Can Democracy be Saved … from Itself?

Well I believe it can be saved. That notwithstanding, during the last several months of searching, researching, and reading, I have covered a lot of ground. Over a number of years, many red flags have been raised regarding the worsening condition of democracy and yet there is a paucity of possible solutions being considered. Actually none were found – not one.

More recently, there has been an increase in the numbers of alerts and warnings put forward from many sources. But, still no solutions! As regards the state of democracy, an acquaintance suggested “things will settle down and all will be well” . Sort of like, following the covid pandemic everything will return to normal. I think not! A new normal, sure, but not the old one. The people must have a say in what a new model of governance will represent.

To be somewhat trite, everything changes. It seems right to evolve democracy to a new model which is inclusive of all people? Like it or not democracy is evolving of its own accord. And without direction provided by the people the uninterrupted destination appears to be autocracy.

It is unthinkable that the people of the world would prefer to have the planet managed exclusively by the likes of, for example, Stalin, or Hitler, or Castro, or Orban, or Maduro, or Putin, or Trump, or a political party elite. Surely there are some innovative reasonable models of inclusive democracy that should be considered for adoption.

I am a democratic individualist. My skin in this endeavour, so to speak, is nothing other than seeking to evolve democracy and replace the broken exclusive multi-party system that is nearing extinction. We need a new inclusive model to replace this governance dinosaur. Autocracy, even by political party elites, is not acceptable.

My article, “Can Democracy be Saved … from Itself?”, was recently published on Medium. The article now also resides on this website under a menu title of the same name. The article, and the website, are devoted to the adoption of Inclusive Democracy as the proposed next stage in the evolution of democracy. It is just one idea. There must be additional solutions to propose! Bring them on. Time is a-waisting and the warlords are on a march that cannot be allowed reach its destination.

Tick! Tock!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Where? and When? of Democracy

The arrogance, ignorance, of the of the “great white way” can be very disturbing.  We are taught Democracy was “born” in Greece more than two Millenia past.  I can accept that at the time the world was small, and knowledge was regionally compartmentalized - e.g., amongst many regions, and the existence of the Americas was unknown. But ...
Have you ever asked yourself the question - How did people govern themselves before Greece “invented” democracy, and for the following two thousand years?  Well, I am embarrassed to acknowledge my arrogance, my ignorance, by answering the question - No!

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy

 “Called the Iroquois Confederacy by the French, and the League of Five Nations by the English, the confederacy is properly called the Haudenosaunee Confederacy meaning People of the long house ... [and is] Often described as the oldest, participatory democracy on Earth. ... For the Haudenosaunee, law, society and nature are equal partners and each plays an important role.  Through the confederacy, each of the nations of the Haudenosaunee are united by a common goal to live in harmony.  Each nation maintains its own council with Chiefs chosen by the Clan Mother and deals with its own internal affairs but allows the Grand Council to deal with issues affecting the nations within the confederacy.  https://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/ 

“It's a system based on matrilineal descent where the women, the clan mothers, chose our leaders ... [who] served the people, as opposed to the other way around, which is what happened in Europe at the time.”, stated McMaster University professor Richard Monture. 

We people now pay heed to political parties, with little participation or an expectation of effective representation by the elected representatives.  And, witness the inter-party brawling, disrespectful nature of legislative bodies in most democracies.  Plus, (is this for real?) the recent acceptance by some legislators of overt racism in the Congress of the United States. 

The time has come to remake democracy; make it participatory, and inclusive.  Give the power to the people.  Move away from the multi-party autocracy, the rule of the party elites, and evolve to Inclusive Democracy.
                                                                                                #30#

Save Democracy

Given the opportunity, independent Elected Representatives can be the champions of the people. Unfortunately the political party elites dictate policy. The solution: eliminate the political parties.

Throughout the world the voting public is not being included in the policy formation process. Why? Political party elites dictate policy. They prevent Elected Representatives from generating policy based on the expressed needs and desires of the people who elected them.

