Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flaws and Dangers In The Democratic System

Ancient Roman senate
We have experienced it first-hand recently in the crucial mid-term elections during Obama's presidency. The powers can shift, and the course of politics can change within the blink of an eye. It may be people voicing their opinions and dissatisfaction, or it may be an inherent flaw in the system. Either way, democracy at its best and worst is both noisy and messy. There are usually no quick resolutions and rarely do people see eye to eye. It will run and function on one condition only: the hope of compromise.

Each individual ought to be given equal rights, and opinions must be valued in equal proportion. Debates will seem never-ending, and democracy is generally more talk and theory than concrete action. The election may be a culmination of talks and discussions, questions and answers, but even the occasional election is merely a moment, and then the democratically elected officials are back again on the drawing table discussing and debating issues.

This is one of the reasons why democracy does not have a place in the military, for example. In the military structure, there is a clearly defined and laid-out hierarchy; those beneath must all obey unquestioningly the orders of those at the top. Although ideologically one may disagree with this structure, pragmatically it is the best - and perhaps only - way such organizations like the military could function. In the moment of battle, quick decisions need to be made and that is delegated to the person in charge. On this particular individual rests all responsibility and that is the reason why the commander will usually get all the praise or all the blame in any given situation.

As can be seen, in a way, democracy stagnates progress. To have to take in the opinions of all the members will create clashes and delays. Yet there is another drawback with the democratic concept. It gives too much power to the concept of majority. In other words, the majority is seen as always “right.”

If the majority decides certain issues, the decision needs to be respected. But numbers, in my opinion, do not always make acts justifiable, and ironically, those whose voices are not heard, those that democracy is supposed to protect in the first place, could be the ones oppressed in the democratic system.

Of course, constitutions and charters of rights are there to protect us from cruelty and discrimination, while guaranteeing and ensuring the essential right of freedom of speech to voice one's opinions. The danger, however, could be that those creaky voices might not be heard and be suffocated in a system that thrives on majority.

I think one should find the system that is the most efficient and that works best in a large number of given situations. On paper, democracy may be the best option; in reality, it is a stumbling block and a cacophony of (white) noise. Masses are swayed and controlled rather easily by media; politicians lie and make false promises to get elected only to reveal their own hidden agenda at a later date.

Politicians are not held accountable for what they had initially pledged during their campaign. It seems to be a sad fact that the public suffers from amnesia after the elections, but it could be also that the process does not allow, or makes it extremely difficult, to recall these people from office once they are elected.

Likewise, a politician, during campaign or in office, might become populist and try to appeal to the masses. As a result, they may make decisions seen as “good” on a short-term basis, but which may be devastating for the country in the long term. Politicians, in general, have a limited term in office, so they often shy away from long-term goals and benefits and are mostly focused on the present and the immediate. And during the whole time, the eyes are steadied on the next upcoming election to prolong one's position of power.

Due to a lack of longevity, there is often no clear map, so the ship of state can be steered and jerked this way and that way with each upcoming election; sharp turns either to the left or the right of the political spectrum are commonplace. Advances will be nixed, and everybody starts from scratch and redoes and undoes laws and policies.

Politics nowadays is not that different from entertainment shows. Those who are better looking, tell us what we want to hear, are good at acting and become emotional on cue will win our votes. It is often as simple as that. Nobody would want an ugly or painfully direct president or prime minister regardless of their abilities. The majority prefers beautiful lies to the ugly truth and want people who are diplomatic and moral, whatever that may mean. Whether these elected people are capable or indeed the best option for the country are questions that are often ignored or disregarded.

Democracy would really work when people are informed and free to think for themselves and are able to make up their own minds. If they are swayed by what others think or believe, if they make decisions based on trivial and superficial criteria, democracy will be caught in a vicious circle and will end up going nowhere.


Francis Hunt said...

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (Winston Churchill, 1947)

Arash Farzaneh said...

Thank you, Francis! This quote sums it up perfectly!

Anonymous said...

Very concise perspective. But to remove the inefficacies from the system, one would have to teach individualism and accountability, something your prior post mentions.

People infuriate me. Staggeringly so. But we have to leave the ignorant to their own devices to preserve our moral fidelity.

JMyste said...

1. Currently there is no such thing as a pure bill, so it is impossible to vote on anything. If you have a bill that supports or denies gay marriage, it will also have addendums related to renewable energy, gambling laws, etc. If you refuse to support the bill because you are against one of the addendums, your political opponents accuse you of supporting or refusing to support the original root of the bill, and even polit-fact and other fact-checking sites sometimes support the false accusation.

2. Some people think they are fiscal republican, for example, when they are a fiscal democrat. They support what the democrats say about taxes, big government (social programs), etc., but the republicans tell them that they are against big government and without thinking what that means they say: “Yes, I do oppose big government.“ “We oppose taxes and think you should keep your money in your pocket,” the conservative says, and the democrat who does not know that he is a democrat says: “Amen, O creator of my opinion.” I have a friend who explained that he was a fiscal republican and a social democrat. I quizzed him on his position on probably a dozen issues, and except for one, he took the democratic position on every single one. He also claimed he was against big government, but was unable to name a single program where he thought the democrats should cut spending and the republicans would cut spending if given the chance. If he had to pass a basic test on what democrats and republicans think, he could not pass it. He only sees the ads put out by campaigns and knows nothing else. He is incapable or unwilling to think about either platform, and yet has extremely strong opinions about it.
3. Lobbyist have the ability to pressure candidates into voting certain ways or ending their careers.
4. Parties in power can gerrymander their way to victory in the house and senate.

5. Parties in power can only confirm appointments like-minded judges, which will sit on the bench long after they have been voted out of office.
People focus on voter fraud and filibustering to show that the American political process does not work. These are real issues, but they only frustrate a fundamentally damaged process. Solve problems like these, and you will have our undemocratic democracy moving forward like a well-oiled machine. It is like having a nice kerosene lamp to illuminate us and calling its tiny flicker that leaves us in the dark, our lightened way.

“The majority prefers beautiful lies.” They seem to prefer drama. Keith O and Bill O get better ratings than real journalist who do not act as “retained attorneys,” as Emerson put it. They call any rumor that would denigrate an opponent truth, and any rumor that does not support the integrity of their own candidates “a smear.” They attack the other party for offenses for which they defend their own party. They quickly help invent any scandal, so long as the scandal lives in the enemy’s camp. It is a game of strategy and many tools are available: Beautiful Lies, Fear, Drama. The candidate that realizes well how to create his opponent in the image he needs the people to see, will win the election. This has little to do with platform and everything to do with Media warfare. The truth is always more boring than a fanciful tale and people will always have their opinions formed by the faux journalists who give them the adrenalin rush they crave.

Media entertainers masquerading as journalist do not deliver the truth to us because we do not seek it. While forming our opinions for us with their webs of misrepresentations, omitted data and replacing it with outright deceit, they bear in mind at all times that were they to shower us with the truth, they would not be giving us what we seek and we would not forgive them for their virtues. We do not discriminate. If a politician says what he thinks the rule truth is, and tells the whole story, Keith O, Bill O and El Rushbo may conspire to end his career. And if any of these Media Gods gives us the truth, we will certainly end theirs.