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We Can, and We Will Improve our Democracies

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Rogério Marques
Rogério Marques Apr 12, 2021
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Winston Churchill famously remarked: "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
While George Bernard Shaw commented: "Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for the appointment by the corrupt few."

The origins of democracy are associated with the Athenian politics of Ancient Greece. In that place and time, the ancient Athenians implemented a form of it for about 200 years (which, although excluded slaves and women, took the unprecedented step of including as full citizens individuals without property or status).
In Ancient Rome, the ruling elite implemented a form of democracy for about 500 years (an arguably dysfunctional implementation, comparable to a two-party system where an entrenched elite in a competitive situation accepts popular arbitration between formulated alternatives).

Current democratic implementations are also far from perfect.

Here is a list of problems I contend are affecting our current Democracies/Democratic processes:
  • Majority vote - Winner takes all; loser loses all
  • Partial or weak press - Which can keep the public uninformed about and/or unengaged from important political/social issues
  • Cronyism/Nepotism - appointment of friends, family, or associates to positions of authority, which destroys the potential for meritocracy
  • Tweedism - which makes it possible to get the full range of negative attributes from George Bernard Shaw's comment on Democracy
  • Gerrymandering - manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor a group
  • Low competencies by population in terms of:
  • Leadership literacy
  • Political literacy
  • Resistance to being swayed by mind-trick practices such as neurolinguistic programming or overt propaganda
  • Low public engagement in democratic processes, especially by the youths
  • Virtually non-existent competency validation of aspiring or rerunning state officials (nothing compared to entry in the aviation industry or health professions)
We need to solve problems plaguing Democracy, and we need to solve them fast to avoid severe problems in the future.

[1]TEDx Talks, So, What is Democracy Anyway? | Peter Emerson | TEDxVienna. 2017.

[2]C. Kalenborn and C. Lessmann, “The impact of democracy and press freedom on corruption: Conditionality matters,” Journal of Policy Modeling, vol. 35, no. 6, pp. 857–886, Nov. 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.jpolmod.2013.02.009.

[3]T. Gylfason, “Iceland: How Could this Happen?,” Social Science Research Network, Rochester, NY, SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2398265, Jan. 2014. Accessed: Apr. 12, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2398265.

[4]L. Lessig, America, Compromised. University of Chicago Press, 2020.

[5]T. K. Kuhner, Capitalism v. Democracy. Stanford University Press, 2020.

[6]M. N. Berman, “Managing Gerrymandering,” Tex L. Rev., vol. 83, p. 781, 2005 2004.

[7]A. J. Stewart, M. Mosleh, M. Diakonova, A. A. Arechar, D. G. Rand, and J. B. Plotkin, “Information gerrymandering and undemocratic decisions,” Nature, vol. 573, no. 7772, Art. no. 7772, Sep. 2019, doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1507-6.

[8]TED, What it takes to be a great leader | Roselinde Torres. 2014.

[9]TED, How great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek. 2010.

[10]TEDx Talks, Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? | Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic | TEDxUniversityofNevada. 2019.

[11]TEDx Talks, Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? | David Moscrop | TEDxYYC. 2018.

[12]T. A. van Dijk, “Discourse and manipulation,” Discourse & Society, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 359–383, May 2006, doi: 10.1177/0957926506060250.

[13]C. Edmond, “Information Manipulation, Coordination, and Regime Change*,” The Review of Economic Studies, vol. 80, no. 4, pp. 1422–1458, Oct. 2013, doi: 10.1093/restud/rdt020.

[14]A. Cattapan, J. M. Acker-Verney, A. Dobrowolsky, T. Findlay, and A. Mandrona, “Community Engagement in a Time of Confinement,” Canadian Public Policy, vol. 46, no. S3, pp. S287–S299, Jul. 2020, doi: 10.3138/cpp.2020-064.

[15]A. Blais, “What Affects Voter Turnout?,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 111–125, 2006, doi: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.9.070204.105121.

