For the first time since at least the 1930s, serious commentators in Western countries are arguing against democracy.

"Popular opinion is not always right," says the cult Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. "Sometimes I think one has to violate the will of the majority."

Britain's high-brow Prospect magazine agrees: "There are stupid, ignorant people in every country, but their blameless stupidity mostly doesn't matter because they are not asked to take historically momentous and irrevocable decisions of state.

"It is necessary to say that people are deluded and that the task of leadership is to un-delude them," writes James Traub in Foreign Policy.

These comments are prompted by Britain's recent decision to leave the EU and, frankly, they are at the politer end of the spectrum. In the two months since the referendum, Remain supporters have filled social media with denunciations of the elderly bigots who, in their fantasies, comprised the bulk of the Leave vote. Some demand that the franchise be linked to intelligence tests; others that referendums be abandoned.

Underlining all these complaints is the same sentiment: We know best. As Jason Brennan of Georgetown University puts it:

"Most voters are ignorant of both basic political facts and the background social scientific theories needed to evaluate the facts. They process what little information they have in highly biased and irrational ways. They decided largely on whim."

Many of these elitists also blame the financial crisis on voters who, too cretinous to grasp their true interests, kept voting for tax cuts and spending rises until the money ran out. When the credit crunch hit, Jose Manuel Barroso, at that time the unelected head of the European Commission, had no doubt as to who was responsible:

"Governments are not always right. If governments were always right we would not have the situation that we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong."

For sheer brazenness, this is up there with the Jewish man who tells a shop assistant, "I want a book on chutzpah, and you're paying." The euro was not chosen democratically. It was dreamed up by unelected officials like Mr. Barroso and foisted on the people.

Which brings me to the core of the case for democracy. It's not that the voters are always right; it's that, in aggregate, they're wiser than the experts. Or, to put it another way, democracy may not be perfect, but it is preferable to oligarchy.

If you doubt me, contrast the fortunes of the United States, which was built on the maximum decentralization, democratization and diffusion of decision-making, to those of the European Union, which was meant to be a technocracy.

Government is not a craft, like watchmaking or eye surgery, that rewards expertise and experience. Government is a series of decisions about how to arbitrate clashing interests.

Human nature being what it is, the people in power will, consciously or unconsciously, conflate the national interest with their own. That has been the story of the human race from the Bronze Age slave empires through the mediaeval European monarchies to the African kleptocracies of our own era.

The way to ensure that the people in power act in the interests of the population as a whole is to make the former answerable to the latter. The happiest and freest nations in the world all have robust democratic traditions.

According to the United Nations, the best countries into which to be born are Norway, Australia and Switzerland. Switzerland, in particular, is a model of direct democracy, entrusting even the smallest local decisions to cantonal referendums.

I can remember a previous occasion when Britain's elites were convinced that the nation was headed for catastrophe. Sept. 16, 1992, the day that sterling left the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the forerunner of the euro, it was christened "Black Wednesday."

Just as in the aftermath of Brexit, supposedly expert pundits, politicians and economists forecast disaster. But we can now see that that decision led to the longest period of sustained growth in modern British history.

The best answer to Slavoj Zizek and James Traub and Jos Manuel Barroso was offered by Edmund Burke two and a quarter centuries ago:

"Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field."

My money is on the cattle every time.

Dan Hannan is a British Conservative MEP.