Is it always more democratic to involve everyone? I want to argue ‘no’. Rather, I think that where a power imbalance in one arena already exists, the most democratic thing to do in another arena is to weight things so as to give more power to those who are at the bottom of the imbalance.
For example, I would argue that a political system that gave formal political power only to the propertyless is more democratic than one which gives equal formal power to the propertyless and the propertied (though the latter is at least more democratic than the historically more common form, which gives power only to the propertied). That is, the dictatorship of the proletariat is more democratic than universal suffrage.
(Well, it would be anyway, because it is a system of direct, not ‘representative’ democracy, but even independently of that…)
To argue this I want to poke into the notion of ‘democracy’. What does it mean? It means ‘rule by the people’. But who are ‘the people’? How is this category drawn? Surely, it is drawn by looking at who is being ruled – for example, ‘the people’ for the election of the UK government doesn’t include people living in New Zealand, because they are not subject to the UK government (though it should probably include people living in, say, Afghanistan…)
But then the formula becomes ‘rule by the ruled’. And that’s a sort of anti-rule. What I mean by that is that the whole idea of a relationship between one who rules and one who is ruled gets subverted if it’s the same person in both roles. Self-rule is the point at which rule stops being rule.
So ‘democracy’ means not just a particular idea about who rules, but a general opposition to rule – an attempt, as far as is to possible, to minimise the actual ruling of some people by others. But in that case it must be against power imbalances: it must be a general principle of seeking equality. In which case in follows neatly that the most democratic thing, where an imbalance of power already exists, is to rectify it.
Of course each of the preceding steps of argument could be disputed, but I think they are reasonable on the face of it. And the conclusion is in a way intuitive and obvious. As communists have rarely tired of pointing out, formal political equality becomes meaningless when economic power (and with it donations, bribes, media, education, and everything else) lie in the hands of one class. The only really equal contests then will be contests between factions of the ruling class – which is exactly what we get.
On the other hand, if that economic power in the hands of one class was opposed to a political power entirely and exclusively in the hands on another class, and if that other class was organised, numerous, and self-aware enough to use it effectively, then things would be a lot more equal. They would also be a lot more tense, of course, and the equal contest much more aggressive.
But as far as democracy goes, the dictatorship of the proletariat (which as I’ve said, is the economic aspect of an idea, the exclusive union of the powerless, which can be generalised to other areas) is the most democratic form of society, short of communism itself.