Democracy Doesn't Work

I often find myself at this time of year proclaiming that democracy doesn’t work. In fact, my very first post on this blog was almost exactly a year a go, when I looked at the voting breakdown of the general election with a similar sentiment. In case you’re wondering where it came from, it’s actually a Simpsons quote.

Unfortunately, with each passing year I think I’m beginning to believe it more and more.

For a start, for the last year we’ve had a government that nobody voted for. Of course, the Americans had that for eight years, but then we mocked them for it. Incessantly. They tried to make up for it by electing a black man as their next president, but that only led to even more political division among the populace and the forming of a large group of people who still chose to believe that their president isn’t even eligible for the post because they don’t think he was born in their country (and why would he have been, seeing as how he looks so different). So then, it turns out that although America isn’t as racist as we used to think, it’s still pretty fuckin’ racist.

In this country, after twelve months of a government that nobody voted for, or even actually wanted at all, we had the choice to vote to remove the voting system that was partly responsible for the situation (that and the fact that very few of the parties were worth voting for which helped expose the holes in the system). What did we do? Aside from the fact that only a little over a third of us actually bothered to go out and participate in the vote, most of those that did decided that they liked the old system well enough, thanks.

Now, I admit, the main thing that swayed me into voting in favour of the alternative vote system (apart from working in another form of ‘AV’) was in fact the ‘No’ advertising campaign, who used a tactic almost on par with saying “see this kitten? This cute, loving kitten? Vote how we say or we’ll kill the kitten.” That and the fact that none of their arguments held up to scrutiny (in a race, isn’t the winner the one who comes first, they said. Yes, except this is a vote, not a fucking race). Oh yes, and they never actually denied the claim from the yes camp that AV was actually fairer.

I’m getting off the point a little bit here. I’m actually meaning to talk about democracy, and why it doesn’t work, rather than bemoaning our voting habits, although the two are obviously linked.

For a start, democracy is built on the simple tenet that every person gets a vote, and are free to do with it what they please (including not using it, but limited to not giving it to someone else). Unfortunately this premise overlooks two other very important tenets which I think need to be considered:

  1. People are lazy.
  2. People are stupid.

You should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers (oh look, another Siimpsons quote). The fact that the The Sun is the most read newspaper and the X Factor is the most watched TV show in the UK goes to show that we have a significant number of – how can I put this politely? I can’t. Anyway they’re there, and there’s plenty of them, and they all have a vote each.

Fair enough, you might say, everyone’s equal so they all get a vote. Except, as I’ve noted before, everyone isn’t equal. Douglas Adams said it best: “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” Some people, because of age, experience or teaching, are in a position to make a far better and well-informed judgement than others.

So what do we do? Well, we could do what we should be doing with drivers’ licenses and gun ownership and impose a minimum IQ requirement. Or, we could not open polling stations in Woking since living there is a sign that you are not of sound mind and judgement (did I say Woking? Sorry, I meant places like Woking, only without a fair chunk of my readers living there).

These are all potentially viable ideas, but all still battling with the overriding principle of trying to be democratic, or at least something approaching it.

Nope, I think we need a far more drastic change to our political system. Democracy doesn’t work, but dictatorships get shit done. I read somewhere that empires like Rome simply could not have stuck together as long as they did without a single person able to make the difficult decisions when it mattered. I don’t remember where I read that but I’m reasonably sure that one’s not a Simpsons quote.

The only tricky part is finding the right kind of person to be the sole ruler. Too soft, and chaos will reign; too hard and we’ll be too restricted to get anything done; too stupid and the whole thing will fall apart like a woman attempting to assemble flatpack furniture (did I just say that? Sorry that was horribly mean and sexist of me. Let me come up with another one: like, I dunno, something quite likely to fall apart).

Don’t worry though, I have the perfect person in mind (no, not me, I’m too hard, too soft and too stupid). There’s only one person who can be smart enough to know the right path, strong enough to tread that path, and yet still gentle enough to have the support of his people. And that person is (hang on, I just want to return to the ‘falling apart’ joke. Did you notice how the ‘falling apart’ but referred to both the mental state of the woman and also the physical state of the furniture she was building? It’s clever, it’s not my fault it’s sexist).

Where was I? Oh right, our ruler. Well, it just has to be Stephen Fry, doesn’t it?

We praise you, oh mighty benevolent ruler


One comment

  1. Funny and yet very true; however there are two problems with dictatorships (even good ones, if they exist)and why they don’t work either. Power corrupts people and people are influenced by other people (this is what we currently call “democracy”)

    Solution: Greek democracy. This form of democracy where everybody has an opinion, a voice and a vote was impractical for large societies, but with the discovery and development of new technologies and ways of thinking it is nowadays very possible and indeed practical. The best example being the “wiki” concept and opensource framework. These are two elements based on collaborative concepts that are both applicable and practical in the political arena; what is missing then is willingness to do so. these two concepts if applied to Chaos theory and quantum mechanics are capable and will deliver the ultimate Democratic system but the problem here is not what to do, but who will do it.

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