This exclusive vote getting obsessive need of political party elites is opening the opportunity door for autocrats and dictators who desire to take over government.

It is unrealistic to assume exclusive democracy will right its own ship and magically become inclusive of the people. After all, democracy has been exclusive for more than two centuries. The seductiveness of growing undemocratic power has historically ended with a hot revolution.

Make it a “cool” revolution. Adopt INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY now. Include the people. Include the voting public in the policy generation process.

Evolve to Inclusive Democracy. What is it?

The goal is representative democracy – bottom up.

Not political party-elite command democracy – top down.

Joseph Schumpeter defined the democratic method: “… that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions … making the people … decide issues through the election of individuals who … assemble in order to carry out its will.” Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) – Joseph A. Schumpeter, HarperCollins.

That is, individuals – not political party elites.

In an Inclusive Democracy the people elect individuals to represent them in the governing legislative body. There, the collective representatives formulate inclusive policies and laws based on the needs and aspirations expressed by constituents.

On behalf of their constituents, the elected representatives will give “all citizens the chance to participate equally in economic, social, political, and cultural life”. (6 Degrees – RBC Report).

The populace will no longer be guided, or misguided, by a polarized political party.

Inclusive v. Exclusive

To compare the foregoing with political party-based Exclusive Democracy practiced today, you need only to understand the meanings of inclusive and exclusive. As Larry Diamond wrote in The Spirit of Democracy:

“The very essence of democracy is that it reflects people power and not simply the constitutional choice of enlightened elites”

Why Inclusive Democracy?

Today, the political party elites formulate policy. The elected representatives are tasked with carrying the party’s message to the voters. The voices of the voters are largely unheard or ignored. Furthermore, because political parties represent a particular left-to-right segment of society, party elite offerings are often exclusive and do not address the needs and aspirations of other  societal segments.

  • Inclusive Democracy is the evolved next Era of Democracy; people representation in a bottom-up process through elected representatives from all regions of the nation.
  • Inclusive is not the top-down process of Exclusive Democracy, whereby the political elites project their exclusive views on the populace in their quest to achieve political dominance.

In an Inclusive Democracy there will be no political parties, and thus, through the elected-representatives, direct representation of the populace will be achieved. Policy formation will be a bottom-up process. The populace will be as close as possible to the governing process.

Inclusive Democracy is a representative form of democracy. That is, an  independent Elected Representative (“ER”) is elected to represent the residents of a constituency in the unicameral legislature of the nation. 

For clarification, and contrary to the view of many, the populace is capable of participating in government in a meaningful and competent way.  They do have access to the necessary information, and the intelligence, wisdom, experience, and  character to voice their views, needs, and aspirations. Inclusivity demands the participation of the people, all of the people. That is representative Democracy, and the need for it has never been greater.

The Elected Representatives will:

  • From the Canada Assembly, elect an ER to be the National Minister. She/he will be mandated to lead the government until the next general election four years hence.
  • Coalesce the views of residents of the constituencies and include the collective views in policy formation. 
  • Openly debate and vote on policy proposals. The Canada Assembly will be responsible for all policy generation and the formation of the laws of the land. 

Time to Evolve

The briefly described foregoing Inclusive Democracy solution addresses the problem of Exclusive Democracy as practiced today. Political party elites have hijacked the democratic process. The elites generate policy and direct the elected representatives to deliver the message to the voters, with the expectation that the voters will vote for the party platform irrespective of the elected representatives. That is a top-down process and is not representative democracy, but rather benevolent autocracy. Democracy, as a preferred model for governing, is endangered by the exclusive actions of political party elites.

To save democracy, now is the  time to evolve to Inclusive Democracy. Otherwise, autocracy is on the horizon waiting to fill the impending void as Exclusive Democracy evolves to extinction. That is an undemocratic outcome that the citizens must be given the opportunity to reject. 

