Sunday, November 4, 2012

Democracies for the One Percent

Democracies for the few

Until a few centuries ago and even now in some countries, the prevalent form of government was a Monarchy. One single person, chosen by hereditary or with the help of the sword was an absolute ruler. Since the governance depended on this single person, it was a great or horrible one, depending on this single person. In recent times monarchies have been abolished in most countries but humans have still found power centered in a single person in the form of dictatorships. Some have been abolished in Arab countries after the recent Arab Spring, when dictators like Gaddafi were unceremoniously removed, even from their cozy hidings in the sewer lines.

In a country like North Korea, the form of governance is some form of communism but the ruler ship is also dictatorial and monarchy-like being transferred through hereditary rights. In some other communist countries, it appears that the ruling power is spread between select groups of persons. In this respect human civilizations have evolved from the point of a single privileged ruler to a group of privileged persons. The use of the term 1% is metaphorical. In reality control is exercised by much fewer than that.

Many countries have a democratic form of government. Here, in theory, the privilege of power belongs to all the people equally and the people as a whole choose representatives to look after their interests. In practice there may be insufficient checks within a democracy to prevent the elected representatives from looking after their own interests rather than that of the public that elected them. Many democracies have an independent judiciary to examine the legality of matters but if the budgets and infrastructure of the judiciary is controlled by the legislature such an independence is incomplete. Further, the judiciary may pass orders but such orders have to be implemented by the executive. In case the executive is controlled by the legislature then the order may go unimplemented or may be inadequately implemented as routinely happens in some democracies. Thus in practice even in a democracy a select group of persons can manage to corner the lion’s share of wealth, power and privilege. The select group is usually a group of politicians, private corporations, and a few other intellectuals etc. that control wealth, power and privilege.

One of the most developed democracies today is that of USA where elections are currently on to choose a new President by the American people. Even here it seems that a select group of persons control wealth and power because it seems that 99 per cent of the wealth of the country is controlled by one percent of the population. The wealthiest of persons are able to continue with relatively low rates of taxes and the wealthiest of bankers are able to get away with millions of dollars in compensation, even if they cause a national financial crisis whereas a struggling construction worker loses his home mortgage even after back breaking hours of labor. Politicians are able to successfully argue or enforce that the poorest of the population that may be struggling with food should not be given basic medical treatment by the state to avoid pain and suffering for themselves and their children if they cannot afford it. In countries such as India there is a system of party whip where a single party leader is able to issue a dictate to vote to all of the public representatives as he or she thinks right, and not as per their conscience or constituents, leading to a concentration of power in a few hands.

It may be argued that humans have evolved. A democratic government is obliged to introduce welfare measures in order to ensure votes. However even in monarchies welfare measures were common or monarchs ended up without their heads as Marie Antoinette of France. However, humans have evolved to the point that power has spread out from one to at least one percent. With further evolution it is hoped that it will spread from one percent to ten percent, twenty percent, thirty percent and eventually to all.

How can humans escape the rule of the few in a democracy? The answer is to vote in representatives that are honest, compassionate and funded by the people and not big money interests so that they work for the people rather than big money powers. If such persons cannot be found in mainstream parties than choose independent persons or small new parties. Do not worry that the mandate would be a fractured one. It is better than continued exploitation. It has happened in some countries of the world such as Uruguay where Jose Mujica was voted to power to usher in a new era of goodness. However such persons do not usually enter the race. If they do, a nation is lucky and they should grab the chance with open arms. On some occasions though it turns out that the people were mistaken and the person they thought was a good one was hypocritical and  turned out to be otherwise as happened in one of the Indian states recently. If that happens then get rid of such persons at the first opportunity and kick them out into the wilderness.

No comments: