How to kill a Democracy.
Can dangerous outcomes prove the inefficacy of Democracy?
I will answer this from the perspective of a westernised polity from the classical east - India.
Our erstwhile British masters, left a rudimentary parliamentary system of government in India. A strong civil service and policing infrastructure propped it up till 1947. Then we broke free and changed it for good.
After that, we retained the parliamentary system by democratising it. More, we humanised the various organs of the state. Though we haven’t reached the final goal yet, we do have a functional democratic state. We are yet to get rid of some feudal elements. Some class/oligarchical interests continue to plague our system. But I am hopeful that we will do well in time.
Now that the background is clear, let’s answer your question!
Governance is not about the institutions that provide it. The ‘soul’ of these institutions and hence democracy, lies in what we can call ‘wisdom of the society’. Wisdom, that arose from the tragedies across the millennia. Those times, when we tried every other form of government!
It is this ‘collective wisdom’ of the society that gives an edge to democratic societies. We have multiplicity of opinions and they compete each other to generate a narrative. A narrative that could muster the approval of a considerable amount of people.
We know, that these opinions are in consonance with the complex human condition. This is the dogma of democracy. We can’t it prove beyond doubt. But this has an impeccable track record vis-à-vis other forms of governments that we have tried. (Credit - Winston Churchill ;) )
Democracy isn’t about elections. Elections are almost always flawed. Elections always fail to reflect the multiplicity of human condition. The methods we adopt hardly matters. If we put elections as the cornerstone of democracy, we are bound to fail.
Democracy bets on the quality of decisions made, not their quantity. This is exactly how humanity progressed through its wagers in Arts and Science.
To let everyone express, to choose the best from these.
Authoritarian regimes, lack this luxury. They fail to factor in the diversity of opinions that a vibrant society can generate. This is the fundamental weakness of an authoritarian rule. They fail to address the diversity of humanity and this will bring about their downfall.
I am not saying that democracy is inevitable for the survival of an empire. History shows otherwise. As time passes, innovation of its people whither away. I don’t see much incentive for people to innovate with their hands tied. They give up.
Terrible things happen when we sabotage this ‘wisdom of the collective’ for the interests of a few. Mind you, this ‘wisdom of the collective’ is not a collectivist concept. We take in everyone’s wisdom and opinion weighted to her expertise. Things like Trump or Brexit points to the downfall of this system of expression. Not at the failure of Democracy.
Democracy, in itself is yet another form of governance. There are a bazillion ways to effectuate a democracy. Throttling this sharing of information and wisdom brings doom. There is no point in expecting that system to yield the best results.
When it is okay to spew propaganda and pander to the masses unchecked; when there isn’t restrain in selling blatant lies; when there are concerted efforts aplenty to silence dissent - we are driven away from knowing what humanity actually need.
Democracy is about that spirit of a toddler trying to walk again after falling again and again. It is the humanity of a scientist trying a thousand drug combinations before stumbling upon the right concoction. It is about exploration, it is about inquiry and open expression. If this is lost, democracy is lost.
It is in human nature to covet resources. When he needs something, he extend his hands to take it. When two people does the same, we have a conflict. The entire purpose of state system or religion - and whatever aggregations that humanity has ever made - is to make those four hands work together rather than fight with each other. Democracy helps us in reducing conflicts.
The idea of educating every human being out there is a bit Utopian. But I would argue that it’s a noble pursuit. On a personal scale, I don’t really want to wait until every person out there is educated. Just that the ones who can actually contribute intellectually to the governance of a society should be given a chance to do so.
Such chances are denied when the system reels under the grip of an elite or oligarchy. Democracy is all about every person knowing how the resources of the society is being distributed. I don’t propose a method for redistribution. Just enough public information on distribution and how business is done in the society. There should be free movement towards and out of the ‘ruling elite’.
Over the time, talent in the society will find a way to govern itself. This, is the basis of democracy. If this is scuttled, no point in sporting a label of “Democracy”.
Looking from this vantage point, we might see why Democracies of today are panting, if not dead yet.