In 1776 American Democracy was cutting-edge thinking. A great leap forward in government. The Great Experiment. It worked. It changed the world.
But what was once cutting edge, inspired thinking, and world-changing becomes commonplace. Improvements are made. Changes are incorporated to accommodate a changing world. Eventually, what was new becomes outdated and quaint. It no longer functions in an advancing world.
This is precisely what has happened with American Democracy in a far more populous world.
Broken, Chaotic Democracies Vs. Well Functioning Central Governments
The United States has a broken government. It is in the throws of social disintegration.
India is a mess of dysfunctional economics, chaotic infrastructure, poverty, and sectarian government.
Indonesia suffers from widespread environmental disasters, poor health, and a rapidly increasingly corrupt government.
China has a strong, unified, stable government, along with strong social cohesion. Its economy is growing rapidly, poverty is all but eliminated and 95% of its people have health coverage. China has more trees and cleaner air today than 10 years ago.
Three Billion People
These are the four most populous countries in the world. They represent the three largest Democracies, the largest Socialist nation, and 43% of the world’s population.
|China||1,394,015,977||Socialism with Chinese characteristics|
When it comes to governing, size matters. The 10 most democratic nations all have small populations:
- New Zealand
Democracy does work for low population countries. But for the larger populated countries, I’m not sure Democracy is the answer.
At what point does a country become too large for Democracy? That would be an interesting study.
Three Problems With Democracy
Democracy has many positive aspects. Those living in a Democracy disproportionately only learn or hear about the positives. There are also negative aspects of Democracy. I’ve chosen three to look at:
- Short term planning
- Compromise by committee
- Majority rule – not necessarily correct rule
Chaotic Democratic Governments
One of the issues that plague large population democracies is lack of consistency.
In the United States, for example, one administration provided health care, the next dismantled it. Several administrations worked to create the world’s largest trading alliance, another administration terminated it.
In India, the previous Singh government increased spending on education and social programs. The current Modi government slashed education and social programs.
In Indonesia, Wahid’s government passed legislation for religious freedom and openness. Yudhoyono’s government rescinded much of it.
If health care, religious freedom, and trade alliances are here today will they be gone after the next election?
How can a country operate under conditions of constant change? How do businesses prepare and citizens plan for the future?
Such uncertainty creates anxiety. People worry about an uncertain future.
The Great Weakness Of Democracies
Constantly changing laws and policies are a symptom of the election cycle. Governments in the three largest democracies change every 4 or 5 years. When a new political party comes to power they have usually won on the promise of change.
Herein lies the great weakness of democracies. Different political parties oppose each other, work against each other at the expense of the people and the nation.
China’s great strength is its long term government, long term thinking, and long term planning. China’s government is moving forward with the same decades-long goals. China’s government does not change its direction every few years.
In 1978 China began a campaign to end poverty. By 2019, 700 million people had been lifted out of poverty.
In 1964 America began a campaign to end poverty. The campaign lost support through the next several administrations, effectively ending 20 years later in the 1980s. From the late 1960s through 2018 the poverty rate has remained about 12% to 15% in the U.S.
In 2018, China’s poverty rate was 1.7% and decreasing.
In another example, the Chinese government began developing high-speed rail in 2007. More than a decade later China contains ⅔ of the world’s high-speed rail. Construction will continue through 2035.
In the United States, high-speed rail has been championed, ignored, begun, and terminated as administrations change. Currently, the U.S. has no high-speed rail. India as well as Indonesia have experienced the same starts and stops as governments change.
A Chinese company, working on Chinese infrastructure, plans for the next several decades – its workers are secure. An American (or Indian or Indonesian) company working on American (or Indian or Indonesian) infrastructure plans only until the next election – workers expect layoffs.
China succeeds, in part, because of its consistent policies and goals. Democracies fail, in part, because of constantly changing administrations that purposefully terminate the other party’s programs.
Ruling By Committee
We all know the potential ruinous outcome of projects run or designed by committee. Democracies are committees. A collection of misaligned, conflicting, and mutually exclusive wants and desires.
Democracies are governments of compromise. While compromise works well in smaller populations, the larger number of needs in larger population countries often result in gridlock or water-downed, useless legislation.
Compromise by committee moves society to the middle rather than forward. Problems are seldom satisfactorily resolved.
This is another great strength of a centralized government. Solutions are quickly determined and implemented.
Majority Rule – Right Or Wrong
By definition, in a democracy the majority decision rules. The majority is often wrong unless the populace is educated and willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
For over 200 years the majority of voters in Southern U.S. states voted for representatives who supported slavery, segregation, and then discrimination. Supported by the majority though immoral and wrong.
In 1977 the U.S. government had a primary goal of ending reliance on fossil fuels. More than 40 years later in 2018, America produces only 17% of its energy from renewable sources.
Reducing fossil fuel use is proving difficult. The majority of voters are not willing to pay slightly higher fuel and electric costs. Even though this would result in better health, a cleaner environment, and lower rates in the long-term.
In 2012 China began to switch to renewable energy. Six years later in 2018, China is producing 27% of its energy from renewables.
More recently China’s central government mandated the country to be carbon neutral by 2060. I believe China will reach this goal because for the next 40 years China will be working toward that goal – uninterrupted.
Government Makes The Difference
These four nations are populous, resource-rich, and full of potential. But only one functions well. Only the Centralized Socialist country is able to:
- Provide health care to all of its citizens
- Eliminate poverty
- Construct a modern infrastructure
- Switch to an entirely new energy system
- Reforest its land
- Clean its air
- Unite its people
Yes, the U.S. did similar things 70 years ago when its population was half of what it is now. But things have changed. The U.S. is the world’s third most populous country. What worked 70 or even 50 years ago with half as many people is not working today.
I’m not proposing a specific alternative to Democracy because I don’t know what it would look like. It may be Socialism with Chinese Characteristics or something quite different, but something different is needed.
Hopefully, this critique will stimulate some thoughtful responses.