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The Perils of Democracy

Posted by on 23 February, 2012 in Australian History, Controversy | 9 Comments

Following on from the discussion regarding the Perils of Capitalism, it is worth considering the assumption that democracy is the best form of earthly government.    As Australia undergoes Rudd vs. Gillard Part II, many voters are asking the question, “When I voted Rudd in 2007, why did I get Gillard?    Or   “When I voted for Gillard in 2010, why might I get Rudd?”     The reality is that pure democracy of the masses is not accurate.   Rather it is democracy of a chosen few that select the leader.  Or to be more candid, it is factions – not our representatives – within parties that appoint kings or queens.

Or to put it another way, why can politicians blatantly tell lies during election or in post-election campaigns, and then claim mandates to do the opposite?  It is no wonder that many have concluded that democracy is a facade.

The US system of democracy is different but just as flawed.   In the GOP primary season, the establishment is trying to force their chosen candidate – Romney – on an electorate who appears to want ‘anyone but Romney’.   It will be interesting to see if the will of the people or the money of the establishment will win.

 

But let’s expand the analysis of ‘democracy’ beyond our borders and current circumstances.   The most recent Iraq War and Afghanistan War along with the revolutions in Lybia and Egypt, received much of their justification on the basis that the West was bringing democracy (read a better form of government) to those regions.   But on what basis do we decide that democracy is superior?

Here are 3 big perils for democratic forms of governance

  1. It is based on the fact that the majority are right. When the majority are no longer godly, democracy is an oppressive system.
  2. It leads to short term politically based policies and programs. Rather than what is best for society’s long term health (debt filled binges so pollies get re-elected rather than sober governance)
  3. It incents politicians to slander, lie and be negative to achieve popularity around election time  (e.g. carbon tax, etc)

Historically democracy has worked well in the west. A high level of freedom has existed in the US, Australia and parts of Europe. However, I would suppose this has more to do with the Christian heritage of the majority of the population rather than democracy.   We should be thankful for Australia’s Christian democratic heritage, but let’s focus on more on the Christian part and less on the democratic part.

Blessings

JC

About Jeremy Crooks

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Jeremy grew up in Sydney and currently lives with his wife and four children on the NSW Central Coast. He has tertiary qualifications in business, training, and Bible. With experience in both church ministry and corporate human resources, Jeremy has a strong interest in how faith is demonstrated in our homes and workplaces. You can contact Jeremy at jeremy@teaminfocus.com.au.

Comments (9)

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  • avatar

    Greg

    This is one of the best articles on the failure of democracy and the true focus governence should take that I have ever read. Thank you for it.

  • avatar

    PJ

    Can’t say I agree with you today Jeremy.

    Democracy is not premised upon the majority being “right”, it’s premised upon the majority having its way. The moral argument in favour of democracy is essentially that it is a good thing to allow the majority to have its way. What the majority decides to do is an altogether different question – democracy is not the problem.

    The losing side in the democratic system(the minority) will always claim that democracy is oppressive!

    I also take issue with the “Christian heritage” argument. I agree that our system of law is founded on Judeo-Christian ethics, but that’s different from a “Christian heritage”.

    History suggests that our heritage has more to do with the transportation of criminals, the wholesale dispossession and murder of indigenous people, farming, gold, economics and politics.

    Consider the so called ‘founding fathers’ – Henry Parkes the ‘father federation’ was philanderer who probably drank too much. Alfred Deakin was into the occult. Edmund Barton was known as ‘Tosspot Toby’ for his love of alcohol. (Shall I go on?…)

    • avatar

      Jeremy Crooks

      In the sense that democracy diffuses power from a central body, it offers some safe guards that dictatorships do not. However it is by no means the single answer for the governance of all nation states.

      Regarding our Christian heritage, I see that as being much more than the vices of 3 former PMs. The general culture of respect for the God of the Bible was also shaped by people like Samuel Marsden and demonstrated in the lives of ordinary Australian families. (many of whom were ex-convicts and cared greatly for indigenous people).

  • avatar

    PJ

    @Jeremy – I think you’ve hit upon one of the key questions of the last two decades, ‘is democracy the right system for all nation states?’ I really don’t know the answer to that, although I’m not sure I’d like to live in a country that wasn’t a democracy!

    I only mentioned Parkes, Deakin and Barton to point out that our nation’s founders were not godly men and were not motivated by some genuine desire to honour God. (and btw Parkes was never Prime Minister)

    Granted there were significant Christians there in the beginning like Marsden and Johnson(although Marsden’s views about Indigenous people were questionable to say the least), and while there probably was a culture of respect for God and the Bible, this does not equate to a ‘Christian heritage.’

    The colonies were not Christian utopias, they were places where vice abounded (our love affair with alcohol is not new!), where the pursuit of wealth was the key concern and where great injustices were perpetrated against many classes of people, and particularly against Indigenous people. (It wasn’t until 1838 that a person of British descent was actually convicted for the murder of an Indigenous person!)

    The greatest motivators for Federation were not ‘Christian ideals or principles,’ they were ideas about race and the practicalities of governance and trade. God gets a token mention in the opening lines of the Constitution, but that’s about it.

    I’m sorry, but I tend to think the whole “Christian heritage” thing is a myth. Our history is very un-Christian.

    • avatar

      Jeremy Crooks

      I certain agree our country was not a Christian utopia and we must be careful to not romanticize history.

      My point is that as a percentage of population, we had more God fearing citizens in the past. This resulted in generally a more functioning democracy and righteous society as a whole. This does not negate or justify the examples that you have outlined. Atrocities were committed.

      Regarding alternatives to democracy, I think a benevolent dictatorship would be an effective and just form of government. The trouble is that most dictators are not benevolent. :)

  • avatar

    Matt Leys

    I think that many people get Judeo-Christian ethics and democracy mixed up. Many Christians are surprised to learn that democracy originated with the Greeks hundreds of years before Christ with very little influence of Judeo-Christian ethics, esp. since the Christian bit didn’t exist!

    Democracy, however, has become synonymous with Christian faith over time, I believe due to a few reasons:
    * democracy generally allows for personal freedoms of faith and expression
    * democracy tends to embrace the Christian concepts of free will and personal accountability
    * democracy allows Christians to actively participate within society and it’s political processes

    Apart from a Christ-ruled theocracy, democracy appears to be the best option. As they say, it’s not that democracy is perfect, just no one’s come up with a better idea yet …

    BTW, the current carryings-on highlight that the the Australian political landscape could benefit from some real reforms. There are many things about our electoral system that are far from ideal …

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    I agree that we too easily equate democracy with Christianity. That said, the great American experiment in democracy was founded on the thinking of Calvin and Hobbes (yes, that’s where the comic strip got its name!).

    This experiment in democracy was based on Calvin’s teaching on total depravity. In other words, as Lord Acton put it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is this universal human problem that the Greeks sought to deal with in their early forms of democracy. The American experiment on which many more recent democracies have been modelled, sought to develop a more representative form of democracy in which checks and balances were the key to dealing with the depravity of man.

    The problem is that NO system is perfect. Nor CAN any system be perfect. This human dilemma is a result of the curse and should draw our hearts away from this world to another world where God will rule and reign as Supreme Monarch and in which there will be no more injustice or corruption.

  • avatar

    Jeremy Crooks

    Rudd has confirmed he will challenge. It now seems to be about egos and not good representation.

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