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Pondering the universe


5. Problems within democracies

Before defining a democratic structure, the problems with current implementations need to be identified.

The problems with many democracies are that:

  1. a.Influential people and organisations can manipulate the political process to favour their re-election, but also limit opposition to them.
  2. b.The process is adversorial, principally because of the requirement for a subset of those elected to form the government, which is then given preference in controlling the bureacracy, while the rest are effectively sidelined from policy decisions.
  3. c.There are too many levels of government, with overlapping jurisdictions creating unnecessary duplication and opportunities for conflicts.
  4. d.Operations of democratic services, such as elections, have been put under political control, rather than independent government agencies, leading to gerrymandering and biased judicial appointments.
  5. e.Voting locally for federal candidates results in less time for their particular electorate as they focus more on national issues as they climb up the political ladder.

A lot of these issues come about because:

  1. a.Most countries boundaries are determined by the victors of wars, who have their own agenda in defining the boundaries.
  2. b.Governments have inherited levels and structures that want to persist.
  3. c.Many residents have been disenfranshised, or even slaves, so have not been involved in determining the laws that govern them.
  4. d.Growth of a worldwide ideology that puts money and wealth as more important than democracy, and so comprehensibly utilises all levels of governement and trans-government bodies to manipulate them to be less fair and responsive to the needs of their country's people.

Even prisoners should be able to vote, or be elected, as their incarceration may be as a result of laws that were biased against them. If the numbers in prison are too high, then there must be a problem with the political structure.

Undermining democracyβ–³

Most modern democracies came about through a rejection of autocratic monarchical control of government, but true democracy was not necessarily the result.

For the English-speaking world, the process of democracy stated with the Magna Carta and its defining limits on the power of the monarch by King John of England's barons in 1215. Ever larger strata of society wanted more say in how their lives were governed. However, the upper echelons of society were reticent to hand over all power to the masses, so some measures were put in place to make sure that so-called democracy would not overly reduce their power.

While the members of lower house of parliament in England – House of Commons – is elected, the upper house – House of Lords – members are largely nominated for life and their membership is inherited. The House of Lords is thus distinctly undemocratic.

In The US and Australia, before federation, these were colonies of England that consisted of states mostly governed by those elected by landowning white men. Hardly democratic! At the time of federation for each, their states did not want to lose control to their federal governments, so they demanded that the new upper houses have equal representation for each state, despite having vastly different populations, embedding lack of proper democracy for centuries after.

Most democracies have bureaucracies that run the government services, including the electoral process, that implement voted for policies. For most, the recruitment for these bureaucracies is meant to be independent of political interference, though senior appointments may be political. However, in the US, many officials at all levels of government are elected, making what is meant to be unbiased political, leading to a concerted effort to subvert all levels of government, including the judiciary, to undermine democracy in an effort to embed one political party in power.

Running a democracy is expensive, due to managing the electoral process, so the more levels and positions that are subject to elections increases the cost. Responsibility demands electability, but efficiency demands recruitment to the bureaucracy be skills-based and through a standardised comparative process. The balance is making the elected representatives have responsibility for ensuring the bureaucracy has the resources needed to efficiently and even-handedly implement the voted for polices policies, but not to interfere in the internal decision-making for their own or another's benefit.

The paradox of democracy is that it while it is a means of allowing citizens to make their demands known, too many opportunities to do that bogs down its operation, especially if a deliberate and coordinated strategy by a vested interest attacks it at each influence point. Democracy cannot afford to be so porous to such malicious influence.

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