The Dilemma for Democracy
The Political Pendulum and the Wrecking Ball
A good Christian brother sent me the following link to a piece entitled ‘Democracy: the unfinished revolution’ as a “programme for democratic reform”.
My response is as follows (and I would be interested in yours) -
By way of a return:
That's a challenging view from Spiked: indeed it's one held by many others also.
Prior to the election of Donald Trump an American Christian leader (Lance Wallnau) predicted the former’s victory and described Trump as being “God’s Wrecking Ball”. Whether Trump enjoys divine sanction I do not know, but he has certain brought the entrenched establishment into utter disarray. It may be that Boris, if elected, will play the same role in here in the UK.
The system certainly needs to be challenged, but I am concerned about the ‘pendulum’ syndrome.
I have (on-and-off) been reading a book which presents a short history of Europe. (This morning I read the following: Richard Dawkins would like what it suggests about the electorate's cognitive abilities.)
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THE ANCIENT GREEKS invented the democratic state. They also invented politics, a word which comes from their word for city, polis. There had long been governments of various sorts; the Greeks invented government by discussion among all citizens and majority voting. Theirs was direct democracy in which all citizens gathered in one place to debate and determine policy. Not all the Greek city-states were democracies, and democracies were always precarious.
Of all the little democratic states, we know most about Athens, where democracy survived with some interruptions for 170 years. During this time, all the men born in Athens had the right to participate in government, but not women or slaves.
We call our system democracy but it is very different from Athenian democracy; ours is representative democracy. We are not regularly involved in the process of government. We vote every three or four years; we have the opportunity to complain and stage demonstrations and make submissions, but we do not directly vote on every issue that comes before the parliament.
If the people were directly in charge of our democracy, we know it would be a very different system from what we have. Of course not all the people could gather in one place but we could reproduce the Greek system if, on every issue, there was a referendum conducted on the internet. With such a system we know from the public-opinion polls that Australia would never have had a policy to bring migrants from countries other than Britain; there would definitely be no Asian migrants; we would almost certainly be hanging criminals and we might be flogging them as well; overseas aid would probably not exist; single mothers would struggle to keep their pension; students would probably struggle to keep their benefits. So you might think it is as well that the ignorance and the prejudice of the people do not have free rein.
If you have come to that position you are now close to the view of Socrates, who had severe doubts about Athenian democracy and whose criticisms help us to understand how it operated. They complained that the people were fickle; they were indecisive; they were ignorant; they were easily swayed. Government is a fine art that requires wisdom and judgment, which are not the possession of all citizens.
The philosophers would be much happier with our system of representative democracy. No matter what we say about our representatives, they are usually better educated and better informed than the people as a whole. Our politicians are guided by a civil service in which there are very able people. So the people do not rule directly and there is an input from those who are trained and reflective about the whole business of government. But Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would not call our system democracy.
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I have several problems with our Representative Democracy which Churchill described as “the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Every ruler’s waking thought
As an observation (God is the judge) I would guess that a great number of those who reach the pinnacles of power are megalomaniac, self-serving egoists. To paraphrase geopolitical analyst George Friedman:
'The first thought in the mind of a President or Prime Minister each morning has nothing to do with the economy, foreign policy, the balance of trade, unemployment, or energy needs. No, their first concern on awakening each day is: "How do I stay in power".'
And yet these folk lead our parliaments and, by extension, over-rule on our lives.
The political-power dilemma
Another problem I have is the Catch 22 of achieving efficacious political influence. As I would see it – for a politician of principle to achieve positions of power and influence he or she needs to be prepared to shipwreck their personal convictions in order to achieve high office. The alternative is to stay faithful to one’s beliefs and remain forever on the side-lines. It’s a lose-lose scenario.
From Frying Pan to Fire
Having said all of that the other thing that concerns me is that we, the people, are indeed fickle: as changeable as the wind. If we don’t like what we have we automatically turn to the ‘other’ on the mindless and unreliable assumption that the ‘other’ will be better.
As we await His return
As a final point, we are in rebellion and suffering just as the Lord warned the Jews they would when they rejected Him as Sovereign. Democracy, even in best form will not do: it will never do. We, the people, need to return to The King.
Just some thoughts: feel free to add yours.