Sunday, 13 April 2014

When I Rule The World

One of the things I have often been heard to say over the years is that inefficiency and corruption in any system are more of an issue than the system itself. I said it again recently, and I was told I was an idiot. As soon as the ad homs begin in a discussion, I wander off. We can go no further. But I am not an idiot, and you will get my reasoning instead.

Let's imagine, for example, that I became your dictator. How would I run things? Well I'd dispense with the current system, because it's wasteful. Every scandal you've ever heard about back-handers and cronyism has cost money, and I'm not having any of that. I would govern absolutely, while listening, obviously, to experts in various area and everything would be fantastic. Because I'm nice. You have nothing to fear.

The reason we don't like dictators isn't because they dictate. It's what they dictate that we object to. Oh sure, if you're accustomed to democracy the idea of a dictator is unsettling, but if it were me you'd be fine.

Here's the problem though, I won't live forever. Whoever came after me, even if I hand-picked and trained them, could turn out to be quite different.

This was how it was with dynasties of monarchs. You got what you got. This is why they had nicknames like "Haakon the Good" and "John the Bad". Sometimes either one could find an arrow in his throat.

The reason we like democracy, in principle, is that it has rules, so in theory it doesn't really matter who is running the show. They do a few things slightly differently, but in a broad sense, here's the new guy, just like the old guy.

Now, the perfect model for democracy is the U.S. system. Yes, I really said that. I also said model. Unfortunately they aren't using it. It is similar in other places however, where it works much better. Most of Europe has a fairly decent democratic thing going on, but there are examples on all continents.

But don't be fooled by this. Look at the Top Ten countries:

1. Norway
2. Sweden
3. Finland
4. Switzerland
5. Denmark
6. Netherlands
7. New Zealand
8. Ireland
9. Germany
10. United Kingdom

Do you think life is perfect in all those countries? Do you think things are fair all the time in those countries?

You know it isn't, because you can read. These are just the ten most democratic countries, it doesn't mean their system of democracy is flawless, and sometimes it simply fails.

There's another ranking system, the quality of life rankings. Here's the top ten of those:

1. Ireland
2. Switzerland
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Sweden
6. Australia
7. Iceland
8. Italy
9. Denmark
10 Spain

So, for example, Ireland does well on both, but we've all heard of the woman who died a couple of years ago because she was refused an abortion, even though it would have saved her. Perhaps the exceptions prove the rule, after all if that's the best example I can give, it shows that generally things are pretty good.....but my point is that nothing is perfect.

Comparing these two charts demonstrates that quality of democracy and quality of life do not correlate. In democratic ranking, the UK is in 10th place. In quality of life, however, it's at 29th place, behind Greece at 22. While Greece ranks 33rd in democracy. Is it the weather? No, while climate is included in quality of life, it's only one of 9 factors.

Please note: Ireland at the top only actually gets 8.3 out of 10, or 83% if you like, which is not a perfect score. It's about a B+.

So, when we are busy complaining, which we do, it's important to remember nothing is perfect.

A perfect system isn't possible, because of humans. For example freedom is often compromised for safety, because some humans can't behave themselves. Often, lots of things are sacrificed. Costa Rica only scores 31 on democracy, and 35 on quality of life, BUT it came first in the Happy Planet index....

...and is widely considered to be pretty idyllic. It's incredibly stable, the military is forbidden by the constitution, and it has a 95% literacy rate.

Right now, despite all the issues we see, democracy is the best system we've discovered so far. In principle it's as good as it gets. But it is damaged to a greater or lesser degree by the level of corruption and deviance from the rules of the game by the elected officials. You do not need me to give you examples. You have seen plenty of them. Some make headline news immediately, some are covered up for years, but it happens all the time. If your elected officials are a bunch of scheming criminals you are no better off than if you had an absolute ruler, and you could potentially be worse.

The problem then, is that a system is only as good as those running it, regardless of the system chosen.

Is there a solution? Yes, but you won't like it. The solution is that if the people want to be ruled by the people, they'd better start being the people. Apathy among the people is the quickest way for a select few of the people to get carte blanche to ride roughshod over the people. And nobody said it was going to be easy, either. Once you've let it get that bad, it's awfully difficult to get things back on track.


  1. That last paragraph! When I was younger and more naive I used to think the answer was just not to vote, because there was nobody worth voting for. Now I think voting is the only way we have to put the brakes on, if you can find someone whose ideas are close to your own and you think there's a chance they might try to impose them on the system.

    1. Voting isn't enough though. Quite often the choices are all bad. We have to make change in other ways. This is one reason I write. I try to make people think. It seems to be my best shot for affecting change. Others have other ways.

  2. I have often said I want to be world dictator but then everyone would hate me because I would try very hard to do what is best which isn't always what people like. Especially when what I consider best wouldn't be considered best by oil companies and others.