"The Red Queen hypothesis for sex is simple: Sex is needed to fight disease," according to PBS's "The Advantage of Sex." "Alice and the Red Queen" by Sir John Tenniel, 1930's.
"I believe that some of the characteristics of democracy that are often portrayed as shortcomings may actually be strengths," wrote the Renaissance Man of our time, Glenn Reynolds, ten years ago in his provocatively titled scholarly legal essay "Is democracy like sex?" What a cutie pie. He's known to millions as the congenial InstaPundit, blogdaddy of us all, but even as he gives a nod to every Tom, Dick and Harriet -- not you, Ms. Miers -- in the blogosphere, he knows what he knows and takes no prisoners:
I believe that some of the characteristics of democracy that are often portrayed as shortcomings may actually be strengths. If properly appreciated, these characteristics may even be seen as protections against the very kinds of problems that today's commentators describe. Furthermore, a proper understanding of the role of democracy in our constitutional system suggests that many of the structural reforms being urged by some who complain about special interest dominance are likely to make things worse, rather than better.
It's too sweet for words. Reynolds's metaphor comes from Darwinian biologists' attempts to account for sexual reproduction vs. the much easier (at first glance) asexual reproduction alternative:
To explore this idea, I have chosen as an analogy or metaphor another widely criticized and misunderstood institution -- sex. In short, some discoveries resulting from the application of complexity theory to the question of evolutionary fitness among biological systems have important implications for our discussion of the fitness of the body politic. Both kinds of systems face a similar problem -- maintaining a balance between adaptability and stability on the one hand, while resisting parasitism on the other. In essence, democracy can be viewed as serving the same function in political systems that sex serves for biological systems -- enhancing resistance to parasites. As it turns out, this approach raises important questions regarding the merits of many proposals for fixing current democracy through, for example, "electronic town meetings," in which citizens vote directly on issues, or term limits for elected officials.
It has to be read in full, of course, but if you don't have time, here's the take-home message:
The well-known changes in government introduced since the New Deal era have substantially undermined the protections against special interest dominance contained in the Constitution . . . First is the substantial expansion of federal authority brought about by the Supreme Court's broad reading of the Commerce Clause in Wickard v. Filburn. From James Madison's notion of a federal government whose powers are "few and defined," the Wickard case brought us to the proposition that there are few, if any, limits to congressional power. Second is the Supreme Court's abandonment (in all but name) of the anti-delegation doctrine, which prevented Congress from ducking important questions (and the responsibility for important decisions) by assigning them to administrative agencies, along with the consequent growth in power of unelected bureaucrats. Both phenomena create the same problem: a growth in the power of unelected officials to make decisions and an increased opportunity for special interests to influence those decisions.
"The Court's endorsement of enumerated power limits on Congressional action, and its rejection of term limits, both seem consistent with my approach," concludes the professor. With mentors like that, there's no excuse for the ignorance that rules amongst our fellow Americans.