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The Pros and Cons of Irish Democracy

Summary:
If regular democracy isn’t doing so well, maybe it’s time to fall back on “Irish Democracy.” That’s what Yale political scientist James Scott calls the passive resistance of a society that doesn’t like what its rulers are doing to it. In his book “Two Cheers for ­Anarchy,” he writes, “One need not have an actual conspiracy to achieve the practical effects of a conspiracy. More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called ‘Irish Democracy,’ the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.” These are the opening paragraphs of Glenn H. Reynolds, “The irrational COVID regime is driving many Americans to a healthy non-compliance,” New York Post,

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The Pros and Cons of Irish Democracy

If regular democracy isn’t doing so well, maybe it’s time to fall back on “Irish Democracy.”

That’s what Yale political scientist James Scott calls the passive resistance of a society that doesn’t like what its rulers are doing to it. In his book “Two Cheers for ­Anarchy,” he writes, “One need not have an actual conspiracy to achieve the practical effects of a conspiracy. More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called ‘Irish Democracy,’ the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.”

These are the opening paragraphs of Glenn H. Reynolds, “The irrational COVID regime is driving many Americans to a healthy non-compliance,” New York Post, October 14, 2021. Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee and a well-known blogger at Instapundit.

He goes on to detail some of the ways people are ignoring the oppressive regulations that various governments in the United States have imposed with Covid as their justification.

I basically agree with him. The “silent, dogged resistance” is quite healthy.

I do worry, though, about longer-term effects. I remember Milton Friedman saying in a talk, many decades ago, words to the effect: “The British follow all the laws, good and bad, the French ignore all the laws, and the Americans follow the good ones and ignore the bad ones.” I’m not saying his empirical observation was right even then. But I do worry that we will fall into ignoring the good rules as well as the many bad ones.

David Henderson
David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.[1] A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[2] since 1990, he took a teaching position with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1984, and is now a full professor of economics.[3]

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