The Democracy Myth

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not neccesarily reflect the views of Her Campus.

We have this idea that democracies are involved, the government will rule wisely and benevolently. If large groups of people get together to support and vote for a candidate, we believe that they must be up to the challenge of their position. I do not think that is necessarily the case. Most of the world’s largest governments today are democracies, yet it seems the world’s problems are worse than ever. We face a planet-wide mass extinction, wealth inequality is worsening rapidly and student debt has become crippling. Could it be any worse with an authoritarian government? If democracy held the solution to these problems, one might expect that they would have been solved by now.

The last generation of baby-boomers made decisions to pollute the earth with plastics, deregulate corporate America (see: Reaganomics of the), support war-mongering politicians such as George W. Bush, and support the extraction of cheap fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the decisions that were good for their generation conferred heavy burdens on the Generation Xers and millennials. Apparently is up to their children and grandchildren to fix the problems that their generation inflicted on the world.

Of course we are not a pure democracy since we still adhere to the constitution laid down in early American history by men like George Washington and influenced by the ideas of Thomas Paine and John Locke. This constitution protects citizens’ rights to fair trial and structures the government in such a way as to make us a democratic republic not just a democracy. These American Revolutionists saw the inherent danger in making the new nation into a pure democracy and insisted on the senate and the electoral college to protect the interests of smaller states and minority groups. 

Regardless, being a democratic republic did not keep the United States from military conquest and imperialist mindset. This was seen in the westward expansion of the 1800s when the US encroached on Mexican and Indigenous territories with the goals of turning them into slave states.

America is not an especially peaceful country either with wars occurring almost continuously throughout its 240 years as a nation. Many of these wars were wasteful, imperialist and costly in terms of human life. This list includes the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the war in Syria, drone strikes in Afghanistan, and several military coups in central America perpetrated by American special ops.

With all that has happened, I am more cynical than ever about the role of democracy in effective government. If you are not yet cynical, I recommend watching the progression of any national election to fix that. The candidates that float to the top of the pool are those who are selected not by their practical qualifications or their integrity, but because of their overweening self-esteem and desire to please others. They are arguably worse suited for wielding power and making tough government decisions than a random guy who anyone could have picked off the street to do the job.. People in a democracy will always vote for their own self-interest in mind, not the overall good of the nation or globe, and in most cases they will choose -- through selfishness or ignorance -- to ignore the needs of the next generation for a healthy living earth.

What we truly need in leadership of our country and world is expertise, intelligence, caution and willingness to make long-term plans. This is something that is unlikely to appear in the near future unless we try other better systems of governance from the democratic process that we use.