#30#

Stay tuned – Jon    

Next post: The Political Spectrum & Labels

A Short history of Exclusive Democracy

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest.” — Winston Churchill

I’ve always thought it a bit strange that people laughingly accept Churchill’s quip, and yet, there is little evidence that efforts to change democracy are in the works. Democracy has always been exclusive. The time for change has come.

From the beginning in Greece more than two millennia ago, democracy has been exclusive. The Greek city states granted exclusive rights to a very few citizens. At the time of the Magna Carta (1215) a few barons were extended privileges. By the 17th and 18th centuries democracy had evolved. A simple definition of democracy emerged. It included direct democracy and representative democracy. The latter prevailed whereby elected representatives were to express the needs and aspirations of their constituents to the government.

During the 20th and 21st centuries representative democracy continued, but, the political parties, particularly elites of the parties, have come to dominate the policy formation process. The elected representatives have become messengers who deliver policy to their constituents. Representative democracy anticipates a bottom-up process. The political party elites turned the process on its head resulting in a top-down process. Thus, democracy is in trouble and surgical repair is required. Autocracy waits, not necessarily patiently, on the horizon.

The Axial Age – the beginning – c. 500 BCE

“The Axial Age (also called Axis Age) is the period when, roughly at the same time around most of the inhabited world, the great intellectual, philosophical, and religious systems that came to shape subsequent human society and culture emerged—with the ancient Greek philosophers, Indian metaphysicians and logicians (who articulated the great traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), Persian Zoroastrianism, the Hebrew Prophets, the “Hundred Schools” (most notably Confucianism and Daoism) of ancient China….These are only some of the representative Axial traditions that emerged and took root during that time. The phrase originated with the German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers, who noted that during this period there was a shift—or a turn, as if on an axis—away from more predominantly localized concerns and toward transcendence”https://www.britannica.com/list/the-axial-age-5-fast-facts

Democracy Evolved & Evolution Continues

Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the right to choose their governing legislation. Who people are and how authority is shared among them are core issues for democratic theory. Generally, there are two types of democracy: direct and representative. In direct democracy, the people directly deliberate and decide on legislation. In a representative democracy, the people elect representatives to deliberate on the views of their constituents and represent them during policy formation by the government. A few milestone examples follow:

Greek City States – c. 500BCE

Athenian Democracy is the first form of democracy known. Principles followed at that time are evident in democracy as practised today. It was Direct Democracy, but exclusive: adult men citizens, not slaves, were required to participate. Each year 500 citizens were selected to participate in the government for a year. They controlled the government and created policy and laws which were presented to the voting citizens. Clearly very direct democracy, and very exclusive.

Roman Empire – c. 450 BCE

During the 5th century BCE, a commission was tasked with proposing a form of government suitable to the patricians and the plebeians. A model was presented and adopted, but the patricians were not as generous as the Greeks in applying the laws evenly. The Roman upper classes had no sense of individual freedom; thus, application of the laws was applied unevenly and favoured the patricians. While a democratic model was in place, democracy was very exclusive and not recognizable as democracy in practice. (It occurs to me that Trump Democracy would likely be similar to the Roman version).

English Magna Carta – c. 1200

“In 1066, William the Conqueror introduced what, in later centuries, became referred to as a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief (landowners) and ecclesiastics before making laws. In 1215, the tenants-in-chief secured the Magna Carta from King John. It established that the king may not levy or collect any taxes (except the feudal taxes to which they were hitherto accustomed), save with the consent of his royal council, which gradually developed into a parliament”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_England

Some 5 centuries after the Magna Carta, following many twists, turns, ups, downs, and the passing of the Treaty of Union in 1707, a new Parliament of Great Britain, based in the former home of the English parliament, came into being. The Parliament of Great Britain later became the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1801 when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed through the Act of Union, 1800.

