29 October 2018

Constructions of democracy

Democracy is a creature of the hoplite phalanx, the fyrd, the oared warship, and the regiment of riflemen.  Democratic institutions arise and prosper in conditions in which large portions of the population are required to participate in the mechanisms of territorial control.

The need for riflement stopped being so as of 1915; the need for troops and industrial workers stopped being  the case about 1970.  We've seen circumstances where democracy benefits no-one for two whole generations now. (If you're not an oligarch, you can't use the political process to improve your economic circumstances; if you are an oligarch, you can't have the law entirely as you desire.)

This is the core problem with saying "vote!"; voting doesn't get you anything you want.

It's entirely possible to fix that, but it requires a political calculation that it's better to address current material needs than to maintain the status quo.  It's not easy to get a political system to do that; the status quo is always more advantageous to the powerful than change.  (In Canada, we've got to the point where major parties are pretending to embrace change.  Be interesting to see if one actually does, rather than becoming more and more willing to commit atrocities to maintain the status quo.)

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