29 Jun 2016

A plan to rescue western democracy from the ignorant masses

I was fascinated by this article in Foreign Policy arguing that it’s time for the elites to rise up against the ignorant masses. I thought to myself ‘yes! This is exactly what we need now.’ I am fed up with all this talk of democracy, listening to the voice of the people and respecting popular sentiments; all at the risk of paralysing Western societies. Let’s be honest about it, people are too stupid to understand what’s good for them and we, the elites, have a responsibility to guide them and, when they can’t be convinced, we need to find ways of making them listen to the voice of reason. But how?

In my opinion, the West has drifted too much away from the spirit of democracy into a literal interpretation of democracy. Democracy can best be understood as a metaphor, not as a strict set of rules and principles. What use are principles to anyone if they are too rigid? We need a more malleable form of democracy that is less literal and more imaginative. One in which the gifted, skilled and intelligent people in our societies have a proportionally bigger say in major decisions. When you are ill, you don’t walk out and poll strangers on what’s wrong with you, you go to see a doctor. And this is exactly what we need in politics, skilled experts who know not voters trying to guess.

But can we enable and empower those experts to represent the true, non-literal spirit of democracy? We need to look everywhere across the world, as well as our own Western history, where such experiments in politics were carried out and learn and then apply those lessons. We have to be creative in developing democracy so it can operate in a way that allows a small, intelligent set of skilled people to navigate our countries towards the greater good. Enough of the stupidity of the masses and their dictatorial voting! So here’s my plan:

Selective Proportional Suffrage
Universal suffrage is at the root of our problems. Some people are better than others at certain things like sports or cooking, why should it be any different in politics? We need to find a way of translating this into electoral mechanisms that retain the spirit of democracy without jeopardising us with its unpredictability. We can adopt a coefficient system where the value of your vote is multiplied by a coefficient that is proportional to your intelligence and understanding of politics. For example, if you’re a smart, successful, liberal professional, your vote gets multiplied by 10. If you’re a poor, stupid, unemployed person, it gets multiplied by 0.1. This will immediately level the playing field, ensuring favourable outcomes.

Discretionary Judicial Creativity

Even with such a system of proportional suffrage, the results might be inconvenient sometimes. Also, we can control voters but we also need to control candidates. After all, the wrong kind of candidate can pull a surprise victory, creating extreme inconvenience. Here, we need to learn from places like Iran and Egypt that follow a careful selection process of candidates, ensuring that only the most capable can run in elections.

This process should be controlled by capable judicial bodies that understand the greater good and can protect the people from themselves. Candidates would be screened carefully by judicial panels applying creativity in the interpretation of the law. Only the most worthy would be let through, avoiding any surprises in election outcomes. But should the result prove undesirable, here again judicial discretion can be utilised to nullify or alter the result by creatively interpreting the criteria.

Loyalty Building Measures
At the moment, elite representatives have a problem in ensuring voter loyalty should their electoral promises not be fulfilled due to inconvenient externalities like the economy. The clear solution to this is enabling members of parliament through allocated budgets allowing them to create financial incentive packages to help build loyalty among the voters. These packages would be distributed among the voters to help direct them towards the right electoral choice, using the power of financial incentives positively. Voters that make wrong choices in elections would be deprived of those FIPs, creating both positive and negative nudge factors to make the right choices.

Flexible Accountability Systems
One of the biggest problems facing democracies is the inability of enlightened elites in power to carry out effective policy without regularly being challenged on every decision they make by oversight committees and parliamentary bodies. Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents should have more power to sidestep these hurdles created by inflexible ‘democratic’ institutions. Under a flexible accountability system, the executive branch would have more power to implement policy in a less restrained manner, that is not subject to the whims of the public and their elected representative. (See more on this in the final point.)

Rationed Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press is of course a great thing that must be celebrated. However, freedom of the press is like a precious resource: the more we use it the more it is depleted. This is why democracies have to extremely measured and ration the freedom of the press, ensuring it is used for its correct purpose: enlightening the electorate.

Here, the role of the information minister has been deployed successfully around the world to control this freedom in a constructive manner, and it’s truly sad that many Western democracies don’t have such a position. Establishing this role would create a guardian of truth that would ensure newspapers and the media are held accountable and can only offer verified versions of the truth, avoiding the massive amount of lies and deception spread by the Mainstream Media today.

Pyramidal Power Structure
Western democracies today suffer from diluted power and flat organisational structures that are very damaging. Here, the concept of a pyramidal power structure seems very appealing. The idea is that the extent of power increases incrementally up the executive pyramid, ensuring power is concentrated among the crème de la crème. In presidential systems, this means most power would be given to the president, creating a benign elite figure that can stir the democratic ship wisely without undue pressure from below. Under such system, we believe the ‘figure-head’, the true spirit of democracy and elite leadership, should be celebrated in public and granted a durability of rule that rises above changing fads in politics that might threaten stability and continuity.

This ‘figure-head’ has resonance in many cultures around the world as well as a rich European heritage. Totemic celebrations of this figure through public portraits and statues should be encouraged, as well as by naming public buildings after them. Over time, this will create loyalty and respect among the masses and a sense of durability and continuity.

Today, we risk a lot by continuing with business as usual, allowing our democracies to be eroded by the mob and the ignorant masses who threaten the elites’ ability to rule properly in the true spirit of non-literal democracy. Things must change.

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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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