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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Democracy Doesn't Work!

There are two fatal flaws with democracy which are particularly evident and all the more troublesome in this modern age.

Firstly there is what is commonly called "party politics". Democracy of course is based upon representative suffrage, which means that any government must first be elected in order to take power. Whoever gets the most MPs, delegates etc. wins. The politicians that the electorate votes for are ambitious people, there's little denying it, and as a result they strive to win as many seats as possible - after all it's no fun being the opposition. They want real, affective power. This is the root of the first problem. Power. They say that power corrupts, but I suggest that it is in fact the prospect of gaining or losing it that is truly corrupting. To understand what I'm getting at one must first understand what it is I mean by corruption. I'm not referring to any legally criminal act of some description, rather the corruption of democracy. Democracy is supposed to offer the people what they want. But what they get is a series of changes and suggestion of change that the politicians believe will make them popular - and remember, popularity is power. When you consider that Barack Obama and David Cameron are likely to become two of the most powerful men in the world, men of little substance and no true conviction, that feed purely off the unpopularity of current government, is it not obvious that there is a serious problem with the democratic process?

In this fight for popularity the voter is stuck with the dilemma of what party not to vote for. Take the current situation in the UK. Labour is in power and they offer, every now and then, some small changes and the the opposition, the Conservatives, offer some not so dissimilar policies and we end up with two powerful parties which are essentially the same - a restricting unprogressive middle ground. What great reform or achievement has any UK government had since the establishment of the NHS - in 50 years? Where's the variety? Where's the choice? Does it really make any difference who the voters elect?

The third party in this scenario is the Liberal Democrats. This party is the only party that currently offers a real alternative. Many Lib Dems are calling for a more representative system that would probably give them more influence and political clout. They claim that this will offer the voters with the afore mentioned alternative from the unprogressive middle ground. Though perhaps proportional representation will gain the Lib Dems more power I doubt that it will offer an alternative. As I mentioned before potential power corrupts. Why will the Lib Dems stand by their current convictions? If they are placed in a position of power why would they risk it in the search of providing the people with real policies that may be unpopular? What would set them apart from the MPs of Labour and the Tories? They will strive to preserve their power as much as the others and as a result they will resort to the same strategy of offering similar policies and attacking their oppositions. Is this lack of choice and impossibility of reform what we consider to be democracy, where nothing ever changes? Where nothing ever improves unless it is the result of a global economic boom and not government?

The second flaw is the electorate itself. The people believe that matters of government are their concern, when in fact it is not - at least not in practical theory. Members of Parliament and delegates are elected as the peoples representatives in Parliament and Congress respectively. They are chosen to make the informed decisions for the people. It's their job to understand legislation and reform in order to ensure that it's the correct action to take, so that the people don't have to. But a problem has developed, perhaps due to the growth in media, where what the people think has become too important. Again in the hunt for popularity politicians listen to the people and the people demand to be listened to. But the question must be asked why it is the people should really be listened to when it is the politicians who are the informed and make it there business to understand legislation? What does the population know of economics, foreign affairs and domestic policy etc.? A good demonstration of this was the Lisbon Treaty. In the UK many people called for a national referendum on this important EU reform. But why should it be necessary when parliament is the representative of the people elected to make exactly these kind of decisions? The people are too interfering and as a result the government is crippled by what is and isn't popular amongst the population.

The people claim that PM Gordon Brown has ruined the British economy. But when you ask them what it was exactly that he did wrong, few are able to offer an answer. Is his unpopularity justified? Congress, scared of the risk of being unpopular, rejected the $700 billion "bail-out". But what do the American people know of economics? And the media, perhaps a third problem with modern democracy, only exacerbates this.

These are the reasons that modern democracy doesn't work. This is why we are stuck in a frozen state of affairs with no reform. The most worrying thing of all though is that there may be no way out, bar some sort of catastrophic international crisis.

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