A few years ago, I was engaged in a heated argument with my former colleagues (obviously after a few beers) about whether China is ready for democracy.
I said, and I still hold the same view, that China is not ready for democracy – at least the kind of democracy that people generally have come to accept (side note: when I say this, some people will assume I am a supporter of communism, I am a supporter of dictatorship, I am against freedom of speech and basic human rights – very interesting logic). I actually understand and support the principles behind democracy and also to a certain extent the governance (including voting) system designed for democracy, but I believe that China (and many other countries too) does not have an appropriate population to make a right decision collectively (i.e. to vote a government to represent them, more on this later). Not to mention there are too many people ‘in the middle’ who can sway the people’s opinions easily (and yes, figuratively too).
And now with Brexit, what can we say about democracy? Can we, the lay people, collectively make the right decisions? Or what can we say about the people of UK as compared to the Chinese people in terms of readiness for democracy?
These are my brain dump for now.
Forget about the political system we need to have, is it even possible to classify what is a right decision (without hindsight)? Yes, it seems logical that Brexit is a bad thing but what if somehow UK (or perhaps England alone) will come out alone doing much better than the rest of Europe?
The problem is we are in a complex system. A very complex system in fact. There are going to be millions of outcomes that may or may not be causal or correlated to the Brexit decision. Yet, many commentaries, including the academics, like to examine our history that way.
One of the biggest concerns I have is that many people, especially surprisingly the younger generations, believe government is responsible for the prosperity of the society. In a way, that’s how US got its credit during its prosperity while running under a democracy, right (using the flawed logic from above)? But even if we can agree that there are indeed ‘right decisions’, is it possible for a government to be responsible for entire implementation of them and be completely accountable for the results?
Don’t get me wrong. I truly think many governments should be accountable (or even prosecuted) for the mess that they have left us with. But on the other hand, I would not count on government turning around the economy by changing a few decimals points on a arbitrary number that appears to operate under an open system that is manipulated by a very closed circle. Of course, putting the blame on others always make people feel better, especially when they don’t have a solution themselves.
Representing the people
If communism people are good at propaganda, so are the democracy folks. Democratic government says they represent the people. They act on behalf of the people. That’s actually so far from the truth. They manage the people. We vote so that a elite group of people manage us. Yes, I agree human race is designed to be managed because we believe our civilisation is counted on living and working with a huge number of strangers. But no, government don’t represent the people, they manage (or rule) the people. The vote that we put in, it’s basically about giving up our rights to manage ourselves. Have we heard of any large successful companies with a CEO that is elected by the employees? Most importantly, I don’t care what government system we have, you don’t need absolute power to start corrupting.
What do I propose?
Yes, I understand, Mr Churchill, you can continue enjoying your gin and cigars somewhere. I don’t have a new proposal. I don’t know what is democracy 2.0. But I do know we should start changing our mindsets. Stop believing in political systems the way people did with religions hundreds of years ago (alright, even until now). We should stop believe in things on prima facie. We should not take things for granted so easily. Only until we start thinking and debating the right way, there is no room for a new proposal.
Ignorance is a misfortunate, not a privilege. However, much of it is being managed as a weapon of mass destruction these days.