Does Democracy Work?
I’m not so sure democracy is working all that well.
What is democracy? If you ask someone on the street, they’re going to tell you something along the lines of “a system in which the people -and not kings, tyrants, or a group of elites -make the decision”. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the core of democracy. That we, the citizens, are the ones that steer our country. Here in the United States of America that takes the form of a representative democracy, where we elect leaders into power that we trust with representing our interests.
But here’s the problem. For democracy to work - for citizens to make the decisions - we have to be informed enough to make the decisions. You wouldn’t allow a journalist to decide the right fasteners for load-bearing struts in a new building frame, would you? They aren’t qualified to make that decision. There are times I worry the USA if making that exact same mistake: we, the people, aren’t qualified to make the decisions we’re being asked to make.
For instance, one of my good friends is tearing his hair out trying to decide how to vote on California’s ballot. It’s a messy. Prop 32 vs Prop 38? No on Prop 30? What do these things even mean? Let me flip open my booklet and give you an example. Prop 30:
Increase personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years, increase sales and use tax by .25 cent for four years, allocate temporary tax revenues 89% to K-12 schools and 11% to community colleges…Additional state tax revenues of about $6 billion annually from 2012-2013 through 2016-2017..
And on it goes. Afterwords there are several pages on backgrounds, proposals, for and against arguments, responses and rebuttals to those arguments, etc.
I’ll do my best to make an informed decision, and I’ll probably spend a lot more time trying to get informed than the single mothers, hard working parents, busy college age new voters, and your average twenty-something with better things to do. And yet I know I’m going to come away decently confused and doubtfully feeling confident in the vote I’m going to cast. So if I - a political junky - have the arrogance to say I’m probably more informed than your average voter , than what does that make your average voter, but even more woefully underprepared to vote?
Maybe we need the philosopher kings of Plato’s Republic. Maybe we need to throw ourselves back at England’s feet and beg to be taken back into the fold of monarchy after a 2.5 century hiatus. Because as much as I dedicate this blog to informing the electorate about issues, and as much as news shows and webisodes and online newspapers may cover the issues, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m having any are having serious effect. And without an informed electorate, democracy doesn’t work.