Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Frustrated With Democracy - Part II

My previous post attempted to analyze Josh's frustration with democracy, addressing the potential need for a "voting test" to set a minimum level of political competence among the electorate.

In theory, a "voting test" is desireable as an attempt to (a) increase the collective intelligence of the electorate, which should lead to voting results more reflective of the electorate's desire(s); and/or (b) minimize voter "round-ups" on election day, where votes are exchanged for booze or money.

However, the likelihood that a bureaucracy (agency) would have to be formed to implement and overseer the test and the price-tag that would accompany such an agency just does not seem desireable.

Furthermore, and something I neglected to touch on, is the "chilling effect" such a test would likely have. A voting test would be another impediment to voting for many people - and many people need a minimum level of inconvenience to excuse themselves from exercising their right to vote.

As desireable as an informed electorate might be, and a voting test to insure such a desire, bureaucratically and economically speaking, I have serious doubts that it can be done effectively and efficiently. I have little faith in the government to do much in an effective and/or efficient manner. That is probably why I'm politically conservative.

On to Josh's other thoughts:

One last response to Olen: "The form of the test may be as problematic as actually developing the governmental apparatus to implement the test." I agree, but developing the Constitution was also problematic. The difficulty of the task doesn't mean that it shouldn't be undertaken.

Josh, as usual, absolutely correct - I short armed that pass. The difficulty of the task, in isolation, does not require the application of the emergency brake on the project. To clarify, I think that the problems with formulating a test is that the agency charged with such a task would likely corkscrew itself into gridlock over the topics to include in the test. I have little faith that such an agency would be able to work toward a fair, non-partisan test. I'm not even sure that a "fair, non-partisan" test is attainable. However, blatant morbid curiosity would cause me to tune into the fist-to-cuffs that would fly as a result of such an attempt.


As to Josh's other thoughts:

To me, the meat of the post is the part about aristocracy and what humans want from a government. I'm eager to see what anyone has to say about that.


Politics is the long process of the aristocracy reasserting itself. Say it like a mantra and let it sink in. Human beings are, by and large, the types of creatures that want an elite group to rule over them. Humans only "yearn to breath free" in certain specialized circumstances (such as a life lived under heavy oppression). Other than that, people want to be told what to do. If people are allowed to self-govern they will eventually set up their own artificial aristocracies (or perhaps theocracies). By 'aristocracy' I mean 'government by the citizens deemed best qualified to lead' (definition from Perhaps they will let scientists rule their lives, perhaps theologians, perhaps rhetoricians. Most likely, subgroups in the countries will choose different
aristocrats to follow.

So what does all this mean? It means that democracy is a doomed experiment. Democracy is contrary to human nature, so it will ultimately fail as most other political systems have. People say they want to rule their own destinies, but they really don't want to put in the time it takes to do so.

I think there is an interesting, and obvious, paradox in human nature that Josh has identified. I would interpret the paradox as the desire to have freedom defined by boundaries. Assuming this paradox is true / exists, how does a tribe / culture / society define the bounds of freedom? What person / group decides the bounds? What person / group enforces those bounds?

In one respect, it seems natural that an aristocracy results as a consequence of a common societal ethos. Assuming that the tribe / culture / society desires to function in an orderly manner, and conversely does not want to invite destruction upon itself, then it is somewhat predictable that those labeled as "best qualified" would be elevated to positions of leadership. On average, the best qualified should make the best decisions relative to the rest of the citizens, assuming those that are best qualified are relatively the most intelligent and most reasonable / logical. That doesn't necessarily follow that the best qualified will ultimately make the right / appropriate decisions - folks of all intelligence levels make poor decisions. But, those best qualified should be helpful in promoting the progress of the society it leads.

Once the group-wanting-self-government has decided upon its initial aristocracy, the next question is the permanence of the individual(s) that constitute the aristocracy, if that has not already been decided by constitution or other document (such as with the U.S.). By installing a permanent aristrocracy, the group would be inviting some form of authoritative / dictatorial rule, in which the people may progressively have power taken from them (through force or reticience, among other options). An alternative to a permanent aristrocracy is something akin to the US system, which may be accurately labeled an aristrocracy with a revolving door (of sorts). While many families have been part of the aristocratic class since the revolution, there have been other families that have entered and exited the aristocratic class over the past two centuries. Poverty does not have to be permanent in this society, thus the aristocratic club can have turnover. That seems to be the best alternative, where the aristocrats perpetually govern, but the face of the aristocrats are replaced periodically, though the replacement is never wholesale.

I suspect that my analysis is probably unsatisfactory or incomplete - admittedly, my "analysis" only tap dances around the issues, but it may be a good starting point for further sub-discussions at a later time.

Whether democracy is doomed or not is something I will have to explore in what I hope is the final installment (*acknowledges cheers of the pundits*).


Blogger Joshua_Duncan said...

I finally got around to responding. Read me!

9:20 AM  

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