[16]L. Hill, “Low Voter Turnout in the United States: Is Compulsory Voting a Viable Solution?,” Journal of Theoretical Politics, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 207–232, Apr. 2006, doi: 10.1177/0951629806061868.

[17]J. Dermody, S. Hanmer‐Lloyd, and R. Scullion, “Young people and voting behaviour: alienated youth and (or) an interested and critical citizenry?,” European Journal of Marketing, vol. 44, no. 3/4, pp. 421–435, Jan. 2010, doi: 10.1108/03090561011020507.

Creative contributions

Some possibilities to improve Democracy/Democratic processes

Rogério Marques
Rogério Marques Apr 12, 2021
A few of the ideas for solutions I have gathered:
  • Replace majority voting with preferential voting
  • Implement regulations that only reward candidates with publicly funded campaign money that have validated their leadership/governance skills (instead of tweedism), for example successfully resolving simulated scenarios
  • Improve the population's competence to appraise/evaluate leaders by implementing leadership curricula in schools

[1]P. Emerson, Defining Democracy: Voting Procedures in Decision-Making, Elections and Governance. Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.

[2]“Democracy 4.” https://www.positech.co.uk/democracy4/ (accessed Apr. 12, 2021).

[3]B. Spector, Discourse on Leadership: A Critical Appraisal. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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Consequences I fear for the future if we fail in improving democracy

Rogério Marques
Rogério Marques Apr 12, 2021
Here are some examples of the enormous challenges we face in our future:
  • Mass extinction caused by humankind due to loss of ecological antifragility (aka biodiversity)
  • Climate change/Global warming with catastrophic effects contributing to substantial declines in our safety and wellbeing
  • Social and economic inequality, as well as low social mobility, leads to and worsens psychosis, crippling debt crushing the poorest quartiles of the population
  • Unsustainable business practices such as:
  • overfishing the oceans into sterility
  • grazing the Earth with cattle into a desert planet
  • covering the Earth in plastic waste
  • inefficient and wasteful uses of energy by holding industries back in terms of reliance on fossil fuels
  • hugely lucrative business & wealthy individuals committing tax fraud/evasion
  • Lack of oversight on sectors that have so much power, their choices may affect our wellbeing against our will
  • Limbic capitalism, which further depletes lower class competencies for saving and investing while catalyzing consumerism, leading to more social psychosis due to the overvaluation of non-human item values (both material items and intangibles) relative to individual human valuation, besides damaging the environment
  • Corporate lobbying our states into plutocracies that although might say they are democratic without actually being democratic

[1]T. Pievani, “The sixth mass extinction: Anthropocene and the human impact on biodiversity,” Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 85–93, Mar. 2014, doi: 10.1007/s12210-013-0258-9.

[2]M. Ahmed, “Introduction to Modern Climate Change. Andrew E. Dessler: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 252 pp, ISBN-10: 0521173159,” Sci Total Environ, vol. 734, p. 139397, Sep. 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139397.

[3]M. Ahmed, “Introduction to Modern Climate Change. Andrew E. Dessler: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 252 pp, ISBN-10: 0521173159,” Sci Total Environ, vol. 734, p. 139397, Sep. 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139397.

[4]J. S. Link and R. A. Watson, “Global ecosystem overfishing: Clear delineation within real limits to production,” Science Advances, vol. 5, no. 6, p. eaav0474, Jun. 2019, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0474.

[5]L. N. Phelps and J. O. Kaplan, “Land use for animal production in global change studies: Defining and characterizing a framework,” Global Change Biology, vol. 23, no. 11, pp. 4457–4471, 2017, doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13732.

[6]A. L. Andrady, “The plastic in microplastics: A review,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 119, no. 1, pp. 12–22, Jun. 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.01.082.

[7]K. D. Cox, G. A. Covernton, H. L. Davies, J. F. Dower, F. Juanes, and S. E. Dudas, “Human Consumption of Microplastics,” Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 53, no. 12, pp. 7068–7074, Jun. 2019, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b01517.

