The idea of democracy is that citizens have power. This has been distorted into citizens giving power to politicians, an increasingly hereditary caste which is bought and paid for. In short, modern democracy is a farce.
The funny thing is that within modern democracy we have a sense of citizens power, which are polls. In places like America they poll citizens on everything, but mainly to see if the electoral anesthesia is working. No one thinks that you could actually govern this way, but you could.
In ye olde Athenian days—if you were a citizen—you could usually walk into Parliament yourself and yell with authority. When it came time for ‘electing’ most roles, you put your own name in the kleroterion and random citizens became magistrates. The process was called sortition, and it was cool.
Today we still violently define citizens (WTF is an illegal immigrant?) but have lost the democratic plot even further than most ancient Mediterraneans. Modern democracies have giant bribery festivals called elections where a political caste collects bribes, takes them to media temples, and proudly shows off how much they’ve been bribed.
In the most modern (ie ‘oldest’) democracies, they make a big show of ‘transparency’ which is just the act of making bribery legal and talk about it. Even the concept of corruption and oligarchy has become reserved for Africans and Slavs and savage Asian tribes. But ‘donations’ and ‘speaking fees’ are just white words for bribes, and rich white people are also oligarchs.
I repeat this a lot but Aristotle said that electoral democracy trended towards oligarchy and he was right. Just look at y’all now. And you’ve been loading this accursed system into bombs, and sanctioning anyone who doesn’t take part?Electoral democracy is a cancer upon the Earth.
The idea behind electoral democracy is that you have to delegate power when you spread it over a huge state. It’s not like Athens or Carthage where dudes could just walk into the ‘Parliament’ themselves. People in Athens, Georgia have to appoint someone to get on a horse and go to Washington to represent them. Direct democracy is simply too unwieldy.
This leads to the question as to whether democracy scales outside of cities at all. We take this as a given, but it’s absolutely not proven and should really be thought about.
If we assume, as we do, that it does, then the question is whether electing representatives works well. What seems to be happening is that we’re developing a hereditary caste of assholes to rule over us, which was surely not the intention.Most democracies get two parties, both Capitalist, where real economic power is behind the scenes, and politics is just a symbolic fight over culture.
Aristotle viewed democracy as a site of class struggle, but in modern democracies there’s no struggle at all. The ruling class has won, all they have to do is change colors every four years and the masses are subdued. As I said, it’s a farce, and we are patriotic rubes.
People are like ‘uh, what else asshole?’ and I honestly support climate communism to keep rich people from constantly corrupting everything, with local level sortition for democratic input. But that’s another conversation. Here I’m talking about taking something people know (polling) and expanding it to the actual polis. Which is to say, what if polls had actual power?
Polls, depending on how they’re framed, show that people generally have non-terrible ideas, certainly not as bad as politicians. America is the most polled place on Earth and majorities there want stuff like abortion, gun control, healthcare, and to stop invading people all the time.
This all gets completely lost in their electoral democracy. Politicians just use these issues to have symbolic fights about while not actually doing what people want them to do. Then they use polling to see how well their manipulation is going, not to actually listen to people. This happens everywhere. Polls are used by politicians to deceive, people have no power, and our opinions don’t lead anywhere.
In short, electoral democracy doesn’t work. It’s just a reality TV show full of villains and no winners, besides the sponsors. Democracy™, brought to you by Pfizer and Raytheon.
What if, instead, polls were state-run and binding? If you ran a poll on, say, an assault weapons ban (how is this even an issue?) and that became law, instead of going through the bribery temple they call Congress. What if people had some actual power to decide, instead of having their decisions filtered through a few hundred rich dudes?
This is one way to answer the unasked question of “should we be applying this old-ass city technology to nations of billions?” To be honest, the answer to that may just be “No”, but since we seem committed to the idea at a religious level, we can surely do better than this, where people’s will is quite obviously ignored. We publish constant polls about how impotent the people are, and never think that those polls could rule. And they could. Polls would also get corrupted by whoever asks the questions, but we’d have to keep struggling over it. Democracy is just a game of class struggle, and the real power is in changing the rules.
I honestly encourage you to read Aristotle’s politics not because he tells you what democracy is but because he doesn’t. He says it has many species and should be adapted from city to city. And it was. He tours around Athens and Carthage and the whole Mediterranean and people were doing all sorts of things, a dictatorship here, an oligarchy there, direct democracy at home. These weren’t epithets like they are now, there was a great diversity of governing systems.
In the modern era, white people claimed to have perfected and commodified the whole thing and loaded it into bombs. But this isn’t true and we were fools to follow them across the ‘free’ world. We have to keep working on this thing, because it doesn’t fucking work. We’re smoking the whole livable Earth while debating genitalia.
Like I’ll say again and again, modern democracy is a farce, and an increasingly fatal one. My point in this and all these articles is not to give you answers but to give you questions. What if China is also a democracy (as the Greeks would say)? What if we just put random people in power? What if we used polling for actual legislation? The original point of democracy was to really think about issues at a city level, while we’ve just given up this power to our betters in big bribery festivals. We keep electing our ‘betters’ while things get worse. We have to do better than that, and going back a few thousand years is a good start.