Democracy dies not in darkness but in dysfunction


….. according to AC Grayling’s Democracy and Its Crisis. The author wants us to become aware of the possible failings of democracy — institutional dysfunction, citizens unequipped for practical judgment, the distortions of corporate power, notes Duncan Kelly, who teaches political thought at the University of Cambridge:

What is to be done? He advocates civics classes in schools, the enactment of proportional representation, compulsory voting from the age of 16 and taking back control over egregious institutional dysfunctions (unfettered party funding, for example, and targeted political messaging). Most important, he urges us to remember that referendums should have nothing to do with representative democracy. In particular, he lambastes “in-out” votes like Brexit.

The difficulty with Grayling’s history lessons and suggested reforms is that considerably more structural surgery may be needed if we are to safeguard the health and longevity of representative democracy, and that’s much harder to design, Kelly writes for The New York Times:

Governments seem increasingly incapable of determining where their systems are broken and agreeing on how they might be repaired. Meanwhile, public discourse becomes infused with moralized language, fixated on terms like “dignity,” “equality” and “respect” that float free of these structural problems. In one way, though, Grayling is right. The thought that plutocrats and oligarchs can fix what needs mending, or do anything much about the economic inequalities that have always threatened political stability, is difficult to countenance. In fact, it seems inconceivable.

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