Friday, March 23, 2018

healthy and unhealthy democracies

I’ve had an amusing discussion elsewhere on the subject of healthy democracies. Someone tried to argue that the fact that Vladimir Putin got 76% of the vote in the Russian presidential election is a sign that Russia is not a healthy democracy. Apparently a healthy democracy is one in which there is “competition” - sort of like the free market.

I find this bizarre. The election indicates that the Russian president governs with the overwhelming consent of the Russian people. How could that possibly be unhealthy?

Compare this to Britain, where Theresa May is Prime Minister even though her party got only 42% of the vote in the most recent election, or the U.S. where Donald Trump got 46% of the vote. It seems blindingly obvious that a society in which more than three-quarters of the population thinks the government is pretty OK is going to be a lot healthier (and a lot happier) than a society in which more than half the voters think the government is most definitely not OK.

I am mystified by the idea that we need competition in politics. I’m not even convinced that competition is all that great in the economic sphere. The free market has always seemed to me to be an unworkable utopian pipe-dream. I certainly don’t think free market thinking has any place in politics.

Obviously it is impossible to have a society which makes everyone happy or a government of which everyone approves. On the other hand a society in which roughly half (in some cases more than half) the population disapproves of the current government surely has major problems.

That’s the problem with democracy - even if it worked in practice the way it’s supposed to work in theory (in other words even if there were actual differences between the major parties) it’s still a recipe for trouble and it’s still a guarantee that most people will be dissatisfied.

But if we must have democracy I think I’d prefer to have a democracy in which most people are at least reasonably satisfied. At this point in time Russian democracy looks a lot healthier than democracy in most of the West.

10 comments:

  1. The buzzword in Russia is stability, not democracy. The person in the Russian village wants to know the supplies will be delivered. The politics Moscow can take care of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The buzzword in Russia is stability, not democracy.

      There's a lot to be said for stability.

      Delete
  2. Trudeau's party got 38% of the vote. It's a terrible system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trudeau's party got 38% of the vote. It's a terrible system.

      In 2015 the Tories won the British election with 36.9% of the vote. It really is a joke.

      Delete
  3. Well, the thing is, Putin practically picked his opponents, and he picked mere clowns. There wasn't a single moderately serious candidate. Basically, those were the clowns for the show, the whole point of which is to advertise Putin as the single more or less healthy-minded president available and possible. If a somewhat serious man would try and become a candidate, he'll be shut down immediately. If you're not a clown, and you're either more conservative than Putin or more Leftist, economy-wise, than Putin, and you really want to become a president, chances are you're not gonna be left untouched by the FSB.

    This is why our democracy isn't quite healthy. Whether we actually need a democracy or not is another matter. Personally I think that the current state of political technology made the very idea of democracy obsolete.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whether we actually need a democracy or not is another matter. Personally I think that the current state of political technology made the very idea of democracy obsolete.

      Democracy really is like the free market. Sounds great in theory but in practice it's so manipulated and distorted by powerful interests that it's not free and it's not democratic. And democracy seems to be a guaranteed recipe for disastrously poor government. I'd be wiling to accept a more authoritarian government if it meant more competent more responsible government.

      Delete
    2. The problem with you Westerners is that you don't have Soviet Union anymore. When the USSR was out there, your governments simply had to maintain some serious level of democracy to keep the free market more or less free. When the USSR ceased to exist, they decided they don't need to do that anymore. All you who hated the USSR from overseas simply had no idea how actually important it is to you personally.

      Delete
    3. I thought there must be more to this 76% of the vote to Putin being a sign of a healthy democracy. It sounded too good to be true. From the little I have read about Putin, he seems like a strong man who isn't politically correct like the West & encourages traditional families, which I like. I hoped that maybe he wasn't as bad as the West suggests. But then you say that he stacks his opponents so that no one credible stands against him and anyone who was credible wouldn't be allowed to 'survive' to run. That sounds more like the totalitarian government I always suspected to exist in Russia. Ho hum. At least he sounds somewhat more sensible than our Western leaders (Trump excluded). Thanks for the clarity. There is nothing like hearing from a man on the ground.

      Delete
    4. When the USSR was out there, your governments simply had to maintain some serious level of democracy to keep the free market more or less free. When the USSR ceased to exist, they decided they don't need to do that anymore.

      I agree completely. The Cold War was on balance a very good thing.

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete