Democracy was designed as a solution to the tyranny of monarch rule placing the power in the hands of the people. Of course this is the preferred method of governance when contrasted with autocratic rule. However, this doesn’t mean democracy is a flawless system. When democracy was conceived the world was a less complex place. Nations operated in relative isolation which meant populations were relatively homogenous and did not therefore carry as much social tension. Additionally, economic conditions were based upon relatively isolated agrarian production. Since the 18th century the world has changed as has the nature of trade as well as the components of societies. Can democracy therefore deliver in the present environment?
Recently there has been a number of democratic infrastructures that have failed throughout the world. Gun laws for example is a polarised issue but the inaction following decades of mass shootings and gun deaths highlights the failure of the U.S system to deliver for the people. The U.S democratic system has clearly been subverted by money, greed and self-interest. Furthermore, Belgium and Northern Ireland were without governments leaving public services to wither and crumble. How can it be argued therefore that democracy is the correct system for the present?
Brexit illustrates the need to ask this question. Although EU membership has been a point of contention among some politicians it wasn’t really an issue among the general populace until immigration became a scapegoat. Because Freedom of movement is a foundational pillar of the EU it became an easy political strategy to blame the EU for a lack of border control in the UK. The European Union was a scapegoat before David Cameron had decided to set a referendum. In hindsight, the decision to have a referendum was naïve because many of Cameron’s issues with the EU were economic. Naturally an economic argument is more difficult to win because it is not as self-evident as an emotional argument appealing to baser tribalism. Herein lies the principle problem of democracy. People are taking misinformed decisions on issues that are rarely given a second or third thought.
The problems are clear in my mind. Not every issue is a ‘political’ one and therefore does not require debate. Human rights do not require debate. Economic issues are not universally taught and a reasonable debate cannot be expected. Can a democracy therefore serve increasingly complex, globalised and multicultural societies? I do not and will never advocate authoritarian rule and this article should not be misconstrued as such. Democracy can serve everyone but not in the current format. Human flaws need to be minimised, knowledge needs to be maximised and certain things are not debatable. I will not explore how democracy can be strengthened in this post for brevity but it is important not to let the defined parameters set our limits.