By T.S. Khanna
Alamo, CA: All through the history, people have lived under various political systems — dictatorship, oligarchy, communism, fascism, feudalism, socialism, theocracy, and democracy. Political philosophers have differed in their plans for political systems; some favoring closed society with strong social bonds with individual responsibility for the society, others favoring open society with relaxed restrictions and individual freedom.
Democracy, in its present form, is relatively a recent phenomenon. It has been resurgent since 1950s, mainly with the encouragement of the US government in the hope of achieving better quality of life for the people. Now there are numerous democratic countries.
Yet, the performance of relatively long-standing democracies, including the USA and Great Britain, is less than satisfactory to their people. They are demanding reforms to meet new challenges of the present and the future.
At the root of their predicament there seem to be some flaws exposed by experience with democracy:
1. There is a wide gap between the democratic ideals (theories and assumptions) and their actual practices;
2. Democratic systems exert divisive political forces within the society, not integrative for common interest;
3. Diversity, without some restrictions, does not permit social cohesion required to identify and serve the public interest. It exerts centrifugal forces against national unity.
4. Democratic systems lack crime prevention mechanism and are ill-equipped to fight crimes aided by the advancing technology;
5. Contribution of non-partisan intellectuals is marginalized in democratic systems;
6. Adequacy of some of the ideals of democracy now seem challengeable. Moral relativism, merging of classic values of right with wrong and good with evil, are all being justified by equality and liberty under the Constitution.
In the absence of traditional morals, the liberation allows people to become more creative and innovative, producing florescence of progress. However, the anarchy resulting from the decay of morals can make the nation collectively impotent, vulnerable to the domination of even weak enemies.
A certain level of social cohesion and responsibility must be required of the citizens. Only rational arguments based on assumption of democratic ideals do not create the desired level of social cohesion. Democratic systems have ignored this important element;
7. Mechanism for a fair distribution of wealth and for inflation control is lacking in democratic systems. This causes adverse effects on culture and financial security.
8. Taxation systems are unfair in democratic systems. The option of fixed rate for all, without any loopholes, would be more conducive to wealth producing. Those who pursue wealth within the moral and legal framework produce more wealth than they consume, thereby, making the society wealthier. Higher taxation rate with higher income is counter-productive.
Except for income tax, all other taxes, including property tax and sales tax, may be abolished. The federal and state income tax revenues may be used to defray the cost of all public services. Under the present system, a person cannot live in his own paid up home if his income stops;
9. Responsibility and authority are often too diluted to hold any person accountable in democratic governments;
10. Under democratic systems, there is no single organization erected to identify, evaluate, and protect the national interests on a non-partisan basis to stop the incessant party bickering at the public expense;
11. Most of the authoritative positions in democratic systems do not require commensurate accountability. It facilitates corruption;
12. Justice systems in democratic governments are sluggish, inefficient, uneconomical, unaffordable and quite often not accurate in the outcome of results. The system design inadvertently leans toward the defense of the accused at the cost of the victim.
13. Democratic constitutions emphasize individual rights without mentioning obligations that must go with them. The assertion of such rights, in the absence of legal obligations, exerts adverse effects on the society;
14. Democratic constitutions do not require any requisites or prerequisites for the eligibility of candidates for election. As a result, many unqualified demagogues, lacking the ability and sound character required for the position, get elected. Repeatedly, they over promise and under deliver without any required accountability. This causes injury to public confidence in government;
15. No requisites or prerequisites are required for voters. Many voters vote in ignorance or under manipulation by demagoguery techniques within the currently prevailing legal bounds. There is a desperate need to tighten election laws to eliminate corruption, presently rampant in democratic systems;
16. The elected officials represent and favor only those who actively support them at the elections at the expense of others; and,
17. For greater empathy, the salary and perks of the elected officials may not exceed the average income of their respective constituents.
When democracy is newly adopted, certain weaknesses of the system may not show up for some time because traditional habits and customs may be so strong that individuals may continue to act in a manner with inherited social ethics and cohesion. With the passage of time, as more and more individuals and unions tart asserting their unbridled rights under the constitution, they upset the equilibrium and an avalanche of various socio-political problems is set off.
The younger democracies, like India, would also be well advised to take a second look at their constitutions and make amendments to avoid the pitfalls of the more experienced democracies like the USA where now the vested interests may strongly resist the necessary amendments to the constitution.
By T.S. Khanna