Why Democracy doesn’t work
A moments silence, friends, for our fallen leader.
Mr Donald Trump, that fine exemplar of statesmanship, will be departing the world political stage in January 2021.
That’s not to say that he won’t be back, mind you. He is entitled to run again in 2024, and, well, who would bet against him?
Having been glued to the screen and watching the various machinations unfold in the Presidential election, I, like everyone else, now fancy myself as a political commentator.
I have two key takeaways from the election. First up, the obvious one:
Polling Companies are Awful. They are rubbish at what they do. They keep calling everything wrongly — it’s not like they even have much else to do, just turn up every couple of years and do a half-decent job. It’s not much to ask. Yet, they have ballsed up this one as well as Brexit, UK General Election and Trump The Prequel.
It’s worth wondering if any other profession would tolerate such incompetence?
Thankfully, I only see my GP once every couple of years — but when I see him, I like to think I can count on him to do his job properly. I don’t want to be walking in with a broken toe, and walking out with a malaria diagnosis.
It must be a bad, bad time to be a career pollster.
My second takeaway is a rather more important one:
Democracy. It’s a great thing in fairness. There are of course various other political systems available, but they generally involve a dictator. Which is OK if you get a decent, friendly dictator like Ataturk of Turkey fame — but awful, if you get the short straw and end up eating grass in a Gulag, as was popular with Stalin of Russia. Luck of the draw really, but probably not worth chancing it.
Democracy empowers the people, the electorate, to determine their future. Which is very important and protects from hostile power grabs. The institutions of democracy are, in places like the USA and UK, cornerstones of civilization itself and should be protected.
That’s not to say they that democracy works well, though. It has some pretty large pitfalls.
For instance, it’s the Democrats turn now. They get 4 years of power, a fine and worth prize for Uncle Joe.
What is the first thing Mr Biden will do? Undo everything that The Donald did, of course. And in 2016, our beloved orange leader bulldozed everything that Obama had done.
So, while democratic elections are vital, they do rather lead to a pointless circle of tit for tat.
Let’s hop back over the Atlantic to Westminster. We do enjoy a good old General Election here. Unlike America, we are free to have them regularly — and we like to do that quite regularly. A bit like the Senate in America, being Prime Minister doesn’t necessarily mean you have legislative freedom unless you have a majority in Westminster. That’s all a bit confusing.
I would suggest though, that the singular focus of elected leaders in the UK — whether it be MPs, MLAs or Ministers — is to retain power. Nothing else. If you don’t continue to appeal to your electorate, then you are stuffed.
How do you do that? Well, you start by discrediting your rivals of course. Making fun of Keir Starmer or Hilary Clinton, whoever you fancy, just as long as you go after them with great gusto.
Are political leaders incentivised to do the best thing for the people?
I would suggest, no. That doesn’t win elections — electorate pleasing policies, and discrediting rivals, does.
Second, you make your policies differ to your rivals. Rather than uniting on something that might improve the lives of your electorate, you construct an apposite argument to offer voters a polemic choice.
Indeed, in the UK, we have something called the Opposition. The labour party is currently in opposition, as the second-largest party in House of Commons. Their role is to play devil’s advocate and oppose the Tories at every step. If Boris Johnson were to announce something really popular, let us say free school meals for kids, then it is incumbent upon Keir Starmer to appear indignant and oppose this heinous policy.
This does, of course, lead to important debate and scrutiny of policy — but also leads to a lot of unnecessary mudslinging and power dynamics. Wouldn’t it be better to agree on some things, from time to time?
To my mind, those are the 3 fatal flaws of democracy;
- An inability to build lasting change due to power changing hands regularly
- An undue incentivisation to retain power
- Continual bickering for bickering sake
I have decided that democracy is not the best solution for a progressive society — but it, without doubt, the least worst.