Friday, November 11, 2011

Problem with Democracy: People Not Institutions

This past week, I had to read a bunch of articles, which painted a very bleak picture for democratic governance throughout the Western world. Voter turnouts are decreasing, trust in political parties is in the toilet, and political parties are viewed as unresponsive to the needs of the population…etc.

Yet there’s a basic problem in much of the literature on satisfaction with democracy. The problem is that paper after paper actually measures citizen satisfaction with the running of democratic institutions within various countries rather than the idea of democracy itself.

It would be more apt to say that democratic institutions are in decline. And the reason they are in decline is because we foolishly let ourselves inside of the institutions. It’s not the institutions, but what men do inside of the democratic institutions that has given democracy its’ bad name.

For example, an election is one of the most basic tenets of democratic governance. If the voters elect a candidate that vows to run on a platform of slashing deficits and ending government corruption and he ends up indicted for handing out government contracts to his brother in law, while drinking fine wine and traveling on a fleet of private jets, what does the voter do? They blame the individual candidate or party… not the electoral institution itself.

If, democracy is on the decline, we have no one to blame but our foolish selves.

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