CRITERIA FOR A HEALTHY DEMOCRACY
Published at: http://www.archania.org
October 13, 2017
One of the most important criteria for a healthy democracy, is for the general population to have
some level of trust in the government. Without any such a trust, the general population will tend
to work against whatever the government is trying to achieve, and the society will frequently
turn into a battleground between the government and the general population. However, in such
societies there is usually a reason why the general population is distrustful of the government.
A government that steals from and lies to the general population, will of course have problems
earning any trust from the general population. A government that completely ignores demands
from the general population will also have a hard time earning trust[1]. In order to earn trust
from the general population, the government needs to be respectful, honest and responsive to
the demands of the general population.
Healthy Democracy
Government Population
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Figure 1: In a healthy democracy, the government needs to be respectful, honest and responsive
to the demands of the population. This will in turn make the population trust the government.
Democracies are dysfunctional without freedom of the press
In nations where there is very little freedom of the press, people are easily brainwashed by the
media, which does not write anything contradicting the government. So people are likely to re-
elect a corrupt government, simply because they are unaware of all the corruption in the govern-
ment. Freedom of the press is also important, to provide negative feedback to the government
(Figure 2). Without negative feedback, our understanding tend to grow into conceptual bub-
bles that lose touch with reality, as portrayed in the Danish fairy tale about the Emperor’s new
clothes[2]. This is probably one of the main reasons why western democracies have tended to
become more developed than authoritarian regimes.
Healthy Democracy
Government Mass media
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Figure 2: How mass media provides negative feedback to the government in a healthy democ-
racy.
Without freedom of speech, people also tend to become more anxious, which reduces life-quality.
In Eastern Germany during the cold war, the Stasi used mass surveillance to induce a chronic
state of anxiety in the population. This seems completely counterproductive for a government
that works to promote a healthy society.
Political advertisements are detrimental to the health of a democracy
Political advertisements are detrimental to a healthy democracy, since the audience isn’t exposed
to counterarguments, and since they tend to oversimplify political matters. Political advertise-
ments also increases the influence of money in politics, since wealthy parties can afford much
more advertisements than less wealthy parties. In order for the population to get better informed
about what they should vote for, there needs to be high quality political debates, rather than po-
litical advertisements.
Investigative journalism should get subsidized
The more attention news media gets from people, the more money they earn on commercials.
And since sensational news tends to attract most attention, many news sources seek out sen-
sational news. On the other hand, investigative journalism is expensive to perform, but does
not necessarily get as much attention as sensational news. So in order to get more investigative
journalism, the government should subsidize it. It is however very important that news sources
do not get subsidized just because they write favorably about the government, since negative
feedback is one of the essential criteria for a healthy democracy (Figure 2). Rather, investigative
journalism should be economically rewarded for revealing corruption in the government.
There is more room for corruption in more centralized societies
Global oversight might be important to establish certain ground rules about environmental pro-
tection and civil rights, or to prevent harmful tax competition and military buildup between
countries. However, for many other societal issues, it seems appropriate to make decisions more
locally. A national government might have more insight into domestic issues than a world gov-
ernment. It might also be able to react more rapidly and dynamically to national circumstances.
A high degree of centralization also tends to make people feel alienated from society, and this
can be detrimental to the health of a society. So many societal decisions should be taken locally
(Figure 3) just to make people more involved in society and make them feel less alienated.
World government
National government
State government
Municipal government
Figure 3: Different levels of government. Some decisions should be made globally, while others
more locally.
Electing people that are going to represent us in other elections is generally not a good idea,
since this creates room for corruption (Figure 4, Figure 5). One example would be a system
where the population is involved in electing the leader of the world government, but is not
involved in electing the leaders of lower governing bodies; such as the president of their national
government, the governor of their state, and the mayor of their municipality. In such a system,
people will also tend to be distrustful of the lower governing bodies, since they aren’t involved
in electing the leaders of the lower governing bodies.
Municipality
State government
National government
World government
Population
Room for corruption
Figure 4: A scenario where the population votes to elect the leader of the world, but cannot vote
directly to decide who is going to be the president of their country, the governor of their state, or
the mayor in their municipality.
The same would be the case for a system where the population is involved in electing the mayor
of their municipality, but not in the election of leaders for higher governing bodies; such as the
governor of their state, the president of their national government, or the leader of the world gov-
ernment. Such a system will also create distrust between the population and higher governing
bodies, since they aren’t involved in the process of electing the leaders of the higher governing
bodies.
Municipality
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World government
Population
Room for corruption
Figure 5: A scenario where the population votes to elect the mayor in their municipality, but
cannot vote directly to decide who is going to be the governor of their state, the president of their
country, or the leader of the world.
In order to minimize any room for corruption, the population should be involved in electing the
leaders of all their governing bodies. This also creates more trust between the population and
the governing bodies, since they are involved in the process of electing the leaders of all their
governing bodies.
Municipality
State government
National government
World government
Population
Figure 6: A scenario where the population votes to elect the leaders of all their governing bodies.
Popularity does not always correlate well with ability to rule
One of the weaknesses with western democracies, is that popularity does not always correlate
well with ability to rule a society (Figure 7). The most popular individuals are elected to rule, but
not necessarily the people with most insight. Celebrities tend to be more popular than professors
today, but usually also have much less insight. The favoring of celebrities have occurred several
times in the United States, with people like Ronald Reagen and Donald Trump elected to presi-
dent. Democracies are however well synchronized with the general population, and this prevents
tension between the government and the general population. Direct democracies might therefore
be ideal systems for societies where everybody has a high level of education and understanding.
If however the general population does not have a sufficiently high level of understanding, they
might vote for ill-founded short-term policies rather than for well-informed long-term policies.
VS
Figure 7: How popularity and ability to rule a society might differ.
A meritocracy[3] is a system where people with merit rule. The definition of merit might be some-
what ambiguous, but a basic mathematical, scientific and economic understanding and some his-
torical and geographical knowledge are easily measurable qualities that we should require from
our presidents and the people working in the government (Figure 8). If the president candidates
and the people appointed to work in the government were required to take a few tests, we would
be much better protected against ignorant and uninformed presidents and government officials,
like Ronald Reagen, Sarah Palin, Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump. The election of an ignorant
narcissistic demagogue can potentially destroy a democracy.
Mathematics Science Economy Geography History
Figure 8: Topics that president candidates and government officials should have a basic under-
standing of.
Bibliography
[1] M. S. Lewis-Beck, W. Tang, and N. F. Martini, “A chinese popularity function,” Political Re-
search Quarterly, vol. 67, pp. 16–25, apr 2013.
[2] H. C. Andersen, The Emperors New Clothes. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2004.
[3] S. G. McCloskey, Meritocracy : A Revolution Of The Mind: A Beginners Guide Book. Celtic New
Dawn Press, 2016.