Tuesday, April 09, 2013

More Democracy Isn't A Good Thing

Democracy was never meant to provide the best outcome, it's only purpose is to resolve conflict between opposing views. Recent calls for more democracy for the Senate and on pipelines shouldn't be applauded, after all, it only means there's more conflict that can't be resolved any better way.

The fact that in our society there is an unwillingness to compromise, increased polarization, and above all greater general disagreement, the increasing necessity of relying on more democracy to resolve conflict is not something to be especially proud of.

In 1868 John A. Macdonald stated a parallel view in response to criticism of the Quebec legislature by a Reverend John Cook. Macdonald wrote, "the question is not whether your Local Parliament is of much use, as it is whether it will not serve as a safety valve and relieve us from the conflict of the races."*

Just as it was in Quebec so it is in every conflict, voting is used as the last resort to resolve a disagreement. Relying on voting because of the inability for early French and English politicians to compromise or reason with each other was not the best solution, however considering the differences involved between the two parties the mutual agreement to abide by democratic outcomes was and still is a notable achievement.

Yet whereas voting was once used to settle differences in opinion between very different groups on very few issues, western society is becoming more reliant on democracy to resolve conflict and less reliant on compromise, reason, and expert opinion.

Even the ability of elected representatives to choose which policy they think is best is being subordinated on more and more decisions to the popular whim of their electorate, making them less of an elected official and more of a mere aggregate of polling.

This shift is either the result of an enlarging public sphere, where the increased awareness of more issues has allowed for more conflict, or a consequence of a society whose denizens are becoming less able to resolve conflict by any other way but voting.

Considering how polarized politics in western societies has become it appears to be more of the latter, that people are becoming less able to reason with each other and instead must depend on democracy to do their work for them.

If this is the case, that people are only calling for more democracy because they can't resolve conflict any other way, then the need for more democracy isn't a good thing.

* Gwyn, Richard. Nation Maker, John A. Macdonald: His Life Our Times

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