Democracy 2.0: Updates Are Available for Your System

by Mario Kaiser
updated February 17, 2020
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In Germany, we're voting in a week. It doesn't look good in my opinion: we're facing another term of smug and and arrogant management of yesterday's wealth, when instead we could be preparing for tomorrow's problems. But in my opinion, there's something more fundamentally wrong with our political systems: I think there's something rotten in the state of Denmark – and every other western democracy, for that matter.

We have a host of problems we need to solve, from global to communal, and I think our democracies and governments fail terribly at properly addressing most of them, let alone solve them. Regardless of how you would judge political progress now, you will definitely agree that there is so much more we could do. We have infinite potential and we're criminally wasting it. We are wasting it because our dusty democracies are broken and ineffective and need to be updated to ensure our societies fulfil more of that potential; in order to optimize our life, productivity, happiness and our overall chances of survival as a species we have to make sure our political system is not only working, but working well. Over the course of the 20th century, our democracies have organically grown in unfortunate ways which make them work less well; I will touch on two examples below.

Politics for Their Own Sake, Not for the People

In my opinion, most political work in our modern democracies is done for its own sake and not for the good of the people. In our current democracies, elections are the only "binding" way of giving feedback to the political system. There is no way to express discontent other than protesting, which only starts to get a binding character once the protest turns into an angry mob. There is no self-evaluation, no assessment of how well the government does its job. There is no way to measure success in our democracies other than the outcome of the next election. And over time, our political systems have learned that long term plans do not help win elections, they might even make things worse in the short term. And if the only way of succeeding in politics is winning more elections, you can't blame our politicians for having become really good at being reelected. This core problem shows its ugly face in dozens of different symptoms like the obscure political language which will dance around facts and try to appeal to low instincts rather than reason – or the fact that modern governments prefer half-assed poster campaigns to passing actual legislation; both is not for the good of the people, but for ensuring the next election.

Can't Buy Me Love
(But a Whole Lot of Political Influence)

Money and its influence in modern democracies is another example of how the system is clearly broken. Apart from the fact that corporations can legally buy influence with political donations, we have a political system that openly relies on biased information procured by people with an agenda. Some even call lobbying the fifth power! It's like ripping the blindfold off Lady Justice's eyes and replacing it with augmented reality goggles. Back then in school I was already wondering why the government needs lobbying in order to make informed decisions. Can't they afford proper, unbiased consulting from actual experts? In our current democracies, money is allowed to distort the political system to a point where you could legitimately call it an aristocracy in disguise, and I don't think I have to explain how that's not for everyone's benefit.

These two problems are just the tip of the iceberg: there's a lot more that's wrong with our political system, and even if all these problems were fixed, there's going to be new ones, always. The problem isn't that our democracies are broken – things break all the time and have to be mended or replaced; the problem is that our political system has no built-in update mechanism, no health checks, no self-evaluation, no way of updating it without shaking it to the core.

Not only do we have to update our democracies now to fix problems which could otherwise mean their demise, we have to account for future problems and make sure our political system is fit to last not just the century (if even) but maybe even the millenium. And I think we don't need a revolution for that. Don't fuck the system, fix it.