The Failure of Democracy

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."
Winston Churchill

Ironically, the most accurate definition of what democracy should be was given in an Adolf Hitler speech (I don’t know who wrote it, Hitler certainly didn’t have the intellectual capability to come up with it himself): ‘The state does not command us, we command the state!’ (‘Nicht der Staat befiehlt uns, wir befehlen dem Staat!’)

Democracy means ‘Government by the People’ (or, if the creators of this term employed the sarcastic undertone suggested by some historians, ‘Government by the Mob’). That definition implies that all members of a community participate in the electoral process; but this is not the case.
The first rule of democracy is exclusion. No country in the world would want all its residents to choose its government, and until this day people have been excluded from elections because of their age, race, class, gender, nationality, religion, homelessness, illiteracy, criminal convictions, lack of landownership, mental diseases etc.

And it’s not only voters who are being excluded, but parties and candidates as well. Most countries won’t allow a party to compete in the elections who intends to change the political system or whose views differ too greatly from that of the ruling parties; thus the United States and all its satrapies simply offer a choice between the far right and the extreme right.
In countries whose citizens had no influence on the form of government by having been excluded from the shaping of the constitution (or ‘basic law’, as in Germany), the general attitude was that a vote for any admitted party denotes approval of the form of government, so that a turnout of over 50% was considered a vote for the political system.
This changed with the constantly dropping numbers of voters for the European Parliament - which is a farce as all important decisions are made by the heads of state (the European Commission), anyway. Since 1999 the turnout for European elections has been way under 50%, which, following the logic of the argument, should be considered a vote against the European oligarchy.

Apart from banning parties, there are many other ways of preventing change. In Germany, the emergence of new parties is obstructed by the 5% Clause; any vote for a party that ends up with less than 5% becomes null and void, and the established parties successfully warn the electorate not to ‘throw away their vote’. Thus the three established parties managed to keep the parliament to themselves until in 1983 the Green Party managed to break the monopoly and join the club.
The 5% Clause leads to a good part of the electorate not being represented. In the extreme case of some twenty parties having under five percent each, one single party could get all seats with just 5% of the votes, leaving 95% of the electorate without representation.

In the 2000 US elections, George W. Bush won due to the electoral system, although his opponent got the majority of votes (patronisingly being called the ‘Popular Vote’). And the ‘loss’ of thousands of absentee ballots is a regular feature in US elections that’s hardly deemed worth mentioning.
In Ireland, the 2004 presidential elections were prevented by the main parties who simply agreed on confirming the president for another term; elections, they stated, would have been too expensive. – Well, elections are always expensive, so maybe this cancellation will ring in the end of that farce called democracy altogether.

‘Rule by the people’ also suggests that people not only decide on their government but also on political issues. This implies that the public could enforce referenda on all topics they feel differently about than their government. But most ‘democracies’ do not give their citizens that opportunity.
The most stressed argument against referenda (apart from the silly ‘We’d have a referendum each day!’) is the immaturity or lack of political insight of the electorate. But if the population lack maturity or political insight, why trust them with electing their government in the first place?

The idea of democracy was to give people the right to choose their own government. Now people have realised that their vote doesn’t make a difference, and more and more stay away from the polls. As an unmotivated electorate calls into question the whole concept of democracy, politicians preach that casting his vote is every citizen’s obligation (for those who have one, that is) and treating those refusing to vote as disinterested outcasts.
Some countries, like Australia, even go one step further by punishing non-voters and imposing fines on those who don’t feel represented by (or simply don’t trust) the admitted parties and candidates. I don’t think I have to point out the paradox of forcing people to exercise their rights.

Democracy is government for the highest bidder. Not all countries practice the baksheesh tradition as openly as Costa Rica or Ireland, but when we hear about the innumerable indications (and the odd conviction) of bribery, corruption, embezzlement, favouritism, self-service, abuse of power etc, we all know that this is not even the tip but a mere splinter of the iceberg. Whatever they tell us, people don’t go into politics to look after others; and the few who actually put their beliefs and principles above their bank accounts are soon found out and consequently will not make it into the decision-making elite of their parties, anyway.

An election promise is a contract between the candidate and his potential voters: You give me your vote, and I will protect your interests. As with any contract, the stronger side makes sure to keep the upper hand: a tenant has to pay a deposit to the landlord before moving in, an employee has to work for a couple of weeks before getting paid (which, in fact, is a deposit he pays to his employer), and the voter has to cast his vote before he can expect to be represented.
If a plumber doesn’t show up on the agreed date, I can terminate the contract; if I hire a cleaning woman who doesn’t clean, I can fire her; if I vote for a candidate who claims to introduce free medical care for senior citizens and who doesn’t, I’m fucked. An election promise is the only contract in the world which is not binding, and politicians make sure it stays that way.

Democracy has also brought the delegation of governmental crime. In other forms of government, the ruling class are free to do and take whatever they want, even if it is against their own laws. In a democracy, theoretically, the government could be held responsible for its crimes; on top of that, voters might remember at the next election. Therefore it rather tolerates crime on a great scale, provided that it gets its share without being brought into connection with it. Organised crime is a product of democracy, and organised crime would not be possible without the support of the authorities!

Democracy is the god above Christ, Yahweh, Allah and Buddha - the one who can’t be questioned because he creates the illusion of capitalism serving the people rather than the other way round.
Democracy has brought us Hitler and Kennedy, the men responsible for the nastiest wars of the last century. Democracy has encouraged and even caused racism, genocide, exploitation, intolerance, inequality and so forth.

Democracy has failed us - and no, I can’t offer an alternative. But if given the choice of entering the arena with a bull, a lion or a gladiator, I won’t automatically choose the gladiator just because he has a human face. I certainly don’t favour monarchy, tyranny, oligarchy or any other form of government over democracy - but neither would I choose democracy over the rest!


© 6245 RT (2004 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig
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