The Challenges Of A Future Democracy
Plato once said, “Republics degenerate into democracies, and democracies degenerate into tyrannies.” This pattern, observed during the birth of democracy as a political system, has proven true in examples ranging from Athens, Rome, Napolionic France, and Weimar Germany, not to mention the many corrupt democracies around the world today. However, there is a new vice pressuring the system, the progression of technology.
Today we live in a world where one media mogul can easily influence the minds of tens of millions of voters, where word are the bullets and images the artillery used to wage a war for a person’s opinion, where think-tanks spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars trying to find new techniques to manipulate the human mind, a world where democracy is becoming increasingly illogical. The problems in the future begin with one we already face in the present.
One major problem in our nation today is the growing disparity in the quality of our nation’s public schools. Friedrich Nietzsche said “In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the food is usually bad.” Some states, albeit usually smaller ones such a Finland and South Korea, have less of a difference in quality, but these are the exceptions, not the rule. This difference in quality nationally is striking, but it grows exponentially when one starts to look internationally to places such as Central Africa or Bangladesh, where education is abysmal.
These differences in education make a stable government in these places impossible with the current democratic mindset. Due to this problem many larger nations currently resort to policies resembling economic imperialism to gain some of the advantages of having a stable trading partner, without the pitfalls of directly assimilating a third world country.
This problem can and will only grow worse as population and educational disparity increase codependently, and in the long term mindset of the human colonization of space, the difference between earth and distant colonies will make Bangladesh look like Midtown Manhattan. This problem strengthens tyranny, wounds republics, and kills democracies, because how could a representative elected from a benighted colony rule with the same education and accountability as one elected from a state with educated and accurately informed voters, themselves being a sparse resource because of the second problem of a future democracy.
The second problem of a post information age democracy is an often overlooked truth of human condition, as individuals, we are not equal. That phrase goes against much of the currently taught philosophy, but it is true none the less. No one person is better than another, but some are more intelligent, pragmatic, decisive, and fit to govern, and when you apply a democracy, even a so called democratic republic, you put your faith in the mean of society, an average of all human ability, which, as we continue to take on more dangerous responsibilities, frequently does not measure up.
Some may say, “where is the fairness and liberty in a non-democratic system?” These two concepts are independent of democracy, but have been made synonymous by paradigms. First, on the question of fairness, the nature that sets the parameters for our existence is an apathetic one, and the first characteristic needed for a successful organism or institution is the ability to adapt to changing conditions around it.
Therefore, a successful government cannot be perfectly fair, but the best way to look at the fairest government possible in my opinion is to imagine a series of circles emanating from one point, a man. He has a right to control his actions as they relate to himself, next the circle of the state, which has a right to control its actions at they relate to itself, same for nations, same for planets. In my mind this is fairness in a political sense.
Next to the question of liberty, for a reason unknown to me, most people equate group rule with liberty, however, most people are more than happy to give up their liberty for a vague promise of security. For example, after the September 11th terrorist attacks, a frightening trend developed in the United States. A hasty and broad loss of civil freedoms in the name of protection from nameless faceless terrorists who posed no more of a threat to the loss of human life in this country than our national highway system.
This loss of freedoms, culminating in the patriot act, has caused near irreversible damage to many of our rights of privacy and freedom, but this is just the tip of the iceberg if absolute democracy continues unimpeded. To quote Benjamin Franklin “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” However, security is not the only thing people are willing to trade in freedoms for, one other is another seemingly positive concept, equality.
If affairs continue on their current course, I fear the world of the Kurt Vonnegut short story “Harrison Burgeon” could be realized. In the story, set in an America several centuries in the future, constitutional amendments have been passed that require the smart to wear radio’s in their ears, the strong to wear weights, and the beautiful to wear masks. This is the product of group rule run rampant, and if the other extreme is oppression of a political sense rather than this forced equality, averaging of society, and reverse evolution of humanity out of jealous animosity towards fellow human beings, I would have to err towards the former.
So the question becomes, what can replace our current system to cary the torch of western civilization to the stars? That is a question we have to start trying to answer. So as we watch this century come into its adolescence, we stand at a crossroads. One road leads down our present form of democracy with its easily influenced, educationally restricted, and easily panicked nature; the other leads towards a new form of government, one with a chance of taking western civilization, along with justice and liberty, to the stars.
Nature is an exacting judge, and in its book, no system is to big to fail, so if our government continues to become more obsolete and inefficient, the people will adapt. Karl Marx said “Revolutions are the locomotives of history.” The choice we as a society face today is we can either be on the train, or on the tracks.
Jacob Elliott | Elite Daily