Monday, December 22, 2008

Is truly representative democracy possible?

Churchill is supposed to have remarked that democracy is the worst form of government, save for all others.

I have been thinking about this for a while and have come to the conclusion that for best effect, democracy needs to work within a well established class system.

The problem is that truly popular democracy must cater to truly popular public taste. While this egalitarian ideal sounds fine, the net effect of catering to the lowest common denominator of public sentiment is likely to leave everyone worse off.

This is where a good class system comes in to play. The class system ensures that those who rise to the head of parties that may contest an election must necessarily subscribe to a certain set of values. The idea is that only gentlemen or those who subscribe to such values may reach the top ranks of the political arena. The public are then free to choose their leaders, but their choice will tend to be amongst gentlemen and will eliminate bounders, footpads and their ilk from high office.

Thus the population is satisfied that they have a say in the affairs of a nation, while at the same time, there is an automatic check on wilder elements entering the fray. The emergence of far right parties in Austria and extremists in Australia (Pauline Hanson) not to mention the BJP (partially under the sway of the RSS/VHP) are cases in point. Fortunately, the strength of other institutions (particularly the press but also Parliament and the Judiciary) have forced most extremists to moderate their stance when holding office but prevention is better than cure.

The system of proportional representation, which opens the door to extremists, is also not compatible with good governance. The best example is Israel, where an almost mischievous proportional representative system has lead to fragile coalitions that implode whenever a bold decision is taken.

To be fair a class system should not be rigid, but like the British one flexible. There are plenty of foreigners and other outsiders who have reached the top rank of political office, but they have had to go through a period of adaptation before they were accepted.


Sam said...

You have a point about the limitations of democracy. Specially democracy been a kind of a system that majority get to force their decisions upon minority, majority repeatedly do wrong thing. Such as slavery or decimation against homosexuals, etc.. If we have a vote today to change the name of Sri Lanka to “Sinhalese Buddhist country”, I’m sure it will pass by a majority without any issue.

Yes. There need to be something to control the democracy because majority is not that bright. But I don’t think elite class is necessarily the best thing for that. I think any democracy as good as its constitution. And indeed it takes very special group of people to create a good constitution. But after they have done that, there is not much need for it until the next constitutional change and democracy should be able to operate within the those binderies created by the constitution and there should be a court system to make sure those boundaries are respected.

Serendib_Isle said...

Aaah, man-made theories on how to rule the world. Any theory works, as long as people aren’t hungry. Doesn’t matter if it’s democracy, autocracy or anything in between. Every theory has its pro’s and con’s; Communist Russia, Mao’s China or Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai – they all worked, in their own way.

It’s the poverty and hunger that brings out our animal instincts and causes trouble; we haven’t evolved that far from our roots – have we?

My short answer? Anything is possible under good-leadership, if the common man has his basic needs fulfilled.

TheWhacksteR said...

Interesting pointof veiw. i however maintain that democracy will continue to be weak as long as humans have their personal weaknesses like greed, ambition and vice. This drives corruption and failure of democracy. By the way, i'v tagged you here

i would appreciate your response:) cheers mate