Bryden Allen's Website

Democracy Measures

Democracy is enormously important. This is the means by which the people of a nation can exert their control over how their country is run. And, if this system starts to fail, then a country must eventually face a terrible future under the whims of a dictator. Also the control of a country often falls into the hands of a wealthy elite together with their supporters. Democracy enshrines the concept of equality and so, through appropriate taxes, it is still possible to get rid of this wealthy elite. So it is very important that a country is still run democratically and that we have some measures of how good this democracy is.
            Now at the moment, most people think that either a country is either democratically run - or it is not. So there cannot be a degree of democracy. And this idea is partially true. But the idea is certainly not the full truth. So the situation is complex. Thus I think my discussion on measuring a democracy is best left to the end of the section. Instead I will start the section by talking about the important subject of democratic failure.


At the moment in the world, democracy on the whole is flourishing. Thus more and more countries are now being run by democratic systems. So this is good. But, if we look back in history, we can also see many very spectacular democratic failures.
            The Greek states introduced the world to the very concept of democracy. But their democracies all eventually failed. So these systems never lasted. And then Rome itself started out as a democracy. But their system is also failed. The most spectacular and destructive democracy failure in recent times occurred in Germany in the 1930s. And this failure led to the death of 60 million people over the world. So this failure was rather bad. And there have been many other very destructive democracy failures in recent years. The democracy failure that is worrying us most at the moment is that of Syria.
            So I thought I should start this section with three specific reasons why democratic system are likely to fail. And these three reasons can mostly be measured in some manner.
            Then finally I will discuss the more difficult subject of measuring democratic control and how this better democratic control can benefit the safety of a country in several ways.



The three common reasons for democratic failure are the following:


1)         Limited Franchise
            The number of people who are allowed to vote often limits the effectiveness of a democratic system. Thus in the past, the voters were often limited to just the landowners. Another the limitation was that only males were allowed to vote. If such limitations exist then the excluded class of people will be dissatisfied with the resulting government. And this dissatisfaction will weaken the country.
            In recent times, most of these franchise limitations have been eliminated. This is good. At present, this problem mostly occurs when foreign workers enter a country. Such people move into the country, settle down and then have children. But these people are not recognised by the government, so they can’t vote and they don’t have citizenship rights. If this practise is allowed to continue for too long, then it becomes a real problem. The US and the EU countries are suffering from this problem badly at the moment.
            I think the solution is obvious. I believe a country must know precisely who all its citizens are - and this information must be readily available to all its citizens. And also all citizens should be able to obtain a full citizenship card easily. And then only genuine citizens should be allowed to work and live in the country. So people could only obtain work and rent accommodation when they show their citizenship card. But for some reason, some people have a hatred of citizenship cards. And people like myself, who want a citizenship card, simply cannot get one. I think the situation is ludicrous. A good citizenship card (with a corresponding detailed file record controlled by a government agency) would make so many tasks so much easier to deal with.
            In general, the whole world is terribly careless about who should be a citizen of a country and how this fact can be easily recognised by all the country’s people. And this carelessness can be the cause of democratic breakdown (e.g. Fiji).
            Finally it should be very easy to calculate the proportion of people who do have citizenship and hence have voting rights. So this problem should be easily measured.


