Computerized Democracies…

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine
-Thomas Jefferson

I recently recalled my World History teacher explaining to the class how, if it were called for, here in the United States we could setup a true Democracy. He believed it was possible because of the widespread use of computers, and how everyone could simply vote on issues that came up. Although some technical issues would more than likely complicate the process (For example, if it is as easy as it sounds, why don’t we hold elections this way?), I agree that it would be possible, but just because setting up a true Democracy is possible, I don’t believe it would would be the best possible way to govern the United States.

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government
-Thomas Jefferson

I believe that in order for America’s people to govern themselves entirely, which is what a true Democracy is about, the people have to be informed. How many people know everything about a certain political issue? When it comes to some issues, it would be perfectly ok for all of America’s 300 million people to simply vote on. For example, some people believe that September 11th should be a national holiday, and voting on it would be perfectly acceptable. However, on some issues, I don’t believe that the American people are capable of making such decisions wisely. For example, when it comes to national security and foreign policy, in order for the American people to make decisions, first everything would have to be shown to the people. Forget about sensitive data, you would have to show all of it to the people. Although sometimes keeping secrets is frowned upon, in other cases keeping secrets is completely necessary. To make it even simpler, all secrets and complications put aside, do you think that the people of America have what it takes to keep up with issues and vote on them on a regular basis? What about in times of crisis? Would we even have time to make decisions?

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time

-E. B. White

You may be asking what the difference in a true Democracy and a Republic is. Although a Republic is a form of a Democracy, the difference is noticeable. While both forms are supposedly “for the people”, in a true Democracy the people directly make the decisions directly, and in a Republic the people elect officials who are supposed to make the decisions based on qualities they were elected on. Although this does make corruption possible, I ask that if an elected official is corrupt, why elect him again? Supposedly, these elected officials have the people’s best interests in hand, even if the majority of the people disagree with the decisions. This is my biggest concern when it comes to true Democracies. Even if 75% of the people agree on an issue, what if that 75% is wrong? To put it simple, a true Democracy will give the majority exactly what it wants all of the time, but will that always give the majority (or even everyone) what is best for them? Opinions are subject to manipulation, and can change overnight. I think that people do not realize that THE UNITED STATES CAN FALL! Look at the Roman Empire, do you realize how much of the world they conquered, and then how quickly the Roman Empire fell? China has more people than the United States, and Russia has enough nuclear weapons to totally annihilate the United States. Do you think that the American people can make decisions on what is best for others, or simply vote for themselves (more benefits for themselves, of course)?

However, in a perfect society, a true Democracy would be freedom at its greatest, but to achieve it, the people have to first want to govern themselves. For a society that is having trouble running its own households, giving the people of that society the responsibility of making decisions on what is good for themselves instead of what looks appealing is a huge responsibility. What happens when the majority prevents the minority from preserving its rights? Perhaps if we had a true Democracy, black men would never have gained citizenship, and even white women would never have gained suffrage (The right to vote, in case you didn’t know that). Allowing a vast group of people to govern themselves sounds good, but are we capable of it? I will leave you with an inspirational clip of “George Patton” (Patton was a General in WWII).

Explore posts in the same categories: Political Theory

2 Comments on “Computerized Democracies…”

  1. Jim Says:

    While it might be possible (technologically speaking) to have a true democracy, say over the internet, that is assuming that the internet was universally available. I believe that it is, but that could be debated. Then we could have what is a close approximation of a true democracy. Nice in theory, a little rough in practice. (Kinda like communism.)

    The last time that this was tried (as far as I know) was about the 3rd of 4th century in the Roman city states (you’ll have to check me on that ’cause I’m just running off of memory). The people were well informed of the issues and voted on items of a civic nature (that’s were that term came from). The states were divided up so that there were only about 500-1000 persons per district as I recall. It worked pretty well for a time, although most historians consider it a failure. Why? It actually didn’t include everyone. Slaves, women and persons of a lower stature were not included. Only the elite (that is the origin for that word) were allowed to participate. So, it wasn’t a true democracy after all.

    It would be nice if everyone was informed of the issues and made an intelligent vote, but is that really practical? I doubt it. It’s like running through the license agreement of the software you just downloaded. Some of us read the thing, but most of us just go to the “I agree” and say ‘whatever’, because we are in a hurry to use it and get on with our day. That is the reason why we have a represenative form of government and hire people to make it their job of knowing what to do.

    There may be a limited form of democracy that we could experiment with on the internet. I don’t know. Maybe more with voting than actually making policy decisions. I’m sure we will do that someday. But, as far as it goes, like it or not, we are stuck with a represenative form of government. It may not be perfect, but until someone comes up with something better, it’s the only game in town.

  2. Captain Says:

    Sounds like Bill Cosby.

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