An Analysis of Democracy


George Bernard Shaw once said: "Democracy substitutes
election by the incompetent many incompetent many for
appointment by the corrupt few...", and while I don't have
nearly such a bleak outlook on our method of government,
Mr. Shaw does hold an iota of truth in his quotation. In a
perfect world, where everyone is informed, intelligent, and
aware of their system of administration, democracy would
work perfectly. In a world where there are different
personalities, dissimilar concerns and divergent points of
view, democracy falls short of the ideal of having all
people being equal. Similarly, having a Philosopher-King or
an equivalent in control of a country sounds fine on paper,
but there would be different philosophies, disputes within
the philosopher-king hierarchy itself, and of course, the
never-ending task of stabilizing an entire country would
daunt even the most qualified person. 

It is a mechanical fault of democracy itself, and not the
many leaders caught up in a democratic bureaucracy that
causes a country to stumble. A democracy is where the
government is run by all the people who live under it. To
have a true democracy, everyone must vote. People vote to
exercise their democratic rights; if only 70% vote, then
70% control 100% of the government. Voting without adequate
understanding and choosing candidates for the wrong reasons
are symptoms of voting for the sake of voting and not
taking an active interest in how our country is run.
Instead of making an effort to understand issues and party
fundamentals, too many ignorant people actually base their
decisions on what the candidates tell them. The result is
that everybody feels "burned" by the government, never
realizing that they could have tipped the election simply
by paying attention. Another problem with democracy is the
structure of any government's bureaucracy.
Vote for a party/candidate only in principle, because in
practice, they act completely the same. Imagine bureaucracy
as a great fast-moving train; even if another engineer
takes control, it is incredibly hard to make any large
adjustments without severely unstabilizing the train.
Similarly, it wouldn't matter if any political party is in
power, because any fundamental change would upset a lot of
people (one of the unwritten laws of politics: to make a
drastic change is to invite political suicide). In the case
of a philosopher-king, a lot more could be done because he
would have the power of a monarch, yet his judgment would
not be watered down through bloodlines (like how decadent
the British monarch has become from their stable position
of power). 

It would appear that the idea of a philosopher king has the
best of both worlds: The control of a dictatorship, but the
freedom of a (controlled) democracy. (The philosopher king
is not defined as concisely as I'd like, so I'm taking some
liberties here). Someone who is bred specifically to lead a
country would be better than any politician; they would be
specialized in the physics of politics, they would have
unique insights into old political problems, and could
master political double-speak by age 10! No question, a
more stable country would develop under a purebred leader,
but there could be many more unseen problems that would
come along with an absolute ruler. The term, philosopher
king would create an image of a monarchical rule, where his
word is law. That would have the advantage of streamlining
the government, with the absolute leader making quick,
summary judgments. Any problems that could develop through
a monarchy would not be anything new; more than a few
countries have felt (and have rebelled against) the
stranglehold of a king holding absolute power over them.
Another problem with the philosopher king: which
philosophy? A Socrates indoctrinated ruler would have
different viewpoints from an existentialist philosopher
king. Would people vote for different philosophies as well
as their favorite king? There would be as many problems
with the mechanics of a philosopher king as there would be
with a democracy.
I'm not saying that either is better: Both the philosophy
of democracy, and the concept of a philosopher king both
sound good in theory, but once the human factor is
introduced, an incalculable variable is introduced into any
equation, political or otherwise. It may appear that a
philosopher king may have a short term upper hand, but
eventually, that system will fall under its own
bureaucracy; as badly as a system where the ignorance of
nation would rule themselves. John Lowell is quoted as
saying "Democracy gives everyone the right to be his own
oppressor..." so why put more oppression in a country? 


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