It should be obvious that democracy’s usefulness is limited. It should be equally obvious that not everyone should vote on any given issue.

For example, a 12-month-old baby may be able to express his likes and dislikes, but I wonder how a daycare worker looking after half a dozen 1-year-olds could apply the democratic process to anything whatsoever.

But even if she could, would such a demographic be too easily manipulated to make any meaningful decisions?

For example, let’s say we allow 5-year-olds to vote on whether or not we should drive in the left lane instead of the right lane.

Well, if the Left-Lane Lobby can deliver the candy and the razzle-dazzle, they will likely win the majority, if not 100% of the vote, as what 5-year-old wants to be the odd-kid out?

No, for democracy to work, some understanding is requisite, as well as common ground or shared values.

For example, we all should agree on the direction of up, and we wouldn’t let a billion communist Chinese vote on whether or not America should become East China.

For democracy to work, a degree of maturity, affinity and trust must exist within the electorate, a trust which allows the minority to accept the results.

If we are voting on pizza or fried chicken for supper, no biggie. If, on the other hand, we are voting on who has to pay for it, that could be a problem if love of tribe is not present.

For the same reason, the election must be perceived as honest.

If these elements are present within a given group or polity, then democracy can be an enormously effective tool for governance, one of many.

But democracy is a means, not an end. When misapplied, democracy, like the hammer or fire, can be enormously destructive, as we can see in Roe vs. Wade when nine judges voted on whether it was OK to kill babies.


MARK ATKINS of Paris is a county native and the author of Women in Combat: Feminism Goes to War, available at His email address is

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