By Osmund Agbo
A man once asked how it was possible that China, a dictatorship was able to lift three million people out of poverty but India, the world’s biggest democracy has three million people living in poverty. Of course am neither a fan of the Communist Party nor her draconian leadership style, but there is something to be said about China getting few things right.
Democracy is built on the concept of one man, one vote, the whole idea of which is to create a world that is just and fair. Yet, If you are an American poor, you are just as screwed as the impecunious in the People’s Republic of China’s. For you, Democracy is only but a fancy term that gets thrown around. Framed in a different way, the shooting of an unarmed Blackman in the streets of America is no less horrible than the death of an Uighur in a Chinese detention facility. To the extent that a democracy is plagued by the same ills that define a dictatorship, its claim to superiority is only in concept.
William Magear Tweed was a member of the New York Senate from the 4th district between January 1, 1868 – December 31, 1873. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City and was a member of a number of boards and commissions. He was also the one who made the suggestion to rename the American landmark stature, “Liberty Elightening the World” to “Statue of Liberty” but Tweed was best known as the head of the Tammany Hall political machine. With the vast amount of resources at his disposal, his ability to ensure voters’s loyalty was legendary. He was later convicted for stealing about $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption.
“I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to do the nominating”.
Those were the words of Senator Tweed more than 150 years ago, yet it speaks volume of the inherent deficiencies of our democratic process and that the system that threw him up still exist today. Few people and interest groups with enormous wealth sponsor candidates that gets to do their bidding when elected. The landmark ruling of Citizen United vs Federal Electoral Commision of January 2010 drove the final nail on the coffin of campaign finance reform in America and one last-ditch effort to salvage our democracy.
The overbearing influence of Money and Power in politics coupled with voters ignorance, biases and apathy produce leaderships that are less than desirable. Politicians like Tweed peddle influence and traffic in voter suppression, disinformation campaign , gerrymandering and all those vices that make mockery of democracy.
An average person votes with emotion and lack of information. Voters’ ignorance and bias leave them easy targets in the hands of unscrupulous politicians, interest groups and ideologues. Ignorant or illogical decisions by voters can easily lead to ill-advised wars, economic recessions and inability to contain a pandemic, all of which imperil the lives, welfare and freedom of large numbers of people. Voting could literally involves matters of life and death. The politicians who get elected rule over all including those who voted for or against them and even the once that chose to abstain. Such wide ranging implications highlights the risk inherent in ignorant voting. It’s hard to imagine that the Chinese system with all its flaws would have produced a Donald Trump. His character alone would have been more than enough to disqualify him from membership of the Politburo Standing Committee(PSC).
Dictatorship is horrible and can never be the right answer yet someone argued that the best case against democracy is a five minutes conversation with an average voter. That said, it remains a great idea even as it’s current practice is burdened by voters ignorance, and ”Tweedism”. There is a need for an overhaul of the current order to serve it’s purpose.
Or maybe it’s now time to explore alternatives like Technocracy or even experiment with Epistocracy that Jason Brennan described in his book ”Against Democracy”.
*Dr. Agbo writes from Houston