- Politics and Social Issues
Death of Democracy
Decline of Democracy
eath of democracy “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”, Ronald Reagan It is now fashionable in America to say that government is the problem, and people do not want government. Some say businesses can do even law and order and that should be open to competition. They even site some small societies where low and order is a done by private organizations. Such people forget that such enterprises are successful only because they are very small and there is a ‘super-organization’ that ensures that they do not act within the bounds of law –the government. When such an organization controls a large territory, we call it government. When we allow competition, we call it democracy. If anyone thinks we can run on private organizations without a government, we only have to look at sub – Saharan Africa to see that it is a myth. There are different organizations there that manage law and order and each competes in their own way and we call them, you guessed it, militias. Another example is the Mafias that started as protection rackets; where governments failed, they became the local government. And there was competition too, they fight with each other, literally, and the protection became extortion. No one wants to live under them, even an autocracy is preferred to militias and yet the American think tanks rail against government and big government.
What, actually, is ‘big’ government? They will not specify. Is it the big organization, bureaucracy? Or is it the Law and Order that restrict them to exploit? Though the real problem is the former, what the think-tanks rail against is the latter. What will it achieve? It turns the populace against government which can give more and more powers to big businesses (by the time they realize that too much power is given away it will be late). Now why do they do that? Because their main support base is big business, so they should support them. There is also another thing called lobbying where by big business achieve their ends. They give perks to politicians and publish pseudoscience as science or exaggerate the debates among scientists to mislead the public and politicians. Politicians who want their support obviously will endorse them. In a democracy, the only legitimate way to change the laws or bring change is to elect a politician who support that view, while lobbying is an under the table maneuvering, controlling the politician who was elected to change what he promised and there by deceive the voters. This is another reason people lose trust in democracy because they lost trust in the politicians who make up the government.
The anti-climate change debate is an example. Whether climate change occurs or not, laws to limit climate change is bad for business. So they lobby against it. They will bring about people who support their position and give perks to politicians. Because of the perks and because they have people to quote as supports, the politicians will happily abide them and mock those who say ‘climate change’. (I am not saying that there will be climate change, whether there is climate change or not most probably it is going to affect only our second or third generation. Why should be bother about them as we are not sure whether we would even have a future generation? By any lucky chance, if ice age appears before or the earth get destroyed by an asteroid. Well, even otherwise we do not have to bother as we have fewer children than need to continue future generations.) I said a big bureaucracy is a problem. We need a bureaucracy to implement the government programs. It is also a check on the government and act as a check and balance of the bureaucracy itself. However, the problem is that it goes on increasing in size. More money needs to be spend on it. The tax government extracts (when America was established there was no income tax, now various taxes takes more than fifty percent of what one earns, similar to a subject in autocracy) is mostly spend of bureaucracy and each year the costs of maintaining it increases. As we saw in my hub “economics of politics”
it is in the leaders self-interest to extract the maximum without alienating his subjects. In any government if the extraction exceeds beyond the toleration capacity of its subjects, they will revolt (the toleration capacity in an autocracy is more as they, especially the leaders, have more to lose by rioting). However, the increasing maintenance costs of bureaucracy forces the government to increase taxes or find some other means to increase the revenue, which is usually limited. Another reason for the end of a democracy which is faster than an autocracy because big bureaucracies form faster in democracy as it is democracy that needed more checks. Increased extraction and maintenance costs destroy or topple governments and new governments will form with new bureaucracy that will continue the same and end the same way, unless toppled by other factors.
Socialism needs a bigger bureaucracy is one reason why socialism do not survive well in democracies. Another reason, which is common to democracy, is the rigidity of big organizations. Big organizations need more response time (the notorious red tape of India is an example) hence it cannot responds to shocks faster, rather it may be very late when it acts. It can absorb minor shocks but repetitive shocks or big shocks can topple it down. When climate change occurred, the big dinosaurs went extinct the small reptiles or mammals were not affected. Big organizations become less controllable. The political boss has less control and policy changes become more difficult. Whoever rules, the public perceive no change.
