Democracy Explained

Democracy – the political ideal, the way of government that’s so good and righteous, the USA and allies feel it’s good to convert the rest of the world to it – at gunpoint if necessary.

But what is democracy? Basically, it’s the rule of the majority. Which can be okay. But it can also be pretty crap – it can be just another form of dictatorship.

Let’s suppose it’s election time in Palookia. There are 2 political parties. Party A get 51% of the votes, Party B get 49%. So, in the democratic nation of Palookia, Party A are now the rulers.

But this means that 49% of the population are pissed off. They didn’t want Party A. And that’s a 2-party system. In a system with 3 or more parties, you can end up with a winning party that was actually voted for by less than 50% of the population.

Democracy ain’t too bad in small communities. If Palookia had a population of 10, the disaffected group would number no more than 4. With a population of 100, only up to 49 people would end up with a population they didn’t want.

But with large populations, this “majority rules” bullshit can leave huge groups dissatisfied. That does not strike me as being a wonderful system of politics!

In Transmetropolitan #15, by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, lead protagonist Spider Jerusalem does an ad for TV explaining how voting works. It goes like this:

“You want to know about voting. I’m here to tell you about voting.

“Imagine you’re locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain’t allowed out until you all vote on what you’re going to do tonight.

You like to put your feet up and watch ‘Republican Party Reservation’ [a TV soap]. They like to have sex with normal people using knives, guns, and brand-new sexual organs that you did not know existed.

“So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as your eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades.

“That’s voting. You’re welcome.”

spider-voting3.png

(Transmetropolitan #15, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson. Published by Vertigo DC Comics, 1998.)

That’s a pretty good description of democracy.

Okay, you say, so democracy ain’t great. So what we gonna do instead? And that’s a fair question. Winston Churchill said, in defense of democracy, that it’s the least bad system – that the alternatives are much worse.

I’m not a master of politics. I can’t dream up a new, perfect system of running government. But I’ve got a few ideas, which I’ll try to explain in some future posts. For now, I’ll leave you with a question:

Democracy can result in 49% of the people being pissed off. This is bad when we’re dealing with large groups of people. So, why don’t we have governments whose decisions affect only small groups of people?

See ya later!

5 Responses to Democracy Explained

  1. Rapewaffle says:

    It strikes me as petulant to describe something as ‘majority rules bullshit’ when the only alternative is ‘minority rules bullshit’ which is inherently a lot worse.

    First of all people on the losing side are not necessarily disenfranchised. If it only takes 1% of representatives to vote against their party in order to swing a vote from the party in power to the party who lost, then the opposition still has substantial influence over the country.

    You also misunderstand how a 3+ party system works. Most Democracies will not allow a party to form a government if it has less than 51% of the vote, period. If your party gets 30%, and seven other parties get 10% each, then you cannot form a government until you form an alliance with 2-3 of those other parties. This is called a coalition government. Coalition governments require a lot of internal diplomacy and balancing to keep the support of the various members, but they are more representative than a two-party system.

    Democracy does not work better in small communities. If you have a country of 100,000,000 people then up to 49,999,999 people can be disenfranchised by the country’s government. If you divide that country up into 10-person communities and have them all govern themselves, 4 people in each can be disenfranchised (40,000,000.) Same result, but with more communities getting deadlocked and nobody getting what they want.

    One advantage of small communities is that they can be governed by consensus. You can just argue until everyone agrees on something, then do that. If you tried to do that with the US Federal government everyone would die of old age several times over before a consensus was reached.

    Other than using consensus, the only way to make decisions that reflect the will of the people is via some form of voting. Voting unfortunately falls prey to a principle known as Arrows Theorem (look it up) which states that any system you come up with for making choices as a group is going to come up with counterintuitive results for some of the voters (i.e. if you vote for Nader you split the left-wing vote and ensure that Bush gets into power, etc.) Read up on it before you try to come up with any alternatives to representative democracy.

    One final idea to represent the will of the people would be to have a house of government – perhaps a second house, like the Senate or the House of Lords – and select people randomly to it in a manner similar to Jury service. This would give you a government that truly represented the people, and not just the kind of people that the people think look good on TV. I don’t know that they’d do a better job than career politicians, but they might be a good counterweight to them.

  2. t0p says:

    Petulant? Me?!! Don’t talk crap! *pouting*

    Your jury-style government is an interesting idea. I’ve thought about it before. But I figure the mostly inexperienced representatives would be too dependent on their civil servants. I’ll certainly give the idea more thought though.

    Your dismissal of my smaller communities idea is just rude. You know damn well that democracy in a small community would operate pretty much as consensus – and you admitted that consensus works.

    I reckon consensus is the only way to run a community. I lean towards anarcho-syndicalism/a non-statist form of “communism”. You probably would rather go for right-wing libertarianism and maiming poor people. But the point is that we’d each go live in communities that shared our points of view.

    • Marxist Hypocrisy 101 says:

      “I lean towards anarcho-syndicalism/a non-statist form of “communism”.”

      No such fucking thing.

      What you’re really saying is, “I support a totalitarian system wherein everyone is forced by the government to do what I say or die, but I don’t want the stigma that goes along with it so I’m just gonna prettend I give two shits about the poor.”

      • Martin X says:

        I love it when ppl tell me : “What you’re really saying”, like they’ve got an in on my brain that I don’t know about it.

        I don’t “pretend I give two shits about the poor” – I *am* poor (by west European standards) so I actually give two shits about myself.

        I like Rapewaffle’s idea of a form of government akin to jury service, where random bods are appointed to run the place for some set period of time. Of course they’d need “expert” advisors (more civil servants, permanent secretaries and the like – but I’m sure that could be sorted givena .little thought by folk more politics-savvy than myself.

        As for my central idea – breaking nations up into smaller self-rule entities – why the fuck not? If you don’t like the way your region is working, you can go live somewhere else where the majority of folk think like you. Mini-statelets with mutual agreements as regard world politics (defence etc) could work fine. If you think I’m wrong, please don’t just write “You’re wrong ya boo sucks!” Tell me *where* and *why* I’m wrong. And bear in mind: I’m not a man of means looking for new ways to feather my nest; I’m a poor Briton whose political views are ignored by my parliamentary representatives (believe me, I’ve written to my (Tory – yuck!) MP many times, on many different subjects, and he has always replied that he’s going to vote the same way as the rest of his Tory colleagues. That is a biiig problem with the Brit government system: our MPs very rarely want to represent their constituents, they just vote tne way they’re whipped.

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