Lights Out for Democracy

I just left a comment on the “The Good Life”, and it got me thinking. And so, in the spirit of recycling (and laziness) I will hereby expand that thought and lay it upon you.

The topic: democracy and politicians. The writer of The Good Life explained why he doesn’t vote:

“The only electable parties are the ones fighting over the centre ground. A centre ground that is governed by powerful corporations that will pay any amount of money to fund a political party that will claim that centre ground. Is that what you call democracy?”

And I find myself agreeing with the man entirely. Voting these days is just damage control – vote for Wankers-A because Wankers-B are slightly worse than them, and we must, by all means, keep Wankers-B out of power. Where the fuck is the “choice” in all of that?

When was the last time any of you voted for a certain politician or party because you really, really believed in them and they didn’t let you down, instead of just because they were the least bad option? I can’t remember, to be honest.

Here is the problem: Representative democracy is an artefact from another era, an era when you would pick a guy from your village and send him off to the parliament in the big city (a week’s journey by donkey and bat) in the hope that he would represent your village’s interests. And this works quite well, as long as your village’s interests are purchasing nuclear submarines, providing tax cuts for Enron, ignoring the plight of millions of people in other areas of the world and running the natural environment into the ground.

Or, to put it another, more accurate way – it doesn’t work at all.

But now, with instantaneous information available to all, this is no longer necessary, desirable or useful. In fact, this form of “representation” is extremely dangerous as it concentrates power and makes the “representatives” a juicy target for lobbyists and businesses with their agendas and their fat and dripping wallets.

So it’s time then for true democracy, where we the people get the chance to vote on every single issue. These days, with everything in life happening on-line, it’s not actually that hard to do. Not everybody will vote on every issue, of course, but I am sure the really important issues will get a big turnout.

Of course the rich will hate this because by passing power directly to the people, you exclude the possibility of lobbying and bribing. And states hate this as it makes it very difficult to promote hidden agendas, i.e. to do something for one reason while claiming it is for another. And all the politicians hate this as it removes their power and returns it to the place it is supposed to reside – with the people.

If our present system of democracy was “real” then we would have “none of the above” as a legitimate choice on all the ballot papers, and about 40% of the seats in the world’s parliaments would be empty. Instead we have self-serving compulsive liars raising their own salaries and going on about “serving the people” when in fact they are busy preserving a stagnant system where business can thrive and the rest of us can just fuck right off.

So let’s shoot representative democracy in the head like the sick and dying beast that it is; its time has passed and it has proven itself incapable again and again of actually solving anything. Let the politicians get real jobs, so we can tackle the enormous challenges facing the world with a system that is capable of dealing with them.

And before I retire to my bedchamber for the night with a glass of cognac and a cheroot, I’ll just toss in a couple of quotes, from sources that I have forgotten:

“Before it was the masters who picked their slaves, and today it is the slaves who choose their masters.”

“Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than what we have now.”

/ Comrade paddy

16 thoughts on “Lights Out for Democracy

  1. Oh Paddy. It’s true. But I’ll take what we have here in Europe 1000 times over the shit they have going on in the US. That shit is not even a democracy. At least here, minority parties like the greens and the commies at least can make it to parliament and get a chance to ‘suggest’ their stuff. There, not even that…

  2. In 2000, a lot of Americans said that there wasn’t much difference between the two centrist candidates Al Gore and George Bush. A lot of them, including some of my friends wanted to see a difference so they voted Green. A number of them feel a bit stupid in the light of the last six years.

    It turns out that sometimes Wanker A is a LOT worse than Wanker B. Know your wankers, and vote for the best wanker you can find who stands a chance of winning.

  3. Alina: True, but still everything gets compromised, even here. Nobody dares to say what they really think for fear of losing that “centre”.

    Kaleberg: An exception that proves the rule. How come it was so hard to know exactly what these 2 guys “stood” for back in 2000? And how many of Bush’s worst decisions would have been voted down if there was a direct democracy in the US?

    And anyway, didn’t Gore get more votes than Bush, and still lost? Democracy indeed…

    Still, “know your wankers” is always sound advice.

  4. Great post Paddy.

    In Britain we have a severe case of “democratic deficiency”. Britain calls itself a democratic country in spite of the fact that we are having our civil liberties increasingly restricted, we have a First Past the Post voting system and we have an unelected Head of State.

    I did read that Sweden is the most democratic country in the world. Hmm.

  5. earthpal: I wonder what “most democratic country” actually means. If it means that people agrue about stuff for a very long time without ever doing anything, then yes, I think we probably are.

