society. Government just sustains itself and the people within the system. Violence is a useful tool, much like education. It doesn’t need to be controlled. It in itself is the controlling factor, and allows society to prosper in whatever way the members of that society deem worthwhile. Government telling people what to do and taking care of itself breeds contempt and violence that is kept of the radar and therefore is not controlled and is not a controlling measure unless used to protect itself. Which is why there are such problems like the unfair distribution of wealth and unjust justice system.

  16. I tell you what, most underdeveloped countries are sort of democracy, are they happy now, hunger disease poor infrastructures… , for many democracy not the first priority, making a decent living standard is. Unless you neglect these countries and only put your focus on developed countries.

  17. Constitutional Republics work best for large countries. Small countries seem to prefer socialist states. Democracy works as a distraction for small groups stranded and forced to live together, until a socialist or fascist strong man takes control

  18. What about state sponsored tyranny like #USA bombing other nations like Afghanistan Iraq Libya Syria Venezuela Vietnam Japan … in the name of bringing democracy to this already Democratic countries.

  19. America is not really a democracy. It is a constitutional Federal REPUBLIC (not democracy. They are often confused for one another and you can find in the Federalist papers were the founders preferred a republic over a democracy) that follows the idea of a limited government and has hints of democracy. The Western world has taken the word democracy and stretched it quite thin from it's origins of ancient Athens. If you want to call the us a democracy you may as well change the definition of a democracy to: a system of government controlled by the few. Democracy is about the will of the people.

  20. I love democracies! I mean, in what other political system could a linguist pass as an expert on governance?

  21. Democracies aren't better places to live because the people living in them are better people. They're better because the rulers are accountable to more of the people. It'll always be in the best interest of individual politicians to try and narrow that accountability– to a few voter blocks, to a few elites with big budgets, to people who promise to free the up the connection between the productivity of the citizens to the wealth of the nation… and when grotesque tyranny emerges in a democracy, you can bet that the wider accountability has been worn down in one form or another.

  22. You show a picture of the U.S. Capitol building. America is NOT a Democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic.

  23. Plato was clear in his republic thousands of years ago why democracy was doomed to fail. Winning political power is a popularity contest, nothing more.

  24. The biggest threats to democracy are and always have been monied interests and members of the electorate that are ideological idiots. Quite often the former exploits the latter, something that has been playing out in American politics for the better part of four decades.

  25. hitler was a gift of democracy., bush was a gift of democracy who killed millions of people in east just to find osama bin laden and said that millions of people that he killed were terrorist. Is america making the world fool? Where was the technology that it could not find one person..India is a largest and israel is also a democratic country but minority is living the worst life

  26. `WHAT'S TRUE: Facebook algorithms were apparently alerted to the use of the phrase "Indian savages" in one part of the Declaration of Independence in one scheduled Facebook post in July 2018, and that post was automatically withheld from publication for about one day. | WHAT'S FALSE: After Facebook employees reviewed the post, they determined that the algorithm had made an error by not recognizing the context of the phrase, and they restored the post a day later. Facebook did not flag the entire Declaration of Independence as hate speech, but only one out of twelve excerpts from the complete text.` Thoughts? https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/facebook-declaration-of-independence-hate-speech/

  27. We need vetocracy where people have the possibility to vote against specific legislation. Nowadays those senile, corrupt, scientifically and technologically illiterate cunts manage to pass laws which people are strictly against.

  28. The big issue with democracy is that it is incomplete. We have democracy (or something that looks like democracy) in our political sphere, but our economy is distinctly anti-democratic. We organize our economy more like a loose feudal system.

  29. To all my fellow youtubers, how can anyone dislike these videos from this channel?
    these are the most reasonable philosophical intelligent people we're ever going to hear from. but if kanye west or niki minaj or spike lee spouts some "words of wisdom " it gets thousands of likes. No wonder why our society is completely bottoming out. 😯

  30. Yes, I think democracy is the best government, in the United States everyone's voice can be heard because of the first amendment, if we were communists or fascists we wouldn't have that amendment for long and if you were to speak out you would be jailed or even worse death.

  31. I've always wondered why we would want to be ruled by some wealthy guys, in the best case elected by the majority of the people, when the majority of people is not educated well enough to know what's best for them and for everyone else. (I don't mean people are stupid, just that everything is organized to hide the truth from them.)

    Therefore, even if I don't have a better solution for our "developed" countries – whose development is based on the "undevelopment" of others – I can't see democracy as the ultimate best. Though I agree that authoritarianism or anything like it are not comparable.

    Also, please educate yourself better on what anarchy really is, you made some serious shortcut 🙂

  32. I find those tiles that appear while speaker is still talking 20 seconds before the end of the video to be very rude indeed.