2)         The Power of the Media
            For a democracy to work it is essential that its voters have a reasonable knowledge of the state of the nation. But most people get their information by the media. And it is terribly hard to say, if the media is giving a balanced picture of what is going on in a nation. The media of a country can exert a large amount of power. And there is even a tendency for politicians to cow down to the media.
            I have spent a large amount of time on this media problem. In my Society of Choice book, my chapter on the information system was possibly the hardest chapter in that book. It is always very, very hard to decide whether any fact is true or not – let alone the facts associated with political decisions.
            In my Green Living book, I took a different approach. Here I just assumed that there was no media at all. And then I simply forced all citizens to attend local meetings where they would learn all the relevant facts. Then a system of representatives would convey all the essential information between the levels of government and the voting population. So the voting and information system could occur largely independent of any biased media. To a capitalist person, such a system probably sounds highly dubious. But if you just read the book, then you would find that the system is fairly reasonable. And this system is much easier to understand than the information system of my larger work. But this is still a difficult subject.
            In the current world, all good democracies at least allow all people to say what they like and when they like. And then a good democracy tries to make sure that there are a large number of media outlets, and then all these outlets can support the different views of the population.
            So one measure of “a good media system” is - the number media outlets that people can use to obtain their necessary political information. And fortunately the Internet now can add to this number. I think that, unless a population are prepared to take this subject seriously and so study this problem more carefully, then this is the best measure we can use.
            We must always remember that, if too much of the media falls into the hands of a group of rich and powerful people, then a democracy could fall. So an unchecked media system can be a definite threat to the democratic process.


3)         The Power of the Armed Forces
A country’s armed forces hold all the effective weapons of the country. So if this whole army decides it will run the country by itself, then there is very little that the rest of the populace can do about the situation. And then democratic rule must come to an end. The fact is that the army has all the physical power. In practise, this is the most common method by which democratic rules come to an end. So if a population wants its democratic rule to continue, then its people should always bear this terrible possibility in mind.
            The simplest and best solution is that all the citizens of the country should be associated with the armed forces in some way. Then the whole population of the country knows where all the weapons of the country are and how these weapons can be used. So, in these circumstances, the army cannot operate as a separate entity and act against the wishes of the population – because everyone is part of the army. This is why, in my section on “freedom”, I suggested that all people should spent some of their spare free time joining in some of the activities of their armed forces.
            But currently nations certainly don’t bother to do this. And in the good established democracies where I have lived (Australia and the UK), this is reasonable because there is no possibility of such a take-over. Our culture forbids such a possibility. But, when new democracies are being set up, then an army take-over is always a very strong possibility (e.g. many African countries). So as many people as possible should then be involved with the armed forces. On the other hand, the most dangerous kind of army is one, which is elitist, small, highly paid, and it includes foreign permanent mercenaries. So this form must be avoided at all costs.
            In general the highest ratio of: “the number of people associated with the armed forces” to “the countries population”, gives the best measure of the continued civilian rule in a country.



So finally we come to the problem of how we can simply measure, in some definite way, whether or not a country is being run in a good democratic manner. But before doing this, let us remind ourselves about the two main problems associated with all democratic elections. These are:
1)         If people wish to elect a new leader for their country, then there is huge amount of information all these voters need to know. Things like: the track records of the various candidates and their honesty; the practicality of their various proposals and their costs; which people will be advantaged and which people will be disadvantages by the proposals; etc. It is quite hard for people to get this information and, if they do get the information, then it is hard to evaluate it all. And all the various media outlets give biased versions of this information in their different ways.
2)         There is almost no personal incentive for a person to try to vote well. I covered this subject carefully i “Known Mathematical Political Results” (item 3). So, why should a person try to vote well, when it is so damned difficult to do so?
            Now I, of course, have been aware of these problems almost since childhood. So when I design a political system, my prime aim is to try to overcome these two problems as best I can. But unfortunately, a political system must be quite complex. My simplest political system is the one I use in my Green Living book - and this takes about 10 pages to describe. The system I develop in my Society of Choice takes about 100 pages to describe. And the political system we use in Australia would probably take many books to describe. And practically no one will read any of these books. So it is very hard to say whether any of these political systems are any good or not. But I must try to do something.
            But this comparison here is just about democracy – so I will limit to the facts to those that concern democracy. So this makes the problem easier.


In any society there must be a large number of leaders who are in charge of all the aspects of what is going on. Normally these people are in charge of other people – i.e. managers, supervisors, bosses etc. I will call these people “officers”. But some other people must be included in this officer class because these people are essential to the way a country works (and at times they are in charge of what goes on). So this group must include people like: the elected representatives of communities, judges, senior police officers, etc. So now I can measure something definite. I can ask - how many of these officers are publicly democratically elected - and how many of these people are chosen in some other way (usually by the officer senior to them in the hierarchy).


