The truth of Lord Acton’s observation gets confirmed with sickening regularity. Here I explore that point in the context of democracy. Why do democracies, particularly those with powerful governments, tend to elect bad people? What’s the analytical relationship between power, politics, money and corruption? Continue reading
If you thought that I was about to quote Alexis de Toqueville, you were wrong. I quote H. L. Mencken. “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Scientific American Mind (dated Jan 10th) has a piece titled, “Voter Turnout Is Tied to Sense of Identity.” Unfortunately it is behind a subscription wall and therefore unavailable to me. But the short summary (reproduced here below the fold) is sufficient for us to get the general idea.
Who you are determines what you do. That’s not the most incisive of observations but one’s identity is inextricably mixed up with what motivates one. Consequently identity does have predictive and explanatory power regarding the behavior of people. Naturally political parties – who must understand crowd psychology to be successful – understand that. Particularly in India, identity based politics has been refined to an impossible degree.
But that’s too generic a description. Besides being too general a description, democracy is hardly a comprehensive description of the Indian government. Surely, the democracy found in say Switzerland is quite different from what’s in India. We need better descriptors of Indian governance. Here’s a partial list, offered in the hope that you will add your own favorite.
It is widely rumored that India is a vibrant democracy but one wonders if the rumors are wild exaggerations with little bearing to reality. I could be wrong but doesn’t the idea of a democracy include having an effective opposition to the ruling party? Or is it still a democracy if it is a one-party rule which does whatever suits its narrow interests because there is no opposition to provide the checks and balances that are needed to assure that the ruling party does not use its rule to enrich itself at the cost of the national interest? In a sense, one cannot entirely blame the staggering misgovernance of the Antonia Maino, aka Sonia Gandhi, led UPA — it is partly a consequence of the utter failure of the BJP to provide a suitable opposition to the misrule of the UPA.