Robbie Dale: Rule of the mob: does democracy really work?

Elections are so depressing. Most people you ask don’t bother to use their vote, the ones that do are usually caught up in some irrelevant agenda, and many voters will take to the polls with little knowledge at all of the issue they have been given the power to decide. There was clearly a case of this in France and The Netherlands recently as ‘the mob’ chose to vote against the adoption of the European Constitution. I will save the pro-Europe rant for another time however, as what I have in mind today is something far more crucial to all our lives; the prevailing insistence that democracy is something useful.

Now, I imagine that right now you can’t quite believe what you’re reading. Did he just suggest that democracy is a bad thing? Did he?! Did he?! Well yes, I wholeheartedly did. I understand that most people consider our society and all our rights to be built on the concept of democracy. I even acknowledge the thought that the people might wish to hold any form of leadership to account. I just have a huge problem with the idea that the general public, the people who put The Crazy Frog at number one, have the slightest right to make judgements on things they know nothing about.

To take the European Constitution votes as a case in point, those of you who have had a glance at the paper will know that the main point is to provide better working practices for the European Union. This will not as such change the aims of the EU, but allow more transparency and accountability that can only be of benefit to the populations of member states. I can only imagine that those who are against the constitution are against a European Union altogether. Unfortunately voting against the constitution (which, lets face it, is already being put into effect whether you like it or not) makes no real difference in the long term. The inevitability is that the European nations will have to pull together if America and China are ever going to have some middle ground to help balance the planet. All that the French and Dutch have done if force the EU and its member states to spend even more public money on fiddling around with the political building blocks to get a shape ‘the mob’ are more happy with. All those who think money should be spent on health and education say Merci Beaucoup…

My real point here, irrelevant of the implications surrounding this particular political issue, is that there seems to be little positive effect to ever arise from democracy. I’m sure people will be searching for their soap-boxes as they read this, but I will need to hear something pretty persuasive to change my mind. Democracy, in theory is a great idea, in fact in theory (and I mean theory in such a clinical way it hurts) it is one of the greatest ideas in history. Unfortunately, it relies on the voters to be objective, intelligent and sensible. By nature, humanity is none of these things.

We’ve just had a general election; imagine how many talented would-be MPs were shunned by narrow-minded party fanatics? We have campus elections regularly throughout the year (and some of those elected actually do important things despite what the student population will forever believe). I shudder to think how many incompetents have been elected over the years to the detriment of student welfare.
The question I pose therefore is why does society continue to consider democracy a valid form of dictating the future? To my mind a process that puts the general consensus of popularity above an informed choice made by well educated experts is, well, a bit crap.

I suppose the draw of democracy is all to do with keeping rights that have been fought for over the years. Although maybe it’s that democracy allows the blame to be spread far and wide? I suspect, however, that for the most part no one’s really thought about it. When a problem arises, and ministers or other leaders are too scared to make decisions on it, they can call for a referendum, a vote from the masses to give the magic answer. Indeed, one could argue that it is only in contentious times, times when even the experts are baffled by exactly what to do that the great unwashed are allowed to have their say!

Of course, here in the UK we are unlikely to have a vote on the European Constitution in the current climate, so I guess we’ll have to make do with Big Brother. Unlike the real world of politics however, at least on Channel 4 the public cannot fail but do the right thing and vote an idiot out of ‘the house’.