Should we give up Democracy?

For those wishing a calmer 2017 after all the political turmoil during 2016, I’m afraid things will continue to heat up, specially after observing the first steps of President Trump at the White House. Today, we are witnessing a new phase in the Democratic system in the Western world, one that is dominated by populism and angst against the elites.

Since its birth in ancient Greece, Democracy has been lauded as the ‘best’ system to rule societies, one that provides stability, freedom and purpose to individuals. Like my father used to say,… it’s the least bad of the ones available. From slavery, to feudalism, to totalitarian regimes, to oligarchies, the next ruling systems across the world have had a tendency to evolve towards more egalitarian systems. Democracy has, ultimately, proved to be the more productive system where individuals consider themselves as part of the system vs outsiders fighting it.

Modern democracy has evolved over time, like many of its previous systems, refining itself and trying to adapt to its environment. These days, the left and the right tend to take most of the political space, taking turns ruling the masses. Unfortunately, the imperfections of the current ruling system has shown its worse in some regions of the world, where corruption, partisanship, blockage, inefficiencies, etc have corrupted the system intended to work for the people. As a consequence, the masses have disengaged in large numbers – we see participation rates dropping across the western hemisphere, specially among the millennials. Those masses, having lost trust and faith in those ruling them, have turned in many cases towards political outsiders, either new parties, or new individuals not related to traditional politics. In many countries like Italy, Hungary, Spain, France, UK, US, etc… populist movements are strengthening their positions and in many, even challenging the ruling parties. The traditional parties in most cases have been unable to respond to the disengagement of the masses, and provide realistic change in the form of facts, not only words.

Democracy has serious flaws, but in large those flaws could be attributed to those applying it, humans. Humans are the ones turning a blind eye, allowing corrupt individuals to enrich themselves, humans are the ones who past unfair laws benefiting certain close allies. And yes, humans are the ones that direct the police force to enforce unfair laws against the people. So the question remains… Should be give up Democracy altogether? Should we consider an alternative political system, before history breaks the current democratic equilibrium and comes up with its own alternative (by the way, it will most likely be an autocratic system ruled by populists). And last, if we do give up Democracy and look for an alternative, which one should it be?

I am a firm believer in the power of individuals. I strongly believe that if we provide every single human with access to proper education, he or she will be fully capable of avoiding the traps of modern democracy of ‘panem et circenses‘, like Julius Caesar used to say, and engage in the political system, participate, and improve it. Unfortunately, this is a very unlikely scenario. Look no further than some developing countries where lack of basic education leads to totalitarian regimes ruled by autocratic individuals or special interests, and how the masses are controlled by simple techniques designed to keep those in power there for as long as they want.

So, if we accept the basic premise that Democracy is the right system, and that we, humans, are the flawed link, we might have to accept that replacing humans from running our democracies should be the logical step. But if we do, then who should? Should we allow the rising Artificial Intelligence to rule us all through a democratic system? Would it be even possible to do such thing as engage in a democratic process to select a ‘political party’ ruled and run by an AI device? And what would be the potential consequences from a practical standpoint? As firghtening and inconceivable as it might sound, we might have to face these questions one day in the near future.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.



Photo credits: Edwin Andrade.