From 1215, the tug-o-war between the monarchy and parliament went on for centuries. Throughout the period the governing model gradually moved in favour of parliament and Great Britain evolved into a constitutional monarchy. The bicameral government, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, have since governed Great Britain.

American Constitution – c. 18th century

Interestingly, the Americans, as did the British, evidently based their democratic quest on the style of the Roman Empire – i.e., initially the elites benefitted relative to the populace. It may be reasonable to suggest the United States did not suffer the pains of establishing a democracy based on centuries long experience. Rather, the US leapfrogged from colonial rule to constitutional democracy over a relatively short time span. There was no existing system to replace. This shortcut greatly benefitted the framers of the constitution of the United States but does not take away from the importance of the United States model of democracy. Of course, amendments and other fixes were required along the way, but a very workable model for governing a nation resulted and is a model often used by democratizing nations to produce their own democracy. 

Today – 20th & 21st centuries 

Notwithstanding the inclusive intent of representative democracy, democracy has remained very exclusive. On two counts the multi-party political model of governing has brought democracy to its knees because of continuing exclusivity:

1. Labeling – Like wolves in the forest, the political parties have marked their territory and assumed a label that indicates their view of the way a nation should be governed. They are left, or right, or liberal, or populist, or socialistic, or capitalistic, or a combination thereof such as left leaning liberal, and etc. The process of marking their territory, then, suggests a limit on interests that does not extend into another party territory, lest they encounter great snarling and foot-stamping. In short, the party positions are exclusive, and the resulting polarization of thought prevents a balanced governing outcome, that would favour the populace, and promotes exclusivity that favours the base  of the party in power. 

2. Party elitism – It seems political parties are more interested in being elected/re-elected than they are in governing a nation. To further this need, the party elites, a few elite party members, decide the actions that must be taken to achieve their goal at the ballot box. Rather than coalescing the thoughts from the voters, the elites decide what policy statements will assist their electioneering goals, while attracting votes to their party label. The elected representatives are effectively removed from the process, except for the expectation they will deliver, to their constituents, the policy message of the party as defined by the elites. Again, the populace is not being represented by the representatives they elect but rather are persuaded to vote for a party,  not a representative.

In each of the above cases, party politics seem to be the platform for polarization and division; and the voice of the people, a requisite characteristic of a democracy, is blowing in the wind as representative Exclusive Democracy goes off the rails to possibly crash to extinction.

Conclusion

Ironically, it seems a case can be made to suggest exclusive democracy is completing a circle that started with the exclusive model created by Greek city states. A short-circuit in that two and a half millennia circular path is required. 

Move to Inclusive Democracy – power to the people, not the elites. The people must stand-up and be counted. Within the context of the Common Good, individualism has a vital role to play in the survival of democracy.

#30#

Next in Democracy: Inclusive Democracy Defined

Next in Along the Path: Autocracy is NOT Acceptable

Stay tuned.

Jon Constable

Democracy: Everyone talks but does nothing about it.

Along the Path

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. The same may be said about the apparent difficulties confronting the practice of democracy at this time. But reports of  the impending demise of democracy, hopefully, are most certainly exaggerated.

It seems that repairing Exclusive Democracy may be a futile exercise. The current practice of democracy typically favours the voting base of the governing party. The rising voice of the populace and the resulting demands have put the parties on their back-foot. The parties are not equipped to deal with the emerging broad range of societal expectations.  It has become evident that for democracy to survive, democracy requires major surgery, not band-aids.

Key to remediation  is excising  political parties. The political party elites  have high jacked the policy formation process. They dictate policy down to the people. By definition, democracy is a bottom-up process. Government must listen to the people; it must become inclusive. By moving to a unicameral legislative model, populated by elected independent representatives, Inclusive Democracy can be achieved.

The Senate should be retained but as an advisory body. After all, the Senate, the House of Lords, etc. were put in place to ensure the commoners did  not overstep their bounds – Exclusive Democracy. The populace wants to be included on it’s terms, not those of political parties.

