The Democratic Republic of Flat Earth
As proposed in a previous post, I believe that democracy does not properly lead to optimal social outcome because of a couple of fundamental issues:
- Democracy, as pointed out by Kant, is a despotic system, meaning that the opinion of the majority is generally imposed to the minorities.
- In a democratic system, the power dispute is pretty much open to whatever group is interested and there is no distinction between passional ideology and rational methodology.
As a consequence, democracy exposes the society to potential damage risk as it gives the opportunity to erroneous/malicious ideologies to influence the public opinion and grow political power. In 1940, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote:
Some forty years ago, in the town of Durban, a member of the Flat Earth Society challenged the world to public debate. The challenge was taken up by a sea captain whose only argument in favor of the world’s being round was that he had been round it. This argument, of course, was easily disposed of, and the Flat-Earth propagandist obtained a two thirds majority. The voice of the people having been thus declared, the true democrat must conclude that in Durban the earth is flat.
As Russell points out, one’s propaganda capacity is directly proportional to his effectiveness on influencing the public opinion. This condition is logically reinforced when the educational level of the population is lower.
Having said that, it seems the political power in a democracy is dependent on sophistry skills associated with some level of broadcasting media control. Not surprisingly, the actual political scenario of modern democracies endorses this view, as demonstrated by Lawrence Lessig (thanks to @vbandrade).
Overall, the assumption of collective wisdom and method-free political discussion that founds democracy proves itself to be not only conceptually incoherent but also actually harmful.
Collective wisdom, alas, is no adequate substitute for the intelligence of individuals. Individuals who opposed received opinions have been the source of all progress, both moral and intellectual. They have been unpopular, as was natural. Socrates, Christ, and Galileo all equally incurred the censure of the orthodox.
Many of the social innovators throughout the history, as Russell mentions above, were representatives of minorities and they have been usually rejected by the common sense. In the modern times, this scenario can be as well observed quite frequently. Freedom from slavery, feminism, gay rights, freedom of creed are examples of complex struggles minorities fought.
Given those problems, how a more reasonable social system would look like? In my previous post, I’ve already proposed *consensus* as an alternative to democracy, giving the Scientific Community as a success case of it. Could you think of other alternatives or improvements on the current state of affairs in democratic nations?