Democracy - Is It Good or Is It Bad?

This is a philosophical article, not a political one. I detest politics, and I wish to have nothing to do with the subject. The argument here is purely theoretical.

If you were to ask people in the street, probably over 90% would say democracy is good, but would they be right? Are they expressing a considered opinion, or have they been mentally conditioned (brainwashed?) to accept democracy without question?

Democracy, or "majority rule", is the accepted method in the so called "free" countries of the West. One of the most devastating arguments against democracy is to point out which television shows get the highest ratings, that is, are chosen by the majority. They are usually among the worst and most pointless shows. This tends to cast doubt on the wisdom of a system which bases its policy on the choices of the majority.

And of course, we have to remember that the majority doesn't actually rule. What the majority does is vote, it is still a minority that does the ruling.

Democracy was invented by the ancient Greeks, but in their system you could not vote if you were a woman, or of a different race, or if you were a slave, or you were young, or you didn't own land. So it was rule by what we would call a minority. However, the "show of hands" was the key element that made it democratic. They used to gather in the forum, and discuss policy at great length, and then decide. Even though the electorate was "intellectual" (meaning they didn't watch TV soaps) they still managed to come up with some abysmally idiotic and disastrous decisions.

Have you noticed how many of the most totalitarian communist states describe themselves as "Democratic Republic" or "People's Democratic Republic?" What do the people living in them think of that? Do they inwardly rebel against the misnomer? Or perhaps they are led to believe that their country really does have a democratic system? We in the West tend to smile at their naivete in falling for such a simple trick.

But if you examine closely some of these states, you will see that in fact they do have elections, in which candidates run for office, and one is voted for by people in his local area, and takes a seat in a parliament. Surely this is democracy? Is this democracy or not?

Some would say no, it is a sham, because people's votes can never change the system, because the totalitarian government stays in power, regardless of the change of faces of the deputies, which is merely a cosmetic change. So it's not real democracy, is it?

So we infer that the people living under those regimes may well be under a delusion that they live in a democratic state.

It was when I reached this point in the argument that a sudden thought occurred to me. We who live in the "free" democracies of the West are different because we really do have a free democracy, don't we? But if it was in fact a totalitarian regime disguised as a free democracy, how would we know?

In other words, how can we, in the "free" democracies, ever know for sure that we are not in exactly the same situation in relation to the ruling power as are the inhabitants of the "People's Democratic Republics?"

1 comment:

Winton Bates said...

The claim that you live in a democracy is capable of being tested.

Your comments suggest merely that the test is not just whether elections are held. It is also necessary to consider the conditions under which elections are held and the powers of those who are elected. A range of questions might need to be considered. For example: Is anyone able to stand for election, or only people who are approved by the government? Do the elected representatives have power to vote out the government?