Well, the populace is running rough-shod over those bounds and will not stop before they are the bottom-up source of political power. Direct representative democracy is the answer to the growing problem. Evolve to Inclusive Democracy to afford the nation the opportunity to climb the societal happiness index and to save democracy.

Jon Constable – author of “Evolve Canada Democracy” – PDF at www.canademocracy.ca

Are Political Parties Killing Democracy?

Yes, with malice aforethought. Political parties are continually at war with competing parties. In recent years the rhetoric has become nasty, often untruthful and even personally hurtful. Agreement between parties on anything but mundane issues has become impossible and harmful  to the nation. Commenting in Cognoscenti, Steve Almond wrote that in the 1950’s only 10% of US parties had negative feelings for the other party, while in the 21st century that has increased to 90%. Evidence suggests the same prevails in Canada.

It seems that democracy has become outmoded. Clearly in many western nations democracy is not getting the job done. That is, the voice of the people is not a principal driver of policy formation. Rather, when voting for constituency representatives, too often the voter votes for the party not the representative. The party label has become a vote getting magnet, while the voice of the people goes unheard.

Political Parties – the Problem

This does not happen without the significant influence of a political party elite. Why? Because most political parties appear to be more interested in being re-elected than they are in governing. Policy should be based on the expressed needs and aspirations of the people in the constituencies. Rather, the unforgettable purpose of political party elites is to collect votes, by lying if they must.

Why is the Process upside-down? 

The party elite develop electioneering platforms they hope will be attractive to their political base and beyond their base. At the same time each party takes actions, often making false and untrue declarations,  intended to block rival parties from being elected. But here is the rub. The people do not participate in the development of the party platform; that is the exclusive territory of the party elite – a very few entitled party spokespeople, the managers of this top-down process. Meanwhile, the elected representatives are expect to sell the platform to their constituents.

The Threat of Rising Autocracy

Do political parties pose a potential autocracy threat to Democracy? Certainly not by normal political evolution expectations. However, there are former representative democracies that have become autocratic: Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines, and Venezuela for example. In each of these modern conversions a “strong-man” elected leader of the country managed to become the authoritarian leader. They continue to have elections, and claim their country is a democracy, but they each are de facto autocracies. 

In my opinion, supported by several reported similar speculations, there is a current example of a failed attempt to convert a nation. I view the summer of 2020 actions of D. Trump a near miss. He came very close to being in the position to declare a national emergency that may have justified the suspension of normal governmental operations and a justification for “calling in the troops”. At that point Trump would have had control of the nation. A shout out to the military leaders (the Pentagon) for reminding the nation, the world, that the military is a-political, an American institution, and not beholden to a person or a political party.

Listen – the Populace is Speaking.

Let’s step aside and think about democracy. As Larry Diamond wrote in  his book “The Spirit of Democracy”:

“The very essence of democracy is that it reflects people power and not simply the constitutional choice of enlightened elites.”

Democracy is intended to be a bottom-up process, that is, from the people. That means the elected representative is responsible for understanding and delivering the constituency message to the legislative institution – for example to parliament or congress.

From the time of the 13th century Magna Carta until early in the twentieth century, governing a democracy was the exclusive purview of the elites. But the twentieth century brought on great change, a revolution. As Dillon sang, the times they are a changing, and the “revolution” has continued into the twenty-first century, with no end in view.

Onward People Power

Today, with ready access to information via the internet and access to social media, the people have found their voice and do not hesitate to express themselves, often via protest. As you may expect, frequently there is a disconnect between the voice of the people and the policy development of the political elites. It seems that the political elites subscribe to the presumed notion of the unsuitability of citizen participation.

“Perhaps the most enduring … charges [are] that: most people are incapable of participating in government in a meaningful or competent way because they lack the necessary  knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, experience, or character”. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Say it isn’t so! How Victorian of today’s political elites. 

