Is Democracy Fundamentally A Good Thing?
Democracy as many know it, is without a question to the public, a pure right for a civilised first world country. Democracy provides a society with the fundamental rights to decide how their lives are dictated by popular demand.
Notice how I wrote popular demand? The U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as:
Government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Alas, democracy is by far the most challenging form of government – both for politicians and for the people. Democracy has been said to enable a system that is less prone to corruption, in comparison to others. But it is important to remember that votes can be exchanged for money in a democracy. A softer form of clientelism also involves a money incentive to certain districts (or states), so that Representatives and Senators vote for the programs those funds are allocated to.
As a mathematical result of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, pure democracy cannot work. So long as there are more than two candidates, there is no possible voting system that can ensure that the criteria for fairness is satisfied:
-If every voter prefers alternative X over alternative Y, then the group prefers X over Y.
-If every voter’s preference between X and Y remains unchanged, then the group’s preference between X and Y will also remain unchanged.
-There is no “dictator”; no single voter possesses the power to always determine the group’s preference.
If any of these fairness factors are breached, this is a symbol of proof that democracy cannot work. In layman’s terms, a very simple representation of Arrow’s theorem is that:
In any voting system based on ranks, (as opposed to ratings) when there are more than two candidates, it is possible for a paradox to occur whereby A beats B, B beats C and C beats A.
Another important factor to remember is that democracy lies under the assumption that all votes are equal. The word assumption is used because that is all it is. Democracy assumes that all opinions are worth the same, however using this basis is yet again an excuse to put on rose tinted glasses. The leap of faith used to commit to this viewpoint is extreme, because in reality, are the opinions and votes of the ignorant and uneducated really the same as those of the educated and not ignorant?
“But all people are created equal!”
Perhaps they are, however not everyone’s environments, mentality and thus characters are equal. Not everyone has the capability, nor the mental capacity to reach a rational and informed decision after researching what they actually think and believe.
Democracy not only enables a popularity contest fuelled by the media but also candidates who tell voters what exactly they want to hear. Thus, candidates pursue policies that focus on the immediate satisfaction of voters instead of long-term improvements.
I wish I knew a solid form of a political system that worked, yet politics is impossible. If anything, you have a totalitarian regime with the odd method of not involving one central dictator, which might be an option. On the other hand, the dangers of this regime potentially becoming extreme is rather dicey.
But isn’t there always a possibility that an extremist government is elected through democracy? This has happened countless times in history after all.