This thought-provoking study analyzes the challenges facing democracy, such as the lack of political accountability to voters due to the strength of party discipline, and proposes an alternative model.
The way in which humans govern their communities and nations has always been a complex and sometimes hazardous affair and perhaps the best system has still to evolve. From the earliest of times in tribal communities it made sense to have a division of labours and control of communal affairs was usually delegated to an individual. It meant that the decisions of the governor could enormously affect lives of an individual within that community. As a consequence the powers of the governor were carefully scrutinized for any sign of unfair or selfish behaviour and his decisions were often criticized. The powers of the leader could easily become a point of contention or dispute and that is true in the modern era as it was in prehistoric times. The way power is administered, as well as the accession to power and the succession of power have all been focal points in revolutions and wars throughout the history of humanity. Abuses of power by tribal chieftains up to and including the Monarchs of recent centuries is well documented.
An attempt to resolve the problem of power abuse was the motivating factor that resulted in modern democracy. A resolution of power abuses by Monarchs came about in England following the Civil Wars of England. At that time the power to govern was forcibly transferred from the Monarchy to Parliament, a change largely brought about by the military leader Oliver Cromwell. The transfer reduced the power of the King to take unilateral decisions because a majority vote was required to enact laws. This was a major achievement. The transfer of power into the hands of the group also began to bring into relief the deeply rooted divisions between the two major political philosophies left and right, that exists in all societies. The individual differences came into focus during Parliamentary debates. Debaters noted that they were in regular agreement with some of their colleagues on any and all issues while in regular disagreement with others. The electoral process also tended to sharpen those differences as voters realized they felt more comfortable with some candidates than with others. Prior to that it hadn't mattered because the Kings word was law.
The transfer of power away from a sometimes tyrannical individual brought with it a major advantage. In the countries that adopted it, there now existed a civilized way to transfer power from one leader to the next. In four years time a new government would be elected without a civil war. The lack of such a mechanism had been the Achilles heel of the strong man type of governing, where there was usually no way to depose a leader without violence. On the other hand it quickly became apparent that real power went to the party with the greatest majority of members. As long as everyone accepted to compromise when the other wing gained power through the vote, the fight over the transfer of powers was avoided and civil wars that had often been fought over this issue were avoided. The original democratic system is now functioning for over three centuries and while it is a distinct improvement over strong man rule it is still far from what people believe democracy is, i.e.; "government of the people by the people". This has still not been achieved in any of the modern democracies. The autocracy of party power is prevalent in all democracies whether they be Democratic Republics or Parliamentary Governments. Under current democratic regimes, the only power the people have, is to choose between candidates placed before them by the political parties for election to their respective houses of representatives.
Reliance on the party system entrains a host of inherent evils that are mainly responsible for the weak democratic image. Party leaders imbued with their own wingist philosophy are unsparing in their efforts to gain and retain power. They make promises they know will be difficult to keep and often indulge in undemocratic practices to nominate their own favourite candidates and spend flagrantly on electoral publicity to influence voters. At other times they may strive desperately to appear to give legitimacy to small bands of extremists to gain their support. Once elected they oblige their party members to vote in a way that may be against their beliefs in order to maintain party solidarity, "power". The end result is disillusionment and disgust on the part of voters.
While it is easy to be a detractor and to be unsatisfied with the way our democratic systems work it is not easy to find workable remedies and solutions to improve the present system. That is the precise purpose of this essay which offers grounds for considering a revised definition of democracy and offers specific recommendations for improving the way the system operates. Most importantly it provides a way to make the First Minister responsible to the elected representatives who in turn would be directly responsible to the voters. Candidates for election would be chosen within each riding by an electoral committee and not by the party. Once elected they could also be recalled at any time by the voters should their performance be considered unsatisfactory. A majority vote would be required to effect a recall.
A better understanding of what democracy currently is and what it should be would go a long way to accepting the need for reforming the system. The current myths surrounding the meaning and definition of democracy are exposed and a revised definition is proposed. Understanding more fully what it means to be "left" or "right" is also extremely important in under standing the democratic process. Political philosophies play a fundamental role in the functioning of the system and a couple of vignettes are offered showing how one may eventually become "right or left wing". In other words, how did we get that way?
Born on an Ontario farm in "the dirty thirties" he later attended the University of Toronto where he obtained a B.Sc. degree and later an MBA from York U. An interest in why humans frequently engaged in international slaughter (warfare) led to the observation that democracies did not make war on each other and from that to the conclusion that the worldwide adoption of democratic governments could eventually eliminate the scourge of war. The book is in support of that argument. Improved democratic methodology should speed up the process.