Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

Democracy: perfect world vs sad reality

I must admit that sometimes I indulge into reading Karl Popper, John Stuart Mill and other classic liberal thinkers, and their idealized theories on how a perfect liberal democracy should function. What a beautiful view of the world they envisage! Responsible, rational and knowledgeable citizens spend their time contemplating political and philosophical problems, engage into debates and then exercise their educated opinion in a political vote with the only goal – to uncover the ultimate truth as a consensus among multitudes of opinions. Can there be a society more perfect?

Unfortunately, this view is highly idealistic. The sad reality is that most people are ignorant and uneducated retards. For instance, see the latest book of American political philosopher Jason Brennan for an empirical evidence on how biased and uninformed an average American voter is – thanks to the lack of education and numerous cognitive biases. For instance, in 1992 only 12% of Americans with no higher education could answer which party is more conservative: Republicans or Democrats.

The society that achieved the closest version of a perfect democracy is the Ancient Athens. What almost no one mentions though is the costs at which this was achieved. Being a citizen was a full-time job. A citizen had to participate in countless debates regarding political issues of the polis, carefully listen to each speaker, discuss the proposal and then vote. Often on dozens of topics per day. Moreover, a citizen was also assigned to perform some civil function that was rotated randomly among citizens and performing which occupied the rest of their time – the free time not spent in debates. No wonder why many Athenians actually refused to bear the status of a citizen (not counting the slaves, they had no choice).

Fast-forward to the modern days: we obviously don’t have slavery anymore, however most people are still part of the system that evolved from it: an 8-hour workday. Moreover, everyone is promoted to the status of a citizen and is consequently pressured to vote in democratic elections. So how on Earth would you expect an ordinary working-class person to produce an educated unbiased opinion and exercise it though a vote supposedly based on his deep knowledge and research? No way this can happen. An average person would rather spend his 2 hours of free time per day watching TV, not reading textbooks on economics.

In Russia we have a concept of a “managed democracy”. It characterizes the way how Russian politicians present the Russian political regime as democratic, but then directly manipulate the results of elections in their favour. The sad truth is that almost any democracy is a managed one. Of course, not due to such extreme political schemes as in Russia, but due to many other methods of influencing public opinions: Internet, media, marketing campaigns, etc.

Time is a scarce resource. Ordinary citizens simply don’t have enough of it to read books and scientific papers on economics, history and concepts of an effective foreign policy. They have to get their information through whatever sources are most available: news, TV, articles on the Internet. Unfortunately, these are exactly the channels which are the easiest to direct (or “manage”) through the funding of political campaigns. Ultimately, whoever has the best funding or technology will have the biggest influence on voters. Like… the fact that Russian hackers have allegedly managed to influence the outcome of 2016 US elections (hello, Timothy Snyder!) – doesn’t this fact imply that people who believe into all rubbish published on Facebook are extreme retards, and the system that entrusts the political agency into their hands is flawed, to say at least?

So, anyway, these are just some personal musings on the topic. I just started to read the Brennan’s book 5 pages ago, but he already hints at some pretty interesting theories on how democracy can be reformed and improved as a system – for instance, epistocracy through a restricted suffrage or weighted voting. Anyway, that’s going to be a different topic, so brace yourself for another blog post or… one more 2,000-word-long review on Goodreads.

I write about cats and theories. About the blog »