What comes next?

Second round of the French presidential electi...

Second round of the French presidential election of 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democracy is the system of government favour by most enlightened countries. It’s a simple system, where all citizens can partake in making decisions about the state’s affairs. It sounds fair, doesn’t it? However, many people can’t be bothered to actually take part – often fewer than half the eligible voters actually bother to vote.

This is good in one sense and bad in another. It’s good because it shows that the government is pretty much doing what the voters want, otherwise they would be up in arms, and it is bad because it devolves the running of the country to a few motivated individuals, who naturally favour their own views on what is good for the country.

Southern Sudanese wait in line to vote at poll...

Southern Sudanese wait in line to vote at polling center in Al Gezira state in northern Sudan on January 10, 2011. Mirella McCracken/USAID. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we look at our fellow citizens, we see people like us. We see people with the same point of view as us. We see people with opposite points of view. We see a fair number of weirdos and nutters. We see people who are intelligent, we see people who can only be called dumb.

All these people have the same ability to decide who runs the country as we do. Democracy averages out the abilities and views of the voting population, and once again this is good and bad. It is good because everyone has an input in the running of the country and bad because any decision is dumbed down to the average voter who has average intelligence.

The Representative of Humanity, detail of a sc...

The Representative of Humanity, detail of a sculpture in wood by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democracy is nevertheless the best system that we have used so far, at least in the opinion of most of the voters in a democracy! Many other countries aspire to being democratic in the medium term.

Most countries don’t have direct democracy. The citizens can’t all go along to where the government plies its business and have a direct say in what happens. Most democracies are representative democracies, where the people in a geographic area select one of their number to go along and make the decisions on their behalf. Such selections happen on a regular basis, so that voters can review their selection for their representative and change it if necessary.

Pictured here is former Chinese Chairman Mao Z...

Pictured here is former Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong announcing the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1 1949. Italiano: Immagine di Mao Tse-tung che proclama la nascita della Repubblica Popolare Cinese l’1 ottobre 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In recent years this country has moved further away from direct democracy and a new type of representative helps govern the country. This new type is selected not by the people themselves but by a political party. Voters have to vote for one party or another to affect the selection of these party representatives, and this removes from the voters the ability to directly select about half the representatives.

So, as we move further and further away from direct democracy, we have to decide if this is ultimately good or bad, and whether or not we need to replace democracy with some other system of governing our countries.

English: BANGKOK. President Putin at the final...

English: BANGKOK. President Putin at the final meeting of the heads of state and government of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries. Русский: БАНГКОК. На заключительном заседании глав государств и правительств стран – участниц организации Азиатско-Тихоокеанского экономического сотрудничества. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the past we have tried many other systems. We have tried feudalism, where one person governs a smallish area and has a great deal more rights than the peasants, but that was slowly overturned as power was drained from the rulers and, mostly, given to the peasants.

Feudalism can’t have been all bad, given the times, as it would have been a bad idea for the lord to severely mistreat his serfs, as the serfs did all the work of raising crops and cattle, and if the serfs weren’t able to work, the lord went hungry. The lord also provided protection to the serfs in his domain, should a neighbouring lord fancy what the serfs created.

The local bigwig may not have been a lord. Religion was strong in those times and the ruler may have been a priest or bishop. The biggest bigwig of all, would be the king (or sometimes the queen). The bigwigs were ranked and only the most powerful got to advise the king – the whole system was basically a pyramid.

Even when the feudal system died out, royalty and the system of titles and rights persisted. Some rights have persisted anachronistically to this day – for instance the right to graze pigs on acorns on common land may still exist, even though the right may not be exercised.

English: Rooting piglets alongside the B3078, ...

English: Rooting piglets alongside the B3078, New Forest These are just five of many piglets that have been occupying the verges of the B3078 as it passes through Brook Wood and up to Long Cross between Ravens Nest Inclosure and Salisbury Trench Inclosure. Pigs are ‘turned out’ onto the open Forest during the pannage season, in order to eat the acorns that would otherwise poison the ponies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many countries do not have democracy, but they do have a ruler or ruling class. This ruler has almost as many rights as a king, but he or she only rules because he or she has the power base to allow him or her to do so. Usually but not always this requires at least the cooperation of the military, and the top dog may well be a member of the military.

All rulers stand the risk of being replaced. Some rulers may still officially rule, but with reduced powers and rights. Queen Elizabeth II is one such ruler, and she may be replaced with some other titular head of state at some stage, perhaps a President. Other rulers may be overturned by force, by revolution, and this is a frequent case where the ruler is heavy-handed and oppressive.

Elizabeth II wearing babushka-type headscarf a...

Elizabeth II wearing babushka-type headscarf at a meeting with Ronald Reagan, 1982. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the political system, even in communist systems where all are supposedly equal, there is a “head of state”. Usually he/she is a powerful individual and the government he/she presides over may be democratic or not. The President of the USA is frequently called the most powerful man (or maybe, soon, woman) on Earth and the USA is nominally democratic.

Our democracies seem to be hierarchical, as do our non-democracies. While democracy seems to work, more or less, in many countries, other countries seem to get along with other systems. Some have heads of state who are called dictators as they rely on power to remain at the top.

Charlie Chaplin from the end of film The Great...

Charlie Chaplin from the end of film The Great Dictator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes a powerful country will force democracy onto such countries, but it doesn’t always work properly. This rises the question as to whether or not democracy is the best system for such countries, and perhaps it isn’t.

Democracy is the best system that we have come up with so far, but all systems eventually change or mutate and are replaced with other systems. Maybe democracy will be looked on in the future as being a quaint system that was only a step or two better than feudalism.

English: Night of August 4th, abolition of feu...

English: Night of August 4th, abolition of feudality and fiscal privileges Français : Nuit du 4 août, abolition des privilèges (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or maybe online systems will enhance democracy so that it becomes an accurate and agreeable way of running countries. I doubt it as most people will not partake in online democracies through lack of interest or motivation. A true democracy requires everyone to take part fully in governing a country.

English: Voters at the voting booths in 1945 C...

English: Voters at the voting booths in 1945 CREDIT: “Voters at the Voting Booths.” ca. 1945. NAACP Collection, The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, Library of Congress. Americans Observed the First Uniform Election Day Source: LOC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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