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An Alternative To Democracy

Updated on November 6, 2013

Alternatives to Democracy

 One of my subjects at University was "Politics", during which I learned about forms of government such as monarchy. autocracy, democracy. dictatorship etcetera. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Soon after I left University I learned of a variation on democracy, about which I had not been taught.

Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute was the pen name of a brilliant engineer called Nevil Shute Norway. He wrote a series of books, each of which is really excellent. "In the Wet" was one of his later books, written after he had left Britain for Australia. It is an anti-socialist book, but so well written that the story was stronger for me than the political slant. After all, if I only read socialist books, my mind would be even narrower than it is now.

The Dream Sequence

The hero of this novel was a pilot, who nearly dies. While he is near death he has a dream in which he is still an Australian pilot, but the political system is very different to democracy as we currently know it. The voting system was, according to the dream, invented in Western Australia. It was so successful that quite quickly the whole of Australia adopted it.

The Seven Votes

Elections were held in the normal way. but the number of votes each elector had was not the same.

Every person over 21 had the basic vote.

If you had a degree or a professional qualification or you had been an officer in the armed forces you had an extra vote.

If you had earned your living abroad for two years you had an extra vote. Our hero had been a pilot officer in World War II, so he starts the story as a three vote man.

If you had raised two children to the age of 14 (then the school leaving age) without a divorce, both of you were entitled to an extra vote because you are the glue that holds society together.

There was a vote based on an income threshold. The thinking was that a man might have fallen out with his wife, but substantial economic achievement deserved that he should have more votes than his junior typist.

Someone who was doing a real job for his church on a voluntary basis, be it lay preacher or some kind of organiser, was making a substantial contribution to society.

The Seventh Vote was the personal gift of the Queen, given only for services to the Monarchy or as recognition of some significant achievement outside the given parameters. I will not spoil the story by telling you how our hero earns the Seventh Vote.

Arguments For

The argument for this system of voting is that it recognised that not everyone is alike. It favours those who have contributed to society, and recognises that they have life experience, common sense, and have worked hard to get where they are. They have more to contribute to society than the one vote person who has not achieved any of the voting qualifications.

The argument is that if you give the sensible people more votes than the feckless, you will get better politicians and better political programmes. You will get better management of what state there is, and there will be a strong desire not to expand the state any further than necessary. Conversely if it is necessary to do something extraordinary but necessary the electorate will back it.

Arguments Against

Once you move away from one man one vote you are damaging democracy. If you believe that all men are created equal, you will not go down this road. There will be people who perhaps never earn much money, and whose personal lives had had hitches, but they are and should be equal in voting to people who perhaps have been fortunate. Given that one marriage in three ends in divorce, and many people now do not marry, many good people would still only have one vote. That would be immensely unfair.

What do I think?

As some readers will know, I was a socialist activist for many many years. I am against the idea. because it is intrinsically undemocratic. A rich person would have between 1.5 and 2 times as many votes as a poor person. If the rich person has a university degree the imbalance moves to 3 times.

So why has the idea stuck in my mind for over 30 years? Because it has some attraction as a way of righting the imbalance between the scrounging parasites of this world and the people whose taxes support them.

Dealing with the very rich parasites is a different problem, but it may be that a better democracy can deal with them, too.


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    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      The argument for the "working abroad" vote is that living in a foreign culture teaches you to understand and to appreciate your own society better.

      The "basic vote" is necessary because otherwise people who perhaps have never married and never earned much would be completely disenfranchised.

      I personally would add an extra vote for combat veterans, but that is a different discussion!

    • TheUnrecordedMan profile image


      4 years ago

      I thought this was a terrific post. I would be a three-vote man because I have a degree (not in a difficult or useful subject) and I have worked abroad for 20 years.

      Truth be told, I don't understand why working abroad wins you an extra vote. I would tend to think that you have contributed less to the home country if you have spent a long time abroad (as I have) and therefore you should forfeit a vote. So, in my own mind I'm a two-vote man.

      I think you could only be against such an arrangement as Shute set out here if you disagree with the idea that some people contribute more to society than others and that this matters. I believe some people contribute more and that it matters. I tend to think that someone who has never contributed anything to his country shouldn't have a vote at all. It doesn't matter how 'unfortunate' or 'vulnerable' you are. Rules is rules and if I were one of the no-voters, I would understand this perfectly well.

      I find it odd that the very things that make this arrangement attractive to you are also the things that you find unacceptable because they go against your socialist leanings. I think this should tell you something; namely, that there is something intrinsically wrong with the idea of equality. It is clear to me that we are not all equal. Many people are taller, better looking and cleverer than me. No doubt they had cleverer genes or were brought up in an environment that helped their cleverness flourish, or both. I am neither envious nor resentful about this. It is just how things are. And I am happy that people who increase 'social capital' in society like married couples who stay together and raise good children, something from which we all benefit, get more of a say in how things are done in that society. It also works as an incentive to become one of them. At the moment I see no real incentive to strive to become a 'good person'.

    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      In the original Greek democracies all citizens had military training and were expected to put their lives on the line in battle. And in return they had a say in what went on in the polis.

      We have lost that.

      Would there be so many wars if rich peoples children coiuld not buy military exemption?

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      6 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Once people start thinking they're better than other people...hmmm.

    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK


      A slippery slope!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      the question is, in REALITY, is everyone really equal?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I cannot quite see how above idea can help "righting the imbalance between the scrounging parasites of this world and the people whose taxes support them." It sounds more like that problem would get worse.

      But the general problem, that a country have the politicians it deserves, is there, because it isn't quite that simple as I see it. We have TV to make people stupid and little else in the programs, we have schools which are aimed at drilling the students in giving specific answers to specific questions but which does not teach them to think, and we have films that are mostly stupid action and nourish no one. The only stimulation and challenges I can see are on the net, and I fear that is not enough.

      I sometimes wonder if the way to go is in the opposite direction to the one you mention; more direct democracy. In Schweitz they seem to manage.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 

      7 years ago from california

      This is not something I could ever agree with, although it is quite an interesting concept.

      Great hub, Charles!

    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      7 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      I find this idea disturbing. On the one hand, as a democrat I believe all people are equal. On the other, I respect people who have done something with their lives more than people who seem to me to be feckless wasters. This proposal moves democracy away from the "representative democracy" concept and puts electoral power more directly into the hands of the steady sensible voters.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      This is an interesting concept. As with nearly all ideas, there is a kernel of truth in it. The beauty of representative government is that you have democracy—you get to vote for your representative. But it is not direct democracy. The representative should be an elite member of society who can balance what the voters want with what he or she, as a leader among men and women, thinks is best and right.

      Excellent Hub! Thanks.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      We in the United States have already recognized that not everyone is alike and we have legislated benefits for many categories.

    • weholdthesetruths profile image


      8 years ago from Western Flyover Country

      I don't see this as an "alternative" to democracy. It is merely a mechanism by which the political types get to hand out favors and more influence to those which they want to have more influence. "Vote for me, and if you do the things I want you to do, I'll give you more sway in making sure things go my way." It is merely a mechanism to make politics even more incestuous than it is.


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