Tag Archives: Representative Democracy

The Endless Search For Utopia

One of the most enduring concepts through the centuries has been the search for utopia. Few ideas ignite mankind’s passion and intellect in the same way as the grand search for the ideal master plan for civil society. Interestingly, if one were to ask different people what utopia would be, there would often be areas of agreement. 

In essence, many people view utopia as a kind of society where strife would be at a minimum, human needs would be met, and there would be a productive place and sense of meaning for each individual. However, although this sounds both ideal and possible on one level, it’s in the implementation of utopian plans that problems can arise. 

Some social theorists have complained that attempts to implement utopian theories lead to high levels of anxiety due to the fact utopian ideals are often difficult to achieve. Therefore, the inability to achieve these ideals can lead to a constant state of unfulfilled longing and frustration for many. In addition, since some utopian theories place the needs of the group over the individual, there have been instances of persecution of individuals justified in the name of a utopian ideal. The famous injustices created over the years in Communist societies are a strong example of cruelties often committed in the search for social perfection.

Although creation of an absolutely perfect utopia has proven difficult to achieve, it has to be noted that a glance at history reveals that aspects of utopian theory have been implemented over the years. To many, a kind of pragmatic utopia that rings eternal is the type of society characterized by both Representative Democracy and regulated marketplaces and capitalism.

Although pure capitalism is difficult to achieve and can lead to strong social imbalances, a regulated market economy that provides rules that act as a check on power, has proven durable for centuries. Likewise, Representative Democracy of the type America helped usher in over 200 years ago, has become both popular and efficient worldwide.

Although America’s not been perfect, its form of government has endured precisely because it recognizes the simple fact that mankind’s not really capable of the kind of perfection some other forms of utopia advocate. In recognizing the basic imperfection of man, and setting up checks on both individuals and institutions gathering too much power, democracies such as ours provide a safety valve that keeps society in balance.

And yes…America, as well as other democracies have at times treated certain groups unfairly. A quick glance at American history shows the injustices suffered by Native Americans, as well as the slavery and Jim Crow laws that adversely affected the lives of African-Americans. However, if there was ever a society capable of acknowledging and rectifying historical wrongs, it’s the type of Representative Democracy that America has. Those who advocate moving away from both democracy and regulated marketplaces in America due to past injustices, risk getting rid of one of the most durable and pragmatically utopian societies in human history.




Elections and the Promise of Democracy

Each year at election time we’re reminded several things about the nature of life in a Democracy. For some, a wide range of emotions accompanies elections. These emotions run the gamut from sheer elation if their political side wins, to dismay at the imperfect nature of politics if one’s on the losing side of the political equation. However, no matter the variety of emotions that hit us at election time, it’s clear that for all its faults, Democracy is the best political system. A quick glance at life in a totalitarian regime can give proof to that.

Democracy’s strength lay in how it allows for a filtering of ideas from several levels of society. And yes, although Democracy is often diluted by special interests, it needs to be noted that some special interests actually represent issues important to us all.

Since America’s form of government is technically known as a Constitutional Republic, there’s debate as to whether one should refer to it as a Democracy. As a compromise, some call it a Representative Democracy. After all, as voters we elect representatives to do a majority of legislative decision-making. In a true Democracy, voter referendums may be more common and simple majorities could determine many more aspects of modern life.

In modern America, the political process has changed much the past twenty years. Due to proliferation of new media and a consolidation of existing media outlets, a much different mindset exists now. On many issues media and political elites now aggressively use their skill and savvy to rally the masses to perceived victories. Although this aspect of populism has been with America from the days of William Jennings Bryan in the late 1800’s, the skill, power, and sheer repetition of today’s media arena has heightened political intensity.

Obviously, the advent of the quick-hitting verbosity of social media can give modern politics a more intense feel than in the past. When the bullet point mindset of social media is applied to today’s complex political issues, emotional reactions can erupt due to the fact issues are often shorn of their complexity. Also, by using closed-ended bullet point language that talks sometimes of absolute defeat of political foes, modern day political operatives and politicians may be giving rise to an all or nothing dogma that used to be mostly the province of monarchies and totalitarian regimes.

In line with this, it’s been recently noted by many that the ability to civilly “agree to disagree” is being lost in America. Since many individuals and political operatives now perceive political stakes to be so high, there’s a strong sense of activism on many levels that encourages intense loyalty and at times retribution for things that used to be allowed to slide in the past. Some feel this type of activism is leading us away from reasoned debate and more into a react first, and think later, mindset. As result, a new kind of political segregation is arising in America. This newer trend seems to be resulting in fewer marriages and friendships between opposite political ideologies.

As most of us know, countless issues of modern life are now incredibly complex and defy categorization as a bullet point. In a world that runs the gamut from complex economics, to high level scientific-technological issues, to the ever-growing legalisms evident today, it’s clear that using bullet point explanations with some issues may be taking the easy way out.

Seemingly lost in today’s political-media frenzy is the sense that government sometimes functions best when a compromise is struck between opposite interests. Although political deals are often struck these days, most political operatives and politicians are afraid to explain the reasoning behind their deal making to the public at large. Therefore, since many voters perceive a lack of sincerity, the tag of RINO-Republican in name only, or DINO-Democrat in name only, is attached to a politician who refuses to explain their motives to the electorate.

Unfortunately, diluting political issues to bullet points and embracing a more emotional approach to governing can potentially contradict the checks and balances our Founding Fathers had in mind. This is the situation America faces today.

To counteract the emotionalism of today’s politics, one can look at what it was like to live in pre-Democracy times before the 1700’s. Although Democracy had been tried for a while in ancient Greece and Rome, it didn’t become a standard for governments until the 1800’s. If one goes back to reading what life was like then, and if one looks at the issues Enlightenment political theorist John Locke faced, it’s easy to see that Democracy is not a gift to take lightly.

If we sincerely look at the struggles mankind faced to reach the Democracy threshold, one comes away with a renewed awareness that Democracy is not just a vehicle to use for vanquishing a political foe, it’s more importantly a tool used to free all mankind from some of the more brutish aspects of life. This is because it is in the balance of opposites that true Democracy exists. Reconciling and living with opposite tendencies, as opposed to merely controlling or vanquishing them, is the essence of the checks and balances that Enlightenment thinkers used to create our amazing Constitution.

In line with that, if we realize how economics is tied at the hips with politics, it’d behoove us to become more aware of the seemingly boring, yet very important, study of economics. Too often, politicians reduce economic ideas to the simple concept often repeated that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Ironically, many of the people who advance such a simple economic dogma are often rich themselves. In addition, another simple economic myth politicians sometimes promote is that those who struggle economically simply don’t work hard enough.

If we embrace the fact our complex world demands the ability to think and debate more rationally, there’s a chance politics can return more to the concept of Representative Democracy our Founding Fathers had when they framed America’s constitutional government. As they envisioned it, such a system, by creating checks and balances through a separation of powers, would be superior to the dogmatism of a monarchy or dictatorship. This sense of governmental balance, which seeks to somewhat reconcile opposites, as opposed to controlling or vanquishing them, has been key to America’s strength. If we can work towards this concept of government more, the promise that elections hold for Democracy may become bright yet again.