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Democracy! “Everybody Knows The Good Guys Lost”

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking,
everybody knows that the captain lied 
Everybody got this broken feeling, 
like their father or their dog just died 
-Leonard Cohen

Merriam-Webster’s defines democracy as:

a)Government by the people
b)a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

The Oxford Dictionary defines democracy as:

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives

I see more posts, tweets and commentary on democracy than any other single topic. Everyone talks about it including politicians, the media, academics and every day people. Democracy is not a homogenous thing and it takes many forms. In fact, there are almost three dozen different forms of democracy currently in existence.

Some democracies use a first-past-the-post system of allocating representation. Canada and the United States are examples of this approach. Others, like Italy, Israel and Germany have representative democracies and allocate seats based on the percentage of votes received by each political party.

Some democracies, like Canada and Sweden, are constitutional monarchies while others like the United States and France are republics. Some democracies are actually totalitarian and a few are outright dictatorships which seems incongruous to our basic concept of democracy but which is true nonetheless.

One thing they all share in common, however, is that they are too easily corrupted by those who run for office.

The common thread in democracy is that the state belongs to the people and it is the people who manage through some form of elected representation, the affairs of state. Too often, those who run for office lose sight of the simple fact that it is not their function to govern the lives of others but rather to represent us in governing our common affairs.

Elected representation is meant to be about service not ruling. Unfortunately, that is not the norm in modern democracies.

The ‘people’ are partly responsible for this because too many of us have allowed our democracies to be eroded by cynical politics and election campaigns where we are lied to and often bribed with our own money. It isn’t, however, only the fault of the people. I believe that in large part the fault lies with politicians and how they practice politics.

They have turned their backs on serving the people and are focused on power and winning elections to obtain power. They are meant to be the caretakers of our constitutions and defenders of our rights but increasingly are the single biggest threat to both.

The current presidential election campaign in the United States exemplifies just how out of touch politicians have become with their actual purpose. The choices being offered the American people have almost nothing to do with the real and serious issues they face and everything to do with blame, accusation and outright lies. It’s all about winning and in the end, you begin to wonder what it is they think they’re actually trying to win or what they intend to do once they have won.

In Canada, the province of Quebec is also going through an election and the choices being offered border on insanity. The three leading contenders are so completely out of touch with reality that you begin to wonder if they have any idea of what they are doing to the province.

One candidate wants to divorce the province from the rest of Canada without having any plan on how to make up the close to $20 billion a year the province would lose in transfer payments. She has put forward one of the most racist campaign platforms in Canadian history, a string of election promises that would take away basic rights from citizens of the province who are not naturally born Quebec French. Her two main opponents aren’t much better.

One is the current premier who has a record that is more than sufficient reason to turf him out of office. The other is a misogynist, former separatist who is promising to cut public sector spending while promising to increase it.

It’s enough to make your head explode.

I think we need to repair our electoral process. We elect too many who lack the qualifications to represent us and some are just flat out stupid or dishonest or both. In response to another gang shooting on the weekend here, one local councilor proposed that the owners of legal firearms be required to store them at a central storage facility and log them in and out when they want to use them.

More bureaucracy and state control is always the first solution these twits propose. Even the chief of police is on the record as saying the problem is not with legal firearms but with weapons smuggled into the country and acquired illegally. What’s the political solution? Restrict legal gun ownership.

It’s like your surgeon offering to cut off your right arm because you broke your foot.

In the last federal election, the New Democratic Party surprised itself with a result that was far beyond anything they had dared to believe would happen and they became Canada’s Official Opposition to the government. They achieved this success by parachuting unknown candidates into many Quebec ridings, some of whom were barely out of their teens and one who was nineteen at the time. How can anyone rationalize the idea of someone barely out of high school participating in billion dollar decisions?

It’s small wonder our countries are struggling to get back on track.

I think the time has come to establish a means test for politicians. I think we should run criminal background and credit checks on those who wish to run for office and ‘serve’ the people. Perhaps with a proper background check we could avoid the absurd situation in Manitoba where an accused pedophile, who is currently facing criminal charges, is running for public office.

I also think there should be a knowledge test. Would be politicians should have to pass a test on the nation’s constitution and charter of rights. They should be required to demonstrate a solid understanding of how our system of government works, whatever that system is and have a demonstrated knowledge of the issues facing our nations. There is no point in allowing those who have no concept of national defense participate in decisions about military procurement or allowing people who have no understanding of how economies work participate in decisions that have direct effect on the economy.

No properly run business would even consider hiring someone with no experience in the areas of the company’s business but we do it all the time when we elect the inexperienced to office.

Politicians should be required to represent the people in their constituency first and their political party second.

Finally, I believe there should be a minimum age requirement. We don’t need people who are barely out of their teens deciding how our nations should be run, no matter how sincere and earnest they may be. In Quebec, the separatist party recruited a young man who led the recent student protest over tuition increases and he dutifully dropped out of college to answer the call. What real knowledge or life experience can he bring to the complex issues facing Quebec society today?

We have enough ill-informed and inexperienced people in government as it is we don’t need more including some who have not yet reached the legal age to drink in some jurisdictions.

Reform won’t happen, of course. The more corrupted and broken the system remains, the more it works in favour of those who scramble for power like pigs fighting over a few ears of corn in a sty.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for the people or for our societies. It undermines the rights of the people and erodes the prosperity and success of our nations. True leaders with vision, character and integrity would understand that. The fact that we haven’t seen any leaders like that for a very long time pretty much confirms the caliber of the choices we have at election time, regardless of what election it may be.

The tragedy is that everybody knows that the system is broken. Everybody knows that the taxation systems of almost all democracies are overly complex and unfair, politics is corrupt and the people have no real choices and have little more opportunity other than choosing from equally bad sides in a losing proposition.

Everybody knows that every major issue that confronts us today can be traced back to how politicians and their parties have mishandled circumstance or pandered to special interest, corrupting our politics and our nations in the process. Everybody knows the people have lost their voice for little more than yelling at each other in frustration rather than uniting to demand and bring about real change.

Everybody knows that the deal is rotten but nobody knows what to do about it. . .
… that’s just how it goes these days.

© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13952798313519783430 Renaissance Nerd

    I reckon all governments are democracies; the people get just as bad a government as they’ll tolerate. When they stop tolerating it, every other form of government ends, from anarchy to theocracy. Accepting that basic fact is part of being democratic, but it’s really just accepting the reality that power is an illusion, no more than a hallucinogen that is inevitably followed by a crash. While it’s better to accept reality than to oppose it, enshrining ‘the people’ as perfect arbiters of good and evil is rebelling against reality again. (sigh) I’m in my own party. Long Live the Balance!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

      I think you’ve pretty much captured it in your comment. It starts and ends with the people regardless of the type of government. Even tyrannies are overthrown when the people stop tolerating them as we’ve seen in the French and American Revolutions and more recently in places like Libya and Syria.

      In the end, we get the government we deserve based on our apathy, our complacency and our willingness to be bought with empty promises and our own money. You wold have thought after all these centuries, we might have learned a few things but…apparently not.

  • Anonymous

    max of two terms. if a term is four years you get to serve eight. emphasis on SERVE. elected reps are not there to become wealthy, they are there to SERVE the country and the people and do ZERO damage to both.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16123459288721211812 Bear

      It’s a good point. The issue with term limits, however, is with both severance pay and pensions. If neither is attractive enough to attract quality candidates, we end up with what we have. There would be a need to figure out a balance between term limits and proper compensation for the period of the term.