Problems of democracy


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Problems of democracy

  1. 1. PROBLEMS WITH MODERN DEMOCRACY<br />Democracy is a particular form or method of government and a procedure for arriving at certain political decisions. Democracy is not a theory about what the aims or content of government or law should be. Only that those aims should be guided by the opinion of the majority. Democracy is a peaceful way of changing government where in the past rebellion or revolution was the only way to change a regime. It can be used to remove bad government but there is no guarantee it will produce good government.<br />Democratic government should be guided by the opinion of the majority, and the representatives in a democracy should be elected. Thus it is possible for anyone with any ideology or none to be elected to high office. <br />The aim of constitutional democracy was to limit government. The separation of powers was developed to prevent the arbitrary exercise of power, along with the rule of law, due process and the distinction between public and private law. However with the evolution of universal franchise it has more and more come to seem that control and limit of government are unnecessary. It is thought that if a government is elected by the majority of the people it should have the right to pass any measure and enact any policy. To limit the power of a legitimately elected government has come to appear to be undemocratic, the thwarting of the will of the people.<br />However modern elected governments often do not serve the agreed opinion of the majority but instead a conglomerate of numerous special interest groups. These are groups representing small sections of the population who lobby for favours from the government. Such a small group can benefit greatly from legislation passed in its favour whereas the marginal impact on each member of the rest of the population is so small that it is not worth their while to oppose it. Thus there is an increasing prevalence of bargaining democracy as opposed to representative democracy. Coalitions are formed of a multitude of special interests each of which consents to the special benefits granted to other groups only at the price of their own special interests being equally considered. Group selfishness is thus a greater threat to democracy than individual selfishness. Democracy has become the playball of group interests while the wishes of the majority who have better things to do than be involved in politics are ignored. Worse, policies the majority would actively disapprove of, which further the interests only of minorities, are the ones enacted.<br />The problem is that although constitutionalists sought to limit government by the separation of powers, they did not separate the functions. Thus legislatures pass not only laws but are concerned with the business of government. They often pass legislation best suited to achieve the purposes of the moment. In a sense they can change the rules of the game they are playing so as to never lose. Thus there is no longer government under the law since the government makes the law, often excluding itself and its representatives from that law. Placing the power of legislation proper and of governmental measures in the same hands has effectively brought a return to unlimited government.<br />In the past this did not matter so much as the political culture was still essentially Christian and politicians tended to behave in a responsible way. With the decline of political culture and the rise of the politics of envy, the system is open to great abuse. Politicians promise to deal with social and economic problems unaware that government cannot solve them and indeed is often the cause. They are tempted to bribe the electorate, pandering to their baser instincts and sometimes to misplaced idealism in order to be elected to solve such problems.<br />The rule of law, to preserve which liberal democracy evolved, has been replaced by arbitrary government and the politicization of society. The result has been is rule not by democracy but by bureaucracy. In working, living and believing the state is now the arbiter. It decides about the work place, about the family, and about values. Since increasingly the market is no longer allowed to function freely, the state must decide what to produce and how to distribute that production; since the family as a social unit has declined largely as a result of state action, the state must decide about education, health, behaviour, and all the other aspects of growing up and earning a living; and, finally, since the state decides what values should prevail in society, and ensures that such values are embodied in legislation and enforced by bureaucracies, the state has increasingly replaced the church in determining how we should behave. <br />The solutions are two-fold. First the original political culture that gave rise to liberal democracy needs to be revived based on a modern worldview so that politicians and the electorate behave more responsibly. In this revival religion has an important role as an important articulator of moral and spiritual values. Reflecting and following on from this the rules for the organisation of government should change so that there is a separation of function. In the same way that man's mind has three functions, emotion, intellect and will, so too the three main instiutions of government have specific functions. One assembly, the legislature should represent the opinion of the people through passing laws which reflect the rules of just conduct of society. It would not be organised on party principles which has corrupted democratic law making. The other, the governmental assembly should be guided by the will of the people on particular measures that should be taken within the framework of common law and rules laid down by the first assembly. The judiciary would rule as to whether the rules of just conduct, written and unwritten had been violated. The shared absolute values based on heart would be the source of the political culture.<br />