I challenge the basic assumption. What assumption is that? I would say, “The assumption that our modern, Western society is based upon” but, that wouldn’t be entirely honest of me. Rather, I reject the assumption that is our modern, Western society. I challenge the assumption that just because we have a great society that is free and open (mostly), that we shouldn’t change it. I know, why fix something that isn’t broken?
Let’s look at that statement before we move on, because it really ticks me off. If we didn’t ‘fix’ things that weren’t ‘broken’, we would be in a completely different situation and reality than we are now. The stone wheel wasn’t broken (it did exactly what it was supposed to), so why do we have a multi-billion dollar industry that researches and reinvents the wheel (no pun intended)? The boat wasn’t broken, so why do we have outboard motors and steel vessels? The monarchy system wasn’t broken (it did what it was designed to do), so why did we end it? Clearly, I am being slightly hyperbolic – but only slightly.
Everyone one of those things that I mentioned above did what it was supposed to. Looking back, it appears that we completely got rid of each of those – stone wheel, exploring ships, monarchies – but we didn’t. Instead, we iterated upon them, improved them, and then did it again.
We went from canoes used to fish, to ships used to colonize, to battleships, to submarines, to luxury yachts, to space ships. We went from walking (worked perfectly) to the stone wheel (worked even better) to the rubber wheel (works better yet). Each of these worked fine, and weren’t broken, but they could all use improvement. Along the way, people didn’t stand up and shout out that the people who were improving were insane, stupid, and naive. Instead, the reaction was a lot better. Imagine when people started developing the rubber wheel. The people who were developing it weren’t attacked for their belief that the wheel could be improved – that, indeed, a perfectly suitable solution, could be improved upon – but instead were cheered on.
Everything up to here has been obvious. After all, everyone wants an improved experience. Who can argue with that? Personally, I like my 2010 MacBook Air, and would hate to use a laptop from 1995. This is the way the markets work. What I am about to suggest though, is going to make everyone mad. Everyone. Maybe the Chinese Government, the Marxists and the Anarchists of the world will be okay with me suggesting, but they aren’t the people who I am looking to have agree with me. What could I be suggesting that can spawn such an outcry? Euthanasia perhaps? No. Something even more important, and something that is deeply entrenched: Equality and Free Democracy, as we know it.
How can I do this? How can I suggest that Democracy can be improved upon? It is perfect after all! Everyone, regardless of sex, race or any other mitigating factor is allowed to determine their future. That is the purpose of democracy, isn’t it? That everyone can have a voice in establishing what their future holds. Who, then, am I to deny this right – a Right you say! – to people? Why am I such a sexist? A racist? Yes, I know. You are all shocked. Let’s all take a deep breath and look at what is wrong with democracy.
First. The assumption that it makes everyone equal. It doesn’t. You may not like it, but the fact that everyone gets a vote in the United States (and other countries with similar systems) doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all equal. Equality also greatly depends on what level of wealth you are born into, where you are born, and even the day/month/year you are born. These factors have all been proven to affect the outcome of someones life. If two people aren’t guaranteed the same chances of success at birth (at least temporarily), then they aren’t equal. Can you argue with that? Sure, you can say that everyone should be given an equal *chance* to succeed, and that is what the equality means. Fine. Even on that point nobody is equal. As is, the current system is riddle with inequality from before people are even born, that is how unequal the system is. Problem one covered.
Second. Every person’s vote is equal. Wrong again. I don’t even have to go to the trouble of theoretically proving that this is true. Let’s just look at the 2000 election. (Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of Al Gore as a potential President, and I believe that he is a fear monger who is furthering the destruction of humanity through his violent and revolutionary rhetoric regarding global warming and his railing against industrialization. End rant.) Let the numbers speak for themselves: George Bush, 50,456,002 votes; Al Gore, 50,999,897. Who became President? Oh right. If each individual’s vote actually mattered, and each individual was equal, then we would have had a different president – for better or for worse. Apparently voter equality is just something that is said to make people happy.
Third. The idea that just because your ancestors decided to cede rights to the government, so that they could be protected from something, that it means you want to cede the same rights. We shouldn’t look at people as a static mass, that the opinion of one generation is the same as a generation 275 years later. Reality: we think differently. I know, this is shocking. Who would have thought that a 25 year old Berkeley graduate would think differently than a colonial soldier in 1778. Well, they do – obviously. So, along the lines of history, when different groups of people decided to allow the government to issue an income tax, to start social security, to start Medicare, to fund the National Endowment for the Arts, to fund National Public Radio, to go to war for the liberty of other nations, when all of these decisions were made in the last 275 years, what made people think that we would agree with them once the vote had passed? Sure, we could repeal them, but that is an impractical solution. Once power is granted to an entrenched institution (most often, the government), it is a near impossible task to take that power back. So already, we lose more equality the later on that we are born into a democracy. Every year that passes, the individuals born lose a little more of their equality (and subsequently, freedom). Everyone is equal, but people who were alive before you are more equal than others. Of course.
These are just the three problems I see with democracy that challenge the basic assumptions that democracy is based upon. “So there are problems, nothing is perfect.” I can hear people saying it now. It isn’t perfect, and nothing is. True enough. Does that mean that we shouldn’t try to permanently improve our government and our society? Even over the objections of people who disagree? I don’t think so. I think that we should have an open discussion of new government types. We should do it now too, while we are still in a relative position of strength, because any solution we come up with when our society has fallen (which it will, all kingdoms fall) is going to be much worse (and much more reactionary) than whatever we come up with now. I’m not saying we have to change, just that we should talk about it. Nothing binding, no guarantees of change, just an open discussion. I think we can all agree to that.
One last point, I don’t believe the form of democracy we have right now is the right system. At the same time, I’m not advocating Communism, Marxism, a military Junta, or a Corporatocracy. I don’t think the next step in our evolution of government exists yet. I don’t believe that it is an extreme like Liberalism or complete Conservatism, but a balance of many different types. It will be hard to find the right balance, but I believe that it can be done.
After all, everyone wants an improved experience.