  33. But can we do democracy but with a say billion dollar cap? Because those 1000 that own 50%of the entire money supply is skewing economics. No one needs to have that much money

  34. Yes, although not liberal democracy. Democracy of the economic sphere is necessary for true democracy of the political sphere. It leads to more rapid improvements in life expectancy and industry as well as equality and human rights. Socialism is the only true democracy.

  35. The problem is this is exactly what happened. First it was the slave economy of the south who despotically ruled, then it was the gilded age industrialists and the old slave owners re-asserting their fascistic and anti-democratic control and they became despots, and then the new neoliberal version of the same monopoly capitalism as the gilded age has taken its toll over the past 50 years.

  36. Democracy is the best system of government, but as he said, there has never been one that was fully effective. The CLOSEST things have been socialist countries.

  37. If we continue to evolve, so should our form if governance. Our end goal should be a pure democracy. We have the technology to enable it, however we are not universally emotionally intelligent enough yet to maintain it. I believe there is little chance of humans getting to that level with out some sort of violent and catastrophic period preceding it, if we ever achieve it at all.

  38. 1. The reason the United States is collapsing is because it DOES NOT have a democracy. The last 2 republican presidents lost the election and were still able to stuff the judicial branch.

  39. One of the statements made : "You don't get the coordination of a large scale economy without some kind of governance".
    It seems crypto-currencies tend to prove the other way around.

  40. Democracy has one major problem – the winning vote is for the majority. The minority always lose and will become underprivleged.

    The US has a pseudo democracy, but mostly a democractically elected republic with a heavy focus on checks and balances.

  41. Democracy works when every man, woman and child can vote on individual issues via the internet on a .gov website. Not when it's a popularity contest between personalities.

  42. We don't have a democracy we have a Democratic Republic operating The Chicago School capitalist economic system. Those with money or the corporations themselves fund Representatives called politicians. The politicians call themselves Republicans, Democrats, socialist, Independence or whatever else they want to call themselves. In practice they function has Republicans representing officially a certain number of Voters. In practice they represent the capital or the money that funded them. Democracy is a thin coat of paint under the system in which cash rules everything

  43. Democracy isn't what makes modern governments great. The constitution that protects individual rights and limits government power is what makes modern governments great.

  44. The worse thing about democracy is the voting masses. The assumption that people vote rationally has proven time and time again to be false. People do not vote rationally. All you’d have to do is be “charismatic” and a good speaker you can appeal to peoples emotional beliefs and you can win an election without actually qualifying for the job. The idea that we are at the mercy of a “democratic” mob is terrifying. Look at what’s happening now in the world. Once people devolve into mob mentality than it’s easy for a smooth talking dictator to rise to power and manipulate them. Even worse are political parties which are just political gangs that scramble for unearned wealth.

  45. After stating that democracies aren't perfect, he lists why they are good, beginning with 1:54 "democracies seldom go to war with each other…" guess he missed WW1, WW2…. and are demoracies allowed to start fights to steel oil and other resources, is that ok? Don't take anything this guy says as fact. I'm not for or against democracies. I was hoping for a more balanced talk but I forget, Big Think often has talks with people how have an axe to grind. Steven says democracies lead to happier people? Statistically, the champions of democracy, like the US and UK have high levels of depression. There are non democracies – different to 'evil' dictatorships – like Qatar or Morrocco – that people love living in or are favourite holiday desitinations. Of course, there's lots of good things about democratic countries, just trying to give the other side of the argument, which I was hoping this talk would have.

  46. Non-civilized societies are not lawless and violent like Pinker makes them out to be. It depends on the individual society. But Pinker has been proven wrong in thinking violence was reduced with the coming of more complex cultures, humans were much less violent as hunter-gatherers.

  47. No. Monarchy and Empire were much better.

    Before you object… do you know you neighbours first name?

  48. Nope, that is why the US is a Constitutional Representative Republic at the federal level…..
    Some states and territories may have some democracy aspects to them…….

  49. No form of any intangible concept, like government, is perfect. Democracy enables demagogues, and in too large of a population, not every opinion can be heard. It has been proven that in the US's representative democracy is imperfect because its politicians can be bought by businessmen and thus persuaded to not listen to the blue-collar man. Dictatorships are too tempting for tyrants. Aristocracy is a disaster waiting to happen. Not even Plato and Socrates's imagined utopia, The Republic, is perfect because the only people who could run it would be Plato and Socrates.

  50. It is the worst form of government. Monarchy is the best form of government. At very least, monarchy is relatively superior to democracy.

    “Democracy or the democratic state is the natural state for a primitive society” ~ François-René

    “Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.” ~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe

  51. No. A representative republic is the best. Democracies always fail, being brought down by the passions of the mob. Passions easily inflamed and manipulated by the elites.

