26th April 2018

DEMOCRACY

People feel that they have a democracy because they have free elections. True, elections can lead to the change of government, resulting from public electoral debates. However, if you look closely you can see that the whole process is tightly controlled by the teams of professional experts supporting the competing parties who feed the media and the electorate directly using most sophisticated socio-political techniques of persuasion.

Citizens play largely a passive part in the election debate, led only to the subjects convenient to be discussed from the point of view of a given party. We are thus slowly entering the new era of post-democracy, a term coined by the British sociologist Colin Crouch. In broad terms, post-democracy means selecting representatives once every few years during the elections, which are itself rather an art in convincing the electorate about the undeliverable promises. One of the most significant characteristics of post-democracy is that the objective of the party in government is not so much implementing “the will of the people” but rather winning the next election.

Such potential problems with democracy and the rule by the majority were considered by a number of Enlightenment philosophers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau or political theorists such as Alexis de Tocqueville. The latter one argues that democracy is the ‘tyranny of the majority’, repeating the claim first used by Aristotle against the Athenian democracy. That does not mean that Tocqueville opposes democracy as such, but rather the excess of power held by any group or individual. One of his observations is that if a decision taken by a majority, which might have not properly understood the issue (think about Brexit) is evidently wrong and harmful to all, a minority that lost in the elections cannot turn to any public legislative body or executive power to correct that decision. People who may think democracy always provides sensible and just outcome should consider these facts. Hitler, Mussolini, and Peron were elected democratically but only once, when they took over the power.

Therefore, we need an entirely new system of democracy which will facilitate the expectations of the electorate much better than it happens today and that will enable Humanity as a whole to manage better existential risks. This is discussed at more detail in this section.

Next: Democracy Faults

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