Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Democracy, huh?!

Democracy is widely established as the optimal governance mechanism. This is mainly due to the distribution of power among various institutions (rather than individuals) and the checks and balances against abuse of this power.

But the way the system has managed to beat itself in this game amazes me. If there's anything I've learnt in my diploma institute, its that a system can be adjudged to be a good one only if it does so when all players act in a self-interested ( a sophisticated way of saying 'selfish') manner. Hence I refuse to lay blame on the politicians' door for being selfish. When they find no incentive to lead their respective constituency on the path of development, why would they? When there is an easier and surer way to cling to power than carry out developmental work, why would they care to develop their people?

The least one should expect in a good system of governance is for performance to be linked to rewards/punishment. Instead, there is significant proof that one's misdeeds does not necessarily mean defeat in the next election. Well, we have a live example where a person needs less than 1500 days to make a trillion dollar deficit from a surplus state, gets the energy corporations to decide energy policy and of course, run a war to settle scores with the guy who tried to kill his father , and then win an extra four years to continue his service to his nation. A little before Lok Sabha elections in India this year, India Today reported a survey in which people displayed a remarkably high negative correlation between their preferred candidate choice and his performance.

Political parties seem to consciously avoid issues of importance and would rather debate non-issues. If, in India, it is Mandir / Mandal / Foreign origin etc, in US it is abortion, gay rights, Vietnam War and of course the War on Terror. Whatever happened to good ol' poverty, increasing divide between the wealthy and poor, poor infrastructure etc?!

Even if at a later date, a political party does decide to take up issues of development, by then the public is fixated over the non-issues to the extent that any vote for this new political party will probably be based on its perceived stand on the non-issues.

In other words, the current set of political parties benefit by changing the rules of the game so that the ideal winner is destined to lose.

So what is the way out of this mess? My answer is rather simple - I have no clue whatsoever. I just hope there exists some person who can creatively and intelligently play the game of electoral politics to break this impasse.

Well, the only reason I can think of for democracy to be considered a good system is that every other conceivable system is worse.

In any case, I just hope that out of all this churning will emerge a better system of governance. Hope is good - Andy in Shawshank. Indeed it is.

3 Value-adds:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

jst in case u r interested..for more info on types of democracies, voting systems etc see

i had stumbled on this while looking for info on the us electoral "winner take all" system. Check out duverger's law on that page. Interesting i thot.

November 12, 2004 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems to me that modern democracies which are more media frenzy will tend to vote on qs which are boolean in nature. thus qs which are slisha vague/non boolean answers like "has the standard of living improved in the last 4 years?" will tend to be less important to the election more so now since the media would find it difficult to raise such vague questions(they would like to "discuss" and "conclude" in a 30 min debate - 10 min adbreak rite?). on the other hand, questions like "do you support abortion" are just what the doctor ordered..;)

just my $0.02

November 12, 2004 7:34 AM  
Blogger eV said...

Studied Duverger's law as part of a course on Political Economy I'm currently taking... Works amazingly well in the state level in India .. but collapses in the centre!

November 12, 2004 12:00 PM  

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