According to Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, quoted in Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, quoted by Michael Barone
(US News & World Report columnist)
:American democracy," writes Posner, "enables the adult population, at very little cost in time, money, or distraction from private pursuits commercial or otherwise, to punish at least the flagrant mistakes and misfeasances of officialdom, to assure an orderly succession of at least minimally competent officials, to generate feedback to the officials concerning the consequences of their policies, to prevent officials from (or punish them for) entirely ignoring the interests of the governed, and to prevent serious misalignments between government action and public opinion.Barone finds Posner's point of view "too astringent", but, in fact, it's not entirely misleading.
It's certainly minimal and more than a little cynical, but accurate.
Hard as it is for most of the insiders to recognize, the average
American doesn't want to have to wade through densely written papers explaining, in tedious detail, the intricacies of policy initiatives or legislative bills. What we want, and I count myself as relatively average, is to keep government from taking a disproportionate amount of our money, have them step in during emergencies, and keep most of the world from being the wolf at our door. If they can do that and accomplish other feats, without costing us too much, well, all to the good. But we really prefer not to be too involved in foreign affairs - we really want other countries to use what the Founding Fathers called "self-determination" to govern themselves.
We tend to vote the way we do, for parties that promise to keep us from micro-managing other peoples. While we feel passionately about basic human rights, we draw the line closer than the liberals do - right to your own life, right to worship freely (we feel VERY strongly about that one), and ability to have some control over the government. We're not going to go to war over
whether all women can get an executive job, universal day care, or whether kids can have a free college education. While we would rather they let women vote, we're willing to keep our nose out of it. If their society is OK with disenfranchising the females, we may think they're uncivilized, but won't send in the troops.