Analysis of Democracy


George Bernard Shaw once said: "Democracy substitutes election 
by the 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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