Monday, 14 May 2018

Democracy for Realists - by Achen & Bartels

If I laboured reading the book on Epistocracy I positively had to drag myself through this one which I only achieved with huge chunks of skim reading and bye-passing the 44 incomprehensible figures and tables.

The author’s basic theme is that the romantic folk theory of democracy, with thoughtful citizens voting in competent governments, is not supported by analysis. What they reveal , which was no surprise to me, is that people’s votes are largely directed  towards parties and other key factors like the economy or even good or bad weather, at the time of the election, and have little to do with the actual competence of the next government.

The authors base their analysis on the USA, where they are from, and believe democracy needs a rethink but do not offer any alternatives. What they do say is that realising and accepting that the current system is broken is “ a prerequisite to both greater intellectual clarity and real political change.” Amen tho that.

As I said last week, while I accept that western democracy is not perfect it is better than any of the alternatives that have been tried. THA is very clear that the election of representatives who carry out the often boring task of governing us on a day to day basis should remain. However there should be new powers given to the people which allows them to properly monitor and if necessary challenge the government of the day between elections. It matters not why the people elect one party over another or whether they always censor their government well. The point is that it is for the people to decide their own fate and the more practice they get, at checking thier government, the better they will get.

The only alternative to the increasing involvement of the people before, during and after elections is to be increasingly governed by an elite who would gradually become further removed from the desires and wishes of the people they govern.

Achen and Bartels are yet another two who point out reforms are needed but come up with no real alternatives. On the other hand THA’s demands, to reform and improve our system of democracy, and make any government more accountable to the people, has six specific proposals and has yet to be bettered.          

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