Another factor is trade unionism. Unionism started as a mechanism to protect the interests of the workers, but it has made it difficult to evaluate them. It has taken accountability out of the workers. Workers started to oppose any rules that may affect them adversely. It started to protect inefficiency. It also became difficult to adapt the system to the changing conditions. It also contributed to the rigidity of the system. The workers started to protect their interests above the national interests.
Another reason similar to lobbying is nepotism and corruption. We can consider lobbying also as a form of corruption and it all means that the government officials and politicians awarding jobs and lucrative contracts to relatives and friends. It becomes more common when the bureaucracy grows in size as people will have to give ‘incentives’ to move their files faster. Size also reduces the transparency. When people feel that they are excluded from government trouble can foment though it in itself may not be a reason. Corruption can act as a smoldering ember that is ready to burn.
Politicians are also torn selecting between merit and loyalty. If they chose merit, the country and party will prosper but their colleagues may turn rivals and they might lose their positions. On the other hand, if they choose loyalty, the party and nation loses. Usually self-interest and pragmatism trumps national interest.
Irresponsible partisan media is another that can bring down democracy. They will act as the arms of big business and political bosses. They distort news and divide people. They exaggerate the divide among the ethnic, religion and political lines. People have a general tendency to fall back to tribalistic tendency in times of confusions. Media aggravates it and pits each group against the other. Cader-istic parties and religions cleverly exploit such divisions. Similarly, people may have a different opinion regarding national interests than politicians. These may be partisan interests usually formed with the help of or active encouragement media. If the politicians are states-men, they will have to disregard the public opinion and act in the interest of national interests. Then the media and the public will crucify them and it will reduce the trust in democracy. On the other hand, if they against national interest and act according to the public interest when the bad effects turn up, the same media and public will turn against them.
In a similar vein, politicians usually plan short term. The longest term for a politician is only up to the next election. He will not usually do anything that can hurt him in the short or long term, even if it is good for the nation. That also can undermine democracy.
Democracies can bring retrograde and blanket rules (though less compared to autocracies) instead of acting to the situation. An example was the Nazi trials. The Nazi supporters and common soldiers were punished even though what they did was legal as per the laws of their country. The law anywhere is that the soldiers should obey their seniors. By bringing the soldiers to trial, they where undermining their own military and future effective action. The soldiers will think twice to act if their own countries condition is precarious because they may be punished later for acting in their countries interests. The democracies tied their own hands by promulgating rules and failed to intervene in situations where intervention was needed. They are even trying to act democratically and through local consensus where real force is what were needed if situation had to be brought under control. Afghanistan is a prime example, the Americans failed to use proper force, once they have decided to intervene, even though they had a historical example set to them by the British in 1838 by its invasion of Afghanistan under McNaughton, The British lot and its army annihilated for the same reasons even though the British won the battles. Such Battles weaken the central government and its effectiveness. Such weakness though have no immediate effect, may turn bad when other factors arises that threaten the government. Indecisiveness and weakness is always a baggage to any governments.
Another reason is capitalism. Yes, though we hear that capitalism works best in democracy capitalism has a tendency to outgrow and bypass the government. When companies get big, they feel that they can ignore the restrictions placed by the government. It may even topple governments or may themselves act as government as happened in Latin Americas.
“Communist manifesto - the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. “ However, the manifesto did not say what would happen after the bourgeois have chased the entire globe. The bourgeois did chase the whole globe by the beginning of twentieth century, but did not find much of a problem because they got new markets in the form of a growing population. Now, the growth of markets has stopped as the population growth is coming down. As most democracies depend on the capitalist money as a source of revenue, their revenue is drying up. Once revenue dries up, it will not be able to continue its governance.
