A real democracy?
Nobody made a greater mistake
than he who did nothing because
he could do only a little
Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)
Not everyone in the world thinks they want democracy. China, Russia and many other countries say they want – or appear to want, or just accept – not to have a democracy. And democracy as practised in some countries has a far-from-unblemished record. Its simplistic play of one person one vote denies all that we believe in our educational and competitive practices.
Why should the criminal have equal voting rights to the person who gives their time and effort to helping society? There is virtually no other sphere of life where we act out our oft stated belief that ‘everyone is equal’. They are not. What we want is to help everyone to improve – for the world, for themselves, for their families.
Of all the secular institutions humankind has created, democracy is the one we have least attempted to update or modernise in order to suit changing political behaviours and needs. The education systems of Democratic countries have failed to teach the young how to assess political issues or, sensibly, to assert their democratic rights. In most cases they have been centres of promotion of one party or another. Lifelong clans are started on playing fields.
Whatever the political system, greater connectivity, wealthier voters and an ability to speak out, even when free speech is banned, make individuals all round the world more involved in politics, whether they like it or not. The social media sites are where the most down-to-earth views are displayed now. The poor quality of some of the messages highlights the fact that the average person is desperate to express an opinion but bereft of the knowledge and education to do so politely. In a democratic society they should be encouraged.
Some countries have compulsory voting, making failure to do so punishable by law. Votes cast under duress have little value. Other countries are involved in gerrymandering. Phoney elections are obviously a blight on democracy. Voters should be educated to spot them and demand representative voting conditions, not rigged electoral districts.
If democracy is to flourish it must be refurbished to reflect and encourage a greater interest in the vote. We all appreciate bigger numbers and a simple way to do this would be to increase the voting entitlement. If each citizen were to be allowed twelve votes they could be handed out progressively thus giving the recipients a chance to learn about the value of their votes over time. For example, if two votes were to be given at the age of sixteen, two more at eighteen, two more at twenty, three at twenty-one and three at twenty-two, the full hand of twelve votes would be acquired by the age of twenty-two.
Votes could be removed by a court for anti-social crimes, although every citizen would always retain one vote to avoid excluding them totally from the community. An added feature of such a system is that instead of rather meaningless titles and medals further votes could be awarded for outstanding service to the community, perhaps up to a maximum of eight to restrain the incidence of vote-packing. Adopting such a system would enhance the interest in, and value of, the vote. It would allow citizens to vote for several parties if their inclinations were not wholly aligned with one or the other. This would go some way towards dealing with the disillusionment with major parties in many democratic countries.
It would lead to the need for parties of differing beliefs to work together in coalitions which would be a tempering of some of the absurd quick-fire decision making being indulged by certain overseas parties at present.
Twelve votes with a possible further up to eight, making a total of twenty, would be worth thinking about. The voter would be prepared to inform and educate himself or herself better before deciding how to cast them. Possible loss of votes for crimes would be a deterrent. Awards, even of the fairly meaningless sort we have now, are always an incentive. Added votes would be considerably more so.
Above all, each citizen would be encouraged to express themselves by more than just one ‘X’ and this would allow them to show their differences in a better way than many of them are able to at present. In a developing world these differences are valuable. They are what constitutes humanity.
As Gandhi said: “Civilization is the encouragement of differences”.
And I’m sure we all say “Long live the differences”.
What do you think about twelve (or twenty) votes?
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05 October 2023