    Martin: It’s my birthright to complain, dammit! I complain at anything and everything. So if I get a very bad cafe latte, am I not allowed to complain unless I have worked as a Barrista myself?

    And I don’t think I could ever run for office as I am unable to compromise my principles so much, or tell stupid people that I understand and respect their views, when quite often I just don’t. On top of that, this blog would probably come up at some stage and get me fired – “Top Politician’s Naked Blog Shock!” or something similar.

  6. Hmm – everyone votes on everything. Sounds good in principal doesn’t it, until you realise the the world is full of bigots, materialistically selfish gits and, let’s face it, downright idiots who really shouldn’t be let out unsupervised, much less be allowed to vote. Imagine allowing people to “press red on your TV remote control now to vote” on every issue – we all vote on a one day working week, a free humvee for everyone, rejigging the food pyramid so it only contains meat products.

    I’d prefer that everyone get only the one chance to influence the process of democracy, and thereafter have it left to a bunch of people who, by definition, have to try and mantain something not dissimilar to the status quo in order to maximise their chances of re-election. Radical change sounds good, but we always assume that when it comes time to round people up and shoot them, we’ll be in the firing squad. In all likelihood it will be to other way round.

  7. DrDan: Yeah, yeah, yeah…so I’m talking through my arse again, I am aware of that… Perhaps we can compromise and allow the people in some way to affect the choice of politicians, so that the too-rabid idiots don’t get in. Maybe by a popular vote every few years or something like that…

    Oh, right…

  8. Maybe we’ve just got the process backwards – we should vote for who we definitely don’t want to see in power! The person/party with the fewest votes wins. I’d love to see the results of an election like that.

    Or instead of voting for people or parties, you just decide what policies you favour, fill out a form, and a computer programme aligns your views with the most appropriate party, and this counts as a vote for them – it’s not as crazy as it sounds, see:

  9. Dan: Even better would be partial votes: 0.5 to that guy, 0.2 to that guy and 0.1 each to those three. And you could even specify on which issues they won your vote, so they know for next time.

    Of course the problem with matching your interests to a party’s policies is that quite often they don’t do what they say they will do…

  10. Every time I contemplate the evening papers’ broadsheets I want to strip the Swedish public of the suffrage. The reason that those headlines are so mindblowingly inane is that they sell papers effectively. And people who want to read stuff like that shouldn’t be allowed to live, let alone vote.

  11. Martin: Well, unfortunately stupid newspapers are everywhere in the world. As well as stupid TV. However, killing people that read Expressen..? I’m not sure it’s so practical. And I also read it sometimes, usually by accident. Sorry, but I do.

    However, I am convinced that if we removed print newspapers, magazines and TV that people would be much better informed that they are today.

    Also we live in a society where being “smart” is still very negative. Being good at sport, for example, is ALWAYS seen as good, but being “too smart” is seen as dangerous.

  12. “Sounds good in principal doesn’t it, until you realise the the world is full of bigots, materialistically selfish gits and, let’s face it, downright idiots who really shouldn’t be let out unsupervised, much less be allowed to vote.”

    Tell me about it. Voting and having children should be priviledges, not rights. You have to take a test to drive a car (which in the States is a piece of piss, but still…) you should have to take a test to be able to vote. And people in other countries should be able to vote for the U.S. president, as he’s answerable to every country, as the world’s policeman.

    And Christ, I went to England the day after the debacle that was the last U.S. election and I was damn sure to put a Kerry/Edwards badge on my bag. Sometimes I pretend to be Canadian (which I always say is like America’s Scotland), but this time I wanted any gregarious British people who hated Bush to feel free to tell me about it so I could agree with them.

    And yes, at the time, Gore and Bush looked like the same twat in different clothes. I still voted for Gore. And watched in amazement as the votes came in. But it wasn’t until the second “election” that I realised JUST how blind my countrymen were. Christing hell, but how deluded do you have to be to vote for the guy the second time?!

    And all because Yanks dislike intelligence and they wanted someone who seemed like a nice guy.

    I don’t want a fucking nice guy running the most powerful country in the world! I want a goddamned genius who’ll stay at work an extra hour or four if he needs to! He can be the biggest prick in the world–I don’t have to deal with him on a daily basis–just let him be intelligent and take the job seriously.

  13. lexfoster: Indeed: nice guys should be out fixing cars and delivering pizza, not running enormous countries bristling with weapons. And democracy isn’t worth shit if all the guys standing are basically the same.

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