Sunday, December 07, 2014

Tony Blair Critiques Democracy as We Know It

Tony Blair criticizes the performance of democratic governments: "The simple right to vote is not enough: Systems need to deliver results for the people."

Blair is not very systematic in his descriptions of the problems facing democracies, and he's vague about solutions, but I agree with him that our democratic governments are performing poorly in a variety of areas. For example, he mentions the difficulties several European countries have had in reforming their finances, and the difficulties many countries have in creating the legal conditions for an effective and innovative health care system.

Here is a list containing restatements of the problems with democracies that Blair identifies in his piece:

1. The drawing of electoral districts often favors candidates who appeal to more partisan and ideological party activists, rather than to the political center (presumably leading to worse policies).
2. The polarization of news outlets has further polarized voters (again, presumably leading to worse policies).
3. Government bureaucracies fight proposed changes which would affect their operation, even if such changes would benefit the nation.
4. Special interests such as teachers' unions and those involved in health care fight reforms which would benefit the nation.
5. The pace of democratic reform is unable to keep up with the pace of technological and social change.
6. Few politicians have real-world experience or expertise outside of politics.
7. The salaries of elected officials are not high enough to attract the best talent.
8. Social media has enhanced the voting public's susceptibility to scandal and passionate, irrational agitation, giving more power to the loudest voices, rather than the most reasonable.

Not all of these criticisms are equally plausible, but Blair is surely correct that democracy does not work as well we often think, say, and hope.
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