Democracy Reform

Sir Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest. He is right. Its the best form of government but it also has its flaws. I think that its flaws endanger democracy and needs to be fixed. This blog is for like minded people who want to see democracy improved. I invite people to sumbit essays. I will publish even those I do not agree with so long as I find them interesting.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Too Much Democracy (and too little) is Bad for you - by Ohmyrus

The most democratic form of government is when every decision is decided by a vote. This is known as direct or pure democracy. A pure democracy is of course impractical as the average citizen neither has the time nor the ability to understand the complex issues that affect a modern nation. There will be great contention and frequent changes in policy as public opinion like fashions frequently changes. It would lead to bad government and anarchy. This is so obvious that no modern country has attempted a direct democracy. All modern democracies are representative democracies where votrepreneurers are elected for fixed terms.

This is what America's Founders thought of pure democracy:

A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils.
- Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.
- John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

The other extreme would be a dictatorship where the government is in the hands of one man ruling for life. He decides what is best for everybody. While there is likely to be more discipline, it also invites abuse of power. Power will be used for his own benefit and not that of the general public. Saddam Hussein is a good modern example of this. He could build palaces for himself while his people starved.

In the former, the government is totally responsive to the needs of the people but unable to impose sufficient discipline to prevent anarchy. The latter form of government can impose discipline but is totally unresponsive to the needs of the people.

Clearly, neither extremes of pure democracy and dictatorship are desirable. Therefore there must be a happy medium between them. An effective government must have a sufficient degree of Political Insulation from the heat and capricious passions of the mob. Too much insulation and you get a dictator who builds palaces for himself even though his people are starving. Too little and you get anarchy.

But how much Insulation is sufficient? Judging by the performance of democracies in the last half century, I would say the current levels of Insulation are not enough. Few of the world's existing democracies provide effective leadership. Even the people noticed and many people are not bothering to vote. Opinion polls often show that politicians are not respected. The problem lies not so much with the votrepreneurers (politicians) but with the system they labor in.

Problems of budget deficits, aging population, unemployment and growing ethnic tensions with immigrants etc are not being solved and I suspect cannot be solved by democracies as they are currently constituted. This is due to the inability for votrepreneurers to inflict short term pain for long term gain.

A simple way to thicken the Political Insulation to make governments more effective is to lengthen the time in office for elected officials and fixing it at one term for each politician. See my earlier article, 'Democracy needs a Reformation' for further elaboration on the problems and possible solutions.

If these problems are not solved and worsens in time, the collapse of even mature democracies will one day happen and we end up with dictatorships. History has examples of democracies failing resulting in anarchy in which tired people turned to strong men to restore order. I would like to highlight this quote from one of America's Founders:

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
- John Adams

What I see now is many democracies committing slow motion suicide with long term problems which they are not solving.


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