How to fix democracy (1)

Before we start deliberating how to improve it, let us first take a look at what is wrong with democracy.

The term democracy comes from the Greek words demos meaning “people” and kratos – “rule”, “power”. So, it is the rule of the people, where the eligible citizens vote on who is going to be in power (elections) and, in some cases, what decision to make on a particular issue (referenda). The main selling point of democracy is that it is fair and egalitarian in giving everyone a degree on control over where things go. It is also supposed to prevent authoritarianism, where power is concentrated in the hands of one person (dictatorship) or a group of privileged few (oligarchy). Hereditary forms of authoritarianism are referred to as monarchy, although they may include various democratic or oligarchic elements. So, in democracy, we have people governing themselves – how noble and just! Unless they are not up to the job, that is.

Humans make decisions using the information and mental faculties they possess, to achieve the goals they deem are most important. This simple statement exposes the basic flaws of democratic governance.

The information an average citizen bases his/her decisions on is very limited. Involved in the daily activities people have no time or inclination to study in-depth the social, political or economic problems they are expected to vote on the solutions to. Many do not even have the ability to understand the complexities involved. And, most importantly, they will favour options maximising their personal, short-term gain. So, an analytic evaluation reveals democracy as a system in which ill-informed (and not terribly bright) masses vote on the public matters to suit themselves.

This, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of democracy and the reason it will fail against other, more purposeful and efficient systems. It will produce collective decisions geared towards short-term benefit of the majority of the voters, not the long-term benefit of the state or nation. Additionally, the democratic process can be easily manipulated by populist rhetoric employed for devious purposes (remember – Hitler was democratically elected!).

So how does this work in practice? I will spare you the story of two wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for dinner and will go straight to a more realistic example. Let us imagine a democratic vote over the next years budget. Money is always tight and will not be enough to fund everything the general population expects – education, health care etc. But there is an option of borrowing overseas to pay for the extra social services. By topping up the income the state generates with say 4% borrowing we could tick more items on the collective wish list. C’mon – it is just 4% and only for a year. During the TV pre-election debate the gentlemen sitting to the left of the moderator and wearing red and green ties had said that this is “affordable”. The solemn looking gents sitting on the other side used big words like “fiscal responsibility” and “debt accumulation” and were nowhere near as inspiring as the rainbow crowd. Let us give our votes to the reds/greens and have the extra goodies.

This is what has been happening year after year for decades in Europe and, as a result, the Europe is broke. It will not be able to avoid extensive social disruption and, probably, losing political and cultural identity. What has led to this tragedy was the lack of realisation that the long-term benefit of the nation would be compromised by decisions maximising short-term perks for the voting population. This insight, exemplified by the gentlemen sitting to the right of the moderator, has no place in a democracy.

Before exploring potential solutions I will briefly canvass another scam inherent in democracy. We are constantly told that we are all consulted so any consensus decisions represent everyone. This is cold comfort to the poor sheep in the story but there is also something way more sinister going on. The debt accumulated over the last few decades was, in theory, going to be paid back by the future generations. But those whose names are on the IOU’s were never consulted. In most cases they were not even born at the time! So, effectively, we are saddling our sons and daughters with debt so we, collectively, can keep on living beyond our means. If this is not devious I do not know what is.

How to fix democracy (2)


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