Plato, one of the world’s most influential philosophers, wrote thousands of years ago in his classic ‘The Republic’ that democracy was an inherently flawed government system. Arguing that it would never work purely efficiently, Plato describes it as a government that offers everything, but stands for nothing, where politicians tell voters anything they want to get in power, and do not rule impartially.
And Plato’s not the only one. Socrates, another Greek philosopher (and OKAY OKAY; Plato’s mentor) argued:
“such is democracy; – a pleasing, lawless, various sort of government”.
Our very own Winston Churchill, who worked his way to the top of this system stated that:
“the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”
(I’m trying not to take that personally).
It has become very evident in the last decade that there is growing dissatisfaction between the public and government in many democratic countries, examples of which can be seen within our own UK elections and the upcoming US presidential elections: voters feel disparaged and disillusioned. Is this due to largely unpopular candidates- the Hilary vs. Trump campaign has lately been referred to as a campaign of the ‘Lesser to two evils’- or is this due to our ever increasing awareness of the political and global stratosphere: are we much more tuned into today, and therefore have more to say? Either way, despite it obvious that we are not going to please everyone, there seems to be a large proportion of us left unsatisfied with our employees at Downing Street and the Oval Office. We also have to address the idea that largely unpopular candidates are in our ballots; is this not evidential of a flawed system, or are we just becoming too picky
Perhaps it is not our leaders, but the system itself? Whilst built on the most noble intentions, does our government suffer from stagnation? Are we unwittingly in a state similar to Russia’s Brezhnev era? With such a fast-paced, technologically revolutionised and increasingly globalised world we live in, surely the last thing we need is an archaic government system at its heart.
Or yet, it could be the ideals of our system. There is an argument to say that our government is built on capitalist ideas. For example, the nature of the political working environment is similar to the enterprise of many private companies in our country: there is an individual desire to be promoted, earn more, have more influence, and the methods of achieving this are just the same (this contradicts Plato’s idea of an efficient government: they should be entirely impartial). Another example of this ideal is in the way our candidates are elected: it is a competition by which candidates can use any (legal) means necessary to earn the support of the voters, often resulting in disconcerting tailored marketing, misleading slogans and finger-pointing (what about this doesn’t resemble businesses of our free-market economy?). My question is: why do we expect any more of our politicians and our government if they are run on the same ideals as our infamously cut-throat business sector?
Russell Brand, a spearhead for political change has famously over the past decade called for a complete overhaul of our democratic system, controversially stating that our current politicians have their own self-interests and only widen the gap between those with lower and higher disposable incomes. He comes from a much more humanitarian ideal, and begs the question: what is our long term goal? If our aspiration is to have equality, a perfect economy and and a complete utopian society (which surely, it must be?) then surely we need to change our system because as Plato suggests, our current system contradicts these ideas. I imagine this goal is not on our generations horizons, but to ultimately achieve it is some reform not required? How can we hope for a society to become this if the ideals at the heart of our current one contradict it?
DISCLAIMER: this is just an idea, something thought-provoking I came across and thought interesting to explore…