Liberty is more important than democracy. If the Wright brothers only had the right to vote, the best they could have done was to cancel out the votes of a couple of addled statists whereas, given the liberty to pursue their interests, they produced powered flight. There is one benefit to democracy that should not be overlooked however, and results from a fundamental truth about human nature.
The strongest motivating human emotion is not fear. Human beings are much more averse to feelings of helplessness. People will confront enormous fears to avoid the noxious sense that they are powerless. For demonstrations of this point I refer to the actions of Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001. People engaged in all sorts of activities of seemingly little practical value in the interest of “dong something.” What they were doing was proving to themselves that they were not helpless. The concept that aversion to feelings of helplessness is a potent force in human nature is also suggested by the ubiquity of revenge. Vengeance is the practical statement “even though you harmed me, I am not helpless. See? I can harm you too.”
Failure to appreciate how powerful the aversion to helplessness is perpetuates the futility of terrorism. The misguided goal of terrorism is to instill fear, which theoretically will prompt submission. What it does instead is arouse the notion of helpless and provoke a response that merely perpetuates the cycle.
Which brings up the point about democracy. Even if a people had liberty guaranteed by a benevolent dictator, the cumulative toll of feeling that their destiny is out of their hands would eventually lead to revolution. Many Democrats feel that the “selection” of our current president was out of their hands, and resort to tactics such as filibusters to reaffirm their potency. Were it not for the prospect that aggrieved voters can affirm that they are not powerless in affecting policies with which they disagree, our democracy would be much more prone to political violence. That is the real benefit of democracy. It makes people patient to suffer the liberty of others, and channels demand for change thorough more productive processes. Democracy nurtures the notion not only that citizens have liberty, but that they also have power.