My Thoughts On... Democracy
Democracy, right, well, basically I don't believe in it. And no, before you say it, yes I do believe there is such a thing, I just don't think it works. The problem, in short, with democracy, is that the demos simply don't know what is the best way to run the country. I'm not suggesting that I know any better (though since I do regularly read a broadsheet I probably know better than some), but that in general on issues that matter Joe Public doesn't really know what is actually best.
Take, for example, the issue of European Monetary Union. I have no idea what the real economic consequences are of the Euro will be, and so I can't pretend that I would be able to make an informed decision if it came to a referendum on the issue, and make no mistake, constant referendums is the truly democratic way to go. I'd probably prefer that the pound survives, simply because I know how much one of those is worth, and would be a bit lost in Euro-land, but that doesn't seem a terribly good reason to me. You might argue that there is no point caring about what the economic consequences are if the population of a country don't care about economics - if the real issue in their hearts is that Britain keep its independence then we should go for the Nationalist / Zenophobic course rather than that which is financially better, but I think it's probably the case that this is just the most potent of feelings, and not actually thier most important concern. Maybe the BNP would prefer to destroy the economy and live off dirt than join Europe but I suspect the vast majority would not cripple Britain before joining the continent.
Before I go any further I must confess (and it might be fairly clear from what I've said above) that I think the system of representative democracy that we have in Britain is better than actual real democracy where the demos get together and make the day-to-day decisions - we elect people on a mandate to support those things we believe in, so we tell them at the polls that we want a lasting economy, but not at the expense of the working class, and making millionaires of the few (for example) and they work out what the best way to do that is - saving us from our own destructive selves when it comes to big questions like EMU.
The problem comes, however, when people don't seem to understand how representative democracy works, or perhaps (less arrogantly), when they try to change it to something they consider better. As I see it, we do not elect people to do our bidding, but to represent us - we elect people not because we think they'll do what we want (otherwise what we be the point in the whole second-guessing game, why don't we just say what we want and have it done) but because we believe that they will be good people to lead the country. This sort of leadership is supposed to be almost the antithesis of popularism, yet there seems to be a frightening movement towards popularism recently. I can't understand how, when a government implements a policy of high taxation on fuel to get people to use their cars less (and preserve the environment and make the country a generally nicer place to be - presumably something they were elected to do) people go 'But, but, but if you put up fuel tax we won't be able to use our cars as much', and they have to concede.
Popularism is very scary - it's what allows racism, and stepping on the little guy. The main point of any sort of organised government, in my mind, is to protect the people that otherwise wouldn't have a voice - the powerful (even if just in numbers) can take care of themselves, but sometimes that isn't fair, which is why we have a government to stand up to the majority for the sake of the rights of the minority. Asylum seekers by definition have enough problems of their own without legislation to hurt them. Angry mobs can drive out the foreigners 'taking our jobs' without any help from centralised representatives.
So basically, it seems to me, all true democracy, popularism, is good for is reinforcing the will of those who can already bully everyone else. Most modern 'democracy's' are actually based on ideas of inalienable rights and equality, not what the people believe. It's always nice when the population of a country are nice people, and don't want to stone people just for their religion or skin-colour, but we shouldn't decide our morality based on a straw poll - that's no morality at all.