[8]D. Fadly, “Low-carbon transition: Private sector investment in renewable energy projects in developing countries,” World Development, vol. 122, pp. 552–569, Oct. 2019, doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.06.015.

[9]R. Toplensky, “Multinationals pay lower taxes than a decade ago,” Financial Times, vol. 11, no. 03, p. 2018, 2018.

[10]J. O’Donovan, H. F. Wagner, and S. Zeume, “The Value of Offshore Secrets: Evidence from the Panama Papers,” The Review of Financial Studies, vol. 32, no. 11, pp. 4117–4155, Nov. 2019, doi: 10.1093/rfs/hhz017.

[11]F. Obermaier and B. Obermayer, The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money. Simon and Schuster, 2017.

[12]D. Yang and M. Li, “Evolutionary Approaches and the Construction of Technology-Driven Regulations,” Emerging Markets Finance and Trade, vol. 54, no. 14, pp. 3256–3271, Nov. 2018, doi: 10.1080/1540496X.2018.1496422.

[13]H. M. Cowles, “Habit and the Limits of History,” Reviews in American History, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 191–196, 2020, doi: 10.1353/rah.2020.0035.

[14]T. K. Kuhner, Capitalism v. Democracy. Stanford University Press, 2020.

[15]R. L. Hasen, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections. Yale University Press, 2016.

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General comments

Spook Louw
Spook Louw3 years ago
I've been thinking about capitalism a lot lately. Capitalism and democracy have always gone hand in hand - https://direct.mit.edu/daed/article/136/3/87/26710/Capitalism-amp-democracy-in-2040 even if they aren't necessarily inseparable, their similarities are notable.

The problem is that we look at both as a set of rules that determine how we act, but that is not the case. Actually, they are natural reactions to circumstances that we create.

Let me explain by using capitalism. As long as there is anything of value in the world, someone will have more of it than the rest and the rest will try to obtain more. This leads to currency, currency naturally leads to capitalism. This has been proved to be true in even the communist states. So in order to get rid of capitalism, we'd need to get rid of value and in order to do that, we'd need to get rid of need.
As soon as someone needs anything that they cannot get for free, they are at the mercy of whoever has what they need, which once again leads to trade, which is currency, and then we have capitalism again.

The same is true for democracy. It's not a failed system that needs to be fixed, in my humble opinion, but rather, it's a natural reaction to a failed society. Any changes we could think of to make to our current idea of democracy would leave us with exactly the same problems we currently face.

Any change in voting would still just mean that we vote in someone or some group who inevitably try to better themselves and their followers, which automatically leads to them trying to become richer because that is the only real way to better yourself in a capitalist world, which then quite naturally leads to corruption again.

Thus, we have two options, either strive to change society for the better, which would make democracy work as intended (this is quite impossible) or come up with an alternative to capitalism and democracy which would be radical and often flawed and dangerous.

This means that the best we can do is try to make ourselves better, try removing the need that drives capitalism and feeds the broken democratic system and hope that the majority of the world reaches the same collective conclusion.
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Rogério Marques
Rogério Marques3 years ago
Spook Louw Thank you for your feedback. I know what you mean by looking at the people as the problem.
I took that into account in the idea "Improve the population's competence to appraise/evaluate leaders by implementing leadership curricula in schools." The author of one of the sources I cited (David Moscrop) openly criticized his nation's (Canada) competence for Democracy.

Of course, to improve the population's competence for Democracy, we can go even further than just improving school curricula. We must also ensure an independent and unbiased press (which is one of the pillars of Democracy).

Additionally, Our nations and their peoples must scrutinize the implementation of democratic processes as well. I suggest looking at democratic processes as one would approach testing a software product or a videogame.
- Does it have bugs?
- Does it allow for exploits?
- Does it need more checks and balances?
Please leave the feedback on this idea