  52. Only when it grants the libtard elite what it wants. When it goes against them, then it's mob rule; it's rank populism; it's the tyranny of the majority; it's 'not my President'; it's 'no you didn't know what you were voting for – think again about leaving the EU'.

  53. "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

    America's a republic, thank God.

  54. What do people know about rulling a country? Why should every vote Count? Why does everyone have an opinion? Why do we only elect people that are good at talking instead of the most qualified ?. The advent of the masses ruined everything in every level. The culture is terrible there is not high or low culture anymore everything nowadays is culture and has to be respected. In the social plan everyone believes they have “natural rights “ and deserve everything just for being born. They are no longer more inteligent or Stronger people everyone is leveded.Polítics is no longer about rule of law but instead rule of the masses Wich are bad and good at the same time.Have we learned nothing form the last century?

  55. A democracy, by its very nature can only eventually result in failure.
    As very well proven in America, not every voice deserves to be heard, as humans are too ignorant to realize what is in their best interest, and thus are incapable of governing themselves.
    A nation and a people cannot retain an identity, a culture, and prosperity unless it is founded on unchangeable standards of morals, ethics, and values with very strict adherence to same.
    Any and everything that poses a threat to the nations stability should be suppressed and eradicated.
    An iron fisted dictatorship with me as the leader is the only way to go.

  56. Anarchy doesn't lead to violence Pinker, that shoddy argument was beneath you. Anarchy HAS lead to violence, I think I could make a case the government has committed MUCH more violence throughout history.

    The structure of government can reduce violence (Can't eliminate it, violence is what government is, just or not, laws are enforced with violence till you fill the prisons with non-violent "criminals")

    The structure of society, or culture, can reduce violence too. In an anarchist society, you're not claiming a deified godhead of government has just authority to violate the sole self sovereignty of individuals to "keep the peace".

    Go argue with some smart anarchists, cause it seems to be you either have a faith based belief in government as your lord and savior, or your just completely ignorant of the last century of arguments for anarchy.

  57. Pinker is very wise, but he's completely clueless as to what anarchism actually is. Upon what examples is he drawing his conclusion? Anarchy leads to violence???? LOL WTF do you think governments lead to??? Wow he's so uninformed, even I would school him on this issue. Lysander Spooner's Constitution of No Authority should be his starting point.

  58. India has democracy but China has got communist dictatorship. However, China's progress has been tremendous. India on the other hand has failed as a nation.

  59. For a democracy to properly function there needs to be a trusted, independent media that accompanies it to offset the threat of pervaisive demagogery. The easy answers that demagogues present have to be refuted by a trusted source.

  60. It is good for a very wealthy, very educated population, which means not for developing countries.How would people expect a country with 90% of people does not have education higher the 6th grade, to vote on a country's fate? Sometimes, the majority is selfish and shortsighted.

  61. Democracy is tyranny by the majority. The masses of people are uninformed and unable to make choices that are optimal for society. It's the way lemmings live.

  62. Funny that he didn't say that America is a democracy. Because it isn't. Cue everyone who thinks they have a better rap than Steven Pinker in 3, 2, 1…

  63. one of the reasons I don't support for socalled "democoracy" is that, why should idiots have the same right to vote, what would they vote for? Hitler?

  64. Monarchy vs Democracy

    Monarchy: The king steals from the people. He reigns his whole life and passes the state down as inheritance to his children, therefore he cares about its future capital value. When a monarch goes to war, he hires private mercenaries and since they are expensive he tries to win battles with absolute minimal loss of life, the result is war as a sort of sport where civilians often spectate from the side. A monarchy's legislation is usually centered around protection of private property and not much else, this is good for business as changing legislation can make planning more difficult.

    Democracy: Everyone has the opportunity to steal from everyone else. Once in power the president or prime minister is only a limited caretaker and so must loot as quickly as possible (what isn't looted now, cannot be looted later). When a democracy goes to war, it is a total war with civilian conscription. Since its ideologically driven there are no territorial limits to their desired expansion (a monarch may want to reclaim an old piece of territory). Legislation under democracy grows by thousands of laws every year, laws which change as different political parties gain power, this makes business planning very difficult, which means people will avoid investing in long production processes.

  65. This dude doesn't know what anarchy is. You should not take ANY opinion he says here, seriously. This shit wouldn't fly in a poly sci 101 class.

  66. In it's purest form, no. In a limited form, like is was originally designed into the Constitution, maybe. The more democracy has expanded in the 🇺🇸, the more issues we seem to have. In the facade of fairness, we have actually became more divisive. Now I do realize there were problems, but over time the mentality did progress. We must remember, the wealthy elites will always have the most persuasion in governing affairs. That will never change. So is democracy really affective to begin with, or is it just a manipulation of the populous? That's the real question.

  67. democracy is the best only if 80% ppl of a country are well-educated and selfless. model democracy must be adjusted as the time goes by. this kind of video is meaningless.

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