Outlining a Progressive Future

Creating Actual Democracy


I always find it ironic to hear people in the Western World who proclaim how great ‘Western democracies’ are, whilst at the same time complain constantly about their politicians (as being dirty rats) and the positions they take. It seems to me that we live in a world of contradiction, both loving and hating the system that governs the way we live our life. This always leads me to question why we accept the current system we have, which most academics would tell us aren’t actually democracies but merely republics.

Getting Definitions Out of the Way

No, we don’t live in democracies, but rather republics. The difference here is pretty simple. In a democracy the people have direct control over the decisions that affect their lives. In a republic they elect people to make their decisions for them. It must be noted here, that in some ways nations like Australia are still not considered republics as their ‘head of state’ and therefore technically the most powerful person in their state is not elected. These nations however do have directly elected parliaments, giving more democracy than a traditional monarchy. 

However, in reality these definitions don’t really mean much until we start really discussing options to move towards real democracies. There is no point arguing about the lack of democracy unless we argue for more of it. 

Now, I think we need to start arguing for greater democracy for two reasons:

  1. People (apart from politicians) still don’t really have any say in many of the decisions that affect our lives, even though we have the opportunity to elect people who do.
  2. Capitalism ensures that there is no democracy in the way that the world’s resources are organised, distributed or managed, with this control being held by a select group of capitalists. 

These two basic facts lead me to argue for a discussion and greater action on the creation of more democratic measures in the two fields of world governance and labour organisation/resource management and distribution (acknowledging that the way labour is organised is directly related to the way resources are managed and distributed). 

World Governance

Creating more democratic methods of governance is without a doubt a difficult task. Problems such as information (i.e. ensuring all people involved in governance processes are fully informed), efficiency, apathy etc. are all rife throughout possible programs that are aimed at enhancing democracy. These problems tend to lead to questions about what price we are willing to pay for increased democracy. I would argue that we should be willing to pay a somewhat higher price than many others do; as greater involvement in the democratic process creates great gains.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will have a look at some different proposals regarding increased political democracy and the issues around them. They will include:

  1. Direct voting on legislation (either the US model or the ‘online Senator’ model)
  2. Increased stakeholder involvement in the legislative process
  3. Localisation of politics

Resource Governance

However, if one wants to talk about increasing democracy one cannot ignore the fact that any proposals that provide increased ‘governance democracy’ still ignore the fact that the majority of the world’s resources would still not be managed, organised or distributed in a democratic way (or a way that values to worth of one’s labour (more discussion on this in another blog)). Although governments do have a lot of power, the power they have does not equal that of the world’s capitalists and I think therefore we must question the level of power that they have. 

The only way therefore that we can truly discuss actual democracy is through a discussion of resource distribution, management and organisation democracy. This discussion should involve two things:

1.       The way labour is organised and

2.       The way resource distribution is organisation

This would (and should) mean a re-distribution of wealth and power (I say should as I do not believe we should be living in a world where the richest 20% of the world’s population hold onto 82% of its wealth and given the problems of sustainability I do not believe there is any way that we can see the entire world reach the wealth of these 20%). I believe the way this should and could occur is through the democratisation of the workplace and the democratisation of resource distribution (when I say this I mean a democratisation of the way this occurs and of who controls this action).

The question again is how to achieve this increased democratisation and this is something I will be discussing in later blogs, looking at some interesting examples:

  1. The ‘Take’ model (i.e. the movie ‘The Take’)
  2. The Russian Revolution
  3. The role of Unions

Now many would argue that achieving this sort of democracy would remove the need for enhances in governance democracy as any sort of change such as this would lead inevitably to more democratic measures in the way the world is governed. I would agree with this, but argue that discussion of governance democracy is still importance as a step towards more resource democracy. The former measures I discussed would not only be easier to achieve but would also lead to a situation where more resource democracy is easy to achieve and therefore deserve to be discussed.

That is it for now; keep an eye out for more discussion soon. 


April 5, 2009 - Posted by | Democracy and the State, Options for a Progressive Future, Political Economy

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