A Brief History of Democracy

Monday, January 31, 2011

Closing the Gap Between the Quebec Government and the Hapless Governed

On Feb. 8, the same day of our Court case concerning the democratic legitimacy of Quebec's electoral system is scheduled to be heard, that is if the crown attorneys don't go on strike before, we can expect to receive yet another speech from the throne.

As a hard core democrat, you can only imagine how I look forward to being reminded once again that I live under a neo-feudal regime.

This time around -- considering the overwhelming belief that corruption and collusion are widespread in Quebec and that the people want to have a public inquiry to bring things to light but are denied because the Premier who has the support of less than one in four electors refuses to hold one -- the distance between those who rule and those who are ruled never seemed to be so great.

From a democratic perspective, we are being ruled by a tyrant.

One of the fundamental principles of democracy is isocratia, the equality of political power, where citizens are willing and able to rule and be ruled. In the present context, we are governed by someone who wants to rule but refuses to be ruled by the demos, the people.

Apparently, in our political system which hasn't evolved qualitatively with respect to the concentration of political power in the hands of an elected monarch since the seventeenth century, we have no recourse other waiting it out for another chance to elect a different monarch.

Essentially, political power is dispersed among the people for about 12 hours during election day once every four years. Thereafter, it is usurped by professional politicians.

This doesn't need to be the case even in a representative democracy. In a proportional system, once a government has lost the the confidence of the people, as is now the case in Quebec, elected representatives from the smaller parties that comprise the ruling coalition can withdraw their support and put into motion a process to oust the ruling executive. This is now happening in Ireland where the Greens and a number of independents have set out to topple the government which they previously supported.

From the citizens' perspective, pressure can be mounted from within the political party by the members that can't be ignored by the elected deputies. Although this situation doesn't represent an equal distribution of political power, the distance between those who rule and those who rule is far less than in our present system.

As for the question of stability, if things are going badly why would a population desire for the state of affairs to continue?

The idea that countries that use a proportional voting system are plagued by political instability is a myth. Research shows that on average the duration of a ruling coalition in a proportional system is only slightly shorter than a majority government in a majoritarian system.

Hopefully, this time around the judges hearing our appeal of the lower court's refusal to grant us a declaratory judgment that seeks to have our present voting system declared unconstitutional will do so by affirming the fundamental principles of democracy.

Once that is done, we can move forward with plans to put our present political system, a vestige of the British empire, behind us and into history's dust bin.

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