Every time a democratic kind of government comes under discussion, sooner or later somebody will pick up a famous quote of the late Winston Churchill on the subject.
‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
Winston S. Churchill, 11 November 1947 (*)
This is a perfect show-stopper. It’s a strong argument; it comes from a famous historical character, it also has that kind of British humor that always hit the spot. The real question here is: can we put democracy under a real debate?
Can we think about ways to perfect this form of government? I mean, is there a way to preserve the basic concepts and get better results? We all know that even the better democracies have their fallacies, not to mention the occasional loony that gets in the control room. For sure, we know about nations that are formal democracies but are true oligarchies (easy litmus test: the winner gets more than 70% of the votes). We also know about how easy it could be overthrown a democracy when this form of government is something imposed from abroad (i.e., see the post-colonialist Africa).
Each democratic-oriented country got its history of mistakes, most of them of technical nature. Aside from a better organization, the core of the previous question is tied to the populations. A democracy is a way to represent the whole community with a manageable number of elected representatives and a smaller number of appointed people who take charge of the government duties. If the population doesn’t feel as a collective, but its loyalty is reserved for smaller groups (i.e., tribes, clans, religious groups and more), then that country cannot be a real democracy.
The key, or one of the possible answers, lies in the political literacy of the population. Its capacity to see itself as a unique collective, to put the nation before the individuals (i.e., Japan). It implies more than a bit of nationalism as a byproduct. Another answer could be to raise the level of direct participation; we got the technological meaning to do so thru the internet, to involve as many people as possible in the action of the government (i.e., various experiments in Europe). It could lead to a higher level of populism and opens the door to frauds. As you may see, there is no easy recipe for getting things better.
I had direct involvement in local politics a few years back; it has been an eye-opener. In Italy, most people perceive political parties as garbage, with little or no trust in anybody involved in the government. It is the final result of decades of misconduct, felonies, and crimes from our elected representatives of course. But who get them in their places? And again, where they come from? It’s always easy to point a finger and be a critic, getting our hands in the dirt is far different.
So I will resort to another show-stopper, this time from a modern-day cartoonist. It’s my answer for today, waiting for something better.