One third of the planet’s population has lived through a period of increasing world cooperation. That came to an end over the last five years. Why? Partly, but not only, because the politics of democracy failed to keep up with our ability to collate, communicate and disseminate information. Or even to sort out fake news from true news. During this time, in all democratic societies, politics have been exercised by ‘one person, one vote’. The theory behind this is that all humans are equal. This is not true. It never has been true and it looks unlikely that it will be true in the future – unless we become robots.
That all human beings have equal value as people is indisputable. Everything that can be done to help people to be equally happy should be done. Happiness is, and should be, our life’s primary goal, provided it is not at the expense of others. Understanding how to make people happy is a different matter altogether. As a society we are still woefully ignorant about that. Happiness comes largely from within, not from outside ourselves. People the world over are angry today, often for reasons they don’t understand. As for value to society, the person buying guns to kill children in their schoolroom cannot be considered even remotely equal in value to society to the teacher of those children. The two may have intrinsic equal human rights but they are of very different values to the rest of us.
During the last Five Years of Profound Change, Covid 19 prevented us from travel and isolated us for significant periods of time. But technological development kept plunging ahead – in some portfolios even spurred by the pandemic. During this time the human psyche underwent a major change, much of which we are still trying to decipher. The purpose of life became clearer to most people, the unfairness of our present political systems, whether democratic or autocratic, was highlighted, not just by Covid but by Putin’s war with Ukraine. We also discovered (again) the importance of contact – physical, with a hug or spiritual, by breathing the same air as our fellow humans. Profound change is still happening everywhere.
The politics of autocracy have not been stagnant either, in spite of attempts to keep them so. Increasing wealth gives humans ideas about their liberty. Ever bigger commercial corporations shift power from politics to business – in both democratic and autocratic societies – and will likely continue to do so for the very reason of their wealth. Artificially suppressing them will lead to discontent when business people are seen to be as valuable to society as politicians. Especially as business takes proper control of protecting the climate. Politicians can’t do that alone.
‘One human, one vote’ is not democratic for society even if it appears to be for the individual. It means that highly skilled thinkers and implementers are ‘punished’ for their potential contribution to a better world by being allowed only one say in who is to govern, while criminals and destructive disruptors are rewarded by having a say of equal value. This isn’t fair. We measure, and reward or punish, people’s contribution to, or disruption of, society in many ways – material and social. Our assessment of them could be much better but it already fundamentally modifies the concept that they make equal contributions.
Democracy is overdue for a rethink. ‘Multiple votes’ have been suggested before. In the last century the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of modern Singapore, endorsed the idea himself. The solution which I propose here is to give everyone twelve votes – the first when they reach sixteen, two more at eighteen, two more at twenty, two more at twenty-two, two more at twenty-four and three more at twenty-five. Age is not the important criterion but we do learn as we get more experienced. An individual can lose some – but never all – of those votes by court orders for anti-social behaviour. They will always retain one vote. If any votes are so lost they can be redeemed by good behaviour.
Beyond the right to the statutory twelve votes, further votes – up to a maximum of eight – will be available to be awarded, one at a time, to those who have given outstanding service to the community. These would replace civilian medals, citations and titles.
A consequence of doing this is that votes will be seen as much more valuable, reward for good social behaviour will become practical rather than mystical, punishment for anti-social behaviour will be immediate but redeemable and voting will be taken much more seriously. Difficult to implement? Certainly. But not more difficult than most of the other things we are trying to grapple with in producing a better world.
In whatever current political system they live now, those who want a greater say in how they are managed will achieve it. And the incentive to teach people more about the importance of politics will grow hopefully to the point where every voter understands what s/he is voting for.
Democracy will be revitalised – and will, once again, be seen as workable.
22 August 2022