The Sun is Rising on a Solution

The Era of Exclusive Democracy is passing. As evolution dictates the void must be filled. Enter the next Era – Inclusive Democracy. Bottom-up people power will create a thriving populace to the benefit of all people. Extinguishing political parties may be critical to the solution that will save democracy.

Stay tuned. Next up:  A Short History of Exclusive Democracy

Jon Constable – author of “Evolve Canada Democracy” – PDF at www.canademocracy.ca

Saving Democracy – Introduction

What brought this Blog to life? A growing concern for the survival of democracy. Prime situations contributing to the  concern are listed below*. After a lot of thought, researching, and drafting, the “Evolve Canada Democracy”  treatise resulted. While the treatise is focused on Canada, the principles are applicable to other countries wishing to conserve democracy by evolving from Exclusive Democracy to Inclusive Democracy. Countries contemplating becoming a democracy may find it appropriate to consider installing Inclusive Democracy at the outset. A PDF copy of the treatise is available through the website: http://www.canademocracy.ca

*These indicators of waning democratic practice, and the evident increasing disregard of the Common Good, are by no means the only situations that could have been included: 

  • In Hungary, the strongman push toward autocracy, and dictatorship.
  • The fractured parliament in the United Kingdom, exacerbated by dissension between the member British nations, and the divisiveness of Brexit.
  • The four years of too much deceitful, abhorrent behaviour of the Trump administration in the United States and the nationally embarrassing posturing following the 2020 election loss. It is all about the man-boy who would be king.
  • In Canada, the disgraceful performance of the Conservative party, during the 2019 national election, relying on Trumpian electioneering tactics rather than putting forward thought out policy proposals.
  • The increasing visibility of extreme militia-like forces in the USA and Germany.

Saving democracy from what?

First, a little about the intentions of democracy, notwithstanding general usage of the word may be so far off the definition, and its intent, it may be hard to gain traction with some readers. The definition is straight forward: 

“… the democratic method is that institutional arrangement, for arriving at political decisions, which realizes the common good for making the people itself decide issues through the election of individuals  who are to assemble in order to carry out its will.” “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” – Joseph A. Schumpeter

Note: Political parties are not necessary for governance to succeed in a democracy. Elected Representatives are the People.

Unfortunately, the political parties have high-jacked the process. With little input from the populace, the party elite form policies the elected representatives then deliver to their constituents. It has become a top-down process, with the expectation the voter’s will cast their vote for the party, not the elected representative, who has become a party proxy.

Democracy properly demands that the people express their needs to the government through their elected representatives, who in session will coalesce the learning from the populace into policy initiatives. – a bottom-up process.

“Exclusive Democracy” is Ailing.

Recent experience in the United States is an example of deteriorating democracy. I think many, if not most, would agree that the US was flirting with autocracy under the outgoing administration. This Blog post is not about the US or any other specific nation. It is about the evident deterioration of democracy, fear of the rising evidence of autocracy throughout the world, and about finding a solution to what I think is potentially a very serious world problem.

“Inclusive Democracy” Can be the Saviour. 

Democracy can evolve from the current Era of Exclusive Democracy to people friendly Inclusive Democracy. 

Encouragingly, the populace is increasingly willing to speak up and making their aspirations known. Not only are they speaking up, they are willing to put an on the street protest exclamation mark on their desires. People Power is good, and it is right. This recognition of the potential power of the people is a significant contributor to the likely extinction of Exclusive Democracy.

It is not too late. The people can save democracy and make it better than ever before by evolving their country to Inclusive Democracy – by the people, for the people.

#30

Next blog, with a little finer point on the pencil: “Are Political Parties Killing Democracy?”.

Subsequently, additional blogs will include the history of democracy, describe the current situation, and propose a solution in the form of Inclusive Democracy. A smattering of commentary will also be posted randomly.

Stay tuned.

Jon