What is democracy for? The ancient Greeks invented it. They knew a thing or two, didn’t they? They also had a lot of wars. Why do male gorillas beat their chests or elephants make fake charges? Was it the same reason the war-torn Greeks voted to see how many were on each side of an argument before starting a fight? Us ‘higher’ animals, with our ‘higher cost of living’ want to avoid fights that we are likely to lose. It is a survival tactic in case ‘our side’ aren’t the best bullies. I think the Greeks rather cleverly invented Democracy as a proxy for war.
Democracy isn’t the least bad option, as Churchill suggested. The worst option is being killed, or perhaps horribly tortured. Democracies have traditionally tended to regard those as Bad Things.
You’ll notice that this first version of democracy makes a couple of simplifying assumptions:
- There are 2 options to be voted on. Politicians know that us ordinary folk are far too stupid to understand anything non-trivial; or at least they hope we are. That’s why we are only offered ‘in’ or ‘out’, not ‘shake it all about’ or ‘in a bit’. That leads to awkward conversations like “How much?” and “How far in?” which don’t have binary answers. We would never be able to cope with THAT MUCH democracy.
- There are 2 ‘sides’: Us and Them. The trick is to out-vote Them once, so they see that they were Wrong, are embarrassed and go away. There is no place for other ‘sides’ that think you are asking the wrong question or who don’t trust any of the candidates on the ballot paper.
Both of these assumptions have been scientifically tested by the Scottish Independence and EU referenda/dums (It’s all Greek/Roman to me.) They are both Wrong. Our representative democracy doesn’t represent most people, in large areas of the UK.
The people who dislike the government could win a fight with those who would agree to defend our leaders. State torture and leaders without support are worrying signs about the state of our democracy.
First past the post voting systems clearly don’t work when you have more than 2 political parties or when you pretend that some of the options don’t exist. We appear to be faced with a couple of options (there may be others.):
- We can reform our democracy, so that we don’t elect a party that most people don’t want, or
- Inequality and power in the hands of a tiny minority will lead to increasing levels of anger until some minor event triggers a revolution, as Marx predicted. Not necessarily a violent, orchestrated uprising of thugs, like in Russia but a grass-roots refusal by ordinary people to co-operate with people too lazy to hide their lies any more.
Most people seem fairly convinced that Communism is bound to fail, so they are likely to try another option; perhaps a charismatic leader. Who doesn’t love a strong leader with a straight tie and shiny shoes? Trump or Putin might be on the transfer list by then. Great. May I remind you, fairly urgently, of Option 1.