The proponents of capitalism say it is the best because it rewards hard work and discourage laziness. People get what they work for and that market is a great equalizer. That is actually not the case. Success depends on three things, hard work, genius and opportunity. Except for the first, the other two is not in anyone’s control. Ones Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) are very important for success, but one has no control or ones IQ or EQ, which are genetically endowed. Being at the right place and the right time is also very important and that is purely luck not any work that help. People who are successful naturally attribute it all to their hard work while people who are not successful and lazy people both attribute their lack of success on ill luck. Therefore, it is imperative that the government do some redistribution to level the field. It is the job of the government to help the unlucky even though the lazy also take advantage of the help. The capitalists catch hold of the latter fact and deride any help, and there by undermine democracy. Politicians on the other hand understand that it is sizable number of people that receive help and can act as an insurance vote back by giving indiscriminately. If the receivers get upper hand, their numbers will increase which will stifle free spirit and business by extra taxation. It is the failure of democracy that parties that favor such groups can arise and get power and they serve their constituents’ interests more than national interests.
If we do not give, people who really deserve will not get. As most people has to suffer misfortune at some point of time and as the number of old people increases who had paid all their taxes by believing that the government is the insurance will feel let down. Though they may not revolt, the young generation finding that the government is untrustworthy and might revolt which can topple a democracy.
Gross inequality can topple governments. The middle class help business run by acting as the market. Inequality shrinks that market. There is an antipathy against the rich among the low socioeconomic classes. As the underprivileged increase in number and as the middle classes shrinks that general antipathy increases and may turn to positive hate. If the division has some actual or perceived religious or ethnic relations, the hate multiplies. This can turn into violent conflicts, which sometimes can go beyond the capacity of the state to control.
[As an aside, one common theme of capitalist is that no Picasso has come from welfare societies. Think about it, is it better to have one or two Picassos while many sit begging at your city gates, or to have a city with no Picasso or beggars. After all, only the extra rich can afford a Picasso while the rest can only see its copies]
Another weakness of democracy is democracy itself. They try to pamper the opponents and failing to see crisis as it is. They will try to be politically correct, and wavers in action while decisive action will be late in coming or not at all coming. Democracies in trying to preserve diversity may go to the opposite extreme, give extra freedom to minorities and forget that it is important for the, especially religious and ethnic, minorities to integrate. They leave the minorities to continue with their tradition even if the traditions are imported and not indigenous. A famous example is Netherlands, where they did not ask the minorities to integrate and hence they continued their cultures that were contradictory to democracy and finally ended up in the shooting of a film director. Think what would happen if the minorities become strong enough as a vote bank, parties will arise that cater to their needs and they becomes stronger and finally they can topple the democracy itself.
Further into the future
These are the factors that can topple a democracy; so what? If you examine carefully, all these factors, to more or less, are in action in America.
It is a difficult thing to predict the future, especially the timing. If history is any guide, we know that all governments are toppled at sometime or other. In addition, what follow a democracy is not a democracy but dictatorships and tyranny. If these factors are not taken care of, if measures are not taken to arrest of at least slow down the flow of the destabilizing factors it sure follows that America will collapse, in our lifetime. If I am to hazard a guess, it will happen within ten years. Governments are more stable than the economy. However, a major economic collapse can topple any government and such a collapse is in the offing, as I have discussed in my other hubs.
If the democracy collapses, there will be wide spread violence and death. Unlike the collapse of Romans or other ancient empires based on agriculture, the collapse of service based economy and interconnected world has far-reaching consequences. Where a good number of people carry guns, and where majority are jobless and far removed from the food sources, violence can turn ugly. None may survive from the resulting violence and poverty. Moreover, we do have some trailers in Russian famines, where Cannibalism too occurred; here situation will be even worse because Russia was agricultural then and not service based.
The worst problem is that it will not be confined to America. Believe it or not, all nations need America and its rich customers. Collapse of America can initiate a cascade effect. The collapse spread to Europe first and then to the rest of the nations. We will see a new world arises out of the ashes of the old, a world that has more in common with our own civilization beginnings, a world few technologies and a population that are in ten thousands, if not thousands, a world the westerners have not seen for the last 10000 years.