Otto von Bismark, the 19th century Iron Chancellor and architect of modern Germany, once remarked that “If you like law and sausages, you shouldn't watch either being made.” One could observe that this is not quite correct; the process of stuffing offal into sausage skins is far less disgusting than that of stuffing bribes into legislators. Still, statute law will always be a matter of negotiations between those who have an interest in the bill at issue. Thus it has always been, and thus it will always be. In itself, this is not too bad; everybody should have a voice in drafting legislation, and compromise, while cumbersome, is likely to be better on the whole.
Democracy is supposed to solve the problem by giving everyone a voice in the process. And this would certainly be true, if we were speaking of a local assembly. But in a nation of 300 million plus, it can't be true; the very size limits the number of voices that can be heard. Hence, a “place at the table” becomes a scarce commodity, and like all scarce commodities it has a market price, a price that prices the public out of the process; as the nation grows, the size of the legislative “table” shrinks; there aren't enough places to go around, and the form of democracy is easily converted into the substance of oligarchy. But even at the local level, government must be guided by some notion of the common good, even when the parties are seeking their own interests. But as the cost of participation rises, this becomes less possible.
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