Friday, April 16, 2010

Democratic Ignorance

With the election coming up, I took the opportunity last night to watch the first leaders TV debate to see if I could get any clues at all as to who to vote for on May 6th. It has to be said that I’m none the wiser.
Quite apart from the point that what a politician says they’ll do may bare little relation to what they would actually do if they gain power, I am more fundamentally challenged with the problem that even if their manifestos are accurate, I simply don’t have the knowledge to know which policies might be best for the economy, or education or defence etc. I flatter myself that I’m a fairly intelligent bloke, but, for instance, will further spending in the public sector or radical savings be a better approach to economic recovery? I just don’t know, and 3 leaders arguing their point gave me no more insight into it that flipping a coin would have done.
Here then is a basic problem as I think a huge section of the voting public will possibly have even less grasp than me, so the idea that a democratic system of government is the only fair and just way to rule seems to me to be merely a way of shifting responsibility for failure of government onto the masses. If I ask a child which piece of plastic I should use to pay for the shopping, they’ll probably answer baser on what colour the card it, rather than if you get cashback, or if the interest rate is lower, or if I’m going to be paying the card of at the end of the month or not. In the same vein I might think that as the country has a huge debt, then cuts in public spending is logically a good idea, but the economy is such a complex beast, I am just not equipped with enough knowledge or experience to know if that gut feeling is valid or not. Effectively giving me the right to vote is introducing a random element into government which is actually not fair or just at all, it’s actually irresponsible.
If I get on a plane I expect people with knowledge and experience to have selected a pilot based on his skills to fly the plane. I don’t want to be presented with 3 candidates and have all the passengers vote based on which pilot can convince us he knows what he’s doing. It will be no comfort as the plane plummets to the ground to think that that pilot was fairly elected.
Of course it’s not just a matter of competence to rule, as the democratic process we have gears politicians to design policy based primarily on what will get them elected and keep them in power rather than what policies the country and population actually need.
So the net result is we have an ill equipped public choosing between sets of popularist policies, designed by people who may or may not be qualified to carry those policies out. Thank goodness we still have some hereditary peers left who aren’t constrained by the vagaries of democratic election with a power of veto.

No comments: