We shouldn’t forget that…

… while representative democracy is the best known system of governance, it isn’t necessarily the best possible. What’s the best? I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise the biggest failure of democracy – the rule of the mob.

I’ve written previously about the importance of numbers for the media. Democracy is the rule by the numbers, and I see India as an example of the failure of the system: in a country with divisive factors aplenty – race, caste, language – the primary means of influencing decision-making is having the numbers. Which is why the RSS spoke out against family planning among Hindus, because that might rob them of their majority status. At the same time, I remember Narendra Modi talking advocating family planning for Muslims. The very politicians who are elected in this country on the basis of their caste deny their voters the education that might actually lead them to curbing their numbers. Democracy, in this case, is a divisive force.

Another failure is that with representative democracy being the only viable form, the minority at every level are denied their voice: first when their representative is not elected, and then when the minority party in the senate/parliament/congress becomes irrelevant. If you add it all up, that’s quite a few people being denied a say.

Also, the basic premiss is that a majority of people will vote for the betterment of society. Given the lack of education, and the bias that goes into voting, the mob doesn’t necessarily vote for the better candidate.

Two recent developments have further shaken my faith in democracy:

1. The Office of Profit issue, wherein first the Congress(I) party first attempted to prematurely end the Parliament session, claiming that no work needed to be transacted, in order to pass an ordinance that allowed their president and other MP’s to continue holding an office of profit while also serving as a Member of Parliament. After this failed, it seems that all parties have reached a consensus to allow all MP’s to hold the same.

This is ridiculous – they’re changing the constitution to suit their own needs. The main reason for this law to exist is to prevent a conflict of interest – that a person in a position of responsibility in the government doesn’t try to influence a decision for personal benefit. Now, for personal benefit, they’re shamelessly amending the Indian Constitution to suit their own needs. It is, I suppose, only up to the President. However, I have no faith in Kalam; he is not likely to make an independent decision like Narayanan before him. Here I was around a year ago, questioning why Navjot Siddhu, an elected representative, was spending his time commenting on Cricket on TV Channels while the Parliament was in session, and now this.

2. MCD Demolitions: In a similar move, the Delhi Government recently passed a bill that will probably put an end to demolitions of most illegal structures in Delhi – by legalising commercial establishments operating out of residential colonies. Earlier, this ridiculous practice of legalisation applied only to slums. Now, this sets a precedence for a mass flouting of the laws.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Courts can do anything about this, apart from the judges voicing their displeasure. The Courts can only interpret the constition and the laws. Democracy remains the rule of the mob, and the mob isn’t always in the right.

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  1. Not only is the mob not always right, but a mob is also very easily manipulated and fooled… So what’s the alternative?? In an ideal world, i’d go with Libertarian Anarchism.

  2. The ideal world is an illusion. The practical version of libertarian anarchism would be all the more chaotic. The problem that we face with democracy in India is that given the paucity of choices between representatives, and the relative insignificance of individual votes – we’re just left to decide which candidate we think is worse. The recent all party consensus has just proven that a majority of them are the same when it comes to issues that benefit them. All this noise about the sixth pay commission, but when the MP’s salaries had to be revised, not one said ‘Nay’. Agreed that the amount that they were being paid earlier was minimal, but one must also take into account the actual CTC, which would have be ten times their salary, if not more. Bah.

  3. what abt a benevolent dictatorship?! 😀 Thats my favourite form.

    and of course, you neednt be worried abt whether its going to be benevolent if you have Me as the dictator hahaha

    but its true you know. i cant believe that with all the intelligent ppl that are supposed to be out there, democrazy’s the best we can do. sheesh.

  4. Shreya, I sure wouldn’t mind having you as the benevolent dictator as long as you’re taking orders from me.

    What’s better than absolute power? Absolute power without accountability. 😀

    Unfortunately, democracy is the best we can do. Makes me wonder whether the best practical solution can only be derived from the ideal.

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