Can Democracy Save Us?

One of the favorite hobbies of my father was to sit on the couch and watch the news. I remember during my early childhood sitting by his side and been amused for the collection of images shown of the events around the world: the Persian Gulf War, The World Cup, Bosnian War, and The Olympics among many others, that caused a huge impression on me.

On the domestic side, I was drawn to the politics, by the obvious impact it had on my family, our community and country. In Mexico, after December ‘94, it was impossible not to speak about politics and economics. The country was engulfed in the hugest crisis that—at least I—have ever seen. That event sparked my curiosity to investigate about history of the political party in power, and even at my short age, I was frustrated with—at least from my moral point of view at that time—seemed like not just terrible, but dumbest decisions somebody could do. But, how such type of people has reached to power to take such awful decisions: they have been elected—or at least that seemed.

I remember once I confronted my father asking: “How it was possible that you [your generation] elected them?”

“I don’t know,” he answered patiently to his eager son. “There was no other option back then.” He replied even I knew he had voted for the opposition the two prior elections that I had memory of.

In an age in which “arranged elections” or “frauds” didn’t have any meaning to me, I dared to venture in thinking that maybe there was something bad with Democracy, since “bad” guys kept getting elected despite their awful performance in office.

My first hypothesis was that maybe, there was nothing wrong about Democracy, maybe we just lost something along the way. So I traveled back more than two thousand years into the ancient Greece to study the roots of democracy.

I had a huge surprise when realized, Socrates and Plato, considered by many the greatest philosophers of the ancient world, have come into the realization of the Democracy’s flaws. They have observed how people casted their vote without passing their decisions through careful scrutiny and investigation, which could lead to demagoguery. They agreed, that voting should be reserved to the “philosophers”, and by philosophers they meant, people that would think, investigate, confront their ideas, in order to cast a thoughtful vote.

For me it made totally sense. But how to enforce a thought vote? It is impossible to control how people think or how they chose to think.

If we cannot avoid it maybe reduce it, then my solution turned into restrict the impact of the harmful vote. If we establish a weighted vote in which the vote’s value of people would be scaled, let’s say from 1 to 5, and people will need to “gain” that weight based in certain criteria like: level of studies, being an erudite from a study field, businessman, and for not skewing the vote to higher economic classes, also include people in fields like philanthropy (orphanages, asylums) or in direct services to the community or popular causes (teachers, policemen, soldiers, doctors, nurses, environmentalist, etc.) this would create a vote that more efficiently reflected the decision making of a population.

However, having the capacity to vote didn’t meant they knew what the different candidates proposed for their governments, so I determined a corroboration was needed, and as an enthusiastic student, I decided a test was the best way for doing it. A simple exam where people demonstrated that in fact knew and understood the proposals of the candidates available. So every electoral period, all people interested in voting should go to renew the “voting permit” before casting their vote. So citizens caring about their country will be more than happy to undergo an examination like this.

Once I finished my proposed solution, I figured out that if ever disclosed it, I would be considered at least a fascist, for trying to restrict voting and with that undermining the Democracy in my country, because: which country in the world has established such rigorous rules?

Hence, I kept my ideas in my drawer.

Two weeks ago, reading Dambise Moyo, a global economist, in her book Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is failing to deliver economic growth; she enlists both a weighted vote and test-like screening process as few of the methods to improve our democracy.

This made me feel both glad and sad. Glad by the fact that my so ludicrous ideas were actually a good solution to the problem according to experts, but sad because we are indeed far from accomplishing a better Democracy that could be truly inclusive and not only caring for the individuals in the higher steps of power.

At my age, now I finally understand the response of my father. It was the better way of describe his frustration. The frustration of the common man in the common job which encompasses the majority of us.

And I, like you, understand the struggle of our voice not being meaningful for our country.

But even so, I encourage you to vote.

Even if I can’t help in improve Democracy for you. I can only ask you to be a philosopher when you cast your vote.

Think, investigate, read, speak, debate and re-think again.

Then vote.

M. Ch. Landa

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