It is usually hard to know these figures. But I do know the figures precisely for the green, independent, town-state in my Green Living book. This state has a population of 40,000 people, and here there are 4,390 publicly elected officers and 60 other officers. (The 4,360 figure comes from the expression 15x((16+1)x25+1). If you glance at my book, then you should be able to recognise where this figures come from. The 60 other officers occur because I allow the 15 town elected officers to have 4 sub-officers beneath each of them. All the 4,390 associated elections are completely independent of each other and they occur on different days and at different venues. These elections are repeated yearly. Usually all the voters (between 16 and 100) must be present for an election meeting lasting about an hour. These meetings give all their voters the chance to check that all the other voters have done their homework.)
            In Australia I estimate that there are several thousand elected officers who in some manner run our country. Also I estimate there would be more than a million other officers who also run our country (out of at least ten million workers).
        So in my society - there would be roughly 100 elected officers to 1 unelected officer.
Whereas in Australia - there would be roughly 1 elected officer to 100 unelected officers.
            So on this basis, one can show in a quite precise manner how much more democratic some societies can be in comparison to other societies.


But I don’t wish to over emphasis the importance of this measure. I constructed my society in this highly democratic manner for two reasons:
1)         To overcome the problems associated with information overload and lack of incentive I spoke of on the previous page.
2)         In a large political entity (e.g. a state, a community, a firm or a company), it is always hard for voters at the bottom of the entity to recognise, who was responsible for the success (or failure) of the entity. So - was this success due to the top official or a lower official? We all know the situation – the top official always takes credit for the successes of a venture, but then they blame the failures on their sub-officials. My much more democratic system largely overcomes this problem because there are so few sub-officers. So in my system, all the people who are affected by the venture will know the specific official, who is responsible for a particular success or failure.
            But it is hard to measure how well I overcome these two problems. To check this matter, you would have to read the 10 pages from my Green Living book, where I describe my system – and very few people do this. But you can remember the estimate of the ratio of elected officers to unelected officers as a measure of a democracy. And a much higher degree of democracy, when it is applied in a sensible fashion, does give a country a better form of government.


In Australia (and in most developed countries), it would be very difficult to move to the more democratic system, which I am proposing. In most counties now, we all enjoy a huge amount choice. Thus: we can purchase goods from all over the world; we have the choice of accepting jobs anywhere in Australia; and we can live anywhere in Australia. In my democratic societies all people have a reasonable of choice – but not as much as most people enjoy at the moment in our global economy.
            My societies cannot give this amount of choice because I want them to be as self-sufficient as possible. And this means I make it slightly more difficult for my citizens to obtain goods, which need to be imported. There are advantages and disadvantages in everything we do. My very democratic political system is suitable for my highly self-sufficient communities. But my system would be less suitable for people who want to always enjoy a huge amount of choice. It is probably better, if such countries retain their current political systems.
            If you have studied what I have written previously in this book, you will realise that there are just a few simple rules, which will overcome all the major problems that our modern counties are suffering at the moment. We don’t need to drastically overhaul our basic political structure to solve these problems. (If people do wish to move slightly towards this more direct form of democracy, then this can be done using the village structure I describe in my Appendix A.)
            But, when a new democracy is being set up, my more highly democratic form would be more suitable. My system is based on and supports small local groups, and it allows these groups to run themselves partially independently. And in these local groups, people simply go to meetings where all people talk and vote in a normal manner. There are no great huge national elections requiring a large amount of organisation. So everyone knows what is going on. And different tribal groups can continue to mostly control their own affairs. So for circumstances like these, my more democratic form is more suitable. But my system does not support the global market as well, and people at the moment think the global market is wonderful.


So it is possible to have very different forms of democracy. And these different forms of democracy can be measured as to how democratic they are.



You might now also like to look back at:

either my "Home Page" (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages).


My next normal webpage is Variety Measures.



Updated on 11/11/2016.