problems with democracy

"democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others" - Winston Churchill

If one compares various forms of government, most people would say that democracy (or more specifically electoral republics) is best, with others being inferior. In a spectrum from good to bad, I was taught that it is all the way on the good end. I submit that there is something better past it.

two issues with republics:

  1. under representation of people effected by the government
  2. lack of knowlege in the electorate of government actions
Here are is a short discussion of two examples of the first problem and some possible solutions.

Under Representing Some Groups

There are several groups that are under represented. Some examples are children, felons, people that live in populous states and non-citizen residents. I'm not a demographer and don't know exactly how large these groups are, but all are huge.

Here are some numbers on the first two groups:

So those two groups constitute a large chunk of the people that live under the rule of law in America. In fact due to the nature of their lives, those two groups come into contact with the government to a much larger degree than most. Let's look at children first ...

We prevent children from voting until they are 18. Fine, but voting is not the only way to get representation. We could give parents/guardians weighted votes. Based on the policies we have, chilren seem seriously under-represented. Unfortunately, this alternative doesn't seem even remotely possible. Imagine this: if you are the mother of a child under 18, your vote counts twice. This would still under represent children with siblings, but it would substantially alter the electorate. I think it would reduce the struggle for education dollars while breaking the stranglehold the elderly have on our elected officials (full disclosure: I have no children and would not benefit from this scheme).

Let's look at criminals...

It doesn't seem unreasonable to prevent a small minority of felons from the privilege of voting. However, it becomes harder justify this policy when one considers that we have the highest rate of incarceration of any industrial nation.

Frankly, the concept that felons can't vote seems like a fringe issue (unlike the issue of child representation, people are falling over themselves to be "for kids"). But two things make it a big deal right now:

  1. the election of President Bush, by a narrow, possibly negative, margin
  2. the felony conviction rate in the states that prevent voting is highly racially skewed (especially in Florida, Bushes swing state)

For the problem of felons, the obvious choice is to automatically reinstate voting rights after the sentence is served. Convicts are sentenced, during this time they have their privelege revoked. This way the punishment is proportional to the crime. This is the law in the majority of states.

These 2 groups just scratch the surface. I am also in favor of:

The first two seem like no brainers to me. The fact that they are distant pipe dreams just manifests the scale of the exaggeration "by the people, for the people". So, the struggle continues ...

My next essay will explore the disconnect between what they say to get elected and what they do to stay in power.

people are effected by government action, but elect personel

This is the other major failure, it drives towards schizoid polititians. On the one hand, they have a public face to get elected, on the other hand their policies are pressured by other forces.


Bill de la Vega - Fall 2002