Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Democracies begin to die when they get too big  

Mar 31. 2017
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Democracies appear to be in a bad shape. It seems that the principle of majority power is leading more and more to frustration and perceptions of unequal treatment among the minority.

The idea that all opinions are of equal value – the ignorant being as important as the knowledgeable – is difficult to accept for certain groups. The relation of the collective view to the individual one is often frustrated by the necessity of compromise. Also, in large states with millions of citizens, direct political participation is simply not possible, so governing is done by representatives, who also have their own agendas. Decision-making is complicated further by regional differences of culture, geography and so forth. 

One way of countering these problems is to delegate as much of the decision-making process as possible to smaller communities with a more homogeneous composition. 

For Thailand, the obvious candidate is a tambon, (subdistrict or township), where people could elect assemblies every four years. Residents of these local communities tend to know each other directly or via family connections, have more or less the same interests and problems and more or less the same educational level. Differences of culture and geography meanwhile are negligible or at least easily negotiated. The community is small enough to gauge each other’s concerns, wishes and desires through discussion before a decision is made, giving all members the feeling that their opinion has been properly considered. The minority is thus far more likely to accept decisions when they are taken.

Decision making on this level – much more homogeneous than the whole country – can express the collective view far better and also lead to better decisions thanks to the wider input of knowledge from all members.

Such a devolution of political and financial power could keep democratic principles alive through more direct participation, diminishing alienation and nurturing “enlightened” citizens. On the other hand, recentralising power would be extremely detrimental to democracies, causing a lot of problems for a central government.  


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