How to know if your democracy is failing
Power is held by the few and the affluent in society. In a proper democracy, Lady Justice will solve this imbalance through the power of election. The poor outnumber the rich, and thus are able to vote out their policy-makers if they feel they aren’t being properly represented. This power in numbers is a constant threat that looms over the upper class, keeping them from indulging in their own bureaucratic self-interest. This applies to more than just national elections — it describes the relationship between consumer and producer in a capitalistic society as well, if you consider where you spend your hard-earned dollars to be a vote for the world you live in. On the surface, it’s a decent system.
But the powerful generally wouldn’t agree. Most would rather continue to profit without obstruction, growing their wealth and influence indefinitely. And if they become so worried about the collective voice of the people turning on them, they might start looking for ways to circumvent this democratic process to remove these important institutional boundaries. That is when a democracy begins to die.
So what are the warning signs of this democratic sabotage? How can we figure out when our democracy is failing? Well, your ears should start perking up when there is a large gap in wealth between the rich and the poor. Wealth disparity is no accident. The upper class does whatever it can to gobble up everything worth owning, and when they are successful they will drift far from the middle and lower classes. It’s up to us to reign them back in and give some of that capital back to the masses. So when wealth disparity grows comically large, it means that we’re not doing our jobs. Or better yet, it means something is preventing us from doing our jobs. Somebody is holding a veil over our eyes.
The point of politics is to think about the conditions that are conducive to leading a good life. In a just, democratic political system, the elected leader is the person who heads a campaign that checks the boxes of high quality of life for the largest number of people. But when that veil is cast, things get skewed. Fear and lies take hold, as people turn on each other or begin looking over their shoulders instead of thinking rationally and facing the real threat staring them in the face. When the lower class erupts into civil war, the only victor is the upper class.
What is the best way to get the ball rolling if you want your population to be in the dark? Get rid of the media! If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you destroy the democratic pillars of society and nobody’s around to properly report it to the people, it’s like it never happened! But you can’t outright ban the media outlets that oppose you, that’ll make it too obvious. You have to be sneaky — start questioning the legitimacy of bi-partisan journalists, casting a shadow of doubt over any form of criticism that comes your way. The media is the enemy for guys like Hitler, Putin, Mussolini, Stalin, Trump. Fake News™ is a plague, they’re all out to get us. Get your news straight from us and our propaganda machines, we are the only ones you can trust. Boom, now the narrative is entirely in your hands.
So you have to be wary of leaders that condone the press and effectively “gaslight” their people. The next thing to take a look at is much more institutional. Democracy, by definition, relies upon free and fair elections in which every member of the population has an equal say in how their society is governed. So how are your elections held? There are a lot of tricky ways for the bourgeoise to subtly skew election results in their favor.
Take a look at ancient Athens. When Aristotle talks about the “free and fair democracy” of Greece at the time, he’s actually talking about a system that only gave a voice to free men. Women, children and slaves were not able to vote, which means that large portions of the population that did not need to have representation in the political system. You can screw over these groups all you want as long as you’re keeping the free men happy. So by meddling with which demographics have a vote, you can narrow your frame of influence to the people who align with your agenda.
Now take a look at your democracy. Obviously, now that we live thousands of years from ancient Greece, we know that women should be allowed to vote and owning slaves is a big no-no. But the same concept applies to smaller demographics. Can people with a criminal record vote? Can immigrants vote? What is the minimum age to be allowed to vote? Sometimes, it’s these people — victims of an unjust judicial system, refugees being treated unethically, and the younger generations — that are being directly disadvantaged by the system. They deserve to have a say in the matter.
It’s not just who can vote, it’s how the votes are counted. Gerrymandering is a sinister method of moving electoral lines around, turning a majority victory for one side into a victory for the other. What determines the victor of your election? What makes a legitimate vote, and which votes get thrown away? These are questions you have to ask yourself.
The Washington Post has a fantastic tagline: “Democracy dies in darkness.” Look around you. Wherever there is darkness, assume someone put that there. Now I’m not trying to start a surge in populism or anything, but a healthy dose of questioning keeps the facism away. The upper class does not always have the people’s best interests in mind, unfortunately. I’ve outlined a few of the many whats, whos and whys you should be asking on a fairly regular basis to make sure your democracy is running smoothly — think of it as a sort of check-up, like you’re taking your nation into the shop. Never think for a second that you don’t have power or any say in the matter. Don’t let anyone take your voice away from you. If you aren’t happy with the answers to these questions or any others you may have, you have the right to cast your ballot for a better world.
Originally published at https://jake-2d9e9b.webflow.io.