Fallacy of democracyAung K Thein, Dhaka
THE word ‘democracy’ combines two Greek words demos (which means ‘people’) and kratos (which means ‘force’ or ‘power’), thereby meaning ‘people force’ or ‘people power’. It is an ideal egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation together determine public policy, the laws and actions of the state, requiring that all citizens have an equal opportunity to express their opinion.
In practice, ‘democracy’ is the extent to which a given system approximates this ideal, and a given political system is referred to as ‘a democracy’ if it allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy.
The most common system that is deemed ‘democratic’ in the current concept is parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy in which the voting public takes part in elections and chooses politicians to represent them. The problem starts from here.
No less a person than James Madison maintained that ‘a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives’, and that a popular government, without the knowledge or ‘the means of acquiring it is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.’
Ask yourself ‘oh you’ the public! Are you knowledgeable and informed on state affairs such as economy, international finance, trade balance, resource management, criminal and civil laws, international politics, etc, etc, etc.
If I were to ask whether you know what incoterms, deficit budget, surplus budget, GDP, public debt, external debt, forex reserves, hedge, derivatives, futures contracts, hedge fund, short selling, etc, mean, could you realistically give answers?
In all likelihood you will say it does not concern you. You are happy to do your share of the day’s work to earn a living for your family, and that’s all it counts. At the end of your work you are satisfied to sit back and watch the entertainment and news dished out in the television.
It is not far-fetched to see today’s television consumers as masses of mental prisoners who get their values and views of the world from the images that powerful corporations or governments keep feeding into their minds. Most viewers are in no position, nor have the disposition, to check the facts.
You are beguiled by the high standards of living in the western democracies and presume prosperity comes with democracy. You cannot be more wrong. The end of the high standard of living in the west, which you so long for, is nearing its end. Look at Greece and Spain. The UK and France are in recession. Do I need to draw any conclusions here?
Prosperity of a country is independent of the democracy or for that matter oligarchy, monarchy, etc.
If you, my literate public, is neither knowledgeable nor correctly informed nor are you disposed to take part in the affairs of the state what about the millions who are semi-literate or illiterate? So is it at all possible to approximate ideal democracy? If voters casting votes every four or five years is approximation to ideal democracy, ‘near enough right’, then crows are ‘near enough white’!
I would like to conclude by quoting Plato: As a just and healthy person is governed by knowledge and reason, a just society must be under the control of society’s most cultivated and most informed minds, its ‘lovers of wisdom’.
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