The delusion of democracy
Australia went to the polls over the weekend and gave itself a new government. Lots of people are happy and lots of people are sad. That’s an inevitable consequence of choosing one side or another. In every lottery there are winners and losers.
But is Australia well served by our democracy? Because I like the freedoms associated with democracy I don’t even hesitate to endorse democracy as the best system we have available to us. But when one analyses some of the outcomes, you just have to shake your head and wonder.
For instance, there’s the whole checks-and-balances aspect of democracy that keeps the system pretty honest. But it has, for the first time, enabled a rich man to effectively buy his way into parliament. We have seen money talk very powerfully in other democracies and it is rarely a pleasant notion.
In Australia we now have a complete buffoon on the threshold of having a voice very close to the seat of power. The man is supposedly a billionaire but Australians know very little about his actual wealth and suggestions are growing rapidly that he has nowhere near the wads of cash he claims. There is also a lot of evidence emerging that businesses he has actually managed have not performed very well at all.
But, thanks to outrageous statements that he would cut a swathe of taxes and boost a bunch of entitlements, he appears to have persuaded those of the cargo cult mentality that he could be the next Santa Claus. Good luck with that, suckers.
Then there ids the party of government for the past six years (the Australian Labor Party) that got smashed with its worst voting performance in 100 years. But they now tell us that the new government which looks to have a majority of around 15 seats in the 150 electorate House of Representatives has no mandate.
Seriously! The mob that got thumped reckon the voters got it wrong. Tells you why they got tossed out unceremoniously but it does make you wonder about democracy.
Labor’s soulmates – the Greens – lost half their traditional vote but also reckon the voters got it wrong and they, too, will thwart the government in the Senate. That’s the style of democracy that Mussolini loved.
Then there are the quirks of Senate voting where tiny parties have flourished thanks to ridiculous preference deals. One young man, representing the Australian Sports Party, managed 1900 votes. Yep, around 0.02% of the votes available and he appears a strong possibility to be called Senator in a few weeks’ time. Tragic.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the whole thing is under Australia’s system of public funding of elections. Under this rort, any candidate scoring at least 4% of the vote will get $2.50 per vote reimbursed. Yes, even the billionaire.
Guess I can console myself that I can write this without being frog-marched off to a cell for offending the rich and powerful but it does make me reiterate one of my favourite mantras: democracy is a seriously flawed beast.