Democracy needs changing.
Where do we go from here?
Whilst democracy is theoretically the best way to govern, it is still open to improvement in the way it is practised.
This has always been the case. The city state of Athens is often quoted as the birth place of democracy but it must be remembered that only the very wealthy had a vote and that the Athens economy was based on the use of slaves. So not democracy as we understand it now.
Definition: Democracy—Government by the people for the people. A method of choosing a government where all adults have an equal vote in selecting who governs the nation.
Consider the USA. If the administration is a bureaucracy controlled by the elected president it is close; to being democratic; but while democracy is the best way of governing we have, so far, it is still not perfect. Consider the quality of governance over the last 50 years. Would any rational person think that a nation of 250 to 300 million people, could have been expected to do better?? In Britain there are many things that are not democratic; for example, the bureaucracy has too much control, mostly due to weak politicians.
Among the biggest problems faced by democracy are the sheer scale and complexity of the population governed by each nation. We have, in just about every democracy, constituents that are not all from one ethnic base, nor are they of one religious belief system. They are multi-cultured and even within each culture there are sub divisions. Add in the distortion caused by global information networks, global businesses with enormous power and wealth; then add to this mix a media that is all pervasive and controlled by multinational business. All of these wealthy and powerful forces have their own agendas, needs and aims. Aims that do not include government by the people for the people. Consider these factors and you have the reasons that democracy is failing so many of the ordinary people it is supposed to support. We do not have government by the people for the people.
The bureaucracy runs the country, any country. Politicians may think they make the decisions but those decisions are made based on information supplied by bureaucrats. The decisions are interpreted into law by the same bureaucrats. The application of those decisions is left entirely to those same bureaucrats. Who has the real power?
In most western democratic nations there is also the effect of the law courts. For commendable reasons most try to keep the law courts free of political control. In most cases the control comes from the bureaucracy. The same unelected group who control what policy is actually enacted. Whilst the majority of people working in the legal profession will claim, and some even believe, they are free from any control; they only have to look at the very top of their particular administrative tree. They will see that senior administrators come from the same group as those who run the government. This is natural, the laws of homogeneous attraction work in politics and bureaucracies, as they do everywhere else.
What can be done to improve democracy and finally make it actually mean government by the people for the people?
Breaking things down to small groups with actual power over small localities, would seen one solution but, the interaction between these small groups would probably cause problems. The nation could very quickly become fragmented.
Handing over the administration to Artificial Intelligent computer systems, so that elected politicians directly input their chosen policies and the computers transfer that to action, is an appealing view of the future. The programming would need very careful scrutiny to ensure it is unbiased and to some extent the logic and learning capabilities, of an AI computer, would have to be curtailed; since a change in the elected government would mean a change to the direction of any policy and the AI computer may decide for itself that this was not a good idea.
Curtailing the power of senior managers, of the bureaucracy, is a more obvious solution, using technology to lessen the number of people in administration and so speeding up the processes of policy implementation is desirable. But how? The American system where a President is elected separately from the local representatives of the voters preferences, and then this president appoints a new administration who are not permanent members of the governing system; would seem to be a good way of removing the problems of a permanent administration that rules the nation according to its own set of needs and priorities; but even this American system has its failings. It becomes too partisan Every member, of any administration, is selected because they support the political policy of the president. It is left to the elected members of the two debating chambers, to provide the balance on behalf of the nation. The inherent danger is obvious. Politics is more important to politicians than the welfare of the majority of the people who elect them. So even a good presidential policy can become inert because it suits the politics of the elected members of the other houses, to stop the president winning political support in the nation.
Referendums, where the whole of an electorate vote on a specific issue, has an appeal and may result in greater democratic control. The sheer numbers of people involved make this a very expensive solution. There are also issues where national security could mean the electorate are not told all of the facts that affect the decision they make. Those multi national global enterprises mentioned earlier, would also try to affect every separate referendum decision, affect it in ways that suit themselves, not the people. The wording of the question to be decided is crucial and again if politicians are weak this gets decided by their administrating bureaucracy, which could distort the intended result.
Use of technology to speed up and reduce the cost of referendums does seem the way forwards. Have free fair and honest elections where every adult has a vote and this vote is done in secret, to elect representatives. These representatives chose a leader to be the head of government. This leader then selects, from amongst all those elected, the best people to head up each department. Whilst there has to be staff in each department they do not advise the ministers, they only administer the decisions. Each minister gets advice from their own sources. Then make sure that the main long term policy directions are subject to referendums on that particular issue.
The search for a perfect democratic system needs to go on, it may take a very long time, but the search needs to be going on.