When you read The Animal Farm, you know that Orwell is talking about the USSR. But is he? It is obvious, you might say. He wrote it at the height of the Cold War when the ‘free world’ was engaged in a proxy war with the Communist block. But then I realised that the American Declaration of Independence has “all men are equal”. It was penned down when slavery was legal when many who signed the Declaration owned slaves, and women did not have the same rights as men. All men are equal but some men are more equal than others.
Times have changed, America abolished slavery. It fought wars to end tyranny and oppressive regimes in other countries. And we now live in a time when more people are ‘free’ than at any point in history – a major part of the human race lives in democracies.
Democracy. Few words have captured the human imagination the way democracy has. Power to the people. The common folk choosing the people who will lead (govern) them. But is Democracy the best form of government? The Athenian democracy is one of the first democracies. But what if I told you it was a lottery system? Strange right! But our form of democracy is no better; it is a popularity contest! People are elected to office simply because they are popular.
Now I am not advocating monarchy. It has its host of issues, and there are way too many examples in history to prove that it is not a sustainable. From Cyrus the Great to Alexander the Great, monarchies started by charismatic men have fallen from grace due to mediocre successors. Democracy should ideally eliminate this problem – the people elect their leader. ‘Natural selection’ applied to politics.
However, I believe that the fundamental flaw of a democracy is that common folk decide who becomes their leader. How is the common man qualified to choose a statesman? You and I know little about how a state is run and the science behind governance. That’s where the popularity part comes in. Candidates participate in a popularity generating reality show. And with the tools (social networking and analytics) available to them today, they can influence the masses faster than Anthony at Caesar’s funeral!
And then there is First to the Post.
So what is a better system? Something like what you have in MNCs maybe? The qualified and the experienced get promoted to the management layer and move up the ladder based on their capabilities. The problem with such a system is that there is no voting, “the people do not choose their leader”. But is that really necessary? Or maybe we can educate people and help them make better choices.
Whatever the solution might be, it is time we improved ‘democracy’. Hopefully, one day our species will look back at our era and be amused (like we are of the Athenians), and marvel at how things have improved.