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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

AN ANTIDEMOCRATIC RANT

The basic principle of our political system is that every idiot’s opinion is as valid as mine. We’ve all heard the condescending line that what we call democracy is “the worst system except for all the others”.  I’m sure it’s a coincidence that the people who mouth this cliche are always those who profit by the present arrangements.

Our present political system is not a democracy. It is an oligarchy chosen by  manipulation of the brainless majority.  John Reith, the first boss of the BBC was once asked what he thought was the ideal form of government. He replied “Dictatorship, tempered by assassination.”  I’m sometimes tempted to agree with him.

I have a recurring nightmare every time a general election is imminent. Having been exposed to too many political advertisements before retiring,  I wake screaming at a hellish vision of the  endless  queue of nitwits who, having fallen for one absurd political  slogan or another, rally to crush by weight of numbers whatever vestiges of scepticism and good sense survive in odd corners of the Commonwealth. Unlike most awakenings (in which the dreamer gradually realises that the dream was an illusion) in this case the accession of consciousness only brings:
  1. the realisation that the dream was true and, in consequence:
  2. despair.

And just look at the range of dingbats who are allowed to vote: Scientologists, archbishops, anti-whaling activists, child molesters, creationists, television celebrities, evangelical Christians, Manly-Warringah  supporters. They are all  incapable of carrying on an adult conversation yet their political views carry as much weight as  yours (or, more importantly, mine). As Philo Vance once remarked  “The democratic theory is that if you accumulate enough ignorance at the polls, you produce intelligence”. It’s hard to believe that even the American electorate could be guilty of electing Donald Trump. Here we had a candidate so bad from every point of view that a vote for Hillary Clinton must have seemed almost rational by comparison. Astonishingly, not only did several people actually vote for him, but some of them have not yet done the decent thing and jumped off a cliff.

Naturally I don’t want to appear too negative. So I thought it only fair to present some concrete recommendations for how we could improve the political system.

  • Every vote in Parliament should be secret (all the arguments in favour of a secret ballot at the polls apply with equal validity in Parliament). This measure would crush the party system at a stroke. I acknowledge that the new system would not be perfect but at least any member of parliament who possessed a vestigial conscience would be able to take it out for a bit of exercise occasionally.

  • Any politician responsible for the provision of public services should be dependent on those services. So the Minister for Transport should not be provided with a car and a driver (never mind the chartered helicopters that are so popular these days). The Minister should be obliged under pain of dismissal and imprisonment to make all journeys by train, bus or tram. Similarly there should be a law forbidding the Minister for Health from receiving any medical treatment anywhere except in the Casualty Department of a public hospital. The children of the Minister for Education should all attend government schools.  You get the idea?

  • All political advertising (newspapers, television, internet, billboards) should be limited to black letters of a specified size on a white background saying “The xxx Party’s candidate for the electorate of xxx, (name of candidate),  will hold a public meeting at (time, date and venue) to discuss the forthcoming election. This advertisement was paid for by a donation from xxx.”

  • It should be forbidden to publish the results of public opinion polls for a period of six months before an election. If that means that longer notice of the election must be given, all well and good.


And, lest you think I have nothing good to say about politics, I will end by quoting HL Mencken:

“I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.”

2 comments:

  1. Not sure who said the first one, wish it had been me. The second one is Thomas Jefferson.
    Democracy is two wolves & a lamb voting to decide what to have for lunch.
    “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Thomas Jefferson

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    1. Two good ones.Thank you. According to Google the first one is sometimes (but very doubtfully) attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

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